The Frontal Cortex Blog Review

The featured blog is ‘The Frontal Cortex‘ by Jonah Lehrer who is a science writer at Seed Magazine. Lehrer pitches his articles at an audience with a background in the biological sciences. Lehrer started his blog after beginning work as a writer for the magazine and having written a book ‘Proust was a Neuroscientist’ (which was later named as one of the 25 best non-fiction books of the year in the LA Times). Lehrer develops his concept of a fourth culture in the blog.

Lehrer’s interest in the intersection between the humanities and neuroscience is evident with an article about E.Wilson’s discussion about science and the humanities in consilience, a report on a study showing an association between empathy measures and novel reading, the fascinating story of Goethe on colour, Borges on forgetting to remember, the importance of the humanities and scientific virtue. Similarly Lehrer also writes about a number of philosophers including a brief discussion of David Hume,  Richard Rorty and philsophy, philosophy and experiments and a discussion of Popper.

Lehrer also writes about neuroimaging studies. Here he discusses some of the difficulties around interpreting neuroimaging and the comments promote a further interesting discussion. There is also his response to a blog response to his article here. Lehrer covers neuroimaging in other articles, MRI images biasing the brain and some links to a debate about difficulties with fMRI. Lehrer also looks at the recent paper by Vul and colleagues here and here.

There are a number of articles about doing and publishing science including a journal that publishes negative results, an article on science journalism in which Lehrer argues that journals have control over the relationship authors have with the media, his experience of writing an article in Nature magazine, bias in publications and the availability of online journals and their impact on science.

Other related themes that Lehrer covers is that of productivity as well as the role of the free will and decision making (of which he is also a published author). A brief report on a study showing that peer relationships increase achievements and here is a similar article commenting on a study in which worker productivity was increased by the presence of hard working peers. An article about practice – estimate of 10,000 hours of practice needed for expertise together with an interesting clip of Ira Glass talking about this subject. There is also a discussion of a science of medical performance and another article on medical performance here. Lehrer also discusses an argument that modern neuroscience is eroding the concept of the free will and there is a follow-up article here. Here he writes about research showing that people are happier with their choices if there are less choices available and this can be achieved through creation of arbitrary categories.

Lehrer writes about a variety of other interesting areas including the first artificial gut, an article about popularising science, praise, criticism and the statistical average, YouTube science, comments on a study about temperature and decision making (which I’ve discussed elsewhere), the evolution of lactose intolerance, a William James biography, aging professors, a report on an intriguing study on the hippocampus and structuring memories, embracing skeletons, a brief discussion of spindle cells, another article on mirror neurons, Exercise and IGF-1, diagnosis of depression, speculation on the relationship between autobiographical memory and the fundamental attribution error, the formation of relational memories during sleep, Simon Baron-Cohen on the biology of imagination, a study on family relationships and depression, sources of inequality, dopamine and gambling, the evolution of affluence, a look at Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a discussion of Gary Lynch and LTP and a related article on peer review, FoxP2 in birds, Clifford Geertz quotes, an article discussing birth order and a piece on creating a model of connections in the brain – the connectome and the evolution of artificial languages. In this article he discusses Freud’s legacy and compares it with that of Samuel Coleridge Taylor although Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ (discussed here) was integral to the development of his psychoanalytic theory and challenged the view that dreams served as a mere recapitulation of the day’s events. Here Lehler argues that evolutionary psychology should incorporate the effects of culture. Here he looks at some research on soldiers returning from conflict who show reduced hippocampal volumes.

This is an interesting blog covering neuroscience including the intersection with the humanities.


If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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