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Monday, January 27, 2014


THINK PIECES—Earlier this week, this blog celebrated Ben Franklin’s birthday.  The man whose face is on the $100 bill didn’t invent newspapers or magazines but his creativity certainly went a long way to fashion what we now call feature writing.  His brand of early journalism gave readers much to think about.

Earlier this week, NPR and ABC in their various Internet incarnations posted two interesting “think pieces” on brain related topics.  Studies of our mysterious brain and how it operates makes for interesting reading:

Another home run from NPR’s Cosmos and Culture series on the Internet is an essay by regular contributor Marcelo Gleiser.  In his essay, “The Problem With A Clockwork Universe,” Gleiser delves into a discussion of free will in humans that ranges from the cognitive neuroscience to philosophy.
Free will or pre-determined?

Interesting thoughts abound in this short report.  For example, Gleiser writes that any discussion of free will must touch bases with a branch of semi-physics called determinism.

In beginning his essay, Gleiser asks: Are we agents of our own decisions?  Or, has free will been predetermined by a better understanding of physical science? “In practice, deterministic physical systems are described by equations that allow us to predict precisely their advance in time,” he explains.

“Is free will nothing more than an illusion: subconscious processes in our brain seem to make decisions before we are consciously aware of it?”

“Is everything determined in advance by the laws of mechanics: the writing of this essay, the winner of the World Cup in Brazil and the rate of inflation in the year 2045.”

Gleiser makes sense of all this in true NPR style: clear and concise.

For Gleiser’s essay link to:


On the heels of National Reading Day Saturday, we ran across an interesting article on the human brain and reading.

Lee Dye writing for ABC News points out “...It's amazing you can read these words.
It took millions of years for humans, and our recent ancestors, to develop the visual and motor and auditory skills that let us function in the complex world we inhabit today. But in less than 5,000 years, a brief span in human history, we learned how to read...”

Dye’s column goes on to point out that when it comes to reading the brain is still evolving and results of recent scientific studies acknowledge blood rushes to the parts of the brain that are active, thus telling researchers which areas are responsible for different functions, like dreaming, and reading, and thinking about making love.

Active brain sections turn red while in use
Says Dye, Neuroscientists at Emory University in Atlanta have determined that just reading a gripping novel makes changes in the way the brain connects with different circuits, and most importantly, those changes last for at least five days. They may not be permanent, but that at least suggests that the rewards from reading last longer than the act itself.

Over at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, scientists there found that even the seemingly simple act of reading involves 17 regions of the brain, but not all at the same time. They studied 30 persons ranging in age from seven to 35 and found that some regions actually grew less active with age, so even the physical activity in the human brain is not constant.

Bottom line: Read often give your brain new challenges.

For the rest of the ABC News report link to the following:

National Geographic Society was founded on this day in 1888.

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