Technology Review: Brain Coprocessors Ed Boyden, an Assistant Professor, Biological Engineering, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab, will give a presentation on using light to study and treat brain disorders at 3.30pm on Wednesday at EmTech 2010. Watch a live feed of the session here. The last few decades have seen a surge of invention of technologies that enable the observation or perturbation of information in the brain. Functional MRI, which measures blood flow changes associated with brain activity, is being explored for purposes as diverse as lie detection, prediction of human decision making, and assessment of language recovery after stroke. Implanted electrical stimulators, which enable control of neural circuit activity, are borne by hundreds of thousands of people to treat conditions such as deafness, Parkinson’s disease, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The neuroscientific study of hallucinogens Recently, an important and landmark paper was published in PLoS ONE (hooray open access!) titled, "Investigating the Mechanisms of Hallucinogen-Induced Visions Using 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA): A Randomized Controlled Trial in Humans". It sounds daunting, but trust me, it's a very cool, approachable study. Now, in the spirit of full-disclosure, the lead author Dr. Matthew Baggott (hereafter referred to as "Matt"), is a friend of mine from grad school and he's been kind enough to grant me a very thorough interview for this post. The interview is quite long, so I'll give a brief overview of the research and some of Matt's comments, but I've posted the entire interview at the bottom of this post.
Neuroscience of free will Neuroscience of free will is the part of neurophilosophy that studies the interconnections between free will and neuroscience. As it has become possible to study the living brain, researchers have begun to watch decision making processes at work. Findings could carry implications for our sense of agency and for moral responsibility and the role of consciousness in general. Relevant findings include the pioneering study by Benjamin Libet and its subsequent redesigns; these studies were able to detect activity related to a decision to move, and the activity appears to begin briefly before people become conscious of it. Other studies try to predict activity before overt action occurs. Taken together, these various findings show that at least some actions - like moving a finger - are initiated unconsciously at first, and enter consciousness afterward.
Brain wave patterns can predict mistakes — Tri-City Psychology Services Image credit:iStockphoto From spilling a cup of coffee to failing to notice a stop sign, everyone makes an occasional error due to lack of attention. Now a team led by a researcher at the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with the Donders Institute in the Netherlands, has found a distinct electric signature in the brain which predicts that such an error is about to be made. The discovery could prove useful in a variety of applications, from developing monitoring devices that alert air traffic control operators that their attention is flagging, to devising new strategies to help children cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Does Quantum Mechanics Speak to Catholic Teaching? On the right-hand column you'll see that of the five posts most visited on this blog, three deal with quantum mechanics and religion. If, then, the relation between quantum mechanics and Catholic doctrine is intriguing, why not explore a general question: does quantum mechanics inform theology, and if so, how? What I will try to do is to put forth some general considerations. Particular intersections of quantum mechanics with teachings of the Church are discussed in several posts on my blog (see the right hand column and References**). Those who want to plunge into the deep end of the swimming pool, might go to two volumes published by the Center for Theology and Natural Science (in collaboration with Vatican Observatory Publications).
Neuroscientists reveal magicians' secrets - Technology & science - Science - LiveScience NEW YORK — There is a place for magic in science. Five years ago, on a trip to Las Vegas, neuroscientists Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde realized that a partnership was in order with a profession that has an older and more intuitive understanding of how the human brain works. Magicians, it seems, have an advantage over neuroscientists. "Scientists have only studied cognitive illusions for a few decades. Magicians have studied them for hundreds, if not thousands, of years," Martinez-Conde told the audience during a recent presentation here at the New York Academy of Sciences. [ Video: Your Brain on Magic ] She and Macknik, her husband, use illusions as a tool to study how the brain works.
Wellcome Image of the Month: Celebration of the brain Recently, the Wellcome Trust supported a play called 2401 Objects. It tells the story of Henry Molaison, who suffered from epilepsy and underwent experimental surgery in an attempt to cure his frequent and often disruptive seizures. Unbeknown to Henry at the time, the operation was set to become one of the most influential case studies in the history of neuroscience research. Patient HM, as Henry later became known within the research community, provided a rare but hugely powerful insight into the cognitive and neural organisation of memory, both experimentally and theoretically.
How Brain Imaging Could Help Predict Alzheimer's Developing drugs that effectively slow the course of Alzheimer’s disease has been notoriously difficult. Scientists and drug developers believe that a large part of the problem is that they are testing these drugs too late in the progression of the disease, when significant damage to the brain makes intervention much more difficult. “Drugs like Lilly’s gamma secretase inhibitor failed because they were tested in the wrong group of patients,” says Sangram Sisodia, director of the Center for Molecular Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. People in the mid or late stages of the disease “are too far gone, there is nothing you can do.” New brain imaging research may help solve that problem. Two studies presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego this week identified changes in the brains of people who would go on to develop the disease.
Neurologist discovers 'dark patch' inside brains of killers and rapists Scans reveal a patch at the front of the brain can be seen in people with records for criminal violenceGerman scientist who made the discovery classifies evil in three groups By Allan Hall In Berlin Published: 15:32 GMT, 5 February 2013 | Updated: 23:29 GMT, 5 February 2013 What Einstein Got Wrong About the Speed of Light If you want to play in the quantum sandbox, you have to accept some bizarre rules. You have to accept that a single thing can exist in two states at once—alive and dead, black and white—until it’s observed or measured in some way, at which point it instantly takes on one quality or the other. You have to accept that two particles at opposite ends of the universe can be entangled in such a way that anything you do to one instantly affects the other. And you have to accept that the strictest, no-exceptions rule in all of physics—that nothing can move faster than the speed of light—may have some exceptions after all. Einstein hated the quantum sandbox, especially the part about entanglement.
Neuromarketing Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) and Steady state topography (SST) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one's physiological state, also known as biometrics, including (heart rate and respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it. Neuromarketing research raised interest for both academic and business side. In fact, certain companies, particularly those with large-scale goals, have invested in their own laboratories, science personnel and / or partnerships with academia.  The word "neuromarketing" was coined by Ale Smidts in 2002. Coke vs.
Stimulating brain with electricity aids learning speed 20 September 2011Last updated at 11:52 By Leila Battison Science reporter The brain can change its structure in response to experience and practice Electrically stimulating the brain can help to speed up the process of learning, scientists have shown. Applying a small current to specific parts of the brain can increase its activity, making learning easier. Researchers from the University of Oxford have studied the changing structure of the brain in stroke patients and in healthy adults. Prof Heidi Johansen-Berg presented their findings at the British Science Festival in Bradford. Navy: Grow Sailors’ Brains With iPhone App It’s not that the Navy is calling you stupid. The seafaring service just wants to actually see your brain grow. High on the Navy’s just-released wish list for designs from small businesses is a “brain-fitness training program” that sailors can use to sharpen their cognitive skills.
Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind by Jeanna Bryner, Live Science Managing Editor | October 09, 2007 01:25pm ET Credit: NIH, NIDA Much of what we don't understand about being human is simply in our heads. The brain is a befuddling organ, as are the very questions of life and death, consciousness, sleep, and much more. Here's a heads-up on what's known and what's not understood about your noggin.