Hi From Harvard!

I’ve really missed you guys!! :) I literally have so many ideas rushing through my head right now, I don’t know where to start! (Sorry for the misuse of “literally” – I know that’s a lot of people’s pet peeve!) But I just finished watching six seasons of Parks and Recreation in two weeks and Rob Lowe’s voice is *literally* stuck in my head!

Literally Best Blog Post Between school stuff, science stuff and a bunch of miscellaneous personal stuff, today’s post might quite possibly be the most random Prayers and Apples article yet – which is really saying something, considering that last post sandwiched a Psychoneuroendocrinology study between two pictures of Jimi Hendrix and Nicholas Cage. (Just to clarify: they were two separate pictures. It’s not like Jimi Hendrix and Nicholas Cage were in the same picture. That’d just be weird.) Haha I kid, I kid! :)

Let’s get to it!

Adventure Update

*Science buffs: Please feel free to skim past the selfies – serotonergic dysregulation talk and a scintillating look back at chlorpromazine are only a few short paragraphs away! Wahoo! #AndItsNotEvenMyBirthday (…seriously, sometimes my degree of dorkiness even surprises me…)

Anyways…. :) Being back at school has been AMAZING!! My heart is so, so happy and I feel like I’m just surrounded by a million good vibes 

Jessica Walters HarvardThank you again to everyone who supported the Prayers and Apples Indiegogo campaign! I wouldn’t be up here without you guys 

Jessica Walters Harvard Univ

…Also a huge thanks to my parents and brother, who are basically bankrolling the difference ;) 

Chet Walters

(You might recognize Chet from that post where I pointed out he kinda looks like Justin Timberlake :) …And ok, yea, comparing your brother to Justin Timberlake might sound like it could get a little awkward – but trust me, it didn’t.) Well, that is, not until I made a photo collage illustrating my point… Then it maybe got a little awkward.

Sue Axl Chet Jessi

*Sigh* We really are Sue and Axl Heck!

But I digress…

Almost forgot to mention: I’m temporarily living out of a hotel!

Harvard Square Hotel

(Not bad, right?!)

I’m currently taking a 4-week intensive course on psychological resilience (which basically crams an entire semester’s worth of material into one month!) and I haven’t figured out if it’s going to work logistically to finish out the full Spring semester. So the Harvard Square Hotel seemed like the perfect short-term solution! :) Besides, this isn’t my first rodeo living out of a hotel for an extended period of time; although, it is the first time I actually planned it ;)

…Oh how I miss you, Caribe Royale!

Caribe Royale

I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on everything as it unfolds over the next few months, but in the meantime: I have a ton of great info to share from class (in addition to some other research I’ve been doing on the side!), so let’s switch gears and talk neuroscience!!

Sue Dancing

Where my party people at?!

Ok, by this point I think everyone pretty much knows how I feel about antidepressants. Most of them claim to correct a “chemical imbalance” in the brain – but research doesn’t support the idea that depression (or anxiety) is caused by a chemical imbalance. Like, at all. Like, it’s not even a gray area.

E Valenstein*Disclaimer for new readers: I’m not arguing against a biological basis for depression/anxiety – just the specific claim that either disorder is caused by an ‘imbalance’ of serotonin or norepinephrine in the brain*

So I’ve been spending a lot of my time drafting a public awareness campaign proposal, which would essentially confront the psychophamaceutical industry in the same way that the “Truth” campaign takes on Big Tobacco. For example, here’s a “Truth” ad:

Truth Campaigns

And here’s an ad from my proposal:

First How Do You Know Ad

The slogan would be #HowDoYouKnow – drawing attention to the fact that when the average doctor (operating without an fMRI brain scanner in their office) prescribes an antidepressant there is, in the words of Rob Lowe: literally no way for him/her to 1) see inside your brain and know if your neurotransmitters are in fact ‘imbalanced’ and 2) see inside your brain (again) to know what specific drug would correct your ‘imbalance’ (if such an imbalance actually caused depression or anxiety to begin with – which, according to science: it doesn’t).

