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Sciam Mind Jan 2013
Introduction This fall Hurricane Sandy famously knocked out power in lower Manhattan. A friend, I'll call her Natalie, was stranded in her cold, dark apartment for days. Most New Yorkers hunkered down with gritty reserve. Yet when I finally reached Natalie, she was bright and cheery. She spoke not about the lack of water or frigid nights but about the romance of living by candlelight and the kindness of neighbors.

This issue's lead article on subconscious mental habits reminded me of Natalie. Our brain's biases can predispose us to view the world through either a positive filter--as with Natalie--or a negative one, as psychologist Elaine Fox explains in The Essence of Optimism, on page 22. An emerging therapy promises to help tune depressive or anxious minds to a happier channel.

Illusions: Your Twisted Little Mind Illusions that distort your perception
Perspectives: Yet Another Stage of Life? With millions of young adults failing to launch, the claim that “emerging adulthood” is a new stage of life is gaining traction. This idea could do more harm than good
Consciousness Redux: Cracking the Retinal Code Silicon “eyes” to help people with deteriorating vision are around the corner
The Essence of Optimism We can tune our mind to notice the bright side of ambiguous events, bolstering our resilience to stress and anxiety
Brain-Changing Games Playing violent video games can sharpen our focus, reasoning and decision-making skills. But do we really need the weapons?
Wisdom From Psychopaths A scientist enters a high-security psychiatric hospital to extract tips and advice from a crowd without a conscience
Your Brain on Trial Lessons from psychology could greatly improve courtroom decision making, reducing racial bias, eyewitness errors and false confessions
The Mystery of the Missed Connection A common but little understood malformation reveals the brain's incredible plasticity
Sciam Mind Nov 2012
Illusions: Afraid of Shadows Spooky illusions trick and treat your brain
Perspectives: Unveiling the Real Evil Genius Creative people are better at rationalizing small ethical lapses that can spiral out of control
Perspectives: Self-Awareness with a Simple Brain Case studies suggest that some forms of consciousness may not require an intact cerebrum
That's Genius! The minds of exceptionally creative people hold answers for us all
Geniuses: A Timeline Timeline of geniuses in history
The Science of Genius Outstanding creativity in all domains may stem from shared attributes and a common process of discovery
Predicting Artistic Brilliance A “rage to master,” as observed in some precocious young artists, may help define extreme visual creativity
Nurturing the Young Genius Renewing our commitment to gifted education is the key to a more innovative, productive and culturally rich society
Switching on Creativity Cases of savant syndrome have inspired an electrical brain stimulation technique for boosting creative insight
Where are all the Female Geniuses? Women tend to choose work-life balance rather than the pursuit of eminence—although the choice is not entirely freely made
The Social Genius of Animals New research reveals that animals interact in surprisingly sophisticated ways
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Memory in Old Age: Not a Lost Cause Researchers have found ways to lessen age-related forgetfulness
Sciam Mind Sep 2012
Introduction Curled up with a blanket, laptop and cup of tea, I checked my e-mails from the dating Web site I had recently joined. I had high hopes: much as I might hunt online for a new neighborhood café to try, I could now search for love just as systematically.

The messages I received told a different story. One suitor wrote: "Hey miss, dug your toe tag." (What!) Another: "You're asking for a lot in your profile (which is a bit boring I might add)." A third: "I stand out from the rest!! Reason 1 I am normal hehe LOL." My account did not stay active for long. "Dating in a Digital World," by Eli J. Finkel et al. on page 26, demystifies this psychological minefield, explaining the art of message writing and the ways online dating toys with our expectations. One tip for navigating these sites: strictly limit the time spent perusing profiles.

A Faithful Resemblance When seeing is believing
Calling a Truce in the Political Wars Psychological insights might tone down the bitter feuding between Democrats and Republicans
Safely Switching Consciousness Off and On Again What can we learn about consciousness from anesthetized patients?
Dating in a Digital World Understanding the psychology of online dating can turn a frustrating experience into a fruitful mission
Studying Drugs in All the Wrong People How the costly race to enroll subjects in psychiatric research trials is harming patients and compromising treatment
Re-creating the Real World To what extent do we truly experience reality?
The Education of Character Scientists, politicians and celebrities are remaking schools as gyms for the brain where teachers build the mental brawn for attention, perseverance and emotional control
Building Better Brains Recent studies indicate that some types of brain training can make you smarter
Treating a Toxin to Learning Stress may be silently sabotaging success in school. Its effects are especially potent for children in poverty
Are All Psychotherapies Created Equal? Certain core benefits cut across methods, but some differences in effectiveness remain
How to Spot a Scoundrel Certain types of fidgeting give away a person's trustworthiness
Sciam Mind Jul 2012
Introduction My old apartment in New York City had seen better days. Stains had darkened the carpet by several shades, and gusts of wind would blow crumbs of decaying brick from the walls. But those details were easily overshadowed by the glaring health code violation that was the bathroom.

The ceiling had sprung a leak directly over the toilet. Whenever the upstairs neighbors took a shower, dirty water came down in a robust pitter-patter; other times a light drizzle descended. Nature calls whenever she chooses, however, and one day I needed relief during a bathroom downpour. So I threw on my rain slicker, opened my umbrella and charged in. After that day - and until the ceiling was fixed - I kept an umbrella hanging on the towel rack.

Illusions: All Deceptions Great and Small Does size matter? To your brain, it doesn't
Perspectives: The Curious Perils of Seeing the Other Side Taking a walk in someone else's shoes can backfire—if you do it in the wrong way or at the wrong time
Consciousness Redux New research sheds light—literally—on recall mechanisms
Your Creative Brain at Work Scientists have mapped the innovative mind so that we can remake our own in its image
Microbes on Your Mind Bacteria in your gut may be influencing your thoughts and moods
Death by Sleepwalker Some people commit violent acts while asleep. In seeking to understand their brain states, scientists and physicians are investigating the murky borders of consciousness
In Search of Charisma Heads of state, chief executives and other leaders are not born with the power to inspire. They manufacture this magic dust in partnership with their followers
Is Your Child Gay? If your son likes sissy stuff or your daughter shuns feminine frocks, he or she is more likely to buck the heterosexual norm. But predicting sexual preference is still an inexact science
Mortal Thoughts We run from the subject like there's no tomorrow, but thinking about death can ease our angst and make us better people, too
When Nice Guys Finish First Pleasant people enjoy many advantages in life and, with some effort, can even make it to the top
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Do Kids Get Bipolar Disorder? Psychiatrists may be pinning this label on too many children, but the problem has not gone away
We're Only Human: Old and On the Road How we can train elderly drivers to be safer
Ask the Brains Is a bad mood contagious?; Why does exercise make us feel good?
Sciam Mind May 2012
Introduction At the end of a long day, I flop down on the couch and close my eyes. I burrow my face into a pillow and enjoy a few moments of silence. Yet one thought creeps into my consciousness. Go to the gym. Find your running shoes. It won't kill you.

This is a familiar battle, one that I wage almost daily. When I do make it to the gym, I anoint myself a hero. What strength of character! Such self-control!

The Aviator's Dilemma Military aviators learn to second-guess their senses
This Is Your Brain on Drugs To the great surprise of many, psilocybin, a potent psychedelic, reduces brain activity
The Perils of Paying for Status Knowing when to pass on that luxury limo or overpriced pen
Finding Free Will Physics and neurobiology can help us understand whether we choose our own destiny
Redefining Mental Illness Psychiatry's diagnostic guidebook gets its first major update in 30 years. The changes may surprise you
Inside the Wrong Body A little-known sense that monitors how we feel inside can go awry, potentially distorting our body image
Sleep's Secret Repairs Slumber may loosen the links that undergird knowledge, restoring the brain daily to a vibrant, flexible state
The Subtle Power of Hidden Messages Can subliminal advertisements influence our behavior? New research says yes­—but only under certain circumstances
Are We Born to Be Religious? Genes and personality influence our attitudes toward religion
Healthy Skepticism Who is better off: the religious or atheists? Cultural values determine the answer
When Coping Fails Revisiting the role of trauma in post-traumatic stress disorder
Memories of Tomorrow Why we tend to predict rosy times ahead
Ask the Brains Is it true that left-handed people are smarter than right-handed people?; How do painkillers buffer against rejection?
Sciam Mind Mar 2012
Introduction Not long ago I signed up for an improvisational theater class. I thought I might gain stage presence and confidence; little did I know I would encounter a genuine cognitive challenge. Within seconds of stepping into a new scene, you must assign yourself a character, convey a location and jump into an activity. You must also react convincingly to your scene partner’s responses. Spinning a believable narrative out of two actors’ choices is like keeping a beach ball aloft no matter what awkward trajectory it may have spun off on.

Learning improv has brought home two main ideas of this issue. Pursuing all the goals needed to improvise a scene can feel just as demanding as, say, answering an important e-mail while taking a phone call. Clearly, I am not a “supertasker”—one of those rare people who can flawlessly execute multiple challenges at once. Psychologists David L. Strayer and Jason M. Watson study these lucky individuals, and they share their discoveries in “Supertaskers and the Multitasking Brain."

Illusions: Urban Illusions Street artists use the city as their canvas
Perspectives: Shopping for Love Speed dating and other innovations in matchmaking can confound even the most focused dater, but simple tips can help
Consciousness Redux: Consciousness Does Not Reside Here Psychology and functional brain imaging disentangle two closely related processes, attention and consciousness
Supertaskers and the Multitasking Brain The discovery of multitasking masterminds is revealing how the brain works when it strives to do several things at once
A Mind in Danger Signs of incipient psychosis show up early in life. Reading them is key to rescuing kids from the abyss of a serious mental illness
The Secrets of Self-Improvement Meet your goals with research-proven tips and techniques
Sensational Senses: Immerse Yourself Your senses bridge the boundary between you and the world
Edges of Perception Unusual cases reveal that the famous "five senses" are not as distinct as once thought
I Know How You Feel Good social skills depend on picking up on other people's moods—a feat the brain performs by combining numerous sensory clues
Smells Like Old Times Our sense of smell sways our memory and thought
Facts and Fictions in Mental Health: The Truth About Pot Marijuana use can be problematic but only rarely leads to addiction
We're Only Human: The Nuts and Bolts of Emotional Sobriety When to engage with negative feelings and when to ignore them
Ask the Brains Is it possible to use more of our brain?; What are the structural differences in the brain between animals that are self-aware (humans, apes) and other vertebrates?
Sciam Mind Jan 2012
Introduction I sat at a piano in a sun-filled modern church. The audience—other young pianists and their parents—watched as I played the first eight notes of a piece by composer Edvard Grieg. At the ninth note, I froze. I tried again: da dee dee dee, da-da dee dee. Silence. On the third try, chords tumbled from my fingers, and the piece flowed from there.

That event at age 14 was scarring, and I soon stopped taking piano lessons. Two years ago, however, I revisited that dormant memory as the band I joined much later prepared for its public debut. Too bad I’m a terrible performer, I thought gloomily.

Illusions: What's in a Face? The human brain is good at identifying faces, but illusions can fool our "face sense"
Perspectives: The Secret Inner Life of Bees Provocative experiments suggest that insects have something resembling emotions
Consciousness Redux: Movies in the Cortical Theater Functional MRI can peer inside your brain and watch you watching a YouTube clip
A Feeling for the Past Emotion engraves the brain with vivid recollections but cleverly distorts your brain's record of what really took place
Trying to Forget The ability to let go of thoughts and remembrances supports a sound state of mind, a sharp intellect and even superior memory
Totaling Recall Scientists can put memories in a precarious state—and manipulate, or even erase, them
Mind-Warping Visions 10 brain twisters compete to be the best illusion of 2011
Wired for Weird Belief in the paranormal arises from the same brain mechanisms that shape most human thought
The Partnership Paradox Why the person you love most is also the one most likely to drive you mad
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Grief without Tears True sufferers are often troubled—and yet time and treatment can often improve their livesqv
We're Only Human: Two Faces of Death Our dueling existential minds influence our beliefs and behaviors in different ways
Ask the Brains Is there a difference between the brain of an atheist and the brain of a religious person? How do our thoughts influence our physical sensations?
Sciam Mind Nov 2011
Introduction Inspiration often seems to pop up unpredictably—in the shower, on a long walk or even at the grocery store. But one place I never expect it is during sleep. I tend to think of myself as a computer: at bedtime I power myself down with teeth brushing and pillow fluffing, and soon enough my brain switches off.

That analogy, however, is dead wrong. Your sleeping brain has simply entered an alternative mode of thinking, as psychologist Deirdre Barrett writes in “Answers in Your Dreams.” With your eyes closed and limbs immobilized, your brain spins fanciful webs of ideas that your waking mind might have filtered out. In that rich environment, your creativity and problem-solving skills can blossom.

Consciousness Redux: Probing the Unconscious Mind Cognitive psychology is mapping the capabilities we are unaware we possess
Illusions: Sculpting the Impossible: Solid Renditions of Visual Illusions Artists find mind-bending ways to bring impossible figures into three-dimensional reality
Unlocking the Lucid Dream Becoming aware of your sleeping self could relieve anxiety or tap the creative unconscious
Answers in Your Dreams When you fall asleep, you enter an alternative state of consciousness—a time when true inspiration can strike
The Death of Preschool The trend in early education is to move from a play-based curriculum to a more school-like environment of directed learning. But is earlier better? And better at what?
Head Shots Artistry abounds in these 10 maps of the human mind
Shifting Focus Tiny subconscious eye movements called microsaccades stave off blindness in all of us—and can even betray our hidden desires
Culture of Shock Fifty years after Stanley Milgram conducted his series of stunning experiments, psychologists are revisiting his findings on the nature of obedience
In the Minds of Others Reading fiction can strengthen your social ties and even change your personality
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Grief without Tears People are not always devastated by a death and should be allowed to recover in their own way
We're Only Human: On the Trail of the Orchid Child One genetic variant leads to the best and worst outcomes in kids
Ask the Brains How does our brain learn new information? Are we biologically inclined to couple for life?
Sciam Mind Sep 2011
Introduction Time slowed to a crawl as my little Nissan Sentra approached the BMW in front of me. With a pronounced crunch, one bumper smashed into another. The green metal hood scooted back, folding into a sharp crease near the windshield. As freeway traffic blazed by on both sides, my mind went blank. What do I do now?

Fortunately, one of my passengers was already on the telephone, dialing 9-1-1 and instructing me to cautiously maneuver the vehicle to the shoulder. What a relief that not everyone in the car had panicked as I did. As Mathias V. Schmidt and Lars Schwabe write in Splintered by Stress, new research helps us predict when the flood of stress hormones will bolster our brains rather than block thought. Exactly when the brain turns on the chemical spigot makes a world of difference.

