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Mathematical Truth?

I have always been intrigued by math and the brain (primarily because I am so bad at math). I was intrigued not just by the mathematics themselves, or how you do mathematics, but also why they take the form they do; this seems to me to be the foundation problem at the heart of mathematics. It turns out that I was in luck: in recent years, the cognitive neuroscience of numeracy, or ‘numerical cognition’, has emerged as an important area where the interaction between brain structure and human culture can be studied empirically. Number can be defined as the only property of sets that remains invariant under substitutions of any items in the set (1). Thus, we talk about 4 chairs, 4 people, 4 events. Why is it that even small children demonstrate some degree of mathematical understanding, yet so many adults view mathematics as a purely academic domain?

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Follow your Heart…or is it your Brain? A Book Review of the Neurobiology of Human Values

The short book Neurobiology of Human Values was edited by J.-P. Changeux, A.R. Damasio, W. Singer and Y. Christen (all of whom are senior and influential neuroscientists) and comprises 12 essays, each composed for The Symposium by several contributors. Organized by the Foundation Ispen in Paris on January 24, 2005, The Symposium was one of the first events seeking to provide an overview of the neurobiology of human values.

Man has been contemplating the basis of his own ethical and aesthetic values for centuries. Many scientists and researchers have avoided this field of investigation; in the name of seeking an objective truth, it has been assumed that the scientific approach should naturally avoid normative truths such as feelings and consciousness. Until very recently, such a mindset has kept such issues in the hands of philosophers, moralists and theologists. It has even been said that the purpose of moral philosophy is to protect us from science. Before having taken this class, I must admit that I was of relatively the same mindset. However, the rise of neuroscience and other similar disciplines has thankfully made it so that a more objective and experimental approach to the issue of human values is available to us.

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When is a color not a color?

One of the main issues about the concept of color is whether color is a physical property of something in the world around us or whether it is a mental property which is not present in the external world. (1) I had always tended to take for granted that what I saw in front of my eyes was reality. Similarly, I assumed that color was an external property of the world; the red car that we are driving is universally red, the green tree is always green regardless of whether or not we are there to perceive it. However, upon entering this neurobiology class, I learned quite the opposite; according to what I have now been taught, there are in fact scientific theories that suggest that color is not an exterior property, but rather a construction of the brain completely independent of wavelengths. The fact that there could be two opposite theories, both with substantial and valid evidence supporting their claims, made me question the things that I so readily believed and lead me to investigate each side’s arguments in an attempt to make my own evaluation. I therefore looked into the arguments both of scientists who believed that color was and was not a physical property of the world presented and the research that they believed supported their claim. Their claims rely on elements such as research conducted which proves the existence of conscious color perception in certain blind patients, the existence of color constancy, afterimages and simultaneous color contrasts, and research suggesting that early visual experience is indispensable for normal color perception. This paper will first describe a few of the arguments in favor of color subjectivism and then compare them with research and studies that seem to indicate that there is wavelength realism to color in order to then come up with an opinion on which one must adequately describes color.

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Rehabilitation and Regeneration- Effectiveness in Treatments of Spinal Cord Injury

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, approximately 250,000 to 400,000 individuals in the United States have spinal cord injuries. Every year, approximately 11,000 people sustain new spinal cord injuries – that’s thirty new injuries every day. The injury comes from damage to the spinal cord that results in a loss of function such as mobility and feeling, and is usually a result of a trauma or disease. (1) One of the most obvious negative effects of a spinal cord injury is the difficulty in walking, forcing many patients to use wheelchairs in order to achieve locomotion. Over the past decade considerable effort has been directed at promoting the recovery of walking and finding effective treatments. The two treatments that are currently considered to be the most effective are rehabilitation and regeneration. Both methods consider a different way the Central Nervous System has of ‘fixing’ itself; regeneration aims to restore a functioning set of connections similar or identical to those present originally, whereas rehabilitation aims for the restoration of function by compensatory mechanisms. In this essay, we will analyze the rehabilitative and regenerative methods of intense training on a treadmill and promoting regeneration of axons in the spinal cord. Which method is more effective in treating spinal cord injuries (SPI)? In order to answer this question it is important to analyze the dynamics of the CNS itself, as well as the concepts or regeneration and rehabilitation and their effectiveness in case studies.

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