Rebecca Saxe The advantage of neuroscience is being able to look under the hood and see the mechanisms that actually create the thoughts and the behaviors that create and perpetuate conflict. Seems like it ought to be useful. That’s the question that I’m asking myself right now, can science in general, or neuroscience in particular, … Continue reading

The Fundamental Nature of Consciousness

Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi’s PHI: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul takes the reader on an imaginative tour in which Galileo tries to discover an explanation for our conscious selves. … Read More>>


Simon Baron – Cohen This is a hormone that has fascinated me. It’s a small molecule that seems to be doing remarkable things. The variation we see in this hormone comes from a number of different sources. One of those sources is genes; many different genes can influence how much testosterone each of us produces, … Continue reading

Brain drain

Neuroscience wants to be the answer to everything. It isn’t ROGER SCRUTON There are many reasons for believing the brain is the seat of consciousness. Damage to the brain disrupts our mental processes; specific parts of the brain seem connected to specific mental capacities; and the nervous system, to which we owe movement, perception, sensation … Continue reading

Are Psychopaths “Brain Damaged”?

Gary Stix Pathway from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala We all have a ghoulish fascination with the Hannibal Lecters of this world. That’s because many of the most-publicized stories about psychopaths can be quickly banged into a Hollywood script. One of the most absorbing accounts that I’ve come across recently, however, was in an … Continue reading

For “Super Agers,” Bodies Age as Brains Stay Young

Sandra Upson Early research on the sharpest octogenarians reveals unusually youthful brain regions A nasty affliction sets into humans as they advance in years. The hair either disappears or thins into a fuzzy halo, the skin sags and bunches, while inside the brain, changes set in that slow our reaction times and cause our memories … Continue reading

Will You Live Forever by Uploading Your Brain into a Computer?

Gary Stix  Neurons of the retina Ray Kurzweil and other so-called transhumanists have promised that in coming decades we will be able to transfer a digital copy of the trillions of connections among nerve cells in our brains into a computer. We would essentially reincarnate ourselves as non-biological beings that persist for eternity inside a … Continue reading

Scared Peeing?

Some people urinate when they’re frightened. Others can’t when they’re nervous. Brian Palmer Bladder control requires a sophisticated interplay of brain regions. An area of the brainstem known as the pontine micturition center is in constant contact with the bladder. It knows when pressure is building, and makes the preliminary decision to void. Thankfully, this … Continue reading

Marijuana’s Side Effects

Dave Mosher Marijuana’s memory-fogging, behavior-altering effects have been linked to out-of-sync communication between brain regions, but researchers had lacked direct evidence of the disruption. Now neuroscientists who gave rats a cannabis-like compound, loosed them in a maze and measured their brain waves have recorded unusually chaotic communication between brain regions linked to memory formation and … Continue reading

The End of Evil?

Neuroscientists suggest there is no such thing. Are they right? Ron Rosenbaum Is evil over? Has science finally driven a stake through its dark heart? Or at least emptied the word of useful meaning, reduced the notion of a numinous nonmaterial malevolent force to a glitch in a tangled cluster of neurons, the brain? Yes, … Continue reading

Neuroscience vs philosophy

Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. Philosophers are urging them to think again. Kerri Smith The experiment helped to change John-Dylan Haynes’s outlook on life. In 2007, Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, put people into a brain scanner in which a display screen … Continue reading

Near-Death Experiences

Seeing your life pass before you and the light at the end of the tunnel, can be explained by new research on abnormal functioning of dopamine and oxygen flow By Charles Q. Choi  Near-death experiences are often thought of as mystical phenomena, but research is now revealing scientific explanations for virtually all of their common … Continue reading

Neuroscientists Find Famous Optical Illusion Surprisingly Potent

The yellow jacket (Rocky, the mascot of the University of Rochester) appears to be expanding. But he is not. He is staying still. We simply think he is growing because our brains have adapted to the inward motion of the background and that has become our new status quo. Similar situations arise constantly in our … Continue reading

