Tinnitus. A special example of a failure mode for your plastic brain

Millions of individuals (2% of humankind) are plagued by continuous sounds generated in their skulls, not coming from the real world. Because these ringing or roaring sounds are inescapable and because they strongly influence emotional-control processes in the brain, they can literally drive an individual who hears them incessantly just a little bit crazy. No…

Brain plasticity monitored and induced by magnetic stimulation

I had the pleasure of spending a day last week talking with a world authority on brain plasticity issues, Harvard professor Alvaro Pascual-Leone. Dr. Pascual-Leone has employed a special tool in many of his studies, both to document brain change, and to induce it for the benefit of patients. That tool is direct magnetic stimulation…

Nature vs Nurture, redux

I made the mistake of watching a NOVA program that celebrated the career and scientific achievements of an important biological scientist, Professor E.O. Wilson. Dr. Wilson has been a wonderful observer of the behaviors and lives of ants, termites and other ‘social insects’. He describes them as instinctive creatures whose behavior is strictly determined by…

Autism, mercury, video games, the Courts, and Arnold

The several-month-old report by the Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on the “Omnibus Autism Proceeding” is old news, but I thought I’d put an oar in, by saying that this is something that the courts got right. There is a large body of evidence that demonstrates, to a level of near-certainty, that…

Aging paragons

We all know a few older-aged paragons, individuals who are still storming through life in their 9th or 10th or 11th decade. I was delighted to read two articles in the New York Times last week that featured two such individuals who have crossed my own path in life. David Perlman is a 90-year-old science…

Brain plasticity and criminal behavior; part 4

A young adult American – usually male – has committed a crime. He stands in the dock. As we sit as courtroom observers, what, in the overwhelming majority of the cases, do we see before us? As we’ve discussed in earlier blogs: 1. We see a young man who has failed at school. There is…

A little more neuroplasticity help is on the way!

I’ve spent the past 2 days participating in a workshop at the National Institutes of Health titled “Harnessing Neuroplasticity for Human Applications”. You would probably have enjoyed – and learned from — listening in on these discussions. The participants at this meeting (including many top American gurus and practitioners in neuroplasticity) outlined the state or…

Perception, illusion, prediction, magic, autism

There is an enjoyable article in the current issue of Wired in which the magician Teller (the silent, smaller and more sneaky chap on the Penn and Teller team) engages in a conversation with the science writer Jonah Lehrer about the neurological bases of magic. Reading this article led me to a review on this…

Brain plasticity origins of PTSD

John Woo, a fellow University of California professor and self-identified neurological expert on methods of interrogating prisoners argued that recommended methods of interviewing prisoners (like ‘water-boarding’, sustaining a detainee in an agonizing posture for extended periods of time, or long bouts of sleep deprivation) were acceptable, because experience with former prisoners of war have shown…