Monday, 29 July 2013
The Return of the Invisible Gorilla
Somewhat like Stanley Milgram’s experiment on obedience to authority, the “invisible gorilla” experiment by Daniel Simons and Chris Chabris has become a true classic in the cognitive sciences. Milgram surprised readers with chilling evidence that people could be so compliant to authority that they would carry out orders to inflict potentially fatal electrical shocks on other individuals. Similarly, Simons, Chabris and their gorilla have overturned our belief that we always see all the things that lie in our field of vision. (more…)
Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Oligomers Help Us Keep Our Memories
A protein whose molecules have the special ability to stack on top of one another, somewhat like egg cartons, and thus form short, highly stable chains (oligomers), may well play a key role in the mechanisms by which we maintain lasting memories.
Indeed, there is always something magical about remembering something that you haven’t thought about in years. But physically speaking, in what form is the corresponding memory trace maintained in your brain over all that time? Neurobiologists know that the whole process occurs in the synapses (the plastic connections between neurons) and have described molecular mechanisms such as long-term potentiation that partly explain this plasticity. (more…)
Monday, 15 July 2013
The Brain’s Default Network
What does the human brain do when it’s not doing anything in particular? At first glance, this question might seem of little interest, and for many years most brain researchers paid little attention to it. But over the past 10 years or so, it has become one of the hottest and most intriguing research topics in neuroscience: the activity of the brain’s default network.
The default network is a set of areas in the brain that are connected to one another, in some cases across large distances (in terms of the brain’s size). They are activated preferentially when the individual is not performing any specific task. Scientists do not yet know exactly what purpose this default brain activity serves. But they do already know that the areas involved in the default network are more active when our minds are wandering (when we have “our heads in the clouds”), when we are evoking personal memories, and when we are trying to imagine ourselves in future situations or to understand someone else’s point of view. (more…)
Thursday, 4 July 2013
Links on Avoiding Pain
This week, as I have before in this blog, I am posting a set of new links to other web sites that discuss a subject covered in The Brain from Top to Bottom. The subject this week is the sub-topic “Avoiding Pain”, under the topic “Pleasure and Pain”. For each link, I also provide a brief description of the content on the site in question. (more…)