The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2008

The Reading Brain

Over at Mind Matters, the expert blog I curate at Scientific American, we’ve had some really good posts lately. The most recent post, by Maryanne Wolf (author of that other Proust book on neuroscience, Proust and the Squid), Mirit Barzillai and Elizabeth Norton, looks at the reading brain. They discuss a recent paper by Laurent…

The Poetry of Decapitated Dogs

First, watch this: Then read the poem it inspired, which was written by one of my favorite poets, Wislawa Szymborska: The Experiment As a short subject before the main feature – in which the actors did their best to make me cry and even laugh – we were shown an interesting experiment involving a head.…

Kanye West Is A Neuroscientist?

I guess I should make it clear that, contrary to the title of my talk, Kanye West isn’t really a neuroscientist. (Conveying irony via the internet isn’t easy. Although it’s still amusing to imagine him, in full rapper regalia, doing minipreps and PCR’s.) So what does Kanye have to do with the brain? Well, I…

Flight and Wonder

Flying back from Little Rock, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a 68 year old man who had never flown on a plane before. For most of us, traveling through the air at 400 mph on a steel bird has become such a routine, banal, tiresome, frustrating experience that it’s nice to be…

Pat Barker, PTSD, Regeneration

Kennedy Fraser had an illuminating profile of the novelist Pat Barker in a recent New Yorker (not online): Barker grew up with silent, wounded men. “And with talkative women, spinning stories,” she said. “Stories with bits missing.” She is a true war baby. “My mother was in the Wrems” – the Women’s Royal Navy Service…

Me in Little Rock

If I’ve got any readers in the Little Rock area, you might be interested in a little talk I’m giving tomorrow evening at the Clinton School of Public Service. The title of the talk is “Kanye West Was A Neuroscientist,” which has poor Marcel rolling over in his grave.

The King Salmon

This is very depressing: The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.…

The Taste of Sensory Experience

A few weeks ago, John Lanchester wrote a thoughtful meditation on the intertwined nature of perception, smell and taste: A taste or a smell can pass you by, unremarked or nearly so, in large part because you don’t have a word for it; then you see the thing and grasp the meaning of a word…

Algebra Education and John Dewey

It’s long been recognized that American kids suck at math, at least when compared to kids in Singapore, Finland, etc. What’s less well known is that the steep decline in proficiency only starts when kids are taught algebra. That, at least, is the conclusion of a new government report: “The sharp falloff in mathematics achievement…

Heartbroken Birds

Via bookslut comes a heartbreaking excerpt from Roger Deakin’s Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees: [Konrad] Lorenz observed that jackdaws form lifelong attachments, as rooks seem to do, and that there is a distinct, well-understood pecking order within the tribe to which all the members adhere without question. Lorenz gradually learnt the Jackdaw vocabulary: ‘Zick, Zick’…