Use of the death penalty does not affect subsequent murder rates, says a study of over 50 years of crime statistics in Trinidad and Tobago.


The Self-Referential Loop We Call Consciousness

Self as Symbol — The loopy nature of consciousness trips up scientists studying themselves
This essay is part of Demystifying the Mind, a special report on the new science of consciousness. The next installments will appear in the February 25 and March 10 issues of Science News.

…deciphering consciousness …

So far, no one has succeeded to anyone else’s satisfaction. Yes, there have been advances: Understanding how the brain processes information. Locating, within various parts of the brain, the neural activity that accompanies certain conscious perceptions. Appreciating the fine distinctions between awareness, attention and subjective impressions. But yet with all this progress, the consciousness problem remains popular on lists of problems that might never be solved.

Perhaps that’s because the consciousness problem is inherently similar to another famous problem that actually has been proved unsolvable: finding a self-consistent set of axioms for deducing all of mathematics. As the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel proved eight decades ago, no such axiomatic system is possible; any system as complicated as arithmetic contains true statements that cannot be proved within the system. Continue reading

Practical Advice for Creative Artists from Grammy Songwriter


This is free advice from Dan Wilson, songwriter who just had Grammy hits with Adele.  This is excerpted from his blog and covers visual and audio arts –

Get in the Pool

  • Get in the pool.
  • Join the conversation.
  • Go straight to the audience.
  • Start a camp, a crew, a scene, a community. If you can’t start one, then join a camp, a crew, a community.
  • Hit the road if that’s what you need to do to find your community.
  • Better yet, hit the road with your community! See the fifty states and show them your music.
  • Keep no secrets.
  • Don’t save your art, spend it.
  • Get your ideas out into the world, into your camp, your crew, your scene.
  • Learn how to say, “How can I help?” and mean it.
  • Collaborate!  Continue reading

Brain Basis for Adele’s Pop Hit


Anatomy Of A Tear-Jerker:  Why Does Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ Make Everyone Cry? Science Has Found The Formula  via WSJ – By MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF

Bottomline – Music is most likely to tingle the spine, in short, when it includes surprises in volume, timbre and harmonic pattern.

Adele slightly modulates her pitch at the end of some long notes, adding to the tension.  … certain features of music are consistently associated with producing strong emotions in listeners. Combined with heartfelt lyrics and a powerhouse voice, these structures can send reward signals to our brains that rival any other pleasure. Continue reading

“Alcohol intoxication raises men’s performance on a test of verbal ingenuity.”


and much needed!  lol

Vodka delivers shot of creativity
A boozy glow may trigger problem-solving insights
Friday, February 10th, 2012

Getting a buzz from booze may boost creativity. Men who drank themselves tipsy solved more problems demanding verbal resourcefulness in less time than sober guys did, a new study finds.

Sudden, intuitive insights into tricky word-association problems occurred more frequently when men were intoxicated but not legally drunk…Sober men took a more deliberative approach to this task. Continue reading

Metaphors Make Brains Touchy Feely


Metaphors Make Brains Touchy Feely

Conceptual metaphor theory suggests that knowledge is structured around metaphorical mappings derived from physical experience. Segregated processing of object properties in sensory cortex allows testing of the hypothesis that metaphor processing recruits activity in domain-specific sensory cortex. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we show that texture-selective somatosensory cortex in the parietal operculum is activated when processing sentences containing textural metaphors, compared to literal sentences matched for meaning. This finding supports the idea that comprehension of metaphors is perceptually grounded.

Mapping Metaphor.  Touching different textures activates certain areas of the brain, shown in yellow and red. But a new study finds that textural metaphors trigger a reaction, too (shown in green and, where overlapping, brown), in the parietal operculum. 

The right turn of phrase can activate the brain’s sensory centers, a new study suggests.  Researchers have found that textural metaphors—phrases such as “soft-hearted”—turn on a part of the brain that’s important to the sense of touch. Continue reading

“Abnormal Brain Structure Implicated in Stimulant Drug Addiction” Sibling Study


Abnormal Brain Structure Implicated in Stimulant Drug Addiction (excerpted from Science mag.)

Abstract — Addiction to drugs is a major contemporary public health issue, characterized by maladaptive behavior to obtain and consume an increasing amount of drugs at the expense of the individual’s health and social and personal life.

We discovered abnormalities in fronto-striatal brain systems implicated in self-control in both stimulant-dependent individuals and their biological siblings who have no history of chronic drug abuse; these findings support the idea of an underlying neurocognitive endophenotype for stimulant drug addiction. Continue reading