Encephalon 54


Welcome to the 54th edition of Encephalon, the neuroscience and psychology blog carnival. This edition has everything from the perception of colour and shapes to behavioural economics, the neuroscience of sports and squabbling psychologists.

First up is the editor's choice: an in-depth review of the evolution of modularity in the brain by Caio Maximino. A brain module is a functionally and cytoarchitectonically distinct region of the brain. In his post, Caio begins with how the concept of modularity arose historically. He then explains how the developing neural tube becomes segmented and goes on to discuss various theories of how these embryonic modules might give rise to those of the mature brain.

Before we move on to the rest of the submissions, here's a beautiful quote from Santiago Ramon y Cajal, the father of modern neuroscience. It comes from his memoir, Recollections of My Life, and clearly describes neural plasticity, in the context of learning one's way around a new city:

Before the foaming torrent of new impressions, the youth has to bring into action regions of his brain which hitherto lay fallow. A significant indication of the great mental crisis, of this functional struggle between old and new ideas which is stirred up in the mind, is the bewilderment which seizes up during the first days of exploring a city. In the end, order is established. The plastic adaptation once completed, the cerebral organization is enriched and refined; one knows more and one's judgement is improved accordingly.

Alvaro Fernandez, who now maintains this carnival, has more quotes from the book.

Next, Sandeep Guatam discusses the work of John Hughlings Jackson, another towering figure in the history of neuroscience and neurology. Hughlings Jackson is best known for his contributions to our understanding of epilepsy; Sandeep dscribes this work, then extends it to other movement disorders. He also sent in a highly speculative post about the different orders of intentionality.

The Neurocritic has a pair of posts about the role of the anterior insula in borderline personality disorder, a somewhat controversial condition which is characterized by mistrust of others. He also describes an interesting new study which shows that viewing beautiful works of art reduces the perception of pain.

Dave Munger explains why we can perceive shapes without paying attention. It's because of a Gestaltian rule for determining which components of a visual scene go together to form a shape and which ones constitute the background.

Paul Mason looks at the perception of colour. The first stage of perception is the detection light energy by the photoreceptors (the rods and cones) in the retina. Different wavelengths of light correspond to specific colours, but, as Paul explains, there is sometimes a discrepancy between the two.

On the same blog, Daniel Lende has posted a video of Richard Thaler, a  behavioural economist at the University of Chicago. In the film, Thaler discusses the idea that decision-making is based not on rational cost-benefit analyses but on subtle yet significant environmental cues that capture our attention. Daniel also examines this "nudge" theory. 

From the author of the Neuronism blog is a post about recent developments in the Blue Brain Project, in which researchers are trying to reverse engineer the brain using IBM's Blue Gene Supercomputer. Earlier this month, they announced that their simulation of a rat cortical column exhibited gamma oscillations, a pattern of synchronized electrical activity that some argue provides a solution to the binding problem, or how distributed neuronal activity leads to unified conscious perception.

Jeremy Burman examines a dispute between Chris Green, president of the Society for the History of Psychology, and Christian Jarrett, editor of the BPS Research Digest Blog. The dispute began with claims by Jarrett that the Cognitive Revolution of the 1950s, which occurred in response to behaviourism, is a myth.

Jennifer Gibson discusses a potential new treatment for Alzheimer's Disease. It's a drug called Rember, produced by the Singapore-based TauRx Therapeutics. This compound is better known as Methylene Blue, which is widely used in biology to stain tissues and in chemistry as an indicator for reduction-oxidation reactions. Other drugs for Alzheimer's target the amyloid-beta plaques which are deposited around nerve cells; this is the first to target the intracellular neurofibrillary tangles which consist of tau protein.

Sandra Kiume gives us the Top 10 online psychology experiments, and also links to 5 hours-worth of videos about the neuroscience and psychology of education and learning

Dan Peterson explains that watching sports is good for your brain because of a process called embodied cognition, whereby activity in the sensorimotor system mirrors observed movements. Related to this is my recent post about the basketball player's brain and pinky.

Finally, here's another one from me, about a new study which provides evidence that the hippocampal cells involved in encoding a memory are reactivated during retrieval of that memory.

That's it for this edition. The next one will be at Neuroscientifically Challenged on September 29th. If you'd like to contribute, send your permalinks to encephalon{dot}host{at}gmail{dot}com.

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