Neurophilosophy

Archives for February, 2009

Alzheimer’s recapitulates brain development

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting more than 400,000 people in the U.K. and some 5.5 million in the U.S. The disease has a characteristic pathology, which often appears first in the hippocampus, and then spreads to other regions of the brain. This is accompanied by impairments in cognition, with cell…

These gorgeous stipple-engraved plates come from The Anatomy of the Brain, Explained in a Series of Engravings, by Sir Charles Bell. The book was first published in 1802 and contained 12 plates, 11 of which were printed in colour; these come from an edition which appeared in 1823.

Reading the contents of working memory

Working memory refers to the process by which small amounts of information relevant to the task at hand are retained for short periods of time. For example, before cellular phones became so ubiquitous, calling someone usually involved first finding the number and then remembering it for a just few seconds by repeating it to oneself…

Brain & behaviour of dinosaurs

Bones have been big news recently, following the publication of two papers which document remarkable fossil finds. First, a group of palaeontologists led by Phil Gingerich of the University of Michigan described Maiacetus inuus, a primitive whale which lived in the water but gave birth on land, and which marks the transition between modern whales…

The neurological basis of intuition

Most of us have experienced the vague feeling of knowing something without having any memory of learning it. This phenomenon is commonly known as a “gut feeling” or “intuition”; more accurately though, it is described as implicit or unconscious recognition memory, to reflect the fact that it arises from information that was not attended to,…

Follow me on Twitter

I have finally jumped on the bandwagon and started to use Twitter. I had avoided it because I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to share the mundane details of their life with others, but am now beginning to see how it can be useful, and also to enjoy using it. If you too are…

The genetics of synaesthesia

When Sir Francis Galton first described the “peculiar habit of mind” we now call synaesthesia, he noted that it often runs in families. Modern techniques have confirmed that the condition does indeed have a strong genetic component – more than 40% of synaesthetes have a first-degree relative – a parent, sibling or offspring – who…

Tracing memories

During the first half of the twentieth century, the American psychologist Karl Lashley conducted a series of experiments in an attempt to identify the part of the brain in which memories are stored. In his now famous investigations, Lashley trained rats to find their way through a maze, then tried to erase the memory trace…