Sex, Drugs & Science

Seven Tomek

June 24, 2020 Valerie Earnshaw & Carly Hill Season 1 Episode 4
Sex, Drugs & Science
Seven Tomek
Chapters
Sex, Drugs & Science
Seven Tomek
Jun 24, 2020 Season 1 Episode 4
Valerie Earnshaw & Carly Hill

Dr. Seven Tomek is a neuroscientist who recently earned her PhD at Arizona State University. She talks with Valerie and Carly about her research on opioids and social behavior, how she became interested in a region of the brain called the insula, and why she prefers rat participants to human participants. Seven shares her underdog story of how she became a neuroscientist, and Valerie reports on how Seven’s Instagram page expanded her research assistants’ minds about what a neuroscientist can look like. Scott from the Gin Blossoms, Seven's friend, leaves a message for Carly and Valerie and they debate quitting their jobs to become roadies.

Read IFL Science's coverage of Seven’s work here: https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/rats-love-their-friends-more-than-sugar-but-less-than-heroin/
Follow her on Instagram @seventomek and Twitter @SevenTomek

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Seven Tomek is a neuroscientist who recently earned her PhD at Arizona State University. She talks with Valerie and Carly about her research on opioids and social behavior, how she became interested in a region of the brain called the insula, and why she prefers rat participants to human participants. Seven shares her underdog story of how she became a neuroscientist, and Valerie reports on how Seven’s Instagram page expanded her research assistants’ minds about what a neuroscientist can look like. Scott from the Gin Blossoms, Seven's friend, leaves a message for Carly and Valerie and they debate quitting their jobs to become roadies.

Read IFL Science's coverage of Seven’s work here: https://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/rats-love-their-friends-more-than-sugar-but-less-than-heroin/
Follow her on Instagram @seventomek and Twitter @SevenTomek

Valerie:

I'm Valerie Earnshaw.

Carly:

And I'm Carly Hill.

Valerie:

And this is Sex, Drugs and Science. Today's conversation is with Seven Tomek, who recently earned her PhD at Arizona State University. So we're really excited to talk to you about, you know, all things Seven essentially.

Seven:

Very cool. There's this one time I did a thing called vinyl voices where I told a story, and then I played a music, a song on vinyl. And, um, I started it out. I thought I was telling a joke, but no one thought it was funny. So I started out by saying like, "Hey guys, I'm Seven. I'm white trash," or something like that. And like, nobody laughed. And then it got really uncomfortable for the whole rest of the thing. I was like, "Sorry. Here's my song,".

Carly:

So do you want a redemption right now? Like, do you want this to be your redemption? Would you like to do like another answer down just a one liner right now?

Seven:

Yeah. I, well, I was going to start out the same way. Be like, "Hey, I'm Seven. I'm white trash,". So I don't really think I can redo it.

Carly:

Yeah. Okay. That's fair. Yeah.

Seven:

Yeah. I just don't learn my lesson.

Carly:

So there you go. I like it.

Seven:

It's a tough road. Hard. It's hard to be me.

Valerie:

Well, you're also our first neuroscientist. Given your diverse identities and so I, I'm both excited and also like super nervous and intimidated to talk to you about your science. I was reading it this morning and I was like, how do we even, have a degree in the same field. It's like reading Greek. I was like, I'm a psychologist, you're a psychologist. And it's just, like, totally different. Yeah.

Seven:

I wrote it and I don't understand it either. That's not true...I'm just kidding.

Valerie:

I think that you do. Yeah, no, it's like, I have to read it like with like the glossary, you know, like the dictionary open. But anyway, I was like, I was totally impressed doing our Google, you know, Google Scholar background, because I was like, when I left grad school, I had like one little baby paper, and you have like a very full, robust CV. And you just graduated. I mean, you just defended your PhD a couple of months ago. So I was super impressed.

Seven:

Oh yeah, that's awesome. I kept, I kept thinking if I just kept publishing and publishing and publishing and it let me leave, but they never ever would let me leave so...

Valerie:

Well, I think that's the problem when you're too good, and when you're too useful, is that they try to keep you forever. So if you had been like me and a little less good. Like all right, you're ready to go.

Seven:

I've met you. You're definitely very good. So, yes.

Valerie:

Moderate, but yeah.

Seven:

No, I read a lot.

Valerie:

Yeah. So, so I was trying to wrap my head around some of, some of the science pieces. So, so starting with, it looks like some of, you know, your, your in the, in the earlier research that you were doing within your lab suggests that opioids change people's social behavior, right? So they change how people interact with other people. So I thought that we could ask you a little bit about that. So, in what ways does, do do opioids change people's interactions with other people?

Seven:

Well, when I was at UNCW and really working with the human population, a lot of people were struggling, um, to restore relationships with family members, relationships with friends. Um, and it was one of the major complaints in treatment. And we just didn't have any way to measure that in rats. And so what I tried to do is find a way to measure it in rats so that we could make drug research, pre-clinically, more translational to humans. And that was my ultimate goal. But the way I think it does change the behavior, aside from just what I've noticed, or if any of you.. Do either of, you know, any opioid addicts firsthand? And you can kind of see the changes from if you knew them before they used to now, like how they're just not the same person. And some of those deficits aren't permanent. Research indicates that a lot of that recovers in six months, three months depending, but some of these behaviors change forever. And it's kind of like what, why fires together? Wires together is like the neuroscience thing.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

So I was trying to find a way to change it. And there's a brain region that I think is responsible and implicated in this. And that's what I really focused on... was, it's called the insula. And it's the part of your brain that makes you decide that you want a sandwich or you're, it's craving it's emotion. There's a lot of emotional attachment to it.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

It's really been studied in taste aversion and like food aversions and stuff, but it's a huge part of drug addiction, but it's also where your empathy lies in your brain. It's where your, your mood states, your feelings. So it's all really intertwined.

Carly:

So Seven when you're talking about some of the things that, you know, you said like some of the behaviors might go away while you're in, you know, this, this act of using, and you know, when you stop, some of these things come back in three to six months. What are some of the things, you know, when you said that, um, some of the, the social behaviors that don't come back? What is it? What are some of those things?

Seven:

Well, the behaviors that do come back, um, there's some evidence that certain parts of your brain had to revascularize a little bit, or they, they show in like, um, fr F F MRI studies that they're shrunk. Some of those regain their normal volume, some normal functionality, but that's more based on like physiological, like looking at the brain regions. As far as behaviors, I don't know if you guys are familiar with a lot of stimulant studies, but there's actually evidence that people that have been recovered for a really, really long time still can't make wise cognitive choices. And so that part of their decision making is flawed, seemingly permanently, which is pretty, pretty crazy. There's a task called the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, and there's cards that are good cards and bad cards, and it's like risk and reward. And they will keep picking the bad card, even if they know better. And they can tell you, like, this is not a good card, but they can't stop themselves from making this choice. And that's kind of, they try to relate that to making bad choices in life, you know, like you just can't do it. You can't make a good choice to save your life.

Carly:

Yeah. Interesting.

Valerie:

So when I was doing some of my background reading, I mean, it looked like from what I was reading that drugs in general, or, you know, opioids specifically, they impact the brain in a way that makes us feel euphoric and curbs pain. But then in addition to doing it, it just seems like there are these, these other actions, or additional actions that are happening on the brain that might affect both, you know, behavior, but also other things.

Seven:

Right. Well, and it kind of, so we have a very natural cycle in our brain of survival of needing food, needing sex, needing water, needing all of these things. And what opioids do is they kind of trick your brain into thinking it's part of that loop of needing it to survive, that reward feedback loop. So when people really feel like they will die, if they do not get their, their drugs, they really feel like they will die. I mean, it's part of that reward feedback loop. So it's really rewires the brain in a very compelling way that's hard to change.

Valerie:

I feel like there's so many different ways to study opioids, to study addiction. Why, what made you decide to want to study it with rats, or to just study an animal animal models, or focus on the brain?

Seven:

Yeah, well, um, there are some really amazing, um, clinical researchers that get to do like these huge clinical studies, but they're usually, um, they have a ton of money. They have a ton of accolades, um, and you can do all kinds of research at all kinds of universities, but it really boils down to you're handing out surveys. And then you're trying to extrapolate all those information from the survey. And there's no human that will let you drill into their brain voluntarily, even though they're doing really cool stuff in Europe right now, but there are two different, I wrote a letter to the lady, if she's letting me help her. And she didn't write me back so...

Valerie:

Yet, wait until she hears this, we'll send it to her.

Speaker 3:

So I did it for my under or not for my master's degree, I did a lot of human research looking more at like marijuana and other kind of behaviors, but it was just surveys. And it was hard to get the surveys passed through IRB, which blew my mind. It was hard to do.

Valerie:

Yeah, we have, we always go to it's called full board review. So an IRB is like the ethical group that we have to tell that we're doing the study and describe it to them. And then they can either say yes, this study, the benefits of this study outweigh the risks, or they might say, or they could say no, the risks associated with this study don't. And when you're working with folks with substance use disorders or experiencing addiction, there's a lot of concerns over the yeah...the risks that people associated with those surveys. So, we also survey a lot of people, and interview a lot of people and more typically go, you know, to the full board meetings... Which essentially means they they're, they're worried that it's more risky than, you know, than a lot of different type of survey research, especially. So, yeah.

