Complex Chemistry for a Simple Task

Why do the 100 billion highly interconnected neurons in our brain need 60 different kinds of neurotransmitters to carry out the simple chemical segment of its electro-chemical transmission process? Neurons are beautifully organized to carry out their functions. (For relevant illustrations, see Neuron and Synaptic Region in the BrainConnection Image Gallery.) The human arm provides…

A Nobel Smell

Richard Axel and Linda Buck received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine/Physiology for their important discoveries about the underlying neurobiology of our sense of smell, the olfactory sensory system that recognizes and interprets the various properties of airborne chemicals that enter our nose. Their discovery is especially noteworthy because it’s the only sensory system that…

Consciousness Research, Educational Practice

John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and B. F. Skinner helped shape 20th century educational policy and practice by connecting teaching and learning to emerging cultural and scientific developments. Recent dramatic advances in the cognitive neurosciences and computer technology suggest that a similar set of creative educational theorists will soon emerge to help schools connect teaching and…

The Community Roots of the Arts

Last month’s column focused on the deep biological roots of the arts. Early parent/child interactions activate innate brain processes that enhance our definitive social and motor capabilities, our search for meaning in what we do, and our consequent technological and aesthetic elaborations of objects and events we consider important. The arts are an important by-product…

The Deep Roots of the Arts

Today began with the solemn televised pageantry of Ronald Reagan’s funeral, and then many radio stations across the country segued into extended play of the marvelous music of Ray Charles, who died yesterday. Two completely different rituals thus beautifully celebrated the two lives at death. We humans mark culturally important transitions through shared rituals replete…