3D outline of brain as nodes and edges

Making Connections: Science, Cognition & Communication

How do you describe the same idea to five people at different levels of cognitive development and scientific expertise? It turns out that the communication of science also involves the science of communication. What the Connectome is, it’s a kind of a newly made up term for describing a kind of neuroscience research where we […]

Three drawings of different neural structures on yellowed paper

Open Eyes, Open Mind: Perceiving and conceiving new things in new ways

What we understand is a function of what we can imagine, and what we can imagine is a function of what we can remember, and what we can remember is a function of what we can see. As various types of technology enhance our ability both to create new things to see (art) and to […]

Outline of human head with tree branch pattern inside

Found In Translation: How our understanding of language transcends languages

From the representation of individual words as concepts to collective words as sentences, there are patterns in the ways we understand language that transcend the organization of individual languages. One of the new insights emerging about human brain function … is that individual concepts have identifiable neural signatures … [and] that there is a high […]

Alignment and the neuroscience of effective communication

How can you tell if you really understand what someone else is saying? Or that they really understand what you’re saying? We may have an intuitive sense of being in sync with others, but someday soon there’ll most likely be a mobile app that can check whether our thoughts are actually synchronized… During his 2016 […]

Investigating healthy minds | Krista Tippett • Richard Davidson

We are always changing, learning, growing. It’s not a question of if, but a question of how. Neuroplasticity is the study of the brain’s plasticity, or its ability to adapt over an individual’s lifetime. Along with scientific research on contemplative practices, neuroplasticity is giving us new maps of what is possible in the exploration of human […]

Change your mind, change the world | Center for the Investigation of Healthy Minds

Led by world-renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richard J. Davidson, the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is at the forefront of research on healthy qualities of mind. Reference Change your mind, change the world | Center for the Investigation of Healthy Minds

The Neuroscience of Creativity, Flow, and Openness to Experience | Scott Barry Kaufman

It seems appropriate that human creativity is connected to a neurological alliance of opposing forces. It’s as if the executive and default networks are normally in conflict, like little children competing for attention or ancient warlords fighting for dominion over the world. It very well could be their fate to remain forever in conflict, never […]

The stories we tell ourselves: Cognition, brain networks, and points of view

What if networks in the brain correspond to different ways of interpreting information? In their article about a large-scale brain networks framework of cognition, Bressler and Menon describe three major networks: central executive, default mode, and salience. The executive network is “responsible for high-level cognitive functions, notably the control of attention and working memory”, the […]

Large-scale networks in cognition: Emerging methods and principles | Steven Bressler • Vinod Menon

The study of cognition is moving beyond the idea that specific areas of the brain are independently responsible for the full range of cognitive functions. Scientists are learning more about how the coordinated activity of areas across the brain also plays a role in thought, feeling, and behavior. This network perspective involves exploring larger scales […]

Buckner • Andrews-Hanna • Schacter | The brain’s default network: Anatomy, function, and relevance to disease

A shared human experience is our active internal mental life. Left without an immediate task that demands full attention, our minds wander jumping from one passing thought to next—what William James (1890) called the “stream of consciousness.” We muse about past happenings, envision possible future events, and lapse into ideations about worlds that are far […]

Scott Barry Kaufman (Scientific American) | The real neuroscience of creativity

According to Kaufman, creativity involves three major neural networks in the brain: Executive Attention, Default [Imagination], and Salience. In his argument against an oversimplified right brain versus left brain perspective, he also speaks to the role of imaginative activity in the creative process. The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right […]

Barbara J. King (NPR) | Culture, not biology, shapes language • Debating language: The role of culture And biology (Part 2)

Cognition + Culture + Communication = Language With this formula as shorthand, in his new book Language: The Cultural Tool, linguist Dan Everett argues that the variability in human cultural life explains the variability in human languages. Reference Barbara J. King (NPR) | Culture, not biology, shapes language Barbara J. King (NPR) | Debating language: […]

What makes us human? Answers from evolutionary anthropology

[W]e are biocultural animals…no other species has evolved as we have: human evolution is not simply a biological process, but truly a biocultural process. Our biology cannot be understood outside of the aforementioned cultural and cognitive reality, and culture cannot be fully understood without biology. REFERENCE What makes us human? Answers from evolutionary anthropology | […]

Chicago Humanities Festival 2013 | Animal: What makes us human

Are humans animals? Not long ago, the question produced a predictable standoff. Now it is the start of a fascinating conversation. The 24th Chicago Humanities Festival takes this new exchange of ideas out of the academy and into the public. We explore what it means to think about culture biologically, about biology culturally, and about […]

Daniel Wolpert (TED) | The real reason for brains

Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement. In this entertaining, data-rich talk he gives us a glimpse into how the brain creates the grace and agility of human motion. “We have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that’s […]

Cecilia Heyes • Geoffrey Bird | Mirroring, association, and the correspondence problem

Watching you eating an apple, my brain activates the same motor neurons that are involved when I eat an apple. In cognitive science, this is referred to as mirroring – essentially when we see someone else perform an action, we mentally perform that action as well. There are a variety of theories which try to […]

Julie Cohen (UC Santa Barbara • Futurity) | Using fewer brain ‘tools’ may speed learning

With the neurological correlates of the learning process coming into focus, the scientists were able to delve into the differences among participants in order to explain why some learned the sequences faster than others. Counterintuitive as it may seem, the participants who showed decreased neural activity learned the fastest. The critical distinction was in areas […]

Gail Gallessich (Futurity) | Brain’s flexibility predicts learning

There are flexible brain regions with allegiances that change through time. “That flexibility seems to be the factor that predicts learning,” says Bassett. “So, if you are very flexible, then you will end up learning better on the second day, and if you are not very flexible, then you learn less…”A brain’s flexibility is determined […]

Sarah D. Sparks (Education Week) | Scientists find learning is not ‘hard-wired’

In contrast to the popular conception of the brain as a computer hard-wired with programs that run different types of tasks, said Dr. Jay N. Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, brain activity has turned out to operate more like a language. Different parts of the brain act like the letters […]

Claudia Wallis (Futurity) | New theory upends view of how the brain is wired

The long-held view of how signals move through the cerebral cortex of the human brain may be incorrect…Looking at how sensory information is processed in rats, Columbia University neuroscientist Randy Bruno found that signals are processed in two parts of the cortex simultaneously rather than in series—almost as if there are two brains…One possibility, suggests […]

Andrew Myers (Futurity) | Neurons send ‘rhythmic signals’ down spine

Our main finding is that the motor cortex is a flexible pattern generator, and sends rhythmic signals down the spinal cord…The brain has had an evolutionary goal to drive movements that help us survive. The primary motor cortex is key to these functions. The patterns of activity it displays presumably derive from evolutionarily older rhythmic […]