There are still occasional sirens to this past, and there remains a seductive, if increasingly rare, desire to recreate the furor and fever of earlier times. I look back over my shoulder and feel the presence of an intense young girl and then a volatile and disturbed young woman, both with high dreams and restless, romantic aspirations: How could one, should one, recapture that intensity or re-experience the glorious moods of dancing all night and into the morning, the gliding through starfields and dancing along the rings of Saturn, the zany manic enthusiasms? How can one ever bring back the long summer days of passion, the remembrance of lilacs, ecstasy, and gin fizzes that spilled down over a garden wall, and the peals of riotous laughter than lasted until the sun came up or the police arrived?
There is, for me, a mixture of longings for an earlier age; that is inevitable, perhaps, in any life, but there is an extra twist of almost painful nostalgia brought about by having lived a life particularly intense in moods. This makes it even harder to leave the past behind, and life, on occasion, becomes a kind of elegy for lost moods. I miss the lost intensities, and I find myself unconsciously reaching out for them, as I still now and again reach back with my hand for the fall and heaviness of my now-gone, long, thick hair; like the trace of moods, only a phantom weight remains." -Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind (via joansholloway)
women get into something not aimed at their gender: not real fans. probably secret friend zone warriors deadset on erasing men from the human race. get insulting demeaning memes and sexual harassment.
ugh so heads up to anyone who goes to see This Is The End: it’s pretty much a two-hour rape and violence-against-women joke. Explanation under the cut, massive TW for rape and violence.
Jonathan Hobin Re-Creates the World’s Most Infamous Tragedies with Children
more of the album here
these are surreal as fuck
Happy 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act! (sort of). Here are some sobering visuals: For every dollar earned by a white man in America, a white woman earns, on average, 77 cents, a black woman earns 69 cents, and a Latina woman earns 57 cents. (Infographic by the lovely Emily Nemens for LeanIn.Org.)
"When I wake up just before dawn and hear the throbbing voices of birds as they echo against the silence, I am overpowered by yearning. When I ride in the dark on stark roads through dry, bald hills, I ache with desperate longing. I don’t know what I am longing for, maybe for some place of my own within these images, some place where I fit, instead of being the one human being still awake, the only thing moving across the hills in the arid darkness. Maybe that ache is loneliness. I haven’t found a name for the feeling yet, nor do I know exactly what awakes in me. But instinct warns me that it is too potent for me, that my soul is on the verge of cracking when I feel it that way. I cannot handle the sheer power of those wild emotions by myself. I have to find some way to share them. That is why I write. It’s instinctive. I just have to—because it is awake like lava in my blood, and sustains me."-Rachel Corrie, Let Me Stand Alone (via awritersruminations)
"There is an ache in my heart for the imagined beauty of a life I haven’t had, from which I had been locked out, and it never goes away."-Robert Goolrick (via seabois)
Q: I find that I feel good when I am helping others in need, and it makes me sad to live by another person’s pain. However, this makes me feel like everything we do to help is always, deep down, about the “me” and the “I”. I feel good for giving, so I will do it again, because it invokes pleasure into my brain. But isn’t it just truly only for my brain I’m doing it for, because I technically can’t live inside someone else’s?
Attention during natural vision warps semantic representation across the human brain
Unfortunately I could not access this article, so I’ve provided a video of the first author, Tolga Çukur at Berkeley, talking about the experiment published in Nature this year. He begins with an introduction and presents the results around 3:25. Here’s a nice summary from a wall street journal article:
People in an fMRI scanner watched a half-hour-long sequence combining very short video clips of everyday scenes. The scientists organized the video content into hundreds of categories, describing whether each segment included a plant or a building, a cat or a clock.
Then they divided the whole brain into small sections with a three-dimensional grid and recorded the activity in each section of the grid for each second. They then found the relationship between the patterns of brain activity and the content of the videos.
The twist was that the participants either looked for human beings in the videos or looked for vehicles. When they looked for humans, great swaths of the brain became a “human detector”—more sensitive to humans and less sensitive to vehicles. Looking for vehicles turned more of the brain into a “vehicle detector.” And when people looked for humans their brains also became more sensitive to related objects, like cats and plants. When they looked for vehicles, their brains became more sensitive to clocks and buildings as well.
In fact, the response patterns of most brain areas changed when people changed the focus of their attention. Something as ineffable as where you focus your attention can make your whole brain work differently.
Little is known about how attention changes the cortical representation of sensory information in humans. On the basis of neurophysiological evidence, we hypothesized that attention causes tuning changes to expand the representation of attended stimuli at the cost of unattended stimuli. To investigate this issue, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure how semantic representation changed during visual search for different object categories in natural movies. We found that many voxels across occipito-temporal and fronto-parietal cortex shifted their tuning toward the attended category. These tuning shifts expanded the representation of the attended category and of semantically related, but unattended, categories, and compressed the representation of categories that were semantically dissimilar to the target. Attentional warping of semantic representation occurred even when the attended category was not present in the movie; thus, the effect was not a target-detection artifact. These results suggest that attention dynamically alters visual representation to optimize processing of behaviorally relevant objects during natural vision.
