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Posts Tagged "brain"

Anthropology in Practice

This Is Your Brain on Disney

I’ve only been to Disney World once. A few years ago, S and I went for the first time and while I may go back, I’m definitely still recovering. Disney marketing isn’t kidding when they say it’s the happiest/most magical place on earth—it’s intense. And the experience stays with you. The promise of the experience [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American MIND Launches a New Home Page and Blog Network

I am thrilled to announce two big developments for Scientific American MIND today. We are launching a new home page, mind.scientificamerican.com, so that fans of the magazine can find our print and online articles, as well as multimedia, in one convenient location. Starting today, you’ll start to see several new contributors in the mix, which [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

No Silly Love Songs? Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Our Latest E-Book: Love, Sex and Science

eBook - Disarming Cupid: Love, Sex and Science

Will “Love Will Keep Us Together” or is it true that “Love Is a Battlefield”? Whereas the topic of romance has provided limitless inspiration for artists, writers and musicians, scientists are just as fascinated by affairs of the heart, though they seldom sing about it. Cupid’s unpredictable arrow explains little, so it can be more [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Introducing The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

itunes_logo

It’s my great pleasure to introduce The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, where we give you insights into the mind, brain, behavior and creativity. Each episode will feature a guest who will stimulate your mind, and give you a greater understanding of your self, others, and the world we live in. Hopefully, we’ll also provide a glimpse into [...]

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Bering in Mind

One Last Goodbye: The Strange Case of Terminal Lucidity

I’m as sworn to radical rationalism as the next neo-Darwinian materialist. That said, over the years I’ve had to “quarantine,” for lack of a better word, a few anomalous personal experiences that have stubbornly defied my own logical understanding of them. Once, for instance, I was staying at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale when I [...]

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Bering in Mind

Sex, Sleep and the Law: When Nocturnal Genitals Pose a Moral Dilemma

It may seem to you that, much like their barnyard animal namesake, men’s reproductive organs the world over participate in a mindless synchrony of stiffened salutes to the rising sun. In fact, however, such "morning wood" is an autonomic leftover from a series of nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) episodes that occur like clockwork during the [...]

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Bering in Mind

Natural homophobes? Evolutionary psychology and antigay attitudes

Consider this a warning: the theory I’m about to describe is likely to boil untold liters of blood and prompt mountains of angry fists to clench in revolt. It’s the best—the kindest—of you out there likely to get the most upset, too. I’d like to think of myself as being in that category, at least, [...]

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Bering in Mind

Armpit Psychology: The Science of Body Odor Perception

Researchers explore how other people’s smells are processed by our brains

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Brainwaves

Searching For The Elephant’s Genius Inside the Largest Brain on Land

African elephant

  Many years ago, while wandering through Amboseli National Park in Kenya, an elephant matriarch named Echo came upon the bones of her former companion Emily. Echo and her family slowed down and began to inspect the remains. They stroked Emily’s skull with their trunks, investigating every crevice; they touched her skeleton gingerly with their [...]

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Brainwaves

Catching Ourselves in the Act of Thinking

rodin-thinker

From 1934 to 1970, Louie Mayer worked as a cook and housekeeper for writers Virginia and Leonard Woolf at their home in Rodmell, England. Her very first day on the job, she noticed something strange. As Louie worked in the kitchen, voices poured through the ceiling from the upstairs bathroom, where Virginia was soaking in [...]

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Brainwaves

Why We Need to Study the Brain’s Evolution in Order to Understand the Modern Mind

In the September 17th issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Gottlieb analyzes Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature, a new book by David Barash, a psychology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Gottlieb’s article is more than just a book review—it’s also the latest in a long line of critiques of evolutionary [...]

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Brainwaves

The Mysterious Brain of the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur, the World’s Only Hibernating Primate

fat-tailed dwarf lemur

In the 18th century Carl Linnaeus named them lemurs, after the Latin lemures—spirits of the dead, wandering ghosts. He knew the primates roamed Madagascar’s forests at night, their large eyes brimming with moonlight, their shrill cries crashing through the treetops. One of the smallest lemurs on the island, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, resembled a phantom [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons in the Brain’s Forest

illustrations-of-neurons

Previously, on Know Your Neurons: Chapter 1: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron Chapter 2: How to Classify Different Types of Neurons, or The Dendrology of the Neuron Forest Scientists have organized the cells that make up the nervous system into two broad groups: neurons, which are the primary signaling cells, and glia, which [...]

