The Frontal Cortex

Archives for October, 2007

Proust Was A Neuroscientist

So my book, Proust Was A Neuroscientist, is now shipping from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It might even be in your local bookstore. I’ll do my best not to turn this blog into an orgy of self-promotion, but feel free to check out some of the early blurbs (from Oliver Sacks, Joe Ledoux, Antonio…

Teaching the Tongue to See

It’s an audacious idea, and I didn’t believe it was possible until I saw the video. But it really is possible to teach blind people to see using their tongue. By connecting a camera to an array of electrodes that stimulate the sensitive nerves inside the mouth – a pixel of light is translated into…

Age and Happiness

The correlation is pretty clear: the older we get, the happier we become. Only in the last decade have researchers begun to measure happiness across the life span and, in doing so, try to understand why older people tend to be so content. The explanation doesn’t appear to be biological — some chemical in the…

Grammar and Cursing

Here’s Vaughan on a neat grammatical shortcut: Whilst drinking with a psycholinguist (say that after a few pints) I was taught a useful way of quickly working out the stressed syllable in any English word – something which is apparently called the ‘fuck test’. Simply insert the word ‘fucking’ into the word, as if you…

Sparrows and Schoenberg

Alex Ross brings my attention to a recent letter in Science: “…Watanabe and Sato [Behav. Processes 47, 1 (1999)] have shown that Java sparrows can discriminate between Bach’s French Suite no. 5 in G minor and Arnold Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano opus 25. The birds were also able to generalize new music by Bach (Orchestral…

Chimps Are More Rational

Or at least they play the ultimatum game more rationally than humans: German researchers have demonstrated chimpanzees make choices that protect their self-interest more consistently than do humans. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig studied the chimp’s choices by using an economic game with two players. In the game, a…

Comatose?

In the latest New Yorker, the always fascinating and fair Jerome Groopman* has an article on the recent Science paper documenting neural activity in vegetative patients: For four months, Kate Bainbridge had not spoken or responded to her family or her doctors, although her eyes were often open and roving. (A person in a coma…

Factoid of the Day

This year, California will spend three times as much operating its prisons than running the UC system.

Anthropology and the Military

This seems like a really good thing: In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a soft-spoken civilian anthropologist named Tracy. Tracy, who asked that her surname not be used for security reasons, is a member of the first Human…

Pregnancy and Plastic Surgery

I think the NY Times Style section should invest in a resident evolutionary psychologist. Its pages are often filled with the most blatant examples of human nature and sexual selection. The scientist could also help me understand stories like this: Dr. David Stoker, a plastic surgeon in Marina Del Rey, Calif., has a surgical cure…