Category Archives: Neuroscience

Is your brain hardwired for numbers?

Catherine Offord writes: Earlier this year, Brian Butterworth decided to figure out how many numbers the average person encounters in a day. He picked a Saturday for his self-experiment—as a cognitive neuroscientist and professor emeritus at University College London, Butterworth works with numbers, so a typical weekday wouldn’t have been fair. He went about his… Read More »

The act of smelling

Jude Stewart writes: If all our genius lies in our nostrils, as Nietzsche remarked, the nose is an untrained genius, brilliant but erratic. The human nose can detect a dizzying array of smells, with a theoretical upper limit of one trillion smells—yet many of us are incapable of describing these smells in words more precise… Read More »

Is there a symmetry between metacognition and mindreading?

Stephen M Fleming writes: In 1978, David Premack and Guy Woodruff published a paper that would go on to become famous in the world of academic psychology. Its title posed a simple question: does the chimpanzee have a theory of mind? In coining the term ‘theory of mind’, Premack and Woodruff were referring to the… Read More »

The easy part of the hard problem of consciousness

Tam Hunt writes: How does consciousness arise? What might its relationship to matter be? And why are some things conscious while others apparently aren’t? These sorts of questions, taken together, make up what’s called the “hard problem” of consciousness, coined some years ago by the philosopher David Chalmers. There is no widely accepted solution to… Read More »

How computationally complex is a single neuron?

Allison Whitten writes: Our mushy brains seem a far cry from the solid silicon chips in computer processors, but scientists have a long history of comparing the two. As Alan Turing put it in 1952: “We are not interested in the fact that the brain has the consistency of cold porridge.” In other words, the… Read More »

The brain doesn’t work the way you think it does

Jordana Cepelewicz writes: Neuroscientists are the cartographers of the brain’s diverse domains and territories — the features and activities that define them, the roads and highways that connect them, and the boundaries that delineate them. Toward the front of the brain, just behind the forehead, is the prefrontal cortex, celebrated as the seat of judgment.… Read More »

Why your sleeping brain replays new rewarding experiences

Jim Davies writes: During this Olympics, I’ve been rooting for Kelleigh Ryan, who is on the women’s foil team. She’s from Ottawa, where I live. Whenever she scored a point, she’d emit a victory scream, probably feeling a rush of pleasure. Watching her on television, I did, too. Getting better at something involves emotion. When… Read More »