Neuroscience


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Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Philosophy of mind
The value of uncertainty

In fiction, it grips us. In life, it can unravel us. How can brains hooked on certainty put its opposite to good use?

Mark Miller, Kathryn Nave, George Deane & Andy Clark

Activists clash with police on 1 March 2020 in Kolkata during a protest against India’s new citizenship law and following sectarian riots in New Delhi. Photo by Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty

Essay/
Mood and emotion
Politics is visceral

In an age thick with anger and fear, we might dream of a purely rational politics but it would be a denial of our humanity

Manos Tsakiris

Malibu, California, 1957. Photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Gender and identity
Sexual dinosaurs

The charge of ‘feminist bias’ is used to besmirch anyone who questions sexist assumptions at work in neuroscience

Cordelia Fine

The Blue Boat (1892) by Winslow Homer. Courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Neuroscience
Nostalgia reimagined

Neuroscience is finding what propaganda has long known: nostalgia doesn’t need real memories – an imagined past works too

Felipe De Brigard

Photo by George Georgiou / Panos Pictures

Essay/
Illness and disease
On Matthew’s mind

An operation to remove a brain cyst changed Matthew’s identity. Who will he become after the next round of surgery?

Ben Platts-Mills

Photo courtesy Wellcome Images

Essay/
Neuroscience
Frames of consciousness

Can electrical impulses in the brain explain the stuff that dreams are made on? What a new consciousness-detector reveals

Joel Frohlich

Photo by Debbie Lee Harrison/Getty

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
It’s hard to fool a nose

Theories of perception are heavily tilted to the visual: we have much to learn from our surprisingly acute sense of smell

Ann-Sophie Barwich

Why did the woman cross the road? Photo by Harry Gruyaert/Magnum

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
You are the world

Are your decisions made by your brain, or via the experience of the world relative to your body? A dialogue on consciousness

Tim Parks & Riccardo Manzotti

Dee, JoJo, Frankie and Lisa after school on Prince Street, Little Italy, New York City, in 1976. Photo from Susan Meiselas’s series Prince Street Girls/Magnum

Essay/
Love and friendship
The biology of love

Humans teeter on a knife’s edge. The same deep chemistry that fosters bonding can, in a heartbeat, pivot to fear and hate

Ruth Feldman

This colour-enhanced frontal view of the head, neck and shoulders confirms brain death by absence of blood flow to the brain. Photo by Living Art Enterprises, LLC/SPL

Essay/
Bioethics
Neither person nor cadaver

The body is warm, but the brain has gone dark: why the notion of brain death provokes the thorniest of medical dilemmas

Sharon Kaufman

Detail from Self Portrait (1500) by Albrecht Dürer. The text to the right broadly translates as ‘Thus I, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg, created myself with characteristic colours at the age of 28 years.’ Courtesy Wikipedia/Alte Pinakothek München

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Consciousness is real

Consciousness is neither a spooky mystery nor an illusory belief. It’s a valid and causally efficacious biological reality

Massimo Pigliucci

Detail of Picture from 8 Sides (1930-6), by Kurt Schwitters; oil and wood relief on panel. Courtesy Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
The consciousness illusion

Phenomenal consciousness is a fiction written by our brains to help us track the impact that the world makes on us

Keith Frankish

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront (1954). Photo by Corbis via Getty

Essay/
Gender and identity
Sex on the brain

Humans, like other mammals, exhibit sex differences in their brains and psychological traits. But what do they signify?

Kevin Mitchell

Photographer Bruce Hall’s son Jack from the series Immersed: Our Experience with Autism. Photo courtesy of Bruce Hall

Essay/
Neurodiversity
Against neurodiversity

The movement has good intentions, but it favours the high-functioning and overlooks those who struggle with severe autism

Moheb Costandi

Drowning in pink. Photo by Aly Song/Reuters

Essay/
Gender and identity
Pink and blue tsunami

From tutus to trucks, parents are often struck by the gendered choices made by their children. Could these be ‘hardwired’?

Gina Rippon

Coloured X-rays of sections through the head of a patient showing the electrodes (light lines) of a deep brain stimulator (DBS) implanted in the brain. Photo by Zephyr/Science Photo Library

Essay/
Neuroscience
Deep brain stimulation

DBS is an incredibly promising intervention for intractable neurological and psychiatric illness. What are the risks?

Jonathan Pugh

Photo by Thomas Hoepker/Magnum

Essay/
Neuroscience
Human magnetism

For centuries, people have navigated the globe using instruments. But what if the Earth itself can help us feel our way?

Philip Jaekl

Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Essay/
Neuroscience
Now you see it

Our brains predict the outcomes of our actions, shaping reality into what we expect. That’s why we see what we believe

Daniel Yon

Photo by Stephan Vanfleteren/Panos

Essay/
Neuroscience
The interoceptive turn

The science of how we sense ourselves from within, including our bodily states, is creating a radical picture of selfhood

Noga Arikha