Archive for the 'Blogroll' Category

Sep 17 2007

When I Nod My Head, You Hit It.

Published by under Blogroll,Neuroscience

Several people sent me this article which tells the interesting tale of a Czech speedway racer who suddenly acquired the ability to speak “perfect” English, in an English accent, after hitting his head in a speedway accident. The report, missing many key details, is also likely grossly inaccurate.

The notion that a person can gain neurological function is nothing more than a movie cliche – one I suspected most people realized is not based in reality. But still the idea of someone regaining their lost memoris have being knocked in the head is a persistent one. There is enough fishy about such stories to make all but the most gullible scratch their heads and ask, “Does that really happen?” As a neurologist, I have often been asked that question.

This latest story is just a new version of this old and greatly implausible dramatic device. We are told by the Daily Mail (a news source that does not inspire me to much confidence) that 18 year old Matej Kus was knocked unconscious after a speedway accident. While he was being evaluated by the emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) his friends were shocked to hear him speaking fluent English. Matej is studying English, but at best speaks very broken minimal English. After a few hours this new ability vanished. Matej does not remember the incident – he has forgotten that day and the following two days.

Matej is quoted in the article as saying: “There must be plenty of the English language in my subconscious so hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up quickly next time.”

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Sep 13 2007

Ten Major Flaws of Evolution – A Refutation

This was sent to me in response to my recent posts about intelligent design. I could not find a point-by-point refutation on the web (although each point has been refuted countless time) so decided to compile one.

by Randy Alcorn (with additional editing by Jim Darnall). I wrote the following article many years ago, but it needed to be thoroughly revised and updated. Thanks to Jim Darnall for adding some important new information.

  1. The complexity of living systems could never evolve by chance—they had to be designed and created. A system that is irreducibly complex has precise components working together to perform the basic function of the system. (A mousetrap is a simple example.) If any part of that system were missing, the system would cease to function. Gradual additions could not account for the origin of such a system. It would have to come together fully formed and integrated. Many living systems exhibit this (vision, blood-clotting, etc.). When you look at a watch, you assume there was a watchmaker. A watch is too complex to “happen” by chance. Yet such living systems are almost infinitely more complex than a watch. They could not be random—they simply had to be designed and created.

This statement is not an argument at all, but merely an assertion. It is simply asserting what appears to be the point of this list of supposed arguments – that evolution through natural forces is impossible. But it contains many implied claims. It refers to irreducible complexity and gives the examples of vision and blood clotting. It does not address the century and a half old refutation of this argument – that biological systems could have evolved from simpler systems that were functional but served a different purpose from their current one. Further, all the examples (stated here and elsewhere) of supposed irreducibly complex systems have been shown to have simpler antecedents.

The statement also implies that evolution is “random.” This is false. Mutations are random, and variation may be random, but natural selection is decidedly not random, and therefore evolution is not random. Evolution is the non-random survival of those traits that provide an advantage to survival and reproduction in the current environment. Evolution is a designing force.

The watch analogy is not valid because a watch is an inanimate object. Biological evolution occurs within systems that are self-reproducing and contain variation and differential survival and reproduction. Life can use energy to grow, reproduce, and therefore evolve. Watches do not.

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Sep 12 2007

Is Politics All in the Brain?

Published by under Blogroll,Neuroscience

Over the last few decades there have been a number of studies looking at the neurology of political affiliation. This week Nature Neuroscience published a very interesting study looking at this very question. What they found is that self-identified liberals have a greater capacity for what neuroscientists call conflict resolution than self-identified conservatives.

The study had subjects rate themselves from -5 (very liberal) to +5 (very conservative) and then gave them tasks that involve waiting for the letter “M” to appear on a computer screen and then hitting a key. However, 20% of the time the letter “W” appeared instead. This is a “Go – No Go” task – it requires the subject to wait for the proper stimulus, but also be able to inhibit the response if the wrong stimulus appears. What they found is that liberals were better at not responding to the W’s than conservatives, and this correlated to activity in the relevant brain structures.

The study itself is very narrow in terms of the data it generated, but of course it invites wild speculation. Does this mean that liberals are more adaptive to change and comfortable with the unknown, while conservatives are more rigid and inflexible? Maybe. But the more we try to extrapolate to complex ideology or behavior from such a simple task the shakier our conclusions become, and the more cautious we have to be.

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Sep 10 2007

NeuroLogica’s New Look

Published by under Blogroll,General

As many of you have undoubtedly noticed, my older blog entries tend to get overwhelmed with spam comments (spam, by the way, is one of the few pure evils in our world). Attempts at fixing this problem with our prior blog software were unsuccessful, so we moved the blog over to WordPress – a more tried and true blog application with real anti-spam functionality.

Hopefully the transition will be seamless. Our goal is to port over all the old posts, keep all the links the same, keep the real comments and delete all the spam comments.

Thanks to my webmaster (and brother) Jay for donating his time to this project.

Note: The RSS feed has changed, so click on the RSS button at the bottom of the page to update your RSS feeder.

6 responses so far