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best general resources for the brain

How do our brains work? How are human brains different from those of other animals? And why? These resources are devoted to big questions and comprehensive materials that explore all facets of the brains we call home.

For more search:
consciousness, neuroethics

  • Interested in the brain?

    Start here. And come back — often.

    BTTB organizes articles in two ways that make it a fantastic resource beyond its great infographics and comprehensive, well organized and well written material:

    A simple click of a button allows users to navigate easily to beginner, intermediate or advanced explanations of any topic


  • credit: erin schnel

    Turns out metaphor, the stuff of literature class and poetry seminars, is real – at least your brain thinks so. Human brains use metaphor in a literal way. In this New York Times opinion article, Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky summarizes a series of studies that reveal how metaphor shapes the way that humans perceive and understand the world around us.

    Sapolsky makes the point that the same brain circuitry that goes to work when we encounter physical features of the world (like seeing tigers or eating rotten meat) is triggered when we respond to our environment abstractly (evaluating people in job interviews or through the newspaper for example.) This dual nature of brain function gives words great power over our perception



    What makes Robert Sapolsky unique? He is a rock star of neuroscience: beloved by National Geographic, The New York Times and the MacArthur Foundation. You haven’t heard of Robert Sapolsky? Other researchers may impress you with how smart they are; Sapolsky makes you feel like a genius. That earns him the five star rating in our estimation. Here, he delivers an end of the year celebration speech at Stanford University where he teaches and does neurobiology research. This talk for general audiences compares us with the other animals. What is the difference?  You can reflect on his reflections on reflection.


  • tragic comic mosaic

    A special region in your brain lights up when you hear or read a verb. It doesn’t have to be an action verb. What does that mean? Neuroscience does not have a definitive answer but every year scientists produce thousands of new reports on what we are learning.

    This lecture, part of the 350 year celebration of the Royal Society*, is far more than a jazz on your lifelong ability to learn new things as you age. Oxford professor of neuroscience Colin Blakemore delivers a true history of our understanding of the brain and cognition. Along the way, he gives a tour of the brain: its evolution, principle regions and related cognitive functions.


  • mind lab visual perception

    Eric Chudler’s NFK provides information about all things related to neuroscience. Although site design is limited and the title suggests that the explanations will be simplistic, you will find the explanations anecdotal and written to spark curiosity. The posts may be written for young people but adults will appreciate the content and clarity of expression.

    The site enables your curiosity by allowing the user to link from idea to idea in a non-linear way that is addictive.


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Our emotions define the quality of our lives. They color our experiences and influence our relations with others and with ourselves. What makes us feel the way we do?

emotion: anger

  • science daily, what happens when we get angry

    This article reads a little oddly in places – as if it has been translated- but it is interesting because it features two important findings from a recent study at the University of Valencia

    unlike other “negative emotions”:

    1. cortisol levels fall when we get angry
    2. we tend to get closer rather than farther away from the thing that makes us angry

    A Cambridge University study has shown that low serotonin levels can affect the brain’s response to anger.  see it  here


  • This is the 2nd lecture on the limbic system from Robert Sapolsky’s Human Behavioral Biology course at Stanford. It is a full 105 minutes but if you watch the whole thing you will understand your kids better and have a greater appreciation for the importance of kindness in the rearing of humans.

    for more lectures by Sapolsky on this topic, press here.


emotion: anxiety & fear

emotion: happiness

  • calvin and hobbes

    A year after the event, lottery winners report feeling the same level of satisfaction with their lives as those who have become paraplegic in that same period. How can that be? Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert asks us to question the assumptions we have about how we feel. Along the way, he reveals the true secret of happiness. More…

    You can track your own happiness on your mobile phone by checking this link.


  • happy feet

    Don’t find out what’s wrong with you, find out how to maintain and enhance the positive aspects of your life.

    This is the new thinking in psychology. As psychology moves away from a disease model, psychologists are increasingly concerned with human strengths and how to nurture high function.

    Positive psychology is more about creating flow and meaning in your life for long term life satisfaction and less about increasing the happy happy joy joy kind of positive emotions.

    This website is useful as a resource for videos and articles about positive psychology.The center, directed by Martin Seligman, “promotes research, training, education, and the dissemination of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”

    Seligman’s Authentic Happiness site.


  • Rick Hanson, Buddah's Brain

    What is negativity bias? It’s the brain’s natural tendency to remember negative experiences over positive ones. How can you overcome “negativity bias?”

    ᔥ For years, research has shown that, over time, our experiences literally reshape our brains and can change our nervous systems, for better or worse. Now, neuroscientists and psychologists like Hanson are zeroing in on how we can take advantage of the “plasticity” of the brain to cultivate and sustain positive emotions.


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growth and decay

Our bodies change over time. What happens as the human brain develops? What is normal for our brains as we age. We have all heard that the human brain continues to evolve and change but how much can we influence our aging process?

dig deeper: memory and aging

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Your memory is integral to your sense of self. Without a sequence of memories to recall, you are not really you. Moreover, all learning is in some sense memory formation. So it’s not just that we seek to understand memory- memory theory is brain theory.

