In a book published last fall1, Thomas Nagel defends the idea that science cannot explain consciousness – that the mind is a natural phenomenon which cannot be reduced to physical states of the brain. He also argues that evolutionary theory, or its current materialist version, is not sufficient to explain the appearance of the mind. Continue reading
Human brain cell transplantation makes mice smart. The transplanted cells are not neurons and the cells communicate without using electricity. Continue reading
A new study published in Nature Neuroscience by a large group of researchers from The Netherlands has identified the modifications of brain activities of patients as they were receiving treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)1. OCD is an anxiety disorder in which patients adopt repetitive behaviors such as hoarding, washing, or cleaning to address excessive worries or fears. Continue reading
People are getting excited this month on the more-than-century-old debate about whether or not the brain is computable – whether we could make a computer or machine that simulates it. The recent debates were partly caused by the book published by Ray Kurzweil, How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed. Oppositions to the claims and contents of the book have been published by major scientists. One text by Christof Koch in Science1 covers very well the naive and misinformed aspects of this book concerning its statements on biology and intelligence and I will not go further into pinpointing the issues. Christof Koch also provides an accurate view of how complex the question is and how far we are from understanding any brain – let alone the human brain – to program it into a computer. Continue reading
Think about the last time you reported a sequence of events to someone. It probably was in the form of a story with some events, your reactions, and some outcomes. It remains to be determined how events within a story are represented by the brain. We know from empirical research that people are able to report things as a stream in time – event A led to event B, which led to event C. We tend to focus on rare events – the most surprising and informative ones. Continue reading
If you’ve ever been backpacking you know the problem neuroscientist Mathias Pessiglione and his colleagues are interested in solving–when to take a break. This subtle question may seem trivial at first, until you realize that this decision-making process affects every one of us, every day, in everything we do, and yet we don’t know how we do it. Whether you are an athlete or a desk jockey, success in your endeavor hinges on allocating your effort and rest periods optimally. In the extreme, this decision can be perilous.
Our ability to access information is becoming nearly unlimited. But what does the loss of that gap in time between wondering and knowing mean to your brain? Continue reading