Feel the Burn

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Bounding down the stairs to my health club’s locker room at lunch today, I spied a new poster that caught my attention: “Leave your stress where it belongs: in your cubicle!” Usually I roll my eyes at marketing exhortations, but this time I had to agree that the writers had a point. In an era of lean staffing and multitasking, workers are at greater risk of making themselves sick from long-term stress, as Ulrich Kraft explains in his article “Burned Out.” Workaholics who pull long hours year in and year out can drive themselves to a state of mental and physical collapse, called burnout. Fortunately, there are ways for the brain and body to ward off such dire consequences. Turn to page 28 to find out how.

Tension can be beneficial, of course, if it is part of the time-tested system of improving explanatory arguments, or interpretations, based on experimental data. Such debates advance science’s pursuit of discovering the truth about any given phenomenon. In “Beyond the Neuron Doctrine,” starting on page 20, neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields describes a century-old question about the nature of neural communication. One side contends that each brain cell is a discrete functional unit, a scheme now known as the neuron doctrine. The opposing view holds that the nervous system is a highly interconnected, free-flowing data meshwork, or reticulum. The surprising news? Both camps are right.

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