The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2007

Happy New Year

Just wanted to thank everyone for making this blog such a consistent source of pleasure for me. I don’t deserve such a smart audience, but I’m endlessly grateful for it. And thanks for putting up with all the shameless self-horn tooting over the past few months. I hope everyone out there has a happy and…

Winter and Global Warming

One of the unfortunate consequences of Iowa and New Hampshire getting so much snow this December is that it has really muted the discussion of global warming. I’ve now been to enough campaign events to realize that the weather definitely affects political discourse. On a hot summer day, just about every presidential stump speech –…

Snow and Inuit Vocabulary

Here in central New Hampshire, we got another 10-12 inches of snow last night. It’s been a winter of heavy precipitation, with sleet giving way to wet snow which turns into powder which eventually freezes into rock solid ice. This post was originally going to be about how I now understand why the Inuit language…

My Favorite Songs of the Year

I’m certainly no music critic, but since it’s the season of top 10 lists, I thought I’d share my favorite songs of the year, even if my list is bound to typecast me as yet another overeducated twentysomething with a soft spot for indy music, American Apparel and thick-rimmed glasses. The list is in no…

Pomegranate Juice and the Brain

So I’m browsing the juice section at my local supermarket, trying to figure out if I like pulpy bits in my orange juice, when I notice that Minute Maid has a new line of “enhanced juices“. I couldn’t help but laugh at the tag line for the Pomegranate Blueberry drink: “Help Nourish Your Brain!” The…

Alzheimer’s

Terry McDermott, who penned that great series on neuroscientist Gary Lynch earlier this year, has written another illuminating article on Alzheimer’s. The news is bleak: scientists have yet to understand the disease. In fact, we still don’t even know what causes the cellular degeneration in the first place: It’s been 101 years since Alzheimer’s disease…

Steve Martin on Christmas Wishes

Is altruism really innate? PS. Martin’s new memoir is really great.

Wrapping Presents

I hope everyone had a lovely and merry Christmas. I’ve got a post-Christmas question: What cognitive skills are required for present-wrapping? Spatial logic? An intuitive sense of geometry? A belief in neatness? All of the above? I only ask because I am clearly missing whatever skills are required.

The Stuff of Thought

I’ve got a review of Pinker’s latest in The Washington Post: Language comes so naturally to us that it’s easy to believe there’s some sort of intrinsic logic connecting the thing and its name, the signifier and the signified. In one of Plato’s dialogues, a character named Cratylus argues that “a power more than human…

The Genetics of Race Horses

I always assumed that the best race horses simply had the best genes. It seemed like the kind of domain where nature trumped nurture, where the genetics of fast twitch fibers and heart size was more important than the details of training. But my assumptions were exactly backwards: The offspring of expensive stallions owe their…