Archive for: February, 2013

Scicurious Guest Writer: Don't go Loko

Feb 27 2013 Published by under Scicurious Guest Writers

Please head to SciAm Blogs today and welcome this month's Scicurious Guest Writer, Elizabeth Aston! She'll be telling us about the combination of energy drinks and caffeine. Energy drinks are one thing, caffeine is another, but combined? That's Loko. Head over and check it out.

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This is your brain on cookies!

Feb 26 2013 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

I am so excited! The talented Katie of Symbiartic drew cartoons for my recent post on high fat food withdrawal. It's got some GREAT pictures, and I'm so pleased she was inspired! And I totally want THIS:

brainoncookies-1024x801
(Property of Katie McKisseck)

As a poster!! Thanks so much Katie!

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Of course I'm stressed, I'm in cookie withdrawal!

Feb 25 2013 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

At SciAm Blogs today, I'm talking about a study looking at high fat diet withdrawal. Is there such a thing as withdrawal from a diet? And what does that mean? Head over and check it out!

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Friday Weird Science: Need more caffeine? Rub it in.

Feb 22 2013 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Today's Friday Weird Science was inspired by @TruffledSquirrel, Who sent me the following tweet.

The link listed is to this product:

This is Shower Shock, caffeinated soap. And in fact, I have personal experience with it! Someone gave it to me as a gift, figuring that anything caffeine-themed would go over well. They were correct, but unfortunately, I have extremely sensitive skin and couldn't use the soap. 🙁

But I, like @trufflesquirrel, have always wondered if it worked. I have to admit I basically assumed that it was a gimmick. I mean, caffeine absorption through the skin? The claims are as follows:

Shower Shock is an all vegetable based glycerine soap which does *not* contain any harsh ingredients like ethanol, diethanolamine, polyethylene glycol or cocyl isethionate. So it's a gently invigorating soap 😉 Scented with peppermint oil and infused with caffeine anhydrous, each bar of Shower shock contains approximately 12 servings/showers per 4 ounce bar with 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving. No, we're not kidding and no you don't eat it. Caffeine can be absorbed through the skin. For maximum effect, ThinkGeek recommends that you build up a good Shower Shock lather across your entire body before rinsing!

(Emphasis mice)

Well, can it? The question got me looking. And lo and behold, shower shock is not necessarily a far fetched idea!

Feldman and Maibach. "Absorption of some organic compounds through the skin in man" The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1970.

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12 responses so far

On writing it down

Feb 20 2013 Published by under Academia

It never fails. Every semester I train new students, and every semester, the same thing happens. I hand them a sheet of my guidelines for students. Listed in there is the following:

4. Write things down. You will be getting so much new information at first it will feel like drinking out of a fire hose. Here is a good rule of thumb: if I am explaining something, you should be writing it down. Also, if something is unclear to you, interrupt and ask for clarification.

Every semester I give out these sheets. They must go unread, because the first time that student learns anything from me...they don't write anything down. Usually the new, shiny lab notebook is closed. Often they don't even have a pen.

Look, kids. I do real good by you. I hold your hand through a protocol through at least two iterations (and let me tell you, watching someone sloooooowly pipette, or freak out trying to pick up a rodent by its tail for the 40th time, takes the patience of a saint). I not only write down protocols, I put them where you can find them. I hand them to you, printed out, physically, before each experiment. But even a printed out protocol a monkey could follow will not have things like "go to file: protocols: save as" written in it, it'll just say "save". That's why you need to WRITE IT DOWN. Even a written protocol will not have everything.

Write it down. Yeah, you say, no worries, I'll remember.

No you won't. NO YOU WON'T. Three days later? Sure. But three months later when you finally run the experiment again and need to remember whether it was red light or white light? You won't remember. Heck, most of you won't even have printed out the protocol again, because you won't have written down or read my careful instructions on how to keep a good lab notebook. And then you will come wailing to me about how you didn't KNOW where to save. How you didn't REMEMBER. And sometimes, when I tell you...you still don't write it down.

