The Frontal Cortex

Archives for March, 2008

MSG and Umami

One of the most frequent questions I get when speaking about my book is the MSG question. My talk is about L-glutamate, the taste of umami and veal stock (it makes a little more sense if you’ve read the book) and, before I get to the punchline, I’m inevitably interrupted by someone insisting that MSG…

Blue Brain

My article on the Blue Brain project is now online*: It took less than two years for the Blue Brain supercomputer to accurately simulate a neocortical column, which is a tiny slice of brain containing approximately 10,000 neurons, with about 30 million synaptic connections between them. “The column has been built and it runs,” Markram…

Drunk on Water

I know I just wrote an article on the power of expectations, but this is ridiculous: In a series of studies in the 1970s and ’80s, psychologists at the University of Washington put more than 300 students into a study room outfitted like a bar with mirrors, music and a stretch of polished pine. The…

Pitchers and Hitters

The Times has an interesting profile of Johan Santana, perhaps the most effective pitcher in baseball. What’s interesting about Santana is that his secret isn’t a 98 mph fastball or some wicked new breaking ball. Rather, he strikes out batters because he denies batters the perceptual cues they rely on when making batting decisions: Whether…