Edit: Thank you all for your questions, this was fun. Hope we can count you in on our project with Diana Xie which has 4 days left.

I am the scientific mentor of Reddit celebrity Diana L. Xie who has had a great IAmA recently and if her project works I might have to dance ( http://kickstarter.neuro.tv ).

Here is my C.V.: http://neuronline.sfn.org/myprofile/profile/?UserKey=61078881-c8a6-42e5-aaf1-9ecaf3e2704b

My areas of expertise include cognition, neuroscience, information economics, decision-making and game theory. I am also involved in neuroscience education through my collaboration with Diana L. Xie.

Proof: http://kickstarter.neuro.tv/jfreddit.jpg

Comments: 811 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

TronCorleone288 karma

Why can't I get a girlfriend?

jfgariepy920 karma

Maybe because you display your lack of confidence too readily?

mjiggidy290 karma


midas654155 karma

It may sound rude, but actually, it was a perfectly fine and healthy statement which many should take to heart.

mjiggidy65 karma


jfgariepy169 karma

I'm a specialist in sounding rude, friends will confirm :)

alainphoto58 karma

Well if you still have friends you're probably over ranking yourself on the rudeness scale.

jfgariepy147 karma

No I was trying to look socially normal. Ask my colleagues actually.

coldshuts141 karma

Je suis toujours bien fier de voir un québécois qui s'illustre à l'étranger sans être poursuivi par Alex Baldwin.

jfgariepy66 karma


ithinkihavetinnitus107 karma

Could you tell us what you know about the relationship between diet and a healthy brain?

For example, why are DHA's and Omega-3's supposed to be good for the brain?

jfgariepy129 karma

Having talked to Kenneth Kosik, an expert on diet and brain health who will appear on Episode 7 of NEURO.tv, I would say the recommendations for a healthy brain are similar to the diet recommendations for health in general.

As for why the particular type of fatty acids would matter specifically for the brain, this is out of my field of expertise, but the brain is a very fatty organ, with neurons having highly developed membranes and oligodendrocytes furnishing even more wraps of membranes around the axons of neurons. So if you are interested in the subject definitely search for oligodendrocytes!

Katie363495 karma

What is one idea, theory or aspect of your field(s) of study that you find particularly interesting? Please explain it in layman's terms.

jfgariepy152 karma

I'd say in social neuroscience one of the most well-known concepts is the so-called theory of mind - whatever brain processes go on when I try to emulate, model, or understand what other people around me are thinking. I do not necessarily like the concept, but it's an important one. The reason I don't necessarily like it is that I'm not sure we need a specific concept for when we model people's minds. I think that at any moment we develop models of the world. For instance if I press the pedal on a trash can I know it will result in it opening. So I have a model of the trash can. I also have a model of the relation between the keyboard of my computer and what is being displayed on the screen as I type. We have models of everything. Minds, or other people around us, are just one more type of objects that we develop models of.

shitalwayshappens21 karma

Your response coincides with my conception of how an intelligence would behave in general. Do you have a mathematical metamodel that can account for this generality? I feel that the common answer of Bayesian statistics isn't enough since it doesn't seem to take care of higher order thinking or any meta-governing in regards to resource limitation. I'm looking at new ways to think about computation in general and it would seem that homotopy type theory offers some promise. Thanks!

jfgariepy28 karma

I think the models in learning theory, action sequence selection, high-level processing of sensory stimuli and decision-making could ultimately all be put together to form what you describe, but I don't think it's going to be a simple straight equation.

user_doesnt_exist11 karma

Are you referring to mirror neurons? And if so aren't they very different from the model of a bin or keyboard because you can model the feeling ( touch, taste, pain ) and emotion (happy, sad ) as well as the mechanical aspect of another person. Or a lot more complex as a person model would be built across many more sections of the brain I would think.

jfgariepy43 karma

Mirror neurons are typically interpreted in that sense but I challenge this view and I claim that the causal role of mirror neurons in such feeling or emotion understanding has not yet been supported by much - if any - scientific evidence.