Perspectives: At Risk for Psychosis Psychiatrists propose a new diagnosis for people who show early signs of a break with reality
Consciousness Redux: Testing for Consciousness in Machines Asking people and computers what's wrong with manipulated photos may tell if there is "anybody home"
Illusions: The Eyes Have It Eye gaze is critically important to social primates such as humans. Maybe that is why illusions involving eyes are so compelling
Splintered by Stress Psychological pressure can make you more attentive, improving your memory and ability to learn. But too much stress can have the opposite effect
Fight the Frazzled Mind A new study suggests that preventive, proactive approaches are the most helpful—and that our stress management IQ is painfully low
A Tale of Two Rodents Rats teach a neuroscientist lessons of love—or at least sex
Primal Brain in the Modern Classroom Evolution biased the human mind to attend to some types of information over others—often the exact opposite of what teachers wish children would learn
The Many Faces of Happiness Cultural twists on the concept hint at new ways of lifting your spirits and making you more content with life
Passion for Possessions: Mine! Ownership of objects plays a critical role in human identity
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Can People Have Multiple Personalities? Although many therapists think it is possible, research raises doubts
We're Only Human: The Burden of Lying Fibbing is tough on the brain. New strategies expose liars by adding to the load
Ask the Brains Where are the images and ideas from dreams located in the brain, and is there any way to capture them?; How much can the brain recover from years of excessive alcohol consumption?
Sciam Mind Jul 2011
Introduction Juggling deadlines is hard enough. Raising a child, too? Might as well ask me to perform brain surgery -- maybe on Mars, while tap dancing.

As Scientific American Mind's managing editor, I cope with overlapping deadlines for story editing, art planning and production needs. I can only marvel at parents who hold down a job such as mine while also keeping a child safe, well nourished and happy through the vulnerable early years. Human history, of course, proves that we are capable. Whether foraging for berries thousands of years ago or combing over raw prose as I do now, countless generations of women have found a way to balance their daily duties and child care.

Perspectives: The Sunny Side of Smut For most people, pornography use has no negative effects—and it may even deter sexual violence
Consciousness Redux: Sex and Violence Using optical and genetic techniques, neuroscientists have identified an "on/off" switch for aggression in the brain
Illusions: Reflections on the Mind Colors can change with their surroundings and spread beyond the lines
Baby Power Heads up, Mom and Dad. Your baby controls your brain
How Dads Develop When men morph into fathers, they experience a neural revival that benefits their children
The Bilingual Advantage Learning a second language can give kids' brains a boost
Thinking By Design The science of everyday beauty reveals what people really like—and why
Outsmarting Mortality Your intelligence affects your life span in several surprising ways
Pop Star Psychology Movies and TV shows can encourage risky behavior in children and teenagers, but teen idols have positive effects, too
Strain on the Brain A stressful life may fuel Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Deranged and Dangerous? Severe mental illness alone is not generally enough to cause violent behavior
We're Only Human: The Partner Paradox Why buddying up to help achieve goals may backfire
Ask the Brains What happens in the brain when we experience a panic attack?; Why did the absence of the corpus callosum in Kim Peek's brain increase his memory capacity?
Sciam Mind May 2011
Introduction When we launched Scientific American Mind as a new publication in 2004, it seemed like a great opportunity to give readers more stories about popular areas of mind and brain research—which, fortuitously, were also booming because of imaging and other advances. What I didn't realize at the time, but probably should have, is how often the findings in our pages would shake loose what I thought I knew about how our gray matter works. In every way, editing this magazine over the years has been, well, mind-expanding.

Take creativity, the subject of our cover story, "The Unleashed Mind," by Harvard University psychologist Shelley Carson. It is common for people to refer, with a knowing wink, to "creative types"—and we all know what that means. We think of someone a little... different from the rest of us workaday sorts. Someone who surprises us with spectacularly odd wardrobe choices but also with amazing insights into problems we are trying to solve.

Perspectives: Fickle Friends "Frenemies" can be bad for your health, but understanding these taxing relationships can make them less painful
Consciousness Redux: Fatal Attraction Some protozoa infect the brain of their host, shaping its behavior in ways most suited to the pathogen, even if it leads to the suicide of the host
Illusions: Colors Out of Space Colors can change with their surroundings and spread beyond the lines
The Unleashed Mind Highly creative people often seem weirder than the rest of us. Now researchers know why
10 Top Illusions Balls that roll uphill, bathtubs that stretch and shrink, freaky faces and throbbing hearts. Welcome to the year's best visual tricks
Obsessions Revisited Scientists are taking a fresh look at obsessive-compulsive disorder, identifying its likely causes—and hints for new therapies
Control Yourself! Cocktail or cola? Banana or banana split? Understanding how we handle such decisions makes it easier to keep our cravings in check
Why Johnny Can't Name His Colors The way we commonly use color and number words in English makes it unnecessarily difficult for kids to learn the concepts
The Hidden Brain Flashy neurons may get the attention, but a class of cells called glia are behind most of the brain's work—and many of its diseases
Distance Therapy Comes of Age Recent studies show that psychotherapy delivered through electronic devices can benefit patients
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Can Positive Thinking Be Negative? Research suggests limits to looking on the sunny side of life
We're Only Human: Looming Deadlines How the pressure of a due date distorts our perception of time
Ask the Brains Why can most people remember a color, but only a few can remember pitch?; Why do memories of vivid dreams disappear soon after waking up?
Sciam Mind Mar 2011
Introduction I had no idea, until much later, that not everybody has such elaborate fantasies—or that they could be problematic for some people who get too engrossed. Still, as Josie Glausiusz writes in this issue’s cover story, “Living in a Dream World,” people generally spend about 30 percent of their days with their minds elsewhere. Daydreaming can inspire us and help us be more creative. But like an overdose of honey, it can also be cloying or smother us if we overindulge.

One such piece is this issue’s cover story, “Get Attached,” by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel S. F. Heller. The importance of attachment—a sound emotional relationship—between a child and a parent has long been well understood. Essentially, the more secure the emotional bond, the more able the child is to develop independence and head into the world successfully. Different types of attachment styles also predict behavior.

Perspectives: Knowing Me, Knowing You How social intuition goes awry in individuals who have autism
Consciousness Redux: Being John Malkovich An advanced brain-machine interface enables patients to control individual nerve cells deep inside their own brain
Illusions: The Ghost Hand Illusion Spooky fun with afterimages
Living in a Dream World Daydreaming can help solve problems, trigger creativity, and inspire great works of art and science. When it becomes compulsive, however, the consequences can be dire
Great Pretenders People who experience the "impostor phenomenon" believe their successes are undeserved—and they live in constant fear of being unmasked
You Are What You Like The Beatles or Brahms, Bauhaus or Braque—your cultural preferences say a lot about your personality
Where Are The Talking Robots? Teaching a machine to speak has been a dream for decades. First we have to figure out how we know what we know about language
Ruled by the Body Many common ailments and physical conditions can influence the brain, leaving you depressed, anxious or slow-witted
Your Avatar, Your Guide Seeing a digital doppelgänger can change your mind—for better or worse
Facts & Fictions in Mental health: Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work? For some heavy drinkers, the answer is a tentative yes
We're Only Human: Border Bias Our mental maps of risk and safety rely too heavily on imaginary boundaries
Ask the Brains When do human beings start to dream?; Do genes make people evil?
Sciam Mind Jan 2011
Introduction In the six years since Scientific American Mind began, I’ve learned a lot about how the mind and brain work. No surprise there. What is startling is how some articles can still make me completely rethink things that I thought I knew.

One such piece is this issue’s cover story, “Get Attached,” by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Amir Levine and psychologist Rachel S. F. Heller. The importance of attachment—a sound emotional relationship—between a child and a parent has long been well understood. Essentially, the more secure the emotional bond, the more able the child is to develop independence and head into the world successfully. Different types of attachment styles also predict behavior.

Perspectives: What, Me Care? A recent study finds a decline in empathy among young people in the U.S.
Consciousness Redux: Think Different The ways in which brains differ from one another show up in the ways their owners perceive the world
Illusions: The Illusions of Love How do we fool thee? Let us count the ways that illusions play with our hearts and minds
Get Attached The surprising secrets to finding the right partner for a healthy relationship
The Pain of Exclusion Even trivial episodes of ostracism can shatter your sense of self. But you can lessen—and learn from—the pain
Body of Thought Fleeting sensations and body movements hold sway over what we feel and how we think
The Nazi and the Psychiatrist Hermann Goering and an American doctor allegiance and the nature of evil
Your Brain on Blueberries Chemical compounds common to berries, tofu, tea and other foods can shore up memory and boost brainpower
A Losing Personality Being neurotic boosts your chances of losing weight—lusting for adventure does not
Facts & Fictions in Mental health: The Insanity Verdict on Trial The insanity defense, rarely used, is widely misunderstood
We're Only Human: The Midnight Ride Effect How imagining a different past increases our appreciation for the present
Ask the Brains Why do I get a slump in mental energy after eating a meal?; How long does it take for your brain to realize you have started to wear a hearing aid?
Sciam Mind Nov 2010
Introduction The hat with the fake bottom, which conceals a rabbit. The handkerchiefs tucked up one sleeve. And the box that has fake feet sticking out of one end, so the lady can be sawed in half (actually, she's curled safely in one side). We think we know some of the common tools in the magician's bag of tricks. But what we haven't noticed because of their deceptive skill is that their number-one sleight facilitator is our own, untrustworthy mind.

Over many years conjurers have honed the high art of manipulating our brains. They deliberately divert our attention and focus to fool us with their delightful capers. An innocent-looking adjustment of eyeglasses with one hand can conceal a smooth movement by the other to hide a coin. Magicians' field research has only recently become appreciated by neuroscientists working in labs who use different means but who also study attention and awareness, a facet of the study of consciousness and one of the hottest areas of neuroscience.

Perspectives: The "Me" Effect You have a powerful influence on other people's moods
Consciousness Redux: Dream States Although we rarely remember our nighttime reveries, they may hold the key to consciousness
Illusions: Hungry for Meaning The brain recognizes food-based illusions on multiple levels
Mind over Magic? Magicians dazzle us by exploiting loopholes in the brain's circuitry for perceiving the world and paying attention
When Character Crumbles A little-known dementia that destroys social sensibilities and emotions reveals the neural roots of personality
Their Pain, Our Gain You've heard that misery loves company. Enjoying others' misery does, too
Meeting Your Match Feelings of rivalry can change our thoughts and behavior
What Makes a Good Parent? A scientific analysis ranks the 10 most effective child-rearing practices. Surprisingly, some don't even involve the kids
Getting to Know Me Psychodynamic therapy has been caricatured as navel-gazing, but studies show powerful benefits
Crowd Control In emergencies, people don't panic. In fact, they show a remarkable ability to organize themselves and support one another
We're Only Human: Dog Tired What mutts can teach us about self-control
Ask the Brains How do we "see" with our eyes closed when we are dreaming?; Why do we use facial expressions to convey emotions?
Sciam Mind Sep 2010
Introduction Does "accommodate" have one "m" or two? asked an editor in our open workspace. Almost before I could say two, the boss flew at us from her office. Why aren't you working? she demanded. She seemed mollified by my explanation. She stalked back to her office chair, periodically watching us through the glass window in the wall.

None of us focused too well for a while after that. But her whipsaw behavior was only part of the reason. As I now know and as you will learn from "Cubicle, Sweet Cubicle," by sociologists S. Alexander Haslam and Craig Knight, the workspace itself already had done most of the productivity damage. We could not put what we wanted atop our desks, lest we ruin the cohesive look. The seating was changed without discussion. The lack of control over our situation interfered with our concentration. It's not difficult, however, to create better workspaces.

Perspectives: It's Not Dementia, It's Your Heart Medication Why cholesterol drugs might affect memory
Consciousness Redux: You Must Remember This What stays with us, and what we forget, depends in part on how well our neurons keep time
Illusions: Reading Between the Lines When an object is partially hidden, the brain deftly reconstructs it as a visual whole
Inside the Mind of a Psychopath Neuroscientists are discovering that some of the most cold-blooded killers aren't bad. They suffer from a brain abnormality that sets them adrift in an emotionless world
Cubicle, Sweet Cubicle Why some office spaces alienate workers, while others make them happier and more efficient
The World at Our Fingertips The sense of touch helps children to ground abstract ideas in concrete experiences
Smart Jocks When kids exercise, they boost brainpower as well as brawn
Hands in the Air Gestures reveal subconscious knowledge and cement new ideas
Mapping the Mind A meticulously constructed atlas of the human brain reveals the molecular roots of mental illness—and of everyday behavior
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: The "Just Do It!" Trap Why Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura won't solve your problems
We're Only Human: Faking It Why wearing designer knockoffs may lead to lying, cheating and cynicism
Ask the Brains Is altruism a genetic trait?; What is going on in the brain when we experience déjŕ vu?
Sciam Mind Jul 2010
Introduction Faced with a dauntingly complex problem, scientists typically do the logical thing. They break it into component parts, to simplify and focus their efforts. After all, grappling with smaller facets lets you try to conquer, one piece at a time, a larger problem. But the brain’s very nature resists this technique. In effect, it refuses to be compartmentalized. The more researchers may attempt to look at a single processing question, the more it turns out to be interrelated with many other things going on in the brain.

Take memory. It’s tempting to think of recall as a video recording or some simple device. Far from existing in one discrete module, however, recollections develop from thousands of connections among neurons. In the first article of this issue’s special report on memory, “Making Connections,” by Anthony J. Greene, you will learn that neural connections underlie everything we know. As neurons light up together, they create links within which our memories lie. As Greene puts it, memories are “a web of connections between people and things.” Events that have high emotional value are particularly crisp in our minds. The second article of our special report, “Yearning for Yesterday,” by Jochen Gebauer and Constantine Sedikides, explains how nostalgia, where we bask in the past, can actually be good for you.

