When an amateur hunter shoots his hunting companion in the face while quail hunting in Texas, it is a brain region known as the right temporo-parietal junction which is activated when we make judgments about his intentions. Was it an accident or was he trying to harm his buddy?
New research by neuroscientists at MIT identify the locus of moral judgement.

Moral judgments can be altered … by magnets.

“We have no more free will than a bowl of sugar”

Harold Erickson summarizes a new paper out in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that describes the biological basis of free will.

This fascinating paper is about free will. Dr Cashmore presents compelling arguments that free will does not exist, and that the behavior of every human is completely determined by their genetic make-up, environmental history, and stochasticism (which obscures the determinism). He raises the remarkable point that “relatively few biologists seriously question the concept of free will. This holds in spite of the fact that we live in an era when few biologists would question the idea that biological systems are totally based on the laws of physics and chemistry.” A belief in free will is really a continued belief in vitalism, which we thought disappeared 100 years ago.

Dr Cashmore discusses in some detail how consciousness plays a major role in giving us the illusion of free will, but he raises the anomaly (recognized by the ancient Greeks) that ‘will’ is thought to be a non-physical entity that can influence conscious thought yet ‘will’ itself lacks any causal component — a kind of magic. He summarizes arguments that the evolution of society has likely selected for the illusion of free will and ‘responsibility’. He concludes by discussing the implications for our criminal justice system. It would not actually change that much in practice, since it will still be necessary to incarcerate people to protect society and act as a deterrent. We should, however, eliminate psychiatrists from initial judicial proceedings — so gone is the insanity defense. A final summary point is “not only do we have no more free will than a fly or a bacterium, in actuality we have no more free will than a bowl of sugar.”

A new study has been released that tests visual attention and focus amidst distractors and reports that humans cannot simultaneously multitask, but rather switch attention from one thing to another. This is a type of multiplexing (rapid switching back and forth between two channels) and it is very demanding on cognitive resources.

Another related study says humans are subject to “change blindness”, like when you fail to notice that your husband got his hair cut. Essentially this article posits that humans are poor at remembering information that doesn’t grab our attention. The prefrontal cortex is what prioritizes how the information is processed, so it decides what is important and directs attention. It is possible that individuals with Autism may actually be better at detecting change blindness because their prefrontal cortex has a more difficult time discerning the most important information amidst unimportant information. In my opinion, it is not in our interest to develop means to improve our change vision, because it will come as a result of being focus blind.

Scientist find Sarcasm center in the brain. If you guessed that is was in the ventral tegmental area…Bingo! You would be wrong. It couldn’t actually be in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex could it …no! In any case, if you have autism you may be wondering what sarcasm is and still waiting for me to tell you which brain region is responsible… stay tuned…as if.

Test how fast you can switch between tasks with this cool application. This is an application that lets you see how you perform at rapid switching between tasks. Post a comment if you have any suggestions to improve it.

Test your focus with this cool application Essentially multitasking requires efficient use of frontal cortical working memory. We have shown that individual neurons in the frontal cortex have the capacity to maintain a “memory trace” for up to a minute. It may be possible to extend the neural memory trace through pharmacological, behavioral or electromagnetic methods.

Linda Watkins, University Of Colorado Psychology Professor, Wins Prince Of Asturias Award

MADRID — Two American biochemists and another from Israel were awarded one of Spain’s Prince of Asturias awards Wednesday for their research into the workings of pain.

The Prince of Asturias Foundation said Americans David Julius and Linda Watkins and Israel’s Baruch Minke were…