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Brainwaves

Know Your Neurons: The Discovery and Naming of the Neuron

selection-of-neuron-types

Over the years, I have taught my copy of Microsoft Word a lot of neuroscience terminology: amygdala, corpus callosum, dendritic spines, voxel. But it always knew what neuron meant. I thought I did too. Neurons—the electrically excitable cells that make up the brain and nervous system—first fascinated me in high school. In college, like so [...]

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Expeditions

MIT Neurotech: Tapping into Neurons with Autopatching

Monitoring a neuron’s activity using a patch clamp. (Image by Ed Boyden Lab, MIT)

Whether you’re walking, talking or contemplating the universe, a minimum of tens of billions of synapses are firing at any given second within your brain. “The weak link in understanding ourselves is really about understanding how our brains generate our minds and how our minds generate our selves,” says MIT neuroscientist Ed Boyden. One cubic [...]

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Expeditions

MIT Neurotech: Mapping the Brain with Connectomics

A synapse. An upstream cell, here an amacrine interneuron shown in yellow, sends impulses to a downstream cell, shown in blue, which if excited in the right way will then propagate the signal down its axon to other cells. Image by Alex Norton from data analyzed by deep learning algorithms and gamers in the citizen neuroscience game EyeWire.

We can make movies using atoms as characters, grow organs and even skydive from space, yet when it comes to understanding the finer details of the 1.3 kilogram organ behind each person’s eyes – the brain – we’re mostly in the dark. Neuroscientists do not even know how many different types of cells it contains, much less how [...]

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Expeditions

MIT Neurotech: Microfluidics Opens a Window Into Unseen Worlds

“The world of the small is intriguing and fascinating — at this scale water behaves like honey and cells can be made to glow like Christmas lights.” (Albert Folch Lab, University of Washington)

A 14-foot aluminum alloy robot hurdles through the black of space at 13,000 miles per hour. For 350 million miles, its load of scientific instruments built t0 detect X-rays and analyze minerals sits isolated, periodically pinging the craft’s home planet. Eight months after lift-off, the craft nears its destination as a distant red dot becomes [...]

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Expeditions

MIT Neurotech: From Signals to Behavior

“A typical neuron in the mammalian brain receives thousands of synaptic inputs and sends out information through thousands of output synapses. Experience alters the brain by making, modifying or eliminating these synapses. To facilitate the study of these processes in living brain tissue, the individual parts of the neuron can be labeled using fluorescent proteins. In this image, one neuron is labeled in red using a cytosolic dye introduced through a microelectrode. Green puncta are individual synapses (each synapse is around 1 micron in size).” (Image by Venkatesh Murphy, Harvard University)

You’re sitting outside posting pics of a beautiful day to Facebook when the smell hits you. A spicy, cheesy, carne asada-ey deliciousness that can only mean one thing: a burrito truck is near. Hound-like, you hunt your lunch. An impending Mexicali meal will soon satiate your suddenly growling stomach. You finally arrive, brave a bending [...]

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Expeditions

MIT Neurotech: Imaging Neurons Deep Within a Living Brain

Two-photon microscopy image of a neuron published in PNAS by Holbro N et al. (2009)

It’s a Saturday and you’re on vacation, looking out over the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean from the windy cliffs of Big Sur. You breathe in cool, fresh salty air. A thunderous pummel of great waves stirs neural networks in your brain and suddenly you find yourself wondering what lies submerged beneath the foaming sea. Seals [...]

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Expeditions

MIT Neurotech: A Journey Through the Brain

Neurotech_MRI_Community

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series about emerging neurotechnologies. Join a pilot class of 12 PhD students at MIT as we explore how neuroscience is revolutionizing our understanding of the brain. Each post coincides with a lecture and lab tour at MIT created by the Center for Neurobiological Engineering. This experiment [...]

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Food Matters

Calorie-burning fat and your brain

Fat mature man measuring his belly with measurement tape

If you follow obesity news, you may have heard of a type of energy-burning “good fat” known as brown fat, which scientists think may have potential to battle a growing epidemic of excess body fat. Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have moved one step closer to realizing this possibility by discovering the brain’s role [...]

