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What is Life?

 

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On Genes and Determinism: A Reaction of Sorts to Bio 103

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Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome: Self-injurious behavior and what it can tell us about identity

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Language and Mind: Assessing Chomsky through a Neurobiological Lens

In his seminal work Language and Mind world-renowned linguist Noam Chomsky discusses the development of language. In a series of telling essays and lectures he presents the linguistic contributions to past, present, and future studies of the mind and details the distinctive nature of language. Combining concepts from biology and psychology he attempts to trace the origin of language, all the while analyzing what these origins imply about the nature of the brain. One Chomskyan theory of particular interest deals with language acquisition and is labeled "Universal Grammar" (Chomsky 99)1. In the following paragraphs I will present and discuss this theory and attempt to situate it with the neurobiological conclusions reached by our class this semester.
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Finding IT: Creativity and the Flow State

"All of a sudden somewhere in the middle of the chorus he gets IT- everybody looks up and knows; they listen; he picks it up and carries. Time stops. He's filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows its not the tune that counts but IT." -from On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1)
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Neuroesthetics: An Exploration of Aesthetic Appraisal in the Human Brain

As human beings, by simple virtue of existing in the world, we are in a constant state of aesthetic appraisal. We engage reality in a dialogue through the use of our senses, perceiving external stimuli and assigning values to each input (whether consciously or not) through a reward mechanism. Of particular interest is the way in which this mechanism is employed in the appreciation of visual art. Through the use of neuroimaging technology scientists are beginning to understand how the brain encounters and creates art. This study, known as neuroesthetics, sheds light on why art has been so prevalent and valued over the course of human history and raises questions concerning the nature and future of art.

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Culture of Productivity: Cognitive Enhancement

The culture of academia is a demanding and often times unforgiving one. It reflects the general cultural fixation on productivity, efficiency, and competition. Members of academia, particularly students at top-level universities, feel immense pressure to keep on top of their studies. This proves to be no easy task when assignments pile up and time runs thin. As a solution, students are increasingly turning to "study drugs" like Adderall and Ritalin. These prescription pills were developed to counter the effects of ADHD, but are being used for cognitive enhancement among unaffected individuals. This has sparked nationwide debate. The following lines attempt to understand the medications and explore the ethical nature of cognitive enhancement.

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