How do Neurons Go to Work?

learning exercise for rats: they are good swimmers by nature

Want to learn more about Neurogenesis? Scientists know now that adults can create new brain cells, but what do they do? Are they like extra furniture in a room? Or do they interact with existing structures in a meaningul - and beneficial way?

by David Dobbs, Editor, Mind Matters

After a sometimes ferocious debate lasting decades, most neuroscientists now agree that the adult brain makes new neurons. Yet they're far from agreeing on what, if anything, these freshly minted new brain cells actually do. Do they replace worn-out veterans? Provide new memories? Strengthen existing knowledge? Just take up space? These questions hang over every discussion of neurogenesis -- and drive quite a few research agendas.

The paper reviewed here -- "Preferential incorporation of adult-generated granule cells into spatial memory networks in the dentate gyrus," by Nohjin Kee, Catia M. Teixeira, Afra H. Wang, and Paul W. Frankland, from Nature Neurosciece 4 Feb 2007 -- suggests some answers. As our experts Doug Fields and Brad Aimone explain, this paper shows that at least some new neurons help us form memories -- and suggests other intriguing possibilities as well.

Join us in a look at how new neurons go to work.

read more at Scientific American Mind.

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Mind Widgets

The link where you can get Brainpal and other tools for your site is here.

(1) Copy the code
(2) Paste into your site, forum, or blog template
(3) Publish the page.

note: with blogger, remove the reference to the part of the code ending in ".js" as they do not support live scripts within the page. We'll be posting a separate blogger version shortly. If you remove the reference to cognitive.js it works fine. Other than that, get started.

You will then be able to build traffic to your site with a free test.

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BrainPal - A test for your site!

get your test

Now, everyone can help everyone else sharpen their minds. Science? Yes, this game is among the tests used in our recent Stanford research. (also patent-protected. more later)

Here's the code: 1. copy it 2. paste it on your website or blog 3. publish - you can test an infinite number of people and put it with your content.

<embed style="width: 160px; height: 155px;"

type="application/x-shockwave-flash" scale="exactfit">

<script type="text/javascript"
id="wa_u"></script><script type="text/javascript"

<br><small style="font-family: helvetica,arial,sans-serif;
color: rgb(153, 153,

153);">get your <a

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Science: Medieval Mosques Display Recent Math Breakthroughs

Tiles on mosques in Isfahan (Iran) display a level of mathematical complexity explained only in recent decades by the Mathematician Roger Penrose. Quasicrystalline patterns involve unending repetition of geometric shapes - always in a different configuration, however.

--Magnificently sophisticated geometric patterns in medieval Islamic architecture indicate their designers achieved a mathematical breakthrough 500 years earlier than Western scholars, scientists said on Thursday.

By the 15th century, decorative tile patterns on these masterpieces of Islamic architecture reached such complexity that a small number boasted what seem to be "quasicrystalline" designs, Harvard University's Peter Lu and Princeton University's Paul Steinhardt wrote in the journal Science.

Only in the 1970s did British mathematician and cosmologist Roger Penrose become the first to describe these geometric designs in the West. Quasicrystalline patterns comprise a set of interlocking units whose pattern never repeats, even when extended infinitely in all directions, and possess a special form of symmetry.
Reuters Pictures

"Oh, it's absolutely stunning," Lu said in an interview. "They made tilings that reflect mathematics that were so sophisticated that we didn't figure it out until the last 20 or 30 years."

Lu and Steinhardt in particular cite designs on the Darb-i Imam shrine in Isfahan, Iran, built in 1453.

Islamic tradition has frowned upon pictorial representations in artwork. Mosques and other grand buildings erected by Islamic architects throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere often are wrapped in rich, intricate tile designs setting out elaborate geometric patterns.

The walls of many medieval Islamic structures display sumptuous geometric star-and-polygon patterns. The research indicated that by 1200 an important breakthrough had occurred in Islamic mathematics and design, as illustrated by these geometric designs....read more

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American Oddity

Capping off a strange 2 weeks, the BBC wonders what is going on in America - diaper clad astronauts, pop divas at wit's end, and celebrity funerals - an unreality show just a few years into the 3rd millennium. The natural world, meanwhile, is filled with mysteries such as the sudden decline in bee population - hitting national media this week after being noticed years ago (the article is from 2004)since the decline appears to be accelerating...

