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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Brain

In Elemental. More on Medium.

That strange sense of feeling younger than you are is very common

Image: Pixaby

After about age 25, most people think of themselves as younger than their chronological age. …


YOUR POOR PANDEMIC BRAIN

Your executive control center has helped your mental health survive the pandemic thus far. Here’s how to strengthen it for the future.

Illustration: Carolyn Figel

In some ways, though, it’s surprising that this number isn’t even higher given the stress, trauma, loss, and loneliness of the past year. The vast majority of people have spent the last…


Good Question

What research says about how it works in the brain — and the many conditions it may be useful for

Photo illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Bonerok/Getty Images

Welcome to my new column for Elemental. Each Tuesday, I’ll attempt to answer a thought-provoking health question with the help of one or two experts. If you’d like to suggest a topic, please email me at goodhealthquestion@gmail.com.

Jessie Kittle wants to dispel all those old associations and misconceptions. “The idea that you can take over someone’s brain and run them around like a puppet against their will — that doesn’t happen,” says…


The Nuance

How expectation, emotion, and other neurocognitive factors affect our perception of pain

Illustration: Kieran Blakey for Elemental

Now imagine an alternate scenario. You still need that tooth pulled, but this time your dentist says nothing — one way or the other — about the pain you may feel.

In both of these scenarios, the painful stimulus is the same. The same tooth is going to be pulled, and it will probably hurt either way. But would you experience the same amount of pain…


It’s not b.s. — the practice really can strengthen your mind like a muscle

Credit: Martin Puddy / Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

One of the oft-repeated pieces of advice on how to deal with pandemic stress is to meditate. This is not a new or groundbreaking tip — meditation practices such as mindfulness have been recommended for years to combat stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression. But now that many of our normal coping mechanisms have…


Your Poor Pandemic Brain

The toll a year of loneliness, stress, fear, trauma, and loss takes on the structure and function of the brain

Animation: Carolyn Figel for Elemental

“We were anticipating to find elevated rates, because we know that [depression increases in prevalence] from…


The Nuance

Anger does not look, act, or feel like other negative emotions. Therein lies its power.

Illustration by Kieran Blakey for Elemental

“Traditionally, anger has been looked at as negative,” says Philip Gable, PhD, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware.

Gable has studied the way anger influences the brain and behavior. He says that, by and large, people report that the experience of being angry is unpleasant — at least in…


The Nuance

New research may shake up science’s understanding of the brain and consciousness

Illustration by Kieran Blakey for Elemental

The truck driver’s story sounded far-fetched.

The man claimed that in the middle of his quadruple bypass heart surgery — during which he was fully anesthetized and his eyes were taped shut — he had “come to” and found that he was looking down at his own body and the doctors preparing to operate on it. He described the scene in detail, and he recalled that his surgeon had waved his elbows in the air as if he were mimicking a bird flapping its wings.

Later, when asked about his patient’s peculiar account, the truck driver’s surgeon confirmed that he…


New technology could be a game-changer for neurological disorders

Credit: chaikom / Getty Images

This is a modified excerpt from Inside Your Head 🧠, a weekly newsletter exploring why your brain makes you think, feel, and act the way you do, written by me, Elemental’s senior writer and a former brain scientist. Subscribe here so you won’t miss the next one.

Like nearly all complex machines, your brain runs on electricity. Every time a neuron fires in order to communicate with another neuron, a little burst of electricity courses through the cell to power the message. …


The Nuance

Mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other related practices all prioritize this form of ‘self-monitoring’

Illustration by Kieran Blakey for Elemental

With effort, you can observe what your brain is thinking about and also what it’s doing with those thoughts — the feelings, ideas, emotions, and urges it’s producing. This capability falls into a category that psychologists sometimes call metacognition. (Basically, thinking about thinking.) And there’s evidence that practicing this sort of mental self-awareness holds immense therapeutic power.

“Introducing this idea of self-monitoring is one of the first steps in cognitive behavioral therapy,” says Michelle Newman, PhD, a professor of…

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