American philosopher John Haugeland has died. In dramatic fashion, he suffered a massive heart attack in the middle of a conference dedicated to his work on the occasion of his retirement. He made enormous contributions to the philosophy of mind and introduced many undergraduates to the very idea of artificial intelligence. [more inside]
Researchers at MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences have identified two "morality centers" of the brain. In two separate experiments, they have shown a correlation between a particular part of the brain and the ability to make moral jusgments related to intent to commit a crime. In one experiment, patients with brain damage in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain don't consider hypothetical perpetrators to be morally responsible for their actions. In another experiment (noted on NPR today) the researchers showed that they could switch off the moral judgment function by applying a magnetic field to the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) of the brain. The TPJ has also been implicated in "out of body experiences", both in cases of brain damage and by artificially stimulating the area.
"Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation" (PDF). A recent article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences on the neuroscience of meditation, focusing on how meditation alters and sharpens the brain's attention systems. The research is being done at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior (previously), who have also recently published research on the "Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation" (PDF), which describes how meditation can cultivate compassion by physically affecting brain regions that play a role in empathy. They shared this research with the Dalai Lama at the recent Seeds of Compassion forum.
Since 1993, the Institut Jean Nicod has awarded the annual Jean Nicod Prize to a leading philosopher or cognitive scientist for his or her work in the interdisciplinary study of the mind. The recipient is expected to deliver a series of lectures. The lecture series of this past year's winner, philosopher Stephen Stich, is entitled "Moral Theory Meets Cognitive Science: How Cognitive Science Can Transform Traditional Debates", and is now available online in video form. Also available is the lecture series of the previous year's winner, evolutionary anthropologist Michael Tomasello: "Origins of Human Communication". [more inside]