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This Is Your Brain On Peanut Butter

Sean, Standley Lake Library

A couple of things have me thinking lately about memory loss. One is the renewed interest in a book called Still Alice, written by a neurobiologist named Lisa Genova. This affecting novel about a woman diagnosed with early-onset dementia was published four years ago, but seems to be enjoying a resurgent popularity. I finished reading it last month and definitely recommend it.

The second, more personal thing is my wretched performance in team bar trivia. I turned 40 in June, and my ability to recall stupid bits of information—like the name of a song—sure isn’t as iron-clad as it used to be. It’s gotten me fretting about mental deterioration.

So the other day I discovered the peanut butter test. Have you heard of this? It’s been all over the news of late. Researchers are claiming the inability to sniff out peanut butter is a predictor of early-onset Alzheimer’s, as sufferers show decreased sensitivity to odors.

Fearing the worst, but zealous for the truth, I decided to self-diagnose and drove to Walmart. I remembered I was going to Walmart after I found myself in the parking lot at King Soopers; but since they both sell peanut butter I figured no harm, no foul. I bought a 2-liter of Coke Zero and returned to the car. At that point I remembered I meant to buy some peanut butter, and went back in.

I soon broke into a heavy sweat. There were so many brands—Peter Pan, Skippy, Jif, Krogers, Planters, Smuckers. God, what if one wasn’t as strong as another? What if sniffing Peter Pan gave me a false-positive? I also wrestled over all the types: smooth, crunchy, unsalted creamy, no stir crunchy, chunky, extra chunky, nutty natural, all natural. Crap! With my mental health on the line, could I risk leaving any jar unopened? Choosy mothers may choose Jif, but I went to the cashier with 15 different jars heaped in my arms.

Back in my kitchen, I wondered why I had all this peanut butter. Was I about to bake something? I hate cooking, and I don’t like peanut butter, so why would I combine two of my least favorite things into what figured to be a massive undertaking—based on the sheer number of jars on the table?

Whatever the reason, it could surely wait until morning. I went to bed and started reading this great new book called Still Alice. Did I tell you about it yet?