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A traditional brain on a computer

SynthNet is a brain emulator. Unlike most modern software neural networks, it works at the electrochemical level. Each neural structure in it is generated from a genetic virtual machine that executes instructions in a genetic assembly language.
SynthNet is at an early stage, but right now, it can emulate a classic fear-conditioning experiment.

posted by ignignokt on May 9, 2012 - 31 comments

Near Death, explained

"...Pam agreed to die in order to save her life—and in the process had what is perhaps the most famous case of independent corroboration of out of body experience (OBE) perceptions on record...Pam later said, she felt herself “pop” out of her body and hover above it, watching as doctors worked on her body. Although she no longer had use of her eyes and ears, she described her observations in terms of her senses and perceptions...with considerable accuracy.

NDE studies [such as these] suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness."
Near Death, explained. [more inside]
posted by anazgnos on Apr 23, 2012 - 111 comments

Ain't no spoon or fork or knife.

“There are no images and no representations in our minds,” he insisted. “Our visual experience of the world is a continuum between see-er and seen united in a shared process of seeing.”

I was curious, if only because, as a novelist I’d always supposed I was dealing in images, imagery. This stuff might have implications. So we had a beer together.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Apr 19, 2012 - 25 comments

Aha! The anatomy of insight, like a rolling stone.

How do we have insights, and where does inspiration come from? Jonah Lehrer goes inside Bob Dylan's brain to find out...the "neural correlate of insight": the anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG). This small fold of tissue, located on the surface of the right hemisphere just above the ear, became unusually active in the seconds before the epiphany. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Apr 7, 2012 - 22 comments

What a beautiful mind you have.

High resolution wiring diagram of a brain.
posted by Packed Lunch on Mar 29, 2012 - 28 comments

the neurochemistry of attraction and rejection

Your Brain in Love and Lust - This Valentine's Day, Scientific American traces the flow of chemicals in the brain during different phases of romance and describes surprising insights from the science of attraction.
posted by nickyskye on Feb 14, 2012 - 1 comment

Does Football have a future? Or, perhaps, should Football have a future?

Does Football have a Future?: Football players are anywhere from five to nineteen times more likely than a member of the general population to suffer from a dementia-like illness. This is likely a result of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (picture), neurodegeneration caused by receiving multiple concussions or even subconcussions that are not detectable around time of impact. CTE has been linked to other mood and behavior changes, including suicidal depression (a great review of the medical literature generally), and has been found in football players as young as 21. And, of course, there is the sometimes debilitating physical disability (either acutely or later in life) from playing a hard-contact sport. The NFL has a long history of adjusting safety standards in bits and pieces (e.g., legalization of the forward pass) to meet public concern over potential injury and disability from playing the sport, though still to some degree publicly denies a connection between football and brain damage. New Yorker writer Ben McGrath talks to football players (past and present), their families (often left behind by untimely death or dementia-twilight), franchise heads, and doctors to explore this history, the crushing legacy of sports injuries, and the question of whether it is possible to reform the rules to minimize the risk of concussion and thus the risk of CTE (if any such risk is acceptable). Would it still be football if such changes were to tone down the violence? (Yes, No [from iconoclast Buzz Bissinger]) And, uncomfortably: is the sport of football unethical for its players, even if entered into on their own volition? (previously in the New Yorker; previously on MetaFilter 1, 2, 3) [more inside]
posted by Keter on Feb 13, 2012 - 117 comments

Can Sex Ever Be Casual?

Psychology Today delves into the societal and psychological issues raised by casual sex.
posted by reenum on Jan 26, 2012 - 32 comments

Sinusitis or brain-eating amoeba, you decide!

We've talked about using neti pots in the past. From Louisiana comes this cautionary instruction on proper technique!
posted by Runes on Dec 16, 2011 - 77 comments

Human GPS

"Piloting London’s distinctive black cabs (taxis to everyone else) is no easy feat. To earn the privilege, drivers have to pass an intense intellectual ordeal, known charmingly as The Knowledge. Ever since 1865, they’ve had to memorise the location of every street within six miles of Charing Cross – all 25,000 of the capital’s arteries, veins and capillaries. They also need to know the locations of 20,000 landmarks – museums, police stations, theatres, clubs, and more – and 320 routes that connect everything up." Acquiring The Knowledge changes the brains of those who acquire it.
posted by vidur on Dec 8, 2011 - 73 comments

Brain doctors, doing their thing

Brain Tumors: symptoms, types, a man who hunts them (and what drives him) and a vivid video of the removal of one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Dec 4, 2011 - 23 comments