Perspectives: A Taboo Exchange Financial incentives backfire when negotiations involve deeply held beliefs
Consciousness Redux: Looks Can Deceive When you are facing a tricky task, your view of the world may not be as accurate as you think
Illusions: Carried to Extremes How quirks of perception drive the evolution of species
Making Connections The essence of memory is linking one thought to another
Yearning For Yesterday Dwell on the past. It's good for you
Speaking In Tones Music and language are partners in the brain. Our sense of song helps us learn to talk, read and even make friends
When Passion Is The Enemy People with borderline personality disorder endure emotional extremes that can rip apart their lives
The Mechanics of MInd Reading Recent advances in brain scanning allow unprecedented access to our thoughts and mental states
Me, Myself and I Although people change throughout their lives, most hold a steady view of who they are. How does the brain maintain a sense of self?
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Sex in Bits and Bytes How destructive is Internet porn?
We're Only Human: The Willpower Paradox Setting your mind on a goal may be counterproductive. Instead think of the future as an open question
Ask the Brains When a person loses his sense of smell, does he also lose any memory associated with a smell?; Why do we forget?
Sciam Mind May 2010
Introduction Mars and Venus. Pink and blue. As the stereotypes would have it, men and women have little in common but the ability to procreate. But how grounded in scientific reality are our culture's notions about the ways the sexes diverge? And what does the influence of gender mean for our minds—for how we think and communicate?

We at Scientific American Mind wanted to know, too. So, in a first for the magazine, the editors have devoted an entire issue to this topic of gender and the brain. The articles look at male-female differences—and also some perhaps surprising similarities. "He Said, She Said," by linguist Deborah Tannen, for instance, explains how all conversations and relationships between couples involve a combination of hierarchy and connection. Women's and men's conversational styles turn out to be different ways of reaching the same goals.

Perspectives: She's Hooked The allure of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes ebbs and flows with a woman's monthly cycle
Consciousness Redux: Regaining the Rainbow Genetic intervention cures color blindness in monkeys
Illusions: Hey, Is That Me Over There? Your "self", the axiomatic foundation of your existence, can be called into question under certain circumstances.
The Truth About Boys and Girls The preference for playing hockey, or house, is far from fixed. Sex differences in the brain are small—unless grown-up assumptions magnify them
Different Shades of Blue Women get sad. Men get mad. Depression comes in many hues
The Humor Gap Men and women may have different roles when it comes to comedy, but laughter is crucial from flirtation through long-term commitment
Family Guy Move over, "mommy brain." Men go through their own biological changes after a baby is born. But dads are programmed to challenge their kids, not coddle them
He Said, She Said Women and men speak their own languages, but research reveals the conversational gender divide is not as stark as it seems
The Third Gender Transsexuals are illuminating the biology and psychology of sex—and revealing just how diverse the human species really is
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Are Men the More Belligerent Sex? Men are more dangerous, but women can be just as aggressive
We're Only Human: Changing the Dating Game When women approach men instead of vice versa, the gender difference in selectivity disappears
Ask the Brains Can an old head injury suddenly cause detrimental effects much later in life?; What is the memory capacity of the human brain? Is there a physical limit to the amount of information it can store?
Sciam Mind Mar 2010
Introduction I didn't need it, but it was the perfect thing for anyone who considered herself artistic and liked to make detailed drawings, I had to agree. The art supplies salesperson smiled ingratiatingly at me as our conversation morphed into a pitch I literally felt I couldn't refuse. We had struck up a chat about art, and he somehow found a way to make an expensive pen-and-ink set seem indispensable by echoing back to me things I had said I valued in my drawings and in my tools. When he would point out its virtues, he'd say, “Don't you agree?” Yes, I did. And at the end, I forked over $25—at the time, more than I would spend for a week of groceries as an undergrad—and I could not figure out what he had done to make me buy that set. He literally had changed my mind.

Now I know more about why that happened and even have some ideas about how to make it happen myself with other people—and so will you when you read the cover story by psychologist Kevin Dutton, “The Power to Persuade.” Dutton provides several simple secrets that confer surprising influence.

Perspectives: The Ethical Dog Looking for the roots of human morality in the animal kingdom? Focus on canines, who know how to play fair
Consciousness Redux: Playing the Body Electric A combination of genetics and optics gives brain scientists an unprecedented ability to dissect the circuits of the mind
Illusions: Aristotle's Error Using aftereffects to probe visual function reveals how the eye and brain handle colors and contours
The Power to Persuade How masters of "supersuasion" can change your mind
A Sensory Fix for Problems in School Certain learning disabilities are linked to problems of perception, when the brain misinterprets sensory input. Targeted exercises can help correct these difficulties
The Pluses of Getting it Wrong New research makes the case for difficult tests in schools and suggests an unusual technique that anyone can use to learn
Busting Big Myths in Popular Psychology Pop psych lore is a bewildering mix of fact and fallacy. Here we shatter some widely held misconceptions about the mind and human behavior
New Hope for Battling Brain Cancer Studies suggest that stem cells sustain deadly tumors in the brain—and that aiming at these insidious culprits could lead to a cure
Are You Mentally Healthy? Here's a new screening tool that might set your mind at ease—or get you chatting with a therapist
The Brain and the Written Word A cognitive neuroscientist explains his quest to understand how reading works in the mind—and how the brain is changed by education and culture
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Living with Schizophrenia A diagnosis of schizophrenia is not always grounds for despair
We're Only Human: Extraordinary Perception We think of people with autism as having a deficit in cognitive processing—but their distractibility could also result from having enhanced perceptual capabilities
Ask the Brains When people have their feelings hurt, what is actually happening inside the body to cause the physical pain in the chest?; Why is talking along with gestures so much easier than trying to talk without gesturing?
Sciam Mind Jan 2010
Introduction Is there anything more powerful in human society than a steady gaze? I once, for instance, completely flustered and enraged a careless driver who nearly ran over my then toddler and stroller-riding infant daughters and me as she rolled into a gas station simply by calmly staring at her. I didn’t say a word or make a gesture. “What are you looking at?!” she yelled. It’s no wonder, actually: humans are so visually oriented and so social as a species, it would be surprising if we did not respond to the looks of others.

Peering into each other’s eyes, then, naturally has a strong influence on that most social of activities: creating a personal, shared bond as we fall in love with another. As psychologist and contributing editor Robert Epstein writes in the cover story, “How Science Can Help You Fall in Love,” the relationship-cementing effect of mutual gazing is well documented by researchers. Epstein relates some fascinating examples of his experiences with study subjects and others in his thought-provoking article. Who says science isn’t sexy?

Perspectives: Ruled by Birth Order? For decades the evidence has been inconclusive, but new studies show that family position may truly affect intelligence and personality
Consciousness Redux: Reviving Consciousness Direct stimulation of the arousal centers in patients may restore awareness
Illusions: A Moving Experience How the eyes can see movement where it does not exist
How Science Can Help You Fall in Love Nothing is more fulfilling than being in a successful love relationship. Yet we leave our love lives entirely to chance. Maybe we don't have to anymore
The Happy Couple The key to keeping the magic alive in a marriage, experts say, is finding ways to promote the positive
Daring to Die Wanting to die is not enough to trigger suicide. To end their own life, humans need the guts and the means to carry out their plans
Are Social Networks Messing With Your Head? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and their cousins have evolved from college fad to global ubiquity in seven short years. Whether they are good for our mental health is another matter
Depression's Evolutionary Roots Perhaps depression is not a malfunction but a mental adaptation that focuses the mind to better solve complex problems
Driving and the Brain Could computer software based on cognitive science improve older drivers' skills?
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Do the "Eyes" Have It? Eyewitness testimony is fickle and, all too often, shockingly inaccurate
We're Only Human: I Learned It at the Movies Even films that are historically inaccurate can be a valuable teaching tool
Ask the Brains How are memories saved? Where does the recording take place, and how?; How does background noise affect our concentration?
Sciam Mind Nov 2009
Introduction We've all seen the pretty pictures. Colored scans, produced by techniques that measure blood flow or the movement of a tracer chemical, reveal the activity of areas of the brain when we are thinking about something. The revolution in imaging in the past couple of decades has taught us a lot about what the brain is doing while we cogitate. One thing we've learned is that those more active areas aren't always the same from brain to brain when considering a certain problem. Not all brains are the same size or shape, as you might expect, but they also think differently.
Perspectives: Dangerous Liaisons The damaging theatrics of drama queens may spring from defects etched in the brain. Yet you can limit the havoc they wreak on your life
Consciousness Redux: The Will to Power Neurosurgeons evoke an intention to act
Illusions: Cracking the da Vinci Code What do the Mona Lisa and President Abraham Lincoln have in common?
What Does a Smart Brain Look Like? A new neuroscience of intelligence is revealing that not all brains work in the same way
Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking that IQ Tests Miss We assume intelligence and rationality shouldn't be surprised when smart people do dumb things
Why We Worry Chronic worrying stems from a craving for control. But the more we fret, the less our bodies are able to cope with stress
Love The One You're With Combing through your social network is the most fruitful—and most common—way of finding the love of your life
Decoding Dementia New technologies for spotting Alzheimer's disease are poised to unravel its cause and speed progress toward effective treatments
Meditation on Demand New research reveals the cell mechanisms underlying a meditative state
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Foreign Afflictions Do psychological disorders differ across cultures?
We're Only Human: The Color of Sin Ancient fears of filth and contagion may explain why we think of morality in black and white
Ask the Brains Is it true that when we drive, walk or reach for something our brain performs calculations? Is this ability learned or innate?; Why do most customers at my bookstore have trouble understanding my instructions to swipe their debit cards with the magnetic stripe "toward me?" Almost everyone positions their card the wrong way, then asks in confusion, "Stripe toward me?"—meaning themselves. What is causing everyone to make the same mistake?
Sciam Mind Sep 2009
Introduction An elegant presence in a dark suit with tie neatly knotted, he reclined with eyes closed, hands clasped. His face was still boyishly handsome at 57 under the sweep of silver hair. My father rested in his open casket, and as I stood alone in the funeral home room, I at last understood the cliché of the crushing weight of grief.

Moments later face after friendly face poured into the room, smiling encouragingly at me, touching my arm, murmuring words of support, sharing memories. Physically I felt as if I had been lying, flattened by sorrow, on a bedsheet, and all the friends and relatives around me had grabbed the edges and lifted me up. As the days and weeks passed, members of my healing human network—at home, at holiday gatherings, during the commute, at work, at the gym—bolstered my spirits.

Perspectives: Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts A psychologist probes how altruism, evolution and neurobiology mean that we can succeed by not being cutthroat
Consciousness Redux: When Does Consciousness Arise? In the womb, at birth or during early childhood?
Illusions: Two Eyes, Two Views Insights into the nuances of depth perception provided by our two eyes' slightly different views of the world
The Social Cure? Membership in lots of groups—at home, work, the gym—makes us healthier and more resilient. Here's how—and why
When Pain Lingers Researchers are revealing the biological basis of persistent, pathological pain—and providing clues to better treatments
The Psychology of Pain Our expectations, mood and perspective on pain powerfully influence how much something actually hurts—and the decisions we make every day
I Do Not Feel Your Pain Researchers are unraveling why some people are more sensitive to pain than others. Their efforts could lead to more accurate diagnoses, better pain prevention and safer, more powerful painkillers
Why Don't Babies Talk Like Adults? Kids go from goo-goo to garrulous one step at a time
A New Vision for Teaching Science Recent studies from neuroscience and psychology suggest ways to improve science education in the U.S.
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Environment and Weight Researchers point to external causes of—and fixes for—the obesity pandemic
We're Only Human: Don't Know Much Biology Learning to categorize the living world is surprisingly difficult for the human mind
Reviews and Recommendations Beyond the Placebo Effect; Infant Intelligence; Neuro-Economic Boom; Madness and Music
Ask the Brains Compared with other animals, human babies take much longer to learn to walk. Does this have something to do with our big brains?; Physiologically, why is the sound of fingernails on a blackboard so unnerving? Is this effect particular to human beings, or are other creatures similarly affected?
Sciam Mind Jul 2009
Introduction Cognitive-enhancement drugs have been in the headlines a great deal lately—they stoke your gray matter, enabling greater focus and attention for longer periods of time, users say. But their long-term effects are uncertain and unknown, on both brain and body. In the meantime, there's something you can do that helps both areas but that doesn't have any known mental health risks. As study after study has shown, simple physical activity not only builds your physique and cardiovascular health: it also helps to sharpen the wetware in your skull and thwarts mental decline as you advance in years. Check out our cover story, "Fit Body, Fit Mind?" by psychologist Christopher Hertzog and his colleagues. You'll be glad you did.

For another, unique view on the connection between body and brain, flip to the back page of this issue for a delightful new offering we have for readers: Mind in Pictures. Neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin and illustrator Jorge Cham will explore brain science in playful—and insightful—cartoons in this new editorial department. First up is "Your Aging Brain," which reflects on the topics that are addressed in the cover story.

Perspectives: You Are What You Say A language analysis program reveals personality, mental health and intent by counting and categorizing words
Consciousness Redux: A Theory of Consciousness Is complexity the secret to sentience, to a panpsychic view of consciousness?
Illusions: Seeing in Stereo Binocular vision gives us depth perception—and enables us to play some tricks
Fit Body, Fit Mind? How can you stay sharp into old age? It is not just a matter of winning the genetic lottery. What you do can make a difference
Why Music Moves Us New research explains music's power over human emotions and its benefits to our mental and physical well-being
Do ADHD Drugs Take a Toll on the Brain? Research hints that hidden risks might accompany long-term use of the medicines that treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
Can You Be Too Perfect? Striving to be faultless can foster failure—or drive success—depending on the type of perfectionist you are
A Patchwork Mind We each have two parents, but their genetic contributions to what makes us us are uneven. New research shows we are an amalgam of influences from Mom and Dad
Do Parents Matter? A researcher argues that peers are much more important than parents, that psychologists underestimate the power of genetics and that we have a lot to learn from Asian classrooms
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: What Do We Know about Tourette's? If you have the idea that every patient curses unpredictably, think again
We're Only Human: Try a Little Powerlessness We admire self-discipline, but could too much control be a bad thing?
Ask the Brains Why is it that once you learn something incorrectly (say, 7 x 9 = 65), it seems you never can correct your recall?; In the art of persuasion, does a person's sex or body type make a difference?
Sciam Mind Apr 2009
Introduction Science often offers a corrective counterpoint to well-intentioned (but sometimes mistaken) folk wisdom and sayings. As we prepared this issue for you, several such aphorisms came to mind. I thought I'd set the record straight on a few of them.

Laughter is the best medicine. That phrase is far from empirically proved, but it contains more than a germ of truth. As you will learn in "Laughing Matters," by Steve Ayan, a good guffaw has powerful physiological and mental benefits. Listening to jokes relieves anxiety. Mirth eases stress and even, as studies have revealed, chronic pain. It bolsters the psyche, making you more resilient. Just forcing a smile can lift your spirits. If that were not enough to show that being jolly improves your satisfaction with life, a sense of humor is sexy, too.

