Why we do research

Why do we study autistic or dyslexic or schizophrenic or other subjects, in our scientific experiments? That is a question that was asked, rather impolitely, by “dyslexic in LA”, who challenged the “arrogance” of a perspective that engages such individuals as “scientific guinea pigs”. There are two simple answers to this question. We want to…

The brain and the law, when Bobby goes bad

Each year I deliver a “guest lecture” in a medical ethics course at Stanford. My friend Bill Hurlbut, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, is the course director. The issues that I raise in this course were addressed in part by an interesting cover story in the March 11th New York Times Sunday…

How can the same brain plasticity-based training programs help individuals with cognitive losses arising from normal aging, exposure to IED explosions, or chemotherapy?

Over the years, I have specifically discussed the potential value of intensive brain plasticity-based brain fitness training for individuals with ALL of these (and other, related) personal histories. How in the heck can “one size fit all”? How on earth can the losses in mental faculties stemming from an explosion of little bubbles in the…

Why science can be confusing, just another example

A provocative article in an Issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Columbia researchers (Saxe, Malleret, et al.) described a study in which scientists documented the consequences of blocking neurogenesis (the birthing of new neurons) on maze-learning in mice. Since we already know that the magnitude of neurogenesis in this brain…

“WAR’S NEW WOUNDS. A shock wave of brain injuries”

That was the headline in a Washington Post article written by Ronald Glasser, published on Sunday, April 8, 2007. It reported a rather astounding statistic that applies to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars: About 30% of soldiers in those conflicts have been directly exposed to IED or other powerful explosions. That exposure has…

Brain plasticity-based “cognitive training” elevates BDNF

Serum BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophin factor) has been repeatedly shown to be lower than normal in schizophrenic, bipolar and depressed patient populations. Moreover, the severity of manias or depression have been shown to be inversely correlated with serum BDNF. This key brain trophic factor plays a complicated panoply of roles in brain development, in maintaining the…