Scientists Discover fMRI Area of the Brain

Are you tired of reading about how neuroscientists have discovered the area of the brain devoted to a single, oddly-specific function, but lack access to the sophisticated neuroimaging technologies needed to refute them? NeuroSynth has you covered. [more inside]
posted by logicpunk on Nov 18, 2011 - 12 comments

Zombies: The Invertebrates

Wasps create cockroach zombies, viruses produce zombie caterpillars, deep-sea zombie worms live off decaying whale bones, South American flies 'infect' ants with brain-sucking larvae.
posted by Laminda on Oct 31, 2011 - 19 comments

VisualCortexFilter: Hubel and Wiesel have a chat

Professors David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel (Nobel Prize 1981; Hubel's lecture; Wiesel's lecture) are responsible for "accidentally (YT)" (other movies) discovering a fundamental property of how the visual areas of the brain process information: single neurons respond to lines and edges of objects in visual space (pdf). This was an enormous leap forward in our understanding of visual cortex, and demonstrated that a cortical neuron can form outputs that are more complex than any of its inputs. They went on to pioneer the field of plasticity (or learning) in cortex. Here they sit together for an hour and chat about the early days of exploring the visual cortex.
posted by FrereKhan on Oct 27, 2011 - 8 comments

Why do we sleep?

Why do we sleep?
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Oct 26, 2011 - 68 comments

Doctor Volga, forgive me!

CHARGEMAN KEN episode 35: DYNAMITE IN THE BRAIN (Youtube, 5:19)
...in which our poorly-animated, generic 70s anime boy superhero finds a unique way to thwart the villains' plans. (Via the excellent let's anime.) [more inside]
posted by JHarris on Oct 25, 2011 - 15 comments

"I hope this is all just incompetence."

The statistical error that neuroscience researchers get wrong at least half the time. Ben Goldacre of Bad Science explains this mistake, which was made in about half of 157 academic neuroscience papers in which there was an opportunity to make it. The culprit doesn't seem to be any specific journal, since the sample included five different neuroscience journals.
posted by John Cohen on Oct 14, 2011 - 71 comments

The Walk Again Project

Body suit may soon enable the paralyzed to walk. "In a busy lab at Duke University, Dr. Miguel Nicolelis is merging brain science with engineering in a bid to create something fantastical: a full-body prosthetic device that would allow those immobilized by injury to walk again. On Wednesday, Nicolelis and an international group of collaborators declared that they had cleared a key hurdle on the path toward that goal, demonstrating they could bypass the body's complex network of nerve endings and supply the sensation of touch directly to the brains of monkeys."
posted by homunculus on Oct 6, 2011 - 37 comments

Might as well face it, you're addicted to i

In a New York Times op-ed called "You Love Your iPhone. Literally." branding consultant Martin Lindstrom says that his fMRI experiments show that iPhone users' brains "responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or family member ... they loved their iPhones." The piece has drawn intense criticism from neuroscientists, who have called it "complete crap", "terrible, terrible", and "truly hideous".
posted by Horace Rumpole on Oct 2, 2011 - 82 comments

I know what you're thinking...

UC Berkeley researchers have successfully used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to decode and reconstruct people’s dynamic visual experiences - in this case, watching Hollywood movie trailers.
posted by gman on Sep 22, 2011 - 62 comments

"Mr. Cortex, We Love You!"

In the early 1960s, actor/comedian/writer/composer/TV-star Steve Allen recorded How to Think, an educational album about the brain and the mind. [more inside]
posted by overeducated_alligator on Sep 6, 2011 - 12 comments

Putting Des Cartes before the horse

"The modern and contemporary philosophical tradition, which has emphasized the specialness and security of self-knowledge, especially self-knowledge of the stream of conscious experience, and in comparison the relative insecurity or derivativeness of our knowledge of the physical world around us, has the epistemic situation upside-down" - Eric Schwitzgebel (Previously)
posted by Gyan on Sep 1, 2011 - 32 comments

A face as seen from inside a cat's brain

A face as seen from inside a cat's brain. UC Berkeley scientist Yang Dan says she can connect to the neurons in a cat's brain and record what the cat sees. [more inside]
posted by Termite on Aug 10, 2011 - 115 comments

The Brain on Trial.