37Lions3 karma

Are you saying that it's better to treat every mind differently as opposed to giving static labels to specific lines of thought in a range of individuals?

taneq39 karma

Sounds more to me like the message is "we model everything, why make minds special and say that models of minds must be done differently to models of trash cans or yoghurt or computers".

jfgariepy15 karma

That's it!

jester02369 karma

Could you write up a list of 10 or so books that you would recommend to someone wanting to learn about the brain and social interactions?

I have read Incognitio and Thinking Fast and Slow and found them fascinating.

jfgariepy129 karma

Depends on how deep you want to go. I'd go for:

Neuroeconomics by Paul Glimcher and others. Macaque societies by Thierry and others. Game theory and the unification of the behavioral sciences, by Gintis. Decisions, uncertainty and the brain by Glimcher. Primate neuroethology by Platt and others.

All books showing up at 3:54 in our http://kickstarter.neuro.tv video I would recommend actually!

starrecovery54 karma

Can evolutionary theory be used as a meta-theory to research and understand the brain?

jfgariepy73 karma

Very important question, although I'm not sure if you have a specific meaning in mind when using the word meta-theory. Say we ask whether evolutionary theory is useful in understanding the brain.

Well sure it is. What the brain does is it finds the right behaviors to deploy at the right time, in the right sensory context. Now I use "right" very loosely here - ultimately, from the perspective of evolution, what is "right" is what leads to increased propagation of the genes in the next generation.

So we can view the brain mechanisms at play as we make decisions in social context, as we perceive the environment, as we select sequences of actions, to be potentially adaptive. I personally think most of the brain features that we know about must have served some evolutionary function, although it may be that modern contexts do not allow us to find the original situations for which the functions have evolved. I say personally think because there is some degree of debate as to what constitutes evidence that a given trait is adaptive or not.

What is interesting with the brain is that it is such a plastic organ, it changes, adapts, etc... So on top of the usual question about traits that applies to any part of the body, the brain poses other questions relating to evolution. Some "traits" of the brain are highly adaptive like the ability to learn, to switch between states and to adapt dynamically to the environment. This does not put into question evolutionary theory but it raises important questions, such as when is it that a fixed behavioral trait evolves and which specific environmental conditions may favor the evolution of dynamic, adjustable behavioral traits?

CaptStegs31 karma

What is the most unexpected thing you found or discovered. Can you summarize the brain [briefly] in 1 paragraph?

jfgariepy64 karma

This must be the time I discovered that different groups of neurons in the brainstem were projecting to both locomotor areas and respiratory areas. I was trying to accomplish something rather hard - to patch record a cell in a full brainstem of individuals of an animal species called lampreys. The cells were located in the mesencephalic locomotor region (MLR), a region at the border of the mesencephalon that had for a long time been known to induce locomotion, when stimulated. No one had succeeded in patching those cells before.

What I found is that single neurons in this region project either to the respiratory centers or to the locomotor centers - that is, some of them might be involved in locomotor control, while some others seem to be only necessary for respiratory control. The reason I suspect why a single region would control both behaviors is the very well-known need for increased breathing during exercise to compensate for increased energy demands from the muscles involved in locomotion.

Summary of the brain? Always hard. Inputs arrive, are treated, are treated even more. At some point decisions are being made between inputs, those decisions can lead to different sets of actions. It's a huge mess.

ioillusion29 karma

How far do you think AI will go? Do you think we will see organic computers at some point that compete intellectually with man?

jfgariepy78 karma

I think it would be plausible to have computers that compete with man. I personally think human intelligence does not require a perfect reproduction of the brain - I'm convinced that when we will know a little more about how the brain works, there will be high-level equations that can reproduce faithfully some aspects of our decision-making without reproducing atom-by-atom all features of the brain. I still think very low-level modelling of the brain is essential, and I love the Hogkin-Huxley model and other models that include the details of membrane properties, channels, and compartments, but I think once we get a good characterization of human behavior we will be able to reproduce it faithfully with somewhat-higher-level equations.

