When Mirror Neurons Go Bad.

A brief, totally context-free excerpt from “Hive Minds and Mind Hives”, the talk I’ll be presenting this Sunday at the SpecFic Colloquium. I’m told that as of several days ago only four tickets remained unsold, so anyone who hasn’t already signed up is probably SOL: Mirror neurons think outside the skull by definition. They’re a […]

Posted in: neuro, public interface by Peter Watts 22 Comments

Fruit Flies, Freeloaders, free will.

For the past few months an image has been itching at the back of my mind, like a piece of grit waiting for a story to accrete around it: a neuron culture in a petri dish, like a rifters head cheese but without any inputs to keep it sparking. We presume that all internal feedback […]

Posted in: neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 43 Comments

Mystery Meat

…being a term generally applied to the entree at South Residence back at the University of Guelph.  This time, though, I’m talking about the mysteries of thinking meat, and a couple of thoughts thereupon which have sprung up elsewhere since I got back. The first is over at ChiZine‘s blog, which is currently running a […]

Sex, Death, and the Appalachian Trail

I’ve always had a fondness for Toxoplasma, to the point of featuring it prominently in one of my novels. It’s a protozoan after my metaphorical heart and my literal brain (specifically the part that synthesizes dopamine), and many of yours as well; in past installments (scroll down to May 6 on the right-hand side) I’ve […]

Posted in: biology, neuro by Peter Watts 37 Comments

A Prick in a Poke: Penises and the Preconscious Mind

Andrew Buhr pointed me to Jesse Bering’s  article over at scientificamerican.com. It’s an interesting popsci review of sexsomnia (i.e, sex while asleep), and all the awkwardness, legal and otherwise, arising therefrom. The dude in France who anally raped his employee because the employee’s somnambulistic behavior led him to believe the act was consensual; the other […]

Posted in: neuro, scilitics by Peter Watts 66 Comments

The Cuddliness of the Uplifted Billionaire.

So this Guy Kahane character, deputy director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics,  has been raising a few hackles with his musings on using drugs to induce “moral” behavior. The article has been cut and pasted all over the web (about eight hundred bloggers have opined at last count), and it certainly seems provocative enough […]

Posted in: neuro, sociobiology by Peter Watts 26 Comments

CuddleKill: or, Liz Cheney Explained

Well, I warned you all. A shower of oxytocin, to fill all you bickering hordes with trust and mutual love. Except, wouldn’t you know it, it’s never quite that simple. You may remember oxytocin by one of its cutesy pseudonyms (“the cuddle hormone”, “the morality molecule”) if not by its technical handle. It’s the hormone […]

Posted in: biochem, neuro, sociobiology by Peter Watts 42 Comments

The Neurology of Transcendence

So just a day or so after we revisit “A Word for Heathens”  — a story exploring the social ramifications of neurotechnology that induces Rapture On Demand — here comes a paper by Cosimo Urgesi and his buddies showing a relationship between the posterior parietal cortex and something called “Self-Transcendence” — an index, if we […]

Posted in: ass-hamsters, neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 26 Comments

The End of War Crimes

We’ve talked about free will on these screens before. We’ve referred to consciousness as the pointy-haired boss who takes credit for decisions made endless milliseconds before it was even aware of them; tumors that turn people into pedophiles, and do violence to the very concept of “culpability’; military hardware that bypasses conscious thought entirely and […]

Posted in: neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 12 Comments

Flowers for Hobbie-J

A single gene.   A single tweak.  Synapse speed boosted by perhaps a hundred milliseconds, tops. Transgenic Genius rats.  (PopSci story here.) Who’da thunk it would be so easy?  And how long before I can get these NR2B boosters in a nasal spray?

Posted in: Dumbspeech, neuro, sentience/cognition by Peter Watts 14 Comments