Direct Connections Found Between Areas of Brain Responsible for Voice and Face Recognition

Face and voice are the two main features by which we recognise other people. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have now discovered that there is a direct structural connection consisting of fibre pathways between voice- and face-recognition areas in the human brain. The exchange of information, which … Continue reading

Localizing Language in the Brain

Study Pinpoints Areas of the Brain Used Exclusively for Language New research from MIT suggests that there are parts of our brain dedicated to language and only language, a finding that marks a major advance in the search for brain regions specialized for sophisticated mental functions. Functional specificity, as it’s known to cognitive scientists, refers … Continue reading

Brain region that predicts the future identified

Sujata Gupta The part of the brain we use to predict the immediate future has been identified. Jeffrey Zacks, a cognitive neuroscientist at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, carried out fMRI brain scans on volunteers watching film clips of everyday scenes, such as a person washing dishes. The participants showed increased activity in the … Continue reading

Neuroscientists Identify Brain Activity That Predicts How Well You Will Remember Images

Our memories work better when our brains are prepared to absorb new information, according to a new study by MIT researchers. A team led by Professor John Gabrieli has shown that activity in a specific part of the brain, known as the parahippocampal cortex (PHC), predicts how well people will remember a visual scene. The … Continue reading

Brain’s synaptic pruning continues into your 20s

Wendy Zukerman and Andrew Purcell The synaptic pruning that helps sculpt the adolescent brain into its adult form continues to weed out weak neural connections throughout our 20s. The surprise finding could have implications for our understanding of schizophrenia, a psychological disorder which often appears in early adulthood. As children, we overproduce the connections – … Continue reading

Brain’s Network of Bottlenecks May Limit Multitasking

Kate Shaw Although the human brain is a very complex structure, it’s still not big or efficient enough to process every single thing we see, hear and do. Sometimes this limitation is a good thing, since it forces our brains to filter out minor details that we don’t need to dwell on. Other times it’s … Continue reading

The science behind disgust

From dead bodies to pickles, the things that gross us out reveal a great deal about us. An expert explains Mandy Van Deven We all have things that disgust us irrationally, whether it be cockroaches or chitterlings or cotton balls. For me, it’s fruit soda. It started when I was 3; my mom offered me … Continue reading

Is There a Link Between Creativity and Addiction?

Addiction starts with genetics and the environment, but is triggered by stress David Biello  A drink of alcohol, any kind; "rails" of white powder; a pill prescribed by a pediatrician to assist with attention deficit disorder. Whatever the poison, addiction can take a powerful toll. Nor is it limited to drugs—food, sex and even death-defying … Continue reading

‘Wave of death’ may not be a last gasp

Brain may still be living a minute after decapitation By Laura Sanders Electrodes capture a large wave of activity moving through rat brains about 50 seconds after decapitation.C. van Rijn et al/PLoS One 2011 Almost a minute after a rat’s head is severed from its body, an eerie shudder of activity ripples through the animal’s … Continue reading

Tossing, turning, forgetting

Memory requires uninterrupted z’s Tina Hesman Saey Continuity of sleep, not just the total hours of nightly slumber, is crucial to forming and retaining memories, a new study in mice suggests. Mice couldn’t remember objects they’d seen before after a night of interrupted sleep, Asya Rolls of Stanford and her colleagues report online July 25 … Continue reading

A whiff of history

When smells vanish, we lose a whole dimension of the world. Now there’s a movement to change that. By Courtney Humphries Think of some of your most powerful memories, and there’s likely a smell attached: the aroma of suntan lotion at the beach, the sharpness of freshly mown grass, the floral trail of your mother’s … Continue reading

Lingering Lies

The Persistent Influence of Misinformation The brain holds on to false facts, even after they have been retracted By Valerie Ross  After people realize the facts have been fudged, they do their best to set the record straight: judges tell juries to forget misleading testimony; newspapers publish errata. But even explicit warnings to ignore misinformation … Continue reading