Seven:

Right. Well, and there's also an interesting, so a lot of the people that do opioid research in humans, um, the way they have to do it, because you can't be drug naive...you have to have had some experience with opioids or it's unethical to give you opioids. And there's all these other compounds that really make it hard to kind of look at causational relationships. So they still do a lot of really cool stuff with what they do, but when you take a rat and I have control over every part of its context of use. I have control over everything else that's getting, you know, its food, its water intake. Then I can more clearly see what's happening with what I'm trying to do. But there's a lot of, I was looking at clinical trials. So there's a brand new, for depression, there's a brand new ketamine inhalant that's mostly help with short or depression, but the depression has been treatment resistant. Like you can't just go get ketamine to like, not be depressed anymore. You have to have try to everything. But what's crazy is when they do these clinical trials, they take people, put them on a brand new antidepressant that they've never had along with the ketamine. And then say the ketamine is 30% more effective on treatment, but it's...I have all these issues with, well, what about the new antidepressant you gave them? And what if that was, or all these other ones that they've tried, that it's going to have some longterm changes in their brain? Like, is this really effective? It is an effective treatment, but the way they do the clinical trials, like if I could just do it on rats, I'd feel better about.

Carly:

Right.

Seven:

And then I can pick their brains and see, you can, you can like take the brains out of their skulls and look at them under a microscope and see,

Valerie:

Okay, well, I love that you're highlighting this because one of the things that I tell to my, to my undergrads, when I teach a research methods class, and it's in human development/family sciences. So they're very much doing, you know, studies with humans and like, studies with humans is really hard. It's risky, and it's challenging, and there's a lot of variables going on. And so anyone who tells you that, you know, studies with humans is easy is wrong. I mean, it's just, it can be really challenging for a lot of those reasons.

Seven:

You never do what they're told. Actually, part of my... Ever, ever. Part of my master's work with marijuana expectancy effects amongst undergrads is I didn't want, I didn't believe them. So I had an implicit measure, and an explicit measure because I'm like, "Okay, this I'm going to compare the two to see if y'all are lying," so...

Carly:

Yup.

Valerie:

And what did you find?

Seven:

There was like, it became more of a study of the implicit measure than it did of the expectancy effects.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

Um, it was really, the implicit measures were able to predict more behaviors than like the IAT, which was really cool. I don't know. It gets into a whole other ball of wax, but...

Valerie:

Yeah, for sure.

Seven:

I did find that females use marijuana more to, uh, distress and men use it more to have a good time.

Valerie:

Okay. Well ladies have a lot to be stressed about maybe. So...

Seven:

The men that are trying to have a good time. I know.

Valerie:

Full circle. Yeah. So, so you're in clinical psych then, and then you decide, okay, I want to, I want to go back and get a, more of a neuroscience degree.

Seven:

Right.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

Yeah. Kind of checked all the boxes and it really made my neuroscience research more translational because a lot of people have no experience with humans.

Valerie:

Oh, okay.

Seven:

Their entire career is looking at one single molecule or one, like, dopamine cascade. I feel like when you look at that in a whole organism, it's going to change. You know, whereas if I kind of look at things more as like a whole organism of behavior.

Valerie:

Yeah. No, that makes total sense. Well, I was, um, I was spending a good amount of time on IFL science today, looking at your like references to your past work. And it was really cool. Cause there was, there was the one article that it looked like you had seen, right. Describing this like paradigm with how to look at social behaviors with rats. And then there was a second article in which, you know, they were talking about how you saw that, thought, "Hey, let's add opioids,", And then it was summarizing what you found.

Seven:

Yeah. But it was so cool. I mean, that was actually the pinnacle of my excitement in academia was that I f'ing love science was like, having my name in one of their articles was so cool.

Valerie:

No, that is so cool. Yeah. You could pretty much retire now. I mean...

Carly:

Yeah, I think...you've peaked. We're good. Yeah.

Seven:

One of the things that my boss hated about me is I would find articles about everything and be like, "Let's add drugs,". I mean, that was kind of my, like, I would send him text messages of, "Oh, look at, look at this. This is what humans are doing. Let's add drugs,".

Carly & Valerie:

Yeah.

Seven:

It got annoying after a while. I'm sure.

Valerie:

Well, that's pretty much how I go through my life as like a stigma researcher. I'm like, "Oh, you know, over there that's because of stigma, and that's because of stigma," and that, and then it just, it really ends up being, uh, you know, sad news bears lends to life. But I think that's how, you know, when like you're excited about something that you see when you see it everywhere and you want to study it everywhere. Like I think that's how you know that you're onto something.

Seven:

Yeah. That's definitely true. I actually, ever since I've met you every time I see something related, I was like I say, "That's stigma,". I mean, I I've, I talk about like the ideas that we had to come up with for, you know, awareness and stuff. So you're, you've been talked about amongst the Phoenix area.

Valerie:

Oh nice. That's good. When I come, they'll be ready for me.

Seven:

I'll be so ready.

Valerie:

So in that first article, it looked like in the first, "I f'ing love science" article. It looked like the kind of paradigm they were working with was one rat in a tube... I'm like nervous I'm going to get this wrong. So there was one rat stuck in a tube and then there's another rat. And that rat you train to get the other, the stuck rat, Out. Is that right?

Seven:

We don't even train it. It just...

Valerie:

Oh it just...

Seven:

Yeah, like couldn't figure out the tube is in distress. It just, it figures out how to get it out. And it's crazy because it'll try all these different things and then eventually learn to flip the door open.

Valerie:

Oh cool. Okay.

Seven:

After they learn, they learn faster and faster every day. So some rats never learned some rats, never care. Like they, I mean, I guess there's a lot like humans, you know, some, we all help each other to a different degree.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

But there's some really cool...so the woman who invented this paradigm, she's at University of Chicago... And she found that a rat will save a rat and knows versus one that doesn't and one that looks like them versus one that doesn't.

Valerie:

Huh!

Seven:

This is really consistent with like bystander effect and...

Valerie:

Yeah.

Seven:

Stuff. And so the similarities are just bananas. I don't know. I think it's crazy.

Carly:

Wow. Yeah.

Valerie:

That is bananas. And then it, you know, if I'm following the thread of the science correctly, you did exactly what you just said. You texted your boss, boss and you're like, "Let's throw opioids on this,". Right?

Seven:

Yup. But then we didn't have any of the equipment to do it because...

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

So, uh, opioids are heroin. I mean, that's usually what I used...

Valerie:

What you used, mhm.

Seven:

But I, yeah, never personally, but the rest...

Valerie:

In the study...

Carly:

Right.

Seven:

They, uh, it's a very contextual drug. So part of the reason we have a lot of the knowledge that we have is like in Vietnam era, a bunch of that's the... Tons of drugs overseas. They came back, did way less and still overdosed and people trying to figure out why this was. And it's very contextual. So where you are, when you take the drug, who you're with when you take the drug, your body starts to have these, um, autonomic responses when you start getting ready to take it. So environment matters. And if I had the rats save in a different environment, they do drugs and it could change the motivations.

Valerie:

Oh, okay.

Seven:

I called up my pops. And I told my dad that he had to modify all these med, PC boxes. They're the operant boxes you put the rats in.

Valerie:

Oh, okay.

Seven:

And they cost like 80 grand for like 12 of them. It's ridiculous.

Valerie:

Wow.

Seven:

And so my pops, my South Dakota pops, he extended them all by like 40%, so that the rat could self-administer drugs, and save the rat in the same environment. And I'm pretty sure he stopped answering my phone calls after we did this project because it was, like, a ton of work. And, but he made it possible. So it was really cool.

Valerie:

Is he in the acknowledgement section of the article?

Seven:

Mhm.

Valerie:

Yup, that's amazing.

Seven:

He's unbelievable because when I was thinking of ways to do it, I'm like, well, let's put like foil right here. I mean, it's just stupid stuff, but he made it really legit, you know? So it was cool.

Valerie:

That's awesome. What's his background that he was prepared to modify rat experiment boxes for you?

Seven:

He's like, he's like, this is gonna sound really, especially South Dakota of me, but he's a gunsmith, but he's like a genius.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

Mostly he's just this crazy old bearded man in the woods that builds shit.

Valerie:

You said he gave you your name, right?

Seven:

Yeah. Yeah.

Valerie:

He gave you Seven?

Seven:

He's the hippie part of the hippie Catholic phenomenon that is me. So...

Valerie:

Amazing. Yeah. Okay. So then, so, so if I'm following the thread, then it's, you, you are able to have the rat self-administer heroin in the box with the, with the other rat that's in the tube. So how are they self administering heroin? What does that look like?

Seven:

Yeah. Well, first they, they, we do like baseline saving. So they rescue the rat every day for like two weeks.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

So now we can see if they'll do it, how long it takes them to do it.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

Then they self-administer heroin for two weeks. So they get a little port that we surgically put in their inner skin...

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

It goes subcutaneously to their jugular vein. So I put a catheter in the jugular vein, and they nose poke. And the nose poke is like a infrared beam. And when their nose breaks the beam, they get an infusion of heroin and heroin and they love it. So don't be sad for them. They have the best time of their lives. They get better medical care than most humans I know.

