The Frontal Cortex

Archives for February, 2008

Math and the Brain

Jim Holt has a great article on the strange neural anatomy of mathematics in the new New Yorker: One morning in September, 1989, a forme sales representative in his mid-fortie entered an examination room with Stanisla Dehaene, a young neuroscientist based in Paris Three years earlier, the man, whom researcher came to refer to as…

Obama and Behavioral Economics

Noam Scheiber has an article in TNR touting Obama’s connections to behavioral economics. The article isn’t particularly persuasive, since the only examples Scheiber can muster are Obama’s 401(k) savings plan and his embrace of automatic tax returns. Neither plan is unique to Obama, and only the 401 (k) savings plan is really rooted in the…

Dilating Pupils and Decisions

A cool new PNAS paper from the Koch lab: In their experiment, the researchers presented six volunteers with four types of ambiguous stimuli. The volunteers viewed or listened to the stimuli and pressed a key on a keyboard when a perceptual shift occurred. At the same time, infrared eye-tracking software measured the diameter of the…

Happiness and Children

Ronald Bailey looks at the data and concludes that having children doesn’t make us happy: “Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people’s overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact,” reports Harvard psychologist and happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert. In addition, the more children…

Prozac and Placebos

Lots of attention has been paid to the latest review/meta-analysis demonstrating that popular antidepressant medications don’t seem to be that much more effective than placebos. While this certainly isn’t the first time someone has demonstrated that Prozac is only mildly more useful than a sugar pill (unless, that is, you fall into the “severely depressed”…

Abusing Adderall

Molly Young has a really interesting article on the rampant abuse of Adderall in elite universities in n+1. Essentially, Adderall is a composite of several different amphetamines, which are digested by the brain at different rates. So many kids are prescribed Adderall nowadays that virtually every university has an excess supply, which is then sold…

The Power of Expectations

I had an article in the Sunday Boston Globe Ideas section on the way our expectations of reality often trump reality itself: Expectations have long been a topic of psychological research, and it’s well known that they affect how we react to events, or how we respond to medication. But in recent years, scientists have…

Kottke

Loyal readers know that I’m a big fan of Jason Kottke. His blog, aptly summarized as “liberal arts 2.0,” is a consistent source of the best and smartest links from around the web. So I was really flattered to get interviewed on the site: Kottke: Are there other books/media out there that share a third…

Measuring Carbon

Michael Specter has written a really fine article on the ambiguities and complexities involved in the measurement of carbon emissions. Sounds dull, right? It’s actually full of fascinating facts: Just two countries–Indonesia and Brazil–account for about ten per cent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Neither possesses the type of heavy industry that…

The Fourth Culture

In my recent Seed article on science and art, I wrote about how we need to foster a new cultural movement: If we are serious about unifying human knowledge, then we’ll need to create a new movement that coexists with the third culture but that deliberately trespasses on our cultural boundaries and seeks to create…