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Make war on complacency not on people – Paris, January 2015

I have been a visitor in the incomparable city of Paris in the great country of France for almost three weeks now. Less than two weeks ago, Paris and France suffered a great injury, an egregious insult. Nearly twenty people were killed. Their lives ended brutally, undeservedly, and un-naturally. I am a foreigner here and likely not attune to the subtleties of Parisian emotional […]

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We help because it feels good

A friend sent me a link to this video in which one tortoise rights another tortoise that is on its back. Watching this video, I sensed that the helping tortoise really wanted to help the upside down tortoise. I was rooting for the helping tortoise to succeed and wholly relieved when s/he successfully rolled the other tortoise onto its feet. I say “s/he” […]

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Head Games is a film to watch

Head Games is a powerful film that lays out the history of head trauma, concussions and the NFL within the context of other organized and professional sports. Watching the film, I was struck by the rapid progress in awareness and knowledge that has been made since 2006. Prior to 2006, dementia pugilistica was the term used to refer to what […]

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Exploring the bystander effect

I just finished reading an astounding book, The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help? by Bibb Latané and John M Darley (Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1970). Latané and Darley set out to understand what makes the modern bystander so apparently apathetic and callous, watching but not helping as others are hurt, maimed and even die. They ask whether urbanization has created such […]

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Depressed? Try sky-diving!!

I just started my annual teaching of Medical Neurobiology to University of Chicago Pritzker medical students. In the first day-overview, I wanted to drive home the point that body and brain work together to produce emotion and affect. Pointing to the picture above, I said, “Clearly, my nephew cannot be depressed in this moment; nor is he likely to solve […]

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Journeying into the sheep brain

In this installment of laboratory videos, the goal is to compare the sheep and human brains. What we’ll see is the extreme similarity in the basic plan of the sheep and human brains. This is part of our mammalian inheritance, the common evolutionarily derived template that mammals share. In this first video, we look at sheep and human brains side by side and identify the major brain regions in each. Now let’s go inside the sheep brain. The first important point is to see that, as in the human, the telencephalon arches over the diencephalon and brainstem in the sheep. And while the human telencephalic cap covers even more of the rest of the brain than does the sheep cap, the sheep telencephalon is no small potatoes. In fact, the telencephalon is impressive even in smooth-brained (= lissencephalic or lacking sulci and gyri) mammals such as the rat that have relatively small cerebral cortices. By looking at sheep brains, I discovered something surprising; namely that the sheep superior colliculus appears larger than the human superior colliculus. I mentioned this in NeuroMOOC class and several students began to discuss this issue. These clever NeuroMOOCers came up with two intriguing ideas regarding how a large colliculus might render a behavioral or ecological advantage to sheep. First, the sheep with its laterally placed eyes has a wider visual field than does the human with its forward-facing eyes. The sheep can see close to […]

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