Researchers at the Department of Neurology of the University of Bern and University Hospital Bern identified how the brain triages emotions during dream sleep to consolidate the storage of positive emotions while dampening the consolidation of negative ones. The work expands the importance of sleep in mental health and opens new ways of therapeutic strategies.

Over the past few decades, the neurochemical dopamine has earned the reputation of being the brain’s reward molecule. This image is built on observations that when animals and humans experience surges of dopamine, they feel rewarded and motivated to pursue more of the experience or substance which triggered the dopamine release.  Researchers theorize that this neurochemical is at the root of an ancient system that evolved to make us feel gratified and thus more likely to approach situations and objects that might satisfy our needs — anything from nutrition to the more sophisticated desires for social approval or even money, a universal ticket for access to most resources.

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Being “outdoorsy” can stir up images of big beautiful national parks, snowy slopes or lush, green forests. But smaller moments in nature, like walking my dog around the neighborhood or even listening to a rain sounds playlist as I fall asleep, have been just as valuable — and don’t require the time, money or physical mobility of a big trip.

The other day a friend shared what I thought was a profound observation: bananas are not yellow. At least they’re mostly not.

The yellowness of bananas happens only for a week or so out of their entire lifecycle. Most of the time they’re green or brown. But human beings are fixated on that fleeting yellow phase, so we think of bananas as intrinsically yellow things.

I had a similar epiphany the other day when I told someone I feel better when I skip the first meal of the day, something I’ve been doing for a few months. It occurred to me afterward that I’m not actually skipping anything — there is no morning meal in my life, so there’s nothing to skip. Despite how normal this feels for me now, it’s difficult to shake the idea that a day still has three meals as an intrinsic property. Days have three meals, and bananas are yellow.

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My favorite part of reading a work of science fiction for the first time, like visiting a new country, is that hit of strangeness, of being someplace where I don’t know the rules, where even the familiar is unsettling, where I see everything with new eyes.

In 1984, Neuromancer delivered that to me. I read the book in small bites, like one of those sea-salt caramels that are too big and intense and salty to consume all at once. The first few chapters are especially chewy: I like the almost-brutal profligacy of the prose, new words and ideas cascading out of the book fresh and cold as a mountain torrent, and be damned if you lose your footing. The opening vision of an assaultive future is wide-ranging and obsessive, as if the narrator, dex-driven and frantic in Chiba City, just can’t turn his consciousness off. Everything he sees has layers of meaning and speaks of the past, the present, and the future all at once.

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Middletown - Sarah Moon (2021) [2021 Levine Querido edition] designer: Strick&Williams

The Seep by Chana Porter.

Moderately decreased food intake that does not cause malnutrition (caloric restriction) has beneficial effects on health span and life span in model organisms. Spadaro et al. examined measures of immune function in humans who restricted caloric intake by about 14% over 2 years and in mice under a more severe 40% restriction (see the Perspective by Rhoads and Anderson). Cellular analyses and transcriptional surveys showed marks of improved thymic function under caloric restriction. Expression of the gene encoding platelet activating factor acetylhydrolase (PLA2G7) was decreased in humans undergoing caloric restriction. Inactivation of the gene in mice decreased inflammation and improved markers of thymic function and some metabolic functions in aging mice. Thus, decreased expression of PLA2G7 might mediate some beneficial effects of caloric restriction. —LBR

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To begin, if not at the beginning, early on: the painter and poet David Jones resumes his studies at the Westminster School of Art in his mid-twenties, not long after his service with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in World War I ended. The 117 weeks he spent in a war that shattered so many millions shattered Jones no less, though the full extent of his brokenness would not appear until over a decade later, in 1932, when the first of two major nervous breakdowns would interrupt work on his first great long poem, In Parenthesis, and keep him from painting for years. As Jones would later suggest, every aspect of his life seemed to revolve around the dilemma that the war had either caused or, as he would come to believe, merely revealed: that modern life was fundamentally fractured. It was up to the artist not so much to heal those fractures as to discover a way of navigating them and in so doing find a way of being at home among them.

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Last year, the Dickens Code project called upon the help of the public in deciphering the Morgan Library & Museum’s mysterious ‘Tavistock’ letter. The £300 prize may have been modest, but we were amazed and delighted by the response, with the challenge generating more than a thousand downloads.

