A Momentary Flow

Updating Worldviews one World at a time

How mindfulness can ease ‘burden’ of dementia
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Northwestern University Original Study
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Mindfulness training eases depression and improves sleep and quality of life for both people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers, research shows. “The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members, and caregivers,” says study lead author Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University and a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.” Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are particularly hard on caregivers, who are often close family members. They tend to have an increased incidence of anxiety, depression, immune dysfunction, and other health concerns as well as an increased mortality rate, according to prior studies. This is the first study to show that the caregiver and the patient both benefit from undergoing mindfulness training together. This is important because caregivers often don’t have much time on their own for activities that could relieve their emotional burden. (via How mindfulness can ease ‘burden’ of dementia - Futurity)

How mindfulness can ease ‘burden’ of dementia
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Northwestern University Original Study
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Mindfulness training eases depression and improves sleep and quality of life for both people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers, research shows. “The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members, and caregivers,” says study lead author Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University and a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.” Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are particularly hard on caregivers, who are often close family members. They tend to have an increased incidence of anxiety, depression, immune dysfunction, and other health concerns as well as an increased mortality rate, according to prior studies. This is the first study to show that the caregiver and the patient both benefit from undergoing mindfulness training together. This is important because caregivers often don’t have much time on their own for activities that could relieve their emotional burden. (via How mindfulness can ease ‘burden’ of dementia - Futurity)

Some people can hold huge amounts of information in their mind and even manipulate it, trying out different ideas, while other people can only hold small amounts. Why do people have the particular capacity they have? How can we investigate these differences between people? It turns out the key to answering these questions is to get people to remember information in only one of their five senses, for example, vision. By doing this we narrow down the field of things to investigate. We can look at the precise brain anatomy related to just that one sense in different people and figure out which parts of their brain allow for greater information capacity. This is exactly what we did in our Cerebral Cortex paper. We found that people with a physically larger visual cortex – the part at the back of the brain that deals with what we see – could hold more temporary information in their memory. This is interesting for a number of reasons because it suggests that the physical parameters of our brains set the limits to what we can do with our minds.

The larger your visual cortex the more visual information it can hold. But the “visual cortex bucket” has to actively hold on to the information. It takes voluntary effort on your behalf to continually hold this information and then use it.

It is worth noting that size is not everything. Many other brain factors can and will influence your mental life and indeed your working memory capacity.

These factors include the degree of internal connections between different brain areas, the level of neural transmitters, the hormones in your body and brain, and of course the amount of stress you are under.

In our study, we found that both the thickness and the surface size of the visual cortex independently predicted how much people could hold in visual working memory. So indirectly at least, it seems that your parents or ancestors might have passed their visual cortex down to you, or at least its size.

Brain size matters when it comes to remembering (via myserendipities)

(via myserendipities)

Reblogged from my serendipities

BAE Systems developing “smart skin” for aircraft
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In some cases, a pilot discovering damage to an airplane involves noticing a frightening thump on the hull. That may indicate that something is wrong, but not what or where. On the other hand, when human beings are injured, the network of nerves in the skin tell us almost exactly where and what is wrong. Stealing a march on nature, BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology Centre is working on a “smart skin” that covers the fuselage of an aircraft with thousands of microsensors to send back a wide variety of detailed information in real time. Currently in concept form, the BAE smart skin is the brainchild of Senior Research Scientist Lydia Hyde, who got the idea from her clothes dryer’s ability to switch itself off if it overheats. She reasoned that if one sensor in a washer is good, then thousands of tiny ones are better. “Observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating, got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multi-functional ones,” says Hyde. “This in turn led to the idea that aircraft, or indeed cars and ships, could be covered by thousands of these motes creating a ‘smart skin’ that can sense the world around them and monitor their condition by detecting stress, heat or damage. The idea is to make platforms ‘feel’ using a skin of sensors in the same way humans or animals do.” The concept involves replacing the conventional pitot tubes, thermometers, and other instruments with a skin on the fuselage of the plane that contains tens of thousands of multi-sensors less than a millimeter across. These are so small that they could even be spray painted on existing aircraft. They would have their own power system, and would connect with one another and the user interface using wireless networking technology. (via BAE Systems developing “smart skin” for aircraft)