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Laptop Phones Home: SETI saves a lost computer

Maybe no conventional broadcast signals of intelligent origin have been heard yet, but SETI@home, the number crunching peer service from UC-Berkeley, has played a role in recovering a lost computer. Keep in mind that SETI@home is distinct from SETI.

Stolen laptop recovered thanks to SETI@home software

Kimberly Melin got her stolen laptop back after police traced the IP address her computer was using to send SETI@home data to the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

SETI@home is a program that analyzes deep space radio wave data collected by the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. Kimberly's husband, James, installed the program on her computer. He's one of over a million people who have SETI@home running on their computers in the hopes of finding non-human intelligent life in the universe. SETI stands for "Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence."

Melin monitored the SETI(at)home database to see if the stolen laptop would "talk" to the Berkeley servers. Indeed, the laptop checked in three times within a week, and Melin sent the IP addresses to the Minneapolis Police Department.

After a subpoena to a local Internet provider, police determined the real-world address where the stolen laptop was logging on. Within days, officers seized the computer and returned it. No one had been arrested as of Wednesday and the case remains under investigation, said Lt. Amelia Huffman of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Kimberly's writings were safe, and the thieves didn't appear to have broken into her e-mail or other personal folders. But the returned computer contained 20 tracks of rap music with unintelligible lyrics, possibly from the person who stole the computer or bought it on the underground.

"It's really, really horrid rap," Melin said. "It makes Ludacris look like Pavarotti."

Link (Thanks, Jay!)

Fascinating, courtesy boing-boing

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SmileyCentral on CogLabs and Other Hot Stuff

SmileyBuzz, the blog of SmileyCentral, part of web giant IAC Search & Media - that's the company assembled by Barry Diller through acquisitions, has a good review of the typing game we feature. They've also posted about Lifehacker and JibJab, which produces gems like this.

Scroll down a bit and you get a grok of TV host Craig Ferguson on Britney Spears, and wonder of wonders, the first TV commercial starring Ronald McDonald.

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Chocolate Can Boost Your Brain?

Eating chocolate could help to sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills, a University of Nottingham expert has found.

A study led by Professor Ian Macdonald found that consumption of a cocoa drink rich in flavanols — a key ingredient of dark chocolate — boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours.

Increased blood flow to these areas of the brain may help to increase performance in specific tasks and boost general alertness over a short period.

The findings, unveiled at one of the biggest scientific conferences in America, also raise the prospect of ingredients in chocolate being used to treat vascular impairment, including dementia and strokes, and thus for maintaining cardiovascular health.

The study also suggests that the cocoa flavanols found in chocolate could be useful in enhancing brain function for people fighting fatigue, sleep deprivation, and even the effects of ageing.

Ian Macdonald, professor of metabolic physiology at The University of Nottingham, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect increased activity in specific areas of the brain in individuals who had consumed a single drink of flavanol-rich cocoa. The effect is linked to dilation of cerebral blood vessels, allowing more blood — and therefore more oxygen — to reach key areas of the brain.

Flavanols are not only found in chocolate with a high cocoa content — they are also present in other substances such as red wine, green tea and blueberries.

He presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the biggest annual gatherings of scientists from all over the world. This year's meeting takes place in San Francisco from February 15–19.

Professor Macdonald said: “Acute consumption of this particular flavanol-rich cocoa beverage was associated with increased grey matter flow for two to three hours.

“The demonstration of an effect of consuming this particular beverage on cerebral blood flow raises the possibility that certain food ingredients may be beneficial in increasing brain blood flow and enhancing brain function, in situations where individuals are cognitively impaired such as fatigue, sleep deprivation, or possibly ageing.”

He emphasised that the level of cocoa flavanol used in the study is not available commercially. The cocoa-rich flavanol beverage was specially formulated for the purpose of the study.

Co-authors on the research were Dr Susan Francis, research associate Kay Head, and Professor Peter Morris, all from The University of Nottingham's School of Physics and Astronomy.

Professor Macdonald is a member of the Food Standards Agency's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, and is President-Elect of the UK Nutrition Society. His main research interests are concerned with the functional consequences of metabolic and nutritional disturbances in health and disease, with specific interests in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and exercise.

The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the prestigious international journal Science. Its annual conference draws up to 10,000 attendees.

