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June 7, 2013

Editor's note: Gray matters

June 7, 2013

I play along with the charade. There doesn't seem to be a reason to change. You know, I feel so dirty when they start talking cute, I wanna tell her that I love her but the point is probably moot.

Who else is now singing along in their head? Yesterday I was at the gym and “Jessie’s Girl” popped up on my Pandora—and I still knew every single word more than 30 years after Rick Springfield first sang them. Why? Why can I remember this yet I sometimes forget what eight times seven is or what I had for lunch? And why is it still stuck in my head a day later?

Speaking of teen heartthrobs from yesteryear, why was my first schoolgirl crush on Shaun Cassidy and not Parker Stevenson? Or Farrah Fawcett, for that matter?

Why do I give directions using road names and landmarks, but my husband uses miles and exit numbers? Why can he identify every symphony ever recorded but can never remember the name of the bookstore at the mall? Why am I better at liberal arts than math and science? How come my daughter can hear music and replicate the notes on a viola or with her voice, but math formulas frustrate her to no end?

Why was I an outgoing kid, but my big sister was shy? Why am I afraid of heights but not public speaking when others jump out of airplanes but quake in fear in front of a crowd?

Why do some people get Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or epilepsy and others live disease-free lives? Why do some people suffer from depression? Why are some people afflicted with addiction?

Why? Why? Why?

The answers to these questions lie somewhere in our brains. So much of how we act and what we think and who we become is nestled deep in that gray matter inside our heads. I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity of it all.  

I majored in psychology because I thought someday I wanted to see patients and do research in the field. However, you’ll remember I said I was much more of a liberal arts person than science—and there was a lot of science ahead of me if I wanted to pursue that goal.

But MSU is filled with researchers from all disciplines who are pursuing that goal. They are immersed in many different aspects of studying the brain—from memory function and Parkinson’s disease to epilepsy and sexual orientation. Make sure to check out the compelling MSUToday feature, Brain Matters at MSU to learn about some very cool stuff MSU researchers are doing.

So many different areas of research can be traced back to people and why they do the things they do, which really is all about the brain. Robert Walker researches building and development in tropical forests in the Amazon. But instead of looking at solely environmental impact, he studies why and how the thoughts and actions of people affect environmental change. Make sure to read his Faculty Voice to learn more about his work.

There’s so much to discover about how are brains work. I love working someplace where there is so much dedication to this field. And I love working at MSU where we’re teaching the next batch of scientists. Maybe some of the young scientists featured in the Student View piece on undergraduate research will someday find answers to my questions.

Specifically, why I’m still singing in my head—And she’s watching him with those eyes…

Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday



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