Tag Archives | Neurology

The Aarhus Interpretation

Via Opinion & Kommentar:

The Aarhus Interpretation : A lecture given at The Danish Neuroscience Center (DNC) on may 28TH 2010 by author and philosopher Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff:

It has been said that those who know least about the sea are the fish. The same may perhaps be said about scientists.

Working on the tenth floor of a building doesn’t necessarily mean that you have any idea what is going on in the basement or how or when it was constructed. Of course, when it’s burning, you may take a sudden interest in the location of the fire-escapes.

Also, if you’re a window-cleaner, you may be more aware of what floor you’re on. In science, the window-cleaners are those who work on the frontiers of science.

In a way, they’re always half in and half out of the building. They are also more likely to fall off or to discover a crack in the concrete.… Read the rest

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Einstein’s Brain

Scientists have been studying Albert Einstein’s dead brain for clues as to his genius. For those of you with the time and tolerance for reading scientific journals, check out the work of Dean Falk, Frederick E. Lepore3 and Adrianne Noe in Brain – A Journal of Neurology. For the rest of us, here’s one of the photographs they studied and below the abstract summary :

Brain (2012) doi: 10.1093/brain/aws295

Upon his death in 1955, Albert Einstein’s brain was removed, fixed and photographed from multiple angles. It was then sectioned into 240 blocks, and histological slides were prepared. At the time, a roadmap was drawn that illustrates the location within the brain of each block and its associated slides. Here we describe the external gross neuroanatomy of Einstein’s entire cerebral cortex from 14 recently discovered photographs, most of which were taken from unconventional angles. Two of the photographs reveal sulcal patterns of the medial surfaces of the hemispheres, and another shows the neuroanatomy of the right (exposed) insula.

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Brain Can Read and Write Without Full Consciousness

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered that your brain reads and does basic math before you’re even aware of it:

Via LiveScience:

In a series of experiments at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, more than 300 student participants were unconsciously exposed to words and equations through a research technique known as Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS). With this method, a static image appears in front of one eye while rapidly changing pictures flash in front of the other eye. The changing pictures dominate awareness at first, letting the still image register subliminally before popping into consciousness.

In the first part of the study, one eye was presented with a static phrase or sentence, which was “masked” by changing colorful shapes flashing in front of the other eye. The students were instructed to press a button as soon as they became aware of the words. It usually took about a second, but negative phrases like “human trafficking” and jarring sentences such as “I ironed the coffee” typically registered quicker than positive expressions and more coherent phrases such as “I ironed clothes,” the study found.

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Using Technology To Reach Buddhist Enlightenment

Via the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, J. Hughes on the use of new technologies in genetics and neurology to suppress vice and accelerate spiritual progress:

The Buddhist tradition recognizes that we are not all born with equal propensities to wisdom or moral behavior, and that Enlightenment is only possible for the very few [...] A fully virtuous life is biologically impossible for most people. But, given the rapid advance of neurotechnologies, “if these cognitive shortcomings could be compensated for, or balanced, through the use of safe and voluntary enhancement techniques, then it would be morally desirable to do so.” If specific, consistent moral behavioral orientations – truthfulness, compassion and so on – can be identified, and our likelihood of manifesting them is strongly influenced by inherited genetic predispositions or persistent neurochemistry, then it might be possible to use future neurotechnologies to systematically make ourselves more truthful or compassionate.

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Oliver Sacks On Hallucinations

NYU Professor of Neurology Oliver Sacks spills the beans on hallucinations in the New York Times:

Hallucinations are very startling and frightening: you suddenly see, or hear or smell something — something that is not there. Your immediate, bewildered feeling is, what is going on? Where is this coming from? The hallucination is convincingly real, produced by the same neural pathways as actual perception, and yet no one else seems to see it. And then you are forced to the conclusion that something — something unprecedented — is happening in your own brain or mind. Are you going insane, getting dementia, having a stroke?

In other cultures, hallucinations have been regarded as gifts from the gods or the Muses, but in modern times they seem to carry an ominous significance in the public (and also the medical) mind, as portents of severe mental or neurological disorders. Having hallucinations is a fearful secret for many people — millions of people — never to be mentioned, hardly to be acknowledged to oneself, and yet far from uncommon.

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The Rhythm’s Gonna Getcha: Music and Mind Control

Picture: Benjamin Portland (CC)

Researchers at the University of Singapore have identified neurological mechanisms that cause the brain to synchronize with external rhythms. What’s more, this syncopation can have a direct effect on cognitive performance:

…the University of Singapore first tested subjects by flashing a series of images on a video monitor and asked them to quickly identify when an image was flipped upside down. While participants focused on this task, a synthetic drumbeat gently tapped out a simple four-beat rhythm in the background, syncopated by skipping the fourth beat of each measure.

The results showed that when the image was flashed on that missed beat, the subjects identified the inverted image much faster than when the image was flashed at times out of synch with the beat or when the images were presented in silence. Somehow, the brain’s decision making was accelerated by the external auditory rhythm and heightened at precise points in synchrony with the beat.

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Male DNA Commonly Found in Women’s Brains

Picture: (PD)

Via ScienceDaily:

Male DNA is commonly found in the brains of women, most likely derived from prior pregnancy with a male fetus, according to first-of-its-kind research conducted at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. While the medical implications of male DNA and male cells in the brain are unknown, studies of other kinds of microchimerism — the harboring of genetic material and cells that were exchanged between fetus and mother during pregnancy — have linked the phenomenon to autoimmune diseases and cancer, sometimes for better and other times for worse.

The study findings are published Sept. 26 in PLOS ONE. Lead author William F. N. Chan, Ph.D., in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Alberta, conducted the research while working in the Hutchinson Center laboratory of J. Lee Nelson, M.D., a member of the Center’s Clinical Research Division and a leading international authority on microchimerism. Nelson is senior author on the paper.

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Fear is the Mind Killer

Picture: Robbie Grubbs (CC)

Interesting work on fear and memory published in Science and dumbed down for mass consumption at Psychcentral:

For one experimental group, the re-consolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the re-consolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.

Because the experimental group was not allowed to re-consolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated. This rendered the memory neutral — and no longer able to incite fear.

What’s notable about this is that it shows how fear is tied to signifiers and conditioned responses. Although that doesn’t cover the entirety of the range of fear responses to various stimulus, one is forced to wonder about the panic responses involved in various alien abduction/mad gasser/witch hunt phenomena where a specific fear spreads as a meme acros entire communities of people, some of them not even geographically connected to each other.… Read the rest

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