Longer Looks: The Science Behind New Pixar Film; Buddhism Meets Neuroscience
Each week, KHN's Alana Pockros finds interesting reads from around the Web.
The New York Times:
The Science of ‘Inside Out’
Five years ago, the writer and director Pete Docter of Pixar reached out to us to talk over an idea for a film, one that would portray how emotions work inside a person’s head and at the same time shape a person’s outer life with other people. He wanted to do this all in the mind of an 11-year-old girl as she navigated a few difficult days in her life. As scientists who have studied emotion for decades, we were delighted to be asked. We ended up serving as scientific consultants for the movie, “Inside Out,” which was recently released. (Dacher Keltner and Paul Ekman, 7/3)
The Buddhist And The Neuroscientist
In 1992, the neuroscientist Richard Davidson got a challenge from the Dalai Lama. By that point, he’d spent his career asking why people respond to, in his words, “life’s slings and arrows” in different ways. Why are some people more resilient than others in the face of tragedy? And is resilience something you can gain through practice? The Dalai Lama had a different question for Davidson when he visited the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “He said: ‘You’ve been using the tools of modern neuroscience to study depression, and anxiety, and fear. Why can’t you use those same tools to study kindness and compassion?’ … I did not have a very good answer. I said it was hard.” (Gilsinan, 7/4)
The New York Times:
How Therapists Mourn
One day, not long after his brain biopsy, I visit Joseph in the hospital, bearing two corned beef sandwiches on rye. I figure we’ll enjoy lunch together, as best we can — he is in and out of consciousness these days. I enter the room; I’m in luck! Joseph is awake. Eagerly he unwraps the sandwich and lays the dill pickle lovingly beside one of the halves. He peels back the top piece of rye bread and tilts his head sideways to take a look. ... “Dr. Weiss,” Joseph says, in something close to his old stentorian voice. “Next time, if you’re going to bring me corned beef… please, don’t bring me lean.” I smile. This is the Joseph I know so well. But it will be the last coherent sentence I ever hear from him. Two months later I will attend his funeral.(Robin Weiss, 7/4)
The New Yorker:
Why Can’t We Fall Asleep?
But going to sleep isn’t always a simple process, and it seems to have grown more problematic in recent years. ... According to Charles Czeisler, the chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, over the past five decades our average sleep duration on work nights has decreased by an hour and a half, down from eight and a half to just under seven. Thirty-one per cent of us sleep fewer than six hours a night, and sixty-nine per cent report insufficient sleep. When Lisa Matricciani, a sleep researcher at the University of South Australia, looked at available sleep data for children from 1905 to 2008, she found that they’d lost nearly a minute of sleep a year. It’s not just a trend for the adult world. We are, as a population, sleeping less now than we ever have. (Maria Konnikova, 7/7)
This Medical Charity Made $3.3B From A Single Pill
Last December, a few dozen scientists gathered at the modest headquarters of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Bethesda, Md. Researchers from academic labs and startups convened in the foundation's fourth-floor conference rooms to discuss new ways to target the fatal lung disease, which affects 30,000 Americans. The foundation's goal was to get the rare disease on the top of scientists' agenda for novel treatments such as gene editing or stem cell therapies. "We want to be on their pipeline in 2015," says Robert Beall, who has led the foundation since 1994, "rather than waiting until 2000-and-whenever." The scientists had good reason to pay attention to Beall's pitch: His foundation has money, and lots of it .... The CF Foundation had since the late 1990s given drugmaker Vertex, which developed Kalydeco, around $150 million in exchange for something unusual-a share of the royalties for any treatment Vertex's research yielded. Two weeks before the foundation's December meeting, it sold its royalty rights to an investment company. For $3.3 billion. (John Tozzi, 7/8)