Valerie:

Okay.

Speaker 3:

They have the best time. They party hard. And then after they're dependent on heroin, which is like a threshold of pressing, or nose poking, some people have levers, we have nose pokes. They, um, then I put them back in the chamber with their friend and with hooked up the heroin, and then they have an hour to save their friend again. So either thee save their friend, cause they can do both. They don't have to pick, they could get some heroin and then open the door or they could, you know, but they just, most of them don't, they don't... In the first study, none of them saved their friend. It was just, they'd rather just hang out and do drugs, and look at them.

Valerie:

So their little friend is distressed in the tube next to them, and they're nose poking on the, on the red infrared. Okay. Got it. That's pretty striking that, overall. Cause it sounds like this is like a really well used paradigm, and that these, you know, under standard conditions, the rats go save their little friends. I was reading somewhere. I don't know if this is true, but they were like, "Rats are even more helpful than humans," and that's true. But there, yeah, it was, it just seemed remarking remarkable that they could like figure out how to do it and then be super motivated to find their friends, and then to add heroin to the mix. And they're just hanging out, not saving their friends. Yeah. Okay.

Seven:

So Peggy Mason found out, she's the one who invented the paradigm. She wasn't able to, um, let animals self-administer, but she passively gave animals, drugs, which is just giving them an injection. So she gave him an injection of a beta blocker and they still saved their friends. And then she gave rats, an anxiolytic, I don't know which one it was. But they stopped saving their friends, but would still open the door for chocolate. So they wouldn't open the door for a conspecific, but would for a treat.

Valerie:

So what's an angiolytic?

Seven:

An anxiety medication.

Valerie:

Oh, okay!

Seven:

So beta blockers... still safe anxiety meds. You're on your own. I'll still get a treat.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

And you think about how many people, I mean, obviously this isn't a direct translation cause there's a lot of work to be done.

Valerie:

Sure.

Seven:

But aside from the individuals, you know, opioid users that we're talking about, but how many people are on antianxiety medications, you know what I mean? It's like,

Valerie:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So when you, I mean, you probably had hypothesized that this could be the case, right?

Seven:

Yeah.

Valerie:

But were you surprised that on your first study, like zero of the rats helped their friends? That's really striking.

Seven:

Well, and especially because there's kind of like mixed results with Peggy Mason stuff...

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

But heroin is obviously a lot more reinforcing and rewarding than, uh, antianxiety medication or...On beta blockers, they're good once in a while but...

Valerie:

Yeah.

Seven:

Not very rewarding.

Valerie:

Yeah.

Seven:

Long game, but yeah. It's um, it's pretty crazy, but heroin is powerful.

Valerie:

Yeah. Okay. So then it looked like you were interested in trying to reverse it. Right? So how did you start thinking about how can we turn around these effects?

Seven:

Well, there's a researcher out of Columbia named Nasir Naqvi. Have you guys ever heard of him? So he, I don't even think he's in.... I think he's a neurologist. I don't even know that he's a neuroscientist.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

He was working with human patients. And a lot of individuals that had strokes in their insula were no longer addicted to nicotine. Like just immediately, no longer, no cravings. Wasn't hard to quit. Didn't have any side effects. And so he saw this correlation and he started to publish meta analysis on it. And then that kind of took on a life. Other people started testing this theory. And so when I started reading his papers because the insula is not really studied in addiction, it's, there's like a bit of pathway for the last 40 years that people have just been beating to death. And obviously we haven't cured addiction yet. So probably not exactly just that pathway, you know?

Valerie:

Right.

Seven:

So I was really interested in the insula.

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

For me, for it to be involved in drug use, and involved in social emotional behavior, it almost felt like I was making it up because...

Valerie:

It could be too good. Yeah.

Seven:

There's no such place.

Valerie:

Right.

Seven:

So that was exciting. So once this region became obvious that it was implicated in both things, I was trying to converge, that was the one so...

Valerie:

Great!

Seven:

Now to do some dreads.

Valerie:

Yeah. So what is that? What, cause when I was reading about it, I saw kind of a genetic activation of this part of the brain. So what is that? The dreads part?

Seven:

Yeah. So dreads, this is cool. I've actually been instructed to say, call it voodo magic, and I'm not allowed to call it that anymore, but I am done with school. These people don't have any power over me.

Carly:

Yeah!

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

It's a...we take a virus. In this case, we took, an AAV, which is, uh, a human adeno-associated virus. And on this virus, we pack all kinds of things. We pack a mutant receptor that doesn't react to anything else in the body. So there's nothing in your brain that could make this receptor fire. Um, we put a promoter on this virus so that this, mutant receptor goes into the right type of cell. And then we put a fluorescence, so that you can see it in a microscope after we chop up the brain. And so I injected this directly into the insula on both sides of the rat and I use an atlas to, for brain regions and stuff. And they heal up, it takes about two weeks for the virus to express in the brain. And then when I give them an injection of CNO, then all of the neurons will burst fire, and they reconnect. So it's basically, you can use it, you can inhibit neurons if you use a different type of virus, not a virus, but sorry, a promoter, like there's different types of mutant receptors. There's inhibitory, there's excitatory. So I use an excitatory one, and it worked. So it was very cool.

Valerie:

So, so you're kind of like turning on parts of his brain part, you know, parts of the brain that when we looked at them in FMI studies, which is kind of like taking a scan of the brain, those were kind of turned off before.

Seven:

Right. And they were...

Valerie:

Kind of.

Seven:

I mean, I, I didn't look at cell death. So in fact, I've talked about this in a conference and I say, well, when that, when that part of the brain is damaged due to drugs, then a lot of purists will be like, "Well, did you look and see if it was damaged? Do you know?".

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

And I did not look at cell death or, or cytokines or anything like that. So to tell you that they were dead, but they stopped the behavior. And then once they were burst firing, the behavior for the most part resumed, not to full levels, but way more than control. So it was still really exciting.

Valerie:

So the behavior... You're, you inject this into the brain, things start firing and then they start saving their friends again. That is pretty amazing.

Seven:

Yeah. And it also really led... Cause a lot of people are speculating that the insula is not really part of the addiction pathway or not that important in these processes. A lot of people say that this, this isn't a true measure of prosocial behavior, empathy in rats. And it's kind of like, well, if we're looking at just A plus B equals C, something's happening, that's reversible. So I don't know. I felt pretty good about it.

Valerie:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. That's amazing that there's so much debate in the field, like that there's so much that we don't know like that, that is really interesting. Cause like I study stigma, right. And I feel like almost all my papers are... People experience more discrimination. They're treated worse by other people, that makes them depressed and then they either don't take their medications, or they use more substances or, you know, they, they feel some sort of bad or have some sort of bad health outcomes. So it's like, it's really not like super debatable. So it's really interesting that you're in this field where there's a lot of debate and speculation and it's really kind of like unsettled.

Seven:

It's so open to interpretation. I mean, even when I first started talking about this and using the word empathy and people got hung up on the word "empathy", so I would start out talks by saying, asking the audience what they thought empathy meant. And whatever they all said. I'm like, "Yes, you're all correct. Now let's move on from that. Like I don't care. It's not the point for me. The point is that we're measuring this behavior,"...

Valerie:

Okay,

:

...empathetic. However you want to call it, because there's huge papers just written on the beginnings of empathy and what it really means. And like looking at, you know, primate studies and stuff. And to me it was just, a word that sums up helping somebody that's in distress or like, cause emotional contagion is really what it is in animals.

Valerie:

Ah, okay. That's interesting. Hmm. So how can you, how would you think about translating this to humans?

Seven:

Yeah.

Valerie:

What would that all look like?

:

Well, there's um, initially I was thinking like kind of targeted medications, like if we could...

Valerie:

Okay.

:

The insula is really involved in, like I said, taste aversion and stuff. That's really what it's been studied. And so I was even thinking like if I was going to go back and do more projects, which I don't even know if I'm allowed back there anymore...but if I had to go back, it would be like maybe using like anti-nausea medications or different things. And seeing if that changes any of the behaviors, or restores any of these behaviors instead of the burst firing type of stuff.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

And then maybe try it in humans with like, you know, pretests on empathy and prosocial after they've been in recovery as part of their treatment or something. And then try some of these, you know, anti-nausea medications or stuff with taste aversion, and see if that changes their ratings... Would be interesting. But there's a person in, I mentioned her in passing, in Europe who has all these studies in Europe and Asia, where they're actually putting a microchip in the nucleus accumbens, which is the big part of dopamine and addiction research. And it's kind of acting like that remote, you know, for changing... It's like deep brain stimulation, but it's portable , and it doesn't have to be hooked up to a machine and it costs like a hundred thousand dollars to do it. But they're getting participants finally to try it for all kinds of... Parkinson's, or addiction. That would be really cool to do it in the insula. I actually wrote to her and I said, "I'd modulate the insula...it's there,". And like I said, she never wrote me back...

Carly:

Yet.

Valerie:

Yet.

:

But that would be really cool... To actually try to modulate in a human, for the purposes of what I'm trying to do with addiction. Because based on all the stroke stuff, like I still think that if the insulin is completely taken out or like destroyed that...they won't be addicted, so...