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site refresh(ment)

Time for an Interface "refresh" - while it is a large site, simplicity has gotten away from us a little bit....and we're gazing at the remnants of Ozymandias. We need to combine some of the elements in a refreshing way - for example, the interchange between tests and games. The tests are in fact games of a scientific order, and the games, some of them, are test-like. We're finding, as data archaeologists that visitors behave in interesting ways on the site - not really what you might expect.We're also sticking with our one-log in philosophy - you provide one piece of information, not two - which by nature, is easier on the user. How many user names and passwords do you need? Even with password memory, it is irritating. If you have any requests, let us know - design +/@- cognitivelabs.com, otherwise we'll be asking friends at random. No, there won't be any tag clouds.


CNET: Google's Page Encourages Scientists to Promote Themselves

Larry Page talked to the AAAS in San Francisco about DNA and its small footprint. (an OS smaller than Windows or Linux)

The programming language of humans, if you will, would include the workings of your brain, said Page, who offered his hypothesis Friday night during a plenary lecture here at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. His guess, he said, was that the brain's algorithms weren't all that complicated and could be approximated, eventually, with a lot of computational power.

"We have some people at Google (who) are really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale," Page said to a packed Hilton ballroom of scientists. "It's not as far off as people think."

Page, the director of products at the 8-year-old search giant, described several of his areas of interest in science and technology during the hour-long talk, which was a rare engagement for the nerdy billionaire. But the common thread in the lecture seemed to be enthusiasm for what Page (and co-founder Sergey Brin) managed to do well with Google: good old-fashioned entrepreneurialism while solving a single problem.

Here's a response.

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New Discovery in Ancient Egypt

Acacia, Tamarisk, or Cedar of Lebanon statue of Ka-Hay

Archaeologists have discovered an Old Kingdom tomb in Saqqara, near the well-known step pyramid of King Djoser (said to be designed by the architect Imhotep). The tomb is mud-brick and in the mastaba (Arabic: birthing bed) style and belonged to an offical named Ka-Hay, "keeper of divine records," better described as temple scribe, and his wife.

Interestingly, the tomb contained wooden statues, which would have been painted to a life-like appearance. The tomb also held a seated statue of Ka-Hay and his wife (said to be unique in press reports) but in fact is reminiscent of the seated statue of the offical Ra-Hotep in the Cairo Museum.

Ka-Hay appears to have been an official of the time of Teti, around 4,300 years ago, whose pyramid is adjacent to the necropolis, or burial ground. Teti's pyramid contains Pyramid texts, with recitations allowing the King to travel amongst the imperishable stars. The pyramid texts were documented and translated into German by Kurt Sethe, but are poorly understood.

(Download a high resolution copy of these utterances) I suspect(know) that there are many more of these lesser mud brick tombs in the area, which either have been cataloged but not officially excavated, or remain undiscovered. The tomb contained a serdab with a statue - a kind of holding place for the 'ka'- which might be translated spirit - the ka could leave the tomb and enjoy the offerings left by relatives, or take off on nightly sojourns.

The announcement was made by Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Supreme Director of Antiquities.

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Real Brain Speed, Real Age

I sometimes like to quote reviews and testimonials....here's one from the blog of an attorney, who does a back-to-back review of our 1-minute test and Dr. Michael Roizen's Real Age...

President's Day Potpourri: Quick thinking, longevity, and a spotlight on the iconoclast

Happy President's Day to all of you in the USA. If you are taking at least a few minutes off from work, I recommend three activities.

Start by measuring how quickly your brain responds to what you see. I learned of this handy little measuring device at "How Fast Can You Think? Free Brain Speed Test" posted at Mindware Forum. Take the test to measure the speed of your brain. From the testing site:

What does my score mean?

This test provides a measurement of your cognitive speed or reaction time. . . . Broadly speaking, scores better than 300 milliseconds are favorable, which can be achieved by most normal adults after developing familiarity with the test.

It is now understood that there are links between cognitive processing speed, intelligence, and longevity.

My score was faster than 300 milliseconds. That's a relief! Try it; it's fun and informative.

Speaking of longevity, have you taken the complimentary RealAge test? Visitors to the site are told:

Your RealAge, developed by Dr. Michael Roizen, is the biological age of your body, based on how well you've maintained it. Take the RealAge test today and find out yours and how you can improve it!