The Brain on Trial. Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order.
"We may someday find that many types of bad behavior have a basic biological explanation—as has happened with schizophrenia, epilepsy, depression, and mania."
[more inside]
posted by Eideteker on Jul 15, 2011 - 99 comments

Computational Theology

Author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross presents Three Arguments Against The Singularity
posted by The Whelk on Jun 24, 2011 - 188 comments

You all need to have your heads examined

The epidemic of mental illness plaguing the Americans and the overmedication of psychiatric patients are in part artifacts of the diagnostic method. [more inside]
posted by hat_eater on Jun 22, 2011 - 50 comments

Growing New Senses

More evidence of brain plasticity: Some blind people are able to use echolocation to perceive space and objects around them in surprising detail, even though the time differences in echoes necessary to do this are two small to be consciously perceived. An fMRI study by Lore Thaler, Stephen Arnott and Melvyn Goodale revealed that people who are especially adept at this use their calcarine cortex (a.k.a. V1 or primary visual cortex) to process spatial information from the echoes. The original paper. A shorter discussion. (Previously)
posted by nangar on Jun 20, 2011 - 13 comments

political orientation correlated with brain structure

Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults, Ryota Kanai, Tom Feilden, Colin Firth, Geraint Rees. Current Biology - 26 April 2011 (Vol. 21, Issue 8, pp. 677-680) [Full text .pdf]
  • Political liberalism and conservatism were correlated with brain structure
  • Liberalism was associated with the gray matter volume of anterior cingulate cortex
  • Conservatism was associated with increased right amygdala size
  • Results offer possible accounts for cognitive styles of liberals and conservatives
  • [more inside]
    posted by wilful on Jun 5, 2011 - 45 comments

    Extended Mind

    The Root of Knowledge - "Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at 'Philosophy.' " (via) [more inside]
    posted by kliuless on May 26, 2011 - 87 comments

    By hitting your brain. That's How.

    How a Magnet Can Turn Off Speech
    posted by jefficator on Apr 14, 2011 - 51 comments

    all about the brain

    Allen Human Brain Atlas - Brain Explorer 2 is a desktop software application for viewing the human brain anatomy and gene expression data in 3D. "Until now, a definitive map of the human brain at this level of detail simply hasn't existed," said Allan Jones, the nonprofit institute's chief executive. "For the first time, we have generated a comprehensive map of the brain that includes the underlying biochemistry." | Functional Neuroanatomy | 10 Great Sites for Reviewing Brain Anatomy | Harvard Brain Atlas. Bonus link: Brain massage with cosmic energy application in Pushkar, India. [more inside]
    posted by nickyskye on Apr 14, 2011 - 12 comments

    Shoot it in the head! Shoot it in the head!

    The Zombie Autopsies with Steven Schlozman, MD (SLVimeo)
    posted by cthuljew on Mar 24, 2011 - 8 comments

    Braindriver

    Braindriver is a car that allows you to steer, accelerate and decelerate with nothing more than the faint electrical signals generated by the brain.
    posted by jason's_planet on Mar 5, 2011 - 13 comments

    The International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge 2010

    The International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge 2010 - "Researchers are generating mind-boggling volumes of data at exponentially increasing rates. The ability to process that information and display it in ways that enhance understanding is an increasingly important aspect of the way scientists communicate with each other and—especially—with students and the general public. That's why, for the past 8 years, Science and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) have co-sponsored annual challenges to promote cutting-edge efforts to visualize scientific data, principles, and ideas. This year's awardees span scales from nanoparticles to colliding galaxies, and from microseconds to millennia."
    posted by Blazecock Pileon on Feb 19, 2011 - 9 comments

    Chase Britton Doesn't Have a Cerbellum

    Chase Britton was born without a cerebellum. And doctors are stunned by his ability to live a relatively normal life for a three year old. Chase was born prematurely and is also legally blind.
    posted by zizzle on Feb 14, 2011 - 63 comments

    The Soul Niche

    Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it. It all depends how you think it.
    posted by 0bvious on Feb 4, 2011 - 17 comments

    This is a subject of but small importance; and I know not whether it will interest any readers, but it has interested me.

