You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
Inside the Strange New World of DIY Brain Stimulation.
"Inspired by scientific studies, ordinary people are buying and building devices to send electrical current into their brains. Some say it has improved their memory and focus. Others have found relief from depression and chronic pain. But are they getting ahead of the science?" [Via]
AJ Lindner, a 6-year-old fan of Spider Man and other superheroes, recently underwent surgery for brain cancer
. Facing the start of chemotherapy, which requires him to keep out of the water, the avid young swimmer had one wish: he wanted to go surfing. But the waters off Long Island were too cold. After a plea for a child-sized wetsuit
went out on Facebook, a “Justice League” of surfers went to work to fulfill the boy’s dream
Twilight in the Box.
"The suicide statistics, the squalor and the recidivism haven’t ended solitary confinement
. Maybe the brain studies will." [Via]
After a TED Talk demonstration
and a successful Kickstarter
, Backyard Brains
plans to release a kit
instructing kids to strap a miniature backpack to cockroaches and insert electrodes into its brain, allowing the cockroach to be controlled by a smartphone app. Some scientists are less than pleased
with the ethics of the project.
Nicholas Carr's latest article for The Atlantic
posits that automation presents risks, specifically of losing skill and talent. "The lack of awareness and the degradation of know-how raise the odds that when something goes wrong, the operator will react ineptly. The assumption that the human will be the weakest link in the system becomes self-fulfilling."
are calling this
the oldest brain found. However, there have been other finds and at least one
major site in Florida that holds older remains. The trick now is to extract DNA and information that can aid in medical advances.
In a nutshell
, this new study provides evidence that we need a certain amount of sleep every night, because the brain takes this time to rid itself of toxic metabolic byproducts, which would otherwise accumulate in the brain and impair brain function, destroy neurons — and potentially cause neurodegenerative disorders.
At the University of Washington, researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface. [more inside]
The New York Times
is reporting that pressure from the NFL led ESPN to pull out of an investigative project with FRONTLINE regarding head injuries in American Football
. The two-part investigative report
will reveal how the NFL, over a period of nearly two decades, sought to cover up and deny mounting evidence of the connection between football and brain damage. ESPN has a $15.2 Billion deal with the NFL.
(Football concussions previously: 1
, and 3
Our Inconsistent Ethical Instincts
We like to believe that the principled side of the equation is rooted in deep, reasoned conviction. But a growing wealth of research shows that those values often prove to be finicky, inconsistent intuitions, swayed by ethically irrelevant factors. What you say now you might disagree with in five minutes. And such wavering has implications for both public policy and our personal lives. [more inside]
"There is no real independent self, aloof from other human beings
, inspecting the world, inspecting other people. You are, in fact, connected not just via Facebook and internet, you’re actually quite literally connected by your neurons." — V S Ramachandran
"Maybe it's a sore point: your field should have an answer (people think you do) but there isn't one yet. Perhaps it's simple to pose but hard to answer
. Or it's a question that belies a deep misunderstanding: the best answer is to question the question."
Is Psychometric g a Myth?
- "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth
approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g
." [more inside]
Karl Deisseroth and his team at Stanford University [previously
] have developed a completely new technique to make a brain perfectly see-through
. They call it CLARITY, and the result has to be seen
to be believed. [more inside]
: Debunking pseudo-neuroscience so you don't have to.
When cutting edge microscopy meets cutting edge genetics: flashing fish brains [more inside]
When Brain Damage Unlocks The Genius Within. [Single page view]
"Brain damage has unleashed extraordinary talents in a small group of otherwise ordinary individuals. Will science find a way for everyone to tap their inner virtuoso?" [Via]
Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Genetics have succeeded in imaging neuronal activity in a fish's brain.
They showed a genetically modified (to enable easier imaging) fish some food and "correlate[d] neuronal activity in the brain with prey capture behavior." The video is short but cool. (A link to the study abstract in Current Biology)
What does it mean to be conscious?
The point of view of anesthesiology.
Deciphering the Tools of Nature’s Zombies
: The ability of parasites to alter the behaviour of their hosts fascinates both scientists and non-scientists alike. One reason that this topic resonates with so many is that it touches on core philosophical issues such as the existence of free will. If the mind is merely a machine, then it can be controlled by any entity that understands the code and has access to the machinery. This special issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology highlights some of the best-understood examples of parasite-induced changes in host brain and behaviour, encompassing both invertebrate and vertebrate hosts and micro- and macro-parasites
. Full issue annotated inside: [more inside]
"Having felt what it’s like to have all the backlog of experiences cleared out of my head, I’m intolerant of letting it build up a backlog again. It feels too good when it’s all clean and clear. Another way of talking about this is to say that the frantic, amped up feeling of too much seeking clears away. When we are seeking all the time, we are intaking new material constantly without ever actually dealing with it.
Have you ever been in a room with lots of people and not great ventilation. Or even a room with normal ventilation. You may be cognitively impaired due to elevated levels of CO2 once considered safe now thought enough to make you a little dumb
. 600ppm is now thought too much, but “there are plenty of buildings where you could easily see 2,500 ppm of CO2 — or close to it — even with ventilation designs that are fully compliant with current standards.. classrooms frequently exceed 1,000ppm." [more inside]
It's the hottest new metaphor for the brain, they say.
Your brain is a rain forest
. [more inside]
John D. Fitzgerald
had written three fictionalized memoirs
of his family's life in the late 19th-century Utah west before the night he happened to regale a group of friends with childhood stories of his money-crazed brother, Tom. At their urging, he crafted a funny and clever
series of children's books
chronicling the adventures of The Great Brain
. Like countless other readers, the blogger and researcher behind Finding Fitzgerald
(and its companion blog
and Facebook page
) has been fascinated with discovering the real settings and stories behind the books. And the truly committed can even watch Jimmy Osmond in the 1978 film adaptation
"Beyond the Brain" In the 1990s, scientists declared that schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses were pure brain disorders that would eventually yield to drugs. Now they are recognizing that social factors are among the causes, and must be part of the cure.
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides
from Radiolab's morality episode
: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp
' versus a calculator-wielding rationale
Have you ever wondered why you don't see motion blur when your eyes flick to a new position? Why, if you sit in front of a mirror and watch yourself, you never see your eyes move? That is saccadic masking
, one of
the lies your brain tells to avoid confusing you.
Have you noticed that the first tick after glancing at a clock with a second hand can take more than one second? No, it's not just you! That's a related phenomenon called chronostasis
, or more commonly the stopped clock illusion
Former all pro NFL running back, 38 year old Priest Holmes feels that all NFL players suffer from the violence of the game, but believes running backs are at an increased risk if they average dozens of carries a game for years at a time. Holmes recalled how hits changed the color of the sky
. Another former NFL running back, 32 year old Jamal Lewis talked about his memory losses and head trauma
. Both men could encounter the cognitive decline lesser known former Chargers running back 45 year old Steve Hendrickson has experienced
. [more inside]
Sleep deprivation making you feel jumpy? It's not in your head.
Human cortical excitability increases with time awake. [Abstract and link to full paper.
"Can doctors and investment advisers be trusted? And do we live more for experiences or memories? In a SPIEGEL interview, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman discusses
the innate weakness of human thought, deceptive memories and the misleading power of intuition."