Table of Contents The Brain Spring 2011


In this issue of The Brain: consciousness. Thanks in part to some advanced imaging techniques, neuroscience now has tools to investigate some of its biggest puzzles, including the biggest of them all — the neural origins of consciousness. We hear thoughts on the subject from eight of the most prominent minds of neuroscience.

Also in this issue, the other senses — the forms of perception we have that don't fit into the classic five categories. Explore some of the most promising technology to restore sight to the blind, and meet the man who navigates the world by sound. 

Plus, is math hardwired into our brains? And a surprisingly simple path to creating your own peace of mind.

This special issue is not part of the subscription package but is available here exclusively for subscribers. 

Digital editions


Eight prominent neuroscientists, both contemporary and historical, discuss what it means to be conscious.
By speeding up the pace of thought, could we slow down the passage of time?
One theory taking flight says only vocal-learning animals can sync up with musical rhythms, and those species make up an exclusive club: humans, some birds, elephants, whales, and dolphins.
kish biking
One blind man taught himself how to “see” with his ears—a sensory skill anyone can learn.
The human brain is sloppy, error-prone, and unreliable. But that might be the perfect model for a radically more powerful kind of computer.
Seeing is a joint enterprise: The eye records, but the brain must interpret.
Two types of retinal prosthetics could restore eyesight to the blind.
retinal implant
The next generation of visual prosthetics could enable people who've lost their sight to find a door—or even recognize a friend again.
It all adds up: Evolution wired our minds for math.
Putting yourself in a trance can bring bliss—no pocket watch or creepy magician needed.
We conjure up images in our heads in order to remember, to solve problems, or to navigate. But one strange medical case suggests that there are other ways to open the mind's eye.
The slight differences between the hemispheres may soup up the brain's processing power.
A trained athlete's brain is a marvel of efficiency, using fewer neurons to move faster, calculate better—and make better decisions.
With an artist’s eye and a scientist’s mind, anatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal was the first to see—and illustrate—what neurons really do. His exquisitely detailed drawings changed our understanding of the brain and nervous system.
Faced with a threat, your brain activates a series of primitive neural networks that control when you freeze—and when you flee.
Psychologists theorize that our innate “behavioral immune system” programs us to irrationally shun strangers out of a subconscious fear of disease.


Throbbing eardrums made a young man miserable. What had disturbed the nerves in his head?