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January 24, 2006

The Female Brain Revealed This August

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Posted by Zack Lynch

While doing research as a medical student at Yale and then as a resident and faculty member at Harvard, Louann Brizendine discovered that almost all of the clinical data in existence on neurology, psychology, and neurobiology focused exclusively on males. In response to this, Brizendine established the first clinic in the country to study and treat women’s brains. At the same time, the National Institute of Health began to regularly include female subjects in its studies for the first time. The combined result has been an
explosion of new data on the female brain.

The%20Female%20Brain%20Book.jpgIn The Female Brain, due out in August 2006, Dr. Brizendine answers questions like why are women more verbal than men? Why do women remember details of fights that men cannot? Why do women tend to form deeper bonds with their female friends than men do with their male counterparts? Exploring these questions and many others that have stumped the sexes throughout the ages, this revolutionary book combines two decades of Brizendine’s own work, real life stories from her clinical practice, and all of the latest information from the scientific community at large to provide a truly comprehensive look at the way women’s minds work.

LOUANN BRIZENDINE, M.D. is a clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSF. She is founder and director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic, and lives in San Francisco. Here is a look at the table of contents

Chapter 1 Birth of the Female Brain
Chapter 2 Teen Girl Brain
Chapter 3 Love and Trust
Chapter 4 Sex
Chapter 5 Mommy Brain
Chapter 6 Emotions
Chapter 7 Mature Female Brain
Epilogue: The Future of the Female Brain
Appendix: The Female Brain and Hormone Therapy
Appendix: The Female Brain and Postpartum Depression

While I have yet to get my hands on a copy of the book, I have had an opportunity to bump into Louann several times over the past few years as she was writing this book. I must say I've rarely seen such dedication. Even if it was a beautiful Sausalito summer day, you could bet that she was busy exploring and explaining the inner workings of the female brain. Given the paucity of accessible information and esteemed nature of the author I would suggest that this will quickly become a must read for all of us.

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November 02, 2005

Intention, Perceptions and Beliefs

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I just got around to reading the October 7th Science and found this interesting tidbit:

What is the relation between intention, choice, and introspection?

Researchers used a card trick in a simple decision task to identify a dissociation between awareness of the initial choice and the outcome when this has been surreptitiously altered. Participants were givena choice to make in the attractiveness of two female faces shown on two cards, and then asked to justify their choice as they examined the card with the alternative they had allegedly chosen. In some trials, the experimenters covertly switched the cards. In the majority of such trials, participants failed to recognize the switch, and proceeded to justify their choice of the card they were handed, although it was not the one they had selected. (Credit: Johansson)

What's the bottom line: We believe what we want to believe?

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August 17, 2005

God Neurons? Neurotheology

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neurotheology seeks to understand the biological basis of spirituality. In an effort to improve the conversation between science and spirituality, the Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, is to give a lecture to at the Society for Neuroscience conference to be held in Washington DC in November, despite the protest from some delegates . In addition to his lecture on the neuroscience of meditation, he will also participate on a panel on the 'Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation'. If you are interested in learning more about neurotheology I recommend checking out the blog, numenware, which has recent posts including: computational models of neurotheology, a specialized neuron for God's face, and a book review of The Sacred Neuron.

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August 27, 2004

Blade Runner Voted Best Movie Ever

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The BBC reports that a recent poll of 60 eminent world scientists have voted Ridley Scott's Blade Runner the best science fiction film to date.

The 1982 movie which takes place in 2019 is loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and is set in a dystopian futuristic vision of Los Angeles.

Chris Frith of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College, London, explains that film won for two reasons: it's discussion of how to tell a human from a machine and the empathy test used by the movie's policemen "is not far away from the sort of thing that cognitive neuroscientists are actually doing today," he said.

I have to agree on this one. In our emerging neurosociety, our survival depends on understanding empathy.

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February 13, 2004

The Final Cut -- Robin Williams and Mira Sorvino

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The arts have always been at the cutting edge of cultural consciousness. The recent rise of neurotechnology related themes in movies highlights the increasing public interest and fascination with neuroculture issues.

In addition to the recent thriller Paycheck starring Ben Affleck and the soon to be released romantic comedy Eternal Sunshine in the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, a third movie is due out in July that explores the personal and societal implications of memory erasing technologies.

The Final Cut, starring Robin Williams and Mira Sorvino, has William's playing the role of a professional "cutter", someone who edits people’s life-videos after their death for a memorial-service presentation. As Bonn film critic, Lee Marshall describes, William's job is to "respect the living", not the dead.

The ethical implications of emerging neurotechnology will be profound. It is for this reason that I urge all of you who have relationships with any individuals involved in these movies to contact me directly. I have excellent relationships with the leading neuroethicists who are working today to ensure neurotechnology is used for the betterment of humanity tomorrow.

DONATIONS should be directed to the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE's achievements to date) and the Center for Bioethics at Stanford University where Judy Illes currently resides.