Drugs and the Meaning of Life

Sam Harris Everything we do is for the purpose of altering consciousness. We form friendships so that we can feel certain emotions, like love, and avoid others, like loneliness. We eat specific foods to enjoy their fleeting presence on our tongues. We read for the pleasure of thinking another person’s thoughts. Every waking moment—and even … Continue reading

Sleeping babies can hear you’re upset

Jessica Hamzelou Parents, beware waiting until your baby nods off before arguing over the housework – the sleeping infant will still be listening in. Declan Murphy and his colleagues at King’s College London used a functional MRI scanner to watch how babies’ brains responded to sounds while they slept. The group used a modified scanner … Continue reading

Brain Rhythm Associated With Learning Also Linked to Running Speed

Rhythms in the brain that are associated with learning become stronger as the body moves faster, UCLA neurophysicists report in a new study. The research team, led by professor Mayank Mehta, used specialized microelectrodes to monitor an electrical signal known as the gamma rhythm in the brains of mice. This signal is typically produced in … Continue reading

Speed of Brain Signals Clocked

New Studies Illuminate Brain’s Complex Neurotransmission Machinery Two studies featuring research from Weill Cornell Medical College have uncovered surprising details about the complex process that leads to the flow of neurotransmitters between brain neurons — a dance of chemical messages so delicate that missteps often lead to neurological dysfunction. A recent Nature Neuroscience study led … Continue reading

Neuroscience of Bullying

Victoria Stern Three new books reveal how we deal with suffering and trauma. A child who is bullied by her playmates may kick her kitten in retaliation. Passing pain to others is not just a human trait—payback can also be seen in many animals. In Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression, and Take Revenge (Oxford … Continue reading

Does Addictive Internet Use Restructure the Brain?

Brain scans hint excessive time online is tied to stark physical changes in the brain By Dave Mosher  Image: dionhinchcliffe/Flickr Kids spend an increasing fraction of their formative years online, and it is a habit they dutifully carry into adulthood. Under the right circumstances, however, a love affair with the Internet may spiral out of … Continue reading

A Better Way to Remember

Scientists and educators alike have long known that cramming is not an effective way to remember things. With their latest findings, researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan, studying eye movement response in trained mice, have elucidated the neurological mechanism explaining why this is so. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, their results … Continue reading

Criminal Minds

Adrian Raine thinks brain scans can identify children who may become killers By Josh Fischman He was locked in a van in England with violent criminals, repeatedly, during his late 20s, says Adrian Raine, lifting a fork of salmon ravioli from his plate at a tony restaurant on Walnut Street. "I was at the maximum-security … Continue reading

Religious Experiences Shrink Part of the Brain

A study links life-changing religious experiences, like being born again, with atrophy in the hippocampus By Andrew Newberg Religion changes the brain. Image: Roger Branch The article, “Religious factors and hippocampal atrophy in late life,” by Amy Owen and colleagues at Duke University represents an important advance in our growing understanding of the relationship between … Continue reading

Laughter Leads to Insight

Happy moods facilitate aha! moments Elizabeth King Humphrey  Stumped by a crossword puzzle? Try taking a break to watch a funny TV show. Recent research shows that people in a lighthearted mood more often have eureka moments of sudden inspiration. Karuna Subramaniam, then at Northwestern University, and her colleagues found that boosting the mood of … Continue reading

A year adds up to big changes in brain

Third grade a turning point in how kids solve math problems By Laura Sanders Neuroscientists have confirmed what any kid knows: Third grade changes everything. Compared to kids just out of second grade, recent third-grade graduates use their brains in an entirely different way when solving math problems, a study in an upcoming NeuroImage finds.    … Continue reading

When Stressed, Men Charge Ahead, Women More Careful

Stress causes men and women to respond differently to risky decision making, with men charging ahead for small rewards and women taking their time, according to a new study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, published by Oxford University Press. Under stress, men and women also have different brain activation patterns during decision making. There … Continue reading

