Brains

The Loom

Category archives for Brains

Coming Online?

There’s been a small, but stunning, step forward in the quest to help people who have suffered consciousness-impairing injuries. Scientists inserted electrodes into the brain of a man in a minimally conscious state. They used the electrodes to stimulate parts of the brain believed to be crucial for binding together the brain into an aware…

Reading on the Brain

The article I wrote for Scientific American in 2005 on the self has been anthologized in a new book: The Best of the Brain from Scientific American: Mind, Matter, and Tomorrows’ Brain. Check out the book’s line-up, which Oliver Sacks calls, “an irresistible guide to this new territory.”

A Handsome Brain

Larry Moran passes on the rules of the game: go to the Wellcome Library’s new image bank and find your favorite scientific image. Here’s my pick: the first good picture of the brain, drawn by Christopher Wren in 1664 for Thomas Willis, the first neurologist. (More on Willis and Wren here.) [Credit: Wellcome Institute, Creative…

Animal Time Travelers

You may have read not long ago about birds that can plan for the future. The occasion was a paper that came out in the journal Nature detailing some experiments on scrub jays. I found the paper fascinating, not just for the results themselves, but for the many other studies on mental time travel that…

All I want for Christmas is a lying frog and a bubble-sniffing mole. For those who want to head for the original papers, check out: 1. “Why Animals Lie: How Dishonesty and Belief Can Coexist in a Signaling System” (free full text) 2. “Underwater ‘sniffing’ by semi-aquatic mammals” Happy Holidays! UPDATE 12/26: Forgot to mention…

Star-Nosed Genius

Congratulations to the new crop of Macarthur genius grant winners, including Ken Catania, a neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University whose muse is the star-nosed mole. It turns out that a single strange animal can reveal a lot about how nervous systems develop and evolve. For more on Catania’s work, see my blog post from last year…

Before 1833 there were no scientists. It was in that year that William Whewell, a British philosopher, geologist, and all-around bright bulb, coined the word scientist. His mentor, the poet Samuel Coleridge, thought the English language needed a term for someone who studied the natural world but who did not inhabit the lofty heights of…

Alchemy Without The Shame

John Noble Wilford has a long, interesting article in today’s New York Times on the rehabilitation of the alchemist. Once the icon of the bad old days before the scientific revolution, alchemy has been emerging in recent years as more of a proto-science. Indeed, a fair number of the heroes of the scientific revolution were…

Crayfish Psychoanalysis

It’s always great to hear senior scientists talk about the bad old days, when one computer could fill an entire room and no one could say what genes were made of. Eric Kandel of Columbia has been studying memory since the 1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work. These days he’s…

I have a fondness for collecting brain lore–memes about the wonders of the human brain that race around the world for decades. The classic of brain lore is the “ten-percent myth.” As I wrote