Note on the importance of funding neuroethics this year: In an election year, most wealthy individual donors decrease their donations towards non-political groups. Moreover, neuroethics is a cutting edge discipline that few profoundly understand.

Please get us in contact with the actors and producers of these films. They are among the few who have thought deeply about the philosophical and societal implications of emerging neurotechnology, while also having the money to donate to the groups who have dedicated their lives to neuropolicy issues.

I challenge the thousand of you who read Brain Waves each day to use your social networks for this purpose. Thank you.

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September 16, 2003

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet to Erase Bad Memories

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Look out this fall for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a new movie directed by Michel Gondry and written with Charlie Kaufman -- Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Adaptation. (2002), Being John Malkovich (1999).

Plot Summary: Joel (Jim Carrey) is stunned to discover that his girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) has had her memories of their tumultuous relationship erased. Out of desperation, he contracts the inventor of the process, Dr. Howard Mierzwaik (Tom Wilkinson), to have Clementine removed from his own memory. But as Joel's memories progressively disappear, he begins to rediscover their earlier passion. From deep within the recesses of his brain, Joel attempts to escape the procedure. As Dr. Mierzwiak and his crew (Kristen Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood) chase him through the maze of his memories, it's clear that Joel just can't get her out of his head.

It will be interesting to see the public reaction around the "right to erase memories," as this romantic comedy wins the hearts and minds of the movie going public. Sometimes art does imitate life.

Other:  Arnold Kling on Milton Friedman's two most important societal issues.  I couldn't agree more with "da men". 

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July 29, 2003

"Quirky, Flexible, Redundant": the Being and Becoming of Play

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Posted by Pat

By Pat Kane

In my investigations into the sources for a possible ""play ethic", I've found a schema from the Pennsylvanian educational psychologist Brian Sutton-Smith to be outstandingly productive. The blurb from his 1997 book, The Ambiguity of Play, sets out clearly his relevance to a neurosocial agenda:

Sutton-Smith focuses on play theories rooted in seven distinct "rhetorics"--the ancient discourses of Fate, Power, Communal Identity, and Frivolity and the modern discourses of Progress, the Imaginary, and the Self...This work reveals more distinctions and disjunctions than affinities, with one striking exception: however different their descriptions and interpretations of play, each rhetoric reveals a quirkiness, redundancy, and flexibility. In light of this, Sutton-Smith suggests that play might provide a model of the variability that allows for "natural" selection. As a form of mental feedback, play might nullify the rigidity that sets in after successful adaption, thus reinforcing animal and human variability.

I've discovered that the "seven rhetorics" are effective mapping tools for contemporary social complexity, in the affluent societies at least. Indeed, much of what we used to regard as productive "work" is now better understood within these rhetorics of play.

Certainly, the Modern discourses of play-as-progress (child education and nuturance), play-as-imagination (media, entertainment and interactivity), and play-as-selfhood (therapy, self-motivation, lifestyle mobility) capture much that we recognise in our everyday lives - as generally happy producers, consumers and pro-sumers. But it's the endurance of the darker, more Ancient discourses that fascinates me just as much - and which I think points to the deep location of play in our species-being, at the kind of adaptive level that Sutton-Smith refers to.

Play-as-power? Note the appearance of play and gaming metaphors in the average page of political and world reportage (it's a great exercise for a week's reading) . Play-as-communal identity? From Friends to football hooligans, Big Brother to Matrix heads, we are clearly playing our way to new notions of social cohesion, both positive and negative.

Play-as-sheer-subversion? Again, from Jackass and the Office (or Dilbert in the US) , to the goofy titles of computer viruses, the antic and satiric energies of play are always there to be tapped into, as a low-level form of resistance to the administered life. My favourite recent example of play-as-fate-and-chance comes from the pentitent mathematician John Allen Paulos, who describes his fall into "cognitive delusion" last year, as he chased his WorldCom stocks up and down the markets, with disastrous personal consequences.

As Gerda Smith notes, the risk player (whether a day-trader or a casino high-roller) is expressing a very ancient and transhistorical human belief: that the randomness of existence (our oldest angst) can be conquered. Paulos wryly recovers his mathematical rigour, and demonstrates through some simple proofs just how theological and spiritual this belief is.

Yet his fall proves, at the very least, that the "adaptive potentiation" (Sutton-Smith) of play - flexible, quirky and excessive - is no respecter of professional status. When we're "in play and at play", thank Proteus, the game is always on - and we can't always predict which form of play will emerge as our most effective mode of agency.

The question is: how do we become more capacious and tensile players, ready for this permanent openness and opportunity? What kind of mind could "live creatively" with the seven rhetorics, taking pleasure and productivity out of their affinities and disaffinities, ambiguities and paradoxes? Might well-fashioned "emoticeuticals" - built to enhance play's adaptive legacies in the brain - help us to get there? And now, we cut to a secret neuro-lab in Happy Valley...

All comments welcome.

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