Imagine sitting at a table on the terrace of a café in Paris. It’s nighttime, but the boulevard’s lampposts’ glow and the café’s signage light up the dark sky. The usual crowds are thinning, and several smartly dressed couples pass by with their cigarette smoke wafting in their wake. Lifting your cup of aromatic coffee to your lips, you find yourself captivated by the conversations taking place around you. Savoring your coffee’s flavor, you smile to yourself; satisfied with life and the moment…
Have you ever wondered whether different locations of the brain talk to each other? They do, in fact, constantly communicate with each other. This communication is somewhat like how we as individuals communicate with those around us. For example, we send and receive information every day, such as when we wave hello to a friend (send) and they wave back at us (receive). Similarly, different regions of the brain send and receive information between each other to help perceive and interpret the world we live in. While we read this paragraph, several regions were communicating in our brain to integrate and interpret the sensory information we are receiving.
Don your flower crowns and turn up the Hendrix - psychedelics are back! Through legally conducted research with these illegal substances, scientists have found that psilocybin, the ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms that makes people feel “groovy”, is associated with improvements in people’s mental health. The varied effects of psilocybin such as intense introspective insights, visual hallucinations, and euphoria give credence to the etymology of the term psychedelic (psyche for mind and delos for manifesting in Greek). Perhaps there was a reason why the hippies were such a happy bunch after all. But let’s not trip out just yet!
People regularly turn conversations into co-rumination: discussing the same problems, over and over again, in a very negative way. A classic example involves friends who obsessively talk about their ex-lovers. They might spend a lot of time and effort mentally going back over every little detail to try and understand the breakups. They may pine over and even criticize the ex-partners. Co-ruminating about exes is typical, but there are also infinite examples of excessive negative problem sharing in the workplace. For instance, co-workers might complain together about customers or other colleagues behind their back. That being said, co-rumination can cause emotional difficulties depending on who you do it with. Specifically, your friend’s emotion regulation strategies (i.e., how they manage their emotions) and the quality of your friendship can determine the kind of support and advice that you receive.
This is an image I took of a mouse neuron while working on my thesis. I’ve always liked to call neurons our best friends because they care for us, provide us support, and without them, we would struggle to accomplish tasks and goals we set for ourselves. However, just like real friends, a healthy relationship must be maintained. The loss of a friend, also known as neuronal death, can arise through a variety of ways from brain damage, substance abuse to old age. Furthermore, many conditions arise because of premature neuronal death, and the causes behind many of these conditions are still unknown, one of which being Parkinson’s disease. My thesis work focuses on changes that occur in the brain, and the effect of these changes on the circadian system of people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.