Valerie:

Okay.

Seven:

And I tried to do this with lesions, but my first set of lesions went too far past and other ones are too small.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

Now it takes about six or seven months to study. And after the second one, my committee was just like, "Okay, you can tap out, you're fine,". Do something else. Yeah.

Valerie:

Or, or you can wrap it up with the data that you have, you mean?

:

Yeah. Well it, I was really okay with the first data, but they wanted me to redo it. And then the second data was in complete opposite of the first data...

Valerie:

Oh wow.

:

But the lesions were way, way smaller. Some of them, I couldn't even see them on the microscope. Like I had to have people who are way better on the scope, come look.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

So, but I'll still, it's still consistent with the literature because if the insula is destroyed, they're no longer addicted, but people with smaller insula or with lesioned insula have addiction problems and depression problems. And so it still fits.

Valerie:

So if I'm getting this right, so this was your dissertation project.

:

Yeah.

Valerie:

And you were, you were putting lesions in the, in the rat's brains. And then looking to see how that would affect addiction?

Seven:

Both saving and they're pressing. So I use the same paradigm...

Valerie:

Oh, okay.

:

...quinolinic acid into the insula.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

Just to, all it does is cause cell death in that region.

Valerie:

Got it.

:

But it was... My first acid ones went too far past the insula, and they reduced their, they slowed down, they still use ultimately the same amount, but they slowed down their intake compared to controls and no difference in saving. But that makes sense, cause there's a floor effect with heroin, right? Like, if you're already not going to save with heroin, if you don't have pro social center, you're probably not continuing not to save kind of thing.

Valerie:

Okay. Yeah.

:

I didn't want them to be using drugs anymore. So, so they use less, at a less rate. But then when I did it again, and made the lesions too small where they didn't take out the whole insula, they actually increased their intake.

Valerie:

Okay. Interesting.

:

But it was a huge mess. I mean, it's not, it's so much, like there's a couple of rats that use a ton. It was like, it's just not even useful. It was just, it was two years' worth of work for nothing.

Valerie:

Well that's...yeah. That's science, right? Yeah.

Seven:

No.

Valerie:

So, okay. So you've wrapped up the PhD. What's next for Seven?

Seven:

I'm trying to find a job in the worst market in the world.

Valerie:

And it's just the worst market in the world.

Carly:

It couldn't be worse!

:

Bad timing.

Valerie:

Yeah.

:

So Home Depot is like, really cool. I might go work there, and just write "Doc" on my apron.

Valerie:

Well, if you do go work at Home Depot, you're going to be able to construct the coolest rat boxes for your experiments ever.

Carly:

Yeah!

:

When people come in for just garden parts, I'll be like, "Let's talk about the study you're going to do with it,".

Valerie:

Yes!

:

I have an idea. Let's do it.

Valerie:

Well, okay. So we met at this training, Innovation Impact, and it was sort of designed to... Hopefully none of them are listening to me, butcher, you know, the description... But it was sort of designed to take folks who were doing research in these traditional academic centers, and to push them into thinking about like doing, taking different routes. So, you know, joining startups or, or, small businesses and doing, you know, research in these different settings. So has that inspired you to sort of like think differently, or to think broadly about what direction you want your research to go, or your career to go?

Seven:

Well, what I really want to do is... Have you, are you familiar with the Medical Science Liaison?

Valerie:

A little bit, but tell us more.

Seven:

That's, I kind of feel like with all my little... Okay, when I was trying to work in clinical, when I was seeing patients, I realized that I wasn't going to make a global impact. So then I'm like, "Well maybe I'll go pre-clinically and I can make a more global impact,". And that was also not true. So, and then I did the Yale thing and it's like, I have all these little pieces. Well, an MSL is somebody who, they're called key opinion leaders or thought leaders. And so you have a region, and you talk to all the researchers, doctors, clinicians, practitioners, everybody, policymakers, and you kind of, um, synthesize this information and take it back to pharma. So that they can come up with a new molecule, or a new direction, or make sure that the medications that are representing are being utilized how they're supposed to be. And so this is, I've been trying like crazy to get an MSL job. Because most academics, the, they actually, most of them hate my guts because we'll go to conferences, and in a nice way...And we'll go to conferences and there'll be somebody that they're really, really impressed with. And they'll talk to them about the one molecule they study, for example, and I will be talking to them about Alice Cooper, and like this movie, or this adventure or whatever. And then I ended up getting job offers for postdocs or whatever, because I'm a social being, whereas a lot of people in academia just really aren't. And so the MSL role is really designed around being like, cultivating relationships and maintaining them and talking about science. And those are my favorite things.

Valerie:

Yeah. You would definitely rock a job at the intersection of all of those things. I'm sure.

:

I hoping it's really, really good.

Valerie:

That's another good reason to get out of academia. Yeah.

Seven:

Like stupid. Like it would be like, I would go from welfare to well.

Valerie:

Oh, okay. Yeah. Well, anything in the, in the pharmaceutical company or in the pharmaceutical world. Well, it's interesting too, cause I think like in academia, there's this idea that there's like...you're a good researcher if you're like in academia and then you're, it's like, it's bad. It's for, you're like going to the dark side, if you go into industry or if you go into pharmaceuticals or something. And like I've never, totally not totally understand that. Maybe it's because like my body is dependent on pharmaceuticals to stay alive? I take some pretty heavy like, medications to, to be well. And so I'm like super grateful to the pharmaceuticals for, for that. But I mean, I do having a background in the opioid epidemic, I also understand sort of the bad things that happen within pharmaceuticals, but...

Seven:

Well, and that's one of the things too, like...I would never be involved with sales or there's, there's this, this rule book called The Pharma Code... Of even, for example, if there's a drug that, it's on like the prescription for what it does, but then, you know, based on all these studies that you've read, that it also reduces craving. You can't even tell the practitioner that you know it reduces craving. Like they have to bring it up and then you can talk about it, but you can't even mention it because the rules are so strict. Which is, I mean, it just shows that it's not like a shady "Come take our drugs. We promise you the world," kind of thing.

Valerie:

Right.

:

It's very, super regulated where you could go to jail. If you say the wrong thing. It's...

Valerie:

Okay.

:

Pretty crazy.

Valerie:

That is crazy, yeah.

:

I want this job so bad.

Valerie:

Well let's, yeah. Let's get you there. But... So well, speaking of Alice Cooper, we did a deep dive on lots of your social media threads. And we saw this picture of you showing a brain to Alice Cooper. Right? Can you tell us everything about this photo? Where were you? What was the makeup on your face about? What was the brain about?

Seven:

Yeah, I tried so hard. My vanity tried so hard not to make that happen. Like Patrick...

Valerie:

No, I think you look good.

:

...from Seinfeld was there, and the picture of me and Patrick Warburton, I looked like the biggest dumb ass cause I got this... It was, I was so, but so...

Valerie:

It was perfect. It was what you had to wear to whatever this event was, which hopefully we'll hear about. Yeah.

Seven:

Well, so in our lab we have a human brain in a refrigerator and this, well we have a few, but this woman was a woman who died in her forties of alcoholism, so...

Valerie:

Wait, hold on. I thought you were going to tell me that this was a fake brain in the... This is like a real, this is a real person? Okay. I thought it was like one of those like foam brains.

Seven:

No, it was real. But I would tell them, I would tell, like for example, Robby Krieger from The Doors, and like the best guitarist in the history of our gen... of our mankind...

:

Yeah.

:

...looking at it. And he, I told him "It's a real brain," and he's like, "Okay,", and he holds it and he's like, "This feels real,". And I'm like, "I just told ya,". And he was like... And I was like, "No, it's real,".

Carly:

How, how did that situation, though? I need like, how...

Valerie:

Yeah, so like did you take the brain...

Carly:

In what world did that happen?

Valerie:

Did you take the brain to like a concert, or like an event? You're like, "All right, Alice Cooper is in town. Let me get my... brain..."?

Carly:

Is that like, you're like, "Let me get my phone, keys, wallet, brain," like...

Valerie:

"I've got my makeup done. I've got my brain,"...

:

I've done some pretty weird shit with that brain. But no, this actually wasn't even the weirdest. Well, so one of my really good friends is Alice Cooper's photographer. Like photographs, his family and his kids and his wife. And like all of his like straight jacket stuff for School of Rock.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

And so he was doing this event, and it had a theme. And so she wanted me to come dress as like a mad scientist. And I mentioned the brand and he was like, "Yes, bring the brain,". But up where they were doing the, cause it was like a fundraiser. He has like this celebrity tournament. Up where he was doing photos with everyone, with all of his rockstar friends. So people sit in line to get photos with him. And so I was hanging out by him with the brain, and then some people would come over and I would teach them about addiction in the brain. And so, I got to hang out with all the rock stars. It was really cool, but I have, because all my friends are rock stars. Like my closest friends have the craziest connections. When I think about like, I'm one degree of separation from all these people I idolize. It like blows my mind. Like I'm gonna see if I can find it. My, my friend Rachael is with like Johnny Depp in this one picture. And I'm saying, "Okay, ".

