February 4th, 2017


Wordsworth wrote: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting…”

Now researchers indicate that sleep itself is a forgetting:

In 2003, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got “noisy.” When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

In the years since, Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli, along with other researchers, have found a great deal of indirect evidence to support the so-called synaptic homeostasis hypothesis…

Luisa de Vivo, an assistant scientist working in their lab, led a painstaking survey of tissue taken from mice, some awake and others asleep. She and her colleagues determined the size and shape of 6,920 synapses in total.

The synapses in the brains of sleeping mice, they found, were 18 percent smaller than in awake ones. “That there’s such a big change over all is surprising,” Dr. Tononi said.

The second study was led by Graham H. Diering, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Diering and his colleagues set out to explore the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis by studying the proteins in mouse brains. “I’m really coming at it from this nuts-and-bolts place,” Dr. Diering said.

In one experiment, Dr. Diering and his colleagues created a tiny window through which they could peer into mouse brains. Then he and his colleagues added a chemical that lit up a surface protein on brain synapses.

Looking through the window, they found that the number of surface proteins dropped during sleep. That decline is what you would expect if the synapses were shrinking.

(A window into mouse brains? Reminds me why I never became a medical researcher.)

Shakespeare described sleep well (he described most things well):

Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast

[NOTE: The title of this post isn’t just a restaurant in Big Sur with an astounding setting, it’s “a medicine for sorrow, literally an anti-depressant – a ‘drug of forgetfulness’ mentioned in ancient Greek literature and Greek mythology, depicted as originating in Egypt.”]

24 Responses to “Nepenthe”

  1. huxley Says:

    I too was intrigued by the linked article.

    And my first thought when I saw the post title was of that Big Sur restaurant!

    Incredible views.

  2. neo-neocon Says:


    I first was in that area in 1970, driving along the coast with my boyfriend (husband-to-be).

    Big Sur was the happening place. It’s still a spectacular setting.

  3. CV Says:

    I finally had the opportunity to visit Nepenthe (a restaurant on my bucket list) on an epic road trip with my then 16-year-old son a couple of years ago. We were seated on the patio, with the grandeur of the Pacific coast before us, and my son was gazing at … his phone! Unbelievable. I still tease him about it.

  4. huxley Says:

    neo: You caught Big Sur and the countercultural moment at a spectacular time.

    I’m still trying to work out how the counterculture went so far wrong a couple generations later to become the Black Bloc trashing stuff in Berkeley.

    There were sixties people trashing stuff back then but overall the vibe was so different, so positive.

    And it changed my life.

  5. neo-neocon Says:


    The seeds of the bad stuff were there from the start.

  6. huxley Says:

    There are always bad seeds at the start.

    America started with slavery in its DNA. There are those who argue we’ve never got beyond it.

    Speaking for myself, I’m still surprised to see the counterculture became such a mean, prudish, authoritarian force.

  7. neo-neocon Says:


    In the late 60s I once attended an SDS meeting. I was repelled by the speakers I saw there. Harsh, dogmatic, on an ego trip, and even misogynistic (that latter part was very obvious). I realized almost immediately that this was a bad lot of people masquerading as do-gooders. I felt this on a gut level; don’t remember much that they actually said.

  8. huxley Says:

    neo: Yes, I had a similar bit of enlightenment when Robin Morgan’s husband took over my college commune and we were suddenly in lock step with radical feminists, radical gays and Weatherman types.

    I found out later Morgan was secretly meeting with Jane Alpert, one of the sixties bombers, in my college town.

  9. huxley Says:

    I had two moments of enlightenment.

    The first was when I was talking to Kenneth Pitchford, Robin Morgan’s husband, during the feminist occupation of the president’s office at my college. I was concerned the repercussions would harm my school. Pitchford’s response was essentially, Let It Burn.

    The second was when I found myself shuffled off into a commune meeting and it turned out to be a “consciousness raising” group where the males would confess their sexual fantasies which degraded women.

    That was it for me.

  10. parker Says:

    IMO the only bright idea in the 60s was the concept that small is beautiful; somehow that concept morphed into big, repressive government is beautiful.

  11. Francesca Says:

    Wonderful quote from Shakespeare. Thanks.

  12. huxley Says:

    The core idea of the counterculture was freedom. Freedom to speak, love, associate, create, explore, take drugs, build a life that worked for you — anything except violence. Perhaps too much freedom!

    Some New Left people like Abbie Hoffman started hanging out with hippies and converted to the lifestyle. They dreamed of harnessing the hippie movement to leftist politics and worked for that.