You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Not so. Since the 1970s research has shown that the brains of older adults are much more plastic than once believed. And as you get older, you not only can learn new tricks, you also should tackle mental challenges to help yourself stay sharp. You might, for instance, do Sudoku, crossword puzzles--or one of the growing number of brain-training software games. Our intrepid reporter Kaspar Mossman pitted his gray matter against a battery of eight games over eight weeks.

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. Actually the statistics aren't lying: we simply misunderstand them--or others misuse them by preying on our fears and ignorance. We are beset by headlines about disease risks and what certain medications can do. How to make sense of it all? Although most Scientific American Mind articles provide insights into the workings of the brain and behavior, they also offer information about how to exercise better critical thinking. "Knowing Your Chances," by Gerd Gigerenzer and his colleagues, explains what various kinds of risk mean and how to interpret statistics. And you thought your math classes were a total waste of time!

Perspectives: Explaining Fiscal Foolishness A behavioral scientist discusses the irrational human impulses that led to the economic downturn
Consciousness Redux: Neuroscience Meets Psychoanalysis Suppression and dissociation, two psychoanalytic defense mechanisms, are now studied by modern neuroscience
The Power of Symmetry Our brain's preference for symmetry influences how we perceive motion
Laughing Matters Seeing the bright side of life may strengthen the psyche, ease pain and tighten social bonds
Brain Trainers Put your cortex through its paces with these software games
Perturbed Personalities Scientists are peering into the brains of people with borderline personality disorder and finding clues to the roots of this disabling illness
Knowing Your Chances When might a positive HIV test be wrong? Are your chances of surviving cancer better in the U.S. or in England? Learn how to put aside unjustified fears and hopes and how to weigh your real risk of illness--or likelihood of recovery
Building Around the Mind Brain research can help us craft spaces that relax, inspire, awaken, comfort and heal
Think Better: Tips from a Savant You may never have the memory of Rain Man, but you can still get tips for improving your cognitive performance from this extraordinary thinker
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Road Warriors Often played for laughs, road rage is a real phenomenon with serious consequences for driver safety and society
We're Only Human: All Together Now An explanation for synchronous swimming and other group rituals
Ask the Brains Do blind people ever suffer from seasonal affective disorder? If so, can sunshine or tanning beds help? Does postpartum depression serve some evolutionary purpose?
Sciam Mind Feb 2009
Introduction Every parent has probably suffered from this type of near catastrophe. My husband and I realized--too late--that we had forgotten to pack toys and books to entertain our older daughter, then about five, during a long drive. Our guilt soon turned to amusement tinged with open admiration. She solved the problem her own way: her feet instantly became two friendly characters cavorting together across her mental stage, with her narrating out loud for our benefit.

The drive to play is strong. But who knew that goofing off as children could be so constructive when it comes to establishing the long-term mental health of adults? As Melinda Wenner writes in the cover story, "The Serious Need for Play," frolicking in unstructured free play (as opposed to planned and rules-based activities such as chess clubs or after-school sports teams) is particularly critical for youngsters. Imaginary play and tumbling around in the sort of mock battles that my parents used to call "roughhousing" are both key for children to successfully acquire social skills, reduce stress, improve cognition and develop problem-solving abilities. Grown-ups can benefit from play breaks, too. We just have to remember to set the stage for our own fun times.

A different kind of performance issue, stage fright, is a common demon for many of us, causing us to seize up just when we most want to do well. In her feature, "Avoiding the Big Choke," Elizabeth Svoboda gives tips for successfully navigating through those difficult moments. One flaw we all fall prey to, as she explains, is simply thinking too hard.

While you're tuning up your gray matter, flip to the article "Six Ways to Boost Brainpower," by Emily Anthes. Our malleable minds take well to proper mental care and feeding. To a great extent, as science tells us, we are what we make of ourselves.

Perspectives: Psychotherapy for the Poor Innovative counseling programs in developing countries are repairing the psyches of civil war survivors and depressed mothers alike
Consciousness Redux: Measure More, Argue Less One sign of progress in unraveling the mind-body problem is the development of new and ingenious ways to measure consciousness
Illusions: Half a World Victims of a disorder called neglect just don’t get the whole picture
The Serious Need for Play Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed
The Father Factor Could becoming a father after age 40 raise the risks that your children will have a mental illness?
Avoiding the Big Choke Afraid of crumbling under pressure? Try not to think so hard
Impact on the Brain Belief is powerful medicine, even if the treatment itself is a sham. New research shows placebos can also benefit patients who do not have faith in them
Portrait of a Lie In search of a better lie detector, scientists are peering into the brain to probe the origins of deception
Six Ways to Boost Brainpower The adult human brain is surprisingly malleable: it can rewire itself and even grow new cells. Here are some habits that can fine-tune your mind
Facts & Fictions in Mental Health: Lunacy and the Full Moon Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior?
We're Only Human: A Recipe for Motivation Exercise routine. Gourmet cooking. If it’s easy to read about, it must be a cinch to do
Ask the Brains Is it true that people can have a midlife crisis, or is it a myth? Why does listening to music make it so much easier for me to complete a challenging workout?
Sciam Mind Dec 2008
Introduction Oof. It was yet another "gotcha" moment for me working here at Scientific American Mind. Walking home from the train a few days ago, I was running through my mental to-do list. I realized that, yet again, I somehow had not gotten around to the simple task of making appointments for routine dental and physical checkups. Fact is I still haven't done so even as I type these words.

Why do I do that, when it's so obviously smarter to get a quick screening now rather than risking the bother and expense of treating a possible cavity later? Thanks to the feature article "I'll Do It Tomorrow," by Trisha Gura, I now know why--and you will, too. Almost everyone procrastinates, as Gura explains, especially when we find a task disagreeable. But we can take steps to shortcircuit such tendencies.

Interrupting--or correcting--circuits is also the key to an intriguing therapy called deep-brain stimulation. "The brain is an electrical organ, so there is little that goes wrong with it that could not, hypothetically, benefit from finely calibrated pulses of electricity," write neuroscientists Morten L. Kringelbach and Tipu Z. Aziz in "Sparking Recovery with Brain 'Pacemakers.'" A battery implanted in a person's chest can, like a pacemaker, provide pulses of electricity to targeted areas of the brain to treat ailments such as Parkinson's, chronic pain and depression.

At the lead of another kind of treatment front are scientists who are trying to better understand "mild" traumatic brain injuries such as those sustained by hundreds of combat veterans in Iraq. In "Impact on the Brain," neuropsychologist Richard J. Roberts explains how a nearby blast that may knock out a soldier only briefly can nonetheless bruise brain tissue, resulting in later emotional trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder. Sports and accidents cause hundreds of thousands of similar injuries every year in the U.S. as well. A growing appreciation of the problem of mild brain trauma is spawning research into welcome treatments for this hidden plague.

Perspectives: The Truth About Hypocrisy Charges of hypocrisy can be surprisingly irrelevant and often distract us from more important concerns
Consciousness Redux: What Is It Like to Be a Bee? Bees display a remarkable range of talents--abilities that in a mammal such as a dog we would associate with consciousness
Illusions: I See, But I Don't Know Patients with unusual visual deficits provide insights into how we normally see
I'll Do It Tomorrow A penchant for procrastination is damaging the careers, health and savings accounts of millions of Americans. Although biology is partly to blame for the foot-dragging, anyone can learn to kick the habit
Sparking Recovery with Brain "Pacemakers" Applying electricity to the brain with deep-brain stimulation could ease Parkinson’s disease, pain, depression, and more
Set In Our Ways Millions of us dream of transforming our lives, but few of us are able to make major changes after our 20s. Here's why
Impact on the Brain Mild traumatic brain injury represents a silent but brutal plague among combat veterans and a hidden threat to the health of civilians
Duct Tape for the Brain Low-tech emergency room therapies
Why Do Men Buy Sex? Some researchers say johns seek intimacy on demand; others believe these men typically want to use and dominate women
Can a Robot, an Insect, or God Be Aware? Our intuitions about consciousness in other beings and objects reveal a lot about how we think
One World, Many Minds We are used to thinking of humans as occupying the sole pinnacle of evolutionary intelligence. That’s where we’re wrong
Facts and Fictions in Mental Health: Altered States Is hypnosis a distinct form of consciousness?
We're Only Human: Foraging in the Modern World Some of us prefer the tried and true, and others search high and low for novelty. Why?
Sciam Mind Oct 2008
Introduction Psst. Have you heard the latest thing about him? And what she said about it?

Chances are you'd be dying to know about that delectable tidbit of gossip offered by a confidant. We just can't seem to get our fill of such morsels about other people in our social circles.

Science tells us why: gossip is a kind of social grooming that helps our human networks hang together. We share news about friends and relatives, which solidifies our relationships with them. We dish about cheaters or people who wrong someone close to us, which helps to keep potential malefactors in line. We even learn why we are mesmerized by celebrities, whom we mistakenly feel we know intimately because they are in our living rooms on the TV every night.

As the power of gossip suggests, the words we choose can shape how we individually and collectively consider complex issues. If we speak of the "war" against terrorism, for instance, that implies battlefield solutions. But if we talk about it as a "crime" or a "disease," that suggests approaches that are different--and perhaps ultimately more effective--for combating an intractable nonstate enemy. Each term has benefits and drawbacks, and they may be most effective when used in combination.

One of the pleasures of reading Scientific American Mind is getting the latest thinking about how our minds work firsthand from the researcher authors themselves. So I'm excited to introduce the newest addition to our regular scientist contributors, neuroscientist Christof Koch. Go to page 18 for his probing column, Consciousness Redux.

Perspectives: Speaking of Memory World-renowned neuroscientist Eric Kandel discusses Freud’s legacy, memory’s foibles and the potential of drugs that boost brainpower
Consciousness Redux: Rendering the Visible Invisible Clever experiments reveal how unconscious mechanisms can affect our brain and our behavior
Illusions: A Perspective on 3-D Visual Illusions Paint and architectural illusions provide clues to how your brain reconstructs 3-D images
Can Gossip Be Good? It helped us thrive in ancient times, and in our modern world it makes us feel connected to others--as long as it is done properly
The End? Why so many of us think our minds continue on after we die
Meet Your iBrain How the technologies that have become part of our daily lives are changing the way we think
Putting Thoughts into Action Researchers are decoding the brain to give a voice and a hand to the paralyzed--and to learn how it controls our movements
Talking about Terrorism How we characterize an issue affects how we think about it. Replacing the "war on terror" metaphor with other ways of framing counterterrorism might help us curtail the violence more effectively
Why You Should Be Skeptical of Brain Scans Colorful scans have lulled us into an oversimplified conception of the brain as a modular machine
Tempering Tantrums Emotional outbursts afflict virtually all toddlers. Some children, however, are prone to more violent fits that could--if left unchecked--pave a path toward persistent aggression
Why Do We Panic? A better understanding of the path from stress to anxiety to full-blown panic disorder offers soothing news for sufferers
A Sense of Irony Language has many layers of meaning. When and how do we grasp them?
Sciam Mind Aug 2008
Introduction Macbeth extolled "sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care," in Shakespeare's great tragic play of the same name. Soothing rest is not all that shut-eye provides, however. As sleep and cognition researchers Robert Stickgold and Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen explain in their feature article in this issue, the brain is very busy during a night's slumber. It is processing and sorting all the things we learned during the day, making valuable memories more resilient and tossing away irrelevant details. It finds hidden relations among our recollections and works to solve problems that arose during our waking hours.

While we are catching some zzz's, the brain preferentially strengthens memories that have important emotional content. A humming emotional-rewards circuit is also key to warding off depression in many of us, as neuroscientist and psychologist Kelly Lambert explains in "Depressingly Easy." Activities that stir our thinking, motor and pleasure centers--such as gardening, cooking, knitting-- engage the brain in ways that make us mentally healthier, Lambert explains. Anticipating the ultimate result as we perform such laborious tasks can be more enjoyable than achieving the end goal itself. The swift ease of modern, push-button conveniences, in contrast, may undercut our brain's supply of hard-earned rewards, making us more susceptible to depression.

There is nothing like a good yarn to pluck our emotional strings, as Jeremy Hsu writes in "The Secrets of Storytelling." Stories are one of humanity's universals--they appear in all cultures--and certain themes arise repeatedly in tales around the world. Why do these narratives have such power over our feelings? The study of stories reveals clues about our evolutionary history and the roots of emotion and empathy. Indeed, as you will learn from Hsu's article, the stories we tell explain much about ourselves.

Perspectives: Monkeys Hear Voices New research suggests that a brain area devoted to processing voices is not as uniquely human as had been previously assumed
Illusions: Seeing Is Believing 2-D or not 2-D, that is the question: test yourself to learn what shapes formed by shading reveal about the brain
Quiet! Sleeping Brain at Work During slumber, our brain engages in data analysis, from strengthening memories to solving problems
Depressingly Easy We nuke food and machine-wash ready-made clothes. Such conveniences may be contributing to rising rates of depression by depriving our social interactions in ways we do not consciously realize
The Hidden Power of Scent Far from being a weak and unimportant sense, our odor-detecting ability is surprisingly acute and shapes our social interactions in ways we do not consciously realize
The Secrets of Storytelling Our love for telling tales reveals the workings of the mind
Minding Mistakes Brain scientists have identified nerve cells that monitor performance, detect errors and govern the ability to learn from misfortunes
High-Aptitude Minds Brain researchers are finding clues to the biological basis of brilliance
Coaching the Gifted Child Enrichment activities can provide mental stimulation for very bright kids
Intelligence Evolved What makes people smarter than other animals? Human intelligence seems to have emerged from subtle refinements in brain architecture rather than from large-scale alterations
Facts and Fictions in Mental Health: D.I.Y. Addiction Cures? Former drug and alcohol users can show impressive results without professional treatment, through the phenomenon of self-change
We're Only Human: Arranging for Serenity How physical space, thought and emotion intersect
Sciam Mind Jun 2008
Introduction Writer's block is not an affliction that I have ever suffered. So I was a little surprised at myself when I put off writing this column several times. I mulled a few options, but nothing seemed good enough to merit typing. Then it hit me: I was letting my unacknowledged fears and negativity squash my thinking. Why? Because the topic was how to tap the sources of inspiration itself--the subject of our cover story, "Let Your Creativity Soar."

My self-editing mistake was just one way we block our inner muse. But as you'll learn from our creativity experts--psychologist and contributing editor Robert Epstein, psychologist John Houtz, and poet, playwright and filmmaker Julia Cameron--everyone can cultivate new ideas, using a variety of techniques.

