The Checkup: Freezer Failure Could Set Autism Research Back a Decade

Plus: meditation changes your brain, and dental plaque may increase your risk for early cancer.

• Heartbreaking news on the autism-research front. The Boston Globe reports that a freezer at a Harvard-affiliated hospital malfunctioned sometime in May, causing the brain-tissue samples it housed to thaw. Two alarms meant to alert researchers of any dip in the machine’s minus-80-degrees-Celsius temperature also failed to work, so researchers didn’t realize it had broken until three days later. What they found inside were 150 brains that had begun to decay, about a third of which were used for autism research. The collection was considered priceless; a Johns Hopkins University professor says the incident could set autism research back a decade while it’s being restored. An internal investigation of the freezer’s failure has been launched, and foul play is not being ruled out.

• A small study found that mindfulness meditation may lead to changes in the brain’s white matter, improving self-control, mood, stress response and immunity response. Kind of awesome, right? That’s why you should always listen to our health coach.

• Um, this finding from a recent study on dental plaque is all kinds of disturbing: “People with high amounts of plaque were 79 percent more likely to die prematurely [from cancer].” This might be the perfect time to point you to our handy Top Dentists database. You’re welcome.