Dopamine: from DOPA, the amino acid- taken from the first letter of elements DiOxyPhenylAlanine + Amine, the name of a functional group containing a nitrogen atom with a lone pair of electrons. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in the sensation of reward and pleasure.
Dope: First recorded in American English in 1807. From Dutch doop, meaning “thick dipping sauce”. This generalized to the meaning “stupid person”, perhaps because such people were “thick-headed”. The extension to drugs came later, in the 1880s, from the practice of smoking thick semi-liquid opium. The earliest known use of dope-fiend is from 1896.
“Dopamine is also part of the brain’s salience filter, its get-a-load-of-this device. “You can’t pay attention to everything, but you want to be adept as an organism at recognizing things that are novel,” Dr. Volkow said. “You might not notice a fly in the room, but if that fly was fluorescent, your dopamine cells would fire.””—
I promise, I am not a prostheletizer. I am a vegetarian, but I don’t push my views on anyone else. For the most part, my reasons for vegetarianism are ecological and environmental- though not killing things if I don’t need to is a good reason, too.
My cousin Julia posted a great article from the NYT Magazine’s Food Issue, by Jonathan Safran Foer that makes some great points about vegetarianism. Even if you love meat, it can’t hurt to think outside yourself for a second at the larger environmental and ethical choices you’re making. Here are some excerpts that I found particularly salient.
According to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. and others, factory farming has made animal agriculture the No. 1 contributor to global warming (it is significantly more destructive than transportation alone), and one of the Top 2 or 3 causes of all of the most serious environmental problems, both global and local: air and water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity… . Eating factory-farmed animals — which is to say virtually every piece of meat sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants — is almost certainly the single worst thing that humans do to the environment. Every factory-farmed animal is, as a practice, treated in ways that would be illegal if it were a dog or a cat. Turkeys have been so genetically modified they are incapable of natural reproduction. To acknowledge that these things matter is not sentimental. It is a confrontation with the facts about animals and ourselves. We know these things matter. Meat and seafood are in no way necessary for my family — unlike some in the world, we have easy access to a wide variety of other foods. And we are healthier without it. So our choices aren’t constrained.
This isn’t animal experimentation, where you can imagine some proportionate good at the other end of the suffering. This is what we feel like eating. Yet taste, the crudest of our senses, has been exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses. Why? Why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to confining, killing and eating it? It’s easy to dismiss that question but hard to respond to it. Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals.
Beth, Jen and I found this website this evening. Does anyone else remember Realultimatepower.net? I think the same guys may have made this site… Anyway, we had a good laugh (perhaps aided by a healthy dose of kundalini yoga and mixed gin drinks.)
Because when you’ve spent several years as a pre-school teacher, you learn how to make your very-own home-made bubble solution and play-do (I realized I hadn’t ever posted that recipe, I’m sure I’ll put it up some time), and, of course, oobleck.
Just like that new robot, oobleck is shape-shifting. It’s sort of a liquid, sort of a solid, but mostly just fun to play with. When you don’t apply pressure to it, oobleck oozes like a liquid. When you compress it, it turns into a solid- until you release pressure. I have no idea what gives oobleck its magical properties. I do know that my father, Papa Pete Scheiner, who is an organic chemist, was baffled by the stuff.
In a large bowl, combine: 1.5 parts cornstarch 1 part water a few drops of food coloring
A few weeks ago, researchers in Thailand reported that new combination of vaccines was effective in reducing the number of people infected with HIV. At the time, I was skeptical of their results just because the numbers were small, and even if they were statistically significant, I wasn’t impressed. Then, last week when I went to Rockefeller to get my blood drawn for the HIV vaccine research that I’m a part of, I got a chance to talk about my concerns about the Thai study.
The researchers I work with confirmed that the results were sketchy. There are two ways to report results of a vaccine study: include everyone who started the treatment whether or not they followed through with the whole course of the study (the intent-to-treat group), or only include the people who got the full round of vaccines and completed the study (the per-protocol group).
If the vaccine was effective, you would see a larger effect when you zero-in on the per-protocol group, because they’re the only people who got the full benefit of the vaccine. However, the Thai study only reported results for the intent-to-treat group. They did this because the results became insignificant when they only looked at the per-protocol group, which should be pretty good evidence that the vaccine didn’t really have an effect.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the reason the Thai study only reported the intent-to-treat group results was because they did not want to confuse the public.
"Jerome Kim of the U.S. Army and principal investigator for the trial, acknowledged that he and other scientists knew about the secondary analyses when the first result was publicly disclosed. He said his team had decided not to provide the results of all three analyses because the contradictory results could have confused the public."
I am not, strictly speaking, a scientist, but I believe I have succinctly explained their results in a way that even a layperson could understand. I have trouble believing that the researchers’ motivations are anything other than self-serving and self-aggrandizing. Yeah, it would be cool to have the first effective HIV vaccine, but that’s not an excuse for shoddy statistics and inflated results.
Tuesday is trivia night in Boulder. I’ll be hitting up a local bar with my SLP buddy Matt where they have syndicated Geeks Who Drink trivia.
The last time I went to trivia with Ms. Beth and her boyfriend, we figured that being three Reed alums, we’d own the place. However, we were thwarted by such categories as “Clips from 80’s teen movies” and “Stripper Songs”. In our defense, the stripper category was egregious: no one in the history of stripping has danced to Journey.
