Neurophilosophy

Archives for January, 2008

Canadian surgeons have made a serendipitous discovery. While using deep brain stimulation to try suppressing the appetite of a morbidly obese patient, they inadvertently evoked in the patient vivid autobiographical memories of an event that had taken place more than 30 years previously. They also found that the electrical stimulation improved the patient’s performance on…

AMPA receptors & synaptic plasticity

In my second coursework essay, I discuss a number of recent studies which demonstrate that synaptic strengthening in different regions of the mammalian brain requires the incorporation of Ca2+-permeable GluR1-lacking AMPA receptors into the postsynaptic membrane of active or newly-potentiated synapses.

2 more days of sensory deprivation

Last Tuesday’s episode of Horizon, called Total Isolation, is available for viewing and download at the BBC iPlayer website for the next 2 days. In the 50-minute documentary, Professor Ian Robbins, a trauma psychologist at the University of Surrey who specializes in supporting torture victims, reconstructs a highly controversial study first performed in the 1950s.…

Open Lab 2007 reviewed in Nature

Today’s issue of Nature contains a short review of Open Lab 2007, and the article includes a brief mention of my contribution to the book: The editor of this second anthology of the best scientific communiqu’s from the blogosphere thinks blogs offer new ways to discuss science. The Open Laboratory 2007: the Best Science Writing…

Frida Kahlo’s life of pain

The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) had a life filled with pain. At the age of 6, she contracted polio, and this caused a paralysis of the right leg from which Kahlo took one year to recover. Then, in 1925, Kahlo was involved in a horrific traffic accident: the school bus she was travelling on…

An illustrated history of trepanation

The operation of Trepan, from Illustrations of the Great Operations of Surgery: Trepan, Hernia, Amputation, Aneurism and Lithotomy, by Charles Bell, 1815. (John Martin Rare Book Room at the University of Iowa’s Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.) Trepanation, or trephination (both derived from the Greek word trypanon, meaning “to bore”) is perhaps the oldest…

U.S. military calls Ghostbusters

Among the one third of Americans who believe in ghosts are high-ranking officials in the intelligence agencies and military. In the 1970s and 80s, the CIA funded research into “remote viewing”, so that they could train clairvoyants to locate, among other things, Colonel Gaddafi and the U.S. marines kidnapped by Hizbollah. More recently, it was…

Hip hop-induced epilepsy

The Canadian Globe and Mail reports on the remarkable case of Stacey Gayle, a 25-year-old woman from Edmonton who has just had neurosurgery to treat intractable epilepsy. Gayle (right) was suffering from musicogenic epilepsy, a rare form of the condition in which seizures are triggered by music. In some patients with this type of epilepsy,…

Web Vision

This diagram of the retina, drawn by Santiago Ramon y Cajal in 1892, comes from Web Vision, a comprehensive overview of the organization of the mammalian retina and visual system compiled by Drs. Helga Kolb, Eduardo Fernandez and Ralph Nelson of the John Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. The site is arranged…

This film clip describes how neuroscientists have controlled the movements of a humanoid robot using a brain-computer interface (BCI) embedded in the motor cortex of a monkey. I’ve written about BCIs before, so I won’t go into details here. For more information about how they work, follow the links at the bottom, and for more…