The Frontal Cortex

Archives for April, 2009

Self Comes to Mind

There’s no way in hell I deserve to be on the stage at this incredible event, but I’m so honored to be included: Yo-Yo Ma performs the world premiere of Self Comes to Mind, a musical composition by Bruce Adolphe, composer in residence at the Brain and Creativity Institute and resident lecturer of The Chamber…

Medieval Metaphors

Over at Mind Hacks, Vaughan finds a fascinating review of recent books on the history of the senses. He highlights a short section of medieval theories of perception, which hypothesized that the eyes actively sent out “rays” that illuminated what we saw. (This view of visual sensation is what made the “evil eye” possible –…

Cognitive Enhancement

Margaret Talbot has a thorough and thought-provoking article in the New Yorker on the potential pitfalls of “neuroenhancing drugs”. At this point, enhancement essentially consists of taking uppers (Adderall, Ritalin, Provigil, etc.) to improve concentration and focus. These drugs might have fancy new brand names, but the underlying concept is as old as caffeine and…

Bilingual Babies

Here’s a fascinating new study demonstrating that it’s good to get exposed to multiple languages even as a preverbal infant: Children exposed to bilingual input typically learn 2 languages without obvious difficulties. However, it is unclear how preverbal infants cope with the inconsistent input and how bilingualism affects early development. In 3 eye-tracking studies we…

What is it like to be a baby?

My latest article for the Boston Globe Ideas section is now online. This piece was inspired by my brand new beautiful nephew, Jude Lehrer – may this blog post increase your Google presence! What is it like to be a baby? For centuries, this question would have seemed absurd: behind that adorable facade was a…

Confabulations

Just when you thought people couldn’t get any sillier or more confused, psychologists uncover yet another innate foible. This one is called “choice blindness,” and it refers to the ways in which people are utterly blind to their own choices and preferences. We think we want X, but then we’re given Y, and so we…

Traffic

I’ve always been fascinated by traffic. (I grew up in LA, so I had plenty of time to indulge my interest.) City streets are a complex system in which seemingly insignificant changes – a broken street light, a stalled car, a poorly designed highway merge – can have dramatic consequences. In this sense, it’s a…

The Psychology of the Sale

I was doing my grocery shopping yesterday when I stumbled upon a discount that I assumed was a clerical mistake: some fancy olive oil had been reduced from $23 to $9. Needless to say, I immediately put a bottle in my cart, even though I didn’t need another bottle of olive oil. But then, just…

Magic and Neuroscience

I’ve got a new article in the latest issue of Wired, guest-edited by J.J. Abrams. It’s quite an excellent issue, I think, although I’m still utterly befuddled by the hidden puzzles on the glossy pages. My article is an investigation of what stage magicians can teach us about the human mind and the frailties of…

Connectivity and Status Anxiety

Virginia Heffernan, writing in the Times magazine, takes Bruce Sterling’s SXSW talk about connectivity and poverty mainstream: Bruce Sterling, the cyberpunk writer, proposed at the South by Southwest tech conference in Austin that the clearest symbol of poverty is dependence on “connections” like the Internet, Skype and texting. “Poor folk love their cellphones!” he said.…