May 20, 2020


I don’t know about you, but, I find the global pandemic produces occasional waves of stress and anxiety. Sheltering at home, worrying about friends and family, and uncertainties about what’s safe and about the future is understandably stressful. This led me to think about what that kind of stress does to the brain. I want to share a good article on the topic from Science News, which you can find here. I found it helpful, and I hope you do, too!

Best regards,

Jeff Zimman
Posit Science

Consolidating Memories in Sleep
In a unique new study, scientists planted tiny microelectrodes into the brains of two people to see how we store memories. They found that neurons that were active when the person did a task (in this case, playing a Simon-like game) “replayed” the steps of that task during sleep—helping to store the memory for a longer time. Learn more.

The Brains of Super-Agers
A new study from researchers in Australia compared the brains of cognitively healthy “super-agers” (aged 95+) to the brains of people in their 70s. They found that the super-agers had stronger connectivity between the left and right sides of the brain. It’s another step in uncovering the secret of successful aging. Learn more.

Plasticity in Pregnancy
Recent research shows that the brain is particularly plastic—that is, able to reshape itself—during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Among other changes, the pregnant brain tends to show a reduction in gray matter. This “loss” might be good: it may free up resources as the brain develops the skills needed to care for an infant. On the other hand, brain changes can go wrong, as in the case of post-partum depression. Find out more.

New Target for Alzheimer’s Treatments?
There’s an enzyme in the brain called HDAC1—and researchers think it might be important for future research into Alzheimer’s treatments. In a recent study, scientists showed that the brains of mice who were deficient in HDAC1 were more damaged than their normal counterparts. Reactivating the HDAC1 reduced the damage. “It seems that HDAC1 is really an anti-aging molecule,” says lead researcher Li-Huei Tsai. Learn more.

Surprising Discovery About Pain in the Brain
Scientists at Duke University have found something a bit unexpected: an area of the brain that turns pain off. It’s a promising finding for the future of painkillers. Learn more.

Book of the Month
The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and the Secret World of Sleep (2019)
By Guy Leschziner
In The Nocturnal Brain, neurologist and sleep expert Guy Leschziner shares the fascinating (and sometimes harrowing) stories of his patients: people with severe sleep disorders, from insomnia to night terrors to sleepwalking. Along the way, he weaves in the science of sleep—what the biological processes are and how psychology plays into it. Learn all about what happens when sleep goes wrong! Learn more or buy from Amazon.