Table of Contents The Brain Spring 2012


In modern culture, a human that is half machine seems to be either a marvel or a monster. But the cyborg future is already here, and it's both amazing and more workaday than we'd imagined.

The next stage of brain-computer interactions won't involve humanoids that speak in a monotone or folks who run so fast their legs become invisible. Instead, it will look more like the equally incredible, present-day projects we describe in this special issue of Discover: helmets that let soldiers communicate telepathically, devices that enable a paralyzed person to operate a computer with their thoughts, and artificial intelligence designed to emulate the way our brain thinks. 

The era of mind+machine is here. 

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The U.S. Army wants to train soldiers to communicate just by thinking. 


IBM's supercomputer may have defeated the Jeopardy! champs, but with talents such as bluffing, lying, and intuition, humans trounce computers in many other matchups. 


The human sense of smell is surprisingly accurate, but odors are enigmatic and hard to describe. A new odor yardstick could resolve the paradox of smell.


The fit young man in the ER had seizures, then stopped breathing. What's wrong with his brain is a complete mystery — until his friends admit what really happened last night. 


Our left hemisphere tweaks the facts, spins the story, and allows us to feel like we're in charge, experiments with split-brain patients reveal.


Nobody has yet built a crime-fighting robot suit, but brain-machine interfaces may soon give reality to some related fantasies. 


Don't I know you? Humans have an extraordinary talent for recognizing and remembering subtle details that distinguish one mug from another. The trick may be in the way our brains encode "face space."


Little-known fact: The naturalist also launched the science of emotions. 


A biomaterials engineer is working on a way to fix the cells in our brain that don't heal on their own. 



By listening to the chatter of cells, neuroscientist Rodolfo Llinás has discovered that our brains do not simply react to the world. They actively create it. 


The next wave of intelligent devices will think as our brains do — and leave computers in the dust, says device pioneer.


The author and neuroscientist engage in a dialogue about how we know, what we feel, and how we understand ourselves.