Regarding “How Packaged Food Makes Girls Hyper,” by Aimee Cunningham [Head Lines], it is possible that a high level of BPA in the mother is a symptom of a different underlying problem, rather than the cause of the behavioral issues in young children.

The sources of BPA in humans are commonly packaging from processed foods and beverages that may themselves contain many other additives. High BPA levels probably correlate with poor diet and nutrition, as well as with higher levels of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors, all of which some studies link causally with behavioral problems in children.

Parents with poor social support or less education may resort to these kinds of foods more often, and thus it may be that disadvantage, social isolation or parental neglect is responsible for some of the three-year-old girls who were “more anxious, depressed and hyperactive” and who had “more difficulty … controlling their emotions and inhibiting behaviors.”

That said, it is self-evident that endocrine disruptors and chemicals that mimic hormones—such as BPA—might have dramatic effects on fetal development and subsequent behavior in childhood and on the timing of puberty.

“Dr Jane”
commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind


“The Carnivore's Dilemma,” by Morgen E. Peck [Head Lines], showed that there was some difference among the mind-sets of people who knew they were about to eat meat as compared with people who were about to eat a nonmeat snack.

Personally, I think this is a beneficial adaptation because any reservations about eating anything, especially something as nutritious as meat, would put a lot of negative selection pressure on the individual harboring these feelings. Basically, because even our closest ancestors are mostly vegetarian, anybody in the Homo genus that was grossed out by meat had a much lower probability of passing on their genes.

Because most Americans eat too much meat anyway, it would help a lot if people gave more thought to how much land, water, food, energy and other resources were used and to the sacrifices made by the animal that provided the meat they are eating before going overboard with their meat consumption. If these facts were more present in people's minds, wasting meat would be less of a problem.

commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind


I wonder why “The Problem with the Pill,” by Janelle Weaver [Head Lines], did not mention the fact that the pill changes the hormonal body balance into a virtual “pregnancy” mode, which in turn can change a woman's mood into moodiness (as I can attest from past personal experience).

Many studies have also shown that, with prolonged use of the pill, there is a definite loss of libido as a side effect to be taken into account. These effects could explain the study's findings; for instance, that pill users think their mates are less sexually attractive.

commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind


“The Nuts and Bolts of Emotional Sobriety,” by Wray Herbert [We're Only Human], reminded me of my own experience.

As a kid, I was taught that it was inappropriate to show feelings. I incorporated the belief that it was also inappropriate to have feelings. I was in counseling briefly when I was 25 or so, and when the counselor asked me, “How do you feel about that?” I had absolutely no concept of what she was talking about.

Many years later, trying to get sober, I began to learn what feelings were, how to identify them and, most important, what to tuck away for later and what to deal with now—as this article describes. I learned that feelings, although they may hurt, cannot harm me unless I let them. I remember well the very first time that I felt joy and was able to identify and enjoy it. Wow!

I learned all the techniques in this article and put them into practice with a good deal of success. It's been a really good life for the past 40 years. Moreover, I learned it all in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), long before the days of formal credentialing for addictions counseling and cognitive-behavior therapy.

It still amazes me that these pioneers in recovery were so insightful and so far ahead of their time. Maybe they did not have the science, but it is clear to many of us that they damn well knew how to get sober and recover.

As former head of the Chemical Dependency Counselor program at Suffolk Community College on Long Island, I think the formal study of addiction and the practice of counseling have come a very long way since then, but in some ways not all that much has really changed. We will always owe a lot to the founders of AA.

commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind


“The Truth about Pot,” by Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld [Facts and Fictions in Mental Health], is a good article that goes over many of the issues surrounding marijuana. But I don't think that we as a society are talking about the most important issue. When people use alcohol, a drug that we have a lot of information about, we have legal guidelines concerning how intoxicated a user is. We have test equipment, and police officers are trained to use it to keep the public safe from abusers. The problem with marijuana is that it is very difficult to know how intoxicated or affected someone is who smokes pot. There is no rating system concerning the potency of the drug, and the residual effects can last for days. When a train engineer crashes his locomotive into an oncoming passenger train, are we able to say how much his use of marijuana two days prior to the accident affected his performance?

Until these types of issues are resolved, public sentiment concerning the moral nature or medical efficacy of the drug is irrelevant.

commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind

As a marriage counselor, I've had lots of clients over the years who were addicted to pot. One thing that I find always missing from these drug studies is the effect of drug use or abuse on relationships. I would guess that about half the couples I see for counseling are experiencing adverse impacts of drugs and alcohol on their marriage.

Many times the chronic pot user seems to have puer eternis, or arrested development, and still relates to the world like a teenager.

commenting at www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind