The Frontal Cortex

Archives for August, 2008

Expensive Wine

The latest Men’s Vogue has a rather interesting article (not online) by Jay McInerney on a small group of real estate moguls who like to drink very, very expensive wine. For these oenophiles, a 1982 Romanee-Conti is a young wine – even their champagne is typically several decades old – and a $500 bottle is…

Nature, Nurture and Switched Babies

Once upon a time, back when the Human Genome Project threatened to unravel the mystery of human nature – every aspect of individuality would be reduced to a SNIP – the Nature/Nurture debate seemed like the most hotly contested question in science. Are personality traits inherited or learned? To what extent can we rebel against…

The Myth of the Undecided Voter

I’ve often suspected (based on a highly unsystematic series of conversations with classic New Hampshire independents) that most undecided voters are really just low-information voters, who have actually made a decision but don’t quite know how to explain their decision. If you prod, you’ll typically find that they’re “leaning” in one direction or another, or…

James and Measurement

Over at Neurophilosophy, Mo highlights one of my favorite William James quotes: The stream of thought flows on; but most of its segments fall into the bottomless abyss of oblivion. Of some, no memory survives the instant of their passage. Of others, it is confined to a few moments, hours or days. Others, again, leave…

Unhappiness and Advertising

Here’s Seth Godin: A journalist asked me, Most people have a better standard of living today than Louis XIV did in his day. So why are so many people unhappy? What you have doesn’t make you unhappy. What you want does. And want is created by us, the marketers. Marketers trying to grow market share…

Free Will and Ethics

Over at Mind Matters, we’ve got an interesting article on how believing in free will can affect our ethical behavior: In a clever new study, psychologists Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota and Jonathan Schooler at the University of California at Santa Barbara tested this question by giving participants passages from The Astonishing Hypothesis,…

The Aging Brain

I had an article this weekend in the Washington Post looking at the recent spate of “age defiance” – Dara Torres, Madonna, John McCain, etc. – and some recent neuroscience research: A s a 27-year old science writer who still gets carded at bars, I often find discussions of the aging process pleasantly abstract. I’m…

Fear of Death and Politics

John McCain remarked last week that the hostilities in Georgia marked the “first serious crisis” since the end of the Cold War. His surrogates on the news shows have expanded on that position, as they repeat the talking point about how the world is so dangerous and full of evil. This strategy shouldn’t be surprising:…

Proust in Paperback

The paperback version of my first book, Proust Was A Neuroscientist, is now shipping from Amazon. Needless to say, everyone should buy the book in triplicate. I’d apologize for the self-promotion, but isn’t blogging just one big orgy of self-promotion?

The Limits of fMRI

My latest article for the Boston Globe Ideas section looks at some recent criticisms of fMRI, at least when it’s misused: The brain scan image – a silhouette of the skull, highlighted with bright splotches of primary color – has also become a staple of popular culture, a symbol of how scientific advances are changing…