Image from Dealna

Consider a modern twist on the Trolley Problem which refers to a series of thought experiments first introduced in the 1960s. You see a baby in the path of a runaway trolley rushing down a slope. You can pull a lever that would change the direction of the trolley to hit a robot instead. The catch is that the baby has been manufactured in a lab through artificially programmed DNA while the robot is a state-of-the-art sentient companion able to ‘feel’ the entire spectrum of human emotions. Whom would you save?

Contemporary advancements in natural sciences with the aid of…

Take a moment to read this description of Afghanistan in Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner:

“But I remember it was a scorching summer day and I was driving up a rutted dirt road, nothing on either side but sunbaked bushes, gnarled, spiny tree trunks, and dried grass like pale straw. I passed a dead donkey rotting on the side of the road. And then I turned a corner and, right in the middle of that barren land, I saw a cluster of mud houses, beyond them nothing but broad sky and mountains like jagged teeth.”

What images of Hosseini’s account of…

Think of a fruit. Think of a bird. Did you imagine a red apple and a robin? Many people do! These specific mental images associated with a given noun are called prototypical images in the field of cognitive linguistics.

Maybe like us, you’ve played countless games of, an online pictionary game that has grown significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. There’s always that one person in every game of skribbl that guesses the answer as soon as a vague shape is drawn and is able to use their cursor to perfectly replicate your own mental image of a…

Photo by Илья Мельниченко on Unsplash

While we’re awake, we have conscious control over what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. In the world of dreams, we have an illusion of that control — a facsimile of it. In our dreams, we are simultaneously constructing our reality and controlling our actions within it. (If this doesn’t seem meta, then I don’t know what does.) Yet, despite the seemingly godlike control we have over our dreams, how come we struggle to shape it to our whims? I’m sure most of you have had the experience of waking from a dream to realize, “that didn’t make sense…

Source: The Telegraph

Over a year ago, COVID-19 shut down the United States, along with the rest of the world. There have been over 135 million cases worldwide, with nearly three million deaths. The virus has deeply impacted our jobs, schools, relationships, health, and brains. The impact on people’s brains has been two-fold: striking them physically and emotionally.


By now we are all quite familiar with the typical symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and loss of smell/taste, among many others. …

Illustration by Benjamin Arthur for NPR

The mammalian gut is host to a wide variety of microbiota that are key to healthy metabolism. Beginning from early periods in mammalian life, these protozoa, archaea, eukaryotes, viruses, and bacteria colonize the mammalian gut, forming a symbiotic relationship that lasts through the organism’s life cycle.

With the advent of genetic tools, computational power, and sequencing technologies, researchers have been able to dive deeper into understanding individual microbial communities. Through collaborative efforts, projects such as the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) and the Human Gastrointestinal Bacteria Genome Collection (HGG) have developed reference genomes cataloging microbial communities of healthy individuals across different…

Source: Unsplash

Skulls full of electricity

We’re not always aware of it, but there is a 3-pound sack of flesh sitting in our heads, responsible for every thought and action, all of the time. Those 3 pounds are full of activity — neurons firing electrical impulses from end to end, helping everything from our conscious thoughts and unconscious reflexes manifest.

You might not think about it, but you’re awfully lucky to have those 3 pounds in there. There’s a lot we know brains can do, but still so much more that we don’t yet know about. …

Today, the total number of Americans with mental illnesses sums to around 44 million; that’s nearly one in five Americans suffering from mental health problems (1). These unfortunate statistics bring into question the topic of diagnosis. How are mental health disorders detected, categorized, and treated? This article will seek to explore these topics. Specifically the history, current applications, criticisms, and implications of the various frameworks that are currently being used to identify, study, and treat mental health conditions.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

Are aliens among us? Some marine biologists may be able to convince you that indeed there are. The precocious underwater group of marine creatures known as cephalopods sparks interest and intrigue in every marine field due to their unique and beautiful features. Cephalopods (which include the octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus) belong to the Mollusca phylum and possess a large head, bulbous eyes, and sprightly tentacles. The reason these animals seem so celestial to biologists comes from both the evolutionary history of the cephalopod and the baffling complex cognitive abilities that have resulted from their unique evolution. Who would have…

Editor’s note: This article was originally written in the final weeks of our Spring 2020 semester. At the time of publishing, UC Berkeley is operating fully online, with students scattered across the globe, glued to our laptops for classes, internships, and social lives. In the US, this summer was one of reckoning, with the pandemic, mass protests for racial justice, wildfires, and an unprecedented economic crisis, all of which have brought the nation to its knees. Reading this article again, I can’t help but think about how deeply my own outlook on the world, this field, and my own self…


We write on psychology, ethics, neuroscience, and the newest in neural engineering. @UC Berkeley

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