Neuroscience

The Frontal Cortex

Category archives for Neuroscience

Poor People Learn Faster

Marginal utility can be measured. According to new research out of Wolfram Schultz’s lab, poor people are much quicker learners than rich people when playing a Pavlovian paradigm for small amounts of money. (Poor people took about 12 trials to figure out the game, while rich people took about 35 trials.) This behavior was then…

Psychology and Neuroscience

Dave and Greta Munger have posted an excellent reply to the following question: What’s the difference between psychology and neuroscience? Is psychology still relevant as we learn more about the brain and how it works? You have to be a pretty staunch reductionist to believe that neuroscience makes psychology obsolete. After all, according to scientific…

Power is Corrupting

Does power corrupt? And is absolute power absolutely corrupting? Here’s some suggestive evidence: Researchers led by the psychologist Dacher Keltner took groups of three ordinary volunteers and randomly put one of them in charge. Each trio had a half-hour to work through a boring social survey. Then a researcher came in and left a plateful…

Is Depression Overdiagnosed?

A recent study in The Archives of General Psychiatry suggests that 25 percent of all Americans diagnosed with depression are actually just dealing with the normal disappointments of life, like divorce or the loss of a job. Their sadness is being treated like a medical condition. They were given drugs, when what they really needed…

Dreams and Narrative Suspense

I had a very bizarre dream last night. I was driving to the gas station to buy milk. It was the middle of the night. (In case you were wondering, I don’t normally make nocturnal milk runs, or buy my dairy products at the local Exxon-Mobil station.) As I pull into the gas station, I…

In a recent issue of The New Republic, Alex Heard takes David Sedaris to task for blurring the line between memoir and novel, fiction and non-fiction, truth and lies: I do think Sedaris exaggerates too much for a writer using the nonfiction label. And after spending several weeks fact-checking four of his books–Barrel Fever (1994),…

Attention, Sensation and Mystery

Over at Mind Matters, there’s a typically fascinating discussion of a paper concerning the underlying mechanisms of executive control and attention: To find out what happens during attentional lapses, a team of researchers led by Daniel H. Weissman used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to try to identify how these brain areas behave when attention…

Morality, Psychopaths and Emotions

On Monday, I posted about some recent imaging work documenting the way the brain distinguishes between “personal” and “impersonal” moral dilemmas. Now comes a new Nature paper from a medley of researchers documenting how damage to a single brain region – the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPO) – erases this fundamental distinction. Damage to an area…

Prison and Mental Illness

Here are your disturbing prison facts for the day: Percentage of American adults held in either prison or mental institutions in 1953 and today, respectively: 0.67, 0.68 Percentage of these adults in 1953 who were in mental institutions: 75 Percentage today who are in prisons: 97 That’s from the latest Harper’s magazine. My first reaction…

Birds Acting Human

It’s hard to believe that just over fifty years ago psychology was in the firm grip of behaviorism, which denied any semblance of intelligence or emotion in animals. (They were just biological machines.) Talk of anything but stimulus and reward was just sentimental pseudoscience. Then came Chomsky and Goodall and de Waal and a legion…