What drives this intuition is that in my view human behavior is much simpler than the brain. We have billions of neurons, but we do not have billions of arms, if you want me to express it crudely. So there has to be things in the brain that we can ignore and that, although it might not lead to a perfect reproduction of the brain mechanisms, would lead to a close-enough reproduction of human behaviors.

jck7 karma

Are you familiar with jeff hawkins's work on intelligence? If so, what is your opinion on it?

jfgariepy3 karma

I'm not but in our AMAs a lot of people have been talking to me about him.

iamathief4 karma

Could you elaborate on what "high level equations" are?

jfgariepy12 karma

Oh yes, I should have been more precise. What I mean by "high" is how far are you from reproducing the details of what you are modelling. Hodgkin and Huxley made a huge contribution to computer modelling of the brain by modelling mathematically the processes that are important for neurons to be able to fire action potentials.

Now if you were to perfectly model all neurons in a brain in a giant computer using the Hodgkin Huxley style of model, well first that would be too long for any computer that we know of currently. To give you an idea my PC was successfully modelling about 10 neurons in real time and those were actually very simplified models. So we are far from the billions of neurons in the brain. But that's what I would call a low-level model, one that cares about the details of the physical implementation of the neural network.

High-level models on the other hand (and there is a continuum between low-level and high-level), they are more abstract and the details by which the particular neurons implement the signal processing capabilities do not matter. In the most extreme case what I would call a high-level model is, say, a model that only records what is happening in the environment and makes a decision like "when it's red, stop" and then "when it's green, go".

Those models would only reproduce the behavioral output, without including a complete description of the underlying neural networks that perform the decision.

RagerGunnerson27 karma

I'm curious as to what you can tell me about ADHD. It's a condition that I was diagnosed with 14 years ago. And I have an extremely hard time with setting long term goals and sticking to a plan of action to achieve them. Is there anything in your experience you feel would be able to help my decision making or cognitive functions?

jfgariepy38 karma

Unfortunately not, ADHD and tricks to improve the symptoms is outside of my area of expertise.

magicmalek22 karma

Why did you choose to study social interactions? what makes us humans that interesting to study our social life?

jfgariepy58 karma

I began so young it's even hard to find the reason. I've always been interested in complexity in general. The idea of brains interacting "against" or "with" each other is fascinating to me, since a brain is the most complex organ we know of. One would think social interactions, the interactions that happen between multiple brains, must have some interesting degrees of complexity too.

My first exploration of social interactions were with fishes, as a teenager. I had bought 5 aquariums and was looking at the behaviors of groups of more than 10 species, including my favorite, a species of Cichlids. I was fascinated by the group dynamics that happen as couples of Cichlids form in a group of, say, 5. The group starts building a nest, defending it, etc... Beta splendens also have very complex nuptial dances that are fascinating to observe.

So to me there's nothing particular in humans that make us more interesting, except that social interactions in humans seem to have taken such a huge and important place in our lives that it makes humans a pretty unique creature among the spectrum of social animals.

juanjing19 karma

Would you consider Diana L. Xie a scientist?

jfgariepy49 karma

I would consider her a scientist indeed; she has all the characteristics of a scientist, she has her own research project which she presented to me when she came in the laboratory. She performs the research for that project and then she maintains those educational activities on the side like her plan for NEURO.tv, so I personally don't see by which criteria she would not be a scientist. One might want to specify a scientist "in training" like she did on her post, but even there, it's still being a scientist. In fact I know some people who get called scientists who do less research than her and who would never be questioned about it.

