The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2007

Glamorous Science

Is this true? Are neuroscientists really the cool kids? If so, then what is the “coolest” avenue of neuroscience research? (And please don’t say consciousness studies.) Q. Among biologists, is sperm research very respected? A. Well, in biology, all the glamour is in neuroscience. The common thing said is: “Learning and memory, that’s the theoretical…

Reconsolidating the Future

For most of the 20th century, neuroscience treated our memories like inert packets of information. They were created through Pavlovian reinforcement, and then just shelved away in the brain, like dusty old books in a library. While this approach led to many important discoveries, like CREB, Cam Kinase and cAMP, it also created a strange…

Superbugs and War

This is an important medical story about the spread of a drug-resistant strain of bacteria called Acinetobacter baumannii. The spread of this superbug – it’s known as an opportunistic pathogen, since it preys on the old, young and weak – seems to largely be a consequence of war. Here’s Steve Silberman of Wired: The first…

Last night’s Colts-Patriots game was a painful experience. (As you probably guessed, I’m a Patriots fan.) But it wasn’t just painful because the Pats lost the game: it was how they lost the game. The Pats dominated the 1st half, only to have their 18 point lead slowly chipped away by Manning’s precision passes. The…

Crazy Meat Facts

From Steven Shapin’s recent New Yorker article on the history of vegetarianism: A recent report by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization reckons that at least eighteen per cent of the global-warming effect comes from livestock, more than is caused by all the world’s transportation systems. The number of vegetarians in developed countries is evidently…

Ian McEwan’s Strange Plot Twist

In the past two years, we’ve been blessed with two remarkable novels about neuroscience and the brain: The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers, and Saturday, by Ian McEwan. Personally, I thought Saturday was the more perfect work, although both books address a similar set of themes. Can science solve consciousness? How do we deal with…

When Promising Cures Are Ignored

I’ve got good news and bad news. I’ll give you the good news first: A cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their “immortality”. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe. It also has…

Culture and Near-Death Experiences

People who have near-death experiences often report a similar set of symptoms: they levitate above their body while being slowly pulled towards a bright white light. Nevertheless, the details of this experience – the particular afterlife that lies beyond the light – reveal a tremendous amount about the culture you exist in. From the Mental…

Making Colonoscopies Less Painful

Good news: cancer deaths have declined for the second year in a row. This trend has a number of causes, including fewer smokers and improved treatment options. But one cancer accounts for more than 65 percent of the overall decline in deaths: By far the greatest decreases in mortality have been in colorectal cancer —…

Emotional Advertising

I’m always startled by the sheer variety of toothpastes being sold at my local drug store. It’s a classic example of excessive choice: all those different products, most of which seem interchangeable, actually make me less likely to buy anything. I dread the oral health aisle. So how do corporations distinguish their brand of toothpaste,…