Neurobiology

Pharyngula

Category archives for Neurobiology

Stephen Hsu thinks super intelligent humans are coming. He thinks this because he’s very impressed with genetic engineering (he’s a physicist), and believes that the way to make people more intelligent is to adjust their genes, and therefore, more gene tweaking will lead to more intelligent people, inevitably. And not just intelligent, but super-intelligent, with…

Peter Watts has this short short story about a brain interface technology that allows people to merge their consciousness with other organisms — and in this one, “Colony Creature”, someone experiences what it is like to be an octopus, and is horrified by it. “Those arms.” His Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat. “Those fucking…

This is not how you do science

There is a myth about how science progresses: great men have a eureka moment, and rush in to the lab to do the definitive experiment, often bravely and with the opposition of the Science Establishment, and single-handedly revolutionize a discipline. It’s nonsense. I can’t think of a single example of that kind of work that…

Building a chordate: the notochord

I know this is a horrible photo — I just snapped a picture of the journal hardcopy, which I own, instead of grabbing a PDF from the web, because it’s from 1985 and I’d have to pay to get a copy of my own paper — but this is what I was doing in grad…

There’s an interesting conversation in the New York Times: a neuroscientist, Kenneth D. Miller, argues that brain uploading ain’t gonna happen. I agree with him, only in part because of the argument from complexity he gives. Much of the current hope of reconstructing a functioning brain rests on connectomics: the ambition to construct a complete…

Reconstructing a brain

Every once in a while, I get some glib story from believers in the Singularity and transhumanism that all we have to do to upload a brain into a computer is make lots of really thin sections and reconstruct every single cell and every single connection, put that data into a machine with a sufficiently…

The neuroplasticity bait-and-switch

As long as we’re talking about brains this morning, here’s another topic that irritates me: the abuse of the term neuroplasticity. Way, way back in the late 1970s, my first textbook in neuroscience was this one: Marcus Jacobson’s Developmental Neurobiology. (That link is to a more recent edition; the picture is of the blue-and-black cover…

Steven Novella makes an important point: memories are fluid. There’s no VCR in your head, and no tape recorder either, and memories are constructs. You remember the framework (sometimes very poorly) of a past event, and your brain builds a plausible set of details around it. When you picture Christmas at your grandmother’s house when…

A primer in eyes

Michael Land was one of those people who totally warped my brain. I’ve been interested in science since I was a kid, but I’m embarrassed to say that I never heard a whisper about evolution in the public schools I attended. Although I read about it avidly, I came out of high school and charged…

Egnor babbles some more

Michael Egnor has replied to my dismissal of his claims that memories can’t be stored in the brain with a curiously titled post, Understanding Memories: Lovely Metaphors Belong in Songs, Not Science. I was a bit confused, at first…I don’t recall using any song lyrics or poetic metaphors in my post on the subject, but…