The Frontal Cortex

Archives for November, 2009

Vince Young

There was no sentence in How We Decide that I regretted more than this one, which was first written in the fall of 2007, when Vince Young was the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans: Vince Young ended up excelling in the pros. I was discussing the statistical disconnect between a QB’s score on the…

Lying and Creativity

Via Vaughan Bell, comes this wonderful essay by Tom Stafford on confabulation and creativity: In those patients with frontal damage who do confabulate, however, the brain injury makes them rely on their internal memories–their thoughts and wishes–rather than true memories. This is of course dysfunctional, but it is also creative in some of the ways…

Reverse-Engineering

Last week, a team of computer scientists led by Dharmendra S. Modha announced what sounded like an impressive breakthrough for neuroscience-inspired computing: Using Dawn Blue Gene / P supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Lab with 147,456 processors and 144 TB of main memory, we achieved a simulation with 1 billion spiking neurons and 10 trillion…

The Reading Brain

I’ve got a review of Stanislas Dehaene’s new book, Reading in the Brain, over at the Barnes and Noble Review: Right now, your mind is performing an astonishing feat. Photons are bouncing off these black squiggles and lines — the letters in this sentence — and colliding with a thin wall of flesh at the…

Luxury Goods

Saks and Barneys and the rest of those luxury retailers have discovered that nothing destroys a luxury brand like a sale: All around Saks Fifth Avenue, merchandise is sold out. The $2,520 Marni shearling vest? Gone. The $5,295 Brioni leather bomber jacket? Only one left. The $1,995 over-the-knee Christian Louboutin boots? The $1,995 over-the-knee Christian…

Fourth Down

Bill Belichick has never been the most popular coach in the NFL, but his Sunday night decision to go for it on 4th and 2 on his own 28 with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter has even his fans crying foul. I bring up this football decision not because I’m interested in a…

The Tiger Woods Effect

Success is intimidating. When we compete against someone who’s supposed to be better than us, we start to get nervous, and then we start to worry, and then we start to make stupid mistakes. That, at least, is the lesson of a new working paper by Jennifer Brown, a professor at the Kellogg school. Brown…

Expertise

The WSJ discovers the unreliability of wine critics, citing the fascinating statistical work of Robert Hodgson: In his first study, each year, for four years, Mr. Hodgson served actual panels of California State Fair Wine Competition judges–some 70 judges each year–about 100 wines over a two-day period. He employed the same blind tasting process as…

Dopamine and Future Forecasting

Ed Yong has a typically excellent post on a new paper that looks at how manipulating dopamine levels in the brain can change our predictions of future pleasure: Tali Sharot from University College London found that if volunteers had more dopamine in their brains as they thought about events in their future, they would imagine…

Orchid Genes

David Dobbs has a fantastic new article on behavioral genetics at The Atlantic. He adds an important amendment to the vulnerability hypothesis, which holds that certain genes make people more vulnerable to psychiatric disorders. While these snippets of DNA aren’t deterministic per se, when they are combined with traumatic childhood events, or a stressful few…