So don't look at me and get angry and defensive when I ask why you don't have a pen. Don't grump at me about how you won't need it. Shut up, swallow your pride. Write it down. Then when you forget something, and there it is in your lab notebook, all written down, and won't you feel clever? And won't I be relieved over not having to hold your hand? I beg you, students. Think of your postdocs. Write it down.

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AAAS Science and Social Media recap!

Feb 18 2013 Published by under Academia, Activism

Sci was at AAAS last week to give a talk on Scientists and Social Media! We had a great audience with lots of questions, and I was so glad that people felt engaged! Of course, not everyone could make the talk, so if you WANTED to and couldn't, I have put up my slides and the text of my talk over at SciAm Blogs! It's got all the links to the things that I mentioned so that you can check out some of these sites for yourself. I'd be glad to take more questions as well as comments, rants, and potentially raves. So please head over and check out the science and social media recap!

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Friday Weird Science: A load of S***

Feb 15 2013 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Today's Friday Weird Science is inspired by Kate Clancy, or rather, Kate Clancy's offspring. Said offspring had the recent misfortune to receive a gift in her shoe. A rather smelly gift. Yup, one of her preschool friends pooped in her shoe.

Nothing like a poop in your shoe to show eternal friendship I guess. Luckily Kate's offspring took it in good part. I figure, that's something so odd you kind of HAVE to laugh it off.

But the story, and other such stories, got me thinking. Poop. We don't talk about it much. Well, ok, some of us do, but usually in terms of things of whether or not we're constipated or have diarrhea, depending on our stress levels and whether a norovirus is going around. But in a normal healthy human...how often do we poop? And...how big is it? I mean, someone must have investigated this question, I have to assume that modern toilets have the latest in ergonomic poop volume disposal design. But who has?

Well, I found one group. And they not only took heroic measures to gather, dry, and weigh poop, they also looked at both high and low fiber diets! We all know that high fiber diets are supposed to...well make things move along, shall we say. But the effect on volume! Oh my.

Kelsay et al. "Effect of fiber from fruits and vegetables on metabolic responses of human subjects: fiber intakes, fecal excretions, and apparent digestibilities." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1981.

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At a cocktail party? Focus on the face

Feb 13 2013 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

I've been at a lot of conferences lately. Heck I'm headed to another one today! At a lot of these conferences, you end up in a large room full of people. Maybe it's the bar, maybe it's a giant ballroom, maybe it's a huge poster session floor. It's absolutely echoing with the sound of dozens to thousands of voices all talking at once. And yet, through all of it, you can somehow focus on the person in front of you! Sometimes, as I navigate my way through another happy hour or poster session, I really wonder how that works.

Over time, and through many crowded conversations, I've noticed something. When my attention begins to wander away from the person I'm talking to (not necessarily because I'm bored, but usually because I'm tired), I end up looking around...and I have a much harder time hearing the person I'm supposed to hear! How does that work? How do you focus on the one person you need to talk to at the cocktail party?

Golumbic et al. "Visual Input Enhances Selective Speech Envelope Tracking in Auditory Cortex at a “Cocktail Party” Journal of Neuroscience, 2013.

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AAAS Panel: Science and Social Media

Feb 12 2013 Published by under Academia

Sci is headed to Boston tomorrow to participate in a panel on Engaging with Social Media at the AAAS meeting! I'm very excited to go, I have always wanted to go to a AAAS meeting! And I'd love to see you at the panel! So if you're interested, head over to SciAm for details!

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Dopamine goggles and the glass half full

Feb 11 2013 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sci is at SciAm Blogs today, talking about another aspect of dopamine. I usually talk about dopamine in the context of reward and addiction, but dopamine also plays a role in attention and learning, especially in something called prediction errors, learning how much your expectations match reality. But it turns out that, instead of being dead on, dopamine's a bit of an optimist. Head over and check it out.

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