Throwback Thursday: The ER and the Stroke

When I quit the day job, nine years ago now, I inquired to volunteer at a local hospital, and was processed through a formal application and selection drill: application with references and background check; tuberculosis test and booster shots; orientation that included a grand tour of the byzantine hospital bowels; attend specialty departmental training; get […]

Flashing Lights and Random Noise in the City of the Brain

The ophthalmologist asked if I was still seeing the flashing lights. Rarely, but hard to predict. So the brain has gotten used to them, and is ignoring them, she said, and I immediately wondered why that same brain couldn’t ignore the tinnitus sounds also. Sophisticated sound systems increase chances of distraction from random noise. If […]

David Brooks and The Plaque of Alienation; or, the Consciousness Bubble

Are we making progress? And is the progress good? Have humans improved over time? Are we better than our ancestors? What makes us human, and whatever that is, have we been improving upon it? The universe may be expanding; our consciousness is not. Something seems to be blocking our arteries: the plaque of alienation. Yet […]

Theodore Dreiser and Flannery O’Connor were Neuroscientists, too

Over at The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer has posted his Wall Street Journal article in which he takes the pow out of will power, arguing the busy brain is to blame for human frailties. It’s a classic defense of the human condition (Dreiser used it in An American Tragedy), and a blow to the motivational-speaker […]

Where readers eSurface but authors lose control

One advantage of the eBook is lightness. And library books “just disappear” from the little light box on the due date – so no overdue notices, an article in this week’s Christian Science Monitor (print edition) illustrates (we’ve noticed our print books disappearing occasionally, reminding us of bumbling Polonius’s advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender […]

In Twosome Twiminds: News from the Stroke Club – “Who Are We?”

During our stroke, we picked up the Takemine to test our left hand, self-diagnosing our condition. We noticed our left hand with interest; it formed the shape of the chord we had asked for, but not on the frets and strings we wanted. The result was discord, the guitar sounding badly out of tune. We […]

Rap Phonics Rhapsody: Eating the Alphabet and Spitting it Out

If the vowels decide to strike, we can probably keep the machines running, but if we lose the consonants, we’ll have to shut down. How should we learn to read? The beginning reader, trying to make soundsense from the smell of ink of the “…miseffectual whyacinthinous riot of blots and blurs and bars and balls and […]

Neuroscepticism: Exploring the Dark Matter of the Brain

The neuroscientists exploring the brain are like the physicists exploring the universe. We are reminded of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle: no cat, lots of string. We enjoyed The Frontal Cortex’s answer to our question on the distinction between brain and mind: “The mind is really just a piece of meat.” Still, that’s more than some physicists […]