We tend to look down on apathy, a quality associated with laziness, civic disaffection and moral indifference. But research suggests that such behavior may be less about attitude and more about neural connections. The less impassioned among us, surprisingly, appear to have a lot going on inside their heads.
Olga Pyleva wasn’t allowed to keep her silver medal from the 2006 Olympic games in Turin. When the decorated Russian biathlete’s drug test came back positive for a banned substance, the Olympic committee disqualified her without a second thought. Pyleva said she didn’t know she was doping. The banned substance, she claimed, was an unlabeled ingredient in over-the-counter pain medication given to her by a Russian doctor.
Bedtime erections are everyone's business, or that's what historical treatment of the nocturnal phenomenon suggests, according to a 2014 paper by Mels F. van Driel, a urologist at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. Since early Christianity, philosophers, theologians, urologists, sexologists, other types of doctors, psychologists and church courts have weighed in on erections that spring up after people turn in. Today we know that sleep-related erections (We'll refer to them as SREs but we'd really prefer Sloners) are a normal, non-sexual occurrence associated with REM sleep, but we still don't understand exactly why they happen or which brain regions issue the call to attention.
Dreams, memory, creativity, psychosis, evolutionary survival: It's all connected, at least in the mind of Sue Llewellyn, a researcher at the University of Manchester. Llewellyn is a professor of humanities, which makes her something of an outsider in the realm of sleep-and-memory research. But her grand theory, of sorts, hinges on a notion currently seeing a scientific renaissance: We need to dream to remember. During REM sleep, our minds make sense of seemingly unrelated experiences, Llewellyn argues, thereby sparking a-ha moments that are integral to creative insights. Now, the evidence is moving to her side. One recent study similarly suggested that suppressing the brain activity underlying REM sleep impedes memory formation. We spoke to Llewellyn about her work on REM recall, madness and genius, states of "dedifferentiated" consciousness, and how it all fits together.
During this campaign season, many have argued (ourselves included) that sleep deprivation explains Donald Trump’s behavior as well as anything does. But, while the GOP front-runner is a sexist, batty bombast with the ethical rigidity of a water-logged gummy bear, he isn’t politically conservative in the traditional sense, and neither are his supporters. Ideologically, he’s a man of the people — well, he’s whatever man a reactionary, fickle people demands at the moment. He’s a shape-shifter; the non-solid, non-liquid diet prescribed to people without teeth. (At least we can count on Yogurt to expire by summer.)
In 1953, Nathaniel Kleitman and Eugene Aserinsky, pioneering sleep researchers at The University of Chicago, discovered REM sleep after scrutinizing the twitching eyelids of sleeping study participants. While we still don't know exactly why we dream (though increasingly advanced theories abound), we've since learned a lot about the physiology, content and nature of our racing REM minds. Here are nine such tidbits.
We all know Alice’s tale. Seven-year-old girl falls into an imagined world where, as an anthropomorphized cat famously explains, any and everyone is mad, including Alice herself. She meets some fantastical creatures and an evil queen. Adventures are had. As some believe, Alice’s time in Wonderland is less a dreamed-up journey than a trip of the acid variety. Whatever your take, in the 150 years since the book’s publication, most scholars who’ve combed through Lewis Carol’s pun-laden words have regarded Alice's travels as some type of surreal experience, be it a waking delusion, drug-induced hallucination or something dreamed up by a little girl who fell asleep in a field. The surreality of the story is precisely why, in a newly published study, Finnish neuroscientists from Aalto University chose to scan people's brains as they watched Alice in Wonderland in order to identify early-stage psychosis.
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