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Archive for 'cognitive science'

new book – ‘Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are’ by Jennifer M. Groh

October 21, 2014

Making Space

Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are by Jennifer M. Groh (Belknap Press, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

Knowing where things are seems effortless. Yet our brains devote tremendous computational power to figuring out the simplest details about spatial relationships. Going to the grocery store or finding our cell phone requires sleuthing and coordination across different sensory and motor domains. Making Space traces this mental detective work to explain how the brain creates our sense of location. But it goes further, to make the case that spatial processing permeates all our cognitive abilities, and that the brain’s systems for thinking about space may be the systems of thought itself.

Our senses measure energy in the form of light, sound, and pressure on the skin, and our brains evaluate these measurements to make inferences about objects and boundaries. Jennifer Groh describes how eyes detect electromagnetic radiation, how the brain can locate sounds by measuring differences of less than one one-thousandth of a second in how long they take to reach each ear, and how the ear’s balance organs help us monitor body posture and movement. The brain synthesizes all this neural information so that we can navigate three-dimensional space.

But the brain’s work doesn’t end there. Spatial representations do double duty in aiding memory and reasoning. This is why it is harder to remember how to get somewhere if someone else is driving, and why, if we set out to do something and forget what it was, returning to the place we started can jog our memory. In making space the brain uses powers we did not know we have.

See also: Author’s webpage

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new book – ‘Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain’ by Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek

September 15, 2014

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?: A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain by Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek (Princeton University Press, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

Even if you’ve never seen a zombie movie or television show, you could identify an undead ghoul if you saw one. With their endless wandering, lumbering gait, insatiable hunger, antisocial behavior, and apparently memory-less existence, zombies are the walking nightmares of our deepest fears. What do these characteristic behaviors reveal about the inner workings of the zombie mind? Could we diagnose zombism as a neurological condition by studying their behavior? In Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep?, neuroscientists and zombie enthusiasts Timothy Verstynen and Bradley Voytek apply their neuro-know-how to dissect the puzzle of what has happened to the zombie brain to make the undead act differently than their human prey.

Combining tongue-in-cheek analysis with modern neuroscientific principles, Verstynen and Voytek show how zombism can be understood in terms of current knowledge regarding how the brain works. In each chapter, the authors draw on zombie popular culture and identify a characteristic zombie behavior that can be explained using neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and brain-behavior relationships. Through this exploration they shed light on fundamental neuroscientific questions such as: How does the brain function during sleeping and waking? What neural systems control movement? What is the nature of sensory perception?

Walking an ingenious line between seriousness and satire, Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? leverages the popularity of zombie culture in order to give readers a solid foundation in neuroscience.

Google Books preview:

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currently $3.89 kindle ebook on Amazon.com – ‘The Mind Within the Brain: How We Make Decisions and How Those Decisions Go Wrong’ by A. David Redish

September 12, 2014

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new book – ‘How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens’ by Benedict Carey

September 9, 2014

How We Learn

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey (Random House, 2014)

(kindle ed.), (amazon.co.uk), (UK kindle ed.)

Book description from the publisher:

In the tradition of The Power of Habit and Thinking, Fast and Slow comes a practical, playful, and endlessly fascinating guide to what we really know about learning and memory today—and how we can apply it to our own lives.
 
From an early age, it is drilled into our heads: Restlessness, distraction, and ignorance are the enemies of success. We’re told that learning is all self-discipline, that we must confine ourselves to designated study areas, turn off the music, and maintain a strict ritual if we want to ace that test, memorize that presentation, or nail that piano recital.

But what if almost everything we were told about learning is wrong? And what if there was a way to achieve more with less effort?

In How We Learn, award-winning science reporter Benedict Carey sifts through decades of education research and landmark studies to uncover the truth about how our brains absorb and retain information. What he discovers is that, from the moment we are born, we are all learning quickly, efficiently, and automatically; but in our zeal to systematize the process we have ignored valuable, naturally enjoyable learning tools like forgetting, sleeping, and daydreaming. Is a dedicated desk in a quiet room really the best way to study? Can altering your routine improve your recall? Are there times when distraction is good? Is repetition necessary? Carey’s search for answers to these questions yields a wealth of strategies that make learning more a part of our everyday lives—and less of a chore.

By road testing many of the counterintuitive techniques described in this book, Carey shows how we can flex the neural muscles that make deep learning possible. Along the way he reveals why teachers should give final exams on the first day of class, why it’s wise to interleave subjects and concepts when learning any new skill, and when it’s smarter to stay up late prepping for that presentation than to rise early for one last cram session. And if this requires some suspension of disbelief, that’s because the research defies what we’ve been told, throughout our lives, about how best to learn.

The brain is not like a muscle, at least not in any straightforward sense. It is something else altogether, sensitive to mood, to timing, to circadian rhythms, as well as to location and environment. It doesn’t take orders well, to put it mildly. If the brain is a learning machine, then it is an eccentric one. In How We Learn, Benedict Carey shows us how to exploit its quirks to our advantage.

Google Books preview:

See also: Author’s website

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new book – ‘The Measure of Madness: Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Delusional Thought’ by Philip Gerrans

July 12, 2014

The Measure of Madness

The Measure of Madness: Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Delusional Thought (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) by Philip Gerrans (Bradford Book/MIT, 2014)

(amazon.co.uk)

Book description from the publisher:

In The Measure of Madness, Philip Gerrans offers a novel explanation of delusion. Over the last two decades, philosophers and cognitive scientists have investigated explanations of delusion that interweave philosophical questions about the nature of belief and rationality with findings from cognitive science and neurobiology. Gerrans argues that once we fully describe the computational and neural mechanisms that produce delusion and the way in which conscious experience and thought depend on them, the concept of delusional belief retains only a heuristic role in the explanation of delusion.

Gerrans proposes that delusions are narrative models that accommodate anomalous experiences. He argues that delusions represent the operation of the Default Mode Network (DMN) — the cognitive system that provides the raw material for humans’ inbuilt tendency to provide a subjectively compelling narrative context for anomalous or highly salient experiences — without the “supervision” of higher cognitive processes present in the nondelusional mind. This explanation illuminates the relationship among delusions, dreams, imaginative states, and irrational beliefs that have perplexed philosophers and psychologists for over a century. Going beyond the purely conceptual and the phenomenological, Gerrans brings together findings from different disciplines to trace the flow of information through the cognitive system, and applies these to case studies of typical schizophrenic delusions: misidentification, alien control, and thought insertion. Drawing on the interventionist model of causal explanation in philosophy of science and the predictive coding approach to the mind influential in computational neuroscience, Gerrans provides a model for integrative theorizing about the mind.

Google Books preview:

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