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Talking back

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    Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte? Follow on Twitter @@gstix1.
  • Site Survey Shows 60 Percent Think Free Will Exists. Read Why.

    We are responsible for our own actions. Of course we are. Sure about that? “I think I can?” “I think I can’t?” All philosophizing aside, the assumption that we have free will has been called into question by research that suggests our brains are deciding for us before we become conscious of the decisions streamed [...]

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    Bio Bigwigs Go after Drugs for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS


    Lists of the biggest challenges in brain science often start—or end—with consciousness. “End” because consciousness is considered so overwhelming a hack that it merits coming last on the list—the ultimate challenge. Consciousness probably deserves its first-or-last place of preference. But there is another entry that should be on the list that is frequently  left out. [...]

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    Brain Training Doesn’t Give You Smarts…Except When It Does

    Our site recently ran a great story about how brain training really doesn’t endow you instantly with genius IQ. The games you play just make you better at playing those same games. They aren’t a direct route to a Mensa membership. Just a few days before that story came out—Proceedings of the National Academy of [...]

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    Bhopal at 30: Lessons Still Being Learned

    In 1989, I was working as an at editor at IEEE Spectrum when I was assigned to write a feature on Bhopal. The thirtieth anniversary of that industrial disaster that killed thousands is tonight. My article back then began: On arriving at work on Dec. 3, 1984, Rick Horner, a chemical safety engineer with the [...]

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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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    Brainfest 2014: Will Football Players Be Tested for Magnetic Polarity as Well as Anabolic Steroids?

    Virginia Commonwealth University is not exactly known as a big football school. A former president once commented that a football team would not be fielded by VCU “on my watch.” The campus bookstore, at least at one time, has sold T-shirts with the slogan: “VCU Football, Still Undefeated.” The school now has a club team. [...]

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    Learning About Your Family’s Elevated Alzheimer’s Risk—as Early as Age 8

    A Colombian university is providing regular workshops on brain basics and genetics to grade schoolers from families who face a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the prime of life from a rare genetic mutation. The “talleres” set up by the University of Antioquia in Medellin attempt to prepare these youngsters for the all-too-frequent possibility [...]

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    Anarchic Autism Genetics Gain a Touch of Clarity

    Two new studies demonstrate the promise and pitfalls of the industrial-scale gene-processing technologies that define the meaning of the much-ballyhooed Big Data. Bad news first. One of the two reports published in Nature provided a four-digit estimate of the number of genes involved with autism. [I’m obligated to break here to say that Scientific American [...]

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    Cocoa Constitutents Fend Off Senior Moments—the Memory of a 30-Year-Old?

    Scott Small, a professor of neurology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, researches Alzheimer’s, but he also studies the memory loss that occurs during the normal aging process. Research on the commonplace “senior moments” focuses on the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with formation of new memories.  In particular, one area [...]

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    Baby Prep School: A Brain Game or a Mama’s Coo-Cooing?

    Baby’s first robot If  you could only learn a language with the innocent receptivity of a young child. That adage, repeated ad nauseam, once an adult has decided to learn French or Tagalog engenders endless debate.  Is it possible to create a teaching method or mental state that rewires the brain in a way that [...]

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