January 20, 2019

Dear Friend,

Earlier this month, I sat down with my Posit Science co-founder, Dr. Michael Merzenich, to pick his brain on new year’s resolutions. What, I wondered, makes it so hard to stick to them? In this video, he talks about what’s going on in the brain when we make commitments to ourselves, and how we can prep the brain for better success. I hope you enjoy it!

Best regards,

Jeff Zimman
Posit Science

The Importance of Forgetting for Your Brain—and You
We often think of forgetting as a negative—a sign of a brain that’s not quite as sharp as we’d like. But active forgetting is built into the brain, and is incredibly important to making good decisions.

Researchers Again Link Gum Disease and Alzheimer’s
You might want to pick up the dental floss after hearing this: scientists have found bacteria associated with chronic gum disease in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. They have also confirmed (in rodent studies) that the bacteria secrete a toxic protein that sabotages neurons, and increase the production of the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of the disease. Could this finding lead to a new direction in Alzheimer’s treatment?

Do We Need a “Periodic Table” for Brains?
To understand the brain, scientists mostly study five species: humans, fish, mice, flies, and worms. Neuroscientist Gül Dölen doesn’t think that’s enough. “It’s as if you were trying to figure out the organization of the periodic table just by looking at hydrogen, carbon, helium, oxygen, and gold,” she says. To really understand how brains work, she believes we need a catalog of the properties of brains—as many brains as possible.

Different Takes on the Same News
When you read a news article describing a scientific finding, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that you’re probably not hearing the whole story. Here’s a great example of two reports, both on the same study on how cannabis use affects the teenage brain. Both articles state the basic finding: that using cannabis one or two times can change the teen brain, increasing gray matter. But what does that mean?

Going Through Menopause? Check Out This Interview Series
Josh Rosensweet, co-founder of The Menopause Method, has created an interview series that features the very best knowledge on the many aspects of menopause. The 22 conversations cover topics from sleep, weight, and inner calm to the neuroscience of menopause—this last one an interview with Posit Science’s co-founder, Dr. Michael Merzenich!

New Respect for the Cerebellum
For hundreds of years, scientists thought the part of the brain called the cerebellum coordinated movement—and didn’t do much else. But over the past decade or two, they’ve realized it’s also involved in social and reward-related behavior. Now, a new study has found a pathway that directly connects the cerebellum to one of the main pleasure centers in the brain.

Book of the Month
The Biological Mind: How Brain, Body, and Environment Collaborate to Make Us Who We Are (2018)
By Alan Jasanoff
In The Biological Mind, neuroscientist Alan Jasanoff makes an argument that the “cerebral mystique”—the romanticized belief that the brain is somehow separate from and superior to the rest of the body—has misguided us. Instead, the brain is a physical structure, part of the body and influenced by the body, as well as by external factors. Well written and engaging (though at times a bit dense), The Biological Mind re-centers the brain in the body and the world.