Researchers studying brains want to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex — the place in the brain that gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming. Above, Michael Phelps dives off the starting blocks in the final heat of the men's 400-meter individual medley during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials in Omaha, Neb., on June 25.
When Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps steps onto a starting block a few days from now, a Stanford scientist named Krishna Shenoy will be asking himself a question: "What's going on in Michael Phelps' brain?"
Specifically, Shenoy would like to know what's happening in an area called the premotor cortex. This area doesn't directly tell muscles what to do. But it's the place where the brain gears up for something the body is about to do, like swimming.
Here's your vocabulary word for the week: zoonosis. It describes an infection that is transmitted between species. For example, the disease that the husband and wife team of Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy have written about in their new book, Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus.
Pam Houston directs the Creative Writing Program at U.C. Davis. Her most recent novel is Contents May Have Shifted.
Luang Prabang, Laos, is so close to the equator that daybreak happens at the same time each day. Also each day, a few dozen women set up rice cookers on small collapsible tables on street corners next to the more than 30 monasteries that grace this riverside town. If you get up with them and walk the silent streets in the misty Mekong predawn, you smell, under the sweetness of the frangipani blossoms, the thick odor of cooked starch.
China and Russia this morning vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that could permit sanctions against Syria unless the government of President Bashar Assad stops using weapons against civilians. This is the third time China and Russia have rebuffed measures pushed by the United States and its allies to try to bring a halt to Syria's violent civil conflict.
As the guessing game continues about Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman invariably comes up as a top contender. And with a wealth of experience in Washington and beyond, Portman would be considered a safe pick to run for vice president on the Republican ticket.
Nurse Priscila-Grace Gonzaga with Gregg Cassin, a San Francisco gay man who has been infected with HIV since the early 1980s. He's a volunteer in a cutting-edge gene therapy experiment to see whether HIV-infected people can be given an immune system that is invulnerable to HIV infection.
Credit Richard Knox / NPR
Timothy Ray Brown, widely known in research circles as the Berlin patient, was cured of his HIV infection by a bone marrow transplant, doctors say. His story inspired scientists to look for new ways to vanquish the disease in other patients.
Now, a review of this summer's outpouring of short story collections. Alan Cheuse says they run the gamut from the experimental to the fantastic to the deeply realistic.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Stand back. The lead story in "Sorry Please Thank You," this spritely new collection by L.A. writer Charles Yu, has the title standard loneliness package and it announces that a sly, nimble fantasist with a speculative edge is at work here.