Monday, December 17, 2007

Bleep, Blorg, Black Holes

It's finals week and my mind just fell into the black hole that is the internet. I'm not sure how I arrived here to post this video. I should be writing a paper on the neural system for sustained attention in monks. What about sustained attention in college students? This music video for "Frontier Psychiatrist" by the Avalanches from 2006 illustrates the trip my mind just took quite well- ghost choir and all. Feel familiar? If so, I recommend some listening therapy: "Get Off the Internet" by the Microphones.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Making you an offer your mind can't refuse

Francis Ford Coppola, father of the Godfather and maker of wine, claims that his newest film Youth Without Youth is "all about" consciousness. Based on a novella by Mircea Eliade, a Romanian-born historian of religion, who wrote about myth, ritual, yoga, shamanism and folklore and the divide between how time is experienced by so-called primitive man and his modern counterpart, knowledge, perception, thought, and reality are all at play in Coppola's attempt to translate the mind to the movie screen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

America's Next Top Asperger's Syndrome Spokesmodel

Heather Kuzmich has a neurological disorder known as Asperger’s syndrome. She is socially awkward, has trouble making eye contact, and is a contestant on this season's America's Next Top Model.

Asperger's syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder characterized mainly by difficulties in social interactions. However, unlike other autism spectrum disorders, people with Asperger's generally do not exhibit deficits in language and other cognitive abilities.

Do people with Asperger's syndrome belong in this drama-filled, overly social world of reality television? While it may make the average Joe more aware of the neurological disorder, it exploits the harsh realities that go along with it for the sake of entertainment. Is reality television really a place for reality?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Insane in the membrane, insane in the brain

A group of Harvard Medical students interested in the effects of smoked marijuana on the brain recently macgyvered an MRI-friendly bong, so subjects can blaze (at a timely rate through a small tube) while having their brains scanned. Forget the notion of "puff, puff, pass". Think "puff, puff, scan".

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feeling Red

What's plucking your auditory nerve cells at the moment: Kaki King's "First Brain" off her third and newest album ...Until We Felt Red

What's her deal: Rolling Stone's first-ever female "Guitar God"

Why the album's interesting: The title ...Until We Felt Red hints at the neurologically based phenomenon of synesthesia in which the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In music → color synesthesia, individuals experience colors in response to tones or other aspects of musical stimuli. King lives up to her title by providing listeners with her most musically complex record to date. For the first time, we hear her dreamlike vocals on some of the tracks as she transitions from acoustic guitar to electric guitar, pedal steel, harp, thumb piano, and drums.

So, get ready to experience Kaki King's newest album through two cognitive pathways, your first brain and second brain.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ain't that America?

When considering many of the problems American society currently faces, a consistency exists that may lead us to believe that the predicament lies in taking normal everyday activities to an extreme. America's too fat, watches too much television, and is on too much medication. The larger problem seems to stem from the over-stimulated world our generation has grown up in.

Attention is defined as the cognitive system that allows preferential processing of relevant information while ignoring irrelevant information. This suggests that the brain must sift through tons of information and selectively choose what it wants to process. This filtering process becomes taxing and difficult when more distractions are readily available.

The computer has revolutionized our lives by providing us with the tools to research issues and become better informed citizens. It has also provided us with the tools to gain a lot of useless knowledge. Now, we internet surf as well as television surf. And spending hours indoors, glossy eyed in front of a screen saturated with distractions, seems to practically lend itself to the development of attention problems.

Time Magazine declared the grand "you" the person of the year, but from my experience, it seems that grand "we" have either become too distracted or too disillusioned by this overabundance of information online to care about the issues integral to our lives and this country.

Instead, we gorge on Ben and Jerry's, pop a Valium, and get lost in Flavor of Love marathons.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fatass Brains

The brain is 60% fat, so eat your Omega-3 fatty acids. Become a little less depressed, a little less bipolar, a little less schizophrenic, a little less stressed, a little less tired, and a little less forgetful later on. Then, continue to remember to eat your Omega-3 fatty acids. The majority of brain fat cannot be maintained by the body alone, so dig in, America. It's what you do best.

And, for posterity's sake:

At right, Bev and Ed Bighead, circa 1994

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Virtual Mixers

And on the seventh day, God grew tired of creating things. Lucky for him, he had created a couch the day before along with men, women, and wild hogs. So, he molded his divine body into his divine couch, turned on his MacBook Pro, and chose his character for World of Warcraft. He decided on a gnome, its specialties in technology and magic. "God the Gnome," he chuckled. "What a riot!"

And on the eighth day, God played World of Warcraft. And on the ninth day, God played World of Warcraft. And for the rest of eternity, God played World of Warcraft.

I do admit there is a method to my madness- the article by John Tierney in this week's Science section of the New York Times. It proposes that the universe might be nothing more than some computer nerd's hobby. According to Dr. Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else's computer simulation.

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.

Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr. Bostrom’s argument whether it takes 50 years or 5 million years. If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to run lots of simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of virtual ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors.

There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because the sights and feelings they’d experience would be indistinguishable. But since there would be so many more virtual ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a virtual world.

Times have changed, my comrades, and real people best stick together. While I don't believe that real life will ever become entirely indistinguishable from virtual life, with the advent of 3-D simulated virtual worlds like Second Life to frolic in, who knows?

The internet has served as our bible in recent years- the source we compulsively check to make sure our lives remain aligned with the images we create in our online journals, our YouTube videos, our World of Warcraft guilds, our Facebook profiles- our digital reality. How long until mixers will be hosted for real people and their virtual counterparts? More importantly, what kinds of refreshments will be served?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

"Temporal lobe epileptics are such interesting company- Dostoyevsky, van Gogh. I've heard it said that Jonathan Swift and Lewis Carroll probably had it too, because of all the little people they wrote about in Gulliver's Travels and Alice in Wonderland."

If this sounds neat, pick up a copy of Conversations with Neil's Brain: The Neural Nature of Thought and Language by William H. Calvin and George A. Ojemann. Traverse the brain's intricate landscape with Neil, a temporal lobe epileptic, before, during, and after neurosurgery. While he does not hallucinate worlds of croquet players and tea drinking mad hatters, a better understanding of the mental states and cognitive experiences of people with temporal lobe dysfunction is gained through Neil's own self-discovery. Other well-known writers and artists speculated to have temporal lobe epilepsy include Edgar Allan Poe, Gustave Flaubert, and Sylvia Plath.

This book suggestion has been brought to you by Reading Rainbow.

Sunday, August 12, 2007