I am also second author on one of her posters which you can see in my C.V.

toribird15 karma

What are your thoughts on the RoboRoach as a tool for neuroscience education?

jfgariepy32 karma

Wow you people are going for the tough questions this is a very interesting one. Look, everything that I know as a scientist tells me it is rather improbable that insects have a huge mental life and given the low complexity of their brain, if there is any state of mind that they have, it has to be much less complex than ours, and therefore some experiments are, say, "theoretically" acceptable on an insect that you should never consider doing on other animals.

That being said, and I'll be honest, I have no rational justification for it, I just like animals and I personally would feel bad of using such a device, simply because I respect even the simplest animals. Seeing an animal being controlled like that, in a way that is often imperfect and not very useful educationally, simply crosses my personal boundary.

alexi_lalas14 karma


jfgariepy31 karma

Could have been and I see it is for some of my friends, especially from France, and some from Quebec. However for me it went pretty smoothly. Although I wasn't much exposed to English in my elementary school, I followed good courses during high school and then afterward started some of my early readings in neuroscience in English.

I am actually surprised by how much I like living in the United States. The perspective on this country is extremely different whether you are outisde of it or inside of it.

tyler035112 karma

This may be off topic, but could you elaborate on the different perspectives of America?

I've never left America so that statement really interests me.

jfgariepy9 karma

Well when outside the US you can judge it based on its diplomatic and military decisions. When inside it, you can also meet people who disagree with governmental decisions.

Ultimately what I enjoy of the country is freedom of speech, respect for intellectuals, and an openness for innovative ideas.

Raichu4u14 karma

What convinced you to go into your field? I've thought of going into some psychology or brain related field, but only with the motivation of "I want to learn how people work/think/". Would this be a good or bad motivation?

jfgariepy19 karma

Good question. I would say it is not a good motivation if it is not paired with a ultimate goal. I myself have made scientific works that I did not necessarily care about in the ultimate sense, but that I chose to develop specific skills. So go ahead and do it, only if it serves a broader purpose and what you actually intend to do requires the skills that you will learn!

For what convinced me to go in my field, pretty much the answer I gave to magicmalek: it came so young, you could almost think I'm born with that interest.

I_Am_Coder13 karma

Salut Jean-Francois,

I recently plotted the attitude of a crowd on a KickStarter campaign that went south. The campaign was for an electroencephalograph that would detect REM sleep and play a voice recording to trigger lucidity. I could tell that the prototype wasn't legit as I had worked on something very similar for the OpenEEG project.

I reported it to KickStarter right away, but they didn't do as much as reply to my report. So I had to back the campaign on the last weekend in order to post a comment and point out the irregularities to the investors.

I then witnessed what appeared to be an event-related potential in the attitude of the backers as they realized that it was a scam. On a much slower timescale than the P300, of course, but similar to what happens in the brain when it recognizes something.

I marked each backer's comment as either positive (excitatory) or negative (inhibitor). If we pretend that each backer is a brain cell and each comment is a neurotransmitter, then we can plot an EEG of the crowd. I was expecting it to look a lot more like the P300, but think you'll still be entertained: http://lsdbase.org/2013/11/21/2013-11-21-measuring-the-brainwaves-of-a-crowd/.

jfgariepy5 karma

Your attitude is perfect and it's great to have reported this, but I don't get the metaphor you're trying to build of this around scientific techniques.

papasmurf82613 karma

Video gaming. What are your thoughts in terms of how it affects social interaction, and if you would call it an addiction? Thank you!

jfgariepy8 karma

Very interesting subject. There are many studies suggesting effects of video games, often improving some aspects of cognition, one example:


As far as social interaction goes, I think it is an important question to explore. I suspect that people who spend a lot of time on games might learn to interact socially in a different manners. For instance, are young people who spend hours on computers better at expressing emotions in text form rather than tone or facial expression? Those would be interesting things to look at.

entlemansuitor11 karma

Why do I find myself speechless in front of attractive women? I consider myself a fairly confident, amiable fellow, but once my brain realizes this creature in front of me could be my future wife...Bricks are shat.

