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    Your Brain’s Music Circuit Has Been Discovered

    The discovery that certain neurons have “music selectivity” stirs questions about the role of music in human life. Illustration by Len Small Before Josh McDermott was a neuroscientist, he was a club DJ in Boston and Minneapolis. He saw first-hand how music could unite people in sound, rhythm, and emotion. “One of the reasons it […]

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    Stop Saying the Brain Learns By Rewiring Itself

    Most neuroscientists accept that the brain computes by modifying its synapses, the links between neurons. On this view, the brain learns because experience molds it, rather than because experience implants facts. But experience does implant facts. We all know this, because we retrieve and make use of them throughout the day.Illustration by Gary Waters / […]

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    Westworld Is Strikingly Real: AI Could Be Conscious and Unpredictable

    Westworld recently wrapped its first season with a few stunning twists and a stunning statistic: With a 12-million-viewer average, it was the most-watched first season of an original HBO show in the network’s history. Westworld concerns a perverse theme park, styled in the fashion of the American Old West. The park’s “hosts,” artificially intelligent beings […]

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    The Big Problem With “Big Science” Ventures—Like the Human Brain Project

    The National Institutes of Health’s “Human Connectome Project” aims to elucidate the architecture of nerve fibers in the brain, as illustrated here. Patric Hagmann, Department of Radiology, University Hospital Lausanne (CHUV), Switzerland In 2005 neuroscientist Henry Markram embarked on a mission to create a supercomputer simulation of the human brain, known as the Blue Brain […]

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    How Odd Behavior in Some Young Horses May Reveal a Cause of Autism

    By gently squeezing maladjusted foals, veterinary researcher John Madigan recreates the experience of traveling through the birth canal, lowering the levels of certain neurosteroids and “waking up” the young horses.Joe Proudman / UC Davis As a toxicologist at the University of California, Davis, Isaac Pessah focuses on how different molecules regulate human brain function and […]

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    Why Are You So Smart? Thank Your Mom & Your Difficult Birth

    A reconstructed skeleton of Lucy, the famous human ancestor. By 3.2 million years ago, Australopithecines were walking upright, imposing strict limits on the size of the female pelvis.Cleveland Museum of Natural History Looking around our planet today, it’s hard not to be struck by humanity’s uniqueness. We are the only species around that writes books, […]

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    How “Meaning Withdrawal,” aka Boredom, Can Boost Creativity

    Two Ironing WomenEdward Degas In his book Boredom: A Lively History, an oxymoronic title if ever there was one, Peter Toohey argues that the eponymous feeling has plagued our species since ancient times. “Boredom is a universal experience, and it’s been felt in most eras,” says Toohey, a professor of Greek and Roman studies at […]

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    A Mind That Unraveled DNA & Chased Consciousness

    In his most recent book, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, Christof Koch wrote that he has known only one genius: Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule. “In a lifetime of teaching, working and debating with some of the smartest people on the planet, I’ve encountered brilliance and high achievement, but […]

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    MRIs of Careful People Can Predict When Bubbles Will Pop

    r.classen via Shutterstock In the 1630s, Holland was gripped by the world’s only known case of “tulip mania.” The intensely colored flowers were already a luxury item before then, but their prices leaped when tulips with flame patterned petals hit the market, and they continued rocketing to previously incomprehensible levels. The price for a single […]

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    Mirror Neurons Are Essential, but Not in the Way You Think

    A “brainbow”: neurons labels with fluorescent tags, in this case, from a mouse.Stephen J. Smith via Wikipedia In his 2011 book, The Tell-Tale Brain, neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran says that some of the cells in your brain are of a special variety. He calls them the “neurons that built civilization,” but you might know them […]