Carly:

So I'm hearing that I'm now two degrees of separation from all... I significantly, by having this conversation right now, I have really cut down my degrees of separation.

:

We're closer than Kevin Bacon. This is a big deal.

Seven:

But, uh, I, it was, it was super fun because I'm a huge music fan, audio file. The lead singer of Cheap Trick...

Carly:

Yeah.

:

So he was in a band. I didn't recognize him, but I told him, cause I loved the music, but I just never knew what the lead singer looked like. And so I went up to him and I'm like, "I know you're in a band. I just, I'm not sure which band,". And he's like, "Oh, Cheap Trick,". He was like, "I want you to...". He started singing it. And I was like, "Oh, good job on being good at music," And he's like, "Good job at being good at science. And I was like, "Okay, we're friends now,".

Valerie:

That's amazing.

:

That was really fun.

Carly:

Yeah. I don't mean to brag, but I did make Pete Townshend laugh once. So I mean, I got that going for me. So you're now officially one degree of separation. Yeah, no, like, it's all my resume already. It's it's why Valerie hired me.

:

How'd you meet Pete Townshend?

Carly:

Went to his book signing and made him laugh. Yeah, it was, it was like a cool, it was like a fan club thing. One of my dad's friends was a hooligan, and got us into this private thing he did at the Museum of Anthropology at Philadelphia one night. And he played a private set for us, like just him on his guitar. And then, so I know his stuff. Yeah. I was like, number one though. And I, I made him laugh and I didn't see a whole lot of other people make them laugh. Pete Townshend's not a funny guy, you know? So...

Seven:

Yeah, well done.

Carly:

Thank you.

Valerie:

Did you finger gun him?

Carly:

You know what, Valerie, I probably did. I probably really did.

Valerie:

Probably did.

Carly:

Yeah. With the finger guns, yup.

Valerie:

One of Carly's... I don't know what I would call it, best stories...

Carly:

So the first time now I'll, I'll make it quick, the, I was like a, I was the underdog. I came back to school like after really I essentially... Flunking out and like Valerie was kind enough to take a shot, you know, with me being like the, my GPA, like might not have even been one. Anyway, she, has me in and I, you know, am lucky to be involved with this like Stigma Lab, which is so cool. And like, she's doing all the coolest things on campus. So I go into another professor's office hours and I see Valerie there, Doctor Earnshaw at the time, who is in this, you know, this other professor's office. And I wasn't expecting to see her at all. And I'm not the most un-awkward person in the world. So I see Valerie, the person who has just hired me for like the greatest opportunity of my life... And what do I say to her? I see her in the office. So I'm like, "Hey friend," and I give her finger guns and was just like, "Why are you this way? Why are you this way?". My second impression on Valerie was that I said, "Hey friend," and shot her the finger guns. So...

:

That's probably when you clinched it, right there.

Carly:

Probably.

Valerie:

That was... Yeah. Now I'm like, "Let's make a podcast in three years. Let's do this,".

:

She saw your whole future flash before her eyes.

Valerie:

Yes. Absolutely.

Carly:

It was with the finger guns.

Valerie:

Yeah, it was with, when I was finger gunned. Well, that's interesting. So Carly identifies a little bit of an underdog. I think of you Seven as a little bit of an underdog for academic settings. I mean, do you think of yourself that way also? Or...

Seven:

Fully. So I'm a single mom...a broke single mom of two kids. Two, well, one's a kid and one's a wild animal. I don't know how I'm gonna survive this quarantine. My son's four and his name is Bear, which...

Valerie:

Yeah.

:

...didn't really think the long one on that one, cause he's a wild animal. But I started community college at 25. I don't remember even showing up to high school, but I know I graduated with like, pre-algebra. So my, my eighth grader is now in like calculus or something, you know, it's just, that's how below... I mean, I think they finally just to get rid of me for high school, was like "Just take pre-algebra in summer and then you can go,"

Valerie:

Okay.

:

I was, challenged.

Valerie:

You're like, "And launched,".

Carly:

Yeah.

Valerie:

Why were you not into school?

:

What's that?

Valerie:

Where you just not into it? Were you...

:

Yeah, it was just not a culture in my family. Like, a lot of kids were like looking to go to colleges. I was working at Taco John's, you know, and I'm like, "I'm good, got a job, got a car...".

Valerie:

Got this pre-calc, or this pre-algebra under my belt, so...

:

Yeah, I'm set for life. And it actually, so my daughter's father is an opioid addict. He's been incarcerated a bunch he's been, but he's a trust fund opioid addict, which is the best kind. Because they could just keep coming back.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

So I was in a custody battle and he's actually the last couple of years has been okay, but it's kind of cyclical.

Valerie:

Sure.

:

So we were in a custody battle, I didn't have electricity for months during my undergrad. And I'm sitting on the ground in a parking lot, waiting for this court ordered family court psychologist to show up and she pulls up in a vintage Jaguar. It was like forest green. And she gets out of the car and she's wearing like 1500 dollar shoes that I knew they were expensive. Cause I watch Sex in the City all the time. And I was like, "Whoa, what am I doing?". But part of it was too that at the, at the time I was either going to be a psychologist, or go into family law. And then I figured if the state paid for my education, it was like tricking them into paying my attorney's fees. So it was this very long, hardworking revenge plan.

Valerie:

Okay.

Carly:

But that is brilliant though. It is!

Valerie:

Wait, so that was college years. So you were in community college, but you got your degree from ASU, ASU, right?

:

Right. So...

Valerie:

Okay, so you transferred over...

:

And my French professor, I actually, she came to my, like PhD party and I guess lecture her course every like twice a semester. And so my first ever psych professor is still a million years later. Like in my corner, it was like community college was the best thing I ever did. And then I turned out to be really good at school because I was really obnoxious. So like my lowest score was like 112% and I would argue it up like the one...

Valerie:

Okay.

:

So I was obnoxious.

Valerie:

So what was it about, so was it, you landed in this psych class and you really, you loved it? Is that, is that how you like went down this psychology tunnel or, or what was it about that experience?

Seven:

I think a lot of it is just how my brain works, where it didn't seem overly... I mean, until I got into like the molecular bio classes at the PhD level with no biology history, that I realized that maybe I made a terrible mistake. But a lot of it was pretty intuitive. And I started to feel, especially because you know, that whole white trash dragon on my back is that I was getting a lot of accolades and kind of, I was trying to make my identity more academically successful than broke single mom with two kids kind of thing. So a lot of it was perception, formation, and just trying to be, um, change my stars a little bit so, and not be broke, which I took the really long game and that, because, uh, one of my good friends just became a PA.

Valerie:

Wow. Yeah.

:

So she went to, she got her undergrad degree and then she did a year of classwork and then a year of clinicals and then she was making six figures. And then I still had like, watch me go to school for more and be miserable. And this is awesome and I make good choices.

Valerie:

Yeah. I remember I was, I grad... I graduated at the same time as my best friend from college. We were roommates. She's amazing. And she started going, working in retail and um, so at some point in graduate school, like she moved into Philly, she moved into this like gorgeous high rise apartment, like looking over the art museum. And I was like, "I think, maybe I took the wrong direction,".

:

Right.

Valerie:

Yeah. It's definitely not. Yeah. It's definitely not the direction to go for, you know, fame and money. But I feel like you don't know that when you're an undergrad, you don't know. I mean, it's so much education. And I think that there's also this thing that, people like affluent people go into it. Right? Like wealthy people go into it, wealthy people get their PhDs,and then they, they have like this family money. And then, so it just kind of perpetuates this like, "Oh, academics have all this,". Yeah.

:

Yeah. They don't know how to be broke. That's for sure. I'm like Artful Dodger. I'm so good at being broke at this point that I still do. I mean, well, the seven economics that I alluded to, it's kind of...I can justify any poor spending behavior because I'm broke before and broke after. So at least I'm going to be broke with the experience. And so I just, I just do my thing and it all works out one way or another. So...

Carly:

That's how I justify traveling too. I'm like, "Look, I'm going to be broke either way. But like one of these situations leave me broke with experiences," So...

Valerie:

Yeah. Broke in Thailand.

Carly:

Yeah. Right. Exactly.

:

I spent a month in Israel with no plan and no money. Well, also Italy. And then I like slept in train stations and on bridges and, but it was amazing. And I had the best time. I just, I got buddy passed there cause I used to be a pilot or okay. That's an exaggeration. I was getting my pilot's license.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

And so I got my 30 hours up until, like, you're supposed to do your solo flight at this point. And I was like, "No, I'm not that good at this. I'm not going to do it by myself,". So my flight instructor at the time went on to become a commercial pilot. And so he buddy passed me to all these different, weirdly, only "I" countries like Italy, Ireland, and Israel, not on purpose. But yes, I went there with no, literally no money, and just made it work. And it was awesome.

Carly:

That's awesome.

Valerie:

That is awesome.

:

So fun.

Valerie:

So, so yeah, I mean, you definitely feel like you break the mold or at least the perceived mold for, so for academics. So when you, um, did you feel like there's like space for you when you got to grad school or when you, you know, in your master's program and your PhD? Like, did you feel like you fit in, in those spaces with your background or did you feel different in any way?

