Suzana Herculano-Houzel

Is it Alzheimer’s or isn’t it?

Scientific meetings are often opportunities for researchers to exchange ideas and present to each other what they have just discovered or have begun to study but have not yet made public. That’s why a recent meeting on Alzheimer’s disease was so extraordinary. Two private institutions, the international Alzheimer’s Association and Hong Kong’s Croucher Foundation, brought […]

Anxiety, constant bane of us autistics

I can tell you what it is. I can’t tell you why we have it. Yet, anxiety is a common feature of people on the autism spectrum. Anxiety is a physiological and mental state of readiness as the brain expects to have to deal with a problem – even if the problem for now only […]

Life 101: What happens when you are done growing up? You grow sideways. Yeah, you get fat.

Young people tend to be lean. Even chubby kids turn lean as they enter their growth spurt. And then… age happens, apparently, for one of the most visible signs of age is fat accumulation. But is it age, or is it something else? The Neuroscientist On Call thinks it is something else, and actually something…...

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The pitfalls of self-service food

I know a Frenchman who, when he arrived in Brazil a few years ago, turned up his nose at the eating habits of those who frequent self-service restaurants. Mixing rice, potatoes, pasta and farofa on the same plate could only be the work of barbarians with no gastronomic education: in France, after all, the main […]

Life 101: Exercise is the way to waste (not burn!) all that extra energy

Luckily, the human ingenuity that invented agriculture and division of labor and supply chains and fridges that made is sooo easy to ingest more calories than we need to keep ourselves alive also invented a way to waste calories – or, should I say, “burn” calories: exercise. Calories are energy, and energy only gets transferred,…...

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Life 101: Regular sauna exposure does promote weight loss

Being the smart creature that you are, and having learned that losing weight is akin to losing your money in the bank when you use it faster than you get, you are already doing the math: so… can you waste more energy without putting in the effort by chilling in a sauna? Theoretically, it’s not…...

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The reality of psychosomatic stress

How annoying it is to hear from others that a problem you feel on your skin is “just in your head”. It’s good that science has freed us from other people’s beliefs, including this one: health problems that are “just psychosomatic”. Well, they’re so real that even rats suffer the effects of stress. What kind […]

Why did it take me so long to realize I was autistic? Because I am autistic, duh

…and it’s all the more telling that it took me FOUR YEARS after my diagnosis to realize that the reason why I didn’t realize sooner that I was autistic was exactly because I was autistic. Let me explain. Autism is characterized by sensory hyper- OR hyposensitivities. Most commonly, the hypersensitivities are visual/auditory/haptic (fancy for “touch-related”) […]

Not a little dark: REALLY dark

We always hear that it’s important to sleep in the dark: “It’s so your eyes can really rest”, “it’s so your brain knows it’s night”, “it’s so your body can relax”. Silence is also important, for similar reasons: “to quiet the brain”. Hence the bedroom separated from the rest of the house, the electric lights…...

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Sun for the jet-lagged brain

Ah, the problems of modern life. When we were only bipeds and had no artificial light, going to sleep and waking up were simple matters, dictated by the time of the sun (and disturbed at most by an evening fire, or later a lamp); it was impossible to change time zones in the space of […]

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