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Post Archive
2018 (0)2013 (2)2012 (29)
December (1)November (2)

Give thanks this Thursday—and always
Monday, November 19, 2012

"neuroBLOGical" turns 1!
Sunday, November 4, 2012
October (4)September (1)

Sight without seeing: Balint's syndrome
Sunday, September 16, 2012
August (2)

Catnip fever: why your cat acts high
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paralyze your face, fight depression
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
July (2)June (4)May (3)April (2)March (3)February (2)

Seeing into the future? The neuroscience of déjà vu
Sunday, February 26, 2012

Your love is my drug
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
January (3)
2011 (7)
Blogger Profile

Jordan Gaines
Neuroscience
Pennsylvania State University USA

A blog on biology, psychology, cognition, learning, memory, aging, and everything in between. Explaining recent discoveries in neuroscience, translated to language we can all understand!

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Recent Comments

Your blog is perhaps one of the best pieces of science writings I have recently come across! Brilliant work ! I have been meaning to start something similar..now am inspired :) By the way- . . .Read More
May 08, 2013, 2:08pm

When you get to smell, I have some burning questions.   What's the scoop on that new car smell, and why does it make you want to buy?  :)   . . .Read More
Jan 28, 2013, 7:14pm

Coolest series ever!  I can't wait for the next one. . . .Read More
Dec 10, 2012, 9:46am
Comment by Brian Krueger, PhD in "neuroBLOGical" turns 1!

I'm starting as the Associate Director of the Genomic Analysis Facility at Duke University in two weeks!  Hopefully once things settle down I'll actually be able to write again and start recruitin. . .Read More
Nov 06, 2012, 7:20am
Comment by Jordan Gaines in "neuroBLOGical" turns 1!

Excellent! What's the new job? . . .Read More
Nov 05, 2012, 5:37pm
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Feb 01, 2011, 10:42am
Jan 07, 2011, 2:16pm
Views: 7346 | Comments: 1
Last by Sneha Mokashi on May 08, 2013, 2:08pm
My friend texted me something today that she thought I'd find interesting.

She had a meeting for work in an office she'd never entered before. Immediately as she entered the room, conflicting feelings of happiness and awkwardness washed over her.

The smell. It wasn't necessarily good or bad—just distinctive. And it didn't smell like anything in particular. All she knew was that it had an odor exactly like her boyfriend's dorm room when she was a freshman in college—something she hasn't experienced in five years—bringing back the paired feelings of excitement and nervousness that come with new relationships. And those of, well, being in a boy's stinky dorm room.

We've all experienced this at one time or another: a familiar perfume, a family recipe in the oven, the scent of a bonfire—they all bring back a flood of memories, momentarily whisking us away to re-live our past. But why does this happen?

One of animals' most primal senses is that of smell. If you look at a rat brain, the olfactory bulbs (the two little notches at the top) take up a significant portion of the total surface area. In the human brain, the piriform cortex (our primary olfactory cortex) is composed of three primitive layer . . . More
Views: 7182 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Dec 10, 2012, 9:46am
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...a bunch of crap I really didn't need.

With just sixteen shopping days until Christmas, it's easy to get roped into buying things we might not actually have on our gift list.

Most times, we're conscious of our impulse purchases—there's a great sale on this! I'll use that later!

But sometimes reasons for our frivolous purchases are not so obvious to us. Don't feel too bad—store chains actually hire researchers to study our shopping patterns and take advantage of our weaknesses.

Our brains are endlessly fascinatingly organs—but sometimes they betray us. The following is the first post in a five-part series on how stores trick our senses into shelling out more money than we may intend.

Taste

Did you ever take the Pepsi Challenge?

For those unfamiliar (or living under a rock), the Pepsi Challenge was a campaign started by Pepsi back in the 1970s where Coca-Cola was pitted against Pepsi in a blind taste test by consumers.

When it was revealed that most Americans chose Pepsi over Coca-Cola, sales skyrocketed.

How they tricks us: We consumers like brands, and we're loyal to them.

It make sen . . . More
Views: 1605 | Comments: 0
Sometimes our world can be pretty crappy.

There's violence and crazy people. Maybe your candidate didn't win the election. Perhaps you hate your job, and that—on top of life's other personal, familial, and financial burdens—is wearing you down. Maybe you got to your morning coffee after it went cold, and that set off a bad tone for the rest of your day.

If you're celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday, don't forget the true meaning of the holiday between the stressful hubbub of cooking, shopping, planning, and appeasing Great Aunt Gertie: giving thanks.

As it turns out, expressing gratitude is more than just a nice idea—it's beneficial to your health and happiness.

Back in 2003, Robert A. Emmons (UC Davis) and Michael McCullough (Miami) were among the first to publish a study in examining the link between thankfulness and a person's well-being in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The researchers divided 192 undergraduate participants into three groups. All participants kept a weekly journal—the difference was what they wrote about.

Those in the first group (the "gratitude" group) were instructed to list five things for whi . . . More
Views: 2184 | Comments: 0
A couple weekends ago, I came down with coulrophobia. Unfortunately, I have yet to shake the disease.

Because we are Halloween masochists, my friends and I drove out to the Lancaster area for Field of Screams, which can be best described as a horror-movie-set-haunted-house on steroids. Sprinting from room to room offers a completely new, dizzying experience, with different themes and scary people to touch you or chase you down with chainsaws.

But this one room. This one room was unlike any other...

It zigzagged. The walls were tiled with 2x2" black and white checkers. There was a strobe light. I was holding my friend's hand and trying to keep my eyes shut through the flickering.

Out of nowhere, sitting in the corner, tiny and dejected, was this freaking clown. It looked so far away. Then suddenly, not one second later, it was IN MY FACE. The strobe light betrayed my perception of its speed and distance. I cried out. Please, just take me now, and do it quickly...

