The true cost of solitary confinement

By Caleb O’Brien COLUMBIA, Mo. — In 1842, Charles Dickens visited an American prison devoted to the perfection of solitary confinement. “I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers,” Dickens later wrote. “I hold this slow…

Behind the BRAIN Initiative

By Caleb O’Brien DENVER – The Obama Administration’s initiative to “revolutionize our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury,” may be less substantial and less likely to produce breakthrough cures than the Administration has suggested. Speaking at…

An insect’s guide to winter survival

By Caleb O’Brien COLUMBIA, Mo. — Imagine it’s winter. Imagine you’re outside, without central heating, without clothes, without matches. Now imagine you’re the size of an insect larva. Every year, insects in colder climes face the challenge of surviving winter’s freezing temperatures. They deploy both behavioral and biochemical strategies to better their chances of survival. These…

No animal is an island

By Caleb O’Brien CHICAGO – Luminescent squid, hyena scent glands and autistic mice have more in common than you might think. Research presented recently at an American Association for the Advancement of Science symposium suggest the three are linked by the role of the microbiome in human and animal behavior. According to Kevin Theis of…