August 28, 2012

Catnip fever: Why your cat acts high

There are few things in this world more entertaining than cats. Except for, perhaps, cats on catnip.

Yes, "on" catnip. I speak of it like a drug, because it is.

Sure, make a laser pointer dance around the room and you've got endless hours of entertainment. But give Mittens a little toy mouse infused with catnip and—well, something changes.

Mittens will rub against the toy, rolling around and ecstatically chewing it. She may drool and become either sleepy or anxious. If you try to take the toy, she might act aggressive, scratching or biting at you.

Forget the mouse—Mittens wants the catnip inside. So what is catnip, and why is it causing your sweet kitty to behave so dichotomously?

August 13, 2012

"Gaines, on Brains" turns 1!

It was a year ago today—around this time of day, too—that I was sitting in my apartment at my new school, not quite sure how to spend my first weekend in this strange new town. My laundry was done, I'd already gotten groceries, and I didn't know anybody from orientation well enough to see if they wanted to go to Chocolate World with me.

I remember munching on a sandwich when it suddenly clicked that my last name rhymes with "brains" (why didn't I realize this before?!), and thus I quickly began making my science writing dreams a reality by creating this blog.

Today "Gaines, on Brains" turns 1, and what a year it's been! I've since started science blogs with LabSpacesPennLive, and my latest work-in-progress, Psychology Today magazine. My writing has been featured during my stint as a guest blogger for Scientopia, I've been linked by MSNBC, and was interviewed for the Scientific American Incubator Blog. I've been asked to attend special local events, write up press releases, and I even had the opportunity to interview psychic medium John Edward (believe his claims or not, it was an interesting experience).

But most importantly, this blog has allowed me to interact with so many interesting, insightful, thoughtful, and questioning readers—scientists and non-scientists alike—which is exactly how I envisioned my audience when I set out to write about the latest neuroscience research and hot topics.

And so, readers, I ask you for a small birthday gift. In the tradition of science writer Ed Yong and the SciAm Blog Network that just turned 1 last month, I want to know—who are you?

Whether you openly follow my blog or whether you lurk quietly, I'd love for you to tell me a bit about yourself and why you read this blog in the comments section below:

Who are you?
What is your relationship to science?
What drew you to this blog, and how often do you read it?
Do you follow the blog on Twitter and Facebook?
How am I doing? What do you like, and how can I improve?

These questions are a guide, not a strict format—write as much or as little as you want. 

I truly appreciate the feedback and opportunities I've received from everybody this past year, and I thank you all for your support and encouragement—as both a writer and a student. Stay neurosciencey!

August 1, 2012

Paralyze your face, fight depression

I'm willing to bet you've made fun of the expression-less faces on heavily-Botoxed people.

With their vanished crow's feet, missing smile lines, lack of forehead wrinkles, and paralyzed cheeks, eventually we just can't tell whether Botox abusers are happy, sad, angry, worried, or just plain crazy. We can only assume the latter.

As it turns out, this side effect may actually be a good thing for individuals with depression who are resistant to other forms of treatment.