The World Without Rose-Colored Glasses

People who have suffered from major depression are significantly better than other people at seeing a metaphorical forest, while the non-depressed are more alert to the trees, according to this study published a few months back in The Journal of Neuroscience. (I was led there by this New Scientist piece.) The paper suggests that depression isn't just a disease of emotion and thought--that it also alters perception.

Julie Golomb, a neuroscientist at Yale, ran a perceptual test on two groups: one of people with no history of depression and one of people who had recovered from two or more bouts of the disease. The volunteers were supposed to watch white bars moving across a gray background, and then decide which direction the motion had taken. The recovered depressed people did better when the image was large and strongly contrasted with the background; when the image was small and low-contrast, it was the non-depressives who scored best.

Golomb and her colleagues believe the explanation lies in the neurotransmitter Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), which is in relatively short supply in people with a history of depression. GABA is involved in the non-depressed person's ability to suppress the big picture in order to concentrate on a detail in the field of vision. Less GABA, the researchers reasoned, means less big-picture suppression. The experiment was designed to confirm this hypothesis, which it did. It's an elegant reminder that vision happens in the brain, not the eye.

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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Understand your own mind and goals via bullet journaling

Journaling can help you materialize your ambitions.

  • Organizing your thoughts can help you plan and achieve goals that might otherwise seen unobtainable.
  • The Bullet Journal method, in particular, can reduce clutter in your life by helping you visualize your future.
  • One way to view your journal might be less of a narrative and more of a timeline of decisions.
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