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.
Of all things the human brain learns, few fascinate me more than numbers. It starts with kids counting, one by one, elements that they care about. How many gifts are there under the tree, how many oranges are there in the bag? 1, 2, 3, 4 … For a long time counting will be the process by which kids navigate through the endless series of numbers. Continue reading
What do we mean when we say someone is intelligent and is there any scientific basis for defining intelligence? These questions have been at the center of a more than century-old debate in psychology. Intelligence is, first and foremost, a judgment. He’s intelligent, he’s not intelligent, those are quick ways of saying that some behaviors of an individual observed in the past somehow predict how brilliant his next actions will be. Intelligence is an estimate of the quality that we attribute to the decision-making and abstract thinking of people around us. Although it may be practical for people to think of intelligence as something that exists, whether science should consider intelligence and how it would define it remains very controversial. Continue reading