brain science

Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

By Eve Zuckoff

The teen brain has long been an enigma to parents, but in recent years it's also become a hot topic for brain researchers. One thing they’ve learned is that teens aren't just inexperienced adults.  

The teen brain is still developing, and the result is a unique set of both strengths and potential weaknesses for teens and their parents to work with.

“With 24 candidates, there are 620 billion trillion possible rankings. When there are many candidates, there are many more ways for people to disagree than to agree.”     -Alexander Strang

DEAR: Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging.

Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of death and affects an estimated five and a half million Americans. Decades of research have greatly improved our understanding of how the disease develops, from plaques of a protein called amyloid beta, to tangles of another protein called tau, and finally to inflammation in the brain and the familiar symptoms of dementia.

Craig Cochrane,

Nine out of 10 elementary schools in Europe offer children the opportunity to learn multiple languages, but only a quarter of American elementary schools offer instruction in a language other than English. And enrollment in language classes at the secondary and college levels have been falling in recent years.

But Americans may not be as language depauperate as we think. We’ve just been holding the bar too high.

Our brains are constantly working to keep us on an even keel.

Government statistics suggest that one in 10 Americans is struggling with addiction. The CDC estimates that excessive alcohol use cost almost $250 billion in 2010. And opioid overdoses last year overtook car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in t­he U.S.

Our understanding of how addiction plays out in the brain has increased dramatically in recent years. But treatment options are still limited.

Daydreaming about an interesting idea can yield creative insights, a process Jonathan Schooler calls mind wondering, rather than mind wandering.
pxhere / CCO Public Domain

Jonathan Schooler was a daydreamer as a kid, as his first grade report card made evident.

“It said something to the effect of ‘When I think of Jonathan, I imagine him at the end of the line, five feet behind everybody else, shoes untied, totally preoccupied, and completely content,” Schooler recounted.

We are making significant progress on uncovering the roots of Alzheimer’s. Marc Diamond argues that it's time for a national effort.
U.S. Army /

By Marc Diamond, UT Southwestern Medical Center

Imagine if Alzheimer’s was treated like other common diseases. Instead of worrying about the prospect of slowly losing your memory, you might get a series of shots during middle age to prevent the onset of this neurological nightmare, just as we do to reduce the risk of flu. Or you could take a daily pill as many do to control their cholesterol or blood pressure.

Playing ping pong is good exercise for your brain.
Jamil Issy,

So, it’s February. Reality check time. How are your New Year’s Resolutions faring? Statistics show that the vast majority of resolutions have fallen apart by mid-February.

Why do so many of us find it so hard to make changes that we presumably want to make?

A new study finds changes in the brain after one season of youth football. But many qustions remain.
Wikicommons /

The NFL made headlines recently with $35 million in research funding to study the effects of concussions and repeated head trauma on football players. The past two years have brought intense public attention to professional football players suffering permanent, degenerative brain damage.


Meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years. In its original form, it requires nothing more than a place to sit.

But meditation and mindfulness have gained newfound popularity in recent years. And, as with everything else in our lives, technology seems to be creeping in -- from meditation apps to experiments with brain-stimulating electronic signals.  

Elsa Partan

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to be happy – websites, videos, newsletters – and many pedal a recipe for happiness backed by science.

But neuroscientist Dean Burnett started to notice that a lot of it wasn’t very scientific at all. It bugged him so much that he decided to write a book about it, Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From and Why.

Bruno Martins / Unsplash

We’ve all heard that the best time to learn a new language is when you’re a young child; think pre-school or elementary school. But a recent study by researchers from Boston College, MIT and Harvard finds that the window of opportunity is quite a bit larger than previously thought, extending all the way through high school.

It’s May, nice weather is finally here, and some of you are thinking about what your teenager will do when school gets out. We’ve got somebody who can help.

Most brain scientists will never know what it feels like to live with the mental illnesses they study. Barbara Lipska is the exception; brain tumors caused her to lose track of her left hand, forget where she lived, go running with hair dye dripping from her head, and accuse a familiar pest exterminator of trying to kill her family. 

There are scientists studying how spending time in nature restores us physically and mentally.

A cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Utah noticed that after he spent a few days backpacking in nature, he got great ideas. He wanted to quantify it, so he gave people pencil-and-paper tests before and after they took hikes. The scientist, Dr. David Strayer, found that the people experienced a 50 percent increase in their creativity after the hike.