Neuroscience

The Frontal Cortex

Category archives for Neuroscience

Investing in Preschool

A new study by economists James Heckman and Dimitriy Masterov argues that investing in the education of young children (pre-K) provides the greatest return on investment. In contrast, trying to educate the brains of adolescents, the economists say, is largely a waste of resources. Here’s Joel Waldfogel: The early investment [in education] is needed, the…

Sleep and Heat

From the March 31 issue of The Lancet: The ease of getting to sleep and staying asleep depends not only on previous wake time, but also on associations with the circadian rhythm of core temperature. Sleep is easiest to initiate when core temperature is falling rapidly or is at its lowest, and most difficult when…

Nudges and Decision-Making

David Leonhardt has an interesting column on the importance of using subtle environmental cues – Leonhardt calls them “nudges” – to encourage good decision-making. He begins with a fascinating anecdote about patients in hospital beds: For more than a decade, it turns out, medical researchers have known that people on ventilators should generally have their…

Thinking During Sleep

Score another one for unconscious processing, which is especially prevalent during sleep. A new study in PNAS suggests that, as people sleep, their brains are forming relational memories, which require “the flexible ability to generalize across existing stores of information”. Earlier studies found that people appear better able to remember things they have just learned…

I’ve got an article in the Boston Globe Ideas section today on the cognitive revolution, and recent research demonstrating the relationship between cognition and emotion. Ever since Plato, scholars have drawn a clear distinction between thinking and feeling. Cognitive psychology tended to reinforce this divide: emotions were seen as interfering with cognition; they were the…

The Transgendered Brain

Mike Penner, a sports writer for the LA Times, has decided to become a woman. He will return to the paper as Christine Daniels. He wrote a gripping personal reflection for the paper explaining his decision: Transsexualism is a complicated and widely misunderstood medical condition. It is a natural occurrence — unusual, no question, but…

NFL Brains

Does football cause brain damage? The evidence remains sketchy and completely inconclusive, but is nevertheless suggestive: Bennet Omalu, a man who knew nothing about football and was a soccer goalie in his homeland, believes he has proven that repeated concussions in football lead to early-onset dementia, very similar to the boxing ailment known as “punch-drunk…

The Psychology of Genocide

Stalin famously said that “A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.” Sadly, it turns out that Stalin’s observation is psychologically accurate. That, at least, is the conclusion of Paul Slovic, a scientist at the University of Oregon. Slovic set out to answer a tragically simple question: Why do good people…

Character Memory

So I’m sitting in the movie theater the other day (I went to see The Lives of Others – go see it), and as soon as the first scene begins, the elderly lady sitting next to me says to herself: “Gosh darnit! I’ve already seen this movie! But it sounded so different when I read…

Can Economic Utility Be Measured?

A friend of mine (who happens to be Ph.D student in economics) sent me a skeptical email regarding a recent article that sought to measure marginal utility: I’m really not convinced that marginal utility can be so easily correlated with activity in the midbrain. I think one of the virtues of the economic definition of…