How to open the brain to everyone

The development of science needs the free flow of information, so scientists can both build on and test the work of others, and so the public can make informed democratic decisions about the role of science in society.

Most scientific journals are run by publishing companies that own the articles they publish. In fact, the results from the majority of publically funded science appears in these journals.

Why is so much science owned by private companies ? Part of the reason is that scientists jobs often depend on how many publications they produce, and there is a hierarchy of journals, so publishing in some journals (typically the more established and privately owned ones) counts for more in a scientist’s career.

Many scientists would like to publish in open access journals but don’t want their careers to suffer or to be out of a job.

The following suggests some ways in which you can support open access journals to boost their value in the science community, prevent career dilemmas, and help open up scientific research for the benefit of all.

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History of neuropsychology: Guaranteed safe!

Professor Derek J. Smith has a detailed and comprehensively annotated neuropsychology timeline on his website.

For those of you who are worried that this thorough review of the history of brain science is just a honeypot, filled with fake links to gambling and porn sites, you may be rest assured that:

The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so.

There’s other excellent writing and reviews by Professor Smith linked from his homepage. Explore in safety!

‘A Genius Explains’

There was an interesting piece in last weekend’s Guardian (A Genius Explains) about a high-functioning autistic who is also a savant (i.e. he’s got amazingly intellectual abilities – he can recall pi to 22,514 decimal places for example). Autistic savants are more common than non-autistic savants, but usually they aren’t able to quite so lucidly explain how they manage to do the things they do.

The article left me curious, and a little jealous (“It’s mental imagery”, he said “It’s like maths without having to think.”) and makes me feel like we’re in for some interesting times ahead as research into savantism, synthesia, developmental cognitive neuroscience and mental imagery converges.

2005-02-18 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:


A recent study shows that the preference for side of body used to cradle infants is linked to the dominant hemisphere of the mother’s brain. Another example of how observing simple behaviours (like kissing) can show underlying brain structure.

Alphabets and writing may have been shaped by the constraints of our visual system.

For those who consistently over-commit themselves, research suggests it maybe because we are excessively optimistic about time for future tasks.

An article from Scientific American on what we do and don’t know about how anesthetics work.

Research challenges the idea that the visual system must separate objects from background before they are classified (PDF of full article).

Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips discusses his new book on sanity. A sign of the growing trend for a focus on positive psychology?

A gene known as ApoE, known to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease, has been linked to poorer memory even in healthy individuals. Part of ongoing push to understand the genetics of psychological abilities.

What you lookin’ at?

The eyes are the primary social signal. It’s the eyes we spend most of the time looking (“To See, Act” [Hack #15]). Even when the other person is talking, we look most at the eyes, not the mouth. We use them to signal turn-taking in conversation, to read emotions from, like fear…and we use them to work out what another person is looking at.

It’s this – gaze perception – that I’ve been getting interested in. How accurately can we tell where someone is looking? How accurately can we tell if someone is looking at us, or not? I’ve been looking out for some actual figures here, basic parameters on how small a difference we can detect in where someone is looking, either when they are looking at us, or at someone else.

Obviously, to be able to answer this question with actual parameters would have all sorts of implications. For, say, the design & manipulation of pictures showing people looking at things, for VR interfaces and, also, I guess it might give a better idea of when someone can tell i’m looking at them, and when they just can’t know I am for sure. You know, just as a sort of side benefit…

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