Tag Archives | Brain

Brain-Altering Devices Now Available

Imagine this: you can change your mood without drugs, meditation, or any of the other more or less undesirable techniques now in use for mood alteration. How? With brain-altering devices now coming to market, reports the Daily Dot:

It feels like a long time since the Quantified Self movement caught us in its clutches. The first fitness bands and their corresponding apps sucked us in; the ability to monitor self-defined statistics made us feel more in control of ourselves. It’s part narcissism, part hypervigilance.

(C) Zen Vibez

(C) Zen Vibez

 

But the most significant roadblock has been taking all the information we’re self-quantifying and acting on it. You know you’re taking 1,000 too few steps a day, eating 500 more calories than you should, and getting only a fraction of the outside time you need; actually doing something with the data is the hard part.

Motivation and habit change are hard, and no heart-monitoring bracelet is going to magically solve that problem.

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How Time Tricks Our Minds

(Photo: darrentunnicliff/Flickr)

(Photo: darrentunnicliff/Flickr)

Rick Paulas via Pacific Standard:

“Time passes slowly up here in the mountains / We sit beside bridges and walk beside fountains / Catch the wild fishes that float through the stream / Time passes slowly when you’re lost in a dream”  —Bob Dylan, “Time Passes Slowly”

No, Bob. It doesn’t.

Time doesn’t pass slowly or quickly, unless you happen to be near a black hole. (Even then, it’s more time relative to other people’s experience of time, not time itself.) Time just passes, same as always, one second at a time. But there are certain instances when, despite this knowledge, it just doesn’t feel that way. Back in school, those last 20 minutes before the bell rung just seemed … to … take … forever. Or when you’re at an amazing party, and it’s over before you know it.

Last week, I experienced a subtle time shift of my own.

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Functioning brain tissue grown in 3-D structure

Examples of mature Purkinje cells grown from human embryonic stem cells CALB and L7 are Purkinje-cell specific late markers. GRID2 is a marker for a Purkinje-specific glutamate receptor. LHX5 is a marker for the early Purkinje cells.via RIKEN

Examples of mature Purkinje cells grown from human embryonic stem cells
CALB and L7 are Purkinje-cell specific late markers. GRID2 is a marker for a Purkinje-specific glutamate receptor. LHX5 is a marker for the early Purkinje cells.
via RIKEN

Via RIKEN:

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have succeeded in inducing human embryonic stem cells to self-organize into a three-dimensional structure similar to the cerebellum, providing tantalizing clues in the quest to recreate neural structures in the laboratory. One of the primary goals of stem-cell research is to be able to replace damaged body parts with tissues grown from undifferentiated stem cells. For the nervous system, this is a particular challenge because not only do specific neurons need to be generated, but they must also be coaxed into connecting to each other in very specific ways.

RIKEN researchers have taken up this challenge, and the work published in Cell Reports details how sequentially applying several signaling molecules to three-dimensional cultures of human embryotic stem cells prompts the cells to differentiate into functioning cerebellar neurons that self-organize to form the proper dorsal/ventral patterning and multi-layer structure found in the natural developing cerebellum.

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A University of Florida scientist has grown a living “brain” that can fly a simulated plane

University of Florida researcher Thomas DeMarse holds a glass dish on October 12, 2004, containing a “brain” -- a living network of 25,000 rat brain cells connected to an array of 60 electrodes that can interact with a computer to fly a simulated F-22 fighter plane. During this interaction, scientists can observe how the neurons communicate as a network, and send and respond to signals from the computer and each other, in an effort to understand and model the computational power of the brain. (University of Florida/Ray Carson)

University of Florida researcher Thomas DeMarse holds a glass dish on October 12, 2004, containing a “brain” — a living network of 25,000 rat brain cells connected to an array of 60 electrodes that can interact with a computer to fly a simulated F-22 fighter plane. During this interaction, scientists can observe how the neurons communicate as a network, and send and respond to signals from the computer and each other, in an effort to understand and model the computational power of the brain. (University of Florida/Ray Carson)

So this story popped up in Reddit’s TIL (Today I Learned) subreddit and it was then emailed on to me by a reader. So, I figured that I had a duty to share it with all of you. Note that this was first published in 2004!

via Science Daily:

A University of Florida scientist has grown a living “brain” that can fly a simulated plane, giving scientists a novel way to observe how brain cells function as a network.

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The Military Is Building Brain Chips to Treat PTSD

PIC: Camazine (CC)

PIC: Camazine (CC)

…and to make you a happy worker.  Patrick Tucker writes at the Atlantic:

How well can you predict your next mood swing? How well can anyone? It’s an existential dilemma for many of us but for the military, the ability to treat anxiety, depression, memory loss and the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder has become one of the most important battles of the post-war period.

