Pure Pedantry

Encephalon 41

i-c999d2f528e9549b90536b86186c30e3-pinkyandthebrain.jpgEncephalon has a particularly good crop of brainy goodness this issue, so let’s get started.

Mind Hacks looks at a fascinating case of a man with unstoppable hiccups because he has Parkinson’s disease.

Neuroscientifically Challenged looks at the possibility of using a nanopolymer from sea cucumbers as electrodes for recording or stimulating in the brain. (I work in a lab that makes these kinds of electrodes, and let me just tell you if there were a way to make them better that would be super-useful.)

Not Exactly Rocket Science discusses research that uses an fMRI scanner to tell what you are looking at. A veritable machine for decoding images it is! (Although if you think about it, the brain had that job handled pretty well already.) Likewise, he looks at the brain activity of an improvising jazz musician.

The Phineas Gage Fan Club breaks down the complicated domain specificity model of visual recognition. Limitations of this model are discussed, and everyone is enriched.

Neuroanthropology discusses dissociation strategies, and how it is sometimes better when you are an athlete not to think. They also show a visual illusion — the Ponzo illusion — that affects some visual systems but not others. Finally, they look into all the subtle gray areas associated with mental enhancement through drugs.

The Neurocritic has a two-parter on why you pay more attention to food when you are hungry (here and here). Shocking, I know, that hungry people pay attention to donuts, but the mechanisms of this increased focus are still important to work out and is poorly understood.

Sandra from Channel N links to a useful web-cast for kids about neuroscience stuff. (If you are a biology teacher, it might be something to consider for class.)

On Sharp Brains, guest blogger Adrian Preda discusses the do’s and don’ts for brain-related benefits of exercise. Eric Jensen talks about how he is trying to apply what we know about brains to make better teachers. Finally, they give a market report of available brain fitness software.

Yikes. Advances in the History of Psychology looks at why the term “industrial psychology” might be the result of a typo (here and here). They also take the NYTimes to task over an article suggesting that Kafka’s Metamorphosis was based on a true story.

PodBlack Blog wonders whether being a politician makes you more superstitious and looks at some psychological reasons for why. Examples of the current Presidential candidates are presented. Also, apparently aromatherapy really is bunk.

Finally, Providentia looks at a great case of someone who couldn’t forget — which is probably for the best because he has a really, really long name: Solomon Veniaminovitch Shereshevsky. He also talks about the influence of linguist Alfred Korzybski

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful and insightful submissions to Encephalon this issue! The next Encephalon is being hosted at Of Two Minds on Monday, March 31st. Email encephalon {dot} host [at] gmail {dot} com to submit.


  1. #1 Alvaro
    March 18, 2008

    Great edition-thanks Jake!

  2. #2 jprapp
    March 30, 2008

    On the dissociation thread.

    The article wraps up asking, “dissociation strategy” Or an “involvement strategy”?

    The narrative portions of the article made me think, “involvement strategy.” Counting while running: falling in the bushes while attending Stanford: Ayrton Senna wining the Monaco Grand Prix without realizing that he was driving (read if for yourself)!

    That’s involvement!

    I just received notice of a case judgment from a local court. The judge tersely wrote, “Judgment entered for the Plaintiff. Therefore, the court orders entry of judgment for Defendant.” Huh? True. Not making this up. First time in 30 years. Dissociation explains this. Legal substance favored plaintiff. The judge was ogling defendant.

    Who wins? Does it matter if no one is paying attention?

    P.S. – how does Lloyds of London (or, whoever) insure the Monaco Grand Prix when the drivers themselves don’t even know they’re driving? Isn’t this unawareness of driving more like freeway drivers on the I-80 out of the Bay Area at rush hour?


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