Age-defying: Master key of lifespan found in brain
The brain’s mechanism for controlling ageing has been discovered – and manipulated to shorten and extend the lives of mice. Drugs to slow ageing could follow
Tick tock, tick tock… A mechanism that controls ageing, counting down to inevitable death, has been identified in the hypothalamus – a part of the brain that controls most of the basic functions of life.
By manipulating this mechanism, researchers have both shortened and lengthened the lifespan of mice. The discovery reveals several new drug targets that, if not quite an elixir of youth, may at least delay the onset of age-related disease.
The hypothalamus is an almond-sized puppetmaster in the brain. “It has a global effect,” says Dongsheng Cai at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Sitting on top of the brain stem, it is the interface between the brain and the rest of the body, and is involved in, among other things, controlling our automatic response to the world around us, our hormone levels, sleep-wake cycles, immunity and reproduction.
While investigating ageing processes in the brain, Cai and his colleagues noticed that ageing mice produce increasing levels of nuclear factor kB (NF-kB) – a protein complex that plays a major role in regulating immune responses. NF-kB is barely active in the hypothalamus of 3 to 4-month-old mice but becomes very active in old mice, aged 22 to 24 months.
To see whether it was possible to affect ageing by manipulating levels of this protein complex, Cai’s team tested three groups of middle-aged mice. One group was given gene therapy that inhibits NF-kB, the second had gene therapy to activate NF-kB, while the third was left to age naturally.
This last group lived, as expected, between 600 and 1000 days. Mice with activated NF-kB all died within 900 days, while the animals with NF-kB inhibition lived for up to 1100 days.
Crucially, the mice that lived the longest not only increased their lifespan but also remained mentally and physically fit for longer. Six months after receiving gene therapy, all the mice were given a series of tests involving cognitive and physical ability.
In all of the tests, the mice that subsequently lived the longest outperformed the controls, while the short-lived mice performed the worst.
Post-mortem examinations of muscle and bone in the longest-living rodents also showed that they had many chemical and physical qualities of younger mice.
Further investigation revealed that NF-kB reduces the level of a chemical produced by the hypothalamus called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) – better known for its involvement in the regulation of puberty and fertility, and the production of eggs and sperm.
To see if they could control lifespan using this hormone, the team gave another group of mice – 20 to 24 months old – daily subcutaneous injections of GnRH for five to eight weeks. These mice lived longer too, by a length of time similar to that of mice with inhibited NF-kB.
GnRH injections also resulted in new neurons in the brain. What’s more, when injected directly into the hypothalamus, GnRH influenced other brain regions, reversing widespread age-related decline and further supporting the idea that the hypothalamus could be a master controller for many ageing processes.
GnRH injections even delayed ageing in the mice that had been given gene therapy to activate NF-kB and would otherwise have aged more quickly than usual. None of the mice in the study showed serious side effects.
So could regular doses of GnRH keep death at bay? Cai hopes to find out how different doses affect lifespan, but says the hormone is unlikely to prolong life indefinitely since GnRH is only one of many factors at play. “Ageing is the most complicated biological process,” he says.
“There are dozens of pathways that people will look at thanks to this work,” says Richard Miller at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Miller has previously demonstrated that an immunosuppressant drug called rapamycin can also extend life in mice (see “A guide to defying age”).
Since the hypothalamus – and GnRH in particular – regulate several major biological processes, it may be possible to influence ageing through related mechanisms, says Miller. He wants to look at possible dietary interventions, such as the indirect effect that spikes in glucose may have on the hypothalamus.
Stuart Maudsley at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Maryland, agrees that the hypothalamus could be the route in for age-controlling drugs. “The body is all one big juicy system,” he says. The ideal drug would hit that system at its centre. “Activate that keystone and everything falls into place,” he says.
Though this is the first time that an explicit role has been found for GnRH in the ageing process, previous studies in humans have hinted at a link between longevity and fertility – in which the hormone is known to play a significant role.
As GnRH levels drop, so too does egg production and fertility. In a study presented this month at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in New Orleans, Graziella Caselli at the University of Rome, Italy, and colleagues found that mothers in Sardinia who’d had their last child over the age of 45 – so were still fertile at a late age – were significantly more likely to reach 100 than those who’d had their last child at a younger age. Since late fertility could be linked to higher levels of GnRH, Cai says those findings are a good match for his own. “There is likely to be some kind of biological correlation between ageing and reproduction,” he says.
“There are maybe 10 steps to controlling ageing,” says Miller. “We’ve taken the first two or three.” The first is simply accepting the idea that ageing can be slowed down, he says. “Many think it can’t. They are wrong.”
Maudsley reckons that we could see drugs that slow ageing in the next 20 years. Initially, though, research is likely to focus on delaying the onset of age-related diseases. “That could solve some real problems,” says Cai.
But since the hypothalamus has an effect on every cell in the body, Maudsley warns that interfering with it could lead to unwanted sequences of events. “You’re playing with fire,” he says.
Journal reference: Nature, 10.1038/nature12143