Thanks for the ama!

jfgariepy13 karma

Good question, I can't even think of an interesting scientific hypothesis, sincerely. What do you think?

Philofelinist9 karma

I've read a couple of Dr Oliver Sacks' books. What's it like meeting people with neurological disorders and any stories?

jfgariepy18 karma

Never met with people with disorders as part of my work because I am not a medical doctor. However I did meet many deranged people in my life. But I guess these stories are not anymore interesting than anyone else's :)

Philofelinist4 karma

Do you find that you analyse people more and wonder what's going on in their brain?

jfgariepy13 karma

Oh yeah, but it didn't develop as I became a brain researcher. I did that in the first place.

37Lions8 karma

Have you analysed why you developed that? (Honestly, not trolling)

jfgariepy3 karma

Well I think some people are just born analytical and with curiosity on everything.

JarJarBanksy9 karma

How would a lack of social interaction affect the brain's ability to solve problems or regulate bodily functions?

jfgariepy6 karma

There are many ways in which social isolation, or lack of social interactions, can modify behaviors, increase stress, etc.... This is just one example of a study showing the effect of social isolation of parents on offspring: Altered stress responsiveness and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in male rat offspring of socially isolated parents by Pisu et al., 2013, J Neurochem 126:493-502. They found changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, which may provide a beginning of answer to your question!

DumnorixOfGallia8 karma

Hello Doctor! I'm a psychology student from Venezuela. I'd like to know if you have any wisdom to share about the impact of smartphones on real-life social situations, especially those involving people who have a difficult time socializing.

jfgariepy19 karma

I do not know much about it except that I would consult this article: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10803-013-1878-8

and if you have twitter contact my friend @MaximeRobert1 - he may not know about stuff related to socialization but he does use smartphones in relation to diagnosis and brain research.

dtietze7 karma

What's so special about social interactions at Duke University?

jfgariepy17 karma

They are more awkward :P

rico_suave7 karma

What is so special about social interactions at Duke University that you specifically target them?

jfgariepy6 karma


scooter_nz7 karma

And the most honest doctor ever award goes to... Dr Jean-Francois Gariepy

jfgariepy14 karma

Hahaha, thanks, but let me know what earned me the award!

realhealthy6 karma

Dr. Gariépy, just recently my neuroscience class went over the social bonding (or lack thereof) of prairie voles and montane voles, as well as discussing how hormones play a key role, Vasopressin for guys and Oxytocin for females.

I love neuroscience, and my question to you is this:

Have you personally done any work with these voles to try and develop a similar construct for humans? I know we know quite a bit about humans already, especially with the discovery of Allelle-334... but I'm sure there is a variable to be found. Good luck!

jfgariepy3 karma

I have never worked with prairie voles, in fact I have never seen one.

modestmonk6 karma

What fact / discovery about the brain and social interactions has the biggest wow factor for you?

jfgariepy13 karma

I'd say the presence of grid cells in the enthorinal cortex is one of the craziest thing ever discovered. I talked about it on Episode 5 of NEURO.tv. It's just crazy to find such a high-level representation of the world in a rat's brain - those cells do not fire in relation to primary sensory inputs like skin touch or vision. Their pattern is that whenever the animal is located at a series of points in space, they fire, and in-between those points, they don't. But the points are organized in an hexagonal fashion, as if the brain was using triangles and hexagons to map the space in which it is navigating.


mmrr136 karma

How do you pronounce your last name?

jfgariepy8 karma

Ga - ree - eh - pee :P

NNOTM5 karma

Would you defect or cooperate?

jfgariepy12 karma

You go first and I'll tit for tat.

fhayde5 karma

First of all, you absolutely rock for doing this, and I am incredibly jealous of your CV.


