Not unhappy

The problem with depression—the thing that makes it so hard to describe, and gives its sufferers a bad conscience—is its resemblance to unhappiness. Unhappiness is part of every life, and most people learn how to cope with it: by changing the conditions that cause it, or by distracting themselves, or by actively repressing it. A person who can’t deal with being unhappy is seen as a moral failure—childish, selfish, “difficult.” It is all too easy to apply the same judgment to a depressed person, as if depression just meant luxuriating in unhappiness. David Foster Wallace wrote a brilliant story, “The Depressed Person,” in which a woman worries that by describing her suffering she will only disgust her friends and even her therapist—a worry which itself feeds into her suffering.

But depression is actually the opposite of unhappiness, because it is precisely not “a part of life.” When you are unhappy, life is pressing you, hurting you, and you are forced to respond to it. An unhappy life is a problem, and to be absorbed in a problem is to be absorbed in existence. When you are depressed, on the other hand, there is no problem, because there is nothing to be solved. Existence itself seems to retreat, to leave you stranded, without purchase on things, people, yourself. In her new memoir…

Adam Kirsh | Daphne Merkin Pens a Depression Classic – Tablet Magazine

Memory

These days, Miller is taking on another piece of dogma — that neurons primarily communicate by electrical spikes. In recent papers, Miller argues that there’s still a lot to learn from the intermittent electrical currents called oscillations, or brain waves.  

When we hold an item in working memory, these oscillations move through brain circuits in waves that rise and fall scores of times. These oscillations, he argues, are how the prefrontal cortex — that mental “switch operator” — stores several items on the cusp of our awareness in working memory, so we can pull them into our conscious minds as needed.

Adam Piore