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]
posted by Rhaomi
on Aug 25, 2014 -
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]
posted by kliuless
on Apr 11, 2013 -
As reported at SingularityHUB
human astrocytes were engrafted into neonatal mice. The study
found that the human glial cells which were once thought of as filler cells for the brain "differentially enhance both activity-dependent plasticity and learning in mice."
posted by saber_taylor
on Mar 30, 2013 -
Rational reductionist approaches to the neural basis for beauty run a similar risk of pushing the round block of beauty into the square hole of science and may well distill out the very thing one wants to understand.
by Bevil Conway and Alexander Rehding in PLoS Biology. (via
posted by nangar
on Mar 29, 2013 -
was the first clinical sign that we had that she was having a stroke," Impaired speech is a common sign of a stroke, he says. But in this case, the woman had lost her voice because of a cold. So the series of mangled messages were the smoking gun of a language problem. He and his colleagues describe the case in the Archives of Neurology
posted by 445supermag
on Dec 26, 2012 -
How do I empower someone without language, sign, or gesture? What is it like to experience aphasia, dysnomia, auditory and visual distortions, and variable physical sensations? At times I imagine that entering into my son's sensory world—his own particular neurocosm, perhaps I should say—is a bit like walking into Lewis Carroll's Wood With No Names ...
English professor Amy Leal wrote about her young son's son's unexplained regressions and loss of skills last year in Little Boy Lost
. This year she returns with a beautiful and heartbreaking study of her son's condition in Dream Map to a Mind Seized
posted by Joe in Australia
on Dec 9, 2012 -
On November 30, the Tampa Bay Times published a sympathetic profile of Spring Hill, FL resident Gretchen Molannen: "Persistent genital arousal disorder brings woman agony, not ecstasy
." Her condition, also known as PGAD, is a rare sexual disorder (not recognized by the DSM,) 'characterized
by spontaneous, persistent, unwanted sexual arousal unrelated to feelings of sexual desire.' The Times reported that Ms. Molannen's condition had virtually destroyed her personal and professional life and led to several suicide attempts. One day after the article was published, she successfully committed suicide
. [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Dec 7, 2012 -
"...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.
Near Death, explained. [more inside]
posted by anazgnos
on Apr 23, 2012 -
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."
is an upcoming documentary exploring how listening to music can briefly return memories to patients who previously seemed completely lost to Alzheimer's. An excerpt can be seen here
posted by gilrain
on Apr 10, 2012 -
What can neuroscience teach us about zombies?
A pair of neurology blogs go over nine common symptoms: Aggression
, Lumbering Walk
, Memory Loss
, Impaired Pain Reception
, Locked Attention
, Flesh Addiction
, Insatiable hunger
posted by empath
on Oct 31, 2011 -
Autistic and Seeking a Place in the World.
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Amy Harmon spent a year observing a young man with autism named Justin Canha, who took part in a new kind of “transition to adulthood” program for special education students at Montclair High School in NJ. The experimental program was intended to ready him for an independent life as an adult and integrate him into the community. [more inside]
posted by zarq
on Sep 18, 2011 -
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.
posted by nangar
on Jun 20, 2011 -
A Real Science of Mind Neurobabble piques interest in science, but obscures how science works. Individuals see, know, and want to make love. Brains don’t. Those things are psychological — not, in any evident way, neural.
posted by shivohum
on Dec 27, 2010 -
Monogamouse Prairie voles have many vasopressin receptors in the reward centres of their brains. It seems as though these are wired up in a way that causes the animal to take pleasure from monogamy.
posted by kliuless
on Jan 9, 2010 -
"We were concerned that the study would raise a lot of controversy and be misused," Pardo said. "We were right." Some practitioners
treat autistic children with the anti-inflammatory intravenous immunoglobulin
, citing a study
by Carlos Pardo, et al. showing inflammation in the brains of deceased autistic patients. Pardo: "modulators of immune reactions (e.g. intravenous immunoglobulins, IVIG) WOULD NOT HAVE a significant effect."
Others, following the work of Simon Baron-Cohen on autism and the male brain
, treat autistic children with testosterone inhibitors
, a prospect which Baron-Cohen says "fills me with horror." Another anti-inflammatory treatment, hyperbaric therapy, is supported by one recent clinical trial
, but looks bad in another
. Side effects include horrible death by fire
(via the Chicago Tribune)
posted by escabeche
on Nov 23, 2009 -
We've discussed trepanation
, the boring of holes in the head as practiced in antiquity and by a fringe do it yourself-ers, before. There now seems to be research indicating that the procedure may have medical merit
, and even help stave off age related cognitive decline. This curious research brought to you by the Beckly Foundation
which "promotes the investigation of consciousness and its modulation
from a multidisciplinary perspective" and has a sweet logo.
posted by phrontist
on Jun 18, 2009 -