Neuroscience as a new national priority

President Obama: “Now, it’s time to get to work.”

NYT article:

Google Science Fair deadline tomorrow!

“Google’s worldwide Science Fair competition …is calling for entries over the next few days. It gives kids the opportunity to join in a new kind of online science competition…offering them the chance to win … prizes including a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands or a $50,000 scholarship.”

They paid us to post this video of a Rube Goldberg machine (you don’t need sound, it’s just random music):

(you won’t be able to see it if you have AdBlock enabled)

UCSB/KITP Emerging Techniques in Neuroscience videos

Friend of the blog Jacob Robinson (who himself is pioneering impressive new techniques with nanowires for neural recording) writes:

While we’re all distributing scientific resources, I thought I’d point out that the KITP has a wonderful program on Emerging Techniques in Neuroscience, currently underway at UCSB. They have a great lineup of speakers with some overlap with the Allen Institute program. Videos of the talks are being posted online here.

So many good videos from good neuroscientists (including Chuck Stevens, John Hopfield, Clay Reid, Jeff Magee, Guoqiang Bi, and many more)… it’s going to take me a while to get through these. Enjoy!

Open questions in neuroscience

The Allen Brain Institute (or is it in-situte?) has posted a nice series of video lectures from a few weeks ago with well-known scientists (George Church, Steve Smith, Christof Koch, Sydney Brenner, Catherine Dulac and others). The topic was a broad one — “What are the open questions in neuroscience?” — but one that is sure to be of interest to many who are trying to understand what the most important areas in neuroscience to work on (like those of us, for example, currently figuring out a postdoc project!) Click here for the full set of videos on YouTube.

Re-examining neurosexism

My dad brought this interesting book review to my attention: Peeling Away Theories on Gender and the Brain (NYT)

In her book Delusions of Gender (which I have not read though am intrigued to do so), cognitive neuroscientist Cordelia Fine places several modern studies of early differences in brain anatomy/function into a long line of sexist explanations for supposed differences in male and female behaviors.

The basic argument is that there has been no convincing connection made between any measured structural differences (which she argues might not exist) to behavioral differences. Just another case of correlation (maybe) and not causation.

Here’s a description of study that you might already be familiar with and Fine’s take on it:

Dr. Baron-Cohen’s lab conducted research on infants who averaged a day and a half old, before any unconscious parental gender priming. Jennifer Connellan, one of Dr. Baron-Cohen’s graduate students, who conducted the study, showed mobiles and then her own face to the infants. The results showed that among the newborns the boys tended to look longer at mobiles, the girls at faces.

Dr. Fine dismantles the study, citing, among other design flaws, the fact that Ms. Connellan knew the sex of some of the babies. Because it was her face they were looking at and she was holding up the mobile, Dr. Fine says, she may have “inadvertently moved the mobile more when she held it up for boys, or looked more directly, or with wider eyes, for the girls.”

Although I am unsure about the scientific merits, it is refreshing to see a new viewpoint in this debate. It provides some food for thought on this interesting topic:

Summarizing the research, she writes, “Nonexistent sex differences in language lateralization, mediated by nonexistent sex differences in corpus callosum structure, are widely believed to explain nonexistent sex differences in language skills.”

What all this adds up to, she says, is neurosexism. It’s all in the brain.