brain

Neurophilosophy

Tag archives for brain

Neurocriminology in prohibition-era New York

NEW York City in the 1920s and ’30s was a hotbed of criminal activity. Prohibition laws banning the production, sale and distribution of alcohol had been introduced, but instead of reducing crime, they had the opposite effect. Gangsters organized themselves and seized control of the alcohol distribution racket, smuggling first cheap rum from the Caribbean,…

Scared by the light

WHO could have guessed that a protein isolated from pond scum would transform the way researchers investigate the brain? The protein, called channelrhodopsin (ChR), is found in algae and other microbes, and is related to the molecule in human photoreceptors that captures light particles. Both versions control the electrical currents that constantly flow in and…

FOR most of us, the ability to navigate our environment is largely dependent on the sense of vision. We use visual information to note the location of landmarks, and to identify and negotiate obstacles. These visual cues also enable us to keep track of our movements, by monitoring how our position changes relative to landmarks…

Apparent motion steers the wandering mind

DAYDREAMING is a critical component of conscious experience. The mind can perform mental time travel – it occasionally strays from the present moment, to recollect an experience from the near or distant past, or to imagine an event that has not yet taken place. We know that thinking about the future is dependant on memory,…

Optogenetic fMRI

OF all the techniques used by neuroscientists, none has captured the imagination of the general public more than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The technique, which is also referred to as functional neuroimaging and, more commonly, “brain scanning”, enables us to peer into the human brain non-invasively, to observe its workings and correlate specific thought…

Near misses fuel gambling addiction

GAMBLING is extremely popular, with lottery tickets, casinos, slot machines, bingo halls and other forms of the activity generating revenues of more than £80 billion each year in the UK alone. For most people, gambling is nothing more than an entertaining way to pass the time. But for some, it becomes a compulsive and pathological…

The mirror movement mutation

MIRROR movements are involuntary movements that mimic, and occur simultaneously with, voluntary movements on the opposite side of the body. The movements are known to occur because of a failure in communication between the two sides of the nervous system. They are thought to be normal during infancy and early childhood, but usually diminish with…

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…

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…

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…