Depending on the day, our brain function can feel like our greatest superpower or our most cruel supervillain.
So this week, let's review some intriguing brain health-related links + fascinating findings on our brain’s response to shock therapy, scent and high-tech tech. Then we finish with an all-Covid-19 news roundup to help you prep for fall. Now, get ready to feed your brain as you scroll into…
Is shock therapy a legit treatment for severe anxiety, major depressive disorder or condions of self-harm? Or is it a cruel practice that harms more than it helps? Undark tracks the controversy.
100,000 Americans get electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) yearly. Even the most ardent supporters of ECT don’t know exactly why it works—when it does. Does the shock release helpful hormones? Increase blood flow? Promote neural communication? Or is how the brain heals itself after the shock the key?
No research supports one theory.
Short-term memory loss is a common and accepted side effect for many patients. But others can’t remember weddings, siblings or decades of their life. The benefits of ECT treatments are often temporary, too. So is ECT worth it?
Dig into the article for both sides of the contentious debate.
According to NPR, our quest for a stink-free world may contribute to our cognitive decline.
A recent study had participants diffuse essential oils like rose + lemon as they fell asleep. Six months later, they scored 226% higher on learning + memory tests than scent-free participants.
The study was tiny + of older adults. But one previous study shows that a lost sense of smell can help predict neurological diseases. Another concluded scent stimulation can improve memory.
So whatever your age, stock up on those candles to keep your brain healthy!
Two research teams may soon offer paralyzed people unable to speak a new voice.
They recently implanted (two different) brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) into the brains of test participants. As the participants read words on a screen, the BCIs mapped their brain’s activity.
Once the BCI’s could identify words through thought, they used ChatGBT-like prediction to guess a remaining sentence, translating at 62 and 78 words per minute. That’s half the time of natural speech but far faster than any other tech. Even with thousands of available words, both BCIs predicted correctly around 75% of the time.
One BCI even learned a participant’s nature speech through recordings taken before their paralyzation. So when speaking translated sentences, they could mimicked the user’s voice!
Learn more + watch one participant speak for the first time in decades (!) at Science.
Hospitalizations again rose by 20% last week to about 10,000 weekly hospitalizations. Variant EG.5 (Eris) makes up over 20% of new infections. It's better at evading immunity than older variants. So WHO experts warn it may soon dominate some countries—or globally.
Our surveillance systems are underreporting transmission data. Why? Most people test at home—if at all. Hospitals have relaxed testing protocols. High wastewater virus levels can only imply a large number of mild cases. (Versus fewer severe cases.) Still, Covid-19 surges more often, makes people sicker, kills more people + is more likely to cause long-term health complications than the flu. So as we head into fall, update your protocols + stay vigilant.
Neurons are not supposed to be able to fuse with other neurons. But a new study suggests that Covid-19 may infect neurons so that they can fuse. This alters or entirely halts their activity ability to communicate. The disruption may contribute to the brain fog experienced by many with long Covid.