Tag Archives | Neuroscience

We Must Wake Up to the Threats of New Chemical Weapons

via New Scientist F028-003

Chemical warfare is centuries old, but rapid advances in science could create deadly new weapons. We must act now

SYRIA, AD 256: Persian forces are under siege by the Romans. The attacking forces seek to tunnel under the Persian fortifications, but are met by a toxic mix of fumes from burning sulphur and bitumen. Syria, 2013: as yet unsubstantiated claims and counterclaims abound that chemical weapons have been deployed in the country.

The abhorrent effects of chemical warfare were unequivocally demonstrated during the first world war. This year, we mark the 25th anniversary of the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Halabja in northern Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s leadership.

Most governments now regard such weapons as militarily redundant, as demonstrated by their membership of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibits the production and use of chemical weapons, commits them to destroying all existing stocks, and prevents reacquisition.

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Panting For Breath On A Virtual Shore

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Our brains are being reprogrammed — literally. And not for the better, but droolingly bad.

A “detriment to cognition, concentration, contemplation and psychological health,” causing “structural abnormalities in gray matter” to the tune of a “fifteen percent shrinkage in the area of the brain that controls speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information.”

That´s what research in neuroscience is showing about all of the pervasive technologies — video games, cell phones, televisions, etc — so many of us spend numerous hours hyper-connected to all day long.

And, “This shrinkage is cumulative: The more time online, the more grey matter shrivels.”

“New studies are showing that internet and social media use contribute to or instigate even bigger mental breakdowns: split-personality disorder, delusional and paranoid thought, suicidal thinking, even psychosis . . . psychosis, that is defined as, a loss of what is real.”

These technologies, which we have only really had so dramatically present in our lives for the last five years, are contributing greatly to the mental breakdown of millions of people.… Read the rest

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The Postmortem Portraits of Phineas Gage

Picture: John Darrell Van Horn (C)

Vaughan Bell writes at Mind Hacks:

A new artform has emerged – the post-mortem neuroportrait. Its finest subject, Phineas Gage.

Gage was a worker extending the tracks of the great railways and suffered the most spectacular injury. As he was setting a gunpowder charge in a rock with a large tamping iron, the powder was lit by an accidental spark. The iron was launched through his skull.

He became famous in neuroscience because he lived – rare for the time – and had psychological changes as a result of his neurological damage.

His story has been better told elsewhere but the interest has not died – studies on Gage’s injury have continued to the present day.

There is a scientific veneer, of course, but it’s clear that the fascination with the freak Phineas has its own morbid undercurrents.

The image is key.

The first such picture was constructed with nothing more than pen and ink.

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Love Is Just Small Moments Of Positivity Resonance

You can fall in and out of love every day, and experience the benefits of brief moments of “positivity resonance,” just by being open to other people. Via the Atlantic:

Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions, presents scientific evidence that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting yearning and passion that characterizes young love or sustains a marriage; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.

Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store.

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German Neurologist Claims ‘Dark Patch’ In The Brain Is Responsible For Evil

Perhaps reserve some skepticism, but the claim is that future serial killers and dictators could be pinpointed in childhood via brain scan of the front lower forehead area. The Daily Mail reports:

A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers and rapists. One of Germany’s best-known brain specialists, Bremen scientist Dr. Gerhard Roth says the ‘evil patch’ lies in the brain’s central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays. He discovered it when investigating violent convicted offenders over the years for German government studies.

‘We showed these people short films and measured their brain waves,’ he said. ‘Whenever there were brutal scenes the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened.’ The dark mass at the front of the brain, he says, appears in all scans of people with records for criminal violence.

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Scientists Capture First Footage Ever Of A Thought Being Formed

Via Gizmodo, you can now truly see someone thinking:

A team of Japanese researchers has captured, for the first time ever, a movie which shows how thoughts form in the brain. OK, so it’s a thought forming in the brain of a zebrafish. But this is a fundamental leap forward in our understanding of how brains work.

The researchers used a new technique to record the footage: a super-sensitive fluorescent probe that detects neuron activity. We see neurons glowing when they’re active—and the cascade of light you see in this video is the neuronal response of a zebrafish responding to the presence of its prey.

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Scientists Locate Region Of Brain That Causes Selfishness

The question is, could we create a utopia by all having our basolateral amygdalas surgically removed? Via Science News:

People with damage to a specific part of the brain entrusted unexpectedly large amounts of money to complete strangers. In an investment game played in the lab, three women with damage to a small part of the brain called the basolateral amygdala handed over nearly twice as much money as healthy people.

These women didn’t expect to make a bunch of money back, an international team of researchers reports online the week of January 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Nor did they think the person they invested with was particularly trustworthy. When asked why they would invest so generously, the volunteers couldn’t provide an answer.

The results suggest that normally, the basolateral amygdala enables selfishness — putting the squeeze on generosity.

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On the Art Of Dying Well

British neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick researches how consciousness changes as we approach death. In this TEDx talk, he explores the altered states on the edge of death and explains how to engage in a peaceful and satisfying end to earthly existence:

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The End To The Era Of Biological Robots

Via Skeptiko, a fascinating interview with neuroscientist Dr. Mario Beauregard, who argues that, like the transition from classical to quantum physics, a revolution is coming in the way science will no longer perceive humans as being merely “biological robots”:

What we call the “modern scientific worldview”… is based on classical physics and this view is based on a number of fundamental assumptions like materialism, determinism, reductionism. So applied to mind and brain it means that, for instance, everything in the universe is only matter and energy that form the brain as a physical object, too, and the mind can be reduced strictly to electrical and chemical processes in the brain.

It means also that everything is determined from a material or physical point of view, so we don’t have any freedom. We’re like biological robots, totally determined by our neurons and our genes and so on. And so we’re reduced to material objects and we are determined by material processes.

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