Plans For This Newsletter; Some Planned Research on Long Covid; (Pilgrim) Walking
(New book in progress; new research projects; Music - including Hannibal Lecter's favourite pianist)
Plans For This Newsletter
I’d like to open by thanking the hundreds of you who have signed up for this newsletter in the few short weeks since its launch - it’s heartening there’s such a receptive place for it.
I previously blogged and tweeted a bit - but found these a bit too hit and miss, and never did either consistently as a result. Blogging, I think, has probably had its day - it’s too difficult to find and keep up with content; Twitter can be fun (and utterly awful), but (to me, at least) it is very ephemeral.
Newsletters have come back to life again, offering a nice means of writing and communicating - and motivating me to start this newsletter. They’re also a bit more personal, offering a connection with readers missing from other social media. Hence, my starting this newsletter experiment: I am a neuroscientist and psychologist by training, and by research focus. There is an amazing ferment in the behavioural and brain sciences at the moment - and these stories needs outlets, imho.
Here, I will focus small, medium, and large slices of writing about brain and behaviour, and lots in between (hence the ‘brainpizza’ name). Expect about 2-3 pieces per month on differing topics. I’ll also do commented links most Sunday mornings - bits and pieces that I’ve found interesting, challenging, agreeable, disagreeable - but have learned at least a little something from.
I’ll usually include some music, and, occasionally, spoken poetry, with each newsletter. I will do some occasional pieces about my experiments with gluten-free cooking (including bits about the gut-brain axis, and how we describe what we feel is happening inside our bodies - ‘interoception’). I’ll usually include a pic of somewhere I’ve enjoyed walking. I’ll also occasionally do some selections and brief reviews of books I’ve been reading. There’ll be lots more besides. I won’t be writing about politics or sport - there are plenty of people out there doing that already. There’s no need for another competing voice.
New Book in Progress
I’ll also occasionally keep you up-to-date with a new book I’m currently writing - this book explores how we speak about what we think we know about ourselves - our wonderful, and somewhat mysterious, capacity for autobiographical memory. Remarkably, the brain systems active during memory are also largely the same systems active during cognitive mapping, mental time travel, and imagination. Further, we talk about our memories, intentions, hopes, and dreams, so consistently and pervasively, we are unaware how much talking about ourselves to others supports our intense social lives.
Conversation is the currency underlying social transactions and social life, allowing us to build trust and rapport with others. In turn, building trust and rapport with others supports our mental and social well-being, and provides a road back to better functioning for those in distress. Conversation depends critically on having a richly-stocked, reasonably reliable, autobiographical memory - for remembering, but also in negotiating our position and status with others.
We tell our stories to others, drawing on our fragile and fallible autobiographical memories, which are in turn shaped by the questions we are asked, and the stories we want to tell about ourselves, as well as by what others tell us. And we do so to affect what others think about us – not simply to disclose ourselves to others. And this all serves social belonging: to families, to tribes, to institutions, to cultures and subcultures, to nations, to those who profess the same ideals and stories that we do.
All going well, I expect this new book will appear in 2022. Sadly, I don’t have a title for it yet (but I’m open to suggestions)!
As of October 2020, more than 40 million people have been infected with COVID, with over 1 million associated deaths. The race to develop a vaccine has taken priority. It is becoming clear, however, that post-COVID, there are a substantial number of individuals who have long-term symptoms affecting different organ systems (so called ‘long COVID’). These symptoms include continuing, extreme fatigue; respiratory problems; loss of taste and/or smell; headaches and body aches; chest pain, and neuropsychological symptoms (sometimes referred to as ‘brain fog’) can persist for extended periods of time. We will shortly launch an online survey focusing particularly on the neuropsychological symptoms – the online survey will be widely advertised online, including here. Please sign up for updates and, if appropriate, to participate.
Pilgrim walking is celebrated, discussed, and analysed in important literary, historical, and religious works as a defining human activity: one requiring weighty commitments of time, action, and belief, as well as community support. We will soon be launching an online survey of pilgrim walkers, where we are especially interested in inclusive recruitment of sometimes overlooked or under-represented persons with disabilities: we are especially interested in understanding of the motivations behind pilgrim walkers who identify as having mobility disabilities undertaking these remarkable journeys. We will shortly launch an online survey – it will be widely advertised online, including here. Please sign up for updates and, if appropriate, to participate.
This is wonderful - Kashmir by Led Zeppelin re-orchestrated by the Yamato String Quartet.
Here’s a live version of the original - I’m not certain which I prefer!