The Frontal Cortex

Archives for April, 2007

My Book

So here’s a link to my future book (due out in November), which gives you a nice little synopsis of the subject. What do you think of the cover?* *I’m personally interested in whether or not most people recognize the cookie as a madeleine, and thus get the Proust reference. My hunch is that, if…

Aging and Geriatrics

Another great Atul Gawande article on the aging process and the need for more geriatric specialists: The single most serious threat she [an 86 year old woman] faced was not the lung nodule or the back pain. It was falling. Each year, about three hundred and fifty thousand Americans fall and break a hip. Of…

I’ve got an article in the Boston Globe Ideas section today on the cognitive revolution, and recent research demonstrating the relationship between cognition and emotion. Ever since Plato, scholars have drawn a clear distinction between thinking and feeling. Cognitive psychology tended to reinforce this divide: emotions were seen as interfering with cognition; they were the…

Alison Gopnik has written a thoroughly entertaining takedown of the mirror-neuron hype: The myth of mirror neurons may not do much harm. Perhaps it’s even good for science that in the 21st century we turn to the brain, rather than gods and monsters, for our mythical images. Still, science and science writing are supposed to…

The Transgendered Brain

Mike Penner, a sports writer for the LA Times, has decided to become a woman. He will return to the paper as Christine Daniels. He wrote a gripping personal reflection for the paper explaining his decision: Transsexualism is a complicated and widely misunderstood medical condition. It is a natural occurrence — unusual, no question, but…

Christof Koch makes a compelling argument: My empirical studies into the neurobiology of consciousness have convinced me that many species share the sights and sounds of life with us humans. Why? First, except for size, there are no large-scale, dramatic differences between the brains of most mammals (including humans). Second, when people experience pain and…

NFL Brains

Does football cause brain damage? The evidence remains sketchy and completely inconclusive, but is nevertheless suggestive: Bennet Omalu, a man who knew nothing about football and was a soccer goalie in his homeland, believes he has proven that repeated concussions in football lead to early-onset dementia, very similar to the boxing ailment known as “punch-drunk…

David Leonhardt has an excellent column on the squeezed middle class. He notes that while inequality is increasing, the other common complaint – that the income of middle class workers is now more volatile – is not supported by government statistics. There has been no great risk shift, at least when you look at income.…

History of the Future

Take note historians of the future. When you set out to write your tome, The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, you might find the following three stories, all of them appearing in today’s New York Times, to be of interest. They are all symptoms of decadence run amok, the sure sign of a…

Wagging the Dog

Not all wags mean the same thing. Careful analysis reveals an emotional difference between wags to the right and wags to the left. This asymmetry reflects an underlying asymmetry built into the mammalian brain: When dogs feel fundamentally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps. When…