Another treat for you and your young (you did score young, yes?) reading brain . . . I was delighted to see a very favorable review today of a book I recommended here last week. (See my post "Phil Rosenzweig: Guide to taking the wisdom of law firm management to a deeper level.") USA Today carried the positive review "Level-headed book exposes some wrong business thinking." The book The Halo Effect: ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers is myth-busting and iconoclastic -- a refreshing addition to the bookshelf of anyone caring to go above and beyond the standard business book fare we are typically offered these days. Yeah, I kinda like this book. So did the USA Today reviewer. So will you.

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Ad from apple.com

Here's an ad for apple i just noticed:

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Bruce Eisner's mindware Forum

Bruce Eisner covers this new test in his mindware forum - a 'tech crunch' of mindware.

We also developed another test which gives you a view of earth from afar while you are training your brain, and some other variations on the theme.

You also will be able to read about our most recent publication (Journal of Psychiatric Research) when it is released shortly. A preview is now available on PubMed. The study is a refereed scientific paper by Stanford researchers on the use of Cognitive's speed-of-processing based technology in detecting cognitive impairment, and - in fact, screening people who are APOEe4 positive based on the ultra sensitivity of the test. The test linked to above is one of the instruments in the paper. What exists is much more than a simple game, but your entree into successful cognitive enhancement over the web, with enormous potential impact.

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Genetic Clues to Autism Revealed

Scientists have unveiled results of the largest study of the genetics of autism, involving DNA from almost 1,200 affected families worldwide. Two key clues have already been isolated.

Discoveries in two areas of the genome -- a region on chromosome 11 suspected of having links to autism, and aberrations in a brain-development gene called neurexin 1 -- could spur more targeted research, the experts noted.

"That's the real promise here," said Autism Genome Project co-researcher Dr. Stephen Scherer, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. "When you identify certain genes, you can then develop genetic tests -- in some cases prenatal and in some cases postnatal -- because early diagnosis is crucial here."

Genetic discoveries can also further research toward a cure for autism, Scherer said.

"When we have this type of knowledge, we can actually think about designing better therapies based on what we know is not happening properly in the [brain] cell. We can try and design things to make it work better," he explained.

The Autism Genome Project was funded by the U.S.
National Institutes of Health and the nonprofit advocacy group Autism Speaks. Its findings were published in the Feb. 18 online edition of Nature Genetics.

Autism remains a real health crisis, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing recently that one in every 150 American 8-year-olds now have some form of autistic spectrum disorder. That number is higher than prior estimates, and the debate rages as to just why the disease might be becoming more prevalent.

Experts agree that autism's causes remain cloaked in mystery, although prior research has pointed to a strong genetic component. For example, "there's about 90 percent concordance [of autism] between identical twins -- that's a significant genetic contribution," Scherer said.

So, the Autism Genome Project, which took five years to complete, sought to probe much deeper into the DNA driving the disorder. The project involved more than 120 scientists working at 50 institutions in 19 countries. They painstakingly sought out almost 1,200 families worldwide in which at least two members were affected by autism. The scientists then collected DNA samples from family members and analyzed these samples in the most advanced and standardized manner, looking for genomic "commonalities."

Those efforts have met with real success.

"First, we found several regions of the genome, particularly one region on chromosome 11, that seem to be very highly associated with the development of autism," said Scherer, who is also professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. While prior research had suggested chromosome 11 as a potential hotspot for autism-linked DNA, this study greatly strengthens that view, he said.

The researchers also used cutting-edge technologies to seek out what are known as "copy number variations" -- genes that appear not in pairs (as most genes passed down from mom and dad are), but as just a single copy, or as three or more copies.

"We found several regions of the genome -- sometimes the same region popping up in unrelated individuals -- with 3 or more copies," Scherer said. "We didn't see these in the individuals' parents, so that implies that these regions are harboring susceptibility genes for autism."

One gene in particular, called neurexin 1, appeared in some cases in just one copy. "In one family, both of the children who were autistic actually had that piece missing," Scherer said. "That's kind of a smoking gun that the gene is implicated."

It makes intuitive sense that dysfunctional neurexin 1 might play some role in autistic disorders, another expert said.

The neurexin 1 protein and its kin, "are very important in determining how properly the brain is wired up from one nerve cell to another, and in the chemical transmission of information from one nerve cell to another," said Dr. Bradley Peterson, a professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, in New York City.

Peterson, who was not involved in the project, said genes that effect early neural growth could be key to autistic disorders, since "the genetic and the non-genetic contributions to autism, by definition, have to exert their effect very early in brain development, either in utero or in the first months or couple of years of life."

