The Frontal Cortex

Archives for May, 2007

Eating Habits and Birth Order

Let’s say your plate is filled with three different foods: a turkey sandwich, some spears of broccoli and a chocolate chip cookie. Which food do you eat first? According to Brian Wansick’s new book, Mindless Eating, your birth order helps to shape your eating habits: When we looked at the food questionnaires, we discovered that…

Stem Cell Banks

Yesterday, Massachusetts announced a massive new stem cell research program, which amounts to more than $1 billion dollars in new funding. The grants are good, but I’m most excited by Governor Patrick’s proposal for a stem cell bank, the first of its kind in America. According to the Boston Globe, eight hospitals and universities, including…

Obama, Detroit and Ethanol

Obama gave a good speech yesterday, outlining his plan to save Detroit from itself. He would basically force the Big Three (really the Shrinking Two) to invest in fuel efficient vehicles that run on alternative fuels*: Obama proposed that the government pay for 10 percent of domestic automakers’ health-care costs for retired workers through 2017…

Wine and Terroir

In the world of oenophiles, terroir is a sacred term. It’s a French word with a murky English definition, but it’s generally used to describe the relationship between a wine and the geographical place that it comes from. Chablis, for example, is renown for its hint of flint, which is supposedly a side-effect of the…

Darwin As A Writer

Jonathan Weiner, author of the magisterial Beak of the Finch, has a lovely essay explaining what Darwin can teach writers. This struck close to the bone: Sitzfleisch. Robert Oppenheimer once observed that a physicist needs not only inspiration but also sitzfleisch–the ability to keep one’s flesh sitting in a chair. Writers need the same gift,…

Factoid of the day: Bad eyewitness identifications contributed to 75 percent of wrongful convictions in cases that were overturned by DNA evidence. Given these dismal statistics, some states have tried to fix their procedures for eyewitnesses. New Jersey, for example, used to do police lineups the standard way: witnesses identified suspects from an in-person lineup…

The Importance of Mothers

Mind Matters, David Dobbs’ research blog over at Scientific American, is indispensable weekly reading. This week is no different. The topic is a paper documenting the importance of maternal presence in rat-pups. Apparently, the absence of a rat mother during a critical period of pup development permanently alters the behavior of the pup*: In their…

Thinking During Sleep

Score another one for unconscious processing, which is especially prevalent during sleep. A new study in PNAS suggests that, as people sleep, their brains are forming relational memories, which require “the flexible ability to generalize across existing stores of information”. Earlier studies found that people appear better able to remember things they have just learned…