  1. Do you think we'll see a sort of "unified theory" of sorts for the biological processes responsible for pair bonding/relationship building within the next decade? e.g., how do things like oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphines, etc. influence the strength of an existing relationship, and vice versa how does an already complex relationship impact the biological functions of the brain?

  2. How do you think the recent research on how the brain handles moral dilemmas through rational vs emotional conflict resolution will impact our understanding of relationships with other people and things?

  3. What do you think about PNI (psychoneuroimmunology) as an emerging field? Does it seem like the neuroscience world is welcoming the convergence of physical and psychological health?

  4. This is a bit of a self-interest question but with the amount of data coming out of most neuroscience research projects, from a technical/IT perspective, where are the major pain points in working with this data on a day to day basis? What hinders or slows down your research that could be improved upon? (tech guy here, always looking for opportunities to help advance science!)

  5. Last but certainly not least, with the technological singularity ever looming in the next 20-40 years, and the possibility of creating an artificial brain capable of housing complex neural interactions similar to an organic brain, how the hell are we going to get our biological consciousness into an artificial substrate, and how do you personally think it will impact perception, perspective, identify, and consciousness? Ship of Theseus kind of deal or can we expect some kind of a buffering/loading transfer situation?!

Fun read if you haven't seen this before, http://www.newbanner.com/SecHumSCM/WhereAmI.html

Thank you very much for doing this!!

jfgariepy7 karma


  1. I think we'll know more about those, but not sure this would fit in any unified theory. Biology is not like physics, it sometimes accumulates series of facts and the many physiological factors that will be known about these do not have to fit into a elegant, simple equation.

  2. Very interesting question and important domain of research. Like many other in my field I think the research by Joshua D. Greene on the subject is fascinating and for those who want to have a look at his papers from recent years on the subject:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20797542 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18158145 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22049931

The third reference is particularly relevant because they tried manipulating both the rational ("reflective") aspect and the emotional aspects, in this case outrage at sexual habits.

That being said, I'm not sure I am convinced that there are fundamentally two types of moral decisions or that the brain really operates in these two ways. I think there is a continuum between what is being thought of as two categories here, the rational and the emotional. To me those are subjective labels that we can put over decisions. Ultimately, what matters is: what are the neural mechanisms that have played out in the final decision. But we're far from understanding that. One other problem that I have with emotional explanation is that I am not yet convinced that emotions drive behaviors in the way psychologist think they do. I think the ultimate functions of emotions might be simply parallel to the decision-making process, allowing us to exchange information to others about why we did things, but I'm not entirely convinced yet that the emotion itself always plays a causal role in generating the behavior - although I'm opened to consider evidence in that direction.

  1. I never heard of the word. I don't think neuroscientists would be closed to such an idea and I think there may very well be interactions with physical and psychological health.

  2. Ahhhh the pain points are numerous. The more complicated the experiment, the more data it generates and what it pain it is when we analyze it. Hard to say what to do about it honestly. By definition, scientific experiments are targeted at answering new questions so it's hard to think of an all-in-one solution.

  3. Depends on how far humanity would go in that direction. I would suspect if such technologies as you describe became available, that humanity might decide to consider them unethical and not use them perhaps!


smaragdine4 karma

  • What is your opinion of suicide and the impact on relationships socially?
  • What is your opinion of the motivation behind online bullying, especially in chatrooms (across the board and not limited to adolescents)?
  • What is your opinion for someone who wants to study at the graduate level in the social sciences from a humanities background? Is it unwise to not consider science routes?

jfgariepy3 karma

Suicide is obviously a terrible thing for everyone involved and we have to fight against it.

I think that bullying is part of the large family of violent behaviors that humans have. I think that we may have inherited these behaviors from our evolutionary history, even if they vary across individuals, and obviously I support efforts at trying to fight against them. As for chatrooms, I think the desire to attack people stems from the same violent impulses that are present in people's brains, they are simply expressed on a different media.

It is not unwise to pursue whatever is of interest to you. Social sciences can be done very well, the important is the rigor that you put into the work.

