Welcome to "Brains!", Slate's special issue on mind science and the state of neuro-culture.
Over the next few days, we'll present a series of articles about how laboratory research on the brain makes its way into our daily lives.
Wednesday, William Saletan revisits the most compelling brain-related stories of the year, from mind-reading fMRI scans to the effects of brain damage on morality. Max Linsky heads to the local brain gym for a neurobic workout—and ends up in a battle of wits with a woman 50 years his senior. Meghan O'Rourke sits down and assesses the growing trend toward neurological self-improvement, and Brendan I. Koerner explains how Jerry Falwell and a Nobel Prize-winning chemist helped make ginkgo biloba the top-selling brain-enhancing supplement. Finally, we ask a panel of eminent scientists—like Steven Pinker and Oliver Sacks—to explain how learning about the brain has changed the way they behave from day to day.
Thursday, we'll round out the issue with two explorations of "neurotheology"—the study of how the brain generates (and responds to) religious experience. George Johnson begins in the solemn contemplation of a dried fruit: "After days of talks by physicists and theologians seeking cosmological justification for their spiritual beliefs, the close encounter with the raisin brought us back to earth." And John Horgan dons a transcranial magnetic stimulator, and strains to see an angel or a ghost.
Update: We also have Michelle Tsai on what happens to your brain when you hit age 70, and Alison Gopnik on the myth of "mirror neurons"—the cells that are supposed to help us read minds.