Neurophilosophy

Archives for December, 2008

Being so closely related to our own species, monkeys serve as important model organisms, and have provided many insights into the workings of the human brain. Research performed on monkeys in the past 30 years or so has, for example, been invaluable in the development of brain-machine interfaces. Monkeys have also contributed a great deal…

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers. (Or rather Happy Holidays, as many of you, being in America, might say.) This card is one of a set by Ernst Haeckel which, when expanded, became Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms in Nature), the masterpiece of biological illustration.

How to morph into another person

Your face is a major component of your self-identity, but when you look into a mirror, how do you know that the person you are seeing is really you? Is it because the person in the reflection looks just like you? Or because the reflection moves when you move? Or perhaps because you see the…

Synchiria is a neurological condition in which a stimulus applied to one side of the body is referred to both sides. If, for example, one’s left hand is touched, he experiences tactile sensations on both hands. People with intact brains do not experience this, probably because of inhibitory mechanisms which prevent activity in one hemisphere…

Disowning pain with binoculars

My second article for the Scientific American Mind Matters website is online now. This one is about the recent study which demonstrated that distorting the body image alters pain perception – specifically, it was found that using inverted binoculars to make the hand look smaller than it actually was led to a reduction in the…

Rats know their limits with border cells

Spatial navigation is the process on which we rely to orient ourselves within the environment and to negotiate our way through it. Our  ability to do so depends upon cognitive maps, mental representations of the surrounding spaces, which are constructed by the brain and are used by it to calculate one’s present location, based on…

Rubber hand feels real for amputees

One of the bigger challenges facing researchers who are developing artificial limbs is to create prostheses that not only act but also feel like real limbs. This is especially true for the hand, which is one of the most sensitive parts of the human body, and although advanced prosthetic hands with fully articulated digits which…

Beautiful diseased brains

These beautiful watercolour drawings of diseased brain sections come from a book called Reports on Medical Cases, Selected with a View to Illustrate the Symptoms and Cure of Diseases by a Reference to Morbid Anatomy, by Richard Bright.

Neuroscience Boot Camp

Professor Martha J. Farah emailed me recently to ask if I’d help spread the word about Neuroscience Boot Camp, which will take place at the University of Pennsylvania in August of next year: What happens at Neuroscience Boot Camp? Through a combination of lectures, break-out groups, panel discussions and laboratory visits, participants will gain an…

Visual images reconstructed from brain activity

Recent advances in functional neuroimaging have enabled researchers to predict perceptual experiences with a high degree of accuracy. For example, it is possible to determine whether a subject is looking at a face or some other category of visual stimulus, such as a house. This is possible because we know that specific regions of the…