151 posts tagged Mind
Did you make it to work on time this morning? Go ahead and thank the traffic gods, but also take a moment to thank your brain. The brain’s impressively accurate internal clock allows us to detect the passage of time, a skill essential for many critical daily functions. Without the ability to track elapsed time, our morning shower could continue indefinitely. Without that nagging feeling to remind us we’ve been driving too long, we might easily miss our exit. But how does the brain generate this finely tuned mental clock? Neuroscientists believe that we have distinct neural systems for processing different types of time, for example, to maintain a circadian rhythm, to control the timing of fine body movem nts, and for conscious awareness of time passage. Until recently, most neuroscientists believed that this latter type of temporal processing – the kind that alerts you when you’ve lingered over breakfast for too long – is supported by a single brain system. However, emerging research indicates that the model of a single neural clock might be too simplistic. A new study, recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience by neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine, reveals that the brain may in fact have a second method for sensing elapsed time. What’s more, the authors propose that this second internal clock not only works in parallel with our primary neural clock, but may even compete with it.
Awe-inspiring moments—like the sight of the Grand Canyon or the Aurora Borealis—might increase our tendency to believe in God and the supernatural, according to new research. The new findings—published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science—suggest that awe-inspiring sights increase our motivation to make sense of the world around us, and may underlie a trigger of belief in the supernatural. “Many historical accounts of religious epiphanies and revelations seem to involve the experience of being awe-struck by the beauty, strength or size of a divine being, and these experiences change the way people understand and think about the world”, says psychological scientist Piercarlo Valdesolo of Claremont McKenna College. “We wanted to test the exact opposite prediction: It’s not that the presence of the supernatural elicits awe, it’s that awe elicits the perception of the presence of the supernatural.” Valdesolo and his colleague Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California tested this prediction by having participants watch awe-inspiring scenes from BBC’s Planet Earth documentary series or neutral video clips from a news interview. Afterward, the participants were asked how much awe they felt while watching the video, and whether they believed that worldly events unfold according to some god’s or other non-human entity’s plan.
…the human brain is wired to connect with others so strongly that it experiences what they experience as if it’s happening to us.
This would seem the neural basis for empathy—the ability to feel what others feel—but it goes even deeper than that. Results from the latest study suggest that our…
Octodad: Dadliest Catch - “Wedding Bells” Gameplay (by OctodadGame)
As any indignant teacher would scold, students must be awake to learn. But what science is showing with increasing sophistication is how the brain uses sleep for learning as well. At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego Nov. 10, 2013, Brown University researchers will discuss new research describing the neural mechanism by which the sleeping brain locks in learning of a visual task. The mounting evidence is that during sleep the brain employs neural oscillations—brainwaves—of particular frequencies to consolidate learning in specific brain regions. In August, Brown scientists reported in the Journal of Neuroscience that two specific frequencies, fast-sigma and delta, that operated in the supplementary motor area of the brain were directly associated with learning a finger-tapping task akin to typing or playing the piano. The new results show something similar with a visual task in which 15 volunteers were trained to spot a hidden texture amid an obscuring pattern of lines. It’s a bit like an abstracted game of “Where’s Waldo” but such training is not merely an academic exercise, said Takeo Watanabe, professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown. “Perceptual learning in general has been found to improve the visual ability of patients who have some decline of function due to aging,” Watanabe said.