Feel the Noise: Touch, Hearing May Share Neurological Roots

Devin Powell SEATTLE — About a year and a half after her stroke, a 36-year-old professor started to feel sounds. A radio announcer’s voice made her tingle. Background noise in a plane felt physically uncomfortable. Now Tony Ro, a neuroscientist at the City College of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University … Continue reading

How the Brain Got Its Buttocks

Sixteenth-century anatomists couldn’t keep their minds out of the gutter. By Jesse Bering Images from Thomas Willis’ On the Anatomy of the Brain, published in 1664There are so many obscure specializations, subspecializations and subcortical subspecializations within the brain sciences that even the sharpest brain has scarcely enough brainpower to learn everything there is to know … Continue reading

Tiny Variation in One Gene…

May Have Led to Crucial Changes in Human Brain The human brain has yet to explain the origin of one its defining features — the deep fissures and convolutions that increase its surface area and allow for rational and abstract thoughts. An international collaboration of scientists from the Yale School of Medicine and Turkey may … Continue reading

Remembering a Touch

Neuroscientists of the Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin have now been able for the first time to document deliberate control of touch sensations in human working memory. It has been shown that the human brain can remember several touch sensations at the same time and consciously retrieve the touch if concentration is focused on these touches. … Continue reading

Guilt, Cooperation Linked by Neural Network

Why People Choose to Cooperate Rather Than Act Selfishly A team of researchers at the University of Arizona has brought a high-tech tool to bear on the study of a familiar and age-old emotion — guilt. What makes the investigation unique is the use of fMRI scans to target the regions of the brain associated … Continue reading

Orgasms unlock altered consciousness

Sex on the brain Our intrepid reporter performs an intimate act in an fMRI scanner to explore the pathways of pleasure and pain by Kayt Sukel WITH a click and a whirr, I am pulled into the scanner. My head is strapped down and I have been draped with a blanket so that I may … Continue reading

Does Depression Help Us Think Better?

By Jonah Lehrer Why do people get depressed? At first glance, the answer seems obvious: the mind, like the flesh, is prone to malfunction. Once that malfunction happens — perhaps it’s an errant gene triggering a shortage of some happy chemical — we sink into a emotional stupor and need medical treatment. But this pat … Continue reading

Amygdala Detects Spontaneity in Human Behavior

Study of Jazz Musicians Reveals How Brain Processes Improvisations A pianist is playing an unknown melody freely without reading from a musical score. How does the listener’s brain recognise if this melody is improvised or if it is memorized? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig investigated jazz … Continue reading

Learning how the brain does its coding

By John Timmer A single giant neuron makes many connections. Science/AAAS Most organisms with brains can store and process a staggering range of information. The fundamental unit of the brain, a single neuron, however, can only communicate in the simplest of manners, by sending a simple electrical pulse. The challenge of understanding how information is … Continue reading

Mutations in Single Gene May Have Shaped Human Cerebral Cortex

The size and shape of the human cerebral cortex, an evolutionary marvel responsible for everything from Shakespeare’s poetry to the atomic bomb, are largely influenced by mutations in a single gene, according to a team of researchers led by the Yale School of Medicine and three other universities. The findings, reported April 28 in the … Continue reading

The Possibilian

What a brush with death taught David Eagleman about the mysteries of time and the brain. by Burkhard Bilger “Time is this rubbery thing,” Eagleman said. The best example of that is the so-called oddball effect. Photograph by Dan Winters. When David Eagleman was eight years old, he fell off a roof and kept on … Continue reading

Why We Don’t Believe Science

How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link. — By Chris Mooney Illustration: Jonathon Rosen "A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to … Continue reading

Filters That Reduce ‘brain Clutter’ Identified

Until now, it has been assumed that people with conditions like ADHD, Tourette syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia — all of whom characteristically report symptoms of "brain clutter" — may suffer from anomalies in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage to this brain region is often associated with failure to focus on relevant things, loss … Continue reading