The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2007

Iran and the Risk Premium

It’s the worst of all possible worlds: gas prices have gone up, but Americans haven’t adjusted their gasoline consumption habits. Instead of using higher energy costs as a prod to use less energy (or at least use less foreign oil), we have fully acclimated to the price at the pump: In the late 1970s, OPEC…

Whale Sharks in Captivity

I love whale sharks. There’s something very uplifting about such an enormous animal being so gentle. But I think it’s pretty clear that whale sharks don’t belong in aquariums: A young whale shark that sank to the bottom of its tank at the Georgia Aquarium this year and died had been forcibly fed for months,…

Bush is a Hedgehog

President Bush has recently taken up reading. Ordinarily, that would be a good thing, if only because I found his anti-intellectualism and lack of curiousity deeply troubling. The bad news is that we know what books Bush has actually been reading. I think the man has a serious case of confirmation bias. Bush was recently…

In a recent issue of The New Republic, Alex Heard takes David Sedaris to task for blurring the line between memoir and novel, fiction and non-fiction, truth and lies: I do think Sedaris exaggerates too much for a writer using the nonfiction label. And after spending several weeks fact-checking four of his books–Barrel Fever (1994),…

The Surprises of Cardiology

It was a day of unexpected findings for the field of cardiology. First, there was the news that patients with stents did not have a longer life span or a reduced number of heart attacks compared to patients treated with statins and other heart drugs. (Only a few years ago, drug-coated stents were being hailed…

Physical Theories as Women

This is the funniest thing I’ve read today. Over at McSweeney’s, Simon Dedeo compares our physical theories to types of women: 0. Newtonian gravity is your high-school girlfriend. As your first encounter with physics, she’s amazing. You will never forget Newtonian gravity, even if you’re not in touch very much anymore. 3. Quantum mechanics is…

Medical Salaries

Here’s your medical factoid of the day: As of 2003, the average income of a French physician was estimated at $55,000; in the U.S. the comparable number was $194,000. Personally, I’m a little frightened by the idea of my doctor not being highly paid. I don’t want my surgeon to be a member of the…

Attention, Sensation and Mystery

Over at Mind Matters, there’s a typically fascinating discussion of a paper concerning the underlying mechanisms of executive control and attention: To find out what happens during attentional lapses, a team of researchers led by Daniel H. Weissman used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to try to identify how these brain areas behave when attention…

Morality, Psychopaths and Emotions

On Monday, I posted about some recent imaging work documenting the way the brain distinguishes between “personal” and “impersonal” moral dilemmas. Now comes a new Nature paper from a medley of researchers documenting how damage to a single brain region – the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPO) – erases this fundamental distinction. Damage to an area…

Don’t Waste Good Wine on Food

I used to work in a restaurant where we served wild salmon with a Barolo sauce. (This was back when drinking red wine with fish was still very au courant.) Needless to say, the chef wasn’t wasting real Barolo on a wine reduction. Instead, we used some of the generic plonk you buy in two…