The Frontal Cortex

Archives for October, 2009

The Gay Animal Kingdom

I still don’t have any additional details, but the initial newspaper report from the Jacksonville Journal-Courier is disturbing: A Southwestern High School English teacher has been suspended after reports he had students in his classes to read an article about homsexuality in the animal kingdom. Dan Delong of Carlinville acknowledged his suspension but declined to…

The Neuronovel

In the latest N+1, Marco Roth takes a critical look at the rise of the “neuronovel”: The last dozen years or so have seen the emergence of a new strain within the Anglo-American novel. What has been variously referred to as the novel of consciousness or the psychological or confessional novel–the novel, at any rate,…

Dopaminergic Aesthetics

Natalie Angiers profiles dopamine, which isn’t just about rewards: In the communal imagination, dopamine is about rewards, and feeling good, and wanting to feel good again, and if you don’t watch out, you’ll be hooked, a slave to the pleasure lines cruising through your brain. Hey, why do you think they call it dopamine? Yet…

Grocery Shopping

In a recent NY Times Magazine, Mark Bittman (aka the Minimalist) waxes enthusiastic on the potential of online grocery shopping: That’s why, to focus on things that could happen in our lifetimes, we should take a look at improving online grocery shopping. The one time I tried shopping online I was sent a free watermelon…

Learning from Mistakes

In the latest Mind Matters, the psychologists Henry L. Roediger and Bridgid Finn review some interesting new work by Nate Kornell and colleagues, which looked at the advantages of learning through error. Conventional pedagogy assumes that the best way to teach children is to have them repeatedly practice once they know the right answer, so…

The Personality Paradox

David Brooks has written yet another wonderful column on the mind. This time he explores the nagging gap between our intuitions about personality – we each express a particular set of character traits, which can be traced back to our early childhood – and the scientific facts, which suggest that the vague personality traits measured…

Robert Parker

Via Felix Salmon comes this amusing anecdote about Robert Parker’s blind tasting of 2005 Bordeaux, which he has declared the best vintage since 1982. Parker has previously rated all of these wines, and even given them exact point scores, so his public blind taste test was an interesting natural experiment: would Parker’s new scores correlate…

Reading, E-Books and the Brain

The New York Times wonders if E-Books are inherently less pleasing for the brain that ink on a page. They canvass a diverse group of experts, most of whom focus on the nature of attention during the reading process. They see old-fashioned printed books as a distraction-free medium, stark and pure and elemental. Here, for…

Smart Mice

I’ve got a new article in Nature this week on the growing number of learning and memory enhanced strains of mice, and what these smart rodents can teach us about the human mind. I also discuss Luria’s The Mind of A Mnemonist and the stunning research demonstrating that the cognitive deficits of many neurodevelopmental disorders,…

Football

In light of my recent post on the difficulty of changing our decision-making habits – even when we’re aware that our habits are biased and flawed – I thought it might be interesting to look at two examples from professional football. Why sports? Given the intense competitive pressure in the NFL – there’s a thin…