Paralyzed Rats Learn to Walk Again Paralyzed rats learned to walk again after a combination of electro-chemical stimulation to their injured spines and intensive rehabilitation therapy. Researchers say the treatment “woke up” dormant or sleeping neurons in their spinal cords, and formed new connections to the brain. Scientists hope the treatment might someday help paralyzed humans. Researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, injected a mixture of chemicals to stimulate the rats' spinal nerve cells, which communicate with the brain. The rats were also placed in a robotic device that looks like a little vest, to support their weight. During the first few weeks after the treatment, lead researcher Grégoire Courtine at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne says the rats did not move their legs. At the end of six to seven weeks, Courtine says, the rats were able to sprint up stairs, achieving what he calls 100 percent recuperation of voluntary movement.
Re-Evolving Mind, Hans Moravec, December 2000 Computers have permeated everyday life and are worming their way into our gadgets, dwellings, clothes, even bodies. But if pervasive computing soon automates most of our informational needs, it will leave untouched a vaster number of essential physical tasks. Construction, protection, repair, cleaning, transport and so forth will remain in human hands. Robot inventors in home, university and industrial laboratories have tinkered with the problem for most of the century. The first electronic computers in the 1950s did the work of thousands of clerks. But things are changing. The short answer is that, after decades at about one MIPS (million instructions (or calculations) per second), computer power available to research robots shot through 10, 100 and now 1,000 MIPS starting about 1990 (Figure 1). It was a common opinion in the AI labs that, with the right program, readily available computers could encompass any human skill. It's easy to explain the discrepancy in hindsight.
brain trouble By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on October 8, 2012 UK researchers report the discovery of a neural mechanism that protects individuals from stress and trauma turning into post-traumatic stress disorder. Investigators from the University of Exeter Medical School began with the knowledge of the brain’s “plasticity,” its unique capability to adapt to changing environments. The receptors (called protease-activated receptor 1 or PAR1) act in the same way as a command center, telling neurons whether they should stop or accelerate their activity. Normally, PAR1s tell amygdala neurons to remain active and produce vivid emotions. This adaptation helps us to keep our fear under control, and not to develop exaggerated responses to mild or irrelevant fear triggers. In the study, researchers used a mouse model in which the PAR1 receptors were genetically de-activated. The study has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
Brain imaging can predict how intelligent you are, study finds (Medical Xpress) -- When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of exceptionally smart humans from those of average humans? As science has long suspected, overall brain size matters somewhat, accounting for about 6.7 percent of individual variation in intelligence. More recent research has pinpointed the brain’s prefrontal cortex, a region just behind the forehead, as a critical hub for high-level mental processing, with activity levels there predicting another 5 percent of variation in individual intelligence. Now, new research from Washington University in St. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the findings establish “global brain connectivity” as a new approach for understanding human intelligence. “Our research shows that connectivity with a particular part of the prefrontal cortex can predict how intelligent someone is,” suggests lead author Michael W.
Mice have different neural subsystem associated with instinctually important smells A new study finds that mice have a distinct neural subsystem that links the nose to the brain and is associated with instinctually important smells such as those emitted by predators. That insight, published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, prompts the question whether mice and other mammals have specially hardwired neural circuitry to trigger instinctive behavior in response to certain smells. In the series of experiments and observations described in the paper, the authors found that nerve cells in the nose that express members of the gene family of trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR) have several key biological differences from the much more common and diverse neurons that express members of the olfactory receptor gene family. Those other nerve cells detect a much broader range of smells, said corresponding author Gilad Barnea, the Robert and Nancy Carney Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Brown University. Different circuits and genes
Goertzel Contra Dvorsky on Mind Uploading Futurist pundit George Dvorsky recently posted an article on io9, labeled as “DEBUNKERY” and aimed at the topic of mind uploading. According to the good Mr. Dvorsky, “You’ll Probably Never Upload Your Mind into a Computer.” He briefly lists eight reasons why, in his view, mind uploading will likely never happen. UPDATE - here is a video interview on this subject: Note that he’s not merely arguing that mind uploading may come too late for you and me to take advantage of it – he’s arguing that it probably will never happen at all! The topic of Dvorsky’s skeptical screed is dear to my heart and mind. Every one of Dvorsky's objections has been aired many times before – which is fine, as his post is a journalistic article, not an original scientific or philosophic work, so it doesn’t necessarily have to break new ground. In this article I will briefly run through Dvorsky’s eight objections, and give my own, in some cases idiosyncratic, take on each of them. But, whatever…. So what? True enough.
assemble a brain It is a puzzlement: How do you assemble and wire an information processing device as complex as the mammalian brain? There are roughly 86 billion neurons in a human brain, forming about a quadrillion synapses. A rat’s brain is just one thousandth that size, but still pretty complex, with 56 million neurons and 500 billion synapses. How does the brain know to put a nest basket cell here, a small basket cell over there, a large basket cell in the middle, a Martinotti cell on the left and a bi-tufted cell on the right, all wired up to pyramidal cells? There has to be a plan, doesn’t there? As it turns out, that may be almost exactly what the brain does. The Blue Brain group (motto: “Reconstructing the brain piece by piece and building a virtual brain on a supercomputer”) at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has built a computer model of a 298-cell slice of rat cerebral cortex. It’s a case of, “Ready. Images: EPFL / Blue Brain Project
Who’s conscious? A recent meeting of neuroscientists tried to define a set of criteria for that murky phenomenon called “consciousness”. I don’t know how successful they were; they’ve come out with a declaration on consciousness that isn’t exactly crystal clear. It seems to involve the existence of neural circuitry that exhibits specific states that modulate behavior. The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. This is where they’re losing me. They seem to have reached an agreement that a mammalian neocortex is not necessary for consciousness, which seems entirely reasonable to me. Anyway, here’s their conclusion. We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Wait, I missed something again. Also, here is an interesting summary of evidence for sophisticated intentional behaviors in octopus. The octopus is the only invertebrate to get a shout-out at all.