Encephalon 57 on Mind Hacks

Welcome to the 57th edition of the Encephalon psychology and neuroscience writing carnival, where we have the honour of hosting the best in the last fortnight’s mind and brain writing, here on Mind Hacks.

We start off with two great interviews. The first is a video interview with pioneering neuroscientist Rodolfo Llin√°s, known for his radical ideas on consciousness, picked up by Channel N. One of the great names in cognitive science makes an appearance on Sharp Brains as Michael Posner is the subject of a recent interview.

One of Posner’s great achievements, along with Marcus Raichle was to invent the subtraction method for the analysis of brain imaging data to allow us to make inferences about how the mind is working. The Neurocritic has an excellent piece on some of the state-of-the-art work which is attempting to advance this technology, almost 30 years after the original breakthrough, by looking at links between electrical activity in the cortex and spontaneous fluctuations in signals from fMRI scanner.

Also on a neuroimaging tip, Pure Pedantry covers a recent study on the neuroscience of hypothesis generation, or how we think up possible explanations to explain causality in our booming, buzzing confusion of a world.

The masters of making sense of out of confusion are, of course, children, and a couple of great articles look at some of the latest research showing how the developing brain seems to work its magic. Looking at the remarkable development of language, the consistently excellent Cognitive Daily discuss a child’s use of gesture to communicate and whether it slows language learning. Songs from the Wood has a great piece on infantile amnesia – that curiosity of development where we typically cannot remember anything that happened before the age of 3-4 years.

But if you want to learn more about what makes memories stick, Physiology Physics looks at long-term potentiation – one of the most important neuroscience discoveries in the last fifty years and one of the cornerstones of remembering.

If you’re interested in where all this childhood experience ends up, one destination is our personality or personal style of interacting with each other and the world. The Mouse Trap looks at some of the most influential of these theories in <a href="
http://the-mouse-trap.blogspot.com/2008/09/cloningers-temaparements-and-character.html”>three great posts that discuss character traits, emotional maturity and emotional intelligence.

Obviously, if you’ve been reading the same dodgy research that Dr Shock has, you’ll know that one part of emotional maturity is saying no to computer games because THEY BURN YOUR SOUL. Or, maybe they don’t and the researchers are trying to spin a positive result into a negative one to get their unsupported point across. Ah, the joys of science.

Entering more unusual territories, Brain Blogger has a brief guide to the syndrome where people lose control of their hands after brain injury, carious known as anarchic or alien hand syndrome. PodBlack stays with the uncanny in a post about sex differences in superstitions and paranormal beliefs. It’s actually the last part of the four part series looking at superstitions and all are well worth a read.

Equally mysterious and no less controversial is the placebo effect and Brain Health Hacks has an interesting piece on what the the science of placebo might tell us about the neuroscience of hope. I’m sure there’s an election joke in their somewhere but I’ll leave that as a exercise for the reader.

Talking of culture in a more general sense, the newly launched Culture and Cognition blog has an interesting piece that discusses a recent Nature paper on culture and the brain and another on what can only be described as culture hacking.

From culture hacking to baseball hacking as sports psychology blog 80 Percent Mental looks at the cognitive science of baseball including some illustrative videos and perfect timing for the World Series.

From the best in baseball, to the best in online writing about Bipolar Disorder (calling Liz Spikol…) as PsychCentral ranks its Top 10 Bipolar Blogs for 2008. Keeping with the positivity, Brain Blogger looks at tetrabenazine, a drug which shows promise in treating Huntingdon’s disease.

Finally, we finish with some articles about our animal friends. The always thought-provoking Neuroanthropology which provides two posts with video footage of cooperative hunting in chimpanzees. As they say – “The videos raise questions about our own animal nature, as well as what is the dividing line between our own minds and the minds of some of our closest relatives.”

Obviously, none of those chimpanzees have robotic cyber-implants, unlike the monkey discussed in a Pure Pendantry piece on a recent Nature Neuroscience article. But it’s not just cyber-monkeys, it’s also radioactive mice! Neurotopia has the low-down on the effects of exercise on hippocampal cell proliferation in irradiated mice. I’m sure there’s a Marvel comic that starts like that but I dread to think which one.

Along the same lines of a science-fiction plotline become reality, Neurophilosophy looks at recent research on how individual memories were erased in mice. And if your hero needs a daring getaway, there’s more from the same source on staggering escape mechanism of the crayfish.

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