Archive for the ‘journals’ Category

Current Opinion in Neurobiology now hosts a wonderful special issue on “Cognitive Neuroscience”. Well, it’s actually more narrow and to the point than this. Many of the articles are about the neurobiology of preference formation and decision making. The following articles are included:

Dissociating explicit timing from temporal expectation with fMRI
by JT Coull, AC Nobre

The neurobiology of social decision-making
by James K Rilling, Brooks King-Casas, Alan G Sanfey

Anchors, scales and the relative coding of value in the brain
by Ben Seymour, Samuel M McClure

Reinforcement learning: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
by Peter Dayan, Yael Niv

Axiomatic methods, dopamine and reward prediction error
by Andrew Caplin, Mark Dean

New insights on the subcortical representation of reward
Okihide Hikosaka, Ethan Bromberg-Martin, Simon Hong, Masayuki Matsumoto

From biophysics to cognition: reward-dependent adaptive choice behavior
by Alireza Soltani, Xiao-Jing Wang

Spiking networks for Bayesian inference and choice
by Wei Ji Ma, Jeffrey M Beck, Alexandre Pouget

No doubt: if you read these articles, you will be very much up to date with the latest developments in decision neuroscience, neuromarketing, or whatever you wish to call it. Although these articles are not explicitly part of a special issue dedicated to this theme, they nevertheless could be read as such. A wonderful update from a journal that rarely makes the headlines but deserves all the attention it can get.


Read Full Post »

This really gets me freaked out! Martin says I’m just a grumpy old (?) man. So let me lie along the Neurocritic approach just for a minute, and just air my frustration:


Take a look at this image. It’s from a 2007 article in Science by Depue et al.

It’s supposed to show activation in the hippocampus and amygdala. Looks innocent, right? Let’s take a closer look.

Slice number 3 really provides the best errors:

I spent quite a while figuring the figues out. Did the yellow names indicate the blobs or where the structures actually are? For one thing, the blue blobs don’t fit into amygdala or hippocampus, but rather the entorhinal cortex. But let me comment on two big errors related to this slice.

First, the hippocampus is not present on this slice, so why put the name there? And why put it that lateral? This is really bothering. Do the researchers (and reviewers) really think that the hippocampus has anything to do here?

Second, the rightmost activation blob is centered in white matter. Hmm.. would that not give you the opportunity to speculate whether your coregistration was correct? I would. Related to this, let me just comment briefly on the two leftmost slices:

If you look at the blob, it really looks as if it fits better into the hippocampus. The entorhinal cortex is a thin slice with a whole different orientation. My guess: the hippocampus.

Next slide:

As before, I’m really curisous whether this is only a sign of poorly coregistered (and checked) fMRI images to the structural template brain. Or can it be just another example of why standard spatial normalization in this region is too problematic.

Guys, let’s face it: this is probably one of the bigger, non-spotted errors one can find in visualization of fMRI data. Does it help validate fMRI as a method? NO. How can this error be allowed? I have no idea. But would I trust ANY of the other spatial localizations in this article? NO WAY!

Get a grip, guys! Check your images, and get your medial temporal lobe your anatomy right!


Read Full Post »

Since May 8 Nature has published nine essays – one per week – on contemporary music research. Reflecting the recent extraordinary advances made in our understanding of how the brain perceives music many of the essays focus on results coming out of neuroscience labs (although they also mention workbased on anthropology, acustics, statistics, as well as other disciplines). Among the authors are some of today’s preeminent musicologists, including David Huron, Laurel Trainor, Aniruddh Patel, and John Sloboda. Together, the nine essays touch upon a number of music research’s hardest and most intriguing questions such as the question of why we prefer some combination of pitches and rhythms to other, or the question of whether or not any of the processing mechanisms underlying the experience of music are shared with other cognitive abilities, expecially language.

With the publication of the last essay Nature has made all nine essays available for free. Go to this site where it is also possible to download a special edition of the Nature Podcast containing interviews with two of the authors, Philip Ball and John Sloboda.

I spend the morning reading all nine essays, and while they are all highly engaging I couldn’t help thinking that we still deperately need a comprehensive review of the whole range of neuroscience research on music conducted in the last five or ten years. The only book even attemting to introduce this body of work in a popular form is Daniel Levitin‘s This is Your Brain on Music, and I think it is fair to say that this book only manages to cover but a fraction of the many, many exiting results currently being published. Could this be a job for the incomparable Carl Zimmer?


The photo shows some 70.000 people convening at the Roskilde Festival here in Denmark to enjoy four days of music. Why?