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Food Matters

Is your nose making you overeat?

Fruit flies overeat when they smell something tasty; what about you?

Some people are drawn to the thick smell of bacon, sizzling and crackling in the skillet on a Saturday morning.  For others, it’s the aroma of freshly baked cookies on a Friday night or the smell of McDonald’s fries creeping in through the car window.  At this time of year, I find the scent of [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

STOP! How We Inhibit Acts

(Credit: Swann N and Greenhouse I (2014) STOP! How we inhibit acts. Front. Young Minds. 2:7. doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00007)

This is a re-posting of an article originally published at Frontiers for Young Minds. (Swann N and Greenhouse I (2014) STOP! How we inhibit acts. Front. Young Minds. 2:7. doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00007) Introduction Imagine you are standing on 3rd base and waiting to sprint to home plate to win the game for your baseball team. You watch [...]

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Guest Blog

The Potential of LSD, Heroin, Marijuana and Other Controlled Substances in Brain Research

no drugs sign

Imagine being an astronomer in a world where the telescope was banned. This effectively happened in the 1600s when, for over 100 years, the Catholic Church prohibited access to knowledge of the heavens in a vain attempt to stop scientists proving that the earth was not the center of the universe.  ‘Surely similar censorship could [...]

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Guest Blog

Serotonin and sexual preference: Is it really that simple?

Last week, Nature issued a new paper. The paper used two different strains of mice, one lacking all serotonin neurons (called Lmx1b knockouts), and one lacking the rate limiting enzyme for the production of serotonin (called TPH2 knockouts). The authors demonstrated that these mice, lacking serotonin, did not distinguish between sexual partners, mounting male and [...]

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Guest Blog

You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential

"One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts." —Albert Einstein While Einstein was not a neuroscientist, he sure knew what he was talking about in regards to the human capacity to achieve. He knew intuitively what we can [...]

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Guest Blog

A pill to remember

It has happened to everyone. You can’t recall a name or you forget your credit card PIN number. Rather than waiting two weeks for a new one to arrive in the mail, wouldn’t it be great if there were a pill you could swallow to pop that lost memory back into your head? That is [...]

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Guest Blog

Pleasure, reward…and rabbits! Why do animals behave as they do?

My wife and I keep pet rabbits. Observe their cuteness: We feed Jackson (he’s the black one) and Dutchess (she’s the big one) once each morning and once each night, and usually give them a few treats in between. A month or so ago, we noticed that when we open the refrigerator door they hop [...]

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Guest Blog

The antidepressant reboxetine: A “headdesk” moment in science

Every so often there comes a truly "headdesk" moment in science. A moment where you sit there, stunned by a new finding, and thinking, blankly…"OK, now what?" For psychiatry and behavioral pharmacology, one of those moments came a few weeks ago with the findings of a meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal (Eyding et [...]

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Guest Blog

Michelangelo’s secret message in the Sistine Chapel: A juxtaposition of God and the human brain

At the age of 17 he began dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. Between the years 1508 and 1512 he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti—known by his first name the world over as the singular artistic genius, sculptor and architect—was also an anatomist, a secret he concealed by destroying [...]

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Illusion Chasers

Remembering David Hubel (February 27, 1926 – September 22, 2013)

David Hubel

Hubel had an irreverent attitude towards science “with a capital S”.

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MIND Guest Blog

Technology May Lift Severe Depression, but Full Recovery Takes Time

Courtesy of Dave Gingrich via Flickr.

This blog is the last in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. I have been a practicing psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic since 1989. [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Simply Shining a Light Can Reveal the Brain’s Structure

Pseudo-colored angiogram of a rodent somatosensory cortex with surface vessels in yellow and orange and deep vessels in green. Credits: Vivek Srinivasan and Harsha Radhakrishnan.

This blog is the fifth in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Imagine having to spot a single grain of cereal at the bottom [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Giving the Brain a Buzz: The Ultimate in Self-Help or a Dangerous Distraction?

The  tDCS device on the left can localize stimulation to a smaller area than the one on the right. Each machine connects to electrode cap. Credit: Joe Moran.

This blog is the fourth in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Imagine a medical device that is so simple to build and cheap [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Can Video Games Diagnose Cognitive Deficits?

