As a new biography of Alan Turing hits the big screen, it’s worth remembering the foundational role Turing played in artificial intelligence and his contribution to the idea of how brains learn. Continue reading
A few weeks ago the Nobel Prize Committee announced that John O’Keefe, Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser would be the recipients of the 2014 prize for Physiology and Medicine for their work in deciphering the neural code in the rat hippocampal region.1 The work is frequently summarized as revealing the functioning of the brain’s GPS system. While the GPS part is true, the work is far broader, giving insights into the neural substrate of broad areas of cognition that include memory, planning, creativity and internal thought. Continue reading
Recently scientists have been exploring part of the brain that has been relatively unexplored in learning–white matter, comprising half of the human brain. Here new research is detecting cellular changes during learning that are entirely different from the synaptic changes between neurons in gray matter. A new study shows that learning a new motor skill requires generation of new myelin, the electrical insulation on nerve axons.
What is optogenetics and how is it used to determine the contribution of brain areas to normal and dysfunctional behaviors? We discuss with Kay Tye, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at MIT. Continue reading
On the second day of classes, I polled my students to find out how many had taken the #ALSIceBucketChallenge. About half of them raised their hands; the other half looking on either smugly (they hadn’t done it…yet) or embarrassed (they had done it, but they didn’t want to admit it).
Richard Dawkins used his Twitter account to ask some unanswered questions about biology that he finds fascinating, inviting others to share ideas about hypothetical life forms that may or may not have evolved. By nature, these questions can only be addressed using some degree of speculation, but I find this one particularly interesting and I will attempt to answer it. He asks: Continue reading
What experiments do psychologists use to identify the brain areas involved in moral decision-making? Do moral truths exist? We discuss with Joshua D. Greene, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of Moral Tribes. Continue reading