BAE Systems developing “smart skin” for aircraft
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In some cases, a pilot discovering damage to an airplane involves noticing a frightening thump on the hull. That may indicate that something is wrong, but not what or where. On the other hand, when human beings are injured, the network of nerves in the skin tell us almost exactly where and what is wrong. Stealing a march on nature, BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology Centre is working on a “smart skin” that covers the fuselage of an aircraft with thousands of microsensors to send back a wide variety of detailed information in real time. Currently in concept form, the BAE smart skin is the brainchild of Senior Research Scientist Lydia Hyde, who got the idea from her clothes dryer’s ability to switch itself off if it overheats. She reasoned that if one sensor in a washer is good, then thousands of tiny ones are better. “Observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating, got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multi-functional ones,” says Hyde. “This in turn led to the idea that aircraft, or indeed cars and ships, could be covered by thousands of these motes creating a ‘smart skin’ that can sense the world around them and monitor their condition by detecting stress, heat or damage. The idea is to make platforms ‘feel’ using a skin of sensors in the same way humans or animals do.” The concept involves replacing the conventional pitot tubes, thermometers, and other instruments with a skin on the fuselage of the plane that contains tens of thousands of multi-sensors less than a millimeter across. These are so small that they could even be spray painted on existing aircraft. They would have their own power system, and would connect with one another and the user interface using wireless networking technology. (via BAE Systems developing “smart skin” for aircraft)

Autómata: a believable robot future
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YOUR TIME IS COMING TO AN END. OURS IS NOW BEGINNING. 
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Synopsis :
Fast forward fifty years into the future, planet earth is in the midst of gradual desertification. Mankind struggles to survive as the environment deteriorates and the slow regression of the human race begins in AUTÓMATA. On the brink of life and the reality of death, technology combats the prevailing uncertainty and fear with the creation of the first quantum android, the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Designed to bring support to society’s plight, man and robot reveal what it means to co-exist in a culture defined by human nature. The descent of civilization is juxtaposed by the rise of ROC, the corporation at the helm of robotic intelligence. Despite the demise of humanity, the company has set forth security protocols to ensure mankind always maintains control over the manufactured population. As ROC insurance agent, Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) routinely investigates cases and complaints surrounding defective androids, he begins to uncover the secrets behind who is really manipulating the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Jacq’s own suspicions propel the mystery— uncovering a truth that is far more complex than the make or model of any machine. Writer/Director Gabe Ibáñez was driven to tell a story that blurs the lines between science fiction and reality. Ibáñez gives audiences a compelling look into the theory of evolution and what life might be like for mankind in the not too distant future. With powerful performances from a cast including Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Melanie Griffith, Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster, AUTÓMATA is a sci-fi film noir that explores the potential dangers and complexities when mind and machine merge. — Millennium Entertainment (via Autómata: a believable robot future | KurzweilAI)

Autómata: a believable robot future
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YOUR TIME IS COMING TO AN END. OURS IS NOW BEGINNING.
-
Synopsis :
Fast forward fifty years into the future, planet earth is in the midst of gradual desertification. Mankind struggles to survive as the environment deteriorates and the slow regression of the human race begins in AUTÓMATA. On the brink of life and the reality of death, technology combats the prevailing uncertainty and fear with the creation of the first quantum android, the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Designed to bring support to society’s plight, man and robot reveal what it means to co-exist in a culture defined by human nature. The descent of civilization is juxtaposed by the rise of ROC, the corporation at the helm of robotic intelligence. Despite the demise of humanity, the company has set forth security protocols to ensure mankind always maintains control over the manufactured population. As ROC insurance agent, Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) routinely investigates cases and complaints surrounding defective androids, he begins to uncover the secrets behind who is really manipulating the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Jacq’s own suspicions propel the mystery— uncovering a truth that is far more complex than the make or model of any machine. Writer/Director Gabe Ibáñez was driven to tell a story that blurs the lines between science fiction and reality. Ibáñez gives audiences a compelling look into the theory of evolution and what life might be like for mankind in the not too distant future. With powerful performances from a cast including Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Melanie Griffith, Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster, AUTÓMATA is a sci-fi film noir that explores the potential dangers and complexities when mind and machine merge. — Millennium Entertainment (via Autómata: a believable robot future | KurzweilAI)

Yet viewing our genome as an elegant and tidy blueprint for building humans misses a crucial fact: our genome does not exist to serve us humans at all. Instead, we exist to serve our genome, a collection of genes that have been surviving from time immemorial, skipping down the generations. These genes have evolved to build human ‘survival machines’, programmed as tools to make additional copies of the genes (by producing more humans who carry them in their genomes). From the cold-hearted view of biological reality, we exist only to ensure the survival of these travellers in our genomes.

Is our genome full of junk DNA? – Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher – Aeon
Life doesn’t make trash - A genome is not a blueprint for building a human being, so is there any way to judge whether DNA is junk or not? - Humans are astounding creatures, our unique and highly complex traits encoded by our genome – a vast sequence of DNA ‘letters’ (called nucleotides) directing the building and maintenance of the body and brain. Yet science has served up the confounding paradox that the bulk of our genome appears to be dead wood, biologically inert junk. Could all this mysterious ‘dark matter’ in our genome really be non-functional? Our genome has more than 20,000 genes, relatively stable stretches of DNA transmitted largely unchanged between generations. These genes contain recipes for molecules, especially proteins, that are the main building blocks and molecular machines of our bodies. Yet DNA that codes for such known structures accounts for just over 3 per cent of our genome. What about the other 97 per cent? With the publication of the first draft of the human genome in 2001, that shadow world came into focus. It emerged that roughly half our DNA consisted of ‘repeats’, long stretches of letters sometimes found in millions of copies at seemingly random places throughout the genome. Were all these repeats just junk? To answer this question, hundreds of scientists worldwide joined a massive science project called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE. After working hard for almost a decade, in 2012 ENCODE came to a surprising conclusion: rather than being composed mostly of useless junk, 80 per cent of the human genome is in fact functional. (via Is our genome full of junk DNA? – Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher – Aeon)

