Encephalon 26

Welcome to the 26th edition of Encephalon, the neuroscience blogging carnival. Encephalon #1 was posted almost exactly a year ago at my WordPress blog, so this edition marks the carnival's first anniversary.

First, let me draw your attention to two new neuroscience blogs. Both authors are researchers who use neuroimaging. Jon Bardin, from the fMRI Laboratory at Columbia University, has a nice post about neuroaesthetics and conceptual art at The Third Culture, and Brad Buchsbaum, of the University of California at Berkeley, has posted parts 1 and 2 of a 4-part series called the four ages of neuroimaging at Flowbrain.

Neither of the above posts were submitted to the carnival, but both authors contacted me last week via my old blog. Below are the entries that were submitted, in the order that I received them.

Madam Fathom discusses a new study of the part of the goldfish brain that integrates the neural activity involved in controlling eye movements. Because the circuitry and mechanisms of this oculomotor integrator are a very simple model for the prefrontal cortical mechanisms underlying working memory, the findings may prove useful in understanding how the brain attends to and processes specific visual information.

At Developing Intelligence, Chris describes a possible new method for classifying fMRI data, based on the analysis of data that is usually discarded in neuroimaging studies. Also from Chris is a post about the role of the parietal cortex in binding, the process by which various aspects of a stimulus, such as the shape and colour of an object, are integrated so that one perceives that object instead of the disparate elements of it.

At Mind Hacks, Vaughan probes the process of cognitive disonance, the psychological mechanism by which conflicting thoughts are reconciled, in the context of studies carried out on members of a UFO cult. He also reveals that Natalie Portman was involved in cognitive neuroscience research before she went to Hollywood.

Johan, manager of The Phineas Gage Fan Club, takes a look at a recent study into the correlation between birth order and intelligence. The findings, which were widely publicized, suggest that while big brother may have a higher IQ, his younger sibling is both more sociable and adventurous.

In one of a series of posts about weird psychology experiments, Jeremy, the author of PsyBlog, looks into a notorious 1930s study into the effects of labelling. The results of the study were quite dramatic, but the findings were never published because of the highly unethical nature of the work.

In a new OmniBrain series about pseudoscience in the press of the past, Steve has found two amusing items from the New York Times. The first, from 1864, is an ad offering subscriptions to the Phrenology Journal; the second  is a short article from 1880 which states that the right hemisphere of the brain is less developed than the left because the growth of the latter is retarded due to the  instinctive tendency of babies to sleep on their right side.

At Sharp Brains, Alvaro says that the effectiveness of some brain fitness programs is exaggerated, and Andreas summarizes the Cognitive Health Roadmap that was recently drawn up by the Centres for Disease Control. Let's hope the CDC's roapmap is more successful than President Bush's roadmap for peace in the Middle East!

From Chris at Ouroboros, we have a post about the role of sirtuins in age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. The sirtuins are a family of enzymes that were first identified in yeast. They are known to be involved in regulating cellular metabolism and in the changes in gene expression underlying the extension in life span that occurs as a result of calorific restriction.

The Neurocritic casts a critical eye over the way journalists misinterpreted a recent neuroimaging study of the labelling of emotions, and considers the possibility that the brain contains not one but two executive control centres. (And, if I'm not mistaken, that post contains the phrenology image that Jessica used for one of my banners.)

If you want to learn more about the physiological aspects of the limbic system - or even if you don't - you'll enjoy listening to the fantastic Limbic Disco MP3 from I Am a Scientist, a science radio show broadcast by students Winnipeg University in Canada. 

Sandra sent in two posts. One, at Neurofuture, highlights The Shapes of Thoughts, a collaborative project between scientists and artists in which electroencephalogram data are vizualized and animated in 3-D. And at Channel N, she links to a 25-minute lecture from the Sixth Annual Conference on Bipolar Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. 

That's it for the anniversary edition of Encephalon. The next edition will be hosted by Nick the Neurocontrarian on Monday, 16th July. If you'd like to contribute, send your entries to encephalon{dot}host{at}gmail{dot}com.

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Congratulations on the anniversary, and welcome to the Scibling family! I like your banners, too.

A minor correction about the Channel N video contribution; I guess I wasn't clear in my email. The Sixth Annual Conference on Bipolar Disorders is archived by the University of Pittsgurgh, not on my blog. There are 108 talks from six symposiums, concurrent sessions and discussions, archived individually in both video and audio formats with accompanying speaker biographies. There are also abstracts from all the poster sessions.

That's just one of the six conferences. The others are archived in the same very thorough manner (except the 1994 conference which is archived in text transcripts instead of multimedia). It's unusual for conferences to be so well-documented online. The seventh just took place but will be archived similarly soon. I encourage people to have a look at the conference site to find talks that interest them most, since in my post I chose to highlight just one short talk on cognition.