How Alonzo Clemons Overcame A Brain Injury To Become A World-Class Sculptor
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You've probably dabbled with Play-Doh as a kid. Most people's sculpting experience ends around there, but that wasn't the case for Alonzo Clemons. Severely disabled as a young child, Clemons could barely speak, nor could he feed himself or tie his own shoes. But his disability brought on one important gift—acquired savant syndrome, a condition where high-level, often prodigious skills appear after a brain injury. This gave Clemons an uncanny ability to create hyper-accurate sculptures of animals that started from a young age and only sharpened as he grew up. Today, he can simply glance at a horse on TV and, in just 20 minutes, sculpt a clay figure of that horse that is anatomically correct down to every muscle. Despite his still very limited vocabulary, Clemons has shown his work throughout the world. Hear Clemons speak about his work in the video below.
Recalling A Word On The Tip Of Your Tongue Helps Ensure You'll Forget It Next Time
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Have you ever noticed that there are some words you can never remember? According to research out of McMaster University, it's not the words, but the struggle to remember that's to blame. Scientists gave 30 students definitions of words and asked the students to say whether they knew the word, didn't know the word, or it was on the tip of their tongue (what psychologists call a TOT, or tip-of-the-tongue state). If they were in a TOT, researchers randomly assigned them to spend either 10 or 30 seconds trying to remember the word before finally seeing what it was. Two days later, the students were tested on the same words again. Surprisingly, instead of more easily recalling the words they had been shown after their TOT state, those words tended to be on the tips of the students tongues just like they were before. This was even more likely for the students who had spent more time trying to recall them.
Key Facts to Know
Presque vu, which means "almost seen", describes the instance in which you almost know a word but can't remember it completely. 0:25
A tip-of-the-tongue state is when the meaning clusters light up, but the sound clusters don't activate completely. 2:29
Having someone tell you the word you're struggling with does more harm than good. 2:57
The Stroop Effect Is A Window Into Perception
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How easy is it to name the color of a word? As it turns out, not that easy—at least when it clashes with what the word says. This difficulty is known as the Stroop Effect, named for J. Ridley Stroop, whose 1935 study was the first to demonstrate this phenomenon. When you see the word "black" written in black ink, naming the color of the ink is easy. Same with seeing the word "pillow" in black ink. But when "black" is written in green, it may take you at least a moment to figure out the right answer. This is a demonstration of how our brain is so comfortable with some tasks that they happen automatically; in this case, we read and interpret words without paying attention to the physical characteristics of the letters themselves. This effect is so reliable that it's used in many psychology studies to test attention. Try it yourself in the videos below.
Consciousness Is Known As The Hard Problem Of Neuroscience
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The brain is still a mystery, but neuroscientists are shedding light on it at a rapid pace. Scientists have made an impressive number of discoveries about how the brain gives rise to our actions, sensations, and emotions. But there's one question so difficult that philosopher David Chalmers has dubbed it the "Hard Problem of Consciousness" (or the "hard problem," for short): why do any of our mental processes feel like anything? Why do we have an inner life? Why aren't we just meat robots that interact with the world without actually experiencing it?
The Allen Brain Atlas Is A Super-Detailed Map Of The Brain
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For a species that knows so much about what goes on in the universe, we know surprisingly little about what happens inside our own heads. In September 2016, Ed Lein and other researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science took humanity one more step in that direction by creating the most detailed map of the human brain to date.