Archive for: August, 2011

Now at the Guest Blog, Inktopia and Suburban Stone Age!

Aug 31 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Man our Guest Blog stints go by quick! It's now time for new peeps on the Guest Blog, and this time we have Inktopia and Suburban Stone Age! Inktopia is a bit of a departure for us, studying American Lit after the Civil War, but we could also use some smart and funny commentary on life in the humanities, and life being MARRIED to a scientist. We are also featuring Becky of Suburban Stone Age, who writes a blog focused on learning from the past as well as the future. Make sure to check them both out while they're here!

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At SciAm Today: Muscle Fatigue is all in your head

Aug 30 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Or at least, PARTIALLY in your head. Not all. 🙂 I'm over at SciAm today talking about the role of the brain in muscle fatigue. Check it out!

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We are back!

Aug 29 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Two things:

1) Sorry for the recent Scientopia outages! There are some technical problems with a n00b like myself does not understand. But we're back now! I posted my Friday Weird Science over at Scientific American, where you can read about what happens if you eat too many carrots (really!).

2) Due to recent events going on personally and professionally, I will be cutting back on blogging to two posts per week for the next two months. I will post Tuesdays at SciAm and Fridays (of course!) here. I'm sorry about this and I hate to reduce your delicious science diets, but it's got to be done. I hope to be back and running full steam ahead sometime in November. Thanks for your patience.

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Sci is at SciAm Today!

Aug 23 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

And I'm taking on the HFCS issue again. Does it really cause you to gain more weight? If it does...WHY? You can see my previous post on the topic here, and my current one here. Check 'em out!

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Grad Students and Post-docs, check it out!!!

Aug 22 2011 Published by under Blog Carnivals

Hermitage has done it again, and by "it", I mean her fantastic carnival about women in academia, now with 100% fewer babies! Many women in academia find that "women in academia" seminars and sessions end up dominated by questions of family balance, and while that's obviously extremely important, there are lots of questions out there about being a women in academia that don't involve having children. And now Hermie has gathered some of those questions, and has asked some bigger, badder female bloggers to weigh in. She's got all the links at her place and the answers are ALWAYS well worth a read. Go check it out!

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Friday Weird Science: Move over Cosmo, We've got a Vagina Map!!!

Aug 19 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

You know how all those ladies' magazines are telling you how to have mind-blowing orgasms using the same techniques they've been touting for years, usually involving cowgirl and/or trying to revamp missionary as a totally "hot" position (not saying it's NOT, obviously, just it's reputation and all). Well...if you read a lot of magazines on this topic, it may have struck you that most of the advice is...the same. All the same. All based on ideas of how the female genitalia worked. IDEAS. Because very little of this was tested. Most studies of sensitivity in women were actually assumptions based on sensitivity in men, and thus focused almost exclusively on the clitoris (with the idea that the clitoris is basically the male penis, and the vagina is just this hole. Yeah, I know).

Until now. Ladies, we have the new study on which all of Cosmo's articles will be based for the next decade at least. We've got...a vagina map. And a complete FEMALE homunculus.

Komisaruk et al. "Women's clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence" Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2011.

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And then the smokers came for your sperm...

Today was a lovely day. The weather was perfect, a good day in lab, a good run, a delicious veggie burger, a good beer. Life was pretty much perfect as I sat down in a mood to blog.

...and then I read this paper. And it was like this:

(You know, if only they could have told it to me in a GOOD way...)

There are some papers that you finish reading, and you think to yourself "yup, we're all screwed". I think I have to go find a heartwarming paper about curing cancer now to make myself feel better.

See, first first hand smoke came for your lungs. Then it came for your throat. Then SECOND hand smoke came for your lungs.

...and then they both came after your SPERM.

Marchetti, et al. "Sidestream tobacco smoke is a male germ cell mutagen" PNAS,

I suppose since this is about sperm it should be a Friday Weird Science, but it's just too depressing...

Oh man, now I'm all down and no one will want to read it. I'll try and be perky about it! HONEST! Bad news in a GOOD way!
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Welcome to the City

Aug 16 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Sci's got a new post up at Scientific American on City Living and Mental Health: Is the city driving you crazy? My answer? Well, let's not get too excited. Head over to SciAm and check it out!.

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Friday Weird Science: Nutty Semen

Aug 12 2011 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Sci will be honest: I hate Brazil nuts. I have no idea why anyone eats them, they always taste all sour and gritty and WEIRD. The taste just kind of lingers in your teeth. But what if it didn’t just linger in your teeth? What if it lingered in your…semen?

Ah, Sci, you say. You’re always all about the semen.

Bansal et al. “Dangerous Liason: Sexually transmitted allergic reaction to Brazil Nuts” Journal of Investigative Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2007.


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Another reason those Antidepressants might not be working: taken Aspirin lately?

Aug 10 2011 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

A few days ago I talked a little bit about the interactions between stress and neurogenesis, and the way that this might impact symptoms of depression. But it turns out that there’s even more to the way stress affects the body than impacting neurogenesis, and the long term effects could in turn affect the way antidepressants work, or don’t work.

You see, antidepressants aren’t all that effective. This is mostly because we’re not sure how antidepressants work, or even have their effects when they DO work. Until we understand the mechanism, we can’t come to an understanding of what better drugs we can use, and why the current drugs are only partially effective. But there are other effects that stem from our lack of mechanistic understanding. For example, because we don’t understand HOW antidepressants work when they do work, we ALSO don’t understand how antidepressants might interact with other drugs that might increase or decrease their effectiveness.

And here’s where we get to cytokines. Cytokines are chemicals that are specifically involved in inflammation. They are released from the glia in the your central nervous system and can modulate your immune system, promoting or suppressing formation of antibodies, among other things. And inflammation has a link to depressive behavior, though we’re not really sure what it is. Many people who are getting treated with cytokines (drugs to decrease cytokines are used in treatment of autoimmune disorders) will often suffer from depressive symptoms, presumably as a result of the treatment. And some people think of major depressive disorder as a partial dysregulation of sickness behaviors. Slow moving, decreased cognitive abilities, decreased interest in fun activites, these are all behaviors that are not only associated with depression, they are associated with sickness in general. Not only that, several kinds of cytokines can interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, which regulates stress responses and is also involved in depressive behaviors. So it is possible that regulation of cytokines can help regulate the HPA axis, whichi in turn can influence depressive like behavior. In one direction this means that it could make depression worse, but in another, it could also mean that it could make depressive symptoms better.

So how do you figure this out? You look at drugs that decrease inflammation, thus decreasing cytokine activity. The best well know of these are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, otherwise known as the NSAIDS, and the best known of THOSE are Aspirin and Ibuprofen. So could NSAIDS, by affecting levels of cytokines, affect the HPA axis and antidepressant responses?


Warner-Schmidt, et al. “Antidepressant effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are attenuated by anti-inflammatory drugs in mice and humans” PNAS, 2011.
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