A window into live brains, and what saliva tells babies about human relationships

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On this week’s show: Ethical concerns rise with an increase in open brain research, and how sharing saliva can be a proxy for the closeness of a relationship

Human brains are protected by our hard skulls, but these bony shields also keep researchers out. With brain surgeries and brain implants on the rise, scientists are getting more chances to explore living brains. Staff Writer Kelly Servick joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about the ethics of doing research on patients undergoing intense medical procedures, and the kinds of research being done.

Also this week, Ashley Thomas, a postdoctoral researcher in the brain and cognitive science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talks about the meaning behind sharing saliva. Spend any time with a baby lately? Were you in awe—eager to cuddle, kiss, even change a diaper? Or were you slightly horrified by the drool and other fluids seeping out of this new human? Your feelings on the matter might depend on your closeness with the baby and—as Thomas and colleagues write this week in Sciencethe baby may notice which way you feel. According to their results, babies, like adults, seem to recognize sharing saliva—like sharing food and utensils or kissing—as a signal of close relationships.

This week’s episode was produced with help from Podigy.

[Image: Onfokus/Getty/iStockphoto; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

[alt: baby chewing on a cellphone]

Authors: Sarah Crespi; Kelly Servick

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