Hence my newfound coulrophobia, or fear of clowns.

But is coulrophobia a real fear? And, for that matter, what is fear?

Fear: a primer

A woman—known simply in the neuroscience world as S.M.—wa . . . More
Views: 2335 | Comments: 0
Do you have an ex?

Do you have a Facebook profile? Does your ex?

Do you stalk your ex on Facebook?

To the untrained eye, that photo of him eating dinner with...that girl...at Olive Garden is no big deal. But Olive Garden was our place, and—wait, is that the watch I got him? Oh, and it looks like he got into that grad school he wanted to go to. The one for which I edited his personal statement and quizzed him with GRE words...

Ugh.

I'm going to tell you something that you probably already know: you should stop doing this. And I'm armed with the psychology of why it's bad!

In a study published last month in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Tara C. Marshall of Brunel University in England examined how individuals who use Facebook have—or, uh, haven't—moved on after a breakup.



The participants comprised of 464 individuals—mostly college-age students (60%), and 84% of whom were female. They were recruited via an online survey which, if you ask me, should have established a criteria to create a 1:1 ratio of males to females. But they didn't ask me.

First, th . . . More
Views: 8318 | Comments: 0
I'm willing to bet you've made fun of the expression-less faces on heavily-Botoxed people.

With their vanished crow's feet, missing smile lines, lack of forehead wrinkles, and paralyzed cheeks, eventually we just can't tell whether Botox abusers are happy, sad, angry, worried, or just plain crazy. We can only assume the latter.

As it turns out, this side effect may actually be a good thing for individuals with depression who are resistant to other forms of treatment.

Back in March, I blogged about the neurochemistry of Botox (click here to read). Botox is the trade name for botulinum toxin, a powerful neurotoxin which, in very small medical doses, functions to paralyze the muscles of the face (or wherever it's injected). On the other hand, severe botulism poisoning, which occurs primarily through food contamination, can result in paralysis of respiratory muscles, leading to respiratory arrest, coma, or death if untreated.



Botox functions by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from being released by the axon terminal of a neuron. Typically, acetylcholine binds to receptors on muscle, causing contraction; inhibiting th . . . More
Views: 1851 | Comments: 1
Last by jamie on Oct 15, 2012, 12:49am
For me personally, June has proven to be a rather disappointing and fruitless month. Just when things began to look brighter, I was involuntarily assigned to be the middle vehicle in a double fender-bender two days ago, and my car now needs almost $1,000-worth of repairs. And as a perfect metaphor for the crappiness of the past month, for whatever reason I was not paid my stipend yesterday for the month of June.

I don't often like to talk about my sour feelings with other people because a.) I'm bad at it, and b.) I have another outlet.

Everyday for the past 12 years (save for a few angsty months in 8th grade), I've been writing in a journal. A good, old-fashioned, hardbound, acid-free journal. Most entries are about the frivolous happenings of the day at school, but as I've gotten older, they've increasingly helped me outline my thoughts and feelings while keeping my head on straight.

Feeling so low, I journaled the night before my car accident, listing ten qualities I liked about myself. Remembering what I wrote as I spent the next day at the body shop and on the phone with the police and insurance companies is, I believe, what kept me from simply bursting into tears and throwing up my hands in defeat.

Writin . . . More
Views: 5702 | Comments: 2
Last by Jordan Gaines on Jan 09, 2012, 4:47pm
If you're within the 32% of Americans that made a resolution for 2012, chances are you're still going strong. Nearly a week in, you've been faced with the temptation, the test of willpower, and likely some teasing from loved ones. And you've only got 360 days left to call your resolution a success? Easy as pie...
Experimentally (and in real life), our species has consistently demonstrated unbridled optimism in the face of adversity. We've failed for the past 20 years'-worth of New Years resolutions—but no, 2012 will definitely be the year we lose weight. Plus, we're all going to quit the jobs we despise and find a better-paying, less stressful, more rewarding job. AND win the lottery (brilliant—we'll never have to go back to work in the first place!). A study by Tali Sharot and colleagues from New York University explored exactly why we can retain this buoyancy, thanks to insights in brain imaging.
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Views: 2503 | Comments: 4
Last by sarah on Dec 14, 2011, 12:59pm

Sir, I wanna buy these shoes for my mama, please. It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size. Could you hurry, sir? Daddy says there's not much time...

This little gem by New Song permeates the airwaves each year around this time, igniting tears and snickers alike in its listeners. We all know why the man agrees to buy the shoes for the boy—I mean, "his clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe." But how much would he be willing to part with for this anonymous child—$20? $30? $100? According to a study, the sadder the man, the more he would be willing to pay.
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Views: 3096 | Comments: 0
I am always in awe of "unlikely animal friends," and there are plenty of these videos on YouTube from which to enjoy. This CBS Evening News Assignment America particularly interested me.

Steve Hartman has reported two follow-ups since this 2009 feature about an unlikely friendship between Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog. The latest, which I caught when aired two nights ago, was heartbreaking, but extraordinarily fascinating. Sadly, Bella was killed by what appeared to be a coyote attack on October 26. When the location of the attack was pinpointed, the blood on Tarra's trunk made it evident that the elephant had carried her friend a mile back to the house. Tarra is now showing all the signs of depression—her fellow elephant friends at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN have been reaching out to her, spending more time with her and offering her their food. Nothing short of amazing, right?

Anybody with a pet wonders whether their animals can feel emotion. Scientific studies have reported signs of joy in rats, empathy in mice, and anger in baboons. We've all heard about pets who stand vigil over sick or dying owners, dogs who adopt extreme levels of responsibility for the blind or disabled, and my friend has a cat who is particularly affectionate when she isn't feeling well, physically or emotionally.



. . . More
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