Switching on a lightbulb is a visual cliché for creativity. But a different kind of switch, made of molecules, affects a number of other critical mental processes. Life's experiences add chemicals to the genes that control brain activity, dialing up or down the expression of various features. A special two-article section explores how these molecular mechanisms change our brains. "The New Genetics of Mental Illness," by psychiatrist Edmund S. Higgins, looks at how the environment influences our susceptibility to depression, anxiety and drug addiction. "Unmasking Memory Genes," by neuroscientist Amir Levine, explains how such molecules shape memory and learning.

How does our unified conscious experience emerge from the activity of billions of brain cells and numerous processing "modules" (brain regions associated with certain types of thought)? The mystery has long tantalized researchers. In "Spheres of Influence," neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga finds some clues from his studies of split-brain patients, whose connective tissue between their two hemispheres has been separated. Are two brains better than one for learning about consciousness? Find out in this issue.

Perspectives: Character Attacks A new theory parses fair from unfair uses of the ad hominem
Illusions: Sliding Stripes A few simple experiments untangle the mysteries behind the Barber Pole Illusion
Let Your Creativity Soar Experts discuss tips and tricks to let loose your inner ingenuity
Spheres of Influence Split-brain patients—whose two hemispheres are separated surgically—provide fascinating clues to how a unitary sense of consciousness emerges from the furious activity of billions of brain cells
The New Genetics of Mental Illness Life's experiences add molecular switches to the genes that control our brain activity, affecting how susceptible we are to depression, anxiety and drug addiction
Unmasking Memory Genes Molecules that expose our genes may also revive our recollections and our ability to learn
Scratch This! How to get relief from the insatiable need to scratch
Additcted to Starvation Anorexia may represent a profound psychiatric disorder that spawns an addiction to deprivation
Bisexual Species Homosexual behavior is common in nature, and it plays an important role in survival
Your Inner Spam Filter What makes you so smart? Might be your lizard brain
Facts and Fictions in Mental Health Is animal-assisted therapy the cat's meow or a red herring?
We're Only Human What fashion teaches us about the federation of ideas
Sciam Mind Apr 2008
Introduction A headline in the New York Times drew my eye this morning: "On a Battlefield of Civil Rights, Race Fades for Some Voters." The story reported that "voters in an Alabama county that is more than 96 percent white chose a genial black man, James Fields, to represent them in the State House of Representatives." Why, you might ask, is that front-page news more than 100 years after the Civil War?

Part of the answer is that we are still using brains evolved over millions of years to prefer what social psychologists call our "in-group"--those with whom we identify, who historically could help us survive as members of our collaborative tribe or clan. Our brains use shortcuts for such social identification, swiftly categorizing others--and ourselves--to avoid the energy-intensive processing of conscious thought. Often we do not even realize how extensively subconscious stereotypes shape our reactions, as two feature articles in this issue reveal.

The first, "The Social Psychology of Success," by S. Alexander Haslam, Jessica Salvatore, Thomas Kessler and Stephen D. Reicher, looks at behavioral aspects. It explains how people's performance is shaped by awareness of stereotypes. For example, when solving math problems, Asian women who think of themselves as female (stereotypically worse at math as compared with males) will perform less well than if they think of themselves as Asian (stereotypically better at math). The second article, "Buried Prejudice," by Siri Carpenter, digs into the neuroscience of implicit bias and how it affects cognition. Even basic visual preferences are skewed toward in-groups; studies show that we remember faces better if they match our own racial group.

Are we stuck with our mental stereotypes? Not at all. After all, knowledge (about the brain) is power. As Haslam and company conclude, we "can learn to use stereotypes as tools of our own liberation. In short, who we think we are determines both how we perform and what we are able to become."

Brain Cells into Thin Air The neural cost of high-altitude mountaineering
Illusions: Transparently Obvious How the brain sees through the perceptual hurdles of tinted glass, shadows and all things transparent
The Social Psychology of Success People's performance is shaped by awareness of stereotypes. How can we break free from the expectations of others?
Buried Prejudice Deep within our subconscious, all of us harbor biases that we consciously abhor. And the worst part is: we act on them
Infected with Insanity The evidence is mounting: mental illness might be caused by microbes
Subconscious Sight People with "blindsight" can correctly deduce the visual features of objects they cannot see. Such visual intuition can even exceed what is possible with normal vision
New Weapons against Cocaine Addiction Drug therapies show promise in the battle against addictive stimulants
A Face in the Crowd Is our remarkable ability to recognize human faces hardwired in the brain or a result of lots of practice?
The Orgasmic Mind Achieving sexual climax requires a complex conspiracy of sensory and psychological signals--and the eventual silencing of critical brain areas
Imagined Ugliness Some people are convinced that they are hideously deformed because of an obscure or nonexistent physical "flaw"
Sciam Mind Feb 2008
Introduction They had known each other since eighth grade, sharing the silly private jokes that only longtime pals know. Later, they lost touch for a couple of years, when they went to different colleges. But in their senior year the friends--now a young man and woman--became inseparable whenever they were home visiting their families. One evening just after graduation, when he dropped her off at her house in his old green pickup truck, he leaned over and kissed her. He found himself speechless for long moments afterward. She felt a shivery thrill as everything about their comfortable old relationship suddenly seemed to change. A month later he would propose.

My old friend and I have now been married for 18 years, but I remember that moment with crystal clarity. As Chip Walter's feature article, "Affairs of the Lips," explains, a smooch can communicate in powerful ways that spoken language does not easily match. "Kisses," Walter writes, "can convey important information about the status and future of a relationship." A bad first kiss, too, can bring an otherwise promising beginning to a quick close.

Too much emotion can cloud judgment, particularly when matters turn from deciding about personal attachments to coping with challenging moral questions. Imagine that a runaway trolley will strike five unsuspecting workers around a bend in the tracks ahead. Could you push a stranger in front of the trolley to save the workers? Cold logic might dictate trading one life for five--but would that be "right"? In "When Morality Is Hard to Like," Jorge Moll and Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza discuss the cognition of morality.

Having a solid relationship or knowing you made the best decision in a bad spot cannot completely shield you from life's stresses. As Turhan Canli writes in "The Character Code," understanding an "anxiety gene" could ease suffering for those with mood disorders--and give us yet another important clue about the whys behind our shared human experience.

Getting Duped Statements made in the media can surreptitiously plant distortions in the minds of millions. Learning to recognize two commonly used fallacies can help you separate fact from fiction
Illusions: Sizing Things Up When you hoist two items of equal weight, your brain may be doing some heavy lifting
Affairs of the Lips Research reveals a hidden complexity to the simple act of kissing, which relays powerful messages to your brain, body and partner
When Morality Is Hard to Like Evidence versus emotions in moral decisions. Also, "The Virtue in Being Morally Wrong," by David Pizarro
An Odd Sense of Timing The question of how changes in the environment give rise to the subjective experience of time in our brain continues to challenge researchers
The Medicated Americans Close to 10 percent of men and women in America are now taking drugs to combat depression. How did a once rare condition become so common?
The Character Code A single gene can raise the risk of depression by influencing our ability to cope with stress and to bounce back from the misfortunes of life
Don't Be Evil Does capitalism depend on greed and cutthroat competition? Enron, Google and the evolutionary psychology of corporate environments
Misery in Motherhood A deep despair mars the first year of motherhood for as many as one in five women. Without treatment, postpartum depression can weaken critical bonds between a mother and her child
Nerves in Flight Many of us feel anxious before getting on an airplane, but some people truly panic when they fly. Here's how several aviophobes got over their fear
Sciam Mind Dec 2007
Introduction I've never been good at waiting around for something to do. If work slackens slightly, I volunteer for new projects that I will find challenging-and the way I race down the hall from one task to the next is the subject of a lot of good-natured office humor. My shoulder bag is always stuffed with reading material, to ward off idle moments during the train ride home. Truth is, I just really, really hate being bored.

One way I recently have staved off dullness is by reading Anna Gosline's fascinating account of the complex psychological underpinnings of what she calls "this most tedious of human emotions." In her feature article "Bored?" she explains how multifaceted those ho-hum moments actually are, influenced by levels of attention and awareness, emotional factors, adeptness at identifying one's own feelings, and the nature of the matters at hand. Boredom can drive some people to achieve--but those who easily experience ennui are more prone to suffer chronic depression or drug addiction. Getting at the roots of boredom could help prevent and treat these ailments.

Surely the least boring decade in the past century was the psychedelic sixties, when so much of pop culture seemingly came under a hallucinogenic influence. Now, after a long research hiatus, those drugs are back in the labs. Scientists are probing the very real value of LSD and other mind-blowing drugs to ease a variety of difficult-to-treat mental illnesses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and drug or alcohol dependency. Check out "Psychedelic Healing?" by David Jay Brown.

Medicines are not the only way we improve our mental health, of course. Habits, behavior and helpful feedback are also important. That is why, advises psychologist Carol S. Dweck in "How to Raise a Smart Child," we need to be careful about how we praise our children. Yes, you read that right. Encouragement is valuable--but it has to be the right sort. We hope the article will make you feel wiser, too.

How Do Neurons Communicate? The answer is surprisingly elusive--and the subject of intense debate
Illusions: Touching Illusions Startling deceptions demonstrate how tactile information is processed in the brain
Bored? Don't blame your job, the traffic or your mindless chores. Battling boredom, researchers say, means finding focus, living in the moment and having something to live for
Do Animals Feel Empathy? We call a callous turncoat a "rat." Rodents such as rats and mice, however, are giving scientists clues to the evolutionary origins of empathy. Also, "Empathy Is a Pain, So Why Bother?" by Peggy Mason
The Secret to Raising Smart Kids Hint: Don't tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort--not on intelligence or ability--is key to success in school and in life
Sex, Math and Scientific Achievement Why do men dominate the fields of science, engineering and mathematics?
Living with Ghostly Limbs Scientists are pinpointing the neurological roots of the vivid and painful illusion of phantom limbs in amputees--and finding ways to curb it
Amputee Envy People with body integrity identity disorder feel alienated from a part of their body and want to have it amputated. Researchers are unraveling clues to the causes of this bizarre condition
Psychedelic Healing? The same hallucinogenic drugs that blew minds in the 1960s soon may be used to treat mental ailments
Inside the Terrorist Mind Scientists are probing the psyches of terrorists to reveal what motivates their monstrous acts. Far from being crazed killers, terrorists are gunning for the greater good--as they see it
Sciam Mind Oct 2007
Introduction They seem normal enough. But how come Grandpa doesn't act retarded--and Sonny is clearly no budding Einstein?

Those questions pop up when intelligence researchers look at the startling trends in IQ scores. Massive point gains occurred from one generation to the next throughout the 20th century--a phenomenon dubbed the "Flynn effect," after psychologist James R. Flynn. The IQ gains were troubling: either today's children are far brighter than their parents, or the tests are not good measures of intelligence. To express it another way, if we put the score of today's average American at 100, then the Americans of 1900 had a mean IQ of 50 to 70, signaling an obviously implausible plague of mental retardation among our progenitors. Something must have happened, but what? Now Flynn himself offers answers in his article, "Solving the IQ Puzzle."

The brain is famously adaptable, altering in response to conditions in a person's environment and to his or her life experiences. "Brain Stains," by psychologists Kelly Lambert and Scott O. Lilienfeld, reveals the dark side of that mutability. Patients who have undergone traumatic and misdirected "therapies" can suffer mentally and emotionally damaging consequences that may persist for years.

Of course, the power of good therapy is in the lasting benefits that it bestows. As psychologists Hal Arkowitz and Lilienfeld write in this issue's Facts and Fictions in Mental Health, empirically supported options such as cognitive-behavior therapy can create the kinds of positive brain changes associated with the use of antidepressant medications. Talk therapy may offer other advantages over drugs as well.

From Russia, with Love How I got fooled (and somewhat humiliated) by a computer
Illusions: Ambiguities and Perception A study in ambiguity
Solving the IQ Puzzle The 20th century saw the "Flynn effect"--massive gains in IQ from one generation to another. Now Flynn explains why
Eric Kandel: From Mind to Brain and Back Again Awarded the Nobel Prize for research done 40 years ago that revealed memory's most basic mechanisms, this psychiatrist-turned-neuroscientist is still working his discipline's cutting edge
Searching for God in the Brain Researchers are unearthing the roots of religious feeling in the neural commotion that accompanies the spiritual epiphanies of nuns, Buddhists and others of faith
Brain Stains Traumatic therapies, especially when they induce recovered memories, can have long-lasting effects on mental health
Skewed Vision Seeing things clearly, new evidence suggests, may be even harder than we thought. Our neurons are not neutral observers
Brain Food Food fuels the mind as well as the body. Paying attention to what--and when--we eat can maximize our mental prowess
Feeding the Psyche Why do we crave chips or chocolate when we are upset or anxious? Scientists are explaining the myriad connections between food and mood
Fantasy Therapy Steeping patients in computer-created virtual worlds can help heal a multitude of psychiatric ills, including phobias, eating disorders and implacable pain
Tracking a Finer Madness Many believers in psychic phenomena are also inventive--a fact that may help bridge the gap between creative genius and clinical insanity
The Best Medicine? Drugs or talk therapy--which is the best medicine for the treatment of depression?
Sciam Mind Aug 2007
Introduction Forget the notion of projecting winning charisma, sharp intelligence and an aura of absolute authority. Researchers who study leadership say those traits are not the ultimate keys to greatness. Good leadership isn't something you can create by yourself--after all, the followers have their own ideas and needs. And although coercion through carrot (reward) or stick (punishment) may be sufficient to achieve short-term goals, neither will change minds and hearts.

As social psychologists Stephen D. Reicher, S. Alexander Haslam and Michael J. Platow describe in their cover story, "The New Psychology of Leadership," heads of state and bosses alike must work to understand the values and opinions of their citizens or team members. The goal is a dialogue about what the group embodies and stands for--and thus how it should act. The best leaders, therefore, shape what their followers want to do by molding the group's identity in ways that promote their agendas.

Exerting influence over another individual's decisions and thoughts about any given issue can be as simple as adjusting how you broach the topic or pose the question. Intriguing research shows that the language used profoundly biases the choices we make. In "When Words Decide," psychologist Barry Schwartz explains how descriptions may steer not only what we select but also whether we enjoy or appreciate that option.

Complex social give-and-take is at work in humanity's virtual worlds as well. Tens of millions of people send checks to perfect strangers they encounter on the Internet at eBay. Why? Logically, it would be most profitable for sellers to pocket the money from would-be buyers without shipping the merchandise. They don't do so, however, because it's not fair. Buyers know that, so they trust sellers to hold up their end of the bargain. "Is Greed Good?" asks Christoph Uhlhaas in his article. Whether they have consciously considered the matter or not, people who use eBay intuitively know the answer.

