Welcome to Encephalon, the blog carnival for brain geeks and those who love them. We got a heap of submissions this time around, so let’s dive right in:
The Brain: An Owner’s Manual
First up, Alvaro over at Sharp Brains discusses how aging brains may be affecting the legal profession, and urges us to keep our own memory problems in perspective in “Baby Boomers, Healthy Aging and Job Performance.”
If you’re still convinced that your brain is putt-putting along like an old jalopy, it might be time to read up on the “three easy and quick mental exercises that everyone should be doing daily.”
In “Digital Immortality,” Neurologica presents a novel solution to transporting human consciousness into a machine without endangering the sense of self. The reward for exchanging your “meat brain” for a circuit board?
The AI brain may have hundreds or thousands of times the memory and processing power of your meat brain, so the loss of your original brain may represent a loss of only about .1% of your neurological function – negligible.
If you’re still confused, don’t despair. In “More on Computers and Consciousness,” Neurologica answers readers’ questions.
Speaking of meat . . . in “Maybe it’s not really you making those New Year’s resolutions,” Socratic Gadfly argues that we’re all just “sophisticated meat machines,” dreaming of free will.
Not content to poke holes in just one of science’s sacred cows, the Gadfly takes adaptationists to task for choosing “quasi-utopian” values over “good science,” in “Evolutionary Psychology, Daniel Dennett, and the supposedly algorithmic nature of evolution.”
In other news about adaptation, Dave over at Cog Daily spotlights a recent study which set out to determine if humans are hardwired to remember words associated with survival. Read “Survival of the fittest . . . memories,” to learn the answer.
Breaking News in Psychology
What do cholesterol researchers and Oprah have in common, you ask? According to a recent post on Psyblog, they both believe that writing down positive thoughts can improve your health and well being. Read more in, “Affectionate writing can reduce cholesterol.”
On a slightly less positive note, Vaughan over at Mind Hacks, reports on a new study published in this week’s Lancet, which says severe jet lag can trigger “mood changes, cognitive impairments, disruption to the menstrual cycle and psychotic experiences.” (I, for one, will keep this in mind when inviting intercontinental guests to stay.)
Treatments Run Amok
Now that The New Yorker has caught up with the blogosphere and run a piece on the dangers of diagnosing bipolar disorder in children, Austism Diva directs our attention to the excesses of Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy, which turns learning “normality” into the autistic child’s full-time job.
Biology and Neurology
The Mouse Trap discusses “the neural basis of remembering the past and thinking about the future,” in “Simulating the future and remembering the past.”
With more on memory, Jake over at Pure Pedantry discusses a recent study, which suggests that amping up your working memory may be a simple matter of restricting neurogenesis, in “Inverse relationship between memory and neurogenesis.”
And in “A neural system for mindlessness,” Jake speculates that zoning out may play a role in “the mental continuity” of the individual, based on a recent study which found that particular regions of the brain light up when you clock out.
Sciencesque lets the “Random Word Genie,” guide him in his ongoing exploration of the human genome. The gene of the day is — drum roll please — “Gastulation Brain Homeobox 2; GBX2 (601135), a homeodomain transcription factor.”
The Neurocritic examines evidence that one of the things that differentiates the schizophrenic brain is “anatomical abnormalities in auditory cortex neurons.”
In “Cry Baby Cry,” Biotunes looks at the physiologic differences in the way men and women respond to a baby screaming.
And in “What do dodgeball and ventriloquism have in common?” Madam Fathom explains how our brains “integrate a deluge of [sensory] information to generate a coherent, seamless picture of the environment.”
Meanwhile, Ouroboros highlights two recent studies on the protein, Sirtuin-2, which reveal “the protein’s role in regulating the cell cycle and differentiation of the glial cells.”
On the Mind of Animals
Thanks to science, the animal mind is becoming less opaque by the day. First, we learned that elephants can recognize themselves in the mirror, suggesting they are capable of metacognition. Now scientists have unearthed the clutch of cells in the mouse’s hippocampus responsible for “nesting,” according to the Neurophilosopher. Read all about it in: “The I’m in Bed Cell.”
Vision Processing 101
In “Interpreting hybrid images,” the Neurophilospher discusses the role spatial frequency plays in how we perceive pictures made up of “two superimposed images.”
Technical Innovations Worthy of Science Fiction
Bringing us home, Omni Brain’s Steve Higgins marvels over a “beige belt lined with 13 vibrating pads” with an unerring sense of direction in “Becoming aware of what we usually don’t perceive.”