brain science

Courtesy Jason Yeatman

Two years ago Jason Yeatman, a researcher at the University of Washington, stumbled into a secret corridor of the mind.

Steven Pinker's book "The Sense of Style."

Ross Reynolds speaks with cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, who is both a fan and critic of writing style guides. He’s now written his own: “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century!” He says many authors of style guides don’t understand the cognitive biases that lead to us write poorly.

The heavyset man with a bandage on his throat is having trouble repeating a phrase. "No ifs ..." he says to the medical students and doctors around his bed at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"Can I hear you say no ifs, ands or buts?" says Dr. Allan Ropper, the Harvard neurologist in charge. The patient tries again. "No ifs, buts, ands or," he says.

Four years ago, Angela Stimpson agreed to donate a kidney to a complete stranger.

"The only thing I knew about my recipient was that she was a female and she lived in Bakersfield, Calif.," Stimpson says.

It was a true act of altruism — Stimpson risked pain and suffering to help another. So why did she do it? It involved major surgery, her donation was anonymous, and she wasn't paid.

"At that time in my life, I was 42 years old. I was single, I had no children," Stimpson says. "I loved my life, but I would often question what my purpose is."

Everyone points to the Wright Brothers as the inventors of human flight. But centuries earlier, it was Leonardo da Vinci who imagined human flight, recognizing how birds used concepts like lift and wing shape to glide high above us.

Flickr Photo/Giulia Forsythe

Human beings have wondered how our brains work for millennia. And we haven’t been afraid to knock about in there to find out. There is evidence that trepanation, the surgical practice of drilling a hole into the skull in order to cure headaches or mental disorders, was performed in Neolithic times, just at the tail end of the Stone Age. Ouch!

According to author Sam Kean, the stories of people who survived terrible brain disease and injury are at the heart of how modern neuroscience advanced. Kean spoke at Town Hall Seattle on May 20.

From Wikipedia

Here’s the plot: A man suffering from dystonia – a neurological disorder that causes twisting and abnormal postures – goes to a doctor. The doctor gives the man local anesthesia, drills into his head, inserts spaghetti-like electrodes and then hooks him up to a pacemaker to send electrical currents into his brain.

Even if you can't keep a beat, your brain can. "The brain absolutely has rhythm," says Nathan Urban, a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

When you concentrate, Urban says, your brain produces rapid, rhythmic electrical impulses called gamma waves. When you relax, it generates much slower alpha waves.

Blame Your Brain: The Fault Lies Somewhere Within

Jun 17, 2014

Science doesn't just further technology and help us predict and control our environment. It also changes the way we understand ourselves and our place in the natural world. This understanding can inspire awe and a sense of grandeur.

Flickr Photo/Giulia Forsythe/Cathy N Davidson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Marcie Sillman talks with cognitive scientist-turned-science-writer, Christian Jarrett, about brain science research and why consumers need to bring a skeptical eye to the neuroscience headlines.

A little education goes a long way toward ensuring you'll recover from a serious traumatic brain injury. In fact, people with lots of education are seven times more likely than high school dropouts to have no measurable disability a year later.

Parents do a lot more than make sure a child has food and shelter, researchers say. They play a critical role in brain development.

Blindsight Is Never 20/20

Dec 30, 2013
Flickr Photo/Giulia Forsythe

Steve Scher talks with Dr. Christof Koch,  chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, about a rare brain condition that causes some people to only see in black and white.

Flickr Photo/Evan Long

Stick your tongue out at a newborn, and it will attempt to stick its tongue back at you. Wave your hand, and the baby may wave back. Behavioral psychologists have known for some time how babies love to imitate, but new research from the University of Washington and Temple University sheds light on the neural processes happening within the brain.

There are consequences to all of our actions — positive and negative, large and small, delayed and immediate.

Biopsychologist Susan Schneider talks about how consequences follow certain scientific principles. She’s the author of “The Science of Consequences: How They Affect Genes, Change the Brain, and Impact Our World.” She spoke at Town Hall on July 11, 2013.

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