Best blog post title of the day: “I will suck your gruyere”

I will suck your gruyere

Tyler Cowen on why people love vampire tales:

Vampire stories offer a platform for exploring the theme of pure, limitless, and eternal desire, yet without encountering the absurdities that might result from planting that theme in a realistic, real world setting, such as a man who loves cheese studded with raisins above all else.

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Best blog post title of the day: “I will suck your gruyere”

I will suck your gruyere

Tyler Cowen on why people love vampire tales:

Vampire stories offer a platform for exploring the theme of pure, limitless, and eternal desire, yet without encountering the absurdities that might result from planting that theme in a realistic, real world setting, such as a man who loves cheese studded with raisins above all else.

Roz Chast’s “finite filing cabinet model” of memory confirmed

One of my favorite Roz Chast cartoons shows a woman dumping out the high-falutin’ contents of a filing cabinet drawer — 16th century art, or something like that — to make room for a new drawer full of information about new TV shows. This is the finite filing cabinet model of memory, in which you toss out one set of memory to make room for new information. It’s not one that has had much credence in neuroscience. Memories have been considered, the last decade or so, to be in there somewhere, but perhaps just inaccessible. The old “I haven’t forgotten it; I just can’t recall it right now” situation. Science New, via Wired Science, covers a paper suggesting the finite filing cabinet model may have some application after all. I’d say this needs some replication before it overturns the store-it-all paradigm; file it under “Interesting if true,” and remember what I call Ioanidis’s Maxim, which is that most novel findings don’t prove out.

So let the testing begin. In the meantime, it’s intriguing to see Roz Chast’s hypothesis bolstered experimentally.

A new rodent study shows that newborn neurons destabilize established connections among existing brain cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Clearing old memories from the hippocampus makes way for new learning, researchers from Japan suggest in the November 13 Cell.

sciencenewsOther researchers had proposed the idea that neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons, could disrupt existing memories, but the Cell paper is the first to show evidence supporting the idea, says Paul Frankland, a neuroscientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Scientists have known that memories first form in the hippocampus and are later transferred to long-term storage in other parts of the brain. For some amount of time the memory resides both in the hippocampus and elsewhere in the brain. What’s not been known is how, after a few months or years, the memory is gradually cleared from the hippocampus.

Researchers have also debated the role of neurogenesis in learning and memory. The hippocampus is one of only two places in the adult brain where scientists know that new neurons form. On the basis of previous studies, many researchers think new neurons stabilize memory circuits or are somehow otherwise necessary to form new memories.

The new study suggests the opposite: Newborn neurons weaken or disrupt connections that encode old memories in the hippocampus.

Roz Chast’s “finite filing cabinet model” of memory confirmed

One of my favorite Roz Chast cartoons shows a woman dumping out the high-falutin’ contents of a filing cabinet drawer — 16th century art, or something like that — to make room for a new drawer full of information about new TV shows. This is the finite filing cabinet model of memory, in which you toss out one set of memory to make room for new information. It’s not one that has had much credence in neuroscience. Memories have been considered, the last decade or so, to be in there somewhere, but perhaps just inaccessible. The old “I haven’t forgotten it; I just can’t recall it right now” situation.

Science New, via Wired Science, covers a paper suggesting the finite filing cabinet model may have some application after all. I’d say this needs some replication before it overturns the store-it-all paradigm; file it under “Interesting if true,” and remember what I call Ioanidis’s Maxim, which is that most novel findings don’t prove out.

So let the testing begin. In the meantime, it’s intriguing to see Roz Chast’s hypothesis bolstered experimentally.

A new rodent study shows that newborn neurons destabilize established connections among existing brain cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory. Clearing old memories from the hippocampus makes way for new learning, researchers from Japan suggest in the November 13 Cell.

sciencenewsOther researchers had proposed the idea that neurogenesis, the birth of new neurons, could disrupt existing memories, but the Cell paper is the first to show evidence supporting the idea, says Paul Frankland, a neuroscientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Scientists have known that memories first form in the hippocampus and are later transferred to long-term storage in other parts of the brain. For some amount of time the memory resides both in the hippocampus and elsewhere in the brain. What’s not been known is how, after a few months or years, the memory is gradually cleared from the hippocampus.

Researchers have also debated the role of neurogenesis in learning and memory. The hippocampus is one of only two places in the adult brain where scientists know that new neurons form. On the basis of previous studies, many researchers think new neurons stabilize memory circuits or are somehow otherwise necessary to form new memories.

The new study suggests the opposite: Newborn neurons weaken or disrupt connections that encode old memories in the hippocampus.

The Neurocritic: Genomarketing!

Is this the foreshadowing of a highly unethical marketing practice? Marketing based on MAO-A genotype, as determined from mailed-in credit card applications and payments? Credit card companies will have in-house labs to extract DNA from stamps and envelope flaps (Sinclair & McKechnie, 2000; Ng et al., 2007).1 Taking it one step further, entire marketing campaigns will be tailored to specific markers in an individual’s genome.2Is this what it’s coming to? Not so fast. Are there any limitations in the findings of De Neve and Fowler (2009)? There are many!!

Vintage Neurocritic here. Gotta see it.

The Neurocritic: Genomarketing!

Is this the foreshadowing of a highly unethical marketing practice? Marketing based on MAO-A genotype, as determined from mailed-in credit card applications and payments? Credit card companies will have in-house labs to extract DNA from stamps and envelope flaps (Sinclair & McKechnie, 2000; Ng et al., 2007).1 Taking it one step further, entire marketing campaigns will be tailored to specific markers in an individual’s genome.2Is this what it’s coming to? Not so fast. Are there any limitations in the findings of De Neve and Fowler (2009)? There are many!!

Vintage Neurocritic here. Gotta see it.

Senator Wants Pentagon To Review Antidepressants

us-soldiers-afghanBen Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, has asked the Pentagon for info on how many troops in war zones have been prescribed antidepressants while they were deployed. Cardin sent a letter Tuesday to US Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing concern about how antidepressants are being administered troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cardin wants to determine if the Defense Department is prescribing antidepressants appropriately and is concerned about any connection between the meds and suicide rates among troops. In October, for instance, 16 active-duty US soldiers killed themselves, bringing the total number of active-duty suicides in 2009 to 134. At this rate, the number of 2009 suicides will eclipse last year’s total of 140 – the highest yearly number of suicides in Army history. Cardin also notes the rate of active-duty suicides is greater than that of the US population, although he doesn’t question the “long-term efficacy” of the drugs.

Most soldier/vet suicides get blamed on PTSD. This overlooks a couple important things:

1. Depression and drinking problems are both more common than PTSD is, even among combat vets, and have a more robustly established and higher suicide risk.

2. As the story above notes, antidepressant use among younger people, especially if not monitored closely, is shown to carry a significant suicide risk.

Cardin’s effort is an attempt to address the second problem. This is a good example of how reflexive diagnoses, as PTSD has become for any combat veteran (and sometimes even prospective combat veterans — i.e., troops preparing to deploy), can do harm. They can lead you to ignore other possible causes of the symptoms on display.