So far, my little thesis is up to 14 pages :) I’ll upload the whole thing once it’s finished, but here’s a brief excerpt for those of you waiting with bated breath:

*Note: “DTCA” = “Direct to consumer advertising”

Thesis Excerpt

Pretty sexy stuff, right? ;)

But I’m not the first person to draw attention to this whole ‘we’re spending $23.8 billion a year on drugs that claim to correct a chemical imbalance that doesn’t actually cause depression’ thing. Let’s just run down a list of peeps who not only said the same thing, but also felt so passionate about it that they wrote an entire book:

Reading List Prayers Apples

(Phew! That picture took a while to make!)

Ok, so you’ve got a clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (Joseph Glenmullen), an associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School (Irving Kirsch), an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine (Daniel Carlat) – oh, and you’ve got former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell – just to name a few. (Angell’s book focuses on corruption of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, but you can check out her thoughts on the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory here and here.)

So yea. It’s a pretty rowdy bunch ;)

Book Club Recommendations:

Back to the future

I wanted to spend some time today digging into how the whole chemical imbalance thing got started to begin with and highlight new research looking into alternative paths for the biological basis of depression (yea I’m looking at you, gut microbiome and HPA axis!), but this post is getting SUPER long, so I’ll just copy and paste another excerpt from my proposal for anyone crazy interested and we’ll plan on breaking it down in an upcoming article:

*Note: Please don’t mind all the secondary source citations – it’s just a rough draft, I promise they won’t make the final cut :)

Antidepressant History

Seriously: I know that excerpt looks really boring, but don’t judge a book by its cover! Paragraph four talks about rocket fuel. I mean, c’mon: rocket fuel?! That’s a pretty interesting twist to throw into a conversation about antidepressants, if I do say so myself!

JayZ Quote

Sorry, only Drunk In Love fans are gonna get that one ;)

This is the post that never ends…

It just goes on and on, my friends… (Annnnd only Lambchop fans are gonna get that one lol)


Ok, so I’m getting a lil punchy which means it’s probably time to wrap things up :) But before we do, I wanted to share some of my favorite faith and/or fitness blogs that have been keeping me happy while I’m away from home:

Favorite Blogs Fittin Pretty: (Kim)  It’s Progression: (Danica)  Radiance: (Sandra) ♥ Faith, Fitness and Laughter: (Brandi) Simply Beth: (Beth) Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life: (Courtney)

I know a lot of you aren’t big blog readers (and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start, even when you are looking for blogs!) so I thought you might enjoy these suggestions 

Weekend Wisdom

I ran out of time to talk about everything we’ve been learning in class, but it’s probably for the best because now we can devote an entire post to psychological resilience tricks in the future :) Until then, here’s an expression one of our TA’s uses a lot, which I think is really important to keep in mind:

Jeff Perrotti Quote

How could I make this post even more random?!

Ah! I’m sorry today’s post was so all over the place, these past few weeks have been a whirlwind! But everyone’s been so kind and supportive, so I wanted to fill you in on everything I’ve been working on and thinking (which apparently ranges from childhood sheep puppets to books on psychosurgery). #NoLie I literally just googled to make sure lambs were baby sheep. I think my brain has officially imploded.

Lambchop 1

For real though, I’m looking forward to revisiting all the topics mentioned today in a lot more detail in future posts :) I’ve also written a few short papers on bipolar disorder since I’ve been up here, so I think those will be interesting to share as well!

Lambchop 2

Ok, roger that Lambchop ;)

Signing off for now, but I’ll try to post again soon! (Apologies in advance if it takes a while – so much going on!) But I genuinely miss all of you guys so much – and I know that sounds really weird, since I don’t technically “know” a lot of you – but just having the opportunity to ramble on here (and know people are listening!) is so, so comforting :) Thank you for reading from the bottom of my heart – and hope to check back in soon!!

xo Jessica

PS. The blog recently passed a QUARTER OF A MILLION VIEWS!!! CRAZINESS!!

PPS. Here’s a couple more pictures!  For more photos, visit me over on Instagram or Twitter :)

Jessica Walters Harvard 2




  1. Lolly says

    I heart this post. So happy for you. You WILL make a huge impact on so many people as your research progresses. I really believe in you. You can do this. I completely agree with everything in this article. I sang the “If i do say so myself” as soon as i read the line in your post. haha. Remember—-nothing great ever came easy. You got this gurl! xo

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