“Intuition, huh?” My co-worker eyed the sketches for this issue’s cover story sitting on my looks-like-a-bomb-hit-it desk. Then she beamed with approval: “I depend on that for everything!”
Don’t we all? Yet it is startling to realize just how little focused, conscious attention we apply to the everyday decisions that ultimately shape the course of our existence. Cross the street or not? Trust the stranger or no? Many of our snap judgments work out well, but sometimes our hunches lead us astray. Psychologist David G. Myers describes the science behind “The Powers and Perils of Intuition,” starting on page 24.
A slower, more careful kind of decision making is involved when psychiatrists are weighing whether to prescribe antidepressants to kids or teens. The drugs, approved only for use in adults, have nonetheless been used in youngsters for around a decade. Some scientists worry that antidepressants could be altering the development of children’s still growing brains; others believe the need to treat debilitating depression offsets such concerns. Beginning on page 34, Paul Raeburn’s article explores the question, “Kids on Meds: Trouble Ahead?”
When people look back at their lives, they speak of “traveling down memory lane.” The reference turns out to be more than a hackneyed metaphor. As we navigate the landscape of our recollections, we use a “cognitive map” of the environment created by place cells in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important to memory formation. Now researchers have learned how that spatial information arises. Recently discovered grid cells are key components of a mechanism that provides constant updates about location. In “The Matrix in Your Head,” neuroscientist James J. Knierim describes his excitement over the finding, which ultimately could “reveal the neural mechanisms that let us remember our personal histories—a vital process that forms the very foundation of one’s sense of identity.” Our intuition tells us that you will want to find the story on page 42.