Scott Hollifield: Science looks at fish brains, the lighter side of death and cussing up a storm

As a man of science, which I will pretend to be for the next 600 words or so, I like to keep up with the latest scientific research, then present a slightly bent and truncated version of that research as a public service to loyal readers -- both of you -- so you can stay informed while devoting more time to important activities like dodging flying lawn furniture during hurricanes and digging backyard bunkers to survive North Korean missile strikes.

Here are few recent headlines that caught my eye, which made it red and puffy but that cleared up after a shot of Visine.

Study: Antidepressants found in fish brains in Great Lakes region.

According to a news release from researchers at the University of Buffalo, where someone in charge of the money must have said, “I wonder what goes through a fish’s mind?” scientists determined human antidepressants “are building up in the brains of bass, walleye and several other fish common to the Great Lakes region.”

It isn’t that fish are depressed.

“Doc, life just hasn’t turned out the way I hoped. I wanted to be a sturgeon but I couldn’t get into med school, I fell for the wrong girl hook, line and sinker and my job? Well, let’s not open that can of worms. Got anything that can help?”

No, it’s that people are depressed – most likely about hurricanes and North Korean missile strikes – taking antidepressants and eliminating antidepressants which are finding their way downstream to fish.

“These active ingredients from antidepressants, which are coming out from wastewater treatment plants, are accumulating in fish brains,” explained lead scientist Diana Aga in the news release “It is a threat to biodiversity, and we should be very concerned.”

The worst case scenario, presumably, is a chain reaction that ultimately ends life on our planet as we know it, which would be depressing to anyone except medicated fish if not for the fact that…

Study: Thinking about our death is healthy.

CBS Philly reported on a study conducted by the University of London that found “taking some time to think about the unnerving possibilities surrounding your end can actually be a good thing.”

The results were based on a survey of 356 people – no fish participated -- who were asked questions about their own mortality.

“Those who are interested in passing down their succession to future generations as a way to transcend death are also likely to take responsibility for their health and place value on their internal development,” said health psychology Professor Mark McDermott, adding that “legacy awareness was found to be correlated with both trying to be healthy and striving for spiritual growth (such as believing that life has purpose).”

And that purpose, for many people, does not include cussing like a sailor on Facebook because…

Study: Religious people are more positive, less profane on social media.

The findings published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggest “nonreligious individuals swear more and use sexual words more frequently” while “the language of religious individuals was more emotionally positive and socially oriented…”

The authors did note one limitation of the study was a “majority of individuals were from the United States, where people commonly claim a Christian orientation in name only but do not practice regularly.”

That last statement may result in the study’s authors finding a post like this on their Facebook pages:

“Are ya’ll saying I don’t practice what I preach, you pointy-headed bunch of sons of &#%!@? I will come down there to that fancy-pants journal of yours and beat the absolute &#%!@ out of every last one of you. Now, you have a blessed day.”

And that’s our look at the latest scientific research. Now, back to dodging and digging.

Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C. and a humor columnist. Contact him at

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