Cognitive Daily

i-c797f6e8004ab7639cc3697caabb48bd-encephalon.jpgThank you for “choosing” to read Encephalon #44 here at Cognitive Daily. Every two weeks, Encephalon “selects” the best psychology and neuroscience blog posts from around the blogosphere, giving readers the chance to “decide” which ones they’d like to investigate further.

Unfortunately for all those involved, those “decisions” very likely weren’t carried out through the “deciders’” own volition, but instead were precipitated through the confluence of genetic inheritance and circumstance.

Consider this post from Neuroanthropology, for example, which dissects a forthcoming publication in Nature Neuroscience indicating that brain activity predicting a decision occurs prior to the actual decision. Do we decide, or do our brains decide for us? If your predetermined fate moves you to read this post, you will find out.

Suppose we don’t have free will and in fact are controlled by our brains. Then if the Department of Defense designs brain-controlled weapons, then who’s really going to war — us or our brains? Those so fated can entertain this question at Mind Hacks.

But once we start to believe that we have no free will, won’t that, too, affect our actions? If coincidence leads you to Cognitive Daily, you can find the answer.

I wasn’t predestined to understand this post, but since it includes the word “determinism,” I think it might also have something to do with the free-will/determinism issue. Perhaps your nature/nurture combo made you better-equipped to understand Jonathan Pratt’s point. If so, I suggest you read the post.

Except to the extent that everything you do is a manifestation of your free will (or predetermined behavior), the remaining posts in this edition of Encephalon have nothing to do with the free will / determinism debate. Undaunted, I have collected them below:

If you “want” to know about how to sex a chick or ship your brain, visit Of Two Minds.

Speaking of sex, PodBlack Blog has a penetrating discusion of sex science. If you’re “interested,” head on over and check it out. Or read about women and superstitions. Your “choice.”

But there are other things we crave besides sex. For example, money, chocolate, and justice. If you find your self irresistably drawn to Neuroanthroplogy, don’t let me stop you.

Maybe you just need to get some work done. If the chocolate doesn’t do it for you, how about some brain-enhancing drugs? Not Exactly Rocket Science tells you how they work.

If the drugs aren’t helping you meet “your” goals, perhaps what you need is a few extra neurons. Sharpbrains shows you how to put them to work. Meanwhile, Neuroscientifically Challenged discusses the role of neurogenesis in treating depression. So does The Mouse Trap.

If this isn’t enough expert information for you, you might check out Alvaro’s interviews with more than 15 neuroscientists about how to improve brain fitness.

How did human brains get smart enough to think about how to make themselves smarter? This post explores the evolution of basic math in monkeys.

But brains aren’t always so on top of things. Sometimes things get downright depressing. Despite the fact that it’s such a downer, several bloggers “chose” to cover PTSD this week: Channel N has a video about PTSD, and another one about PTSD with TBI. Lindsey Kay, meanwhile, uses her words to discuss Genetic Susceptibility to PTSD.

Sometimes, however, words may not be the best way to communicate. Brains on Purpose explains.

Other times, brain injuries or conditions may make communication difficult. Pure Pedantry explores dyslexia, while Jared Tanner discusses persistent vegetative states.

What’s the best way to understand what is (or is not) going on inside the brain? Richard Wise makes the case for PET scans over MRI in a talk discussed in a two-part post on the Neurocritic.

Finally, some arguments free-will and determinism rely on “God” as the determiner or granter of free will. But what if God him/her/itself is merely an artifact of the brain’s social biases? Sandy G makes the case that God is just a type I error.

That’s it for this edition of Encephalon. If you’re “inclined,” you can submit suggestions for the next edition to encephalon.host — @ — gmail — . — com (remove dashes). Encephalon has been predestined to appear next at PodBlack Blog, on May 12.

P.S.: If you liked my use of scare quotes in this post, you’ll “love” The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.

Comments

  1. #1 SteveV
    April 28, 2008

    “Suppose we don’t have free will and in fact are controlled by our brains.”

    You are mistaken to separate the two: the self & the brain.

  2. #2 Tony Jeremiah
    April 28, 2008

    Consider this post from Neuroanthropology, for example, which dissects a forthcoming publication in Nature Neuroscience indicating that brain activity predicting a decision occurs prior to the actual decision. Do we decide, or do our brains decide for us? If your predetermined fate moves you to read this post, you will find out.

    Suppose we don’t have free will and in fact are controlled by our brains. Then if the Department of Defense designs brain-controlled weapons, then who’s really going to war — us or our brains? Those so fated can entertain this question at Mind Hacks.

    These seem explainable by research that now shows the cerebellum has strong ties to frontal brain regions. In brief, this research (e.g., ON THE SPECIFIC ROLE OF THE CEREBELLUM IN MOTOR LEARNING AND COGNITION: CLUES FROM PET ACTIVATION AND LESION STUDIES IN MAN) suggests that the cerebellum is influenced by contexts in which one learned a particular thing. When exposed to the same or similar context, whatever thoughts or actions occurred in that context are reactivated. Brainfingerprinting seems connected to this in the sense that it is apparently now possible to determine where a person’s brain has been.

    Somewhat related, I see both comments as a brand new and novel set of excuses for not doing homework or circling incorrect answers on multiple choice tests (e.g.,”I know A was the correct answer, but I had no choice but to circle C. I just felt C was the correct answer about 7 seconds before circling it”).

    I wasn’t predestined to understand this post, but since it includes the word “determinism,” I think it might also have something to do with the free-will/determinism issue. Perhaps your nature/nurture combo made you better-equipped to understand Jonathan Pratt’s point. If so, I suggest you read the post.

    One part of that post that I could follow was the poster’s comment about students asking seemingly random questions and how stochastic models might explain this. It looks related to a study concerning implicit and explicit knowledge. For example, one study focusing on a phenomenon called representational momentum showed how implicit and explicit understanding of object motion can interfere with understanding the topic of object motion in a physics class.

  3. #3 Remis
    April 28, 2008

    seconded

    eliminative materialism !!! WOOOHOOOO!

    (sorry, caffeine overdose here…)

  4. #4 PaulDT
    April 29, 2008

    Oh posh… Searle sympathizer here.

    Emergent property… product of the complexity of recursive feedback in the brain; caused but not determined while also causally effective.

  5. #5 Alvaro
    April 29, 2008

    Indeed, had no choice but to read it…what a great edition!

  6. #6 laura
    April 29, 2008

    great edition indeed – so many interesting posts! just wondering if my now highly elevated cortical dopamine flux will sustain long enough to read them all..

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!