Jealousy: it’s in your genes
The green-eyed monster of jealousy may be hardwired into our DNA, but there is a lot we can do to keep it under control
How would you feel if you suspected your partner had enjoyed a one-night stand while away on holiday without you? What if, instead of having sex on the trip, you believed she or he had fallen in love with someone? In either case, if your partner will probably never see the other person again, would that make the situation any easier to cope with? Faced with either scenario, most of us would feel intensely jealous: it’s a very basic, normal reaction. But does the universality of jealousy indicate that it might be genetically programmed? The first study to investigate the genetic influence on jealousy was recently published. Researchers put the questions at the top of this article to more than 3,000 pairs of Swedish twins. Fraternal twins share about 50% of their genes; identical twins share exactly the same genetic make-up. By comparing the answers given by each group of twins, the researchers were able to show that around one third of the differences in levels of jealousy across the population are likely to be genetic in origin. In both scenarios – fears about a partner sleeping with or falling in love with a stranger – women reported more jealousy than men. But the researchers also found a gender difference between relative reactions to the idea of sexual or emotional betrayal. Men were far more troubled by the thought that a partner had been sexually unfaithful than by potential emotional infidelity. Women tended to respond to each scenario with equal levels of jealousy. Why is this? The answer, according to some scientists, may lie in evolutionary pressures. For both men and women, reproduction is key. But men, unlike women, cannot be certain that they are the biological parent of their child, and so they are naturally more perturbed at the thought of sexual infidelity than they are about emotional infidelity – because it jeopardises the successful transmission of their genes. Women, though relatively less perturbed by the idea that their partner may have been sleeping around, are nevertheless dependent on their mate for their survival and that of their offspring.
Is it possible to socially interact with another person in the absence of a body and the senses? Social networking allows us to present versions of ourselves. But when we use a computer to mediate our communications, are we interacting with another human being or with that machine?
Many people really do only see the computer as a mediating agent when they talk, share or watch others online. The machine merely acts as a intermediary that allows this kind of exchange to happen between different people. This is true in some respects. But as more and more social interactions start to become mediated online, our experiences are increasingly becoming virtual, not material.
Plenty of people are starting to feel as though what they are doing in the here and now only finds meaning when it is expressed virtually elsewhere. Suddenly, posting a photo of the concert you are attending or the landmark you are visiting becomes more pressing than actually experiencing the event first hand. What is in effect happening when people socially exchange via computers is best understood as a collective out-of-body experience. The whole self is evacuating the moment when we communicate online.
Why Facebook Is Teaching Its Machines to Think Like Humans
Facebook needs machines that can understand the way we humans behave and write and even feel. In January — after the company rolled out a limited public trial of Graph Search, a way of searching activity on the popular social network — Facebook engineers were forced to tweak their algorithms so they could translate slang like “pics of my homies” into more straightforward language like “pictures of my friends” and convert expressions like “dig,” “off the chain,” and “off the hook” into that standard Facebook word: “Like.” This worked well enough. But it’s just the beginning. Like Google and Apple and other tech giants, Facebook is exploring a new field called “deep learning,” which will allow its machines to better understand all sorts of nuanced language and behavior that we humans take for granted. In short, deep learning teaches machines to behave more like the human brain. Facebook’s effort only recently got off the ground — “we’re just getting started,” a company spokesperson says — but its importance will expand as time goes on. On their own, each of those three words — “off,” “the,” and “hook” — could mean just about anything. Even the complete phrase could have multiple interpretations depending on the context. It could mean that a telephone receiver wasn’t hung up or, as in the Graph Search example, that a Facebook post was, um, rad or awesome. But Facebook’s original algorithms had no way of knowing the difference because they hadn’t been “taught.” (via Why Facebook Is Teaching Its Machines to Think Like Humans | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com)
For now, the technique applies to quantitative thinking (doing math problems and calculating numbers) but the process could launch ways of reading other types of thoughts as well.
The new research, published in Nature Communications, was the first to “read the minds” of patients who were not simply engaging in lab experiments but were going about their daily lives, albeit in a hospital where they were awaiting surgery. The patients, who had epilepsy, volunteered to have electrodes placed on the surface of their brains in order to determine what region was causing their seizures and whether the dysfunctional regions could be safely removed with surgery.
Because the electrodes remained in the patients’ brains for several days, Dr. Josef Parvizi, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University, saw an opportunity to eavesdrop on their “thoughts” and link up specific brain activity with behaviors and reactions such as pain, eating, drinking, and talking. With the patients’ permission, Parvizi and his colleagues videotaped them as they interacted with friends, family and hospital staff and connected the participants’ experiences to their brain activity to get a more detailed and realistic understanding of brain function that static brain scans can’t provide. “You are able to see how neurons within the human brain are working in a real life setting,” says Parvizi.