What is real? One of the many weird things that led me to become a neuroscientist was the concept of reality. As a child I was fascinated with the world “going away” as I slept, and how my perception of time changed with different activities. Reality is generated by internal patterns of neural activity - we can recognize in these patterns the existence of codes. These codes let us both understand the role of certain brain areas by the codes they use, and intervene with patterns we may generate.
“Space and time are the framework within which the mind is constrained to construct its experience of reality.” 
― Immanuel Kant
Full resolution comic at Scientific American Mind.

What is real? One of the many weird things that led me to become a neuroscientist was the concept of reality. As a child I was fascinated with the world “going away” as I slept, and how my perception of time changed with different activities. Reality is generated by internal patterns of neural activity - we can recognize in these patterns the existence of codes. These codes let us both understand the role of certain brain areas by the codes they use, and intervene with patterns we may generate.

“Space and time are the framework within which the mind is constrained to construct its experience of reality.” 

― Immanuel Kant

Full resolution comic at Scientific American Mind.

Brain Evolution

Where Do Brains Come From?

Somewhere between single-celled organisms and human beings, brains evolved. Just why and how is still shrouded in mystery.

The human brain is said to be among the most complex organizations of matter in the known universe. This complexity didn’t just spring from nothing. Like Legos, the molecular parts of brains were mostly there, with a genetic reach that extends back in time to species that existed when the tree of life was just a wee sapling. In some cases, those Legos bore only faint resemblance to their modern forms – while others were so fundamental that their modern counterparts seem very familiar. MORE…

The frustrating thing about finding the origin story of the brain is that the earliest fossils don’t possess enough structure to directly observe something like a protein – the best we can do is to examine the descendants of creatures that first crawled the earth to see whether we can discern a dim echo of our modern brain components.
It’s not correct to assert that we evolved in a direct line from bacteria. What we do know is that bacteria, jellies, and sponges gave rise to many of the components used in modern human brains - some of those Legos made it into us. The debate will rage on whether some of these are on a direct path, or whether there were other experiments along the way that failed.  
See the full size comic here.

The frustrating thing about finding the origin story of the brain is that the earliest fossils don’t possess enough structure to directly observe something like a protein – the best we can do is to examine the descendants of creatures that first crawled the earth to see whether we can discern a dim echo of our modern brain components.

It’s not correct to assert that we evolved in a direct line from bacteria. What we do know is that bacteria, jellies, and sponges gave rise to many of the components used in modern human brains - some of those Legos made it into us. The debate will rage on whether some of these are on a direct path, or whether there were other experiments along the way that failed.  

See the full size comic here.

The function of sleep has been a puzzles as far back as written records exist. Why do we lay relatively motionless for hours at a time? Are there benefits to the function of the brain? Increasingly, the answer appears to be yes. Memory consolidation and a cleansing of sorts through a newly characterized “glymphatic” system are relatively recent functions attributed to this mysterious behavior.

The function of sleep has been a puzzles as far back as written records exist. Why do we lay relatively motionless for hours at a time? Are there benefits to the function of the brain? Increasingly, the answer appears to be yes. Memory consolidation and a cleansing of sorts through a newly characterized “glymphatic” system are relatively recent functions attributed to this mysterious behavior.

Rise of the Robot Overlords.
At some point, we don’t know exactly when, machines may exhibit intelligence of a type that we may find indistinguishable from our own. Will we know it when this happens? If they do  gain this intelligence, will this new artificial intelligence be benevolent or selfish? And, can we please put some fail safes in that would ensure that cyborgs with Austrian accents don’t visit us from the future?

Rise of the Robot Overlords.

At some point, we don’t know exactly when, machines may exhibit intelligence of a type that we may find indistinguishable from our own. Will we know it when this happens? If they do  gain this intelligence, will this new artificial intelligence be benevolent or selfish? And, can we please put some fail safes in that would ensure that cyborgs with Austrian accents don’t visit us from the future?

This is how vision works.
Okay, It’s not everything - but it’s about as much as you can convey in 2 pages.
The amazing thing about vision is that our perception of the real world is built from the transfer of energy from photons to opsins in the rods and cones in the back of our eyes. From there, our brain deals in the currency of spikes, which are distributed over a sea of connected networks that recompose the various aspects of the visual scene. This comic was one of our first, published in Ambidextrous.

This is how vision works.

Okay, It’s not everything - but it’s about as much as you can convey in 2 pages.

The amazing thing about vision is that our perception of the real world is built from the transfer of energy from photons to opsins in the rods and cones in the back of our eyes. From there, our brain deals in the currency of spikes, which are distributed over a sea of connected networks that recompose the various aspects of the visual scene. This comic was one of our first, published in Ambidextrous.