Tag Archives | Neurology

Neuroenhancement and the Extended Mind Hypothesis

neuroenhancement

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

Consider your smartphone for a moment. It provides you with access to a cornucopia of information. Some of it is general, stored on publicly accessible internet sites, and capable of being called up to resolve any pub debate one might be having (how many U.S. presidents have been assassinated? or how many times have Brazil won the World Cup?). Some of it is more personal, and includes a comprehensive databank of all emails and text message conversations you have had, your calendar appointments, the number of steps you have taken on any given day, books read, films watched, calories consumed and so forth.

Now consider a question: is this information part of your mind? Does it form part of an extended mind loop, one that interfaces with and augments the mental processors inside your skull? According to some philosophers it does. They believe in something called the extended mind hypothesis, which goes against the neuro-physicalist wisdom and holds that the mind is not necessarily to be identified with the brain.… Read the rest

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Ritual Circumcision Linked to Increased Risk of Autism in Young Boys

hepingting (CC BY-SA 2.0)

hepingting (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via ScienceDaily:

Research published today by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggests that circumcised boys are more likely than intact boys to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) before the age of 10. Risk is particularly high for infantile autism before the age of five. The research was carried out in Denmark among a cohort of all children born between 1994 and 2003. During the study over 340,000 boys were followed up to the age of nine between 1994 and 2013 and almost 5,000 cases of ASD were diagnosed. The study showed that regardless of cultural background circumcised boys may run a greater risk of developing ASD. The researchers also made an unexpected observation of an increased risk of hyperactivity disorder among circumcised boys in non-Muslim families.

Professor Morten Frisch of the Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, who led the research, said: “Our investigation was prompted by the combination of recent animal findings linking a single painful injury to lifelong deficits in stress response and a study showing a strong, positive correlation between a country’s neonatal male circumcision rate and its prevalence of ASD in boys.”

Today it is considered unacceptable practice to circumcise boys without proper pain relief but none of the most common interventions used to reduce circumcision pain completely eliminates it and some boys will endure strongly painful circumcisions.

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The First Successful Demonstration Of Brain-To-Brain Communication In Humans

via io9.

via io9.

via io9 [follow the link to read the entire article]:

For the first time ever, neuroscientists have demonstrated the viability of direct — and completely non-invasive — brain-to-brain communication in humans. Remarkably, the experiment allowed subjects to exchange mentally-conjured words despite being 5,000 miles apart.

It’s the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging. Two human subjects, one in India and one in France, successfully transmitted the words “hola” and “ciao” in a computer-assisted brain-to-brain transmission using internet-linked electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technologies.

It wasn’t the most elegant set-up, but it represents an important step towards achieving technological enabled telepathy — the ability to exchange thoughts directly with another person.

Decoding Brain Signals

Prior to this experiment, most researchers have used EEG technologies to facilitate interactions between a human brain and a computer. In one experiment, for example, researchers were able to get a human to move a rat’s tail with their thoughts.

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Neuroscientists Watch Imagination Happening in the Brain

Elements - Imagination by Hartwig HKD via Flickr.

“Elements – Imagination” by Hartwig HKD via Flickr.

Via ScienceDaily:

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” sang John Lennon in his 1971 song Imagine. And thanks to the dreams of a BYU student, we now know more about where and how imagination happens in our brains.

Stefania Ashby and her faculty mentor devised experiments using MRI technology that would help them distinguish pure imagination from related processes like remembering.

“I was thinking a lot about planning for my own future and imagining myself in the future, and I started wondering how memory and imagination work together,” Ashby said. “I wondered if they were separate or if imagination is just taking past memories and combining them in different ways to form something I’ve never experienced before.”

There’s a bit of scientific debate over whether memory and imagination truly are distinct processes. So Ashby and her faculty mentor devised MRI experiments to put it to the test.

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What Happens to the Brain During Spiritual Experiences?

