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
— 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 -
Oliver Sacks is surviving cancer of the eye
, ocular melanoma. In his latest book, The Mind’s Eye
, he "tells the stories of people who are able to navigate the world and communicate with others despite losing what many of us consider indispensable senses and abilities." In the interview, Sacks talks about his diagnosis, the after-effects of his radiation treatment (which include hallucinations that resolve themselves into words if he "smokes a little pot"), his apprenticeships with poets W.H. Auden and Thom Gunn, and the importance of science writing in an age when the authority of science is being undermined by religious zealots. Via MeFi's own, Steve Silberman, digaman. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye
on Sep 1, 2010 -
The Lucretian swerve: The biological basis of human behavior and the criminal justice system
As de Duve has written, “If … neuronal events in the brain determine behavior, irrespective of whether they are conscious or unconscious, it is hard to find room for free will. But if free will does not exist, there can be no responsibility, and the structure of human societies must be revised”.
Ben Libet & free will, previously on metafilter. (And more on: Lucretius, Dualism, Philosophy of mind, and Free Will 1, 2.)
posted by scalespace
on Jul 6, 2010 -
Optimizing Your Brain at Work
is a pretty fascinating talk at Google by David Rock about managing your brain's internal states and attention, as well as threat responses with the goal of optimizing information processing. It is a Youtube link, and fairly long (~55min). He also mentions The Neuroscience of Mindfulness
during the talk, so here is a convenient link to that.
posted by Vulpyne
on Dec 3, 2009 -
was the subject of many landmark studies in neuroscience. After his hippocampus was removed to control epileptic seizures, he was unable to form long-term memories.
University of California - San Diego's Brain Observatory
is shaving his brain now, sliver after sliver, and posting the live camera feed
on the web. [more inside]
posted by Vhanudux
on Dec 2, 2009 -
A gene variant associated with serotonin transport (STG) ,
and normally associated with depression is strangely more prevalent, but also less likely to induce depression in collectivistic East Asian cultures. The study took data from 29 countries, and found a consistent trend towards this same genetic variant being strongly associated with episodes of major depression in Western cultures.
posted by mdpatrick
on Oct 29, 2009 -
Cyborg Spy Beetles
are no longer a thing of the future. UC Berkeley (funded by DARPA) has created cyborg beetles guided wirelessly via laptop. These spy beetles were created with the intent of bugging actual conversations, literally acting as the "fly on the wall". [more inside]
posted by scrutiny
on Oct 27, 2009 -
What can we learn from quadrapeds about our own bipedal gait? Recently
, a group of researchers has taught rhesus macaques how to walk, and then used neural recordings to develop a model of a functioning brain-machine interface (BMI) designed to take the signals from your brain and use them to interface with a prosthetic leg, which would allow previously paralyzed patients to literally walk again. [more inside]
posted by scrutiny
on Oct 1, 2009 -
(fMRI) is a widely used technique of brain imaging in the cognitive sciences, allowing researchers to visualize what part of the brain is responding to certain stimuli, resulting in striking images
of live brains
. These days, fMRI is seeing more non-research use, such as forming the basis of controversial new lie detectors
. Craig Bennett, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB, submitted a whole Atlantic salmon to fMRI analysis
, and found that this fish could apparently detect, and respond to, the the emotional state of human beings (poster
). Remarkable science, especially considering the salmon was dead at the time. [more inside]
posted by Rumple
on Sep 24, 2009 -
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot finds that claims of sex differences fall apart.
In one study, scientists dressed newborns in gender-neutral clothes and misled adults about their sex. The adults described the "boys" (actually girls) as angry or distressed more often than did adults who thought they were observing girls, and described the "girls" (actually boys) as happy and socially engaged more than adults who knew the babies were boys. Dozens of such disguised-gender experiments have shown that adults perceive baby boys and girls differently, seeing identical behavior through a gender-tinted lens. [more inside]
posted by cashman
on Sep 3, 2009 -
The Neuroscience of McGriddles:
Evolutionary biology offers hypotheses about why we enjoy eating. "When you eat at McDonald's, a big part of the pleasure comes from the fact that the food is sustenance, fuel, energy. Even mediocre food is a little rewarding."
posted by silby
on Jul 23, 2009 -
Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices.
"An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
posted by homunculus
on Jul 8, 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 -
Test My Brain
was set up by Harvard's Vision Lab and Social Neuroscience and Psychopathology Lab. There are five tests online at the time of this post; take one and maybe you'll learn something about yourself that you may not have known (other than your special ability to slack off on MetaFilter when you should be working). At the same time, you'll be helping researchers collect data from a wide range of subjects. One of the collaborators, Professor Ken Nakayama, is also responsible for creating these online tests
for faceblindness. [previously] [more inside]
posted by not_on_display
on May 21, 2009 -