Life doesn’t make trash
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A genome is not a blueprint for building a human being, so is there any way to judge whether DNA is junk or not?
-
Humans are astounding creatures, our unique and highly complex traits encoded by our genome – a vast sequence of DNA ‘letters’ (called nucleotides) directing the building and maintenance of the body and brain. Yet science has served up the confounding paradox that the bulk of our genome appears to be dead wood, biologically inert junk. Could all this mysterious ‘dark matter’ in our genome really be non-functional? Our genome has more than 20,000 genes, relatively stable stretches of DNA transmitted largely unchanged between generations. These genes contain recipes for molecules, especially proteins, that are the main building blocks and molecular machines of our bodies. Yet DNA that codes for such known structures accounts for just over 3 per cent of our genome. What about the other 97 per cent? With the publication of the first draft of the human genome in 2001, that shadow world came into focus. It emerged that roughly half our DNA consisted of ‘repeats’, long stretches of letters sometimes found in millions of copies at seemingly random places throughout the genome. Were all these repeats just junk? To answer this question, hundreds of scientists worldwide joined a massive science project called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE. After working hard for almost a decade, in 2012 ENCODE came to a surprising conclusion: rather than being composed mostly of useless junk, 80 per cent of the human genome is in fact functional. (via Is our genome full of junk DNA? – Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher – Aeon)

Martin Rees: Can we prevent the end of the world?
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A post-apocalyptic Earth, emptied of humans, seems like the stuff of science fiction TV and movies. But in this short, surprising talk, Lord Martin Rees asks us to think about our real existential risks — natural and human-made threats that could wipe out humanity. As a concerned member of the human race, he asks: What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? (via Martin Rees: Can we prevent the end of the world? | Talk Video | TED.com)

Scientists’ ability to ‘grow’ living organs boosts patient transplant hopes  - Scientists have created the first functional organ in a living animal from reprogrammed cells in a development that could one day be used to provide replacement organs for people with weakened immune systems. The thymus organ, a vital immune-system “nerve centre” near the heart, was initially grown in a laboratory from connective-tissue cells. It was then transplanted into laboratory mice, where it continued to grow and develop into a fully functional organ, the researchers said. It is believed to be the first time that scientists have strung several technologies together to produce a working organ from stem cells which has been transferred into a living animal. It could lead to the transplant of “made-to-order” organs grown from a patient’s own skin cells, though such a breakthrough could take another 10 years and millions of pounds of research. However, Paolo De Coppi, an expert on regenerative medicine at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, suggested an earlier time frame is possible. “Engineering of relatively simple organs has already been adopted for a small number of patients and it is possible that within the next five years, more complex organs will be engineered for patients using specialised cells derived from stem cells in a similar way as outlined in this [study],” he said. “We’ve managed to produce an artificial cell type which when transplanted can form a fully organised and functional organ. This is an important step towards the goal of generating a clinically useful artificial thymus in the lab,” said Professor Clare Blackburn of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University. (via Scientists’ ability to ‘grow’ living organs boosts patient transplant hopes - Science - News - The Independent)

Scientists’ ability to ‘grow’ living organs boosts patient transplant hopes
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Scientists have created the first functional organ in a living animal from reprogrammed cells in a development that could one day be used to provide replacement organs for people with weakened immune systems. The thymus organ, a vital immune-system “nerve centre” near the heart, was initially grown in a laboratory from connective-tissue cells. It was then transplanted into laboratory mice, where it continued to grow and develop into a fully functional organ, the researchers said. It is believed to be the first time that scientists have strung several technologies together to produce a working organ from stem cells which has been transferred into a living animal. It could lead to the transplant of “made-to-order” organs grown from a patient’s own skin cells, though such a breakthrough could take another 10 years and millions of pounds of research. However, Paolo De Coppi, an expert on regenerative medicine at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, suggested an earlier time frame is possible. “Engineering of relatively simple organs has already been adopted for a small number of patients and it is possible that within the next five years, more complex organs will be engineered for patients using specialised cells derived from stem cells in a similar way as outlined in this [study],” he said. “We’ve managed to produce an artificial cell type which when transplanted can form a fully organised and functional organ. This is an important step towards the goal of generating a clinically useful artificial thymus in the lab,” said Professor Clare Blackburn of the Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University. (via Scientists’ ability to ‘grow’ living organs boosts patient transplant hopes - Science - News - The Independent)