    It was never a smooth combination. Hippies had sympathy with the anti-war and environmental aspects of the New Left, but they didn’t care for the intolerance and violence which went with the New Left.

    Eventually, as hippies grew older, they got married, got jobs, had kids — “the full catastrophe,” as Zorba the Greek put it. The hippie thing died off, though some of the attitudes and freedoms lived on.

    The New Left though burrowed like ticks into academia, the media and the Democratic Party, and gained remarkable amounts of control.

    I wouldn’t have bet we could elect a President who started his political career at a gathering in the Chicago home of the two most notorious members of the Weather Underground. But we did.

    I have to give Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn credit for soldiering on like good comrades for the revolution.

  13. parker Says:


    Give credit??? Oh please, say it isn’t so.

  14. Yancey Ward Says:

    The theory makes a great deal of sense to me- during a day, I remember quite well pretty much the entire day as it goes along, but the next day, I don’t. I noted a long time ago that I only misplace things after a day or two- in other words, I can accidentally put my keys in unusual places, and if I need them a few hours later, I will almost 100% remember where they are with at most a backtrack through my day. However, if I don’t need them til the next day, it is often difficult backtrack to them at all.

  15. Sarah Rolph Says:

    I enjoyed this cookbook and memoir about Nepenthe (the restaurant) written by a gal who grew up there: https://www.amazon.com/My-Nepenthe-Bohemian-Tales-Family/dp/1449477909/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486296635&sr=8-1&keywords=my+nepenthe

    The author now has a nice little restaurant in Oakland called The Cook and Her Farmer http://www.thecookandherfarmer.com/

  16. huxley Says:

    …synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got “noisy.” When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

    When I’m doing brain work — programming, math, writing — late at night, I’m amazed at how clear my mind is the next morning. Problems which baffled me at night melt away in the morning.

    Paring back noisy synapses during sleep sounds like a reasonable explanation.

  17. huxley Says:

    Give credit??? Oh please, say it isn’t so.

    parker: I’m capable of giving my enemies credit for determination.

    By Reagan’s presidency the radical left was weak, scattered and discouraged. I figured they would be a footnote to the counterculture years like any number of forgotten communes and cults from that era.

    Yet Ayers and Dohrn lived to fight another day and get their man into the White House. The universities were taken over by far left politics and philosophy. Liberal journalists overwhelm the rest. Etc.

    I was a leftist in the 80s and I couldn’t have imagined such an outcome.

    Unfortunately I switched to the right in time for the left to build such momentum that by 2009 it looked like the future was a pink progressive bunny slipper stamping on a human face forever.

  18. I won't submit Says:

    huxley Says:
    February 5th, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Trump’s Victory Is a Pivotal Turning Point in Human History

    We gave the Frankfurt School JINO asylum from the National Socialists in the 1930’s.
    They have been paying us back since.
    These people are a curse.

  19. neo-neocon Says:

    I won’t submit:

    What is your point about their being JINOs, and then saying “these people are a curse”?

    You need to clarity who you mean by “these people.”

  20. huxley Says:

    Trump’s Victory Is a Pivotal Turning Point in Human History

    IWS: I like Zombie so I read the article, but that title is about as silly as Obama’s “…the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”

    Trump triumphalism strikes me as worrisome as Obama triumphalism. Hubris is hubris.

    That said, I wish more people were aware of the long-standing propaganda war waged against the US by Soviet intelligence and leftist intellectuals which Zombie summarizes.

  21. Nick Says:

    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
    Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
    Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

  22. I won't submit Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    February 5th, 2017 at 6:15 pm
    You need to clarity who you mean by “these people.”
    JINO! I could not have been clearer.
    A curse!
    Ignore as you may but this kind of stunt, amongst many cannot be good for the Jews:

    Stereotypes do not arise out of thin air.

  23. neo-neocon Says:

    I won’t submit:

    Oh, I understood that’s what you might have meant, all right. I was merely giving you a chance to limit what you said. You didn’t take that chance.

    And actually, you could have been clearer, much clearer. For example, you might have meant “members of the the Frankfurt School” when you wrote “these people,” rather than all secular Jews (JINOs: “Jews in name only”).

    So, you think all secular Jews are a curse? Because that’s what you are saying.

  24. IGotBupkis, "Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses." Says:

    It’wern’t the Jews that created this, it was the entire Classical Liberal that created it.

    Classical Liberals were so arrogant, so proud of the accomplishments of western civ by 1910.

    Then The War to End All Wars happened. The CLs were SO disillusioned by the aftermath of that war, they turned on The West, and viciously set out to destroy it. They morphed from Classical Liberalism to PostModern Liberalism almost overnight, and have been a growing societal cancer ever since

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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