What Really Are Emotions?
Are emotions pre-wired into our brains at birth, or do we learn them, in the context of the norms of the society in which we grow up? Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University explores this fascinating question in her new book “How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain,” and concludes that emotions are definitely not built-in but learned.
The Guardian has a nice review of her work here.
Are genetically modified organisms, including common foods like corn, truly dangerous, or has worries about them been exaggerated? Kurgesagt explores this question.
Short and Long Term Memories
Scientists from MIT’s Riken Institute for Neural Circuit Genetics have published a landmark study in the journal Science that shows that contrary to established theory, short term and long term memories of the same event are formed at the same time, but mature in a transitional sequence.
Mice mildly shocked in a particular environment formed a short term memory in the amygdala, and a long term memory in the prefrontal cortex, this known through brain scanning imaging. Optogenetic technology designed to turn on one memory or the other was used to show that the short term memory fades (but is retained) even as the long term memory “matures” into existence.
While a beautiful experiment in its own right, there is hope that this research can be used on patients with dementia.
Always Get a Second Opinion
Veritasium explores Bayes Theorem, to see how probabilities can be used to determine how sure we should be about a particular conclusion, and how we humans need to experiment if we want to break out of our preconceived notions of what is really true.
The Loneliness of Perception
In science, it is very common to conflate human perceptions with objective reality. We say that green laser light has a wavelength of 532 nm, but that light is not objectively green, only that we humans commonly perceive it as green.
Michael of V Sauce addresses this question in his usual insouciant style.
Antibiotics and the Microbiome
I’ve been writing about the microbiome for a while, and how we need bacteria in our gut in order to live a healthy life.
But taking antibiotics often clears out a substantial portion of our microbiome. Now we learn that taking too many antibiotics can lead to a dramatic increase in polyps in the colon, a precursor to colorectal cancer.