May 10th, 2012
07:15 AM ET
The idea that learning a new skill - say juggling, cooking, or playing guitar - can be like an addiction is no joke.
I should know. As a college professor/scientist, who has written about the dynamics of narcotics and self-control, I have spent the last 3 1/2 years all but addicted to learning to play guitar. Despite lacking anything that might remotely resemble musical talent, I find no day is complete without at least a little bit of time on the guitar.
Even listening to music can be a little like a drug. A brain imaging study that came out last year proved what many scientists long suspected: Listening to music can lead the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the brain's universal signal for pleasure, an internal system that tells the brain (sometimes rightly, sometime wrongly) that it is doing the right thing.
April 18th, 2012
09:27 AM ET
Let's face it - everyone isn't nice. In fact, being nice is more difficult for some people than others. But is it possible that "niceness" is predetermined by our genes?
A new study in the journal Psychological Science suggests this: If you think the world is full of threatening people, you're not going feel compelled to be generous by doing things like volunteering and donating to charity. But if you have certain gene variants, you're more likely to be nice anyway.
Now hold on a minute - this doesn't give your mean neighbor an excuse to blame his DNA for not letting kids on the block play on his lawn.
It's a little more complicated than that.
April 4th, 2012
05:02 PM ET
Hey soccer fans, here's something to think about at the next game: The best players may be quicker thinkers than you.
A study led by Swedish researchers suggests that elite soccer players outperform players in lower divisions in tests of certain cognitive abilities, and both groups bested the general public. The results were published recently in the journal PLoS ONE.
Specifically, the study focused on executive function, which is involved in working memory. Whenever you bring forth a memory that you need to solve a task, such as make a phone call or tie your shoe, that's working memory in action. Executive function is also involved in creativity, multi-tasking and inhibition.
February 27th, 2012
06:30 PM ET
Remember the myth of Oedipus, where the king of Ancient Thebes stabbed his own eyes after he realized he'd killed his own father and married his mother?
As gory as it sounds, intentionally blinding oneself isn't entirely mythical. Although rare, there have been cases of people seriously injuring their own eyes, and sometimes completely removing them. There's even a technical term, self-enucleation, for the behavior of taking out your eyeballs.
February 6th, 2012
11:56 AM ET
When Marvi Lacar¹s father died in 2008, she experienced feelings she wasn¹t aware existed. Her conflicting emotions – those of resentment, guilt, love, yearning to forgive and yearning to not forgive - spiraled her into acute clinical depression.
Today, the CNN Photo Blog features her photographs of depression.
January 23rd, 2012
03:30 PM ET
Rave-goers and visitors to Amsterdam before December 2008 may be intimately familiar with magic mushrooms, but there's little scientific knowledge on what happens to the brain while tripping.
Now it appears that more research is warranted. A growing number of studies suggested that perhaps the mushrooms' key ingredient could work magic for certain mental disorders.
January 18th, 2012
12:27 PM ET
"Did you hear what she did?" "Guess what I just found out about our new co-worker!" These could be the starts of nasty rumors, but a new study suggests the act of gossiping can also serve important purposes in maintaining social order.
Researchers report their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"Gossip gets a bad rap," said Robb Willer, social psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley. "Much of what we call gossip is driven by a sincere desire to help others."
December 16th, 2011
07:15 AM ET
Andrew Weil is the director of the of the integrative medicine program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Professor of Medicine and Public Health, author of "8 Weeks to Optimum Health, Healthy Aging," and the forthcoming "Spontaneous Happiness."
Depression has many forms. Worst among them is the kind characterized by deep, soul-crushing despair, so eloquently described in novelist William Styron's 1992 book, “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.”
"The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it. . . . the grey drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. ..it is natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion."
I’m thankful that, unlike Styron, I have never had a major depressive episode. At times in my life, however, I have experienced a depressed mood for most of the day, more days than not, over weeks and even months.
December 9th, 2011
12:10 PM ET
Editor's note: Alan Elms was the research assistant of social psychologist Stanley Milgram during Milgram's famous shock experiment in the 1960s, which tested participant's obedience to authority.
During my first several weeks as Stanley Milgram’s research assistant, I did the sorts of things that research assistants often do.
I transcribed Milgram’s dictations and drafts of research procedures into neatly typed pages. I began to keep files of research volunteers: Their age, educational background, occupation, address and phone number. I helped Milgram audition amateur actors for the important role of “experimenter” and the nearly-as-important role of “learner,” the research confederate whom we started to call the “victim.”
The real volunteers would be playing the role of “teacher” in what appeared to be an experiment where electric shocks were used to speed the learning of simple word pairs. As you probably know by now, 50 years later, the victim only pretended to be shocked and the experiment really measured obedience to authority.
December 2nd, 2011
06:00 PM ET
Who you know influences how you behave, a growing body of research is showing.
But it's not just any social network that propagates behaviors and diseases. New research published in the journal Science suggests that having social network contacts of similar gender, weight and body-mass index could help people pick up on healthy behaviors.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.