The disastrous earthquake in Kathmandu has killed hundreds of people and brought grievous tragedy to thousands. Even among the survivors, the earthquake will leave its mark in the form of altered brain structure, according to neuroimaging research performed on survivors of the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008.
A fascinating report on NPR by science correspondent Jonathan Hamilton yesterday (March 16, 2015) tells the story of Jonathan Keleher, a rare individual born with a major portion of his brain missing: the cerebellum. The name in Latin means “little brain,” because the cerebellum sits separately from the rest of the brain looking something like a woman’s hair bun. Neuroscientists have long understood that the cerebellum is important for controlling bodily movements, by making them more fluid and coordinated, but researchers have also long appreciated that cerebellum does much more. Exactly what these other functions are, have always been a bit mysterious.
Felipe de Brigard is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Arts & Sciences at Duke University. His research, at the intersection of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience, explores the neural mechanisms of false memories and consciousness. He joined us to discuss the nature of memory and the hard problem of consciousness. Continue reading
NBC News anchor Brian Williams apologized for his erroneous account of being aboard a helicopter forced to make an emergency landing after being hit by enemy fire while reporting on the Iraq war in 2003. Williams blames the fallibility of human recall for the error. How can the neuroscience of memory (and false memory) provide insight?
In the eerie science fiction film, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien vixen clothed in human skin, roaming the earth in search of single men for nefarious purposes, a turning point comes when she offers a hooded man on a dark road a ride in her vehicle. When the man takes off his hood we see his shockingly disfigured face. It is not make up. The disfigurement is caused by a genetic condition, neurofibromatosis, affecting actor Adam Pearson. Pearson’s brother has the same disorder, but no disfigurement. Instead he suffers memory problems. The film is a head scratcher–in the best possible way–but neurofibromatosis is not. Let’s have a look.
Typically we are introduced to the nervous system by analogy to an electrical circuit, like a door bell or a telephone line carrying a signal rapidly over long distances to activate a specific process. Never mind that electrical impulses are not transmitted through nerve axons anything like electrons flowing through a copper wire, this electronic circuit analogy is useful up to a point. If you want to understand how the brain works at a more complex level, you are going to need a new analogy, and if you play an acoustic guitar you’ll find it under your fingertips.
In this episode, Micah Allen, postdoctoral researcher at the University College London, discusses the evolution and function of cognition and metacognition. Continue reading