Tag Archives | Neuroscience

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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The Quest for a Better Brain

320px-Utah_array_pat5215088How soon can we expect to see brain implants for perfect memory, enhanced vision, hypernormal focus or an expert golf swing?, ask Gary Marcus and Christof Koch for the Wall Street Journal:

What would you give for a retinal chip that let you see in the dark or for a next-generation cochlear implant that let you hear any conversation in a noisy restaurant, no matter how loud? Or for a memory chip, wired directly into your brain’s hippocampus, that gave you perfect recall of everything you read? Or for an implanted interface with the Internet that automatically translated a clearly articulated silent thought (“the French sun king”) into an online search that digested the relevant Wikipedia page and projected a summary directly into your brain?

Science fiction? Perhaps not for very much longer. Brain implants today are where laser eye surgery was several decades ago. They are not risk-free and make sense only for a narrowly defined set of patients—but they are a sign of things to come.

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Is Religion Good for Your Brain?

Eastman Johnson, Child at Prayer, circa 1873A scientific justification for otherwise inexplicable belief systems? From Discovery News:

If you live in Georgia, you’re more likely to have a healthy brain than if you live in Minnesota. That’s according to an annual state-by-state ranking released this week by a national health education campaign called Beautiful Minds.

While Georgians could use more “mental stimulation through reading and game playing,” their high level of religious activity elevated them to a No. 10 ranking. And while Minnesotans read more and are active in their communities, their low level of religious activities contributed to their No. 31 ranking.

Why the emphasis on religion? Research has linked religious activity with everything from reduced stress to better memory retention.

One recent study, published in December of 2013 in JAMA Psychiatry, found that people at risk of depression were much less vulnerable if they identified as religious: Brain MRIs revealed that religious participants had thicker brain cortices than those who weren’t as religious (those with a family history of depression often have a thinning of the cortices).

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The Brain Shrinking Except for the Frontal Lobe: It’s Growing

PIC: Camazine (CC)

PIC: Camazine (CC)

Scientific studies indicate that while the brain overall is shrinking, the frontal lobe – that part of the brain responsible for communication, planning and executive function, among other things – is growing. No one knows why for certain, but there are a lot of theories. Could it be related to the birth of reading and writing? Also interesting is an apparent increase in sexual dimorphism:

Via EvoAnth:

The 7,000 years or so these endocasts cover is also the period writing was invented and spread around the world; until many countries have almost universal literacy rates. In other words, as reading and writing becomes more important the region of the brain needed for it becomes larger, despite the fact the rest of the brain is shrinking. It’s a “no duh” question; but could there be a link? The researchers think so1, but it is worth noting the frontal lobe is also linked to planning and memory.

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