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From the Field: Nora Volkow

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an in-depth profile of Nora Volkow, the neuroscientist in charge of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the accompanying video, Volkow talks about the psychology and physiology behind addiction.

According to Volkow, the impulse that drives one person to buy a chocolate bar from a bucket sitting at a checkout counter, even when she doesn't really want a chocolate bar, may be similar to the way an addict returns time and again to a substance, behavior, or activity even when he knows he shouldn't, really doesn't want to, or has vowed to steer clear. Good intentions aside, breaking patterns of addiction can be extremely difficult, and when it comes to substance addiction, the substance affects the dopamine levels in the brain—a high that addicts want to repeat.

Increased dopamine levels, alone, however, don't explain addiction. One time, in and of itself, doesn't create addiction. According to the New York Times article, researchers suggest that genetics play a role, as do changes in the brain that result from patterns of addiction.


Making Connections

If you are interested in human psychology, physiology, or neuroscience, you can use a bag of marshmallows, a bell, and a group of friends to explore similar issues of human behavior in the Enjoy It Now... Or Enjoy It Later? Understanding Delayed Gratification, project. Would you rather have one marshmallow now or two in 15 minutes? You might think you want two. But can you hold out? Don't like marshmallows? Substitute a favorite treat and put it to the test.


Science Buddies Science Activities

Science Buddies Summer Science Roundup


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School and family science weekly spotlight: experiment with tonic water and a black light to learn more about fluorescence and light energy!

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Are you a picky eater? Maybe there is a scientific reason for your reluctance to eat certain foods even if you know they are good for you. Find out with a tongue-dyeing taste-testing science project!

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Catch the annual Perseids meteor shower and tie in some fun family astronomy science with an exploration of parallax. How far away are the things we see in the sky?

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School and family science weekly spotlight: make a solar oven from household and recycled materials.

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With different kinds of dried beans, plastic cups, and water, kids can model rocks and observe the way different sized particles in rocks affect how much water a rock can hold.

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Students can experiment with the engineering design process by trying to improve the durability of a simple handheld device.



Your Science!
What will you explore for your science project this year? What is your favorite classroom science activity? Email us a short (one to three sentences) summary of your science project or teaching tip. You might end up featured in an upcoming Science Buddies newsletter!



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