The Power of the Pen Writing in a diary about a bad situation can help bring about a happy resolution
Illusions: It's All Done with Mirrors Reflections on the familiar and yet deeply enigmatic nature of the looking glass
The New Psychology of Leadership For more than 2,000 years, people have identified leadership skills as the key to success in politics, business and life. Recent research in psychology points to secrets of effective leadership that radically challenge conventional wisdom
New Brain Cells Go to Work How new neurons join the existing tightly knit networks of brain cells
When Words Decide Researchers are discovering the myriad ways in which language can have a profound effect on the choices we make--from the foods we eat to the laws we support
Where Mind and Body Meet Conscious physical sensation and conscious emotional awareness come together in the right frontal insula
Deadly Dreams After a recent spate of school shootings, researchers are analyzing the malignant fantasies of young assassins for warning signs that could help prevent future tragedies
Is Greed Good? Why tens of millions of people send money to strangers they find on the Internet
Forgetting Faces They do not recognize friends or family members or even themselves in a mirror. An astounding 2 percent of the population may be effectively blind to faces
Why We Quit In the U.S., more students drop out of college than graduate--yet six out of every 10 jobs require a degree. What causes so many students to squander their future?
Can Antidepressants Cause Suicide? The truth about antidepressants and suicide risk in children and adolescents
Sciam Mind Jun 2007
Introduction "Intuition, huh?" My co-worker eyed the sketches for this issue's cover story sitting on my looks-like-a-bomb-hit-it desk. Then she beamed with approval: "I depend on that for everything!"

Don't we all? Yet it is startling to realize just how little focused, conscious attention we apply to the everyday decisions that ultimately shape the course of our existence. Cross the street or not? Trust the stranger or no? Many of our snap judgments work out well, but sometimes our hunches lead us astray. Psychologist David G. Myers describes the science behind "The Powers and Perils of Intuition."

A slower, more careful kind of decision making is involved when psychiatrists are weighing whether to prescribe antidepressants to kids or teens. The drugs, approved only for use in adults, have nonetheless been used in youngsters for around a decade. Some scientists worry that antidepressants could be altering the development of children's still growing brains; others believe the need to treat debilitating depression offsets such concerns. Paul Raeburn's article explores the question, "Kids on Meds: Trouble Ahead?"

When people look back at their lives, they speak of "traveling down memory lane." The reference turns out to be more than a hackneyed metaphor. As we navigate the landscape of our recollections, we use a "cognitive map" of the environment created by place cells in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important to memory formation. Now researchers have learned how that spatial information arises. Recently discovered grid cells are key components of a mechanism that provides constant updates about location. In "The Matrix in Your Head," neuroscientist James J. Knierim describes his excitement over the finding, which ultimately could "reveal the neural mechanisms that let us remember our personal histories--a vital process that forms the very foundation of one's sense of identity."

Good News about Depression A surprising discovery could lead to faster-acting and highly effective drugs to treat this devastating disorder
Betting on Consciousness Gambling may offer a way to test conscious awareness without disturbing it
Illusions: Right-Side Up Perception research shows the importance of being upright
The Powers and Perils of Intuition Understanding the nature of our gut instincts
Kids on Meds: Trouble Ahead? Antidepressants, designed for adults, may be altering the brains of kids who take them
The Matrix in Your Head The discovery of place-tracking neurons called grid cells, our experts say, "changes everything." Also, "A Window into Cognition," by A. David Redish
Seeing the Person in the Patient Theodore Millon pioneered the view that a patient is not just a collection of symptoms but a unique individual who needs tailored care
The Science of Team Success A growing body of research shows that groups can systematically enhance their performance
Rhythm and Blues Abnormal sleeping patterns characterize an array of neuropsychiatric diseases, but resetting the body's clock may alleviate some symptoms
Programmed for Speech Studies of genes in people and songbirds are providing clues about how and when the remarkable human talent for speech arose
Getting Good Advice How to recognize a real expert, good advice and the limits of such counsel
Therapeutic Reflection So-called mirror neurons in the brain mimic other people's movements and help stroke victims regain lost abilities
Why Don't People Change? How we fail despite our good intentions--and how we can succeed instead
Sciam Mind Apr 2007
Introduction Thoughts of food seem to consume us, weighing heavily on our minds. We hungrily scan the headlines, seeking ways to battle excess pounds. We devour diet advice, to little avail. Despite our good intentions, obesity rates keep climbing. Why is it so hard to stop overeating? "When our stomach begins to growl, too often it drowns out any good advice coming from our brain," writes psychiatrist Oliver Grimm in his article "Addicted to Food?" Any person may have difficulty with restraint at times, as Grimm explains. For binge eaters, the problem intensifies; the brain's reward system can go haywire. In neurobiological terms, binge eating is not dissimilar to drug addiction.

At the other end of the food-behavior scale, a person who has, in effect, too much control over what he or she ingests can suffer from self-imposed starvation. People afflicted with disorders such as anorexia eat too little because their distorted mental image of their body looks larger than reality, explain Christian Eggers and Verena Liebers in "Through a Glass, Darkly." To return to normal weight, anorexics must learn to adjust their flawed perceptions.

We typically judge "vegetative" patients, who are unresponsive, as being mentally incapable. Are our perceptions misleading us again? In "Freeing a Locked-In Mind," staff editor Karen Schrock tells how brain-imaging studies have revealed that some of these patients are, in fact, aware but unable to command their useless body to react. The exciting finding offers hope that we may soon be able to reach at least a number of the 250,000 Americans who have consciousness disorders.

Staving off Dementia Marijuana's active ingredient may help stall Alzheimer's disease
I Think, Therefore I Err? Research explores when we can make a vital decision quickly and when we need to proceed more deliberately
Illusions: Paradoxical Perceptions How does the brain sort out contradictory images?
Listening with Your Eyes To perceive the world as a whole, our five senses have to team up in the brain--and in some cases, they actually seem to fuse with one another
Through a Glass, Darkly A distorted body image is symptomatic of nearly all eating disorders. Correcting this mental reflection can help sufferers recover
Addicted to Food? What drives people, against their better judgment, to eat more food than they need? Scientists look to the brain for answers
Freeing a Locked-In Mind Vegetative patients may soon be able to communicate with the outside world
The Pain Gate A rare disorder brings insights into the nature of pain
The Myth of the Teen Brain We blame teen turmoil on immature brains. But did the brains cause the turmoil, or did the turmoil shape the brains?
Chips in Your Head Damaged or diseased brains could soon get a boost from implanted prosthetics
Lithium's Healing Power Surprising new findings hint that lithium may offer hope as a treatment for neurological ailments such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke
A Personal Obsession What drives stalkers to pursue their victims?
Autism: An Epidemic? A closer look at the statistics suggests something more than a simple rise in incidence
Sciam Mind Feb 2007
Introduction "67-year-old dissatisfied flâneur picking my toothless way through the urban sprawl, self-destructive, sliding towards pathos, jacked up on Viagra and on the lookout for a contortionist who plays the trumpet."

No surprises there. Romantic hopefuls in the London Review of Books personals drolly dis themselves routinely, boasting that they are, among other things, older than 100, infertile, flatulent, "big-boned" and look like "Hervé Villechaize and carry an odour of wheat." David Rose of the London Review collected gems such as the one above in They Call Me Naughty Lola (Scribner, 2006).

Such humble notices starkly contrast the superhero-like self-portraits in online dating venues, where every woman seems to be attractive, fit and 29 and each man is wealthy, tall and toned. But all lovelorn writers share a goal: telegraphing their worth (whether by self-abasement or by self-promotion) to potential partners. In his article "The Truth about Online Dating," psychologist Robert Epstein takes a look at what modern courting reveals about us.

Delving deeper into the mysteries of our unconscious longings, neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields writes of a little-known cranial nerve that may provide a signaling link for subliminal sexual attraction. In "Sex and the Secret Nerve," he reveals the intriguing findings about cranial nerve zero.

Most people would say that finding love is a key to greater happiness, along with achievements like a bigger home, a better car, more money and fame. But research suggests none of these things is likely to increase bliss significantly. "Why It's So Hard to Be Happy," by psychologist Michael Wiederman, tells how ancient humans' perpetual search for a better life--historically, a survival advantage--can now leave us dissatisfied despite the comforts of today's world. One lesson is that "happy people tend to engage in activities that are challenging and absorbing"--such as reading articles in Scientific American Mind. Okay, I slipped in that last part. Happy now?

The Case of the Loud Eyeballs The mystery of the shrieking eyeballs is solved through a chance encounter
Illusions: A Moving Experience How the eyes can see movement where it does not exist
Sex and the Secret Nerve Could a little-known cranial nerve be the route by which human pheromones turn us on?
The Truth about Online Dating The hype is huge, and the findings are somewhat disturbing--but the future of online dating looks good
Why It's So Hard to Be Happy The pursuit of happiness drives much of what we do. Achieving it, however, always seems just out of reach
Jumping to Conclusions Can people be counted on to make sound judgments?
Seduced by Sleep Scientists have uncovered key clues to a strange disorder that puts its victims to sleep without warning--often at their own peril. Research boosts hope for new treatments while shedding light on the secrets of sleep
Abnormal Attraction Most people are repulsed by the idea of sex with children. But keeping children safe from pedophiles means trying to discover how this disastrous craving comes about--and how to tame it
Sticking Point When it comes to understanding how acupuncture needles can heal, scientists are still only scratching the surface
No Place Like Home What makes a house feel like home? Psychological research offers insight into what people want and need for happy living
Love of Garbage If this magazine is perched on one stack of hundreds in your living room, you may suffer from an odd disorder that scientists are beginning to understand
A Pill to Fix Your Ills? Valium and other benzodiazepine drugs work quickly to ease anxiety. But are they always the best solution?
Sciam Mind Dec 2006
Introduction As an editor, I've read thousands of pieces of writing. Yet some manage to stand out vividly, such as one column, "Ten Thousand Acts of Kindness," penned almost 20 years ago by the late Harvard University paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould for Natural History magazine. We tend to remember the bad encounters we have had with other people, Gould noted, such as the time a driver rudely cut you off in traffic and then yelled at you on top of it. He believed that such incidents are memorable partly because they are rare. In fact, he pointed out, for each unpleasant moment we probably experience 10,000 acts of kindness--or at least neutral interactions--when we meet up with other people. Social togetherness, empathy and cooperation are hallmarks of humanity.

How puzzling, then, is the criminal mind. What complex interplay of social and physical factors could lead to such aberrant behavior? The article "The Violent Brain," by Daniel Strueber, Monika Lueck and Gerhard Roth, explores the psychobiological roots of brutality in the brain.

If brain chemistry is at least partly at fault for aggression, perhaps the latest imaging technologies can help in pointing out those flaws in accused perpetrators who are facing trial. After all, imaging has taught us a great deal about mental processing in general. Not so fast, argue neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga and his colleagues in "Brain Scans Go Legal."

As Gould explained, most of us do more than merely cooperate with the law. An aspect of those 10,000 everyday acts of kindness is how people fluidly and automatically coordinate their actions with one another on even the most mundane tasks, such as when two partners carry a large box up a flight of stairs. Natalie Sebanz discusses how people's seemingly effortless yet unrehearsed dances of togetherness arise in "It Takes Two to ..." Maybe it will inspire you to share Scientific American Mind with a friend.

Ancient Sleep in Modern Times Breaking a night's sleep into two pieces may not be a sign of insomnia but of a natural sleep pattern bubbling to the surface
Illusions: When the Two Eyes Clash A tale of binocular rivalry
The Violent Brain Violent behavior never erupts from a single cause. Rather it appears to result from a complex web of related factors, some genetic and others environmental
Brain Scans Go Legal Courts are beginning to allow brain images as evidence, but current technology is nowhere near trustworthy enough to determine or absolve guilt
The Madness of Migraine One in every eight Americans suffers from migraines. In recent years doctors have discovered more about how these nasty headaches occur--and how to dull the pain
Why Do We Cry? Other animals howl when they are in distress, but only humans weep tears of sorrow--or joy
It Takes Two to... Even the most mundane tasks people perform together require them to coordinate their efforts. Recently researchers have started to ask exactly how we cooperate
Is the Teen Brain Too Rational? With the decision-making areas of their brains still developing, teenagers show poor judgment in risky situations. Thinking less logically may be the answer
Juicing the Brain Research to limit mental fatigue among soldiers may foster controversial ways to enhance any person's brain
Hearing Voices Not only schizophrenics experience auditory hallucinations. Many people who are not mentally ill sometimes hear claps, whistles, buzzing, voices or even music in their heads
Taking a Closer Look Can moving your eyes back and forth help ease anxiety?
Sciam Mind Oct 2006
Introduction Each of us has a rich inner mental life, one that seems inaccessible to everyone else. To others, we believe, we represent a kind of human terra incognita. After all, how can anybody really know what is on our mind?

As it turns out, however, our feelings and thoughts are only too visible to those who know how to look. You will learn why in our special report, "The Body Speaks." Tiny "microexpressions" involuntarily flit across our face, revealing our emotions, as Siri Schubert explains in "A Look Tells All." In "Gestures Offer Insight," Ipke Wachsmuth describes how we make hand or other motions to add shades of meaning to words as we converse. And when we fib, our very physiology can give us away, Thomas Metzinger details in "Exposing Lies."

Getting an outside vantage point also helps us find other things that can seem hidden or unavailable: novel ideas. Basic knowledge of a given field helps, of course, in the quest for a problem's solution. But simply proceeding step-by-step like a computer will get you only so far. To summon those priceless flashes of insight takes a new point of view. "The Eureka Moment" tells why.

Shifting perspective again, we recognize the value of insider knowledge and experience for sorting good ideas from bad in pop psychology. We may wonder, does a given therapy work as advertised? How is the average person to know what to trust? Now we are pleased to offer help: "Facts and Fictions in Mental Health," a new column by psychologists Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld. First up: self-help books. Do they really help?