Mac-Zak4 karma

Any advice for an arts student trying to get through Brain and Behaviour (neurology for psych)? This class is likely going to be destroying my GPA by the time the semester ends. I do my weekly readings and I have never missed a lecture, but the content is just not sticking.

jfgariepy8 karma

I've had classes like that that would simply pull down my average grades. If you are fascinated by it and if you care about what it is that you learn, you'll get the best out of it - might not improve your grades greatly but ultimately think about yourself as an individual, what you can extract from this course that will be useful to your future, and it will work!

Stone_Hunter4 karma

NC State, or UNC?

jfgariepy27 karma

My entire life is entirely independent from anything that may ever happen in a sports match.

jargoon4 karma

What do you think about the Dalai Lama's idea that Buddhists and neuroscientists can work together to figure out how the mind works? One coming from a physical point of view and one coming from an experiential point of view (with the idea that people who meditate may be better at putting their brain in certain states of mind that are more consistent for neuroscientists to measure).

Alternately, what do you think about Deepak Chopra's idea that the mind is made up of magical quantums and crystals of infinite universal possibility (and maybe some extra quantums)

jfgariepy9 karma

I am opposed to religious leaders recommending or interfering with on-going scientific investigations, even when those interventions look very open. I am not saying that the Dalai Lama has said anything wrong with respect to neuroscience, his attitude seems rather open, but to me it would be a slippery slope to let religious leaders have their say on specific points, especially with respect to the links between meditation and the brain.

So I celebrate his openness and enthusiasm with neuroscience, but we have to be careful not to let socially-motivated persons (as a whole, either ideological, political or religious) interfere with the process of knowledge discovery.

Deepak Chopra's idea does not make sense.

dipperino3 karma

Why are many men addicted to porn?

jfgariepy8 karma

Well the interest of humans in general for sex probably comes from the evolutionary advantage that is procured to individuals who like to reproduce over those who don't.

Icanhelpanonlawyer3 karma

Why should I care about your profession?

jfgariepy7 karma

Bah it's a good question. The brain is fascinating because it creates our impressions, our feelings, our subjective experience of the world, and all of our decisions. So if you've ever ask yourself anything about these, you might already be caring! Otherwise, I invite you to join us.

reddit-ulous3 karma

Why do we have jokes and humor? What purpose did humor serve in the survival of the species?

jfgariepy3 karma

Good question, I would refer you to the book Inside Jokes by Huxley and others. There are many hypotheses but I'd say my favorite one is along the lines of that presented in the book.

Humor happens when a contrast between beliefs of various agents (or the self and events in the environments) are violated - not all such violations are funny, but anything that I know to be funny involves some sort of such contrast. So humor could be the mechanism of the brain that detects such incongruency.

Furthermore, the abillity to create those incongruities (to generate humor) and to detect them (sense of humor) might have been sexually-selected since they might indicate, say, better intelligence or cognitive processes.

multiple_migs3 karma

What is your favourite flavour ice cream?

jfgariepy5 karma

Not a fan of sweet stuff in general, but if I go for a favourite ice cream it will have to be the vanilla with uncooked cookie dough chunks!

OhTheHueManatee3 karma

Any advice for someone who lacks motivation? I don't want to waste your time with ranting my plight so I won't get into much but I lack motivation even when it feels I have it. I'll get epifanies that don't last, fail at even starting stuff I genuinely want to do and have no idea why I end up doing the few things I end up doing (which are rarely things I enjoy). I feel like my mind is barrage of radio frequencies blaring different waves of conflicting thoughts on what I want and should do. But I don't think that's what fully stops me it just gets in the way. Any advice or insights on how Motivation and the mind works you could give me would be great.

jfgariepy6 karma

Hum I'd say if you don't have motivation, nothing will work in your life. So find a way to correct this; how, I have no idea!

