Was that Will really Free?

Not Shakespeare, mind you. We’re talking about the infamous Mr. Seung-Hui Cho. Stephanie noted in a comment that Sharon Begley had written very cogently (and generally in agreement with what I had written) about the origins of behavior that could result in something like the Virginia Tech massacre. Sharon Begley is a highly informed science…

Jack’s hippocampus is bigger than yours

My dog Jack, thinking, has a proportionally larger hippocampus than you do. If I had a pet bunny, its hippocampus would be (proportionally) larger, still!! You’ve probably heard a lot about the crucial role that the hippocampus plays in recording our “episodic” (historic, serial, ‘long-term’) memories. Does this mean that we should revise that age…

Ultrasound and autism

A former UCSF medical student, Carolyn Rees, now a doc in rural Idaho, wrote me a very informative letter — and raised several interesting questions — that are definitely worth a little discussion here. Dr. Rees asked: Is there any evidence that ultrasound examination can affect brain development? In fact, that evidence is mixed. Over…

What underlies the documented increase in autism incidence? Results of a new study

Studies from the Center for Disease Control and elsewhere have compellingly documented a rapid increase in the incidence of autism in the United States. WHAT THE HELL IS CAUSING IT? Given the enormous human and societal costs of this malady, few practical scientific questions are more important to we Americans, in our current era. Whether…

Computers go to school

The U.S. Department of Education recently published a report that they prepared for Congress summarizing the gains achieved by children using computer-based training in reading and mathematics, comparing randomly assigned classes of children who did or did not use these tools (“Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort”; Report…

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…

Another factor contributing to PTSD onset; the NUMBER of traumatic events

A scientific friend and colleague, Professor Thomas Elbert from Konstanz University in Germany, has had a long interest in applying “simple” treatments to individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs). With his wife Maggie and others, he has developed and applied such treatments to war victims, primarily in Africa and Sri Lanka. There, literally millions…