Neurophilosophy

Archives for December, 2008

2,000-year-old fossilized brain

Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old skull containing what they believe to be the remains of a fossilized brain, while excavating a site at the University of York. Rachel Cubitt, one of the researchers on the dig, felt something moving inside the skull and noticed “an unusual yellow substance” when she peered through an opening in…

The biggest medical breakthrough of the year

The top medical breakthrough of the year, according to TIME Magazine, is the creation of motor neurons from ALS patients. (Here are all 50 of the magazine’s Top 10 lists for 2008.) This work was carried out by researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities, and published in the journal Science back in August. I wrote…

Brain’s response to fear is culture-specific

In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin noted that facial expressions vary little across cultures. We all recognize that someone whose eyes and mouth are wide open, and whose eyebrows are raised, is afraid. This characteristic expression is a social signal, which warns others of a potential threat and serves…

R.I.P. H.M.

The amnesic patient known as H.M., who is the best known case study in neuropsychology, has died, at the age of 82. H.M., whose full name has now been revealed as Henry Gustav Molaison, lost completely the ability to form new memories following a radical surgical procedure to treat his severe and intractable epilepsy. The…

The body swap illusion

Body ownership – the sense that one’s body belongs to one’s self – is central to self-awareness, and yet is something that most of us take completely for granted. We experience our bodies as being an integral part of ourselves, without ever questioning how we know that our hands belong to us, or how we…

Tactile-emotion synaesthesia

Synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which stimuli of one sensory modality evoke experiences in another modality. This is thought to occur as a result of  insufficient “pruning” during development, so that most of the pathways connecting parts of the brain mediating the different senses remain in place instead of being eliminated. Consequently, there is…