Determining Nature vs. Nurture Molecular evidence is finally emerging to inform the long-standing debate
Illusions: The Neurology of Aesthetics How visual-processing systems shape our aesthetic sensibilities
Gestures Offer Insight Hand and arm movements do much more than accent words: they provide context for understanding
A Look Tells All A person's face will always reveal his true feelings--if, like Paul Ekman, you are quick enough to recognize microexpressions
Exposing Lies Inventors claim that new technologies can ferret out fibbers, but it is unclear what the gear actually reveals
The Eureka Moment We've all had sudden, smart insights. How do they arise? And is there a way we can conjure them up at any time?
Can We Talk? Dogs understand "fetch" and "leash," whereas apes can combine hand-signed words into short sentences. So what special skill did humans bring to the language game?
Verbal Bottleneck People who stutter sometimes suffer from mistaken notions about their intelligence or emotional balance, but the problem is the neurophysiological process of speaking itself
The Electrical Brain Most nerve cells use messenger chemicals to communicate. Now science is learning more about the brain's rarer, lightning-fast electrical signaling
When the Nose Doesn't Know Loss of smell can be distressing and is associated with disorders such as depression. Smell training may help recover the sense
Detecting Autism Early New techniques could diagnose autism in babies, enabling more effective treatment while the brain is most malleable
Don't Count on It A small Amazon tribe, the Pirahă, have no number system. Is the reason neurological--they cannot count--or psychosocial--they just do not want to? An interview with Daniel L. Everett
Do Self-Help Books Help? Sales are booming, but readers are not always getting their money's worth
Sciam Mind Aug 2006
Introduction By age five or six, a child's brain is 90 percent the size of an adult's, and for a long time scientists thought that the organ's significant structural growth ended by around 12 years old. Recent research, however, shows that an adolescent's brain makes dynamic changes around that age as well as during all of the teen years. As Leslie Sabbagh explains in our cover story, areas involved in planning and decision making experience a spurt of growth at 11 or 12 years and then undergo pruning and reorganization through the early 20s.

That is why, when faced with complex choices under time pressure, the immature cognitive systems can overload, sometimes with catastrophic results. "It's not just that one thing goes wrong," a frustrated parent of two teenagers recently groused to me. "It's that an astonishing chain of bad decisions can occur at the same time." While parents wait for nature to take its corrective course, at least they can take comfort in knowing that sheer rebelliousness is not solely to blame.

The cool head and decisive analytical thinking that come with experience are key when a brain surgeon faces difficult choices. In her article, neurosurgeon Katrina Firlik discusses how to handle some exceedingly delicate parts of the job. No, not the surgery itself: how to assess the risk of any given procedure and what to tell the patient about it--and when.

Companies that have decided to diversify also need to make appropriate choices, or else intergroup conflict could fracture employees' team performance. What can managers do to best help individuals collaborate? The first step is to determine what type of task the team should accomplish; the next is to match the people to that mission. Hint: hidden aspects of diversity--such as education and experience--sway collective performance more beneficially than obvious factors such as ethnicity, race, gender or age. Psychologists Elizabeth Mannix and Margaret A. Neale explain why in their feature article, "Diversity at Work."

Champ Chimp A chimpanzee's development of number skills sheds some light on our own
Illusions: The Quirks of Constancy Why do two identical lines appear to be different even when we know they are the same?
The Teen Brain, Hard at Work Under challenging conditions, adolescents may assess and react less efficiently than adults
Turning Off Depression Helen Mayberg may have found the switch that lifts depression--and shined a light on the real link between thought and emotion
Diversity at Work "Diversity" in employee teams does not always equal superior performance
Should We Operate? How a brain surgeon evaluates the risk of a procedure and informs her patients about it can be as tricky as the surgery itself
Coming to Attention Neuroscientists explain how the brain actively selects a target on which to focus
Violent Pride Do people turn violent because of self-hate or self-love?
Natural High The brain produces its own marijuana-like chemicals to protect neurons, and researchers hope to exploit these compounds to ease anxiety, obesity and addiction
Feeling Faint Keeling over at the sight of blood or from standing still too long may be a lifesaving mechanism
Rise of the Modern Mind By marrying psychology with archaeology, scientists are unearthing how thought evolved
Think Better: Fostering Group Creativity The right atmosphere, and a few gimmicks, can bring out bright ideas among a group of people
Sciam Mind Jun 2006
Introduction In an era of lean staffing and multitasking, workers are at greater risk of making themselves sick from long-term stress, as Ulrich Kraft explains in his article "Burned Out." Workaholics who pull long hours year in and year out can drive themselves to a state of mental and physical collapse, called burnout. Fortunately, there are ways for the brain and body to ward off such dire consequences.

Tension can be beneficial, of course, if it is part of the time-tested system of improving explanatory arguments, or interpretations, based on experimental data. Such debates advance science's pursuit of discovering the truth about any given phenomenon. In "Beyond the Neuron Doctrine," neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields describes a century-old question about the nature of neural communication. One side contends that each brain cell is a discrete functional unit, a scheme now known as the neuron doctrine. The opposing view holds that the nervous system is a highly interconnected, free-flowing data meshwork, or reticulum. The surprising news? Both camps are right.

As the neuron debate shows, hardly any matter is a simple, black-or-white issue. Especially not our perception of those two polar opposites, the colors black and white themselves. Psychologist Alan Gilchrist relates how the brain deciphers the often contradictory and confusing visual inputs that we receive from our surroundings. Scientists "ask" the brain about its thinking by showing volunteers striking optical illusions, some of which you will see in Gilchrist's article "Seeing in Black and White." Such research may be one of the few instances in which the routine use of deceptions serves the greater good of revealing reality.

Age at Work Older workers are not necessarily slower than younger workers, and often they make fewer errors
Illusions: Cracking the Da Vinci Code What do the Mona Lisa and President Abraham Lincoln have in common?
Beyond the Neuron Doctrine New experiments are settling a century-long debate between two camps over how neurons communicate. The surprise: both sides are right
Burned Out Your job is extremely fulfilling. It is also extremely demanding--and you feel overwhelmed. You are not alone
Crossing the Barrier To treat neurological illnesses, researchers are learning how to smuggle drugs past the shield that guards the brain against infection
Seeing in Black and White Why it's not so cut-and-dried
Inside the Mind of a Savant Kim Peek--the inspiration for Rain Main--possesses one of the most extraordinary memories ever recorded. Until we can explain his abilities, we cannot pretend to understand human cognition
Bitter Could Be Better New additives might fool the brain into thinking that bitter foods and medicines do not really taste that bad
Controlling Epilepsy One woman's journey through diagnosis and treatment shows how far we have come in using surgery to defuse seizures
My Date with a Robot Japanese researcher Hiroshi Ishiguro has created the world's most attractive android. But is she ready for dating?
Circuit Training Computer games for mental workouts
Think Better: Outside the Sandbox Parents and teachers have many options to encourage children to think creatively
Sciam Mind Apr 2006
Introduction It was one of those seemingly mundane moments, but I was thunderstruck when I realized the implications. Tossing on a cardigan, I happened to notice my toddler intently staring at me to figure out how to push a button through a hole in her sweater. Suddenly, I realized how much we learn how to do things and how to behave around others just by watching and copying.

At the time, nearly a decade ago, I had little idea about how extensively my child was mentally rehearsing my actions as she studied me. Since then, science has learned much more. When we see someone engaged in any activity cells called mirror neurons that are scattered throughout the brain create an instant replay in our heads. Investigators believe that these cells may be the keys to cultural development and may even be responsible for humanity's collective "great leap forward" 50,000 years ago, as David Dobbs explains in his article, "A Revealing Reflection."

Sigmund Freud, the iconic founder of psychoanalysis, was born 150 years ago on May 6. We mark the anniversary of his birth and his impressive influence on all things psychological in a special section, "Freud at 150." As neuropsychologist Mark Solms describes in "Freud Returns," neuroscientists are finding that biological descriptions of the brain may fit together best with theories Freud developed. A second feature, "Neurotic about Neurons," by Steve Ayan, further details Freud's notions and his eventful life. The last installment provides a modern take. In recent years, scientists have been testing what works--and what does not--in talk therapy, thereby bringing the power of research to the couch with "empirically supported therapies." Surprisingly, these techniques are not without controversy, as psychologists Hal Arko-witz and Scott O. Lilienfeld explain in "Psychotherapy on Trial." We hope the section tickles your id, ego and superego.

Thinking Green Most people claim to be pro-environment, but psychological and practical factors must be addressed before they will actually hop on a bus
Good Friends Want to live longer? Diet and exercise will get you only so far
Sexuality and Choice An exclusive national poll commissioned by Scientific American Mind reveals diverse and conflicting opinions about the nature of sexuality
Illusions: Touching Illusions Startling deceptions demonstrate how tactile information is processed in the brain
A Revealing Reflection Mirror neurons are providing stunning insights into everything from how we learn to walk to how we empathize with others
Freud Returns Neuroscientists are finding that their biological descriptions of the brain may fit together best when integrated by psychological theories that Freud sketched a century ago. Includes Counterpoint, "Freud Returns? Like a Bad Dream"
Neurotic about Neurons Freud's theories sprang directly from neuroscience, until he began interrogating sexually frustrated women
Psychotherapy on Trial Empirically supported therapies seek to bring the power of research-proven techniques to the therapist's office. So why are they controversial?
Bird Brains? Hardly Parrots demonstrate impressive cognitive feats that rival the talents of chimps and dolphins
Staying Sober Better understanding of how alcohol alters brain chemistry reveals mechanisms for beating dependency
The New Science of Mind A forecast of the major problems scientists need to solve
Hunting for Answers A single mutation casts the death sentence of Huntington's disease. Researchers are pinning down how that mutation ruins neurons--knowledge that may suggest therapies
Electric Thoughts? The latest computer designs draw inspiration from human neural networks. But will machines ever really think?
Think Better: Fixing Forgetfulness Memory troubles can have everyday causes and simple solutions
Sciam Mind Feb 2006
Introduction When you think of this morning's breakfast table, what exactly appears in your mind's eye? How sharp is the image? Do you "see" the colorful bits of cereal floating in the bowl, the glinting steel spoon on the napkin, the half-full coffee mug--or do you just "know" they are there?

More than a century ago Francis Galton, the famous anthropologist and statistician, asked numerous colleagues and friends to recall their breakfast spreads and was startled by how varied the answers were. Some people said their mental view was as vivid as reality; others reported their internal images were faint or even nonexistent. What brain mechanisms could account for such differences? Physician and science writer Thomas Grueter synthesizes the latest research on the topic in his article "Picture This."

The everyday picture for soldiers in Iraq can be disturbingly uncertain. Service members must be alert for surprise attacks anyplace, anytime. The emotional and psychological effects of such conditions can be devastating. Writing from Iraq, psychologists Bret A. Moore and Greg M. Reger, two U.S. Army captains, describe their work to maintain the well-being of service members.

An entirely different battlefield is the one being fought for understanding. In "Do Gays Have a Choice?" psychologist Robert Epstein discusses the science behind the controversy of sexual "preference" (a term he disdains as judgmental). As it turns out, the answer is not black or white: rather human sexuality exists on a spectrum.

Purple Shoes or Blue? Why do we agonize over so many choices? More important, how do we find peace of mind once we choose?
Illusions: Stability of the Visual World When your eyes scan a room, why doesn't the world appear to bounce like the real image in your retina?
Picture This How does the brain create images in our minds?
Do Animals Have Feelings? Animal lovers insist their fellow creatures experience joy, sympathy, fear and grief, but scientifically, it is hard to say
Combating Stress in Iraq Psychologists on the battlefield are helping soldiers stay mentally fit during long and frightful tours of duty
Science Probes Spirituality What happens in the brain to create a sense of peace during meditation? And could drugs tap those mechanisms without us focusing inward for hours? Includes "Meditations on the Brain" by R. Douglas Fields
Mastery of Emotions Joseph E. LeDoux discovered how fear arises. Now he is showing that the biology of emotions is what gives life meaning
Do Gays Have a Choice? Science offers a clear and surprising answer to a controversial question
Train Your Brain Mental exercises with neurofeedback may ease symptoms of attention-deficit disorder, epilepsy and depression--and even boost cognition in healthy brains
Fighting Parkinson's The disease remains incurable, but research advances point to better treatments for this increasingly common disorder
Mindful of Symbols On the way to learning that one thing can represent another, young children often conflate the real item and its symbol. These errors show how difficult it is to start thinking symbolically
One Person, One Neuron? Nerve cells devoted to recognizing Halle Berry or Bill Clinton? Absurd. That's what most neuroscientists thought--until recently
Think Better: Upstaging Stage Fright Anxiety can ruin your performance in a play, business meeting or exam, but exercises can help
Sciam Mind Dec 2005
Introduction We're often so very wrong about our overconfident self-assessments--and we are blind to that ignorance because we can't get a complete view of ourselves, as psychologists David Dunning, Chip Heath and Jerry M. Suls explain in their article "Picture Imperfect." Our muddled thinking impairs thousands of our everyday decisions, affecting our health, education and interactions in the workplace. Hilariously (at least in hindsight), I became the embodiment of that principle when I promised to shape the authors' original 35,000-word paper into a 3,500-word story for this issue in "just a few days." A few weeks later an unsurprised but nonetheless amiable Dunning and company finally saw that edit.

Memories of such embarrassing failures are easy to laugh off. But what about harrowing, even traumatic, events that have been seared into our brains? They can haunt our waking hours and nightmares for years, if we ever make peace with them at all. What if we could simply delete these mental blemishes? In our cover story on "Erasing Memories," neuroscientist R. Douglas Fields reports how research could create the "spotless mind." Could the work be a balm for an anxiety-ridden culture--or put us on the numbing path of reflexively pill-popping our problems away, Brave New World-style?

In the past, we have invited readers to sign up as advisers ( Now, in response to feedback, we have added two new features: a Calendar of worthwhile events and Ask the Brains in which experts answer your questions about psychology and neuroscience. We have also expanded the popular Illusions column, by neuroscientists Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran. Of course, we think you'll like them--but we will try to understand it if you tell us we are being overconfident in that self-assessment.

Getting Gifting We may resent the mad dash to buy holiday presents, but they are a yardstick for relationships, and we want to measure up
False Memories Sudden recall of forgotten childhood abuse has sent people to prison. But Elizabeth Loftus says psychologists may be planting these events in patients' heads
Illusions: Hidden in Plain Sight Camouflage in fish and other animals provides insights into visual perception
Picture Imperfect Like a flawed painting, our self-image suffers from poor perspective: we consistently overestimate our skills and overlook flaws
Erasing Memories Long-term memories, particularly bad ones, could be dissolved if certain drugs are administered at just the right moment during recall
Brian Wilson: A Cork on the Ocean The rise and fall of the Beach Boys leader shows how crucial the brain's executive function is to creativity
Can We Cure Fear? We naturally view any risk we witness as a personal threat--even when it is on the opposite side of the globe and we see it only on TV. Is popping a pill the answer?
Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts do little to improve academic performance or prevent troublesome behavior
Likely Story Myths persist in modern culture because of the brain's biological need to impose order on the world
Control Your Anger! Should you regulate your emotional reactions or let them rip?
The Promise of E-Therapy Videoconferencing, Web sites and other electronic media offer faster, cheaper care--without the stigma of parking in front of the shrink's office
Left Out The world is designed for right-handed people. Why does a tenth of the population prefer the left?
Personality Crash The collision damaged his forebrain. Surgeons saved it. But they never checked his pituitary, and he is no longer the man he was
Think Better: Learning to Focus A few simple tricks can help children (and adults) improve their concentration powers
Sciam Mind Oct 2005
Introduction You could call it one of the most magnificent conundrums of our existence: consciousness. How can an experience be so routine, so common to all of us--and yet so utterly unfathomable at its deepest levels?