tmfp3 karma

I'm fascinated by this subject and live in Greensboro, just over an hour from Duke, is there anything you could use the skills of a highly qualified photographer for?

jfgariepy4 karma

Not for now!

fellowtroll2 karma

Est-ce vous parlez en français?

jfgariepy2 karma


Kittyclysm2 karma

What effects on social attitudes and enhanced cognitive abilities does Synesthesia have on an individual?

jfgariepy3 karma

I've seen some stuff on sensations: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24223561

Banissy et al., report some improvement in color perception, but reduced motion perception: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24091549

For the social aspect, I am not aware of any work, although they may exist! Let me know if you find some.

lynchilla2 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! Super interesting.

Any thoughts on radical behaviorism?

jfgariepy8 karma

Very important question. Radical behaviorism has been losing ground progressively during the last decades at least in psychology, but a lot of modern neuroscientists have inherited some of this perspective and tend to be greedily reductionists in their interpretation of animal behavior. Part of it is justified - reductionism is almost necessary to scientific progress because if you start allowing and accepting theories that are unnecessarily complex to explain the facts, you will end up exploring too many possibilities and you will disconnect yourself from results and data.

On the other hand I've known many neuroscientists who simply attribute too much to what radical behaviorism can explain. The idea that previous experience drives current behavior by some reinforcement mechanism makes no doubt but then what about novel situations like climbing a tree you've never seen or facing an aggression from an animal you've never encountered? What about the subtle differences that there always will be between the things you've learned in the past and the current events?

What about the ability of animals to learn associations about events in the environment without being reinforced through reward -> http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6109/953.short

Adoyle10242 karma

How do you feel about using monkey models, like rhesus macaques, in science? Have you ever had someone argue with you about monkey research? And what would you say to someone who argues that all research can be done with computers or Petri dishes?

jfgariepy11 karma

I understand that people may be worried about the use of animals from the outside, not really knowing what goes on in the interactions between scientists and animals in a laboratory. Some movies have been exaggerating this too, presenting researchers as obsessed, careless and sometimes megalomaniacs who do not care about animal well-being. Now scientists are indeed obsessed, sometimes megalomaniacs, but I personally never encountered a scientist that did not deeply care about the well-being of his animals. We discussed this with May-Britt Moser in Episode 5, this is an example of a researcher who not only has the highest respect for animals, but I would say she even prioritizes this over the research. She would not engage in anything that causes the slightest discomfort or pain and I think she's quite representative, although she might be more vocal about it, of most other researchers.

Yuki_Ame2 karma

Have you done any research on introversion? Being one, I would really like to know why it happens and how it could be coped.

jfgariepy7 karma

Haven't researched the subject personally but we talked about it Diana and I during our appearance on the On Your Mind podcast, and there was a good review on the brain processing of humor, and it seems that there are some detectable difference in the brain activities of introverts and others when processing humor stimuli:


Not a big fan of personality measures though I think it's hard to know if they really correspond to what psychologists try to capture and I'm guessing that a lot of bias, from self-report and from different interpretations of behavior, are adding noise to those measures.

ItsMeMichelle0 karma

QUESTION - I have a work buddy (who is awesome guy) who likes to try to offend people to get their reactions. He doesnt do it to hurt peoples feelings and is a great/funny guy too, he just likes to see peoples reactions. For example if I said i liked puppies, he would say "I hate puppies they are so stupid" etc.

I said maybe this is because regular conversations are boring to him and not exciting enough, but would love to hear what you think on the topic

jfgariepy1 karma

Hey, are you talking about me? :P

It's a good question why "provocative" personality types exist. Perhaps there are many different ways you can extract social information. You may simply observe others during social interactions, which will allow you to learn stuff about them, their intentions, how they behave, etc...

Then perhaps people like those you describe may be able to extract even more information by exploring the boundaries of, let's call it, the "awkwardness space".

I'd say it's an open and interesting why a variety of personality types is observed within human population.