Five brain-training games available as an iPad “app” from Lumosity were evaluated as tests of cognitive dysfunction in cirrhosis: (a) Circles is a test of spatial orientation, information processing speed and attention. Colored circles appear one at a time and a user must decide whether each is a match when compared with the circle that showed up earlier. (b) Color Match evaluates selective attention, cognitive flexibility and processing speed. The names of two colors appear and the test-taker must decide whether or not the top word names the font color of the bottom word. (c) Memory Matrix taps visuospatial memory. A pattern of tiles appears on a grid; when the pattern disappears, a test-taker attempts to recreate it. (d) Lost in Migration examines attention as well as visual field and focus. Five birds appear and a user indicates the direction of flight of the center bird. (e) Chalkboard Challenge involves quantitative reasoning. A player must determine which arithmetic figure has the greatest value between two choices.

This blog is the third in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Video games are an increasingly common pastime, especially for children, adolescents and [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

A Hubble Telescope for the Mind

These fluorescently labeled neurons in the mouse somatosensory cortex are those that project to other regions of the brain.

This blog is the second in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. All of our mental experience is born from the coordinated electrical activity [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Brain-Wide Map of “Neural Highways” Is First of Its Kind

For the first time ever, neuroscientists have completed a comprehensive roadmap of the top-trafficked communication highways in the human brain. This  white-matter map not only charts the geography of these neural highways – it also plots out which of them interact with the most other paths, which are most crucial for supporting key brain functions, [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

To Patch a Visual Gap, Turn That Text Around

Fixation maps

Reader, be proud. You’re a perceptual expert. As you read, your eyes alternately focus and move along each line of text in a seamless sequence honed over years of practice. Reading, recognizing faces and distinguishing colors or musical tones are all forms of perceptual expertise. To appreciate the visual skill involved in reading, turn a [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

The Search for a Nobel Prize-Winning Synapse Machine

In the cellular machinery that Rothman, Schekman and Südhof all helped reconstruct, a SNARE complex - made of synaptobrevin, syntaxin and SNAP-25 - zips together to bind a synaptic vesicle to the surface of a receiving neuron. Courtesy of Danko Dimchev Georgiev, M.D. via Wikimedia Commons.

2013’s Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine honors three researchers in particular – but what it really honors is thirty-plus years of work not only from them, but also from their labs, their graduate students and their collaborators. Winners James Rothman, Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof all helped assemble our current picture of the cellular [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Plenty of Pheromones in the Sea

As we sat in my car outside a silent movie theater in Los Angeles, my friend anxiously opened a plastic bag containing a white T-shirt she’d slept in for the past three nights. “Does it smell like me?” she asked nervously, gesturing the open end toward my face. I stuck my nose into the bag [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Can Synesthesia in Autism Lead to Savantism?

Daniel Tammet has memorized Pi to the 22,514th digit. He speaks ten different languages, including one of his own invention, and he can multiply enormous sums in his head within a matter of seconds. However, he is unable to hold down a standard 9-to-5 job, in part due to his obsessive adherence to ritual, down [...]

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Not bad science

The right smell: dogs sniff more with their right nostrils

Have you ever wondered what makes you right- or left-handed? Well, in humans and other mammals, the brain is divided down the middle, or ‘lateralized’. One of the effects of this is that people can be right-handed or left-handed (having better motor skill with one hand or the other). This is because one half of [...]

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Observations

How Do Our Brains Remember? [Video]

Kandel_06 crop

Each of us has a unique experience on this earth. A major reason for that is the buildup of our memories over time, which forms the ongoing narrative that we know as our life. Memories are also central to learning. But how does the brain—a collection of cells, neurons chief among them—remember and learn? Eric [...]

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Observations

Firstborn Girls Most Likely to Succeed

Hillary Clinton

Bossy, know-it-all older sisters everywhere now have something else to lord over their younger siblings: Researchers have found that firstborn girls are the most ambitious and successful children in their families. A slew of real life examples appear to back this up: Beyonce, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Sheryl Sandberg are all firstborns. Oldest children [...]

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Observations

Brains in Boston: Weekend Recap of Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s Annual Meeting

poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Annual Meeting

Greetings from Boston where the 21st annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society is underway.  Saturday and Sunday were packed with symposia, lectures and more than 400 posters.  Here are just a few of the highlights. The bilingual brain has been a hot topic at the meeting this year, particularly as researchers grapple with the [...]

