Archive for November, 2011

Psychopathic Anatomy

The brains of psychopaths have a significant physical difference from those of non-psychopaths, says a new study. In a psychopath’s brain, white matter (connective neural tissue) links between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala are unusually weak. This means a major brain area involved in anticipating risk (the vmPFC) is only weakly connected with an area […]

Musical Matchups

Our brains process music via different sensory pathways depending on what we think its source is, a new study finds. As our brains organize information from our senses into a coherent representation of the world around us, they’re constantly hard at work associating data from one sense – say, sight – with data from another – say, hearing. A […]

Harry Potter and the Nature of the Self

Yup, this is what we’re doing today. I finally got to see Deathly Hallows Part 2, and it got me thinking about neuroscience like frickin’ everything always does, and I came home and wrote an essay about the nature of consciousness in the Harry Potter universe. And we’re going to talk about it, because it’s […]

Synaptic Changes

Synapses – the junctions where neurons communicate – are constantly growing and pruning themselves – and those two processes occur independently of one another, says a new study. As a synapse sees more and more use, it tends to grow stronger, while synapses that fall out of use tend to grow weaker and eventually die […]

Flexible Scanner

A new kind of non-invasive brain scanner uses ultra-thin material to record high-resolution maps of brain activity, a new study reports. The scanner is composed of an array of 720 transistors conducting activity from 360 electrodes - and it’s thin and flexible enough to cling to the surface of the brain, or even slip inside the brain’s fissures […]

Silicon Synapses

A new kind of computer chip mimics the way a neuron learns, a new study reports. The 400-transistor chip simulates the activity of a single synapse – a connection between two neurons. Because of the chip’s complexity, it’s able to mimic a synapse’s plasticity – its ability to subtly change structure and function in response to new […]

Paying Awareness

Attention and awareness are actually two fundamentally different mental processes, and they often operate separately, says a new study. Certain parts of the brain – such as the primary visual cortex (V1) – are activated in response to attention but not to awareness; and for others, the reverse is the case. In short, the processes of […]

Autism & Reputation

People with autism process the concept of their social reputation in a fundamentally different way from non-autistic people, a new study finds. Suppose I give you $100, and tell you you can donate some or all of it to the no-kill animal shelter across the street – or you can just pocket the whole wad and walk away. My guess […]

Clarke's Third Law

Today I want to take a break from breaking news and tell you about the new love of my life: my Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset. This thing costs $299, and it is worth every penny. It uses 14 sensors positioned around my scalp to create a wireless EEG interface between my brain and my computer. I can move objects […]

Chemical Parasites

A certain brain parasite actually turns off people’s feelings of fear by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter chemical dopamine, says a new study. Toxoplasma gondii, a parasitic protozoan (a kind of single-celled organism), mostly likes to live in the brains of cats - but it also infects birds, mice, and about 10 to 20 percent of people in the U.S. […]

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