The Frontal Cortex

Archives for August, 2007

The Perverse Hippocampus

Our mind has a sick sense of humor. It turns out that as we lose our memory, and sink into the darkness of dementia, the last memories to disappear are the memories we spent our lives trying to repress. So the final thing that you know is what you’ve been trying to forget: For more…

The Self and the Body

Here’s a very cool experiment: Using virtual reality goggles, a camera and a stick, scientists have induced out-of-body experiences — the sensation of drifting outside of one’s own body — in healthy people, according to experiments being published in the journal Science. When people gaze at an illusory image of themselves through the goggles and…

Peer Review

You often hear scientists and philosophers of science talk about the peer-review process as if it’s some epistemological magic trick, as if it automatically sifts through the mass of submitted articles and finds The Truth. Of course, if you’ve ever been through the peer-review process you know that there’s nothing magical about it. The process…

Before the Internet

I thought this obit was rather fascinating. Not only did I learn about phone phreaks – a subculture I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know existed – but Joybubbles sounds like an utterly unique person, truly an n of 1.

Silas Weir Mitchell

Silas Weir Mitchell was a great American neurologist. Unfortunately, he’s best known now for pioneering “the rest cure,” which became a common treatment for hysteria and other afflictions of the “frail female nervous system”. (See, for example, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.) But Weir Mitchell’s most important contribution to neurology came from his…

Metabolic Theory

A few months ago, when I was writing an article on cities and metabolic theory for the latest issue of Seed, I spent several frustrating hours trying to explain the underlying logic of metabolic theory. For those who don’t know, metabolic theory is a set of simple equations that are capable of describing the energy…

Editing on Paper

I’m one of those writers who can’t edit on a computer. After I write something, I’m always forced to print it out on dead trees, so that I can fix my sentences. When I try to edit on the computer, I always miss repetitions, redundancies and other bits of bad writing that I easily catch…

Girls Are Better Behaved

Two economists have studied the effects “of classroom gender composition on scholastic achievements of boys and girls in Israeli primary, middle, and high schools.” They wanted to know if having a disproportionate number of one gender in the classroom influences academic performance. Their conclusion? Your son will be a better student if he attends an…

Low-Tech Fuel Efficiency

This is the car I covet: And I don’t just want the new variant of the Volvo C30 because it’s oh so cute: Called the C30 Efficiency, this special car will sip diesel fuel at the rate of 4.5L per every 100 kilometers. That’s 52.26 mpg to us Yanks. It achieves these numbers using a…

Dopamine and Slot Machines

Pardon the self-promotion, but I’ve got an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe on neuroscience and gambling: The growth of the gambling industry has been accompanied by a large amount of new scientific research explaining the effects of gambling on the brain. The neural circuits manipulated by gambling originally evolved to help animals assess rewards, such…