Developing Intelligence

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A fascinating paper from Gradinaru et al describes a genetically engineered mouse model of Parkinson’s disease that expresses a photoreceptor in the neurons of a particular part of the brain – the subthalamic nucleus (STN). This area is widely thought to be the central target of the immensely therapeutic technique for Parkinson’s known as deep…

A number of very smart people (and smart communities) seem like they might be under the impression that the “voodoo correlations” scandal in the neuroimaging community is somehow related to recent work by Bennett et al, who used fMRI to show task-related neural activity in a dead fish. These two things have almost nothing to…

Something’s afoot when a massively parallel and distributed system shows a bottleneck in performance. We’ve known that numerous bottlenecks plague cognition since the 1940’s, but only with recent advances in neuroimaging have we been able to say whether these bottlenecks reflect the intrusion of executive operations (for managing goals and organizing cognitive processing) or a…

Children assigned to chew sugar-free gum purportedly score 3% higher on standardized tests of math skills (as widely reported in the press). But is this just one of the 5% of all possible untrue hypotheses statistically guaranteed to have some significant result in its favor (in fact, it’s worse than that)? Is the effect due…

How many times did Pavlov ring the bell before his dogs’ meals until the dogs began to salivate? Surely, the number of experiences must make a difference, as anyone who’s trained a dog would attest. As described in a brilliant article by C.R. Gallistel (in Psych. Review; preprint here), this has been thought so self-evident…

Don’t think of a white bear. Doesn’t work so well, does it? Yet under some circumstances, people appear to be able to do precisely this: as described last week, young adults are thought (by some) to actually suppress the neural activity related to to-be-ignored stimuli, and even delay the peak of this neural activity, relative…

The cognitive neurosciences have had high frequency oscillations on the brain: so called “gamma-waves”, as recorded on the scalp, have been linked to working memory processes (via their interaction with slower “theta waves”), to cognitive insight, and even to consciousness. (I think there’s an unwritten rule that whenever someone mentions consciousness, they’ll be made to…

By many current theories, we accomplish control over behavior by using the prefrontal cortex to “bias” the competitive dynamics playing out in the rest of the brain. By some models, this bias is positive – it helps the goal-relevant representations win the competition. By other models, the bias is also negative – it can help…

A new study suggests that physically stepping backwards may be associated with gains in the ability to deal with problematic situations. As newly reported in Psychological Science (hat tip to Hannah) by Koch, Holland, Hengstler & Knippenberg, people were better able to resolve interference in laboratory “Stroop” task after stepping backwards, relative to stepping to…

Every now and then, I read some science from some other dimension. That is, the methods are so unusual, the relevant theories so fringe, or the conclusions so startling that I feel like the authors must be building on work from a completely separate science, with its own theories and orthodoxy. This can be good…