Category Archive: Neuroscience

Jul 07 2014

What are you going to simulate?

The EU is sinking €1.2bn (and the US is proposing to spend more, $3 billion) into a colossal project to build a supercomputer simulation of the human brain. To which I say, “What the hell? We aren’t even close to building such a thing for a fruit fly brain, and you want to do that …

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Apr 15 2014

Science conspires to make me feel really old now

Virginia Hughes tells us about techniques to look inside the zebrafish brain. The gang at HHMI are using two photon imaging and clever image analysis to get very clear, sharp images of fluorescent neurons. Oy, that’s pretty. This old codger did some of that stuff, many years ago, but you know what we had to …

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Mar 08 2014

The brain is a complex and funny thing

Can you generate the illusion that your mind has left your body? This woman can. After a class on out-of-body experiences, a psychology graduate student at the University of Ottawa came forward to researchers to say that she could have these voluntarily, usually before sleep. “She appeared surprised that not everyone could experience this,” wrote …

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Dec 27 2013

Frugal to the point of vacuity


What does it take to get Carl Zimmer to review your research in the New York Times? I suppose it helps to be at Harvard. It also helps to have a combination of subjects — evolution and the human brain — that Zimmer has written about in the past. It helps to have a paper …

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Dec 09 2013

A cautionary note about fMRI studies

I’ve been distracted lately — it’s end of the world semester time — and so I didn’t have time to comment on this recent PNAS paper that reports on dramatic sex differences in the brains of men and women. Fortunately, I can just tell you to go read Christian Jarrett, who explains most of the …

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Sep 26 2013

A philosopher agrees with me

I don’t know whether this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but at least he’s agreeing for a different reason. On the question of whether we’ll someday be able to download brains into a computer, I’ve said no for largely procedural reasons: there is no way to capture the state of all the …

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Aug 29 2013

Cloning brains with Science


While we’ve been waiting and waiting for the physicists to get their act together and deliver on Mr Fusion home energy sources and flying cars, the biologists have been making great progress on the kinds of things that turn biologists on. The latest development: growing tiny little human brains in a bucket. Only let’s not …

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Jul 29 2013


What? Something might be worth watching on broadcast television tonight? Watch Neurotypical – Trailer on PBS. See more from POV. I checked, it’s on my local PBS channel at 9pm tonight (it’s faring far better than the programs about evolution, which typically get shunted off to 2am). I may have to figure out how to …

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Jul 29 2013

But weren’t their brains “pretty much normal”?

Brains develop; they go through a process of change and refinement that is dependent on interactions with the environment. As ought to be obvious, then, brains are going to be exquisitely sensitive to their inputs. This state suggests all kinds of interesting experiments we’d like to perform on human fetuses and infants — except that …

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Feb 23 2013

Not to mention the excessive reductionism…


Wow. Talk about major failure. A new study out correlates levels of Foxp2 with levels of vocalization in rats: basically, male rats squeak more than female pups when they’re stressed by separation from their mothers, and mothers tend to rescue the rat who squeaks the loudest. They then found higher levels of Foxp2 in males, …

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