Friday, July 31, 2015

Here’s What Breaking Up Does to Your Brain

When the love of your life dumps you, you’re going to go a little nuts. But it’s a very specific form of crazy: There are actually conflicting neural systems active inside your brain. It’s like you’re falling in love all over again, only in reverse. Here’s how neuroscience explains it.
Addicted to Love

It doesn’t matter whether you were with your ex-lover for six months, four years, or more – a breakup throws your brain back into the obsession of early love. Everything that reminds you of that person – a photograph, places you used to go together, random thoughts – triggers activity in “reward” neurons inside the caudate nucleus and the ventral tegmental area of the brain. These are the same parts of the brain that light up when scientists put people in the throes of that grossly cute can’t-think-about-anything-else stage of new love into an fMRI machine and ask them to look at photos of their beloved. As it happens, they’re also parts of the brain that respond to cocaine and nicotine.

Turning on the reward neurons releases repeated floods of the neurotransmitter dopamine. And the dopamine activates circuits inside the brain that create a craving for more. That craving gives you motivation, and encourages you to try out other behaviors that will help you get more of whatever it is you need. In the case of romance, the thing you need more of is your beloved.

As a romantic relationship develops into a long term partnership, that obsession fades away, even though thoughts of your partner still tickle the brain’s reward systems. But after a breakup, all those old can’t-get-enough feelings come flooding back. The brain’s reward systems are still expecting their romantic ‘fix’, but they’re not getting the responses they expect. And like someone in the depths of a drug addiction, they turn up the volume in an effort to get you to respond.
In this new context, the reward system is now the part of your brain that’s going to motivate you do something really dumb. Like drunk calling your ex, or initiating breakup sex.

Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist at Einstein College of Medicine who has studied romantic responses in the brain, explains that the motivation is more extreme than for other forms of social rejection because romance ties into more primal parts of the brain. “Other kinds of social rejection are much more cognitive,” she says. “[Romantic rejection] is a life changing thing, and involves systems that are at the same level as feeling hungry or thirsty.”
No wonder it hurts.


Corina Marinescu

BLUE MOON - Next Blue Moon is July 31


The moon was full on July 2, and it’ll be full again on July 31. The second of two full moons in a calendar month is often called a Blue Moon.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hannah Storm on Female Athletes: Earning Respect, But Not a Living (Guest Column)

Hope Solo/ Christopher Patey

The Women's World Cup drew bigger ratings than Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Yet LeBron James' annual salary is 10 times that of the $2 million the entire American team took home for their win. Now, an ESPN anchor speaks out: "A ticker-tape parade trumps a different kind of paper: The money that fuels security."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Backstage at the ESPYs on July 15, I found myself in a heated discussion with a male sports agent about the most dominant athlete of our day. Just having returned from covering Wimbledon, my opinion was that Serena Williams on the verge of the rare feat of a calendar Grand Slam (the last woman to achieve one was Steffi Graf in 1988) — is the athlete who has separated herself the most from her peers.

My opponent was making his case for UFC star Ronda Rousey, who is undefeated in 11 bouts, often dispatching her opponents in less than the amount of time it takes to type this sentence.

Surprisingly, the argument got rather heated, until the realization dawned that we actually weren't discussing two men (LeBron James or Michael Phelps, anyone?) but instead engaged in a heated discussion about two female athletes.
Therein lies a win.

And then, there's this victory: At 26.7 million viewers, ratings for the Women's World Cup this summer were bigger than the last game of the NBA Finals and nearly equal to Game 7 of last year's World Series. History shows that events such as the World Cup, Grand Slam tennis, Olympic Games and NCAA basketball and softball championships rate and resonate with the general sports audience. The same goes for magical stories like that of pitching phenom Mo'ne Davis, playing on a boys team in last year's Little League World Series.
Fans watch sports because they are passionate about them. They care either about a team or an individual. UConn basketball draws attention for its sheer dominance, which ranks with John Wooden's legendary UCLA teams. But simply putting women's sports on TV doesn't seem to matter, unless the person or team stirs passion and becomes relevant in the everyday sports conversation, whether it be print, talk radio or TV.
But herein lies the rub: Most female stars can't earn a living even closely approximating those of their male counterparts. Consider that for its historic Women's World Cup victory earlier this month (with star goalie Hope Solo guarding the nets), FIFA awarded U.S. Soccer a total of $2 million. A year ago, Germany was awarded a whopping $35 million for its Men's World Cup victory.
Diana Taurasi, one of the biggest stars in the WNBA, is skipping the current season to stay healthy for her team in Russia, UMMC Ekaterinburg. UMMC pays her $1.5 million; her 2015 WNBA salary would've been right around the maximum of $109,500. Taurasi's comments are telling: "I want to be able to take care of myself and my family when I am done playing."
And yet that WNBA salary is as good as it gets for women in an American team sport. Ninth grader Davis can't even dream of a career as a pitcher, since there are no professional women's baseball teams. She's well aware of this and is instead setting her sights on basketball, where she might have at least a shot at a future. The biggest payday for women still comes in the form of college scholarships, and for a lucky few, the endorsements that follow success. But the disparity even at the elite level is huge.
Among Forbes' 50 highest-paid athletes, two are women. Maria Sharapova is No. 26, and Serena Williams is a shocking 47th. Our periodic obsession with women's sports, however positive, is not enough to overcome the pay chasm or even offer female athletes more viable career choices. For the foreseeable future, a ticker tape parade trumps a different kind of paper: the money that fuels security — and dreams.

The Hollywood reporter by Hannah Storm 7/30/2015 8:00am PDT

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Scientists create tiny beating heart cells


The human heart is a complex organ that is quite challenging to study in the lab in real-time. So, you can see why researchers at UCSF and UC Berkeley are excited by the creation of tiny, 3D heart chambers with the ability to exist and even beat in a lab dish.

The resulting heart chambers may be miniscule — measuring no more than a couple of hair-widths across— but they hold huge potential for everything from improving our understanding of cardiac development to speeding up drug toxicity screening.

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