240px-Mindfulness-present-moment-here-now-awareness-symbol-logoNeuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg on brain changes associated with spiritual experiences:

When practitioners surrender their will, activity decreases in their frontal lobes, suggesting that speech is being generated from some place other than the normal speech centers.

Newberg is a pioneer in the field of neurotheology, the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences. In the 1990s, he began his work in the field by scanning what happens in people’s brains when they meditate, because it is a spiritual practice that is relatively easy to monitor.

Since then, he’s looked at around 150 brain scans, including those of Buddhists, nuns, atheists, Pentecostals speaking in tongues, and Brazilian mediums practicing psychography—the channeling of messages from the dead through handwriting.

As to what’s going on in their brains, Newberg says, “It depends to some degree on what the practice is.” Practices that involve concentrating on something over and over again, either through prayer or a mantra-based meditation, tend to activate the frontal lobes, the areas chiefly responsible for directing attention, modulating behavior, and expressing language.

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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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Pedophiles’ Brains Show Abnormal Reaction to Children’s Faces

criminalbrainThis kind of organic brain response is both bad news and good news: The bad news – especially for now – is that pedophilia might be hardwired in the brain. The good news – probably for the future – is that if science can decipher the workings of this organic machinery, then it might lead to ways to fix it.*

The brain circuits that respond to faces and sex appear to activate abnormally in pedophiles when they look at children’s faces, scientists say.

These new findings could lead to novel ways to diagnose pedophiles, and could shed light on the evolutionary roots of sex, the researchers added.

In the animal kingdom, there may be a number of mechanisms preventing adults from attempting sex with children. For example, “pheromones emitted by child mice inhibit sexual behavior of adult male mice,” said lead study author Jorge Ponseti, a sex researcher at Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel in Germany.

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Beliefs In Ghosts And Gods Might Be Based In Early Evolution Of Brain

Caveman_8

PIC: PD

The Nature Spirits told me to share this with you.

Notions of gods arise in all human societies, from all powerful and all-knowing deities to simple forest spirits. A recent method of examining religious thought and behaviour links their ubiquity and the similarity of our beliefs to the ways in which human mental processes were adapted for survival in prehistoric times. It rests on a couple of observations about human psychology. First, when an event happens, we tend to assume that a living thing caused it. In other words, we assume agency behind that event. If you think of the sorts of events that might have happened in prehistoric times, it’s easy to see why a bias towards agency would be useful. A rustling of a bush or the snapping of a twig could be due to wind. But far better to assume it’s a lion and run away.

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ASMR: When Sounds Tickle Your Brain


Do you have a little brain quirk that puts you in happy trance whenever you hear certain, soft sounds? Well, you’re in for a treat, because it’s a “thing,” and there are YouTube channels just for you. “For some percentage of readers,” writes Loz Blain of Gizmag, “this article could make a major positive impact on your life…”

Despite the very official-sounding name ascribed to it, there is no science to prove the existence of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. We have no idea what percentage of people have the ability to experience it, where it comes from, what it’s for or what brain mechanics are involved.

But if you’re lucky enough to be able to feel it, there’s a growing and thriving community out there producing thousands of free samples of canned pleasure and relaxation.

Let me start from my personal experience. As a schoolboy, I had a particular French teacher whose voice would put me into a trance.… Read the rest

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Discovery of Quantum Vibrations in ‘Microtubules’ Inside Brain Neurons Supports Controversial Theory of Consciousness

Pic: Zwarck (CC)

Pic: Zwarck (CC)

Fringeology author and DisinfoCast alum Steve Volk (follow him on Twitter here or visit his website here) alerted me to this rather astonishing press release posted at ScienceDaily. Between this and seeing the president state that marijuana isn’t any worse than alcohol on national TV, I’m starting to wonder if I woke up in some sort of amazing new pocket dimension. Wherever I am, I like it.

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in Physics of Life Reviews claims that consciousness derives from deeper level, finer scale activities inside brain neurons. The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in “microtubules” inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level microtubule vibrations, and that from a practical standpoint, treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions.

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