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.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
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Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
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Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
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