Neuroethics Society Meeting: Science Communication

Tali Sharot, Alan Leshner, Joseph Fins, and Ed Yong

Gone are the days when science communication mainly consisted of publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Instead, there’s a “hunger” among scientists, and particularly young scientists, to communicate their work to public, said Alan Leshner, CEO emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI).

But just because the enthusiasm is there doesn’t mean that communicating science to a lay audience is an easy feat for scientists. “It’s not an innate skill, it’s an acquired skill,” Leshner said during a panel discussion at the International Neuroethics Society annual meeting yesterday in Washington, DC.   Continue reading

Neuroscience and Society: To Tell the Truth!

Elizabeth Loftus, Charles Dike, and Victoria Talwar

In the animal kingdom, humans have the unique distinction of being the species that tell lies, which researcher Victoria Talwar describes as “verbal statements made with the intention to deceive.” An emphasis is placed on the word “intention” because this is what distinguishes lies from other false statements, such as mistakes or sarcasm. During a Neuroscience & Society program held this week in conjunction with the International Neuroethics Society’s annual meeting, Talwar described her work on the development of understanding behind truth and lying in children. Fellow panelists Elizabeth Loftus focused on the malleability of human memory and how this affects honesty, while Charles Dike described the layers of many questions behind pathological liars and the distinctions this type of lying has from others.

One point all three speakers shared is that lying is a normal part of life; it follows stages of cognitive development and persists into adulthood. Adults tell an average of one lie a day, said Talwar and Dike.

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Neuroscientists Heading to Washington, DC, This Week

sfn2017We’re heading off to attend the Society for Neuroscience’s Annual Meeting, which officially starts next Saturday in Washington, DC. Some 30,000 neuroscientists and others will converge in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center – a city’s worth of brain-lovers! Just before that, we’ll be taking in the annual meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS), held at the AAAS Building, just down the street. Stay tuned for posts and photos from both. Here’s some of what we’re looking forward to; many of the non-science sessions this year are on aspects of science communication and outreach.

NOTE: If you’re nearby, some of these events are free and open to the public—come by and say hi!

Thursday, Nov. 9

5:30 pm to 8 pm (Eastern time) “To Tell the Truth!,” a public forum where an international group of experts will discuss how we learn to lie, why some people lie a lot, and the limits on our abilities to detect lies—even when we are lying to ourselves. Come on by if you’re in the DC area: This event, part of the INS meeting at AAAS, is free, but please register.

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Free Public Event: To Tell the Truth!

Truth and Lying.jpg

Image: Shutterstock

Truth and lying are complicated neurological behaviors. Although the role of the visual cortex and other areas of the brain are being identified, and their functions clarified, it is not likely that there is a “truth” center in the brain or a “lying” center. Scientists try to identify neurological correlates of truth-telling and lying in the laboratory, but it is not known if any findings of this type are operative in real life. This program will examine three important real-life aspects of truth and lying.

First, are we born with the ability to understand the concept of truth and lying? Victoria Talwar will discuss the childhood development of a sense of lying and truth-telling. Second, do our “minds” know what is true and what is false? Elizabeth Loftus will describe the phenomenon of so-called repressed memories and how it is possible for someone to be convinced they are telling the truth when they are not. Finally, what do we know about people who are consistent liars? Charles Dike will explore the nature of pathological lying and why some people lie seemingly without purpose.

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Neuroscience and Society: The Meditating Brain

Many people who meditate, practice yoga, or pray report a sense of calm and well-being that extends beyond the time spent in each practice. Using modern neuroscience techniques, researchers have sought to quantify effects of these practices. What do we know so far?

“You can think of meditation as a form of attention training,” said Sara Lazar of Harvard during a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) last week. The practice involves sustained attention, awareness of your thoughts and sensations, and holding in mind the intention to stay focused. Showing mainly results from studies investigating mindfulness meditation, she described changes in brain structure seen in new meditators after just eight weeks, including increased volume of gray matter and the left hippocampus, and decrease in size of the amygdala.

Social Media - Lazar

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