Read Full Post »

money-in-the-brain.jpgThe burgeoning field of neuroeconomics is on the rise, now with a few journal updates. First, let me introduce two new journals:

Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics

This journal “publishes original research dealing with the application of psychological theories and/or neuroscientific methods to business and economics. As an interdisciplinary journal, JNPE serves academicians in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, business, and economics and is an appropriate outlet for articles designed to be of interest, concern, and value to its audience of scholars and professionals.” The journal is published by the Association for NeuroPsychoEconomics

The journal has a number of high-profile academics, such as Tim Ambler, Antoine Bechara, and Baba Shiv. The first issue (now fresh in my hands) include four articles, of which the abstracts can be found here.

Journal of Neuroeconomics

Although this journal, which is to be published by the Society for NeuroEconomics, is not out yet, it holds the promise to become a second major player in the increased flow of articles on neuroeconomics. The journal will be published quarterly, starting in 2009.

Finally, as though separate journals were not enough, Nature Neuroscience — probably the most highly rated neuroscience journal these days — hosts a special section on decision making, aka neuroeconomics.

On the rise indeed.


Read Full Post »

NeuroethicsSeems as if Springer is making a good move on promoting their new journal, Neuroethics. As the message says, they will provide free access to articles during 2008 and 2009.

Well, THAT is something to celebrate. Here at BrainEthics, we will certainly follow the titles as they come, hopefully also comment on them, and even more hopefully so, to have our own contributions in this exciting journal!


Editor-in-Chief: Neil Levy

This journal will offer FREE ACCESS to the FULL TEXT of all articles during 2008 and 2009.

The first dedicated, international, peer-reviewed journal focusing on ethical and philosophical issues raised by research in the sciences of the mind.

Start Reading:

Articles currently published in Volume 1

Introducing Neuroethics

Neuroethics and the Problem of Other Minds
Implications of Neuroscience for the Moral Status of Brain-Damaged Patients and Nonhuman Animals

Neuroimaging and Inferential Distance

Neuroenhancement of Love and Marriage
The Chemicals Between Us

Psychopharmacological Enhancement

Neuroethics and Nanoethics: Do We Risk Ethical Myopia?

Will Working Mothers’ Brains Explode? The Popular New Genre of Neurosexism

Read Full Post »

protein.jpgEver wondered about the neurobiology of memory — how the brain stores information? And, if you know slightly more, how information is stored beyond the hippocampus, or what happens to memory during recall? If you have anything to do with memory — even having a slight interest in the topic — the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory now hosts a special issue on the role of protein synthesis in memory. The issue is packed with updates on the findings and controversies on this topic, and it is certain to bring you to up to date on the neurobiology of memory.

As the editor of this issue, Paul E. Gold, notes in his introduction:

The goal of collecting these papers was not to find a single clear view, laying to rest one alternative view or another—a rather delusional goal at best. Instead, the attempt was to provide a venue through which different perspectives could appear together, with the understanding that all contributors are interested in a common purpose, to identify the ways in which brains make and hold new memories.

So, this issue will probably prove important with regard to mapping out the agreements and disagreements. As Gold notes:

Across these papers, there is agreement on the basic findings. All authors agree that proteins and protein synthesis are important to memory formation, but disagree on the question of whether new protein synthesis specifically triggered by an event is important for the formation of memory for that event. Some of the alternatives suggested include protein synthesis needed to maintain cell integrity, to replenish proteins ‘consumed’ by plasticity mechanisms, and to provide particular proteins that might be modified by experience, with long-lasting modification perhaps themselves representing cellular memory.


The diversity of opinion collected in this special issue, and briefly summarized here, offers an opportunity for readers to examine how different researchers, each sharing a common goal of understanding how memories are made, can view the same data set and come away with disparate opinions. In this way, the readers may find this discourse useful in identifying the important questions, if not the answers, surrounding the roles of protein synthesis in memory.


Read Full Post »

humphrey.JPGIt was twenty years ago today. Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

Actually, last year it was 30 years ago that Nicholas Humphrey published his seminal paper “The social function of intellect” (pdf). Many people see this paper as the impetus to later work on the social brain hypothesis (pdf) and Theory of Mind. Humphrey suggested that, rather than the need for technology, it was in fact the need for advanced cognitive mechanisms for keeping track of conspecifics and interacting with other members of their social group that drove the expansion of brain and intelligence in hominids. This idea has provoked research into the role of cooperation and collaboration as well as deception and competition in primate social behaviour. It has prompted research into the importance of conspecifics being able to attend to a shared mental content. (Shared attention appears crucial to the transfer of knowledge in a social group, and is therefore probably a prerequisite for the establishment of cultural traditions.) Finally, it has been instrumental in getting neuroscientists interested in the neurobiological underpinnings of social cognition, including research into Theory of Mind and mirror neurons.