:

I mean, I'm the type of person who kind of just meshes in any scenario. I'm very adaptable, but any sort of incongruencies weren't really my background, was more than I was a decade older than everybody.

Valerie:

Oh, okay.

:

When I watched people acting like you're a decade, especially as a mom and I was like, "No!".

Valerie:

Yeah.

:

Or, I mean, I lived far from campus, cause I bought my house before I even ever started school. And so I commuted far and I'd have to commute a lot. Like when I'm running six hour heroin sessions, it's like, I go put the heroin ruts in and then get my kids ready for school and then go get the commute back and forth or sleep in the parking garage or whatever you gotta do. And it's like, um, I just kinda ran in my own orbit. And so some of my friends are actually more of the more faculty, older people in my age demographic really than my peers, just cause I gotta get the kids to school. And like I actually had a party once, invited people to my house. Well, no, I went to first to preface this... I went to a party at someone's house and they were having a Harry Potter party, which is really, really cute. I like the idea, but people were like, like slamming vodka, and it was just like, it felt very much like, I guess what I thought college maybe would have been like had I been there in my early 20s...

Valerie:

Ah, Sure.

Seven:

Then I had a party and I'm spinning vinyl and I'm making, um, like, special cocktails that I looked up all these recipes and it's very, it's just way different, you know? And...

Valerie:

Yeah.

:

It's a different, they're just not my tribe, you know?

Carly:

Yeah.

Valerie:

Fair. Yeah. No, that is fair. I didn't even, you know, I just gave my, one of my PhD students like a pep talk the other day. I was like, because she just finished, um, Comps and now she's doing her proposal, like her dissertation proposal. And then she wants to put in a postdoc grant, and then she's gonna have to analyze the data. I hope she's not listening to this actually... She's going to have to analyze that data. And then she's going to have to defend it, and maybe she'll be out on the job market. And I was like, and she had made this comment around like, "Yeah, one really stressful thing has done and now I have to do the next, really stressful, big thing,". And I was like, "Yeah, welcome to academia,". But that is, I mean, it is uniquely, I think stressful, and a lot in grad school and to layer in two kids is, is a lot. So that would definitely set that grad school's experience apart.

:

They're going to need a lot of therapy. I actually there was a point, like, and I'm qualified, but I still make them... No. They, there was a point where, cause initially I started going to school for my daughter. Like I wanted to give, you know, it was a big part of it. She was three, I think. She just turned 15 no. She was three when I started. And um, there became a point where I realized that I was doing it instead of, you know, I kept saying I was doing it for my kids, but it was a detriment to my kid. You know, it was at their expense in a lot of ways, even just when I'm just crabby and grumpy and like, you know, like trying to do something and my son keeps chucking pillows at my computer, you know? And just like, and this is how child abuse happens. Like I get it. No.

Valerie:

Yeah. Well that sounds like pretty much every household during COVID quarantine, though. Right now.

:

When they closed the parks. Well, and now even, cause I take him walking or like all the time and just try to run him out, run his energy out.

Valerie:

Yeah.

:

It's a hundred degrees here now.

Carly:

Yeah.

Valerie:

Oh gosh. Okay.

:

Yeah. This is not, it's not a thing. So now I'm just gonna...

Carly:

You guys are a couple of weeks behind us, right? So you guys like just started like full quarantine, right? I have a couple of cousins out there your way. And that's what they were saying. No, it's just that, they were a few weeks behind us. So you're like just getting in the thick of it. Right?

:

Well, they haven't really made too many rules, so they did shut down, like salons and stuff. But there's, I mean, I still get all my takeout food and do everything. Like there's not rules that you really have to stay home. It's just a suggestion. But they're actually opening things up again, May 15th. So it was just kind of the wild west where they just are like...

Carly:

Yup. With the finger guns.

:

Like you're on your own. Our governor has a lot of vested interests in a lot of businesses. Like his wife owns blow dry bars and stuff. So I have a feeling they're going to be opened up quick because he needs some, some money.

Carly:

Money. Right.

:

So it's very political.

Valerie:

That's fair. So do you, you've been in Arizona. Were you born? No. You weren't born and raised in Arizona?

:

No, I'm a South Dakota girl.

Valerie:

So how did you land in Arizona?

:

My parents drove me out here, the middle of my beginning of my senior year, which made me realize that as good as I thought I was at sports in South Dakota, I was in fact not that good at sports.

Carly:

You play lacrosse?

:

A reality check and ego check...I can't even imagine how big my head would be if I still lived in South Dakota because I was like a baller there. I was so... I was such a brat. No, I moved here, got an ego check, you know, worked at Mobile and Home Depot. And then, uh, yeah, I started community college at 25.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

Almost a decade later.

Valerie:

Do you hope to stay in Arizona?

:

I'll go anywhere I can get an MSL job. In fact, there was one I was interviewing for, which was like Mississippi/Alabama. And I'm trying to get my daughter to this pep talk that this could happen. And I was like, "So look, these how you can get like a seven bedroom mansion for $150,000 in Alabama,".

Valerie:

Yep. Totally.

:

I tried.

Valerie:

Well, we're going to have to get you this MSL Job in Delaware. We need more Seven in this area of the country. Yeah.

Seven:

I'll make sure that Scott, well, the guy from the Gin Blossoms, he'll come see you. And you can make him laugh too, cause he's easy to make laugh.

Carly:

Heck yeah!

Valerie:

Oh, that's perfect. Well, that'll be all Carly.

Carly:

Do you pronounce...? How do you pronounce your son's middle name?

:

Avett.

Carly:

Avett. That's, okay. That's a, yeah. So no, I was just saying I was a, I'm a huge Avett Brothers fan, and I was listening to "Talk on Indolence" before this, that, that was... I pick a pump up jam before each podcast, but that one felt like the right one. Cause it's like, you know, we've all been stuck in our house for some time now, doing all the things, you know... But anyway, that was one of the things, but that was to say that both the Avett Brothers, and who was the other one you just said..had just been to, the Bob at UD. So if there's ever a reason to come up to Delaware, it's for the fantastic music scene we have in this little bubble right here.

Valerie:

Yeah, that's what Delaware is.

Carly:

Yeah, I mean like science is cool and all, but like more importantly, we did get that. Leave your brothers to come to us. So...

:

That's me. So yeah, my son is named after the Avett brothers, as I'm sure you guys have put it together.

Carly:

Yeah.

:

They're so good...

Carly:

So good.

:

Have you heard "A Perfect Space"?

Carly:

Yes, I've heard "A Perfect Space". But have you heard the Robinsville, the "Robinsville sessions"?

:

I don't think I have.

Carly:

That's the album. I'm going to email that to you after this. That's the one, I'll, you might have. Yeah. We'll, we'll sort it out. I'll email you, but you have to listen to that. It's just like a live recording that they did of... It's like a whole album in its entirety, but includes all the little like blurbs that they do in between each piece.

Seven:

So when Seth Avett started cheating on his wife with the woman from Dexter....

Carly:

Yup.

:

But well, they're still dreamy.

Carly:

Yup.

:

I,them, and then I've been on a Smashing Pumpkins kick lately. And Billy Corgan looked at my story. And so I screenshotted that, and that's my newest new favorite thing.

Carly:

Yes!

Valerie:

That is amazing!

:

I know. So we're basically, he doesn't know it yet, but we're on the way to be friends.

Carly:

Right?

Valerie:

Yeah. And now we're one step away from Billy Corgan as well.

Carly:

Yeah. That's awesome.

:

I'll send you the screenshot now. It was yeah, Billy, the Smashing Pumpkins. Like I started listening to their discography from the beginning.

Carly:

Yeah.

:

And "Gish" holds up. It's like very like grungy, like, cause I was mostly "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" and "Siamese Dream".

Carly:

Right.

:

But there's a moment in time right now for "Gish".

Carly:

Yeah. That's fair. That's fair.

:

Yes.

Carly:

We're going to have a lot of back and forth email, I think. There are so many music things.

:

I'm down.

Carly:

That's what I was like, talking with Valerie before we started, and I was just like, "So I creeped real deep into, into Seven's Instagram,".

Valerie:

I think all of our RA's did.

Carly:

They really did. They really did.

Valerie:

Yeah. Basically I was like, "We're going to interview Dr. Seven Tomek. Here's her, you know, go look her up at ASU. Also check her Instagram page,". And then they came back with like all sorts of questions about, cause I think that you kind of like blew their mind about what, what a science, a, what a scientist looks like, but then specifically like, what a neuroscientist looks like. Cause I think that they had this like older, white man picture in their mind. And then they're like, "How is this woman a, like a neuroscientist?" which was a pretty amazing, you know, moment.

:

That's awesome.

Valerie:

Oh man. Yeah.

Seven:

I'm definitely old and white, but I'm not quite the man part. So...

Valerie:

Aw, you're not old, cause we're the same age. So...yeah.

:

Man, when my daughter tells me I'm not cool anymore, I'm like, "But I am,".

Valerie:

Yeah, no, I think we've got like a whole lab of RAs who would...

Carly:

Yeah, no.

Valerie:

Come bring up your coolness factor.

:

Awesome.

Carly:

Yeah. For sure.