Scientists make distinctions between different kinds of memory and their respective brain activities. Learn what we know, get a sense for what is mysterious and link to fascinating speculations about what happens deep within our brains

For more search:
detailed tutorial on the different types of memory

dig deeper: memory and aging

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Our brains are encased in our skulls.

Until recently, neuroscientists all assumed that our brains worked by responding to signals from our environment; that we hear, smell, taste, feel and see the data that our senses take in. But our mental lives, it seems, are far more complicated. Our brains have a reality that can be quite apart from that of the world. Our sense perception can modulate but not direct what we think is happening out there.

  • Lou Beach
read NYT A small part of the brain and its profound effects

    Is the insular cortex the neural correlate of consciousness?

    “Rapidly accumulating evidence indicates that this area of the brain is uniquely involved in virtually every human emotion and behavior,” says Dr. Craig, of the Barrow Institute, a globally famous researcher studying the insular cortex. What is clear from the mounting evidence is that, “The mind and body are integrated in the insula.”

    What does that mean exactly?

    The insular cortex is the place in the brain that translates incoming signals into a meaningful context. The insular cortex fires when we sense our own hearts beating or when we swallow. The anterior insula registers a smell as disgusting or delightful. Our addictions, habits and emotional responses all depend on the functioning of this tiny part of the limbic system.


  • PBS Nova, Mirror Neurons

    Are mirror neurons a built in mechanism for empathy and interdependence?

    Are they the key to understanding our ability to model complex social interactions? to learn and change: TO EVOLVE?

    here is what they do know…

    When I see you pick up a banana, a part of my brain reacts as if  I had picked up that banana myself. This revelation, first observed in the lab of Giacomo Rizolatti at the University of Parma, has now taken root in the new understanding of the human brain.

    It has long been understood that brains use motor neurons to effect movement. What we now also understand is that a subset of those motor neurons fire when we see movement –  like grasping, throwing and jumping – and expressions like smiling. Not only does my brain fire when you smile, I feel happy.


  • JST MindLab

    This beautiful and well organized resource explains and explores the nature of human sensory perception. Much of the site is narrated and there are many interactive features.


  • pencils mind lab

    How is our consciousness connected to the world?

    We believe that our visual world is continuous and in sync with time. Is it? Explore these and other important assumptions through video and interactive perceptual puzzles at this highly recommended site.


  • photo credit: Don Wilson
hear VS Ramachandran's BBC Reith Lecture

    “Our ability to perceive the world around us seems so effortless that we tend to take it for granted. But just think of what’s involved. You have two tiny upside down distorted images inside your eyeballs but what you see is a vivid three-dimensional world out there in front of you and this transformation is nothing short of a miracle. How does it come about?” Thus begins VS Ramachandran’s lecture for the prestigous BBC Reith Lectures.

    VSR began his career investigating the nature of visual perception and later expanded that investigation into the ability of the brain to reorganize itself and the nature of brain function.

    Learn more about VS Ramachandran, one of the most influential people in the world (TIME in 2011) and 100 most prominent people to watch in the 21st century (Newsweek 1997)


perception: expectations

perception: sensory

perception: time

  • Amelia Hunt web page

    This blog post does a handy job of summarizing recent time perception research findings from:

    1. University of Edinburgh: how hummingbirds tell time
    2. Duke University vs. UCLA: why our brain clocks don’t work like mechanical clocks
    3. UCLA: dopamine’s effect on time perception
    4. Harvard: Amelia Hunt’s research on the flow of reality – the relationship between our visual perception and our time perception
    5. Researchers in Berlin: how our memories embed time


  • David Eagleman

    Do tall people live slightly in the past? What does your brain do to make sure that you perceive simultaneous events as simultaneous even though your senses capture information at different rates? David Eagleman, director of Baylor College of Medicine’s Lab for Perception and Action, surveys some of the challenges that brain scientists face as they use the current model of the brain to account for our perceptions.

    see also: memory

    note: The Edge is the digital manifestation of the Reality Club.  Part showcase, part club of culture heros, The Edge makes the conversation between intellectuals something followable. Maybe not such a shocking idea in 2012 but these dialogues have been going on since the internet was in its infancy.


  • It turns out that the Sicilians don’t spend a lot of time planning for the future because the Sicilian dialect has no future tense! Stanford Professor Philip Zambardo and the geniuses at RSA animate take viewers through an animated presentation on the social nature of time perception – and its consequences on your future earning power.

    note: RSA stands for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. The group, often referred to as Royal Society of Arts was founded in London in 1754. The RSA is committed to strengthening public debate and to providing free public platforms for debate, discussion and for sharing the best new thinking across a range of disciplines. Notable members include Benjamin Franklin, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, William Hogarth and Stephen Hawking.