The Frontal Cortex

Archives for January, 2007

Expensive Wars

Here is the most depressing lede of the day: $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives. Combined, the cost of running…

The Cultural Self (East vs. West)

What is the neural correlate of the self? The easy answer is that nobody knows. We have yet to discover a neurological patient who has lost their sense of identity, but still retained their conscious sensations. Nevertheless, certain brain areas have been implicated in distinguishing the self from non-self. This 2006 paper by Todd Heatherton…

The Neuroscience of Shopping

John Tierney inaugurates his new Science Times column with a charming mediation on a recent neuroeconomics paper published in Neuron: The economists teamed with psychologists at Stanford to turn an M.R.I. machine into a shopping mall. They gave each experimental subject $40 in cash and offered the chance to buy dozens of gadgets, appliances, books,…

The Cost of Kids

Having children is bad for your health: A pair of researchers, drawing on the experience of nearly 22,000 couples in the 19th century — has measured the “fitness cost” of human reproduction. This is the price that parents pay in their own health and longevity for the privilege of having their genes live on in…

Agricultural subsidies are bad policy on so many different levels. They artificially lower food prices, thus making it harder for farmers from developing nations to compete. (Cutting subsidies would do a tremendous amount of good for the third world.) They encourage the growth of monoculture farming, in which vast tracts of land are devoted to…

Math and the Brain

Is the mathematical avant-garde getting so abstruse that it stretches the limits of the human mind? Is it dangerous when a science becomes entirely dependent upon the calculations of computers? Here’s Sharon Begley in the WSJ: Mathematicians have become increasingly vexed that some statements about numbers cannot be proved by humans. Worse, the proofs that…

So I was talking to a friend of mine, currently working towards his Ph.D in neuroscience, and we got into an interesting discussion about the most influential neuroscience book published in the last 25 years. We defined “influence” as broadly as possible, so that it refers to both working scientists and the lay public. I’m…

The Randomness of Life

PZ has a great post on a recent Nature Genetics paper that explores the startling connection between longevity and luck. (Or, as scientists like to stay, stochasticity). It turns out that genetically identical worms survive for very different amounts of time. The length of their life depends upon random cellular processes, which arise from “fundamental…

Pets on Prozac and Animal Rights

I’m curious how animal rights activists feel about this: They are the new “Prozac Nation”: cats, dogs, birds, horses and an assortment of zoo animals whose behavior has been changed, whose anxieties and fears have been quelled and whose owners’ furniture has been spared by the use of antidepressants. Over the last decade, Prozac, Buspar,…

Selective Abortion and Homosexuality

Last week, gay-rights activists led a protest against research being done on sheep at Oregon State University. Andrew Sullivan reports: The researchers have been adjusting various hormones in the brains of gay rams to try to see if they can get them to be interested in the opposite sex. The indifference of many rams to…