Neuroscience


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What’s in a brain? Photo by Gallery Stock
Essay/
Neuroscience
The empty brain

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Robert Epstein

Illustration by Michael Marsicano
Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
How the light gets out

Consciousness is the ‘hard problem’, the one that confounds science and philosophy. Has a new theory cracked it?

Michael Graziano

Beast-machines. The City Rises by Umberto Boccioni (1910). MOMA. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Neuroscience
The real problem

It looks like scientists and philosophers might have made consciousness far more mysterious than it needs to be

Anil K Seth

Photo by Anna Stepska/Getty

Essay/
Neuroscience
Where pain lives

Fixing chronic back pain is possible only when patients understand how much it is produced by the brain, not the spine

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin

A beautiful mind; ctenophore Beroe cucumis. Photo by Bill Curtsinger/National Geographic
Essay/
Evolution
Aliens in our midst

The ctenophore’s brain suggests that, if evolution began again, intelligence would re-emerge because nature repeats itself

Douglas Fox

Lizzie #1. Photo © 2009 KevinHoran.com from the series Chattel

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Animals and humans
Eating someone

Farmed animals have personalities, smarts, even a sense of agency. Why then do we saddle them with lives of utter despair?

Lori Marino

An art student paints a picture for a school exhibition. 1961. Photo by Eve Arnold/Magnum
Essay/
Philosophy of mind
I attend, therefore I am

You are only as strong as your powers of attention, and other uncomfortable truths about the self

Carolyn Dicey Jennings

Breaking point. Photo by Paul Furborough/EyeEm/Getty
Essay/
Neuroscience
When is stress good for you?

The subtle flows and toxic hits of stress get under the skin, making and breaking the body and brain over a lifetime

Bruce McEwen

From Puck magazine 1909. Courtesy Library of Congress

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Cognition and intelligence
Our world outsmarts us

Social problems are fantastically complex, while human minds are severely under-engineered. Is democracy doomed?

Robert A Burton

New Bond Street, London, England. Photo by Matt Stuart/Magnum
Essay/
Neuroscience
Now you see it, now you…

Seeing things that are hidden; failing to see things in plain sight. How magic exploits the everyday weirdness of perception

Vebjørn Ekroll

Illustration by Richard Wilkinson
Essay/
Consciousness and altered states
Hive consciousness

New research puts us on the cusp of brain-to-brain communication. Could the next step spell the end of individual minds?

Peter Watts

Administrative segregation prisoners take part in a group therapy session at San Quentin state prison, California, 8 June 2012. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

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Human rights and justice
Twilight in the Box

The suicide statistics, squalor and recidivism haven’t ended solitary confinement. Maybe the brain studies will

Shruti Ravindran

Subjectively blue; detail from Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds (1890) by Vincent van Gogh. Courtesy Wikimedia

Essay/
Neuroscience
I feel therefore I am

How exactly did consciousness become a problem? And why, after years off the table, is it a hot research subject now?

Margaret Wertheim

Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum
Essay/
Philosophy of mind
Are you sleepwalking now?

Given how little control we have of our wandering minds, how can we cultivate real mental autonomy?

Thomas Metzinger

SS officers and staff relax at Solahütte, a resort for camp personnel 19 miles from Auschwitz-Birkenau. The photo is from an album taken by Karl-Friedrich Höcker, adjutant to the Auschwitz Kommandant, Richard Baer. Photo courtesy the USHMM

Essay/
War and peace
How evil happens

Why some people choose to do evil remains a puzzle, but are we starting to understand how this behaviour is triggered?

Noga Arikha

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

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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

Nothing to smile about; Buster Keaton and actress Virginia Fox c. 1920. Photo by Springer Collection/Corbis
Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Outlook: gloomy

Humans are wired for bad news, angry faces and sad memories. Is this negativity bias useful or something to overcome?

Jacob Burak

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

A shaman-healer prepares for an Ayahuasca ceremony in La Calera, Cundinamarca. Photo by Eitan Abramovic/AFP/Getty

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Consciousness and altered states
Caves all the way down

Do psychedelics give access to a universal, mystical experience of reality, or is that just a culture-bound illusion?

Jules Evans

Photo by Alex Webb/Magnum

Essay/
Neuroscience
The inner voice

From a very early age, children learn to talk to themselves. That voice in your head is the thing that makes you, you

Philip Jaekl

Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Essay/
Neuroscience
The god effect

Religion spawns both benevolent saints and murderous fanatics. Could dopamine levels in the brain drive that switch?

Patrick McNamara

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

Photo by Vincent Fournier/Gallery Stock
Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
Build-a-brain

We could build an artificial brain that believes itself to be conscious. Does that mean we have solved the hard problem?

Michael Graziano