The Atlantic Daily: When Dead Pigs' Brain-Cell Functions Fly

Scientists restored signs of activity in dead pigs' brains. Plus: The not-so-sound science of dentistry, depression in teen athletes, Beyoncé’s new masterpiece, and more

Scientists Partly Restore Activity in Dead-Pig Brains

(Denis Balibouse / Reuters)

What We’re Following

A team of researchers restored and revived some brain cells in pigs that had been decapitated four hours earlier. By infusing the brains with a concoction of nutrients and chemicals, the scientists were shocked to realize that some dormant neurons started firing—even though the brain activity didn’t mirror the type of coordinated electrical activity needed for cognition and even basic life. The study doesn’t exactly pave the way for the zombie-like revival of dead organisms, but it raises the potential of some day using the method to keep oxygen-starved brains alive while patients wait for treatment. Ed Yong ponders the ethical issues at hand.

The group Future Now wants to usher in a new progressive era. Their chief goal isn’t ousting Trump; their sights are set on a grander, though perhaps less sexy goal: changing state legislatures. Statehouses are where conservatives have amassed the most power in recent years—which they’ve wielded to roll back access to abortion and loosen gun laws. Future Now says it wants to help Democrats win back state legislatures, while also nurturing progressive legislation at the state level. The fledgling organization notched its first win of 2019 in Pennsylvania last month—and heading into 2020, when the stakes ratchet up, they’re aiming higher.

On the heels of a massive election, Indonesia’s government shifts to the right. The incumbent President Joko Widodo secured reelection in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, and he’s backed away from the country’s commitment to protecting minority rights. Widodo, with a Muslim cleric as his running mate, campaigned heavily on Islamic identity politics, neglecting to come to the defense of a former ally, the governor of Jakarta, who was being smeared by religious extremists. Indonesia is one of the many countries in Southeast Asia to have taken such a turn in recent years.


Beyonce's black-intellectual 'Homecoming'

(Katie Martin / The Atlantic)

Homecoming, the new Netflix documentary on Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance, highlights the black-intellectual tradition at the core of her stardom. Its release also came with a surprise live album.

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Evening Reads

The trouble with dentistry

Suspicious of the treatments your dentist recommends to you, purportedly to maintain the health of your teeth? Dentistry isn’t as scientific as patients might believe, Ferris Jabr writes, and the practice is rife with extraneous—and sometimes stunningly expensive—procedures:

Consider the maxim that everyone should visit the dentist twice a year for cleanings. We hear it so often, and from such a young age, that we’ve internalized it as truth. But this supposed commandment of oral health has no scientific grounding. Scholars have traced its origins to a few potential sources, including a toothpaste advertisement from the 1930s and an illustrated pamphlet from 1849 that follows the travails of a man with a severe toothache. Today, an increasing number of dentists acknowledge that adults with good oral hygiene need to see a dentist only once every 12 to 16 months.

Many standard dental treatments—to say nothing of all the recent innovations and cosmetic extravagances—are likewise not well substantiated by research. Many have never been tested in meticulous clinical trials. And the data that are available are not always reassuring.

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Teen athletes are vulnerable to depression

(K. C. Alfred / The Atlantic)

As high-school sports take on the training methods and intensity level of college sports, players are highly susceptible to mental-health challenges:

During the summer before her junior year, Isabella pivoted awkwardly during a game and fell to the ground in pain. She had torn her ACL. For eight months, she couldn’t return to the field. “It was my worst year ever,” Isabella told me. While her teammates competed in tournaments, she worried about falling behind in the sport. While her friends mingled after school, she was stuck at physical therapy. Without lacrosse, Isabella felt restless and out of sorts. She started eating more and soon developed an eating disorder. “I’d grown up playing lacrosse, and I had no other hobbies,” Isabella said. “So when you don’t have it, you’re like, What am I going to do?

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