To commemorate Humphrey’s paper and track the above-mentioned ensuing research, the Royal Society of London staged a Dicussion Meeting last year. The papers presented at that meeting have now been published in the latest issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. It is a veritable smorgardsbord of big names: There’s papers on social intelligence in birds, hyenas, dolphins and apes by, inter alia, Nathan Emery, Nicola Clayton, Kay Holekamp, and Richard Connor. Richard Byrne and Andrew Whiten discuss the animal cultures hypothesis. There’s papers by Michael Tomasello and Daniel Povinelli on ToM in primates. Vittorio Gallese explains the importance of mirror neurons, Chris Frith reviews what we know about the social brain, and Steven Mithen speculates that farming may have arisen from a misapplication of social intelligence. Naturally, Humphrey is also given the opportunity to revisit his 1976 paper.

If you are at all interested in the question of what makes some species social beings you will want to check out this issue.


Read Full Post »

trends.jpgI am a sucker for lists, so please bear with me: In a forthcoming editorial, Shbana Rahman, the editor of the great journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, is celebrating the ten years anniversary of TICS by printing short reflections on what has been the most “exciting discovery or theory of the past ten years” by a number of fat cats in the cognitive neurosciences: John Anderson, Nick Chater, Jon Driver, Jerry Fodor, Marc Hauser, Phil Johnson-Laird, Steven Kosslyn, Jay McClelland, George A. Miller, Lynn Nadel, Steven Pinker, Zenon Pylyshyn, Trevor Robbins, and Vincent Walsh. Naturally, there are as many different answers as people asked: the shift from computational models to probalistic models (Chater), Gergely and Csibra’s experiments on rational imitation in infants (Hauser), research on how intuitions determine judgments (Johnson-Laird), mirror neurons (Nadel), etc., etc. The funniest entry by far is Fodor’s:

What with brain imaging and neural nets, it will be a hard ten years to forget. But I’m working on it. Hopes
for the future: (i) the further erosion of attempts to apply the adaptationist paradigm to the evolution of
cognitive and linguistic phenotypes; concurrently, its replacement by an account that stresses the ‘‘hidden’’
constraints on phylogeny imposed by neurology, genetics, biochemistry, ontogeny and so forth; (ii)
the development of a serious referential/causal semantics for mental representations.

My own suggestions, just of the top of my head, would be:

(1) The rapidly growing understanding of the role played by emotions in various forms of “higher” cognition.

(2) Research on on the interplay between genes, brain processes and the environment in producing behaviour – especially development. Hopefully outdated words such as “innate” will soon dissapear from the vocabulary of cognitive neuroscientists.

(3) Decision-making. By which I mean research on making a judgment, forming preferences for possible choices, neuroeconomics, neuromarketing, and neuroethics.

What would be your choices?


Read Full Post »

AJOB Neuroscience

ajb-71-neuroscience-smallest.jpgThis year, The American Journal of Bioethics will be expanding its publications rate from 6 to 12 annual issues. As part of this increased frequency three issues per year will be dedicated to neuroethics. These issues will be called AJOB Neuroscience, and are edited by the tireless Judy Illes. The inaugural issue has just been published and contains two editorial papers – one by Illes and one by Antonio Damasio – in addition to two target papers with lots of commentary: “The neurobiology of addiction” by Steven Hyman (the first president of The Neuroethics Society); and “Personhood and neuroscience” by Martha Farah and Andrea Heberlein. You can find Illes’ editorial plus a lot of other papers on her website. So, now there is two major outlets for academic neuroethics literature: The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience and AJOB Neuroscience. Pretty amazing!


Read Full Post »

social-neuroscience.jpgThe new issue (number 3-4, September-December 2006) of Social Neuroscience is a hefty double issue tome dedicated to the topic of Theory of Mind. It contains 20 papers by several of the leaders in the field, and is edited by Rebecca Saxe and Simon Baron-Cohen. One of the reasons for the enduring interest in ToM is that, in contrast to other capacities for social reasoning – for instance, the ability to represent facial features or the intentional motion of conspecifics’ bodies – the ability to reason about the contents of mental states may be an unique human ability (see, e.g., [1]). Recently, through fMRI research, ToM has been linked to a specific part of the human brain: the right temporo-parietal junction.


[1] Saxe, R. (2006): Uniquely human social cognition. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 16: 1-5.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »