Posts Tagged With ‘neuroscience’


Making It Stick

Dogears from Make It Stick. Note to self – formatting on blog seems to have gone AWOL…

The Illusion of Mastery

V common

“The fact that you can repeat the phrases in a text or your lecture notes is no indication that you understand the significance of the precepts they describe, their application or how they relate to what you already know about the subject.”


The Improvisational Brain

And so it happened for Robert Levin, seated at the piano, seized with panic, at the concert hall in Bremen. Memories of note patterns and chords embedded by thousands of practice hours, we may be certain, arose from his subconscious, flooding his brain. His lateral prefrontal regions said “This is it—time to tell your musical narrative,” while his medial prefrontal region reassured him, saying “Don’t worry about how it comes out.” His right temporo-parietal junction turned down the dial on any audience gasps, his anterior cingulate made a series of snap decisions, and his dorsal premotor cortex organized them into a motor missive, which it then sent out to his fingers. A split second later, Levin started to play, and before he knew it, he was home.

Source: here


The Play’s the Thing » American Scientist

Let me explain a thing or two about humanists like me. There are legions of us who reach for our guns when we hear the word genome. That’s because we’re all too familiar with the history of eugenics, and we flinch whenever someone attempts an “evolutionary” explanation of Why Society Is the Way It Is; we suspect them, with good reason, of trying to justify some outrageous social injustice on the grounds that it’s only natural. Likewise, there are legions of us who clap our hands over our ears when we hear the term evolutionary psychology. That’s because we’re all too familiar with the follies of sociobiology, and we’ve suffered through lectures claiming that our species is hardwired for middle-aged guys dumping their wives for young secretaries and students (I sat through that lecture myself) or that men run the world because women have wide hips for childbearing, whereas men can rotate three-dimensional shapes in their heads (okay, that one is a mash-up of two different lectures).

Source: here


The Play’s the Thing » American Scientist

Let me explain a thing or two about humanists like me. There are legions of us who reach for our guns when we hear the word genome. That’s because we’re all too familiar with the history of eugenics, and we flinch whenever someone attempts an “evolutionary” explanation of Why Society Is the Way It Is; we suspect them, with good reason, of trying to justify some outrageous social injustice on the grounds that it’s only natural. Likewise, there are legions of us who clap our hands over our ears when we hear the term evolutionary psychology. That’s because we’re all too familiar with the follies of sociobiology, and we’ve suffered through lectures claiming that our species is hardwired for middle-aged guys dumping their wives for young secretaries and students (I sat through that lecture myself) or that men run the world because women have wide hips for childbearing, whereas men can rotate three-dimensional shapes in their heads (okay, that one is a mash-up of two different lectures).

Source: here


Excellence article by Raymond Tallis: Neurotrash | New Humanist

such are the limitations of our understanding of the brain, attempting to apply the findings of neuroscience to social policy would be premature, even if this were not wrong in principle. But it is wrong in principle. The fabric of the human world, of the public space that is the arena of our lives, is woven out of explicit shared attention that has been infinitely elaborated in a way that has little to do with what goes on in the darkness of the individual skull, though you require a brain in working order in order to be part of it. If you come across a new discipline with the prefix “neuro” and it is not to do with the nervous system itself, switch on your bullshit detector. If it has society in its sights, reach for your gun. Bring on the neurosceptics.

Source: here


Humanity’s Other Basic Instinct: Maths

Traditionally, scientists have thought that we learn to use numbers the same way we learn how to drive a car or to text with two thumbs … The oldest evidence of people using numbers dates back about 30,000 years: bones and antlers scored with notches that are considered by archaeologists to be tallying marks. More sophisticated uses of numbers arose only much later, coincident with the rise of other simple technologies. The Mesopotamians developed basic arithmetic about 5,000 years ago. Zero made its debut in A.D. 876. Arab scholars laid the foundations of algebra in the ninth century; calculus did not emerge in full flower until the late 1600s.

Despite the late appearance of higher mathematics, there is growing evidence that numbers are not really a recent invention—not even remotely. Cantlon and others are showing that our species seems to have an innate skill for math, a skill that may have been shared by our ancestors going back least 30 million years.

Source: here


Memory and forgetting in the digital age

For the human condition, forgetting is at least as important as remembering – sometimes more so. Without it, we are all bound to lead the miserable life of A. R. Luria's patient Solomon Shereshevsky, who was crippled by his boundless, indelible memory, or his fictional counterpart, Jorge Luis Borges's Funes. No forgetting implies no generalisation, no real present time, no amelioration of trauma, and no weaving of meaningful life narratives …

Total recall may be beneficial for businesses and courts, clinics and insurance agencies, even possibly in settling occasional disputes with significant others, but rarely would it be deeply rewarding for the humble self.

Source: here


The Encultured Brain: Why Neuroanthropology? Why Now?

Increasingly, neuroscientists are finding evidence of functional differences in brain activity and architecture between cultural groups, occupations, and individuals with different skill sets. The implication for neuroanthropology is obvious: forms of enculturation, social norms, training regimens, ritual, and patterns of experience shape how our brains work and are structured. But the predominant reason that culture becomes embodied, even though many anthropologists overlook it, is that neuroanatomy inherently makes experience material. Without material change in the brain, learning, memory, maturation, and even trauma could not happen. Neural systems adapt through long-term refinement and remodeling, which leads to deep enculturation. Through systematic change in the nervous system, the human body learns to orchestrate itself as well as it eventually does. Cultural concepts and meanings become anatomy.

Source: here


Link: Slate Magazine: The powerful and mysterious brain circuitry that makes us love Google, Twitter, and texting.

If humans are seeking machines, we've now created the perfect machines to allow us to seek endlessly. This perhaps should make us cautious. In Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin writes of driving two indoor cats crazy by flicking a laser pointer around the room. They wouldn't stop stalking and pouncing on this ungraspable dot of light—their dopamine system pumping. She writes that no wild cat would indulge in such useless behavior: "A cat wants to catch the mouse, not chase it in circles forever." She says "mindless chasing" makes an animal less likely to meet its real needs "because it short-circuits intelligent stalking behavior." As we chase after flickering bits of information, it's a salutary warning.

Original here


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