Showing posts from December, 2013

Guides to the journey into the brain

A journey into the human brain starts with the usual travel decisions: will you opt for a no-frills sightseeing jaunt, a five-star luxury cruise, or trek a little off the beaten track, skipping the usual tourist attractions?

The Self as Brain. By Patricia S. Churchland.
W. W. Norton. 291 pages. $26.95.

The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience. 
By Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld. Basic Books. 218 pages. $26.99.

Now that science’s newfound land is suddenly navigable, hordes of eager guides are offering up books that range from the basic to the lavishly appointed to the minutely subspecialized. But those who prefer wandering off trail may opt for two new ones, neither by a neuroscientist.

On challenging the growing appeal of neuroscience to remove blame

Sally Satel [a practicing psychiatrist] writing on James Q Wilson book ”The Moral Sense" in honor of the occasion of  the 75th anniversary of the American Enterprise Institute where Wilson was on the Council of Academic Advisers:

“ Although we generally think of ourselves as free agents who make choices, a number of prominent scholars claim that we are mistaken. "Our growing knowledge about the brain makes the notions of volition, culpability, and, ultimately, the very premise of the criminal justice system, deeply suspect," contends Stanford University biologist Robert Sapolsky. “Progress in understanding the chemical basis of behavior will make it increasingly untenable to retain a belief in the concept of free will,” writes biologist Anthony R. Cashmore.

Electrodoping with Transcranial Electrical Stimulation – Fact or Fiction?

By Kohitij Kar, PhD candidate
When most of us think of electricity and the brain together, we generally visualize what is known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) with an image of a man’s face in gruesome pain. Thanks to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for that! But, recently, there has been a revival of interest in a somewhat subdued version of ECT referred to as transcranial electric stimulation (tES) encompassing direct current (tDCS), alternating current (tACS) and random noise (tRNS) stimulation. One key difference between these methods and ECT is the intensity of current being used. Whereas tES techniques only use a few milliamperes of current, ECT often uses hundreds of milliamperes ensuring a much more vigorous manipulation of the brain state. tES also comes in at a low cost and with negligible discomfort or side effects. So the idea of someone just hooking their heads up t…

Determination' can be induced by electrical brain stimulation

Applying an electric current to a particular part of the brain 
makes people feel a sense of determination, say researchers 

Doctors in the US have induced feelings of intense determination in two 
men by stimulating a part of their brains with gentle electric currents.
The men were having a routine procedure to locate regions in their brains that caused epileptic seizures when they felt their heart rates rise, a sense of foreboding, and an overwhelming desire to persevere against a looming hardship.The remarkable findings could help researchers develop treatments for depression and other disorders where people are debilitated by a lack of motivation.