Monthly Archives: September 2006

An unassigned assignment using popular music

The assignment would have been to look for double entendre, wordplay…lexical ambiguity!…in popular music.  Continue reading


Alien presence and Out-of-Body experiences: Left or right hemispheric?

The Nature article by Shahar Arzy (in Olaf Blanke’s lab) about the young woman who “felt a presence” after stimulation of the brain has made the rounds, with great discussions of the work elsewhere (“Ghost Stories” at The Frontal Cortex, “Ghost in the Machine” at The Island of Doubt) and recently at the new blog Alpha Psy. James over at the Island of Doubt connects this work to developments in neurotheology and the search for spiritual unity with some sort of god presence. Vaughn at Mindhacks has reviewed the article, too, and posted links to Blanke’s other work. The focus over at Mindhacks is the role of the temporal parietal junction (TPJ) in these delusions with an insightful question about the negative emotional content of “the other” in this patient. The upshot is that Arzy and colleagues’ research is fascinating on many levels, and provides a window into ways the self and body are bound, and how that unity unravels with brain damage or psychiatric disturbance.

My interest in the article is slightly different. Continue reading

Science Idol cartoon contest – vote soon!

Here’s the link to the Union of Concerned Scientists Science Idol cartoon contest. Most of them are funny, some are more artistically pleasing than others, of course…

Link here 

Waaaay back: The Gym at the Memory Disorders Research Center, Boston, 1995-1997

I think of some of these MDRC coworkers and wonder where they are (or, if I know where they are, how they are doing — post a comment!).

Adele Hutchinson: Adele worked for the Aphasia Center, and I’m sure she went to grad school at Wayne State.

David Nugent: Always a deep interest in film, and it looks like he is exercising the love

Bonnie Wong: Bonnie published with members of the MDRC more than any of us. I can’t find her now…

Cate Brawn Fortier: Wow, I tell stories to students of Cate “the airpuff machine lady” and how the amnesic patients could remember her…Can’t find her now.

On another note from that era, a few of our patients were profiled in a 20/20 episode originally aired in 1997 called “Yesterday’s Gone”.  A long time ago now I lost my tape of the episode, so over the past year I’ve twice requested a copy from ABC, from the department specifically charged with providing old programs. They cannot fulfill my request! What incompetence! Arrrgggghhh….

Great discussion: pipeline problem

There’s so much out there recently on how to solve the “pipeline problem” of underrepresentation of women in science, and most authors agree that we must start to address the issue earlier than college (see Chad’s post at Uncertain Principles and Zuska’s response to him).

Indeed, the world is abuzz with the issue and we see news in The Chronicle about a major report today (National Academies report summary here). Lots of lovely stuff in the summary including the quote below, which lies somewhere well beyond the patently obvious for any of us who aren’t total dichotomizers:

The panel noted that, after an exhaustive review of the scientific literature, including studies of brain structure and function, it could find no evidence of “any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women,” according to its report.

Rather, the panel blamed environments that favor men, continuous questioning of women’s abilities and commitment to an academic career, and a system that claims to reward based on merit but instead rewards traits such as assertiveness that are socially less acceptable for women to possess.

I study this stuff and clearly the panel is completely on-target!

Anyway, I’m most interested in Zuska’s other post here, with real live tips (“Resources for Parents”) on keeping girls’ interest in science strong, and the comments in this thread are golden! The idea of encouraging tinkering and understanding the potential role it may play in confidence, underscored by Bill Hooker later in the comments, is fabulous…


Work in this area is undeniably fascinating; brain damage of various types can be deeply disruptive to the maintenance of personal identity in, frankly, really wacky ways. Damage to regions of the right hemisphere (RH) has been implicated in delusional misidentification disorders such as Capgras syndrome and Cotard’s delusion, as well as in anosognosic deficits.

To take these one by one, in Capgras the patient recognizes a loved one but insists they are an imposter (sometimes to tragic ends; see Blount’s (1986) case where the patient decapitated his father looking for batteries in the “robot’s” head). In Cotard’s delusion the patient believes they are dead. In anosognosia, the patient denies a deficit; their left hand is paralyzed but the patient may insist their arm is just tired or that they don’t wish to move the arm. Continue reading

My new Psych of Language course

Studying language is hard — getting at the nature of tacit knowledge often is, as I see teaching other areas of cognitive psychology. But this summer I wove together Pinker’s The Language Instinct and Carroll’s Psychology of Language text in a way I hoped would be informative and fun, and easier because of the inclusion of Pinker.

Essentially, Pinker was to introduce a topic and some of the terminology, but little of the basics behind the experimentation. Carroll then would come along and flesh out the details.

What a bonehead move! Continue reading