Top 2020 posts: Orwell (+ copyright); Let's Walk; Sleepy Secrets; Covid Brain Fog; Brain Training; Cities
Some good stuff on the way (from Bill Gates); Music: Gorillaz; Madonna; Gramatik
Here are the top five most popular posts of the past couple of months since I started this newsletter - if you enjoy the small, medium and large slices of writing at BrainPizza - consider sharing or subscribing. There’ll be lots more writing coming in 2021… and 2021 is going to be a better year than the one we’ve just left behind (go science!).
George Orwell’s 1984 through a neuroscience lens - A book that seems forever relevant: in the past decade alone, 1984 has had two dramatic spikes in sales: one, in 2013, after the revelations regarding widespread surveillance programmes on US citizens by the National Security Agency, and the other surge in 2017, after Kellyanne Conway gave the world the very Orwellian phrase of 'alternative facts’. As of today’s date (12 Dec 2020), it is in the top 200 on Amazon.com, with more than 30,000 ratings (averaging 4.7 out of 5). (NB: Orwell is out of copyright in the UK now… - an explainer, to,dr: no, you just can't go and republish his work. You need to choose which pieces carefully. Just because it's out of copyright doesn't mean it's a free for all, either.)
Let’s Walk (a lot more): Why We Need to Walk, And Now, More Than Ever - You’ve got to move more. It’s all too easy in these days at home to retreat to the couch. The truth is, we all know we need to move more, and we know we will feel the better for it. Movement is good for the brain and body, and we all know regular movement is one of the best ways of keeping fit and healthy. We evolved to walk long-ish distances every day (more than ten miles a day) every day of our lives from early childhood until very late in adulthood, and this walking acts as a self-repair mechanism for brain and body. Walking comes naturally to us, and is good for us in more ways than we know.
Sleepy secrets (memory!) & coffee, circadian rhythms, wearables, nightwalking, insomnia - We humans have a peculiar relationship to one of our most-profound and well-being enhancing and renewing, biological, drives - namely, sleep. We need it, we want it, we love having had a good one, and we deny ourselves it. When your pet dog is tired, it just curls up in a comfortable spot, and a few seconds later, it’s gone. Your cat: ditto. Whereas we humans will stay up – ‘just a for a little bit longer’ – because binge-watching, while knowing we must get up early for that unnecessary, early-morning, meeting, because coffee* will be your friend. We top and tail sleeping in a way no other species does – but sleep pressure builds, and sleep we must.
Long covid brain fog research project participants required for online study: please circulate - The COVID-19 pandemic has had huge effects across the world, infecting more 40 million people, and resulting in the deaths of over 1.4 million people. It has caused major changes to the ways we live, work, play, socialise. We are lucky that several vaccines have been developed and tested so quickly, and with such positive outcomes - a testament to the good things that humans can do when we work together. There will be major public health logistics and information campaigns to support vaccine rollout, and the rolling back of the pandemic is now within sight in 2021. Hilda Bastian provides excellent vaccine coverage here, and the biomedical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, does so here, and here; and here is an excellent covid-myth-busting piece from Scientific American’s Tanya Lewis. And go here for some detailed coverage of the safety profile of one of the vaccines by Science; and here for details on how one of the vaccines works.
Bad News on Brain Training- it doesn’t work (but check out things that do) - The search is on for the brain training shortcut allowing you to perform better, stronger, faster, and for longer. We’d all like a shortcut to help us function better: one that quickly overcomes fatigue, boosts our overall performance, one that enhances learning and memory. For most of us, that tends to be a cup of coffee or tea: both give you a rapid, if short-lived, boost. For some, however – the foolish, the willfully-uninformed, the snake-oil purveyors - the way forward is the new smart pill (nootropic), or the new brain training game or even, perhaps, a brain stimulation device. They eye these treatments as potential shortcuts with the hope that these will ‘train the brain’ to perform more effectively.
Some good stuff on the way: from Bill Gates ‘These breakthroughs will make 2021 better than 2020: The latest on the innovations that will let us go back to normal.’
This is still the boss:
Yes, there is one on the horizon (go vaccines!):
So, for 2021, let’s all be…