Aug 18, 2023

“The molecular weight of loneliness”: On Writing Fiction Influenced by Neuroscience

Posted by in categories: chemistry, neuroscience

I’d heard that fear of the dark is a protein, Scotophobin A, which can be isolated from the brains of rats. My Chemistry teacher told us that 1-hexanol smelled like cut grass. I watched her draw it once, on the whiteboard. A colorless liquid that, I imagined, smelled like memory, summer term, sports day, an army of ants cresting the summit of a picnic blanket, damp loam after rain.

I’d hoped that studying neuroscience would teach me all about things like that. I imagined watching sunlight refract through a conical flask, some clear liquid roiling inside. “Fear of abandonment is a sequence of seventeen peptides,” our lecturer might say, “isolated from the muscles of the heartbroken.”

“Look here,” he would say, pointing to another vial. “We can synthesize these things in a lab now. This one is awe.”

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