Tag Archives | Brain

Upload Your Mind And Live Forever

I’m not quite sure that I’d count it as “living” forever, but nonetheless the idea of uploading your mind to a computer so that it carries on indefinitely has an awful lot of people excited. Hopes and Fears interviews Professor Pete Mandik to get the scoop on this “trend”:

Science fiction has long been influenced by philosophy. Sadly, the inverse doesn’t seem to happen nearly enough.

Credit: Hiking Artist (CC)

Credit: Hiking Artist (CC)

 

Works as diverse as The Matrix (Descartes, Baudrillard), Neon Genesis Evangelion (Schopenhauer, Hegel, Kierkegaard), Frankenstein (Darwin, the Enlightenment) and Labyrinth (Berkeley, Leibniz, Pascal) have come to spread philosophical theory through mainstream culture like wildfire. They’ve all drawn narrative and artistic strength from treating philosophical subjects seriously. Not to mention sci-fi scribes like Stanislaw Lem and Philip K. Dick having their own influence on metaphysics and epistemology or Ursula K. Le Guin and Aldous Huxley, on politics and ethics.

But philosophy rarely takes its influence from science fiction, a fact that distinguishes Pete Mandik, a professor at William Paterson University, from many of his contemporaries.

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Hacking the Brain to Get Smarter

Want to get smarter? There are ways… The Atlantic investigates brain hacking:

The perfectibility of the human mind is a theme that has captured our imagination for centuries—the notion that, with the right tools, the right approach, the right attitude, we might become better, smarter versions of ourselves. We cling to myths like “the 10 percent brain”—which holds that the vast majority of our thinking power remains untapped—in part because we hope the minds of the future will be stronger than those of today. It’s as much a personal hope as a hope for civilization: If we’re already running at full capacity, we’re stuck, but what if we’re using only a small fraction of our potential? Well, then the sky’s the limit.

brain

Credit: TZA (CC)

 

But this dream has a dark side: The possibility of a dystopia where an individual’s fate is determined wholly by his or her access to cognition-enhancing technology.

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Space travel may be bad for your brain – here’s why

I really hope this is the right flag. NASA/flickr, CC BY

I really hope this is the right flag. NASA/flickr, CC BY

Magdalena Ietswaart, University of Stirling and Paul Dudchenko, University of Stirling

There is bad news for those planning to go to Mars in the near future: a study in mice has suggested that radiation in space could cause cognitive decline in astronauts. However, we know from past research that mental, social and physical exercise can boost cognitive functions. With planned Mars missions moving ever closer, it might be be worth exploring activity as a way to counter radiation damage.

There are many hurdles to overcome to get to Mars. The obvious one, of course, is the amount of time it takes – about eight months. But for those brave enough to attempt such a journey, this may well be acceptable. What could be harder to accept, however, are the harmful galactic cosmic rays you’d be subjected to, produced by supernovae far away from Earth.… Read the rest

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The Electric Mood-Control Acid Test

We recently ran a post about brain-altering devices like Zen Vibez and Thync. MIT Technology Review dives deep on the latter:

I’m working on a story that’s almost due. It’s going well. I’m almost finished. But then everything falls apart. I get an angry e-mail from a researcher who’s upset about another article. My stomach knots up. My heart pounds. I reply with a defensive e-mail and afterward can’t stop mentally rehashing my response. Taking deep breaths and a short walk don’t help. I can’t focus on finishing my story, and as the deadline approaches, that makes me more uptight and it gets even harder to write.

brain power

But then I apply electrodes to my head and neck, power up a small electronic device, and shock myself. Within a few minutes I calm down. I can focus on my story. I meet the deadline.

The device, which you’ll be able to buy later this year for a price that has yet to be disclosed, was developed by a team of neuroscientists and engineers at the startup Thync.

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Non-invasive Alzheimer’s treatment restores memory using ultrasound

Allan Ajifo (CC BY 2.0)

Allan Ajifo (CC BY 2.0)

Colin Jeffrey at Gizmag writes:

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that most often begins in people over 65 years of age. Usually it starts slowly and continues to worsen over time until the sufferer succumbs to an increasing loss of memory, bodily functions and, eventually, death. Research has shown that there is an association with Alzheimer’s and the accumulation of plaques that affect the neuronal connections in the brain. Now researchers at the University of Queensland have discovered a new way to remove these toxic plaques using a non-invasive form of ultrasound therapy.

Amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide – composed of some 36 to 43 amino acids – has been the plaque associated with the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease for some time now. As such, some research into removing this toxic substance from human brains has been conducted, but almost invariably requires invasive pharmaceutical intervention which is far from completely effective.

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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.

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