brain function

In 1991, the police were called to East 72nd St. in Manhattan, where a woman's body had fallen from a twelfth-story window. The woman’s husband, Herbert Weinstein, soon confessed to having hit and strangled his wife after an argument, then dropping her body out of their apartment window to make it look like a suicide. The 65-year-old Weinstein, a quiet, unassuming retired advertising executive, had no criminal record, no history of violent behavior—not even a short temper. How, then, to explain this horrific act?
 
Journalist Kevin Davis uses the perplexing story of the Weinstein murder to present a riveting, deeply researched exploration of the intersection of neuroscience and criminal justice. Shortly after Weinstein was arrested, an MRI revealed a cyst the size of an orange on his brain’s frontal lobe, the part of the brain that governs judgment and impulse control. Weinstein’s lawyer seized on that discovery, arguing that the cyst had impaired Weinstein’s judgment and that he should not be held criminally responsible for the murder. It was the first case in the United States in which a judge allowed a scan showing a defendant’s brain activity to be admitted as evidence to support a claim of innocence.

Kevin Davis' new book is The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms.

Nearly everyone swears—whether it’s over a few too many drinks, in reaction to a stubbed toe, or in flagrante delicto. And yet, we sit idly by as words are banned from television and censored in books. We insist that people excise profanity from their vocabularies and we punish children for yelling the very same dirty words that we’ll mutter in relief seconds after they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to selectively deny.

That’s a damn shame. Swearing is useful. It can be funny, cathartic, or emotionally arousing. As linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows in his book What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, it also opens a new window onto how our brains process language and why languages vary around the world and over time.

  Many know Kimberly Williams-Paisley as the bride in the popular Steve Martin remakes of the Father of the Bride movies, the calculating Peggy Kenter on Nashville, or the wife of country music artist, Brad Paisley. But behind the scenes, Kim was dealing with a tragic secret: her mother, Linda, was suffering from a rare form of dementia that slowly crippled her ability to talk, write and eventually recognize people in her own family.
  
Where the Light Gets In tells the full story of Linda’s illness—called primary progressive aphasia—from her early-onset diagnosis at the age of 62 through the present day.

  Of the ten million bits of information our brains process each second, only fifty bits are devoted to conscious thought. Because our brains are wired to be inattentive, we often choose without thinking, acting against our own interests—what we truly want.

 As the former Chief Scientist of Express Scripts, a Fortune 25 healthcare company dedicated to making the use of prescription medications safer and more affordable, Bob Nease is an expert on applying behavioral sciences to health care. Now, he applies his knowledge to the wider world, providing important practical solutions marketers, human resources professionals, teachers, and even parents can use to improve the behavior of others around them, and get the positive results they want.

His new book is The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions into Positive Results.

   Simon Winchester has never shied away from big, even enormous, topics—as evidenced by his bestselling biography of the Atlantic Ocean, his account of the Krakatoa volcanic eruption, and his wildly popular The Professor and the Madman, about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

In his new memoir, The Man with the Electrified Brain, he takes on arguably his most daunting subject yet: his own flirtation with madness, and one of nature’s greatest and most enduring mysteries, the human brain.

    What are the differences between a winning and losing performance? Why are we able to rise to the challenge one day, but wilt from it the next? Can we in fact become better competitors? In Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman use cutting edge science to tease out the hidden factors at the core of every great triumph - and every tragic failure.

Po Bronson joins us.

    Alexandra Horowitz joins us this morning to talk about her new book, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, which shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary—to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “the observation of trifles.”

On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, the well-known artist Maira Kalman, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer.

No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home?

We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in her book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, she shows us how. 

WAMC's Alan Chartock speaks with Julia Soto Lebentritt, an eldercare case manager, bereavement facilitator and therapeutic activities director. Lebentritt, the owner of Spontaneous Care Communications, is the author of a new book called As Long As You Sing, I’ll Dance. She is director of The Lullaby Project.

A recently released study says that daydreaming may actually be beneficial to high-level brain activity. WAMC’s Melissa Bunning reports.…

Contrary to popular belief, our brains are functioning at higher levels when our minds wander.  Dr. Jonathan Schooler of the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains……

Schooler, and Kalina Christoff of the University of British Columbia, took functional magnetic resonance images, or fMRI scans, of subjects as they were instructed to press a button when numbers appeared on a screen.