From the Archives: The Promise of Ketamine

promiseofketamine.jpgThis month, the FDA approved the use of esketamine, a nasal spray based on the old anesthetic and once-popular club drug ketamine, to treat people with severe depression that has not responded to other treatments. It’s costly and entails visiting the doctor for four hours a week for four weeks, but it’s the first treatment in decades that works in a new way in the brain. That means it might reach the large number of people with depression who are not helped by drugs that target other brain functions.

Last March, Ronald S. Duman, Ph.D., wrote for Cerebrum on “The Dazzling Promise of Ketamine,” exploring how the drug was validated as an antidepressant, how it works, and what it could mean for development of other drugs: Continue reading

Community Neuroscience: How to Write About Neuroscience

Want to learn the do’s and dont’s of communicating neuroscience? Tune in to the fifth episode of Community Neuroscience, and find out! We interview Kayt Sukel, an accomplished science writer whose essays and articles have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, New Scientist, The Washington Post, Pacific Standard, National Geographic, Science, Memory & Cognition, and more. She has written a number of articles for the Dana Foundation (the most recent one on treatment outcomes for post-traumatic stress disorder) and is well-versed in reporting hard science with accuracy. Watch the video below for tips on how to make complex brain research understandable for lay audiences.

Want to learn even more about turning scientific jargon into lay-friendly prose? Grab a copy of Jane Nevins’ You’ve Got Some Explaining to Do, published by the Dana Press. In case you missed an earlier episode of this series, not to worry! They are all up on the Dana Foundation YouTube channel.

Dana Foundation Launches Neuroscience Outreach Video Series

Title screenshot.png

To support and encourage people interested in building an organization or communicating brain science through events, teaching, or writing, the Dana Foundation today launches the first of five “Community Neuroscience” videos. The videos, between 5 and 12 minutes in length, will air weekly on the Dana Foundation YouTube channel starting January 16, leading up to Brain Awareness Week (March 11-17), an annual global event that promotes the promise and benefits of brain research.

Here is a summary of the topics and guests in the order they’ll air: Continue reading

There’s No Brain in the World Like Yours

Guest post by Kayt Sukel 

Imaging.jpg

Image: Shutterstock

In the beloved children’s book, Happy Birthday to You!, Dr. Seuss writes, “Today you are YOU, that is TRUER than true. There is NO ONE alive who is YOUER than YOU.” Those who study the brain understand that the complex interplay of genetics and environment give rise to that “you-ness” of which Dr. Seuss spoke. And, as it turns out, it also makes for unique changes to brain anatomy—so much so that one can be uniquely identified by the brain, much like with fingerprints or the eye’s iris pattern.

Lutz Jäncke, a neuropsychologist at Switzerland’s University of Zurich, has spent his career studying individual differences. His work looking at brain differences in musicians, dancers, and chess players demonstrated that the human brain is profoundly shaped by experience.

“Thirty years ago, we didn’t anticipate that the human brain is so plastic,” he explains. “In learning that training and experience can have such a profound influence on the human brain, even in terms of anatomical and morphological aspects, we wondered if it was possible to identify individuals on the basis of anatomical features in the brain.”

Continue reading

And All That Jazz: A Q&A with Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D.

Guest post by Kayt Sukel 

Famed artist Barbara Januszkiewicz once said, “Jazz is the art of thinking out loud.” Is it any wonder then that jazz has made its way into a variety of neuroscience laboratories to help researchers investigate the neural underpinnings of creativity, communication, and timing?

In honor of International Jazz Day, a day designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to celebrate jazz’ ability to connect people from all over the globe, Michael Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D. , a neurologist at Columbia University (and jazz guitar player), shares his thoughts about jazz, timing, and the celebration of what our brains do each and every day in the service of cognition.

intljazzday_shadlen2.png

Photo: Michael Shadlen

You are a jazz guitarist. What first got you interested in playing jazz music?

MS: I’ve always been interested in music. When I was younger, I played the violin. Later, I switched to guitar—mainly because my violin teacher wanted me to choose between basketball, girls, and violin. So I switched to guitar. I played in a rock band for a long time doing covers. We had the Bar Mitzvah circuit down!

But the drummer in our band was in the jazz band in high school. And he turned me on to it. We’d go to this amazing café called Amazing Grace in Evanston, Illinois. They had mostly folk music but also a lot of jazz acts. I remember seeing Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, and all kinds of amazing artists play there. It was pretty spectacular.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: