The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2009

Marathons and Memory

The Neurocritic has a fascinating summary of a recent paper investigating different types of memory in marathon runners. Why marathoners? Because completing a 26.2 mile race is an insanely arduous exercise, and leads to the massive release of stress hormones such as cortisol. Here are the scientists: Indeed, cortisol levels recorded 30 min after completion…

Television and Loneliness

Over at Mind Matters, there’s a cool post by Fionnuala Butler and Cynthia Picketton on the benefits of watching television when lonely, which seems to provide the same sort of emotional relief as spending time with real people: For decades, psychologists have been interested in understanding how individuals achieve and maintain social relationships in order…

Threat Detection

Over at the Times, Benedict Carey has a fascinating article on the crucial importance of intuition on the battlefield, where soldiers are often forced to make decisions without knowing why, exactly, they are making them: The United States military has spent billions on hardware, like signal jamming technology, to detect and destroy what the military…

Choking

I’ve got an article in the Observer Sports Monthly on athletes and choking, which is adapted from my book: We call such failures “choking”, if only because a person frayed by pressure might as well not have oxygen. What makes choking so morbidly fascinating is that the performers are incapacitated by their own thoughts. Perry,…

The Blue Brain

Henry Markram, the director of the Blue Brain project, recently delivered a talk at TED that’s gotten lots of press coverage. (It was the lead story on the BBC for a few hours…) Not surprisingly, all the coverage focused on the same stunningly ambitious claim, which is Markram’s assertion that an artificial brain is “ten…

Neuroaesthetics

I’ve got a feature article in the latest Psychology Today on neuroaesthetics, the ambitious attempt to interpret art through the prism of neuroscience. Here’s the beginning of the article: Consider the flightless fluffs of brown otherwise known as herring gull chicks. When they’re first born, these baby birds are entirely dependent on their mother for…

Designing for Creativity

Over at Mind Matters, we’ve just posted a very interesting article on creativity and distance, or why thinking something is farther away makes us more likely to solve difficult problems that require original answers: According to the construal level theory (CLT) of psychological distance, anything that we do not experience as occurring now, here, and…

The Neuroscience of McGriddles

A few days ago, I had my first McGriddle. While I usually try to avoid McDonald’s meat products – that’s the benevolent influence of my wife, who rightly insists on eating humanely raised animal products – I was stuck in an airport and couldn’t bear the idea of another yogurt parfait. The “standard” McGriddle consists…

Primal Information

Over at Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong has a great summary of a new paper trying to figure out why information (at least in primates) can be just as rewarding as primal, biological rewards, such as calories and sex. Ethan Bromberg-Martin and Okihide Hikosaka trained two thirsty rhesus monkeys to choose between two targets…

Coleridge and Science

I’ve just begun Richard Holmes’ latest work, The Age of Wonder, and it’s as good as everyone says it is. The book is a history of late 18th century romantic science, filled with digressions into hot air balloons, Tahitian beaches and the “near suicidal” experiments of Humphry Davy. One of the subplots of the book…