:

I love your lab. I'm definitely coming to... Well, if I don't get a job, I'm going to do the stray cat thing and just show up. So...

Carly:

Also Delaware has tax free shopping. I'm just saying people can't wrap their minds around that. But like what it says on the price, we pay. And there is no trick about it. Like, so all I'm saying is that might be all you need to know to move up to Delaware.

Seven:

I think I'm single handedly keeping the economy alive with my poor, like, online choices. I just do. I've been doing the, Like it Know it app on, Instagram. And so I see shoes and you click on the shoes and then it shows you the link to buy the shoes. And I'm like, "Well that's convenient,".

Carly:

Right.

:

Like, what are they trying to do to me?

Valerie:

Yeah. That's how I have tried both... What is it? The like the, not the Allbirds... The, the Rothys and, the, the shoes that are like slippers... I'll come back to them.

Carly:

Oh wait, the Vibrams? Are you talking about the toe shoes?

Valerie:

No, not the toe shoes.

:

Please don't tell me Crocs...

Valerie:

No, come on...

Carly:

Okay, so don't say toe shoes with that kind of scornful tone there...Simmer down. But...

Valerie:

You have toe shoes?

Carly:

I did. Maybe.

Valerie:

Oh, that's a yes.

Carly:

Maybe.

:

I did...

Carly:

I don't know. There's no photo evidence. I don't know.

Valerie:

I can't even do like the toe socks. Like, just like the separation.

:

Oh, I know what you're talking about. Yes, those are so...they're like alien shoes.

Carly:

Yeah. No.

Valerie:

Yes!

Carly:

They're...great if you don't have very high arches. Guys.

Valerie:

We're learning so much about each other. I've also... this also, this conversation really does also underscore for me, what I should now recognize to be the biggest risk of doing this podcast...which is that Carly is going to realize how much cooler my colleagues are. And she's going to like quit and move across the country to Phoenix, to go work with them. She's like, "No problem. Let's, let's study rats,". So I've got this, she's going to finger gun you. You're going to fall for it. It's going to be a science happily ever after.

:

It's going to be a plot twist. Cause she's going to show up and I'll be like, "Well, I'm unemployed. So let's go to a rock show,".

Carly:

That's not a plot twist.

Valerie:

She'll be like, "Thank you for everything,".

Carly:

Yeah. Unfortunately, I want to tell Valerie she's wrong because I really do love my job. But it sounds like that actually is a pretty sweet gig, so...

Seven:

I call it Seven's Canyon and Coffee Tour. So I'll show you all the red rocks, all the coffee, and all the tequila.

Valerie:

I feel like, the next podcast that I record with, Carly, or the next Zoom meeting we have... I'm going to like, see like Bear running across the background. I'll be like, "Where are you?". She'll just be like, "Maybe I'm in Arizona,".

Carly:

Or like the next podcast just begins with like, "So this week's podcast should also be considered my two week notice. I live in Arizona now. That's what we do,".

:

You can have Bear say it. It's cuter coming from a kid. And he does like, just repeat whatever you say, especially if it's a bad word.

Carly:

Yeah.

Valerie:

That's for sure.

Carly:

This is my effing last week.

Seven:

Yeah. Before I knew that Tiger King was what Tiger King was, I thought it was going to be like...I didn't know, it was just trashy documentary. I thought it was gonna be all animals and stuff. And so I put on the first episode and Bear learned some new words before I realized I should shut it off. So he was saying this, everybody that we ran into contact with...

Carly:

That bitch Carol Baskins. Yeah.

Valerie:

I guess it's good it's quarantine time then... Limit..

:

He uses them correctly. He's kind of average intelligence, but he uses swear words correctly. So I'm really proud of that.

Valerie:

Okay. Good for him. He is, he is the son of a doctor, now.

Carly:

That is true.

Valerie:

Yeah. Are your kids proud of you that you wrapped up? Like do they understand like well you're... No. Okay.

:

I think Azalea is, is feeling like a different, weird kind of pressure. Cause I have her at a very, very hard school. So when I was learning basic math from the beginning.. Like you have to test in the math classes at community college and I didn't know you had to do this. So I showed up and they're like, "Multiply and divide fractions,". And I'm like, "I don't know how to do that,".

Valerie:

And now you have your PhD.

:

Yeah. I had to learn all the math, but I had to learn from basic math, and take a math every semester until I graduated And so she's at a really hard she's at like, it's one of the top 50 schools in the country. It was like top 10. But they changed the rating process.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

Because they were dominating the ratings... It's the BASIS schools. I don't know if you're familiar. And so she is like in eighth grade and she's taking physics and chemistry and calculus and all this stuff. And I think she hates me a little bit and she's like, "I don't want to be a doctor,". And I'm like, "You don't have to be. But this way, no matter what you do, it's in your brain. You can use it or not use it,". She's brilliant. She's a savant as an artist. She's an incredible artist, and she's more published than a lot of my peers. She's done the cover of textbooks, journals, international posters.

Carly:

Wow.

Valerie:

That's incredible.

:

And she started doing them when she was like single digits, you know? Like it's just crazy to think about...but she's probably going to be an artist in some way. But an artist that knows physics, which...

Carly:

I went to an art high school, that's number two in the state for science. So there, there you go, go. Yeah.

Valerie:

You guys will be pretty a dynamite team.

Carly:

Yeah, I think, yep. I'm going to go...

:

Step one, find a job.

Carly:

Once you find a job, let me know. I'm joining you there.

:

Well, she might, she would be able to speak to the fact that everyone else had pitched X for this Yale thing. And mine was literally just a 10 minute or two minute plea a job. At the very end, I was like, "Okay. Somebody hire me,". That was like my last slide and it's like "Give me a job,".

Valerie:

No, it's fantastic. The only reason it didn't work...cause cause you were still a year out from graduating. My two minutes was like, "And, I don't think I'm going to do this,". So I thought here is also went over much better than mine. You're like, "I'll work with anybody here,". And I was like, "I think, I think I came here and realized I am going a different direction,". But actually what is coolest somebody from that project, I don't know if you can remember Arden...the guy who was doing the Pill Smart.

:

Yeah.

Valerie:

Yeah. So he reached out and anyway, I was helping him a little bit with his application this week because he thinks that, I mean, it's, it's actually a really smart idea. He thinks that the, um...he's created this pill dispenser, which is like a really sleek design. So adolescents who are using medications could, could use this dispenser. Like no one would know, like it's, you know...it's totally different to get out like your orange pill bottle as like a 13 year old versus like this sleek thing that could be a cell phone or something.

:

Yeah.

Valerie:

So anyway, I was talking with him, I was helping him figure out how he could like look at how that might reduce concerns around stigma. So that, and it... So it definitely has had an impact. I also came back from that and I made my whole lab do like a design day, which was so much fun. Like we covered the lab with like all sorts of like intervention ideas. So it got me thinking really differently about how to do science, even in the context of, even in the context of academia. But, and it established some cool connections.

:

That's awesome.

Valerie:

Including this one. But yeah, so, but it is cool because I could go a lot of different directions, but yeah, you pitched a job and I pitched an "oops".

Seven:

You know, who I'm still in touch with from that is, Peter Low. Do you remember him?

Valerie:

I'm not sure.

:

He's the lions rock guy whose daughter was addicted to opioids. And so he left Sega. He was a Sega Genesis VP. And then he went on to do lion's rock.

Valerie:

Yes! Yeah, yeah. I do remember his presentation. I was thinking of the students. You kept in touch with one of the, like the big deal presenters who came on. Of course you did. That's awesome.

:

I actually have an idea to pitch him on a job for me too, but I'm waiting for the quarantine...

Valerie:

You should!

Seven:

There's a photo that I have where I'm holding like a vintage Gibson guitar.

Valerie:

Okay.

:

And he sent me a photo of him, in the eighties...he was in like a rock band playing the same guitar I was holding. And then, so we just, every time there's like new music, which I have a feeling it's going to be, our new thing.

Carly:

Yeah. Hoping so.

:

I want to teach a class at this record store by my house, where I basically relate musicians from across generations. Like, there's, uh, like Muddy Waters and LeadBelly, like Nirvana covered Leadbelly and then bands that are influenced by Nirvana. And I kind of want to do this whole over the ages connection between all of them. Or how like Radiohead got sued by, The Hollies for their song. And then Lana Del Ray got sued by Radiohead, but that was a new thing. Songs that he's musicians that I love. And so I want to, kind of teach the background about the musicians, the connections, and then play it all on vinyl. And that's probably what I'm going to do instead of get a job.

Carly:

One of my coworkers sons, goes to Harvard and he's taking a class called from Bach to Beyonce right now. And she shared the playlist, like the Spotify. They didn't have to buy a textbook or anything. They just had to buy like a Spotify Premium. Yeah. Like a subscription. And there's this podcast that like, and then you're, you're and, all you have to do is like, you have to listen to the whole thing and then you have to make the connection between all of them. And they're like really funky. Like not actually really there's like Druids. Yeah. It's it's, it's wild.

Seven:

That's cool. See, that'd be right up my alley. I stuff like that. And I love when I hear songs that remind me of other songs, and then I'll find like an obscure article where they were somehow weirdly influenced on it because they were in the back of a bus in Melbourne. Someone showed them the song or whatever. I love stuff like that. Like the stories, the whole VH1, Behind the Music was my jam back in the day.

