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September 21, 2018

Weekend reads: Some offices are cracking down on sweet treats—one doughnut at a time

Daily Briefing

    Ben Palmer's reads

    Could neuroscience help you get over your ex? Dessa, a rapper, singer, and writer from Minneapolis, for years couldn't get over her ex-boyfriend. Then, she turned to a "controversial" therapy technique called neurofeedback. The idea behind it is that you can change your brain activity by mapping out how your brain is working. One way to do this is through electroencephalography (EEG), a technology that picks up brain waves and translates them into audio or visual cues. The thought is that once you see brain waves and patterns, you could change them. Scientists have used EEG-neurofeedback to attempt at treating a number of mental health problems, but never a broken heart. So did it work for Dessa? She said her feelings "have been scaled down"—but there's no proof neurofeedback caused the change.

    Up close, kidney stones look like a work of art. New research into kidney stones shows that the notoriously painful deposits that affect 10% of people around the world are strikingly beautiful and might have a different composition than researchers previously thought. Researchers looked at more than 50 kidney stones using different lighting under an electron microscope and found the stones resemble coral reefs or limestone formations. The images of stones with strata that build up and dissolve over time challenges the assumption that the stones are homogenous and insoluble, Emily Baugaertner reports for the New York Times. Brian Matlaga, a urologist and kidney stone surgeon at Johns Hopkins, said, "Now that we know a process by which [stones] are growing, the question is, how can we flip the switch the other way, and break the stones down?"

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    Companies say goodbye to office treats and sweets. A lot of office workers look forward to free cake and doughnuts in the office, but more and more bosses are cracking down on sugary office treats. CDC in June published research on the food people eat at work and found that free office food was usually high in sugar, fat, and "empty calories," Rolfe Winkler reports for the Wall Street Journal. With diabetes and obesity rates on the rise, some offices are banning leftover birthday cake and chocolate bars entirely. "There is no sugar, candy bars, soda (diet or otherwise) allowed in our office," tech startup HealthIQ said to employees. "If you bring some it will get thrown away."

    MDMA makes antisocial octopuses more affectionate. When given low doses of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, octopuses, which are usually antisocial and reserved, would interact with and hug other octopuses, researchers found. Previous studies revealed that humans and the California two-spot octopus have similar genes for the protein that connects serotonin to brain cells. The MDMA study demonstrates that the octopuses' serotonin transporter "can be affected by a drug which affects us," according to Zachary Mainen, a neuroscientist at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown in Portugal. He added that the research "shows us how much we don't know" about the "alien" species, and "how much there is out there to understand."

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