Neuroscience Friends!

I’ve just returned from a thrilling weekend at the BIL Conference in Long Beach, California (yes, the pun on “TED” is very intentional) where I met all kinds of smart, fun people – including lots of folks who share my love for braaaiiins! So I thought I’d introduce you guys to some of the friends I made. I think you’ll be as surprised – and as excited – as I am. Backyard Brains Their motto is “neuroscience for everyone” – how cool is that? They sell affordable kits that let you experiment at home with the nervous systems of insects and other…

Consider This an Invitation

This photo got me thinking. Only 24 percent? Really? We’re finding weird new exoplanets every day – hell, NASA hasn’t even ruled out the possibility that there could be life on Europa and Titan, two moons in our own solar system – yet so many people have lost faith in space’s limitless potential to surprise us. But we’re entering an age when that potential is no longer the exclusive domain of first-world governments and media conglomerates. The fact that we even have a contest like Google’s X Prize proves that independent space exploration is becoming a very real possibility for each one…

5 Ways to Fight the Blues…with Science!

So you’re stuck in that mid-week slump…the weekend lies on the other side of a scorching desert of work, and you have no canteen because you gave up water for Lent (in this metaphor, “water” refers to alcohol…just to be clear). But fear not! Neuroscience knows how to cheer you up! Nope, this isn’t another post about sex or drugs…though those are coming soon. This one’s about five things science says you can do right now – with your mind – to chase your cranky mood away. 1.Take a look around Research shows that people who focus on the world around them, instead…

Sacred Values

Principles on which we refuse to change our stance are processed via separate neural pathways from those we’re more flexible on, says a new study. Our minds process many decisions in moral “gray areas” by weighing the risks and rewards involved – so if the risk is lessened or the reward increased, we’re sometimes willing to change our stance. However, some of our moral stances are tied to much more primal feelings – “gut reactions” that remind us of our most iron-clad principles: don’t hurt innocent children, don’t steal from the elderly, and so on. These fundamental values – what the study…

A Memory Menagerie

What we call “memory” isn’t just one process – or even one type of process. In fact, neuropsychologists classify memories using a system that can be a little bewildering – which is why I’m going to do my best to clear up some distinctions. So, without further ado, let’s take a tour of this memory zoo. Part I. Memory time ranges Scientists today usually divide memory into three basic ranges of time: working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. However, these distinctions are hotly debated, as I’ll explain below. 1. Working memory Strange as it might seem, we need a certain kind of memory to assemble…

Perfect Memory and the Ten Percent Myth

This story begins in a bar. On the wall-mounted TV, the popular channel Sports Channel was taking a break from the popular show Men in Suits Awkwardly Attempting Rapport to show a trailer for the movie Limitless. I’m not gonna lie – I was intrigued by the plot at first; and not only because literally anything on TV is made more awesome by alcohol consumption. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by Flowers for Algernon-type stories, where human minds contain vast potential for genius, just waiting to be unleashed by the right combination of drugs or electrical signals or meditation techniques. As you might guess, it’s one…

The Splort Hormone

At the end of my last post, I promised I’d explain more about inner dialogue, and get into some practical tips on self-programming. A draft of that write-up is almost finished [SCIENCE UPDATE! It’s here.] but I came across an article today that brought up some intriguing points – and some common misconceptions – about neurochemistry. I couldn’t resist such a perfect opportunity to explain some concepts more clearly. The article is mainly about the chemistry of eye contact, and…well, I’d better let the author speak for herself. A loved one’s lingering look can trigger a rush of happiness, but too much…