A post at Scientific American asks: “How Does a Mathematician’s Brain Differ from That of a Mere Mortal?”
“The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of 15 professional mathematicians and 15 nonmathematicians of the same academic standing. While in the scanner the subjects listened to a series of 72 high-level mathematical statements, divided evenly among algebra, analysis, geometry and topology, as well as 18 high-level nonmathematical (mostly historical) statements. They had four seconds to reflect on each proposition and determine whether it was true, false or meaningless.
The researchers found that in the mathematicians only, listening to math-related statements activated a network involving bilateral intraparietal, dorsal prefrontal, and inferior temporal regions of the brain.”
From the New Scientist:
“The team gave 20 volunteers infusions on two days, once containing 75 micrograms of LSD, the other a placebo. Then volunteers lay in a scanner and had their brains imaged with three different techniques, which together built up a comprehensive picture of neural activity, both with the drug and without.”
This work is yielding important findings:
“LSD also made the brain more unified in its activity, and there was more communication between regions that normally work separately. “The brain is functioning in a simpler way,” says Carhart-Harris.
The results also go some way to explaining how LSD causes dreamlike visual hallucinations. Although the primary visual cortex usually communicates mainly with other parts of the vision system, many other brain areas contributed to the processing of images in volunteers who received LSD.”
The last posts of physiologist Seth Roberts have been put up at his blog. One links to a post titled “Dear Academia, I loved you but I am leaving you.” The author includes this description of how science is sometimes performed:
“It’s just how it goes in those fields…remove all of the negative results, don’t actually report the ridiculous number of fishing expeditions you went on (especially in fMRI research), make it sound like you mostly knew what you were going to find in the first place, make it a nice clean story. When my colleagues (from a well-known, well-respected emotion research lab) were trying to talk me into removing all of the negative results and altering what my original hypothesis was, literally saying “everyone does it…” that was it for me. I had a sinking feeling that everyone did do it that way and that I couldn’t trust the majority of work I had to depend on/reference myself.”
To understand the importance of this crisis in research, see this article in Slate:
“The “replication crisis” is not at all unique to social psychology, to psychological science, or even to the social sciences. As Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis famously argued almost a decade ago, “Most research findings are false for most research designs and for most fields.” Failures to replicate and other major flaws in published research have since been noted throughout science, including in cancer research, research into the genetics of complex diseases like obesity and heart disease, stem cell research, and studies of the origins of the universe. Earlier this year, the National Institutes of Health stated “The complex system for ensuring the reproducibility of biomedical research is failing and is in need of restructuring.”