Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Seduction of Social Neuroscience has an interesting story about Elizabeth Gould at Princeton University. Her work with marmosets suggests that poverty and stress cause such profound changes during neurogenesis that the brain doesn’t have much of a chance to recover later in life. Of course, one should be careful not to overinterpret this kind of work as far humans go, but it is thought-provoking nevertheless.

In a more recent Seed article, Yale psychologist Paul Bloom writes about how fMRI images are seducing scientists, grant committees, and the public. On why fMRI is so seductive, Bloom writes, “It has all the trappings of work with great lab-cred: big, expensive, and potentially dangerous machines, hospitals and medical centers, and a lot of people in white coats.“ He also mentions a study by one of his graduate students, Deena Skolnick, who found that both neuroscience novices and cognitive neuroscientists rated otherwise bad scientific explanations as more satisfactory when a little neuroscience jargon was thrown in. Bloom sounds like such a sensible guy, and I noticed that he's recently written a book with an intriguing title: Descartes' baby: How the science of child development explains what makes us human (New York: Basic Books). He also mentions that his approach to social cognition assumes that humans are natural dualists...seeing the world the way Descartes did (i.e., bodies are physical things separate from souls). I must look for more of his stuff.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dan Rather and MOG

This past Saturday the New York Times ran a sad story about Dan Rather. It seems that Dan, the millionaire anchor for CBS news for over two decades, now spends his days going to movies by himself and reminiscing about the glory days of news. Today CBS announced that it was releasing him from his contract six months early. Dan will most likely end up on some sort of HDTV network this fall with just a mere tens of thousands of viewers. I always thought Dan was just a little over the top with his hyperbolic and folksy off-the-cuff insights, but he was my favorite anchor after Grandpa Walter retired. The beginning of the end of Dan's career was with that National Guard story on "60 Minutes II." Dan's leaving CBS is like having a favorite restaurant close. I guess it's just another reminder that all things do pass.

Between Will's micro-naps, I registered on today. I am pretty addicted to music, and even with 18GB's (17.8 days) worth of files on my iPod and iTunes, I am still looking for the next new fix. Mog is a free service that uploads the listings of your music library to the site and then allows you to search for "matches" with other people with similar music tastes. I remember a few years ago talking to my friend Scott about how we ought to develop a way to assess musical tastes as a sort of personality profile. This is the closest thing I've seen to that idea. My computer has already spent over 12 hours MOGifying my music files, and it's still not finished. I'm looking forward to discovering the musical tastes of others who can introduce me to a few good artists. You can check out my MOG profile at

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hot Summer in the City

Last week I finally finished teaching my fourth course since January. It was a three-week, intensive course in social psychology. I actually enjoy teaching it, but it always seems to come at me when I'm feeling the most exhausted.

Vikki and I are currently working out a nice tag-team schedule with the baby. On most days I go to GSU early in the morning, returning mid-afternoon. V. then heads off to the practice to see some patients until after 7. On Tuesdays (today), I spend the entire day at home with Will, and Thursdays V. does the same so that I can spend the day at work. I get absolutely NOTHING done when I'm taking care of Will by myself. He's really a great baby--never really cries, unless he's hungry or tired. It's just that he does need interaction. After about 10 minutes alone on the playmat or the bouncy chair he's had enough!

I turn in my first packet of tenure materials this week. This will comprise a packet that is sent to six external reviews who will comment on my career to date. I turn in the full "dossier" in September.

Well, just as I get started on this blog again, I can hear Will waking up from his nap!