brain

Neurophilosophy

Tag archives for brain

Mice navigate a virtual reality environment

USING an inventive new method in which mice run through a virtual reality environment based on the video game Quake, researchers from Princeton University have made the first direct measurements of the cellular activity associated with spatial navigation. The method will allow for investigations of the neural circuitry underlying navigation, and should lead to a…

THINKING of and saying a word is something that most of us do effortlessly many times a day. This involves a number of steps – we must select the appropriate word, decide on the proper tense, and also pronounce it correctly. The neural computations underlying these tasks are highly complex, and whether the brain performs…

Visual analgesia: Seeing the body reduces pain

VISION is now well known to modulate the senses of touch and pain. Various studies have shown that looking at oneself being touched can enhance tactile acuity, so that one can discriminate between two pinpoints which would otherwise feel like a single sensation. And last year, researchers from the University of Oxford showed that using…

Eye movements reveal unconscious memory retrieval

THIS short film clip shows two images of the same scene. Watch it carefully, and see if you can spot the subtle differences between them. As you watch, your eyes will dart back and forth across the images, so that you can perceive the most important features. And even though you might not be consciously…

The star-nosed mole’s amazing appendages

THIS weird and wonderful creature is the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata), a small, semi-aquatic mammal which inhabits the low wetlands of eastern North America. Like other moles, it ekes out an existence in a network of narrow underground tunnels, and digs shallow surface tunnels where it forages for insects, worms and molluscs. Living as it…

Connectome? Not so fast…

AS Seed’s Featured Blogger of the week, I have written a short article about the Human Connectome Project, in response to a news story on the magazine’s website, called Mapping the brain’s highways, by Azeen Ghorayshi. Several weeks ago, the National Institutes of Health announced the Human Connectome Project, an ambitious $30 million five-year initiative,…

IN the 1860s, the French physician Paul Broca treated two patients who had lost the ability to speak after suffering strokes. When they died, he examined their brains, and noticed that both had damage to the same region of the left frontal lobe. About a decade later, neuropsychiatrist Carl Wernicke described a stroke patient who…

THE human brain is a true marvel of nature. This jelly-like 1.5kg mass inside our skulls, containing hundreds of billions of cells which between them form something like a quadrillion connections, is responsible for our every action, emotion and thought. How did this remarkable and extraordinarily complex structure evolve? This question poses a huge challenge…

Brain mechanisms of hypnotic paralysis

THE term ‘hypnosis’ was coined by the Scottish physician James Braid in his 1853 book Neurypnology. Braid defined hypnosis as “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye”. He argued that it was a form of “nervous sleep”, and tried to distinguish his…

Mental time travel

MEMORY, Blake wrote, enables us to “traverse times and spaces far remote”. It constitutes mental time travel, with which we can recollect, in vivid detail, events that took place many years ago. We have known, for the best part of a century, that memory is reconstructive rather than reproductive. That is, recollection involves piecing together…