April 11, 2014

A Mad Man, Indeed: Don Draper on the Couch

When last we saw our fearless antihero, Don Draper, he was standing face-to-face with his crumbling, dilapidated childhood home. Surprisingly, his three children were by his side as he took these first tentative steps towards admitting his past life. In the episode's final moments, he shared a knowing glance with his oldest (and somewhat estranged) daughter, Sally.

In Season 7 of Mad Men, which launches this Sunday on AMC, we hope for some closure on the real Don Draper and the secret life he created for himself.

Draper was named #1 Most Influential Man by online magazine Ask Men in 2009 (ahead of real people, mind you), and Comcast has christened him one of TV's Most Intriguing Characters.

And rightfully so. Draper is the perfect character study for Drama 101, introduced to us in 1960 as the dapper, charming creative director for the fictional NYC advertising firm Sterling Cooper.

But as the series unfolds, it’s hard to ignore Don’s cynicism, arrogance, and womanizing tendencies. He drinks and smokes too much. He’s cheated on both of his wives (many, many times). He's left his children home alone (to deal with an intruder, no less), and Sally once caught him having sex with a neighbor. And let's not forget that he was basically fired in the last episode.

But perhaps most telling is that Don Draper's name is actually Dick Whitman, a Korean war deserter who switched Lt. Donald H. Draper’s dog tags with his own and created a new life for himself.

We love him. We hate him. And we definitely don’t understand him. Many questions remain, but perhaps the most puzzling of all is simply: who is Don Draper, and why is he the way he is?

March 22, 2014

Sign up for The NeuroTransmitter!

Neuroscience is an expansive, fascinating field with incredible new—sometimes earth-shattering—findings coming out every week. But you already knew that. After all, you read Gaines, on Brains!

As much as I'd like to write about all the latest research coming out, my job as a graduate student prevents me from doing so. (I mean, technically I could—but then I wouldn't be sleeping. And as many of my readers know, I like sleep.) 

But my job doesn't prevent me from reading and soaking in all the coolest that the neuro field has to offer. So I'm giving back.

I'm developing a newsletter called The NeuroTransmitter, a compilation of links, photos, and videos that will be sent directly to your inbox once a week.

If you are interested, you can subscribe by filling out the form found here. It's free, and your information will never be sold to a third party.

Blogging will continue as usual, so fear not. Now you just get even more new neuroscience material to gobble up. YAY!

March 11, 2014

Why We're Wired to Binge-Watch TV

In this day and age of microblogging, distracting smartphones, 140-character tweets, and compulsive multitasking, it seems a little backward that one of the top post-workday hobbies of young folks is to become completely engrossed in the complicated storylines of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and House of Cards for hours on end.

A new type of consumer has evolved in recent years—the love child of the Couch Potato and the Channel Surfer, raised by streaming devices and nurtured by entire seasons of shows available at the click of a remote.

For just a few dollars a months, subscribers to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video have access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows updated regularly. And with Netflix’s new post-play feature, which prompts viewers to play the next episode just as the credits of the last one begin rolling, it’s easier than ever to succumb to the captivating lure of Walter White and Frank Underwood.

Indeed, the birth of the “binge-watcher” has been an intriguing, unexpected development in the past five years. Neuroscience, it turns out, can partially explain the phenomenon.

March 2, 2014

Internet Trolls are also Real-Life Trolls

Have you ever been minding your business on the Internet when a "troll" comes around just in time to ruin your day?

Sure, they're super annoying to deal with, and the anonymity of the Internet provides the perfect playground to hone their skills.

But a new study sheds light on the personality of The Troll. Indeed, they're real-life sadists and truly gain pleasure from their online antics.

Read more at my latest piece with The Guardian here!

February 18, 2014

Why Don't Figure Skaters Get Dizzy?

If you've been faithfully watching the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, you've probably found yourself asking the question, "Don't those figure skaters get dizzy?"

Well, the truth is: yes, they do.

But what causes dizziness, and, most importantly, how do figure skaters seem to recover from it so well? As it turns out, they've got some tricks up their sheer, sequined sleeves.

Check out my latest piece with NBC News Health to learn more here!