Now the Pentagon is developing a new, innovative brain chip to treat PTSD in soldiers and veterans that could bring sweeping new changes to the way depression and anxiety is treated for millions of Americans.

With $12 million (and the potential for $26 million more if benchmarks are met), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, wants to reach deep into your brain’s soft tissue to record, predict and possibly treat anxiety, depression and other maladies of mood and mind. Teams from the University of California at San Francisco, Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Medtronic will use the money to create a cybernetic implant with electrodes extending into the brain.

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Brain Zapping: The Future of War?

Photo: Michele Eaton 88 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Photo: Michele Eaton 88 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Military tech very often becomes consumer tech, so how long before we see students zapping their brains during exams? Or bond traders? Website editors? … BBC Future says, “Shocking the brain with mild electrical current was once a controversial treatment for the mentally ill. Now evidence is emerging that it could quicken learning and improve attention, and as Emma Young discovers, the US military is very interested in its potential”:

An unusual trial is underway at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio. An airman sits at a monitor in a laboratory, wired up with electrodes, his jacket slung over the back of his chair. Plane-shaped icons keep entering his airspace. He has to decide whether each incoming plane is a friend or a foe. If it’s a foe, he must send a warning. If it flies off, fine. If it doesn’t, he must bring it down.

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Does Watching Porn Make You Stupid?

F2_jordy_porn_550Poor Jordy.

Something about this sets off my bullshit detector, but I’m no scientist. However, I do know that most guys watch porn or at least have at one time or another. It’s hard to find statistics without dredging up a bunch of crap from the usual purveyors of moral outrage, but what little I could find suggested between 70% and 77% of American men watch porn. (and I bet a healthy slice of the one’s who say then don’t are lying.)

Anyway, this reminds me of all of the anti-masturbation stuff people used to believe… Wait. Used to? Forgot about this.

Researchers found less grey matter in the brains of men who watched large amounts of sexually explicit material, according to a new study.

The research, which appears in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, could not determine if porn actually caused the brain to shrink however, and the authors called for additional study on the topic.

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DARPA Begins Program To Develop Brain Tech To Fight Mental Illness in Service Members

800px-DARPA_LogoHere comes the government microchip in the brain that we’ve been hearing about for so many years…

Work on DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program is set to begin with teams led by UC San Francisco (UCSF), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). The SUBNETS program seeks to reduce the severity of neuropsychological illness in service members and veterans by developing closed-loop therapies that incorporate recording and analysis of brain activity with near-real-time neural stimulation. The program, which will use next-generation devices inspired by current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) technology, was launched in support of President Obama’s brain initiative.

UCSF and MGH will oversee teams of physicians, engineers, and neuroscientists who are working together to develop advanced brain interfaces, computational models of neural activity, and clinical therapies for treating networks of the brain. The teams will collaborate with commercial industry and government, including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Medtronic, to apply a broad range of perspectives to the technological challenges involved.

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Neuroscientist Claims Internet Has Ruined The Way We Read

"No, it's fine. Enjoy reading "Top Ten Celebrity Liposuction Disasters. I'll just stay here and silently judge you."PIC: Dutch National Archives (CC)

“No, it’s fine. Enjoy reading “Top Ten Celebrity Liposuction Disasters. I’ll just stay here and silently judge you.”PIC: Dutch National Archives (CC)

Neuroscientist Maryanne Wolfe believes that the human brain has changed in response to to the way that information is presented online, and the changes aren’t entirely positive. Wolfe presents her initial problems enjoy Herman Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game as a consequence of these brain changes.

I’m not so sure, myself. I wonder if she has considered that her reading tastes may have changed for other reasons, or maybe that The Glass Bead Game just isn’t her cup of tea? I read a ton of Herman Hesse in high school and college, but haven’t visited his work in a couple of decades. I’m not sure I’d enjoy any of it now, but I don’t believe the internet is to blame. Then again, I guess it might make a convenient excuse for why I can’t get through Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow or James Joyce’s Ulysses in spite of numerous attempts to do so.… Read the rest

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How Magic Mushrooms Alter Your Brain

magic mushroomsVia Ultraculture, Jason Louv on how magic mushrooms temporarily quiet portions of the brain that normally constrain us:

According to two new studies released this week, psilocybin mushrooms apparently work by decreasing activity in key areas of the brain, rather than increasing it. Blood flow decreases to the medical prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). Overactivity in the mPFC is associated with depression, one reason why psilocybin can be associated with antidepressant effects; the PCC is often associated with consciousness and identity.

Researchers suggest that what may actually be happening with psychedelics is decreased blood flow to brain areas that constrain our sensory experience of the world and our sense of identity—allowing the brain to relax its grip on ordering reality and open up to a broader spectrum.

Professor David Nutt, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “We found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that… constrain our experience of the world and keep it orderly.

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