The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2007

Holiday Altruism

Since it’s supposed to be the season of charity, that time of year when we remember those who are less fortunate than we are, I thought I’d post on altruism and the brain, since there have recently been a few interesting studies. The basic moral of these experiments is that we are built to be…

Human Growth Hormone

Malcolm Gladwell endorses the use of Human Growth Hormone for athletes, at least when it’s used to recover from injury: What, exactly, is wrong with an athlete–someone who makes a living with their body–taking medication to speed their recovery from injury? Is it wrong to take ibruprofen? Is it wrong to ice a sore elbow?…

The War on Drugs

Ben Wallace-Wells, in Rolling Stone, recently wrote a fantastic and tragic article on America’s War on Drugs: All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion to fight drugs – with very little to show for it. Cocaine is now as cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used. Methamphetamine,…

The Teenage Brain

Are teenagers too rational? That, at least, is the conclusion of a recent study showing that teens overestimate the riskiness of things like unprotected sex and drunk driving, yet choose to do them anyways: A study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that teenagers were more likely than adults to overestimate…

Oliver Sacks and Lullabies

For a wonderful example of Oliver Sacks’ “romantic scientific method” at work – a method he borrowed, at least in part, from the great Russian neurologist A.R. Luria – listen to this NPR piece, by Robert Krulwich. It’s a beautiful story about the power of stories to help us make sense of our ourselves. Here’s…

War, Soldiers, Killing

There was a very astute comment left in response to my post on evolution and psychopaths: Normal people (however you define that term) can be desensitized to the suffering of others. Soldiers fighting in a war – those who don’t become shellshocked – become insensitive to killing and wounding. Indeed, people with ordinary lives sometimes…

The Evolution of Psychopaths

The latest issue of Nature has a thought-provoking article on new research trying to understand the psychopathic brain. On most psychological tests, psychopaths appear perfectly normal. Their working memory isn’t impaired, they use language normally, and they don’t have reduced attention spans. In fact, several studies have found that psychopaths have slightly above average IQ’s.…

Real Estate and Loss Aversion

Home sales are plummeting. In the Times, David Leonhardt focuses on Paramount, CA, site of the most precipitous drop in home sales in the country: Just south of Los Angeles, there is a small city called Paramount where houses have all but stopped selling. Since the summer, only about three homes a week — including…

Ekman’s Art

Paul Ekman, the eminent UCSF psychologist, has a new exhibit of his photography on display at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The photographs are primarily of the South Fore people, an isolated group living in the New Guinea highlands. Ekman was studying their facial expressions, trying to figure out if the articulations of human facial…

The answer is a tenuous yes, although it depends on where you live. If your local utility burns lots of coal, then perhaps you should stick with a fuel efficient compact car. If you don’t know how your local utility generates electricity, then check out this nifty website from the EPA.