My friend Stanford neuroscientist Melina Uncapher and her colleagues are piloting a new public project called mymntr meant to create a "user guide for your brain" through brain tests for self-knowledge, interviews with fascinating creative folks to get a sense of the minds behind the madness, and lots of other cool stuff at the intersection of science and culture. Read the rest
"Those Who Are Jesus" is Steven Eastwood's fascinating 2001 documentary about three people who have true delusions of grandeur based on "profoundly religious or revalatory experiences." Read the rest
Brandon Keim has an amazing feature up at Aeon Magazine
, about the idea of animal consciousness — i.e., how animals think and feel and experience their own lives. After delving into the chimpanzee experience of death
for a couple weeks, this story really grabbed my attention. Increasingly, it's an idea that scientists are paying more attention to, as well. Read the rest
[Video Link] BB pal Joe Sabia points us to this incredible video by Evan Shinners, Julliard-trained pianist and "best Bach player around." In the video, Shinners shows the world the colors he sees when he plays: he has synesthesia. You can follow him on Twitter, and check him out live on one of his upcoming tour dates. Read the rest
Someone stubs her toe. Where is the pain? In her mind ... or in the toe?
In a recent study, laypeople indicated that they thought the pain was in the toe. (Via Scientific American Mind
) Read the rest
Linda Stone, on human attention
: "Our relationships with our SmartPhones, and this wicked habit that many of us have, of walking or driving while texting or talking, holds us in a state of perpetual inattentional blindness." Read the rest
"The distinction between neurodiverse and neurotypical is too simplistic. There is certainly a great deal of structural variability between individuals, and that's compounded by structural changes that go on across the lifespan. I'm sure [the extent of brain variability is] a lot more than most people realise."
— Jon Simons, senior author on a recently published research paper looking at structural variation in the human brain, and its influence on the ability to distinguish between stuff that actually happened, and stuff we imagine. As quoted by Mo Costandi in The Guardian. Read the rest
Some recent research is confirming what a lot of us have probably long suspected—there's a pretty reasonable scientific explanation for near-death experiences.
Recently, a host of studies has revealed potential underpinnings for all the elements of such experiences.
For instance, the feeling of being dead is not limited to near-death experiences—patients with Cotard or "walking corpse" syndrome hold the delusional belief that they are deceased. This disorder has occurred following trauma, such as during advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis, and has been linked with brain regions such as the parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex—"the parietal cortex is typically involved in attentional processes, and the prefrontal cortex is involved in delusions observed in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia," Mobbs explains. Although the mechanism behind the syndrome remains unknown, one possible explanation is that patients are trying to make sense of the strange experiences they are having.
This story, by Charles Q. Choi, breaks down several common elements of near-death experiences the same way. But the fact that I found most interesting relates to who has "near-death" experiences. Turns out, it's not limited to people who are actually near death. Choi reports that a study of 58 patients who had had near-death experiences found that 30 of them weren't actually in danger of dying. They just thought they were. Read the rest