The Frontal Cortex

Archives for August, 2007

Memory and Journalism

There’s an illuminating four part series looking at neuroscientist Gary Lynch in the LA Times. It’s written by Terry McDermott. What makes this series so compelling is that it does two things rarely done by science journalists. First of all, the articles present Gary Lynch as a complex human being, complete with the usual human…

This seems like a pretty terrible policy: Eric Miller’s career as an Army Ranger wasn’t ended by a battlefield wound, but his DNA. Lurking in his genes was a mutation that made him vulnerable to uncontrolled tumor growth. After suffering back pain during a tour in Afghanistan, he underwent three surgeries to remove tumors from…

The Neuroscience of Market Bubbles

Given the recent bursting of the housing bubble (let’s hope, at least, that we’ve hit rock bottom), Kevin Drum raises an interesting issue: Bubbles come along with some frequency these days, always with some shiny new reason for bankers to become irrationally exhuberant. Just in the last couple of decades we’ve seen bubbles in S&Ls…

Emotional Music

Here’s a cool new music site. The premise of the site, musicovery.com, is simple: you pick a mood (somewhere between the poles of “energetic,” “dark,” “calm,” or “positive”), select a few musical genres and a favorite decade, and then the site automatically finds songs that reflect your state of mind. It’s affective reverse-engineering. For someone…

The Flynn Effect

Tyler Cowen summarizes a few of the more surprising aspects of the Flynn effect, which refers to the phenomenon of rising scores on mental ability tests (like the IQ test) from one generation to the next: 1. Non-verbal IQ has risen more rapidly than has verbal IQ. 2. Performance gains are smallest on the most…

Diversity and Darwin

The Boston Globe recently had an interesting article on some possible downsides of societal diversity, which have been uncomfortably quantified by Robert Putnam, a political scientist at Harvard. Putnam has found that: …the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and…

Reality is Fake?

I had the pleasure of studying philosophy with Nick Bostrom while at Oxford. He’s a great teacher, but, unlike John Tierney, I’m not persuaded by his latest conjecture: Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined…

McDonald’s and Mere Exposure

Little kids love McDonald’s: Hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, and even milk and carrots all taste better to children if they think they came from McDonald’s, a small study suggests. In taste tests with 63 children ages 3 to 5, there was only a slight preference for the McDonald’s-branded hamburger over one wrapped in plain…

Lesch-Nyhan

There is wonderful, disturbing, and extremely graphic article in last week’s New Yorker (not online) about Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a mysterious disorder characterized by excessive amounts of uric acid and a dangerous tendency to injure oneself. In its bleakest incarnation, Lesch-Nyhan turns victims into their own worst enemy, as their can’t help but chew off their…

The Daily Show on Psychology

Jon Stewart, interviewing Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches a positive psychology class at Harvard: “I was a psychology major, so I know a lot of it is bullshit.” Watch the video here.