Buzzed Runners to Buzzing Neurons via ColorfulCortex Weekly

COLORFULCORTEX | brain | behavior | backtalk
ColorfulCortex is a weekly digest of neuroscience news in social, vice, tech and more


Runners High | Run Stoners, Run

The Buzz: Step aside bulletproof coffee and $25 spin classes, the new fitness fad is pre-gaming your run with weed. This underground trend is growing in popularity, with pro-cannabis ultramarathoners endorsing its performance enhancing side effects.

The Backstory: On a chemical level, your brain on running and weed are similar. The cannabinoids in marijuana mimic the natural endocannabinoids produced in the brain when you exercise. The term "runners high" isn't a gym membership PR tactic.

The Facts: The buzz from pot is caused by two psychoactive chemicals: Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Put simply, CBD makes you calm and THC makes you happy. Weed turbocharges the effects of your body's ennocannabinoids to boost vision, concentration, pain tolerance, tissue oxygenation, and performance confidence.

Life Hack: If Mary Jane is legal in a city near you, hack your system by lighting up before your run. For a buzz on the go, you can even buy runners bars with 30 mg of THC. It won't make you an Olympian, but it will make your run more colorful.


Buzzing Neurons | A Wearable For Your Brain

The Buzz: Wearable tech has made great strides. Exhibit A: Thync, a newly launched mood altering head set. Cranky? Exhausted? There's a gadget for that. Gimme, gimme.

The Backstory: While it slightly resembles a cyborg tiara, it's nonetheless an ultimate life hack - if it works. The device uses neurosignaling (think energy wave + neural sructure = altered brain activity), to control your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

The Science: Using proprietary waveform algorithms set for Calm or Energy, Thync shoots low-level electrical impulses to your cranial and peripheral nerves to "customize" your mood. Sort of like a manual massage chair, for your neurons.

Life Hack: It's a little Brave New World-ish, but ColorfulCortex digs the fusion of neuroscience and tech. The start-up has raised $13M to bring a wearable chill pill to the frazzled, easy-fix loving masses.


The Accidental Aphrodisiac | Depression, Sex, and Female Viagra

The Buzz: Gloomy women of the world: I have good and bad news. Antidepressant Flibanserin turned out to be a dud in improving mood. However, it has been approved by the FDA as the female Viagra, under the name Addyi. No surprise, it's a little pink pill. Turns out, patients reported "satisfying sexual events" as an unforeseen side effect.

The Backstory: Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. And interplanetary sex disorders look very different. Men's sexual dysfunction usually starts down under. So Viagra, which acts on the sexual organs, works like a charm. Women's sex drive, on the other hand, begins upstairs, which requires a bit more finesse.

The Science: When there's an off-kilter balance of excitatory neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline, and inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin, libido runs amuck. The drug tinkers with these chemicals, and stabilizes the pathways to disinhibit sex drive.

The Life Hack: While it isn't exactly female beer goggles, the drug can hack desire on a chemical level. With hypoactive sexual desire disorder affecting up to 1 in 3 women, expect to see an explosion of little pink pills in a city near you.


An Introvert to Go With Every Outfit | An Assortment of Introversion

The Buzz: Introverts. They're so hot right now. Just in time for fall is a fist bump of cultural acceptance for the book reading, nook seeking, warm beverage drinking, solitude seekers among us. They're even getting their own kinda cool support networks, like Quiet Revolution.

The Backstory: Your brain is wired for introversion or extroversion. The brains of introverts are more stimulated at baseline, which is why they seek quiet, contemplative environments. That said, introversion looks different in everyone.

The Science: Personality scientists have identified not one, but four types of introverts. While the common thread is a tendency to turn inward, you can now choose from an assortment of four flavors: social, thinking, anxious, or restrained introversion.

The Life Hack: Does your introversion have a dash of Einstein or Jobs? A sprinkling of Woody Allen or Gandhi? A hint of Zuckerberg or Thoreau? Your optimal day-to-day will look very different based on your breed of introversion. See which type you are.


A Spiny Neuron Walks Into the Bar | Addiction and Brain Plasticity

The Buzz: One tequila, two tequila. Scientists are getting closer to understanding how "I'll just have one" disintegrates into drunken jumbo slice and a cracked iPhone screen a few hours later.

The Backstory: Like practicing yoga, alcohol addiction is a form of learning and memory driven by synaptic plasticity. Unlike yoga, it doesn't improve your balance. Addiction is driven by sensitivity of dopamine receptors. Dopamine: it's the feel-good "crack" of the brain.

The Science: Don't kill the messenger, but binging changes the structure of spiny neurons in your brain. These neurons have dopamine receptors: they activate "go" pathways and encourage you to do something. Periodic binging makes these neurons more excitable, which means you're more likely to perform the behavior in question. Like fireball shots.

The Life Hack: Two options. Take a drug to block your dopamine receptors. Despite nasty side effects, dopamine antagonists are effective. Alternatively, stop binging. Easier said than done.