That enigma has long intrigued neuroscientists such as Christof Koch, author of the cover story, "The Movie in Your Head." Imaging technology reveals what areas in the brain are buzzing with neural activity when a person is tracking a speeding car, looking at a loved one or eating a chocolate bar. But how does such incessant chemical signaling stitch fleeting sensory impressions into an apparently seamless stream of consciousness? Is the "real world" we know merely an illusion created from those fragments?

Clues about the processing of complex sensory inputs also come from brains that are not "normal." For people with synesthesia, for instance, sight, hearing and touch can blend in extraordinary ways. The sound of each note plunked on a piano might evoke a different color. Printed letters, words, numbers or even days on a calendar may gleam with hues of their own. Flavor can mingle with shapes. The strains of a violin can feel like a caress.

The condition confers a unique gift not only on people who experience its wonders firsthand but also on researchers. In "Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes," neuroscientists Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward M. Hubbard describe insights they have gleaned from synesthesia's exotic world.

A vivid sensory rush also underlies humanity's shared "Lust for Danger," as Klaus Manhart explains. We crave the pleasurable thrill of risk taking--whether that excitement comes from betting it all in a game of Texas Hold 'Em, watching a suspenseful horror movie or parachuting out of an airplane. The success of our forebears, early human adventurers, gave them a survival edge that remains part of our collective mental hard wiring.

Upsetting Psychotherapy Pressure from insurance companies and competition from drug therapies are prompting analysts to get patients off the couch more quickly
Commuting Takes Its Toll Workers are travelling ever longer to attain the job or home life they want, but the daily stress may outweigh the gains
Hearing Colors, Tasting Shapes People with synesthesia--whose senses blend together--are providing valuable clues to understanding the organization and functions of the brain
Lust for Danger A ruinous night at the roulette table. A bungee jump into an abyss. Such actions defy human reason, but we still seek the thrill
Smarter on Drugs We recoil at the idea of people taking drugs to enhance their intelligence. But why?
Big Answers from Little People In infants, Elizabeth Spelke finds fundamental insights into how men and women think
The Psychology of Tyranny Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely--or does it?
Judging Amy and Andy Contrary to conventional wisdom, we can size up people pretty well based on first impressions
The Movie in Your Head Is consciousness a seamless experience or a string of fleeting images, like frames of a movie? The emerging answer will determine whether the way we perceive the world is illusory
Custody Disputed The guidelines judges and psychologists use to decide child custody cases have little basis in science. The system must be rebuilt on better research
Mending the Spinal Cord Researchers are finding ways to help nerves regenerate, and hope for therapies is growing
Lighten Up Seasonal affective disorder--the winter blues--can be lifted with bright light, as long as treatment is timed properly
Just a Bit Different With special training early in life, children born with Down syndrome have a higher chance of developing into independent individuals
Think Better: Want Clear Thinking? Relax A short mental vacation can ease the stresses of the daily grind and prompt fresh ideas
Live Better: A Healthy Laugh Got problems? A little humor will help you get past them--and could even ward off illness
Sciam Mind Jun 2005
Introduction As a species, we humans lie at least several times a day, for reasons large and small, even though most of us condemn the habit. Our gift for dissembling has enabled societies to survive and thrive. Find out why in "Natural-Born Liars," by David Livingstone Smith.

Common wisdom would suggest that people fib when doing so helps them improve their personal situation in some way. But another article in this issue puts the lie to that notion. Under conditions common in routine crime investigations, suspects will say they're guilty of committing a crime when they're actually innocent. Perhaps 20 percent of all DNA exonerations have had false confessions in evidence. False confessions also affect how law-enforcement officers, attorneys, judges and juries treat defendants. Read about it in "True Crime, False Confessions," by Saul M. Kassin and Gisli H. Gudjonsson.

Maybe we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. After all, it's difficult to get an accurate picture of the world we inhabit, as you'll see in "Illusions," by Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran. If we focus on trying to count balls passed rapidly among basketball players, for instance, we can completely miss a person in a gorilla suit strutting across the floor. Sound far-fetched? Hey, are you going to believe us--or your lying eyes?

Experience versus Speed Certain mental functions slow down with age, but the brain compensates in ways that can keep seniors just as sharp as youngsters
The Ethics of Scan and Tell You volunteer as a normal subject for a study involving brain scans. Then researchers spot something abnormal in your head. Should they tell you?
Psychotherapy Lite Neurolinguistic programming has become a favored pop psychology technique because it is easy to follow. But does it work?
Natural-Born Liars Why do we lie, and why are we so good at it? Because it works
True Crimes, False Confessions Why do innocent people confess to crimes they did not commit?
The Quest of Christof Koch For this mountain-climbing neuroscientist, explaining consciousness is the ultimate extreme sport
Sweet Dreams Are Made of This What are dreams? Why do we have them? The answers are as intriguing as dreams themselves
The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis Though often denigrated as fakery or wishful thinking, hypnosis has been shown to be a real phenomenon with a variety of therapeutic uses--especially in controlling pain
A Great Attraction Magnetically stimulating the brain could lift depression and perhaps even boost creativity, but questions remain
Your Own Hall of Memories Want to improve your recall? Borrow a trick from the Greeks and Romans
Head Attack You're late, the traffic is a nightmare and you're yelling at the kids to stop fighting in the back. Is your mental stress putting you at greater risk for a heart attack?
Buy This Companies spend billions on marketing campaigns, but neuroscientists could someday determine which ads best capture consumers' attention
Stopping the Bullies School can be torture for children who are targeted by abusive students
Signing Gets a Scientific Voice Sign language is as rich and complex as spoken communication, probably because the brain creates and deciphers it in the same way
Think Better: Taking the Reins Self-control helps you meet small challenges, but to change your life significantly you'll need self-regulation instead
Live Better: Talk It Up Psychotherapy may help the large number of impotent men for whom drugs such as Viagra are not the answer
Sciam Mind Apr 2005
Introduction Where do creative sparks come from? How can we conjure them whenever we want? And why can that be so infernally difficult to do, anyway? A complete understanding isn't here yet, but neuroscientists are already on the trail of where and how creativity arises. They also have some good news for each of us who has ever struggled to ignite those inventive fires. As it turns out, tapping our own muse may be easier than we think, especially if we learn to make a habit of it. This and more is explained in "Unleashing Creativity" by Ulrich Kraft.

Renaissance artist-engineer Leonardo da Vinci, renowned for such paintings as the Mona Lisa, seemed to suffer no lack of novel thoughts. In addition to artistic masterpieces, he designed flying machines, canals, a variety of buildings, and tanks. His successes make it clear, however, that imaginative genius isn't enough to advance a brainchild. In "Leonardo da Vinci, Neuroscientist," by Jonathan Pevsner, you'll see that another critical ingredient is the application of logic and systematic study to a fanciful notion. Leonardo--who lived in an era more comfortable with acceptance of prevailing wisdom than with experimentation--had the then unusual idea of examining and recording human anatomy for himself. As a result, he leaped beyond his contemporaries in developing a truer understanding of the brain.

Watching Prodigies for the Dark Side Gifted children who are not challenged can quickly grow bored with school, but a hidden fear of failure can lead to far greater problems
Abnormal as Norm Actions deemed odd, psychotic or even barbaric by one culture may be perfectly acceptable to another
Feeling Our Emotions According to noted neurologist Antonio R. Damasio, joy or sorrow can emerge only after the brain registers physical changes in the body
Unleashing Creativity Moments of brilliance arise from complex cognitive processes. Piece by piece, researchers are uncovering the secrets of creative thinking
Fact or Phrenology? The growing controversy over fMRI scans is forcing us to confront whether brain equals mind
Strangely Familiar Researchers are starting to pin down what déjŕ vu is and why it arises. But have you read this already? Maybe you just can't remember
Drowning Mr. M He knows he is suffocating at the bottom of the pool, but he doesn't feel like swimming right now
Neuroscience and the Law If scientists can prove that the brain determines the mind, lawyers could convince juries that defendants may not be responsible for their crimes
What's Wrong with This Picture? Psychologists often use the famous Rorschach inkblot test and related tools to assess personality and mental illness. But research says the instruments are frequently ineffective for those purposes
Alien Friends For people with Capgras syndrome, loved ones have been taken over by body doubles. Their experience teaches us that feelings are integral to perception
The Will to Win More and more athletes are engaging in mental workouts to give themselves that extra edge
Finding Our Way The human positioning system helps us navigate an unfamiliar city and may underlie general memory and thought
Friend or Foe? How we instantly size up people has little to do with logic and a lot to do with looks
Right Brain May Be Wrong Classical neuroscience holds that the brain's right hemisphere processes the emotions behind faces and voices, while the left hemisphere handles the facts involved. Or not
Leonardo da Vinci, Neuroscientist Five centuries ago the famous Italian artist-engineer leaped past his contemporaries in developing a more scientific understanding of the brain
Think Better: Make Yourself Happy Small acts that create immediate pleasures can add up to long-term satisfaction
Sciam Mind Dec 2004
Introduction Researchers have been puzzled about why altruism, so frequently and generously offered, should exist at all. In a Darwinian world of "survival of the fittest," why do perfect strangers volunteer to help, even when such aid may come at a cost to themselves? Seeking answers, scientists probe our behavior in experiments designed to reveal the roots of altruism. "The Samaritan Paradox," by Ernst Fehr and Suzann-Viola Renninger, for example, describes how altruism emerges spontaneously even in anonymous exchanges among people, whereas animal altruism starts and ends with kin.

Mulling our surprisingly cooperative nature seems fitting in this, the premier edition of Scientific American Mind, a new quarterly publication. Each issue will explore similar mysteries about what makes us humans humane, heartless, helpless, hopeful--in short, why we are the way we are. Issue by issue, we aim to lift the veils, to reveal more about our own shared essence.

Perspectives: Antidepressants: Good Drugs or Good Marketing A scandal over hidden data about adolescent suicide lights a dark corner of our drug approval system
The Samaritan Paradox If we live in a dog-eat-dog world, then why are we frequently so good to each other?
How Group-Think Makes Killers Lost in a crowd, average individuals can become exceptionally virtuous or deadly. Their behavior depends on how they believe they are expected to act
Stressed-Out Memories A little stress sharpens memory. But after prolonged stress, the mental picture isn't pretty
Treating Depression: Pills or Talk Medication has reduced depression for decades, but newer forms of psychotherapy are proving their worth
The Forgotten Brain Emerges After disregarding them for decades, neuroscientists now say glial cells may be nearly as important to thinking as neurons are
The Tyranny of Choice Logic suggests that having options allows people to select precisely what makes them happiest. But, as studies show, abundant choice often makes for misery
Informing the ADHD Debate The latest neurological research has injected much needed objectivity into the disagreement over how best to treat children with attention-deficit disorders
Worlds of Feeling Underappreciated yet vital, the sense of touch helps to complete an amazingly accurate mental picture of our surroundings and ourselves
The Limits of Multitasking Reading e-mail, sorting data and talking on the phone at once--multitasking clearly saves time in a fast-paced world. Or does it?
Secret Powers Everywhere Conspiracy theories offer attractively simple explanations for a chaotic world. But be careful about what you believe
Test Subjects in Diapers When do babies recognize the intentions of others--and become capable of deliberate actions themselves?
Thinking Out Loud Thought-deciphering systems are enabling paralyzed people to communicate--and someday may let them control wheelchairs, prosthetics and even their own muscles
Casting Out the Demons Adolescents are naturally drawn to occult ideas, but parents and therapists should know the signs that indicate when this fascination has become deeper and more dangerous
Taming Compulsion For people trapped in obsessive-compulsive thoughts and rituals, therapy and medication may offer the best way out
Think Better: Crossing Your Personal Rubicon The road to hell is said to be paved with them: good intentions that we never realize. But you can do something about that
Sciam Mind Jan 2004
Introduction Studying how the mind and brain work sounds like it ought to be about as futile as trying to grab handfuls of air. Yet psychology, neuroscience and related fields have made amazing progress. This special issue introducing Scientific American Mind reviews just a sliver of the discoveries that investigators from around the globe have made about the workings of our inner lives.

The breadth of subjects tracks the vastness of thought. Several of our authors grapple with supremely tough questions: How does the gray matter in our skulls give rise to self-awareness? How can we have free will if our brains are bound by predictable mechanisms? How does memory work? Other articles describe how new genetic and biochemical findings elucidate causes of mental illness but also pose ethical quandaries. They illuminate mysteries of sensory perception. They explore how understanding of mental function can help us deal with mundane issues, such as solving problems creatively or making our arguments more persuasive. And a few celebrate the strange, unexpected beauties of the human condition.

Learning from Switched-Off Brains "Virtual damage" from pulsed magnetic fields is providing new insights about the brain. The procedure may help treat disorders - or even boost mental performance
Anguish and Ethics Emotions have more influence over our solutions to ethical problems than we think
Getting the Picture An illusion called shine-through provides a window into how the brain binds an object's component features into a coherent whole
Islands of Genius Artistic brilliance and a dazzling memory can sometimes accompany autism and other developmental disorders
Music in Your Head Listening to music involves not only hearing but also visual, tactile and emotional experiences. Each of us processes music in different regions of the brain
The Quest to Find Consciousness By studying the brain's physical processes, scientists are seeking clues about how the subjective inner life of the mind arises
Does Free Will Arise Freely? How consciousness is produced influences when we can regard fetuses as individuals, whether courts can hold us accountable for our actions, and other hot issues
Televison Addiction Is no mere metaphor
Sussing Out Stress Chronic stress makes people sick. But how? An how might we prevent those ill effects?
Fear Not Anxieties can become strongly etched into the brain. But don't worry - researchers may find ways to erase them
The Science of Persuasion Social psychology has determined the basic principles that govern getting to "yes"
Memories of a Fly Tiny and ubiquitous, the fruit fly is a helpful model for the study of memory
Humbled by History Over the centuries, many "proven" ideas about the brain were later found lacking, a lesson worth remembering today
Your Personal Pathology How will we feel when biology can name what makes each of us who we are?
Principled Problem Solving Letting constraints filter and guide your thinking can often be the best way to reach truly creative solutions

Compiled by Dave Lo, article summaries © Scientific American