Carly:

That and Pop-Up Video.

:

I learned so much.

Carly:

Me too.

Valerie:

Well, I feel like, you'd lose like the vinyl aspect of it, but I would totally read that book. Like describe it, like, you know, like tying all these people together. I think it'd be super interesting. And Nelly run the dissertation. I mean, you could probably pump that out in a week or two. Right?

Seven:

Well, I started writing my memoir to avoid writing my dissertation.

Carly:

Yes!

Valerie:

Okay.

:

"Get in Bitches, We're Going on an Adventure".

Carly:

Yeah.

Valerie:

I love that. My memoir is called "Inflamed: When Immune Systems Attack". Yours is better.

:

Yeah.

Valerie:

Get in Bitches. I love that. It's like, when does it come out?

Seven:

When I get a more interesting life, for sure.

Carly:

Doubtful.

Valerie:

How can, I don't know how it gets more interesting? Yeah. You've got wild animals in the house.

Seven:

Yeah. Well, you know the, there's my friend that takes photos, who's Alice Cooper's photographer. So she took a picture of me and her husband's van with the flames. And that's the cover of the, of we set it look like a novel cover, which is how it all started. And then when I was really avoiding writing, I started to like the chapter out. I was like a crazy person, but I'm not actually going to do it. S

Carly:

Did you read Keith Richard's life? That's the name of his autobiography. You should do that. That was like, as someone that almost exclusively reads rock and roll autobiographies. Read that one. It's the best one.

Seven:

Yeah. I've been reading a lot of drug books lately, but really good drug books like...

Carly:

Well, it's Keith Richards. So it's a drug book, and an autobiography actually. It's both things at one time.

Seven:

That, that actually is true. My education would fit two rockstars. So maybe I'll specialize in those next.

Carly:

There you go.

Valerie:

There you go.

Seven:

I'm never dating another one, but I will specialize in writing about them.

Carly:

Fair enough.

Valerie:

Fair.

Seven:

There's a book called "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael... What's his last name? His first name is Michael.

Valerie:

Will can look it up.

Seven:

"How to Change Your Mind?" It's about like how these labs started studying, shrooms, hallucinogens, Pollen Michael Pollen. P-O-L-L-E-N.

Valerie:

Yeah. Okay.

Seven:

And, it's very educational, but written in a way that feels very...

Valerie:

Expectable.

Seven:

Yeah. And like, almost like you're reading a fiction book. It has that draw to it, where you are really interested. And then "Dreamland", which I think I was telling you about before... The Sam Quinones opioid book.

Valerie:

Yup. Worth a read. Okay.

Seven:

Yeah.

Valerie:

Yeah. That's great. Well, Seven, thank you so much for taking this time during quarantine time, to chat with us and to, I'm glad you were able to step away from the crazy animals in your household...

Seven:

I thought my dog was going to make an appearance. Huxley. Hux. I'm actually shocked he didn't.

Valerie:

Yeah. I thought I saw you like, petting him.

Seven:

Come here, Huxley.

Valerie:

Oh, this is great...first dog appearance on the podcast.

Carly:

It is! And just so all the listeners know, Huxley is super handsome.

Valerie:

Oh yeah, for sure.

Seven:

He's a little crazy though, which we're struggling with. Cause he was great with us, but strangers he's real weird with... He's from the pound.

Carly:

Yup.

Seven:

He had a hard life.

Carly:

I have a Huxley except for he doesn't have any white on his face. He has white on the chest, but otherwise they look exactly the same.

Seven:

Yeah. He's a, as soon as I sit down on the couch, he thinks he's allowed to sit on my lap. So I was shocked he didn't try.

Carly:

It's like, they need emotional support dogs. Like that's what I say about my dog all the time. Like "You need an emotional support dog,".

Seven:

He's, a stage five clinger, for sure.

Carly:

Yes. Yes. Perfect.

Valerie:

Oh man. Well, we're all hands on deck on getting you a job, but only getting you a job in Delaware or Philly or Maryland. Yeah. I mean you would take something at Hopkins, right? So...

Seven:

Don't threaten me with a good time.

Valerie:

All right. A huge, thanks to Seven, for joining us for the podcast. It was a great conversation.

Carly:

It was a great conversation.

Valerie:

I feel like Seven is just one of these people who has like, sort of a gravitational pull to them, which I feel like I can say as someone with a PhD in social psychology... That that's like a thing. I'm going to put that out there.

Carly:

I think she's effortlessly cool.

Valerie:

Effortlessly. Cool. Oh my gosh. She is.

Carly:

That should be her new tagline.

Valerie:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And I think that that's just, you know, not always what you expect from a neuroscientist.

Carly:

Nope.

Valerie:

Nope. Yeah. Well, we had part of the conversation with Seven, was about economics. And I made a comment about how academics don't make a lot or something of those vein. And I think it's really important to temper that, especially at this of like huge economic instability. So what I would probably, you know, say if I could go back in time, is that, academics as a whole are super well off. And I feel very, very, very, very, very lucky to, work at a university, especially in the midst of COVID. In addition to that, I think that there is a lot more variability among, you know, jobs with people who had PhD than I thought that there was before I got into grad school. So it wasn't until I got into grad school that I realized some things like, how hard the job market was going to be after I left. I also didn't realize that there are a lot of that... There's a sizable number of people with PhDs who struggle financially, who, struggle to get a job at a university or maybe in a, a research setting and kind of stitch together employment...doing maybe research contracts or teaching contracts with universities. So before I started grad school, I didn't realize that. And that is, that's, you know, something that sometimes tumbles around my mind when we talk about job earnings with people, with PhDs.

Carly:

I think especially, you know, with the title like neuroscientist.

Valerie:

Yeah. I should get snatched up. Yeah. It's funny. Cause we interviewed someone to join her lab the other week and she was saying that she's sat through like a whole presentation in one of her classes from a professor telling her like, this is why you shouldn't get your PhD.

Carly:

Right. Exactly.

Valerie:

And I think that's because so many people with PhDs hit this moment and then... When they're looking for jobs and they're really struggling to find a job and they worry about other people joining the field and having sort of a similar struggle. But overall people with PhDs, you know, rocking it economically. So, you know, it should definitely temper that conversation with that...

Carly:

Set the record straight.

Valerie:

Set the record straight. All right. So luckily Seven has come to the rescue to get us out of this conversation about job insecurity and PhDs, with a video. Let me pull it up and I'm going to hold it up to the screen. Just tell the listeners what you're seeing.

Carly:

What? Is that Scott from the Gin Blossoms?

Valerie:

It is Scott from the Gin Blossoms. Now let's just hold tight there... There is a full 30 second video coming at ya. Ready?

Carly:

Yes!

Valerie:

Are you buckled in?

:

Yes! I am...

Valerie:

As usual, right?

Scott:

Hey Carly and Val, it's Scott from the currently quarantined Gin Blossoms. And just wanted to say hello and hope you are well. I think I'm, well, I don't know. I'm, I'm waiting to get my antibody test back, but, I wish, I wish that was a joke too, but you know, and nowadays it's just, you can never be too safe. So anyway, have a good summer!

Carly:

Oh, that's the best thing that's ever happened to me in my whole life!

Valerie:

It's definitely the highlight of the whole pandemic.

Carly:

Yeah. The whole entire thing.

Valerie:

The whole entire thing. I have so many mixed feelings about this. Okay. A) I'm bummed that he had to get an antibody test. I hope that he's well.

Carly:

Right.

Valerie:

So that's, that's you know, "Hey, reminder that we're in pandemic," but B) Scott from the Gin Blossoms knows our names...

Carly:

Yeah! And said them out loud...

Valerie:

And said them out loud...

Carly:

On a video...

Valerie:

And it's recorded. We have proof.

Carly:

Yup.

Valerie:

Amazing. And I have questions about whether we should be quitting our jobs and becoming roadies. Is roadie still like a thing?

Carly:

Yeah. Also, what is the question? Because to me, there is no question. We're obviously going to go be roadies for the Gin Blossoms.

Valerie:

It's it's too bad. If anyone actually is listening to this podcast, that we're not going to be able to do it anymore because we are going to just be following the Gin Blossoms around...

Carly:

But catch us on the next tour.

Valerie:

For sure. Yeah. No, I mean, we pretty much have peaked for the podcast, for the career, for the life. So...

Carly:

Yeah. No, it's only downhill from here. But thank you, Scott.

Valerie:

Yes! And...

Carly:

And Seven.

Valerie:

Thank you, Seven. Not only for talking to us, and having such a great conversation, but also for, you know, sending us this video and making our whole COVID pandemic experience.

Carly:

Yes!

Valerie:

The highlight of...

Carly:

Eternally grateful.

Valerie:

Yeah. Yeah. So, thank you. Thank you. Big thanks to the Stigma and Health Inequities Lab at the University of Delaware for their help with the podcast, including Natalie Brousseau, Alissa Leung, and Saray Lopez. A special thanks to Christina Holsapple, who researched this episode.

Carly:

And as always, thanks to City Girl for the music.

Valerie:

And thanks to all of you for listening.