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Observations

Are “Big Brain” Projects Really Worth Billions?

When does it make sense to throw vast sums of money at a single problem? The question animates a lot of debate in science policy circles, and it was a topic of discussion among scientists and policymakers at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. The question is particularly topical as the United States [...]

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Observations

Why Do Antidepressants Take So Long to Work?

Kate wanted to die. She remembers the moment the psychiatrist said “the antidepressant isn’t going to work right away. Can you promise to be here next week and not kill yourself?” “I told her no,” Kate says. “I couldn’t promise my doctor I’d make it a week. That’s how bad my life had to be [...]

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Observations

Taking a Closer Look at How Meditation Improves Our Brains [Video]

final_sa_wo.Still001

The practice of meditation can sharpen our attention, strengthen memory and improve other mental abilities. In our latest Instant Egghead video, Scientific American editor Ferris Jabr examines the changes in brain structure behind some of these benefits. More to explore (via Ferris Jabr): Does mindfulness training improve cognitive abilities? A systematic review of neuropsychological findings. [...]

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Observations

The Continuing Mystery of the Moon Illusion [Video]

The harvest moon is almost upon us—specifically, September 19. It’s the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, and it has deep significance in our cultural histories. Namely, it enabled our ancestral farmers to toil longer in the fields. (Today, electricity enables us to toil longer in the office—thanks, Tom Edison.) One enduring belief is [...]

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Observations

Can You Trust Your Eyes? A Video of Illusions

If you’re a fan of optical illusions and perceptual tricks, check out this AsapSCIENCE video. As usual, producers Michael Moffitt and Gregory Brown do a great job distilling the essential ideas and presenting them in a fun, entertaining and informative way. Here, they show you how your brain judges brightness and color in context. Visit [...]

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Observations

Lasker Awards to Honor Neuroscience, Hearing and Philanthropy Work

Image: Lasker Foundation

  Let the Nobel Prize watch begin. Two areas of major medical discovery and two leading public health philanthropists were announced this morning as the winners of the prestigious Lasker Awards. The awards, currently in their 68th year, are typically looked to as a precursor for the Nobel Prize and are informally dubbed the “American [...]

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Observations

Integrating Left Brain and Right, on a Computer

ibm,cognitive,computer,processor,brain

As computers have matured over time, the human brain has no way of keeping up with silicon’s rapid-fire calculating abilities. But the human cognitive repertoire extends far beyond just fast calculations. For that reason, researchers are still trying to develop computers that can recognize, interpret and act upon information—like the kind pulled in by eyes, [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

How Lil Wayne, the NYC Octopus, Will Help Scientists Understand the Brain

BROOKLYN—It wasn’t hard to name Lil Wayne. He actually volunteered to take the rapper’s moniker. On April 2, Frank Grasso, director of the Biomemetic and Cognitive Robotics Lab at Brooklyn College, showed me around his lab spaces—from where they build mobile robots to where they keep their axolotls and fiddler crabs to the crown jewel: [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

New Views into the Octopus’s Bizarre Moves

octopus swim move

We’ve known for centuries that octopuses get around one of two ways: one, by crawling over surfaces with their arms, or, two, swimming with the help of their siphon’s jet. But a new study (pdf) shows us that their movement is not quite so simple—and is far more fascinating. A team of researchers has been [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

How a Video Game Can Help Us Understand What It’s Like to Be an Octopus [Video]

octodad

You have one brain. Which controls two jointed arms. And ten jointed fingers. All of which are going to have a very hard time keeping up with the protagonist in the new video game Octodad: Dadliest Catch. In this game (out January 2014), which is a sequel to the freebie Octodad, players must command a [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

8 Awesome Octopus Facts for World Oceans Day

octopus facts world oceans day

Octopuses are amazing. In honor of World Oceans Day, here are eight facts about these incredible creatures. 8. Octopuses are masters of camouflage. However, research suggests that octopuses don’t try to blend into their entire environment—to look like coral, sand and seaweed all at once. A study published last year  found that octopuses, instead, picked [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Octopuses Gain Consciousness (According to Scientists’ Declaration)

octopus consciousness declaration

Elephants cooperate to solve problems. Chimpanzees teach youngsters to make tools. Even octopuses seem to be able to plan. So should we humans really be surprised that “consciousness” probably does not only exist in us? This privileged state of subjective awareness in fact goes well beyond Homo sapiens, according to the new Cambridge Declaration on [...]

