The Frontal Cortex

Archives for February, 2010

Loss Aversion

The amygdala is an almond shaped chunk of flesh in the center of your brain. It’s long been associated with a wide variety of mostly negative emotions and behaviors, from the generation of fear to the memory of painful associations. (There’s some suggestive evidence that sociopaths have a broken amygdala. Because they can’t learn from…

ChatRoulette

Sam Anderson, in New York Magazine, takes on ChatRoulette, that strange new site that connects you, via webcam, with a stream of strangers: The site was only a few months old, but its population was beginning to explode in a way that suggested serious viral potential: 300 users in December had grown to 10,000 by…

Borges Was A Neuroscientist

The neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga has written a lovely appreciation of Jorge Luis Borges in the latest Nature (not online). Quiroga focuses on Borges interest in neuroscience, which led him to write his classic short story Funes the Memorious, about a man who cannot forget: In the story of Funes, Borges described very precisely the…

The Isolated Mind

Megan O’Rourke has a really eloquent and important article on the history of grieving in the New Yorker. She spends a lot of time on the life and death of Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, who invented the five stages theory of human grief. (It turns out the stages don’t really exist.) But I was most interested in…

Prozac

Sharon Begley has an excellent Newsweek cover story on the rise and fall of anti-depressant medications, or how a class of drugs that were once hailed as medical miracles are now seen as barely better than placebos: In just over half of the published and unpublished studies, Kirsch and colleagues reported in 2002, the drug…

The Blue Brain

Via Vaughan at MindHacks, comes this link to a preview of a documentary-in-progress on The Blue Brain, that epic attempt to create a conscious supercomputer. I was fortunate enough to profile the Blue Brain in 2008: In the basement of a university in Lausanne, Switzerland sit four black boxes, each about the size of a…

Sex Ed

Ross Douthat reflects on the recent news that teenage birthrates inched upward during the Bush era, after more than a decade of decline: The new numbers, declared the president of Planned Parenthood, make it “crystal clear that abstinence-only sex education for teenagers does not work.” In reality, the numbers show no such thing. Abstinence financing…

Musical Predictions, Redux

In response to my recent post on the neuroscience of musical predictions, Alex Rehding, the Fanny Peabody Professor of Music at Harvard, wrote in to offer a musical theorist perspective. He makes several excellent points, and complicates the neuroscience in useful ways, so I thought I’d reproduce the relevant parts of his email below: The…