What were the biggest neuroscience stories of 2013? It may be years before we gain the perspective to know for sure. But here’s a list of top contenders, and one of dubious value.
Women suffer depression and anxiety disorders at higher rates than men; a new study finds an interesting new explanation for this. Unwholesome family life can alter development of threat-detection circuits in the brain of young girls, which persist into adulthood and predispose women to developing mood and anxiety disorders as adolescents and young adults. Boys are also negatively impacted by family stresses during childhood, but the lasting effects on their brain were seen in only one of two neural circuits controlling our response to threats, anxiety and fear.
Squeezing her hand over the toddler’s nose and mouth she smothered him to death because he would not stop crying. Last Monday 22-year-old Jessica Fraraccio pleaded guilty in court to felony murder of 23-month-old Elijah Nealey in the summer of 2012. No one in their right mind could conceive of committing such a horrible act, but babies are tragically killed or left severely brain damaged by shaken baby syndrome inflicted by a parent, family member, or caretaker frustrated by a child’s incessant crying. Dismissing those with depraved minds, how can we comprehend such sad stories as this one in the Washington Post?
“Listen to your conscience,” my mother would say.But where does that mysterious urge to do what is right come from? Scientists have now pinpointed the brain circuitry that compels us to behave according to social norms; moreover, researchers can boost a person’s fairness by exciting this brain region, and promote cheating by inhibiting this bit of brain tissue.
The last time I was on Boylston Street it was to give a lecture in November at a scientific meeting in the Weston Hotel. Today, Sunday, I’m looking out onto an empty street, barricaded. An eerie modern-day ghost town festooned with yellow police tape rippling in the cold Boston wind. Continue reading
When anyone wants to support science, I’m in. These are trying times, when the scientific enterprise is facing severe cuts as budget sequestration looms, creating even more uncertainty and angst among research institutions – not to mention young scientists who might be questioning whether they want to enter a career with such a high level of risk. Continue reading