Tag Archives | Neuroscience

Are We In the Golden Age of Neuroscience?

Gray739

The recent achievements in neuroscience are unprecedented.

via The Wall Street Journal:

More than a billion people were amazed this summer when a 29-year-old paraplegic man from Brazil raised his right leg and kicked a soccer ball to ceremonially begin the World Cup. The sight of a paralyzed person whose brain directly controlled a robotic exoskeleton (designed at Duke University) was thrilling.

We are now entering the golden age of neuroscience. We have learned more about the thinking brain in the last 10-15 years than in all of previous human history. A blizzard of the new technologies using advanced physics—resulting in scans and tests we know as fMRI, EEG, PET, DBS, CAT, TCM and TES—have allowed scientists to observe thoughts as they ricochet like a pong ball inside the living brain, and then begin the process of deciphering these thoughts using powerful computers.

The Pentagon, witnessing the human tragedy of the wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, has invested more than $150 million in the military’s Revolutionary Prosthetics program, so that injured veterans can bypass damaged limbs and spinal cords and mentally control state-of-the-art mechanical arms and legs.

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Free Will Is Just An Illusion (Background Noise In The Brain)

NIA human brain drawingThink you can exercise free will? Forget it, that’s just background noise in your brain reports The Independent:

The concept of free will could be little more than the result of background noise in the brain, according to a recent study.

It has previously been suggested that our perceived ability to make autonomous choices is an illusion – and now scientists from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis, have found that free will may actually be the result of electrical activity in the brain.

According to the research, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, decisions could be predicted based on the pattern of brain activity immediately before a choice was made.

Volunteers in the study were asked to sit in front of a screen and focus on its central point while their brains’ electrical activity was recorded. They were then asked to make a decision to look either left or right when a cue symbol appeared on the screen, and then to report their decision.

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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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Scientists Induce Hallucinations Of Past Memories Via Brain Zapping Procedure

PIC: PodvinskiJ (CC)

PIC: PodvinskiJ (CC)

Is it live? Or is it Memorex memory manipulating mind control technology soon to appear in “safe houses” and black sites around the United States?

Via New Scientist:

A 22-year-old man has been instantaneously transported to his family’s pizzeria and his local railway station – by having his brain zapped. These fleeting visual hallucinations have helped researchers pinpoint places where the brain stores visual location information.

Pierre Mégevand at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, and his colleagues wanted to discover just where in the brain we store and retrieve information about locations and places. They sought the help of a 22-year-old man being treated for epilepsy, because the treatment involved implanting electrodes into his brain that would record his neural activity.

Mégevand and his colleagues scanned the volunteer’s brain using functional MRI while he looked at pictures of different objects and scenes. They then recorded activity from the implanted electrodes as he looked at a similar set of pictures.

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Have an Out-of-Body Experience (OOBE) – NOW!

Doubles2xUnless you’re one of those few people who have spontaneous Out of Body Experiences (OOBEs), you need some help to get there. The Kernel reveals how:

You can have an out of body experience right now, and it isn’t even that hard. Some people can do it more easily than others, and it may take a little practice. But it is something that anybody can do, and it can be done scientifically.

SENSES AND THE SELF
Let’s start with a question: Where do you feel like the center of your “self” is right now? Most people feel like the center of their consciousness—the vantage from which they are experiencing the world—is somewhere behind their eyes. This makes sense: Your eyes are there, your ears are there, and even your mouth and your nose are there. Four out of five of your senses are all focused in a single area, so it’s no surprise that you feel like the center of your self is “in your head.”

Although both philosophers and scientists are still developing theories about exactly what our sense of self is really for, they all agree that it plays a key role in organizing all of the information that comes in through our senses.

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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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Molly Makes You Racist

Ecstasy (MDMA)

Ecstasy (MDMA)

I always thought Molly/Ecstasy turned you into a blissed out hug-loving moron, but apparently it turns us into blissed out racists instead. From VICE:

You don’t have a lot of time for rational thought after dropping a pill. Three Mitsis in and you’re almost entirely preoccupied with finding out what people’s scarves feel like, or busy trying to focus on literally anything through your rapid-fire flicker-eyes. So you’d have thought that, amid all the euphoria and heart palpitations, there surely wouldn’t be space to get hung up on the ethnicity of everyone around you.

However, it turns out that the brain’s biochemistry during a blissed out club night might not be too dissimilar from a rally during the EDL’s golden years. This is because of a hormone called oxytocin, which has been described by many as “the love hormone” or the “cuddle drug”. The hormone has been linked to developing trust between mother and child during breast feeding, and between partners after intercourse.

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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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