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Slate's special issue on the brain
April 27, 2007 11:31 PM   Subscribe

posted by homunculus (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

awesome, awesome, awesome. thank you.
*goes back to reading*
posted by dreamsign at 11:46 PM on April 27, 2007

Gaargh! I'd forgotton how much of neuroscience was pseudoscience.

"The five biggest neuroscience developments of the year"
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:02 AM on April 28, 2007

Hmm, didn't start with that one.

Having read a few of the others now, it seems to be mostly doctor's office lobby material, but not bad for a Friday afternoon's perusal. (I am working today, hence it is FRIDAY, ok?)
posted by dreamsign at 12:44 AM on April 28, 2007

Yeah, the guys at MindHacks weren't very impressed with that one either. Oh well.
posted by homunculus at 12:46 AM on April 28, 2007

If you liked the "neurotheology" topic but were looking for a little more, you could do worse than to dig through some material here.
posted by dreamsign at 1:11 AM on April 28, 2007

To be fair, the brain is the most difficult organ to research (for many, many reasons), but the studies linked in that list are not the cream of the crop.

/begins grumpy scientist rant/

Want to know what thorough, solid research looks like? Try this. It mightn't seem as impressive as "7-10% of rams are gay", but trust me, the authors made a better case for their modest title than any of these MRI-based-conjecture studies.*

Or maybe something (slightly) simpler. An elegant little study from scientists who managed to grow CNS neurons without glial help (which is no small achievement, believe me!) and discovered that synapse development relied on cholesterol, which was provided by astrocytes.

Again, it doesn't seem like much, but there's a real beauty to some of these experiments. Just answering small questions takes a lot of time, patience, resourcefulness and ingenuity. Especially the ones that show true mechanisms, and don't live in fanciful worlds of phenomenology and supposition.

But from the outside these smaller studies, which in their scope represent the true backbone of modern research, don't have much sex-appeal. No, the headlines are reserved for "Mind-Reading Machines", articles devoted to sensationalist scientific claims, that epitomize Twain's famous quote about science, that "one gets such wholesome returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact".

/ends grumpy scientist rant/

* I don't want to imply that all population-studies are shit, it's just that so many of them are. The last good population study in this field that I read was The Nun Study (Time magazine article, and a good read at that), but I've been out of neuroscience for a few years now, and there are probably more recent examples around.
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:43 AM on April 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by Artw at 7:21 AM on April 28, 2007

This post rocks homunculus. Agreeing with dreamsign: awesome, awesome, awesome.

Looking forward to thoroughly reading this and the coming issues of slate on this topic. Am terrifically excited about the breakthroughs being made in the entire field of neuroscience, all aspects of it. The areas of understanding the mind and communication with an emphasis on neuroscience, neurofeedback, personality disorders and the brain, empathy and the brain and "neuro-theology" really interest me.

Oliver Sacks began the hard work of humanising the field, making neuroscience accessible and intensely entertaining/interesting to non-scientists. Now it's more of a field that can popularly include "mind science" and "neuro-culture". Of course, as in all of science, there's plenty of room for quackery, fake-science, as well as intelligent speculation and well-thought out actual science, especially when it comes to the enigmatic mind.

*goes back to reading*
posted by nickyskye at 9:57 AM on April 28, 2007

kisch mokusch - Gaargh! I'd forgotton how much of neuroscience was pseudoscience.

I'll share the brain-eating GAARGH! with you, not over neuroscience, but "science reporting" in general.

It's scary that, in general, amateur "science blogs" report science in lay fashion far far better than traditional media.

My current "this is really cool stuff but not directly in my field of research" is transcranial magnetic stimulation - not only can you read cortical activity in high temporospatial resolution, you can also use it to temporarily turn off parts of the cortex. There's a new PI at UBC who brought in a TMS and is setting it up; I've already volunteered to get my brain zapped by it!
posted by porpoise at 11:57 AM on April 28, 2007

I'll share the brain-eating GAARGH! with you, not over neuroscience, but "science reporting" in general.

Yeah, fair enough. But some fields are still worse than others (stem cell research is probably the field with the most hyperbole right now).

It's scary that, in general, amateur "science blogs" report science in lay fashion far far better than traditional media.

Oh, I don't know. I think it makes sense when you think about it. The more you understand the research, the more impressive it becomes without having to sensationalize it. I think the "science blog" writers (I haven't read too many science blogs) might actually read more than the abstract, which I'm not sure if journalists even do.

Traditional media has never been very good at science reporting. And that wouldn't really be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that media exposure brings in more money.

And the link looks interesting, I didn't know anything about TMS. I will read the paper once I've got access privileges again (have to be a uni).
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:41 PM on April 28, 2007

Discover magazine: Mind & Brain
posted by homunculus at 8:48 AM on May 2, 2007

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