Until recently, the world's curiosity about our brains seemed to focus on abnormal behavior. Which of course left a big question unanswered: Do we even know what "normal behavior" is? Through the landmark Roanoke Brain Study, Read Montague is hoping to find that out, exploring the everyday tasks of brains -- making decisions, understanding social context, and relating to others -- by neuroimaging some 5,000 people, ages 18-85, over a period of many years.
Montague's teams in Virginia and in London lead fascinating research in computational neuroscience (how the brain's "machinery" works), offering insight into the relationship between the social and cognitive functions. For instance, a recent study from his group found that in small social groups, some people will alter the expression of their IQ in reaction to social pressures -- revising, in almost all cases, downward.