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    The editors of Scientific American MIND regularly encounter perspectives on science and technology that we believe our readers would find thought-provoking, fascinating, debatable and challenging. The MIND Guest blog is a forum for such opinions. The views expressed belong to the author and are not necessarily shared by Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @sciammind.
  • “Optocapacitance” Shines New Light on the Brain

    Francisco Bezanilla. (Photo: Kaspar Mossman, Copyright (2008) National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.)

    A novel twist on the young field of optogenetics may provide a new way to study living human brains as well as offering innovative therapeutic uses. From time immemorial, philosophers, anatomists and scientists have pondered the inner workings of the brain. Efforts to look inside the black box consistently yielded far more questions than answers. [...]

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    How to Help the Growing Female Prison Population

    Source: Pixabay

    Orange Is the New Black, the popular Netflix show based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, brought female prisons into America’s living room, highlighting several issues that are plaguing the correctional system. While the show exaggerates some of the illegal activities that happen in a prison, it accurately depicts how security personnel can exacerbate the [...]

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    The Growing Economic Burden of Depression in the U.S.

    Credit: Luis Sarabia/Flickr

    Depression in America costs society $210 billion per year, according to the newest data available, yet only 40 percent of this sum is associated with depression itself. My colleagues and I have found that most of the costs of depression are for related mental illnesses, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as [...]

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    Terms of Endearment: Why Do We Use Pet Names in Relationships?

    Romantic pet names

    I have been called a little owl, a swan and even a “panda-fish.” No, I’m not a supernatural, shape-shifting creature or a character in a children’s storybook. I’ve just been in a few relationships where cutesy, affectionate nicknames emerged as inside jokes. These names stuck around for months, even years – to the point where [...]

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    Using Light to Monitor and Activate Specific Brain Cells

    Artist's rendering of a spatial light modulator fires precise beams of laser light at neurons targeted by researchers, triggering those neurons to fire. (Courtesy of Hausser Lab/UCL)

    The past several years have brought two parallel revolutions in neuroscience. Researchers have begun using genetically encoded sensors to monitor the behavior of individual neurons, and they’ve been using brief pulses of light to trigger certain types of neurons to activate. These two techniques are known collectively as optogenetics—the science of using light to read [...]

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    Calling It Sex When They Mean Love

    Always kiss me goodnight. (Credit: Courtney Carmody/Flickr)

    The saying “Why do they call it love when they mean sex?” is often used when a person feels a strong physical attraction toward another person and they camouflage it as love or a special connection. Though it’s common, the opposite phenomenon, where sex means love, also exists and it’s slowly becoming more common, especially [...]

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    How Our Brains Process Books

    Reading. (Credit: Paul Bence/Flickr)

    We all know how it feels to get lost in a great book. Sometimes the characters and emotions can seem every bit as real as those of our everyday lives. But what’s happening in our brains as we dive into those pages? How is it different from what happens as we experience real life – [...]

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    Concussion Culture: How to Protect Young Athletes

    A collision in girls soccer. (Credit: Ole Olson via Flickr)

    In May of 2012, former NFL linebacker Junior Seau took his own life by shooting himself in the chest. Seau was dealing with depression, mood swings and insomnia. An autopsy of Seau’s brain revealed that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which Boston University’s CTE Center defines as “a progressive degenerative disease of the [...]

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    Why We Need to Abandon the Disease Model of Mental Health Care

    A Prescription for Psychiatry, book cover.

    The idea that our more distressing emotions such as grief and anger can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is pervasive and seductive. But in my view it is also a myth, and a harmful one. Our present approach to helping vulnerable people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned, inhumane [...]

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    To Feel Meaningful Is to Feel Immortal

    Still Life with Skull by Philippe de Champagne (1602-1674). (Wikimedia Commons)

    Imagine when our ancestors first started to look up at the stars and question their place in the universe. Why are we here? Are we alone? What happens to us when we die? It is difficult to know for sure at what point in time we became a species obsessed with existential questions. We can [...]

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