How to Convince Me

Persuasion. An ineffective approach. from http://premwow.blogspot.co.u

In an earlier post, I explained why I sometimes feel that reason is greatly overrated; people often leave unnoticed gaps in an explanation and are not good at spotting these. In addition we are all prone to various cognitive biases which incline us to believe things when we shouldn’t and not to believe things when we should.

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Dr Who or Professor Who? On Academic Email Etiquette

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This post was provoked by a discussion with a UK-based professor (let’s call her Rebecca Smith, not her real name) who mentioned on twitter that she had received an inquiry about a PhD application by email from someone addressing her as “Hey Rebecca!” Was this a faux-pas on the applicant’s part?

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Great Balls of Fire

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I saw a fireball or meteor last night. Read More…

What is the point of Google+?

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About a month ago on this blog, I tried to explain the point of twitter. This week I turn to Google+ a relatively new social network which hasn’t yet quite taken off in the way facebook and twitter have. Read More…

Devil’s Advocate: Uncorrected Stats and the Trouble With fMRI

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This rather technical post is a response to a recent Observer article by Vaughan Bell. In it he follows up on a recent internet discussion around the validity or otherwise of fMRI methods. A blog post by StokesBlog responded.  I must admit I hesitate to step into the fray. I think “flaws” in neuroimaging methods are sometimes overstated, but I don’t want people to think I am flawed, so perhaps I should keep my head down. Oh well, here goes…

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Identifying a Hidden Talent – Remembering Places

This is what my hippocampus would look like if my brain was made of frosted glass and it was glowing red (deep inside the temporal lobe, a few centimeters in from the ears). To get a better idea of where it is, watch this video.

In previous posts, I described the science behind the Four Mountains Test, a memory test which we developed using computer generated landscapes to assess the ability to recognize places from their layout even when the viewpoint changes. The test was designed from the outset to depend on a part of the brain, the hippocampus, which is important in forming new memories of the events we experience but also in maintaining a sense of direction and keeping track of where we are as we move about. We found that patients with damage to the hippocampus had particular difficulty with the test.

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The Four Mountains Test

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Think of the last time you attended a wedding. You can probably remember the room around you, the place where you sat, the other guests around you and so on. Forming this type of memory depends on the hippocampus, an ancient part of the brain that is buried deep in the temporal lobes, a few centimetres in from your ears. People with damage to the hippocampus are unable to form new long-lasting memories of events and it is also one of the first parts of the brain to be affected in Alzheimer’s Disease. Being able to test abilities that depend on a fully-functioning hippocampus could one day be useful in identifying more serious memory problems that might require further investigation and treatment.

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