Neurophilosophy

Archives for March, 2010

WHEN making moral judgements, we rely on our ability to make inferences about the beliefs and intentions of others. With this so-called “theory of mind”, we can meaningfully interpret their behaviour, and decide whether it is right or wrong. The legal system also places great emphasis on one’s intentions: a “guilty act” only produces criminal…

Implied motion in Hokusai Manga

Click to enlarge images ARTISTS employ a number of different techniques to represent implied motion in two-dimensional works. One of these, commonly used in posters, comics and animation, is the affine shear effect, whereby a moving object is depicted as leaning into the direction of movement. Cartoonists also use action lines to depict movement and…

THIS is the left cerebral hemisphere of an 18-month-old infant who lived some 800 years ago. Such finds are extremely rare, because nervous tissue is soft and normally begins to decompose soon after death, so this specimen is unique in that it has been far better preserved than any other. Although reduced by about 80%…

SNAKES have a unique sensory system for detecting infrared radiation, with which they can visualize temperature changes within their immediate environment. Using this special sense, they can image the body heat radiating from warm-blooded animals nearby. This enables them to track their prey quickly and with great accuracy, even in the dark, and to target…

Brain scans read memories

FORMATION of a memory is widely believed to leave a ‘trace’ in the brain – a fleeting pattern of electrical activity which strengthens the connections within a widely distributed network of neurons, and which re-emerges when the memory is recalled. The concept of the memory trace was first proposed nearly a century ago, but the…

ALZHEIMER’S Disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting an estimated 30 million people worldwide. The cause of the condition is unknown, but the prime suspect is amyloid-beta (Aβ), a 42-amino acid peptide which accumulates within neurons to form insoluble structures called senile plaques that are thought to be toxic. Aβ is synthesized in…

The ability to recognize faces is inherited

THE perception and recognition of faces is crucial for the social situations we encounter every day. From the moment we are born, we prefer looking at faces than at inanimate objects, because the brain is geared to perceive them, and has specialized mechanisms for doing so. Such is the importance of the face to everyday…

Open Lab 2009 and Research Blogging Awards

I ‘M pleased to announce that my post about dinosaur brains and behaviour is featured in Open Lab 2009, the annual anthology of the best science writing on blogs. The book has just been published and is now available at Lulu.com, in hard copy or as a Kindle-compatible PDF. This is the third Neurophilosophy post…