By the time that the competition closed, on New Year’s Eve, we’d received sixteen formal submissions. On compiling these solutions, the puzzle pieces started to fit together: a word here, or a key phrase there, that enabled us to pin down the timeframe and understand the context.

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Prolonged periods of intense cognitive activity lead to a state of mental exhaustion. While widespread strategies to recover from mental exhaustion (i.e., watching TV) are non-effective, aerobic exercise seems to be a promising approach. This can be explained by the acute and chronic aerobic exercise-induced benefits on the central nervous system.

De Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (Prisma Boeken, 1960). First Dutch edition.

The Georgian era was an acutely time-conscious one; and people in growing numbers began to produce brisk summary verdicts upon their own era. In fact, it is often tricky to identify the full trends of the times whilst living through them. (Try helping future historians by writing a pithy summary of the early twenty-first century in the form of a diary, blog, or tweet.) But defining the times remains a popular form of instant journalism. Books published in 2000, for example, pronounced upon the current “Age of Globalization,” “Age of Virtual Reality,” “Age of Uncertainty” (a perennial favorite), or, more starkly, this “World of Lies, Hype, and Spin.” Authors who make such generalizations are not under oath. There’s nothing to stop them from adopting extreme views to make a point and then later changing their minds. These same qualifications applied to the Georgians who named the long eighteenth century. Nonetheless, their summary verdicts provide historians with a good starting point.

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Ghost Forest - Pik-Shuen Fung (2021) [2021 One World edition] designer: Donna Cheng

Mona - Pola Oloixarac (2019) [2021 Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition] designer: Thomas Colligan

Male suicide continues to be a significant issue worldwide for which there are a myriad of social risk factors. Amongst these, distressed and/or disrupted (i.e., separation, divorce) intimate partner relationships are known to heighten men’s mental illness and suicide risk. The current qualitative study offers novel insights to the connections between masculinity and mental illness in and after men’s intimate partner relationships. Drawing from in-depth interviews with 47 Canadian and Australian men, three themes were inductively derived: 1) The trouble inside, 2) Breaking up and breaking down, and 3) Finding help. The ‘trouble inside’ results revealed relationship transitions wherein challenges to couple dynamics flowed from diverse life course events (conflict, illness, bereavement, co-parenting). Partnership transgressions (most often infidelity) also featured to heighten men’s mental illness vulnerabilities and threaten the feasibility of the relationship. ‘Breaking up and breaking down’ chronicled participants’ anxiety, depression and suicidality in the aftermath of their relationship ending. Herein, substance use and other maladaptive behaviours were used by men to blunt feelings and/or self-medicate mental illness. These strategies were ineffectual for moving on from blaming partners or grieving the loss of support and social connectedness provided by ex-partners. ‘Finding help’ included men’s eventual self-help, uptake of informal assistance from friends and family, formal professional care services, and the use of facilitated male peer group resources. Norming the use of these diverse help resources were men’s alignments to strength-based asset-building masculine ideals, wherein their help-seeking was bridged to, and reflective of their (albeit latent) commitment to better managing their mental health and future relationships. Highlighting the gendered dimensions of mental illness in men’s intimate partner relationships, the current study also thoughtfully considers content and contexts for the delivery of tailored upstream suicide prevention programs focussed on men building better relationships.

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If you’ve ever read anything by Charles Bukowski, you no doubt remember the feeling you had the first time you came across his work. For better or worse, Bukowski is one of those authors who you don’t easily forget or ignore. Very few people are ambivalent about him.

I have enjoyed reading Bukowski since I picked up South of No North out in the California high desert town of Joshua Tree more than 20 years ago and read the entire thing without once moving from the ratty old couch I was slouched into. You could say I became a fan that day.

Bukowski died in 1994. But he was a ridiculously prolific poet, so his publisher, Black Sparrow Press, continued to release “new” poetry collections for 15 years after his death. Sounds like a sweet deal, doesn’t it? A seemingly endless stream of new books from a popular poet.

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This Thing Between Us - Gus Moreno (2021) [2021 MCD X FSG Originals edition] designer: Sara Wood

The New Adventures of Helen - Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (2018) [2021 Deep Vellum Publishing edition] designer: Natalya Balnova.