Is the feeling of fear instantiated in some brain area or is fear just a word we use to describe a series events distributed across the brain which make us avoid things that are bad? Do other animal experience the same subjective state that we experience when we are afraid? Those are some of the questions that are asked in a recent review paper published by Ralph Adolphs in Current Biology. Continue reading
We are suckers for Horatio Alger stories. We love it when the underdog defies the odds, pulls out the last minute jumper, or makes the save. It’s a surrogate for those times when we do the same thing. We know — on a lesser scale — what it’s like to be behind and losing, and to sometimes squeak one out when nobody expected it. Even when we can’t, we appreciate it when others do it. That’s one reason why the Lance Armstrong revelations hurt. They ram a stake in the heart of our childlike sense of what’s possible. Even with growing doubts, up until he confessed I wanted to believe Lance — didn’t you? Continue reading
This is not a blog post that I ever imagined writing.
Likely many of you have heard that there has been a tragedy in that on January 11, 2013 a very talented young computer programmer and activist, Aaron Swartz, took his own life in New York city. The young man, was one of the bright starts of the computer generation, added significantly to Reddit and the RSS specification among other work (started contributing at age 14!).
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.
Sometimes, ethologists find behaviors in animals that evoke similarities with behaviors that were previously thought unique to humans. Those cases are interesting in two ways; they can show us that we underestimate what animals can do, and sometimes they also suggest that we might be overestimating the complexity of what we do as humans. Frans de Waal is one of the researchers who has pioneered the study of cooperation and aggressive behaviors in non-human animals. Continue reading
This may seem a silly question, but lets see if you are more like a fifth grader or more like me. It appears that a fifth grade class I recently interacted with can answer a question that I am having a lot of trouble with. They rattle off “the outside part of the brain”. True enough.
They can point to it, its the part that is “squiggly”. True enough.
“It is the part that thinks”. Ok, we can go with that answer.
So why are these fifth graders smarter than I am? No pun intended.
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