In fact, the only category that we totally rocked was “Racial and ethnic slurs”. Not only did we get almost every question right, but when it came time to answer the bonus lightning round question, I was the first person to answer correctly, thus winning a free beer, and proving my supremacy as the biggest racist in the place. FML.
Another thing I adore about you is your intensely inquisitive nature. Yes, sometimes your desire to get to the bottom of an issue can get ahead of you, and that can sometimes be detrimental. From where I stand, though, it’s a curiosity catch-22: while at times aggravating, I adore you for your curiosity, and I wouldn’t want a duller, more passive you.
And because I know that sometime in the near future you will google my name and your name; and because I know that you’ve probably already memorized how many items that particular query returns for my blog- I know you will find this little surprise. Let it remind you, and reinforce you, that your curiosity is a wonderful thing. If you didn’t dig, you would never have found this.
Such a cool article (thanks musicbrain!). Musical rule violations cause ERPs (early anterior negativities) in right hemisphere brain areas analogous to areas used for processing language.
Our brains are good at language. Our brains are good at music. But I think what’s more important is that our brains are really good at finding, and understanding patterns in streams of data. The activation that is seen when a musical note is played incorrectly, or when the wrong word slips into a sentence- an N400- probably shouldn’t be thought of as a bi-product of language, or even of musical processing, but of our brains’ nonstop attempt to make the the world right, and to make it make sense.
For anyone interested in some music-related science reading this weekend, neuroscientist Robbin Miranda shared with me her study showing that the neurocognitive model for music is the same as for language. Robbin works closely with Michael Ullman, Stephen Pinker’s colleague and the scientist who coined the declarative/procedural model for language.
Robbin’s most recent work involves a case study of a 31-year-old schizophrenic musician. Her group predicted what type of memory deficits the musician would have and revealed them by manipulating music to analyze memory as they did in the previous study.
Wow. Remember that time last year when John McCain wouldn’t even admit that healthcare was a right? There is something deeply wrong with our country- we can’t get healthcare for the people who need it most, but the Finns now have the right to streaming video.
Sequential Processing of Lexical, Grammatical, and Phonological Information Within Broca’s Area
"Words, grammar, and phonology are linguistically distinct, yettheir neural substrates are difficult to distinguish in macroscopicbrain regions. We investigated whether they can be separatedin time and space at the circuit level using intracranial electrophysiology(ICE), namely by recording local field potentials from populationsof neurons using electrodes implanted in language-related brainregions while people read words verbatim or grammatically inflectedthem (present/past or singular/plural). Neighboring probes withinBroca’s area revealed distinct neuronal activity for lexical(~200 milliseconds), grammatical (~320 milliseconds), and phonological(~450 milliseconds) processing, identically for nouns and verbs,in a region activated in the same patients and task in functionalmagnetic resonance imaging. This suggests that a linguisticprocessing sequence predicted on computational grounds is implementedin the brain in fine-grained spatiotemporally patterned activity.”
The abstract of a new article studying the functions of Broca’s area by Ned T. Sahin, Steven Pinker, Sydney S. Cash, Donald Schomer, and Eric Halgren. If you’re a student and can connect to your Library’s server (or if you have a subscription), you can read the full text in the current issue of Science (10/16).
More middle ear goodness- proof that anatomy is amazing: the three tiniest bones in the body allow us to hear with remarkable precision. The tiny bones, or ossicles, actually vibrate at the frequency of the sound you hear: a 200 Hz voice sets the bones vibrating ad rate of 200 times per second. That is just so cool to me.
I thought I was homesick for New York before, but after this TED talk I find myself homesick for a New York that I wasn’t ever around to see: the 1609 New York. The Manhatta Project lets you zoom in on your address or place of interest and explore what the ecosystem was like 400 years ago. Up in my old hood: hawks, flying squirrels, skunks, bats- not that different than what’s up there now, actually.
It’s snowing, which means I’m not leaving the house, which means I need to do something complicated so that I can procrastinate. Hence, french toast.
For french toast:
8 pieces whole wheat toast (this is a healthy recipe, after all), either stale or dried a bit in a warm oven 4 eggs, lightly beaten 1 cup milk (plus a splash of cream, if you’re decadent) pinch salt 1 tsp. cinnamon 1 tsp. cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, or all three 2 tsp. vanilla extract splash whiskey butter
Mix all ingredients in a shallow dish. Don’t over-beat the eggs. Heat a skillet with butter. Butter sides of bread, and dip individually into batter. Cook bread on both sides until just crispy. Douse in sauce, below.
1/3 c. brown sugar 1/4 c. butter 1/3 c. cream splash whiskey spices and vanilla Heat ingredients together (i actually just microwaved them). The butter is going to rise, so add a little more cream and emulsify.
Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, 1923
It’s been snowing in Boulder, and this poem is classic, so I can’t resist posting it. I had the picture book above when I was a kid, and man, did I love it. I remember bringing it in to read for show-and-tell in Ms. George’s 2nd grade class. It must have been beyond the ken of my 8-year old classmates, and I remember how it stung to feel my audience growing restless as I read to them. I wanted to share something that I cared about, but they didn’t care at all. It’s a sad thing to be precocious and to know it. It’s sadder that those kids couldn’t picture themselves in those snowy woods or hear the horse shake his bells, because it’s such a lovely poem. Definitely perfect for kids, or adults, or anyone nestling under blankets with a hot cup of tea on a snowy night.