Pregnancy Brain: A Neuroscientific Guide for the Expectant Mom (Part 2 of 2)

Neuroscience

By: Jordan Gaines Lewis, 5th year student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program

image-20160222-25879-1mcwgay

Pickles and ice cream, anyone? (Shutterstock)

My forgetful friend – the subject of my original article – gave birth to a baby girl on Thanksgiving Day. She’s a beauty, and I know Mom agrees that the morning sickness, crazy sense of smell, and forgetfulness were worth it in the end.

In the meantime, while she’s experiencing a whole new set of biochemical processes that happens when a woman becomes a mother, let’s re-explore even more crazy changes that affect – or originate in – the brain during pregnancy. What causes clumsiness, food cravings, and moodiness?

Smells Ring Bells: How Smells Can Trigger Emotions and Memories

Neuroscience

By: Amanda White, Research Technologist in the Department of Psychiatry

A_Day_in_the_Life_013

A day in the life.

Autumn has arrived, bringing with it some of my favorite scents:  bonfire smoke, pumpkin spice (DON’T JUDGE!), and, most of all, crisp autumn air. Stepping outside on an October morning and breathing instantly transports me back in time.

I’m at Penn State. It’s a cool, crisp morning and there’s not a cloud in the sky as I walk up Shortlidge Road. I’m a freshman on my way to class and I’m a little nervous, but overall I’m excited to be in a new place on my own and for the future.

That complex emotion and memory can be triggered by a simple sensory cue:  the smell of autumn air. How do smells trigger such strong emotions and memories?

Our Emotional Gut

Biomedical Sciences

By: Alli Fries, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

4815843665_1f6330d395_oChances are you have heard it from others and felt it yourself!  One might experience that fluttery or squirmy feeling in their stomach in situations that trigger nervousness or fear, such as public speaking or climbing the first hill of an enormous roller coaster.  Others claim that they have “a pit in their stomach” in times of unbearable sadness, like the loss of a loved one.

These expressions relating emotional state and physical perception in the gut are commonplace and can be attributed to your body’s stress response.

The Brain in Your Gut

Biomedical Sciences

By: Alli Fries, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Human_brain_lateral_view%281%29

Credit: John A. Beal, via Wikimedia Commons

Generally, when people think about neuroscience, the image that comes to mind is the human brain. The brain—an oblong-shaped bulb with grooves and textures, which is reminiscent of a bowl of spaghetti. More ambitious folks might make it past the brain, moving as far as the spinal cord and acknowledging its worth for nervous system functioning. But very few people, if any, think about guts.