The Frontal Cortex

Archives for April, 2008

Men Behaving Badly

Rebecca Solnit, author of some wonderful books, astutely describes one of the worst side-effects of testosterone: We were preparing to leave [a party in Aspen] when our host said, “No, stay a little longer so I can talk to you.” He was an imposing man who’d made a lot of money in advertising or something…

Prisons and Drugs

Did you know that more than 53 percent of the prisoners in Federal prisons are serving time for drug offenses? That’s crazy. When will our politicians realize that drug addiction is a mental illness, and that the War on Drugs is essentially a futile struggle against the dopamine reward pathway? Addicts need treatment, not incarceration.…

Over at the wonderful World’s Fair, Ben Cohen has an interview with Kelly Joyce, author of the forthcoming Magnetic Appeal: MRI and the Myth of Transparency. Here is how Joyce summarizes the main argument of her book: In the United States, MRI is socially constructed as a sacred technology–one that represents progress, certainty, and good…

Holding Your Breath

Crazy stuff, courtesy of John Tierney: The natural impulse to stop holding your breath (typically within 30 seconds or a minute) is not because of an oxygen shortage but because of the painful buildup of carbon dioxide. Mr. Blaine said he began trying to overcome that urge when he was a child in Brooklyn and…

Is this chart surprising? I was an Arts (English) and Psychology (Neuroscience) major, so I clearly didn’t choose the most lucrative fields. (And I contemplated a philosophy minor…) For me, the most surprising aspect of the chart (and it’s still not that surprising) was the payoff of practicality. The best paying sciences, like chemistry, computer…

The Sound of Silence

Speaking of the senses, it’s always fascinating what happens when that sensory spigot is turned off, so that the cortex is suddenly filled with silence. Jad Abumrad, the co-host of Radio Lab (download their new season!), recently spent some time in an anechoic chamber, or a room designed to stifle soundwaves and erase echoes. The…

Poetry and Special Effects

In honor of National Poetry Month, which always struck me as a very bizarre month (is poetry less essential in the other eleven months of the year? And why April?), I thought I’d post a selection of some poetry on brainy themes. Here, for instance, is the opening stanza of Franz Wright poem in the…

The Vanity of Other Species

I’ve got a cockatiel with an inverted beak – it’s a pretty funny looking underbite, but doesn’t interfere with his eating – and I’ve often wondered if animals ever get self-conscious about their appearance. Does my cockatiel have any clue that he looks a little ridiculous? Does the chinese crested hairless dog realize that it’s…

Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column on rationalizing, partisan affiliation and the Clinton/Obama race: If you’re a Democrat, your candidate won in Wednesday night’s presidential debate — that was obvious, and most neutral observers would recognize that. But the other candidate issued appalling distortions, and the news commentary afterward was shamefully biased. So you’re madder…

CSPAN

One of the odd things about blogs, at least for me, is that they encourage a really informal and oddly intimate relationship between the writer and reader. I feel like I really know my favorite bloggers, in a way that I would never presume to know my favorite novelists or newspaper columnists or magazine writers.…