Recommended reads: breast cancer, false memories, extreme sleepiness, color perception and language, newborn parenting

Confocal image of an axonal rainbow of oculomotor nerve motor axons from a "Brainbow" mouse brain, with each neuron expressing a distinct color (Jean Livet, Jeff Lichtman Laboratory, Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA)
Unrelated to recommended posts but too pretty not to share: Oculomotor nerve motor axons from a “Brainbow” mouse brain (Jean Livet, Jeff Lichtman Laboratory, Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA)

Tracing breast cancer’s history by Carl Zimmer

In this fascinating post, Zimmer looks at the flip side of cancer-causing BRCA mutations (like the one that caused Angelina Jolie to opt for a double mastectomy).


Last year, a team of scientists at the University of Utah discovered an unexpected side effect of BRCA mutations. They looked at medical records of women who carried BRCA mutations and compared them to women with a normal version of the genes. The scientists found that women with the mutations weren’t just more likely to develop cancer. They also had more children. The effect was particularly strong among women born before 1930: they had, on average, two additional children (6.22 compared to 4.19). [read Zimmer’s post here]

Trust your memory? Maybe you shouldn’t by Jacque Wilson

This article delves into the sometimes controversial work of psychologist and memory expert Elizabeth Loftus. Her work has important implications for the law–especially in regards to eyewitness testimony and so-called repressed memories–as well as for how we view the ‘truthiness’ of our own everyday memories.


Using her finely tuned “recipe” for memory implantation, she guided study participants to believe they had gotten sick eating strawberry ice cream as children.

A week later, researchers asked about the ice cream incident. Many participants had developed a detailed memory — what Loftus calls a “rich false memory” — about when they had gotten sick. Subsequent studies showed this memory affected the participant’s actual eating behavior. [Read Wilson’s article here.]

*Re-awakenings by Virginia Hughes

This is a truly amazing personal and scientific story about a young lawyer who was literally sleeping her life away and the medical discoveries that helped her.


Sumner began having long sleeping spells like never before. She’d go to bed one night and wake up a full day later, or more—her longest stint was 53 hours. She’d open her eyes and feel completely disoriented, staring at her alarm clock with no idea whether the time was AM or PM. First it was once a month, then every two weeks, then every week. “I started approaching sleep with this trepidation,” she recalls. “Is tonight going to be the night?”  [Read Hughes’ piece here]

 *The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messes with our brains by Aatish Bhatia

This post examines how language influences perception–particularly in the case of colors. I don’t want to give away the scientific twist at the end of the post, but the combination of anthropology, psychology, and linguistics makes this a must-read.


A study in 1984 by Paul Kay and colleagues compared English speakers to members of the Tarahumara tribe of Northwest Mexico. The Tarahumara language falls into the Uto-Aztecan language family, a Native American language family spoken near the mountains of North America. And like most world languages, the Tarahumara language doesn’t distinguish blue from green. [read Bhatia’s post here]

*I discovered these posts because they won Science Seeker awards. Check out other excellent award winners here

The carnival of evidence-based parenting: the new parenthood edition

This is a collection of posts that examine different topics related to the transition to new parenthood (sleep, bonding, swaddling, breastfeeding, happiness, etc). This carnival is a wonderful resource for new parents because all the posts are written from an evidence-based perspective but also include many relatable personal anecdotes. [see a list of all the posts here]

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