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Oscillator

Smellspace and Olfactory White

brain_odor_map

White is a mixture, made by a combination of signals at equal intensity across a perceptual space. White light can be split up into all the colors of the visible spectrum, and white noise covers a range of frequencies within the audible range. Our other senses don’t have as clearly defined ranges of perception. We [...]

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SA Visual

Beyond Classic Brain Illustrations That Make Us Drool

From The Anatomy of the Brain Explained in a Series of Engravings, by Sir Charles Bell, 1802 (Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London)

I threw down a bit of a challenge last month at the Association of Medical Illustrators Conference in Minnesota. But first, I had to—somewhat unexpectedly—accept some challenges presented by others. And face the reality that some of us simply do not have the constitution of an anatomist. I love classic anatomical illustrations such as the [...]

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SA Visual

How Do You Visualize the Brain? [Contest]

brain_detail

Here at Scientific American, we develop lots of infographics about the brain. From classic neural pathway diagrams, depictions of medical breakthroughs, and maps of the brain’s genetic activity, there are as many solutions for visualizing the brain as there are questions about how it works. Now it’s your turn. MIT’s EyeWire, FEI and Visually are [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Neuroscientists Break into the Brain to Expose Its Workings

Courtesy of Saad Faruque via Flickr.

The brain is a dazzlingly complex web of somewhere around 100 billion neurons, each of which communicates with others through thousands of connections. The idea of manipulating such a complex system to figure out how it works seems, on the face of it, improbable. Yet a few intrepid explorers have set their sights on this [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Brilliance Often Springs from Boredom

Every so often, we face a job we dread because it seems exceedingly dull. As a child, I felt that way about household chores—scrubbing a toilet, sweeping a floor, wiping a countertop, weeding. I remember one day my grandmother was visiting and announced that she would sweep the floor for me, because she liked sweeping. [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Parents of Young Athletes: Protect Your Child’s Brain in 8 Steps

When I was kid, I remember my dad scolding my brother and me when one of us decided to hold the other one upside-down. In that position, he reasoned, we could fall on our head. As a cognitive psychologist, my dad was always thinking about the brain. Despite his concern with all things cerebral, my [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Do Actions Speak Louder than Feelings? [Video]

    // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the tenth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in New York [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Multitask at Your Own Risk

unicycle_Elsie esq

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the eighth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Is Your Sense of Humor in Your Genes? Geneticists Crack the Code

          // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the seventh video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Acts of Kindness Explained [Video]

helping_Donald_Lee_Pardue

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the sixth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

The Hidden Power of Others Over You [Video]

Courtesy of brizzle born and bred via Flickr.

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the third video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Cultivate Your Character [Video]

The term “character” has numerous and widely varied meanings. It defines each of these letters and symbols I am typing. It can be used to refer to features of wines, and it captures fictional folks in movies in books. I often call funny or stand-out individuals “characters,” too. In psychology, however, “character” most often adheres [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Who Needs Stimulants for ADHD?

Ritalin. Courtesy of en:User:Sponge via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1970, 150,000 U.S. children were taking stimulant medications. By 2007, that number had risen to 2.7 million, according to pediatrician Sanford Newmark of the University of California, San Francisco. In the video embedded in this post, titled “Do 2.5 Million Kids Really Need Ritalin?” Newmark analyzes the reasons behind the rise in prescriptions, which [...]

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Symbiartic

Like Nails on a Chalkboard

Michelle_Hunter_Cacophony-m

Paintings by some fine artists can be used to thought-provoking effect as illustrations on news or blog posts about scientific advancements. One fine artist who frequently comes to mind  for me when I am asked to recommend an illustrator is painter Michelle Hunter. Hunter focuses on the brain (see an earlier Symbiartic post here) and [...]

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Symbiartic

The Brain Stem Behind Creation

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University and scientific research center programs are increasingly finding it useful to employ artists and illustrators to help them see things in a new way. Few works of art from the Renaissance have been studied and pored over as meticulously as Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel. Yet, the Master may still have some surprises [...]