    "This is a subject of but small importance; and I know not whether it will interest any readers, but it has interested me."-C. D. Quick... what was Darwin's most popular book? If you answered The Origin of Species, you were wrong. It was his last book, published the year before he died, The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms With Observation of Their Habits (illustrations [first presented 1 Nov. 1837, as noted in the record of the Royal Geological Society]). Darwin noted when he was beginning his career that worms churned up soil, causing heavier objects to sink slowly in the soil. He noted that all soil had passed through the alimentary duct of worms. It started off a fashion of cultivating worms by gardeners that continues to the present day. -We recently learned that we owe an element of our unique cerebral cortex, or pallium to our marine worm ancestors. (In amphibians, the cerebrum includes archipallium, paleopallium and some of the basal nuclei. Reptiles first developed a neopallium, which continued to develop in the brains of more recent species to become the neocortex of mammals." [&, ultimately, you and you and we]) [more inside]
    posted by infinite intimation on Dec 30, 2010 - 11 comments

    They do remember when

    Check out this 60 Mminutes segment about people with superior autobiographical memory, who can remember virtually every day of their life. [more inside]
    posted by nomadicink on Dec 20, 2010 - 40 comments

    The Beautiful Mind

    "It is only fitting that the story of the brain should be a visual one, for the visuals had the ancients fooled for millenniums. The brain was so ugly that they assumed the mind must lie elsewhere. Now those same skeletal silhouettes glow plump and brightly colored, courtesy of a variety of inserted genes encoding fluorescent molecules. A glossy new art book, “Portraits of the Mind,” hopes to draw the general reader into neuroscience with the sheer beauty of its images." Slide Shows: The Beautiful Mind and Portraits of the Mind [more inside]
    posted by zarq on Dec 2, 2010 - 6 comments

    Squishy Goodness

    Charlie Rose: The Brain Series
    posted by cthuljew on Nov 23, 2010 - 8 comments

    "Poetry is still beautiful, taking me with it."

    A memoir of living with a brain tumour: "For art critic Tom Lubbock, language has been his life and his livelihood. But in 2008, he developed a lethal brain tumour and was told he would slowly lose control over speech and writing. This is his account of what happens when words slip away." [more inside]
    posted by zarq on Nov 13, 2010 - 11 comments

    What's it like to be Peter Hacker?

    "The whole endeavour of the consciousness studies community is absurd – they are in pursuit of a chimera" - Peter Hacker on philosophy
    posted by Gyan on Oct 25, 2010 - 145 comments

    Believing is seeing, seeing is hearing

    Is seeing believing? BBC Horizon looks at sensory perception, illusions and the interplay of our different senses. (Full program for UK viewers here). Makes you feel like you've entered The Twilight Zone. [more inside]
    posted by philipy on Oct 18, 2010 - 16 comments

    Mind over matter.

    The brain speaks! Scientists decode words from brain signals. "In an early step toward letting severely paralyzed people speak with their thoughts, University of Utah researchers translated brain signals into words using two grids of 16 microelectrodes implanted beneath the skull but atop the brain."
    posted by Fizz on Sep 8, 2010 - 31 comments

    Don't interrupt me, I'm building my sense of self!

    An idle brain may be the self's workshop. 'Recent research suggests that mind-wandering may be important and that knowledge of how it works might help treat such conditions as Alzheimer's disease, autism, depression and schizophrenia.' Once upon a time, scientists didn't regard idle musings of the wandering mind as very important. 'But in the span of a few short years, they have instead come to view mental leisure as important, purposeful work — work that relies on a powerful and far-flung network of brain cells firing in unison. Neuroscientists call it the "default mode network."''Understanding that setting may do more than lend respectability to the universal practice of zoning out: It may one day help diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions as diverse as Alzheimer's disease, autism, depression and schizophrenia — all of which disrupt operations in the default mode network. Beyond that lies an even loftier promise. As neuroscientists study the idle brain, some believe they are exploring a central mystery in human psychology: where and how our concept of "self" is created, maintained, altered and renewed.' [more inside]
    posted by VikingSword on Sep 2, 2010 - 20 comments

    Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime

    YOUR BRAIN ON COMPUTERS “Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
    posted by wherespaul on Aug 25, 2010 - 42 comments

    Kurzweil vs. Myers

    Ray Kurzweil: Reverse-Engineering of Human Brain Likely by 2030. PZ Myers: Ray Kurzweil does not understand the brain.
    posted by homunculus on Aug 18, 2010 - 195 comments

    Death and The Slow-Mo Effect

    Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, wanted to find out how the human brain processes time in a near death situation. [more inside]
    posted by two lights above the sea on Aug 17, 2010 - 26 comments

    You Dirty Chicken Plucker

    Howard Bloom: Exercising the Animals in the Brain [more inside]
    posted by nola on Aug 9, 2010 - 25 comments

    Too much cofffee man

    What Caffeine Actually Does to Your Brain
    posted by Artw on Jul 13, 2010 - 136 comments

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