The Frontal Cortex

Archives for June, 2008

CT-Scans

I’ve written before about the dangers of transparency and medical technology, at least when it comes to diagnosing back pain. Simply put, doctors tend to assume that any imaging technology with better resolution will lead to better diagnoses. But that’s often not the case: A large study published in the Journal of the American Medical…

Old Light

This makes me feel very lonely: The “Pillars of Creation” may be the most iconic Hubble photograph ever taken. “Located in the Eagle Nebula, the pillars are clouds of molecular hydrogen, light years in length, where new stars are being born,” says Aguilar. “However, recent discoveries indicate these pillars were destroyed by a massive nearby…

Whitman and Waterfalls

Somewhere, Walt Whitman is smiling: From “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry“: FLOOD-TIDE below me! I watch you face to face; Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face. Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me! On the ferry-boats, the…

Top-Down

Language is the stuff of thought. I’m reminded of this truism every time I sip a glass of wine and some pretentious snob (usually me) insists on saying something about the Chianti Classico smelling like cherries, or how the New Zealand sauvignon blanc exudes the perfume of pineapple. As soon as I hear those nouns,…

Scientific Prose

There’s an interesting review on prediction errors and temporal difference learning theory in the latest Trends in Cognitive Sciences. (Really, it’s fascinating stuff.) But I don’t want to talk today about the content of the article. Instead, I want to discuss its form. The vast, vast majority of science articles follow the same basic pattern:…

Summer Food

Here are three food-related items I’ve been enjoying lately: 1) Fennel Pollen: Like all great spices, the flavor of wild fennel pollen eludes adjectives. It’s like a fennel seed, only much more so. I sprinkle it on everything from roasted wild salmon to pasta with zucchini, basil and mozzarella. (The Tuscans use it on pork.)…

Electric Cars

This is the car I covet: It’s been a long day for our adorable yellow test car. This morning we headed for Think’s factory in Aurskog, some 40 miles into the bluegrass Scandinavian countryside, with about an 85% charge in the car’s advanced sodium-cell battery. But Ladehaug — who is directionally challenged too — got…

God is a Corporation?

If William James were alive today, I’m pretty sure that he’d be an experimental philosopher. (He’d also be a cognitive psychologist, a public intellectual in the mold of Richard Rorty and a damn fine essayist, filling the back pages of the New Yorker and New York Review of Books with incisive articles on everything from…

Oxytocin

I was on the Takeaway last week talking about this study: We examined the role of serotonin transporter (5-HTT) and oxytocin receptor (OXTR) genes in explaining differences in sensitive parenting in a community sample of 159 Caucasian, middle-class mothers with their 2-year-old toddlers at risk for externalizing behavior problems, taking into account maternal educational level,…

Science, Criticism, fMRI

In a recent issue of Nature, Nikos Logothetis, director of the Max Plank Institute for Biological Cybernetics, wrote some surprisingly harsh sentences about the experimental limitations of fMRI. The piece is especially noteworthy because Logothetis has probably done more than anyone else to document the tight correlation between what fMRI measures (changes in cortical blood…