Here are my picks this week for the best psychology/neuroscience posts on ResearchBlogging.org.
- Who feels pain after surgery…LONG after surgery? As many as 50 percent of patients report pain long after surgery. Healthskills examines a paper exploring some of the reasons why.
- Speaking of pain, how do you study whether overweight people feel “less full” than average-weight people? Have them swallow a condom and inflate it in their stomachs. Eew! Scicurious examines the science.
- Kids know Batman doesn’t play with Spongebob, but do they keep the imaginary worlds they make up for games separate? The BPS Research Digest discusses.
- Finally, James Winters offers an exceptionally thorough explanation of the function of Broca’s area in the brain: Part 1, Part 2. Read, learn, then add a comment suggesting which brain region you’d like him to discuss next. My vote: the Insula.
Also, my column is up on SEEDMAGAZINE.COM. This week I’m discussing one environmental trade-off we may have to make to prevent global warming:
Each year in April and May as farmers in the central US fertilize their crops, nearly 450 thousand metric tons of nitrates and phosphates pour down the Mississippi River. When these chemicals reach the Gulf of Mexico, they cause a feeding frenzy as photosynthetic algae absorb the nutrients. It’s a boom-and-bust cycle of epic proportions: The algae populations grow explosively, then die and decompose. This process depletes the water of oxygen on a vast scale, creating a suffocating “dead zone” the size of Massachusetts where few, if any, animals can survive.
[But] a 2007 law that requires the US to annually produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. Barring major biofuel production breakthroughs from sources like algae or microbes, most of this fuel will come from crops grown in the central US; the fertilizers and other agricultural waste they produce will flow straight down the Mississippi and feed the dead zone. Hite says the study, led by Christine Costello, found that meeting this goal will make it impossible for the EPA to reach its target reduction in the size of the dead zone. Even if fertilizer-intensive corn is replaced with more eco-friendly crops like switchgrass, the vast increase in agricultural production will cause the dead zone to grow unless preventive measures are taken.
There is a potential solution: strategically increasing wetlands around — but this offers its own set of problems. Read the whole article.