The Frontal Cortex

Archives for December, 2008

Football and the Unconscious

In the latest New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell has a thought-provoking article on the difficulty of figuring out what sort of person is best suited for a particular job. He begins by discussing the challenge of choosing college quarterbacks, a topic that I’ve written about a few times before (and cover at length in my forthcoming…

Music, Patterns, Sine-Waves

Sine-Wave speech is a wonderful example of the importance of patterns when it comes to our sense of sound. When people first hear a sentence that’s been artificially degraded, the sentence sounds like a sequence of “simultaneous whistles, or science fiction sounds.” However, when people are first played the undistorted sentence – they’ve been given…

Political Corruption

The pathetic behavior of the Illinois governor – his brazen attempt to sell a Senate seat – raises the larger question of power and corruption, and whether having a position of power reliably leads to unethical behavior. (My first thought, upon hearing that Blagojevich had been recorded by the Feds, was that even the lowliest…

The Depression Epidemic

While researching this story, I came across a fascinating (and controversial) take on the “depression epidemic” called The Loss of Sadness: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder. It took a few months, but I’ve got a new interview with the authors up at Scientific American: LEHRER: In your book, you take a critical…

Happiness is Contagious

Yawn. Just seeing that word made you more likely to open your mouth in a big inhalation, contort your face and stretch out your arms. In other words, yawning is a contagious experience. Now it turns out that happiness is like a yawn: it easily spreads between people in social networks. Nicholas Christakis, a doctor/sociologist…

Salt and Lead

Nicholas Kristof has an important column on the link between iodized salt and IQ in developing countries: Almost one-third of the world’s people don’t get enough iodine from food and water. The result in extreme cases is large goiters that swell their necks, or other obvious impairments such as dwarfism or cretinism. But far more…

Yale

If you’re in the New Haven area, I’ll be talking about the neuroscience behind Proust, umami and Girl Talk at Yale tomorrow at 5 PM. The talk is free and open to the public.

Hell is a Perfect Memory

What would it be like to have an immaculate memory, so that every detail of life was instantly inscribed in the brain? It’s actually unbearable. Here’s Der Spiegel: Price can rattle off, without hesitation, what she saw and heard on almost any given date. She remembers many early childhood experiences and most of the days…

I See Dead People

Vaughan Bell, of Mindhacks fame, wrote a really interesting article on “post-bereavement ghosts” over at Mind Matters. I had no idea that such hallucinations were so ubiquitous: Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception.…

Internet Manners

Now that the broken windows theory of crime has been experimentally validated – disorderly streets really do make people more likely to steal – Jason Kottke wonders if the theory also applies to online spaces: Much of the tone of discourse online is governed by the level of moderation and to what extent people are…