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Start 2014 in Style With These ScienceArt Exhibits

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All in all, 2013 was a bang-up year for science art. It seems the genre is gaining ground as more and more exhibits tackle the fascinating possibilities that exist at the intersection of science and art. 2014 seems to be continuing the trend with a wide array of notably longer exhibits. Enjoy! EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION [...]

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Puzzling out Brain Iconography

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Artists who obsess about a subject can fall prey to repetition, and build a career out of what splattered-paint canvas or bowl of fruit after another. But artists like Michelle Hunter instead find a never-ending cascade of images worth exploring. Her obsession? The brain. We’ll be doing an interview with Hunter in the days ahead, [...]

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A Mouse Experiment Suggests How We Might One Day Sleep Off Toxic Memories

One area of brain science that has drawn intense interest in recent years is the study of what psychologists call reconsolidation—a ponderous technical term that, once translated, means giving yourself a second chance. Memories of our daily experience are  formed, often during sleep, by inscribing—or “consolidating”—a record of what happened into neural tissue. Joy at [...]

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2014 Nobel in Medicine for Uncovering Brain’s Navigation System

The discoveries that the brain has defined systems that track an animal’s whereabouts as it makes its way about the world were honored on Oct. 6 with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine going to three researchers. John O’Keefe of University College London discovered in 1971 the aptly named “place cells”—a term that [...]

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U.S. Big Science Project Starts Search for Tools to Understand ALS, PTSD, PD, TBI, ALZ …

A signature science program of the Obama administration’s second term—one intended to develop technologies and a base of knowledge to solve long-standing mysteries of how the brain works—has finally reached cruising altitude. The Obama Administration’s Brain Initiative, which could stretch through the 2025 federal funding year if it gets continued funding from future administrations, now [...]

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Tuesday Update: Will Leading Scientists Boycott the Humonguous Human Brain Project?

Scientists don’t usually lodge a protest against projects funded to the tune of 1.2 billion euros. They usually try to make nice with the organizers to get in on the action. No one is taking to the streets this time, but more than 200 people (and climbing), among them prominent scientists, are using the megaphone [...]

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Brainomics: Hacking the Brain (and Autism) with Gene Machines

Tony Zador Tony Zador is a professor of biology at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory who studies auditory processing, attention and decision-making in rodents. He spoke recently at the laboratory’s 79th annual symposium on quantitative biology, which focused this year on the topic of cognition. Zador talked about his recent work trying to demonstrate how [...]

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U.S. Big Brain Project Takes Next Big Step

The group of neuroscientists  that is advising the Obama administration’s Big Science brain project delivered to the NIH its final report on June 5 with a recommendation that $4.5  billion be spent through the 2025 federal fiscal year to develop a set of advanced technologies that will enhance understanding of how neural circuitry works. If [...]

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Why Language and Thought Resemble Russian Dolls

Michael Corballis is a professor emeritus at the University of Auckland, who has written extensively on the evolution of language and the origins of thought. In his 2011 book The Recursive Mind, he wrote about how the structure of human language allows for recursion—in which ideas are nested within each other: “He thinks that I [...]

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What’s Special, or Not, about Human Brain Anatomy

As a teenager, Chet Sherwood, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University, did not know he was destined to become a scientist. “I wasn’t the kind of kid who collected National Geographic or watched Nova,” he says. During the mid-1990s, Sherwood was  a member of Speedking, a Brooklyn punk group described by AllMusic.com as “an [...]

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Statistical Flaw Punctuates Brain Research in Elite Journals

Neuroscientists need a statistics refresher. That is the message of a new analysis in Nature Neuroscience that shows that more than half of 314 articles on neuroscience in elite journals   during an 18-month period failed to take adequate measures to ensure that statistically significant study results were not, in fact, erroneous. Consequently, at  least some [...]

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Map of Brain’s Speech Centers May Help “Locked-In” Patients Talk

Wilder Penfield’s famous homonculus map of the brain had a large area on one side capped by a gaping cartoon mouth labeled simply “vocalization.” During the 1930s,  Penfield stimulated that same area, but was unable to elicit any recognizable utterances. A group of researchers led by Edward F. Chang of the University of California San [...]

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