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…

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…

“What’s Normal?” The diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children is on the rise

In an article in an issue of the New Yorker, Jerome Groopman writes lucidly about the explosion in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children. Reading it made me thank my lucky stars once again that I am not a child neurologist or child psychologist or child psychiatrist who actually has to address the problems…

Alvaro asked a tough question: How do you define SMART?

Alvaro asked this question as a comment after a blog entry discussed recent evidence that physical exercise contributes to academic success. Alvaro, “smart”, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. You do not necessarily want a computer jockey next to you in your foxhole. You do not necessarily want a great world scholar…

Reactions to a book about an autistic boy and his mom

Last month, I recommended a book called “Strange Son”, written by a mother who struggled to communicate with, understand, and help her own autistic child. When I was looking up the URL for the book, I scanned through the reviews posted on Amazon, and was stunned by two negative reactions. One was from a reader…

A recommended book (for some readers)

“Strange Son”, by Portia Iversen is a personal account of a very special individual (the co-founder of Cure Autism Now; a friend of mine) struggling to understand and help her autistic son. It is NOT a book about the general science of autism or about the landscape of rehabilitative therapies applied to help autistics, because…