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Discovery
Unlocking the Secrets and Powers of the Brain

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A real scan of a human brain.

The human brain is a three-pound paradox: We use it every moment of our lives, yet so much about our brains remains a mystery to us. How do our brains make decisions? Why is it so easy to remember the words to our favorite childhood song but we forget important passwords? Can someone really read your thoughts? Four leading psychologists and neuroscientists discussed these issues at a forum held at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pa., last winter. More than 15 video clips from that event and other interviews with these experts are now available online.

Credit: Morguefile


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In this interview, Discover magazine's Carl Zimmer gives an overview of neuroscience today, including the top challenges in the field, the role of the fMRI machine in exploring the brain, breakthroughs in neuroscience in the next five years and the history of neuroscience.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

In this interview, MIT professor Rebecca Saxe discusses the challenges and promise of neuroscience today, including the most interesting things we've learned about the brain so far, and the big breakthroughs she expects to see in the next 5 years. Saxe also talks about the potential, and potential ethical problems, with using neuro-imaging in marketing and advertising.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

If brain scans can tell whether a person is lying, or if types of violence and criminal behavior can be traced to specific abnormalities in the brain, what does that mean for our justice system? University of California-Santa Barbara professor Michael Gazzaniga discusses the impact of neuroscience and the legal system. Gazzaniga also explores how advances in neuroscience will drive this debate in the decade ahead.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

Do we really use only 10 percent of our brains? In this interview, Sam Wang of Princeton University discusses misconceptions about the brain. Wang also touches on the top challenges in neuroscience, including the challenges of integrating numerous other fields that touch on the mysteries of the brain such as psychology and sociology. Wang also discusses what he thinks we can expect to see as neuroscience continues to make new discoveries.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

Can our brains capture information and memories like a computer? Why do people remember a false story when they hear it, but are unable to remember the correct version of the story when they hear it later? It turns out it's even more complex than you'd think. In this segment, Sam Wang of Princeton University discusses how our brains process information and command it to memory.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

What can music tell us about memory? Daniel J. Levitin, James McGill Professor of Psychology at McGill University and author of the bestselling book "Your Brain on Music" discusses the role of music in making our brains retain important information and memories.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

Where is consciousness in the brain? Michael Gazzaniga, director of the Sage Center for the study of Mind at the University of California and author of the new book "Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique" talks about where our consciousness, including our personalities and sense of self, may come from in the brain.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

What is social neuroscience? We traditionally think of neuroscience as the study of the brain's function, but the brain controls so much of our thoughts and consciousness. Rebecca Saxe, Carole Middleton Career Development Professor in the department of brain and cognitive cciences at MIT, talks about the emerging field of social neuroscience.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

How do we know social cognition exists? Let's say you're with a group of colleagues after you just learned your boss resigned. By reading your coworkers body language and listening to what they have to say, you know how each of them feels about the situation. Or do you? Social cognition plays a role in how our brains interpret what is happening in social interaction around us. Rebecca Saxe, Carole Middleton Career Development Professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, explains social cognition in greater detail.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

How do our brains create and observe art forms such as music and dance? To find the answer, according to Daniel J. Levitin, James McGill Professor of Psychology at McGill University and author of the bestselling book "Your Brain on Music," we must first look at how music and dancing were used by our ancestors. It turns out these forms of artistic expression used to be vital to the way we communicated, and our brains still reflect that.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

How do we make decisions? How are we 'sure' we've come to the right choice? And why can't 'undecided voters' make up their mind the day before an election? According to Sam Wang of Princeton University, it turns out we don't always gather the best information before we make a decision, and sometimes your brain has decided before your mind knows it.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

Where does morality exist in the brain? Is it a biological process or something else? How can scientists begin to explore these questions? Rebecca Saxe, Carole Middleton Career Development Professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT discusses these challenges and how the field of neuroscience is beginning to tackle them.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

If discoveries in neuroscience give us new insights into human behavior, including criminal behavior, will it change our perceptions of criminal responsibility? If so, do we need to rethink our concept of punishment? University of California-Santa Barbara professor Michael Gazzaniga discuss the impact of neuroscience and the legal system. Gazzaniga also explores how advances in neuroscience will drive this debate in the decade ahead.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

Why do we make the right choices in most situations? How does our brain know, for example, not to drink out of a stranger's cup or brush our teeth in the middle of a meeting or class? Rebecca Saxe, Carole Middleton Career Development Professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT discusses how our brains determine the right course of action and reject the bad ideas.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 

Do the structure of some people's brains make them pre-disposed to violence? Will certain types of brain damage cause a person to be more dangerous? UC-Santa Barbara professor Michael Gazzaniga discusses these concepts and whether subtle messages from the outside can also make a person more likely to commit a violent act.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover Magazine

 

What defines your actions? Is it what you choose to do or what you choose not to do? Daniel J. Levitin, James McGill Professor of Psychology at McGill University and Sam Wang at Princeton University discuss how we make decisions, will power, and how we can train our brains to change our behavior and actions for the better.

Credit: National Science Foundation and Discover magazine

 



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