Still, he and Scherer both stressed that the new study only points to potential leads for future research. Because of the study's particular methodology, no one finding reached statistical significance, Peterson said. "This is all very strong evidence, and a very good set of leads, but we can't yet say that we have proved the involvement of these regions in autism," he said.

Scherer said that, except in very rare instances, there isn't likely to be a single gene responsible for autism. Instead, a variety of genetic abnormalities may work on each other during development to create some level of autism. And experts don't discount the potential role of environmental stresses on that mix, either.

"Remember, autism is actually a grab bag of different developmental disorders. And what we show here is that many genes can be involved, and also these copy number variants," Scherer said. "And could it be that environment is contributing? Absolutely."

One thing is for sure, however: Autism research holds more promise now than ever before, the experts said.

"Anybody that's working out here can use this information now, and it really provides a great path forward as to how we need to do our experiments over the next five years or so," Scherer said. "We've now got all these new candidate genes --- the neurexins, the various copy number variants -- and we can tackle the problem in a much more focused and organ ized way."

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Embyonic Gene Expression

Here is an interesting piece on gene expression from the Allen Neuroscience Gateway, commenting on research completed at UC-Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. You may access the gateway simply, from the Cognitive Labs' site brain.com. The subject (drosophila) is a fruit fly.

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Scientists: Highly Accomplished People Prone to Failure Under Stress

Highly accomplished people more prone to failure than others when under stress

Talented people often choke under pressure because the distraction caused by stress consumes their working memory, a psychologist at the University of Chicago has found.

Highly accomplished people tend to heavily rely on their abundant supply of working memory and are therefore disadvantaged when challenged to solve difficult problems, such as mathematical ones, under pressure, according to research by Sian Beilock, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago. Her findings were presented Saturday, Feb. 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

People with less adequate supplies of working memory learn other ways of problem solving to compensate for their deficiencies and although these alternative problem solving strategies are not highly accurate, they are not impacted additionally by working under pressure, the research found.

Beilock found that when put under pressure, the talented people with larger amounts of working memory began using short-cuts to solve problems, such as guessing and estimation, strategies similar to those used by individuals with less adequate working memories. As a result of taking those shortcuts, the accuracy of the talented people was undermined.

"These findings suggest that performance pressure harms higher working memory individuals by consuming the cognitive resources that they rely on for their superior performance � and as a result, higher working memory individuals respond by switching to the less accurate problem solving strategies normally used by lower working memory students," Beilock said.

The results have implications for the evaluation of performance on high stakes tests, such as those needed to advance in school and college entrance examinations, she said.

Working memory is a short-term memory system that maintains a limited amount of information in an active state. It functions by providing information of immediate relevance while preventing distractions and irrelevant thoughts from interfering with the task at hand.

People with a high level of working memory depend on it heavily during problem solving. "If you've got it, flaunt it" Beilock said.

However, that same advantage makes them particularly susceptible to the dangers of stress.

"In essence, feelings of pressure introduce an intrusion that eats up available working memory for talented people," Beilock said.

In order to study the impact of stress on working memory, Beilock and her colleagues tested roughly 100 college undergraduates. They gave them tests to determine the strength of their working memory and then subjected them to a series of complicated, unfamiliar mathematics problems.

Students were given pressure by being told they would be paid for their correct answers, but that they would only receive the money if a partner, chosen randomly who they did not know, would also win. Then they were told that their partner had solved the problem correctly, thus increasing the pressure.

The study showed that as a result of the pressure, the performance of students with strong working memory declined to the same level as those with more limited working memory. Those with more limited working memory performed as well under added pressure as they did without the stress.

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George Washington's Face Rebuilt

Researchers have reconstructed George Washington's face at 3 ages: 19 - when he was a land surveyor and developed his knowledge of the Country that served him well in the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars - 45 - when he took command of the Continental army in his blue and buff uniform - and 57 when he was sworn in, famously refusing the title "His Excellency"



Education and Learning Keep the Brain Young

Learning and Education - along with Mental Training - rise to the fore in the area of anti-Aging strategies. For every additional year of education over the age of 35 individuals enjoy an 8 month increase in life-expectancy.

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Hal Talks Again

We just noticed that the Stephen Hawking test and Hal9000 'game' had gone somewhat quiet, that was due to a directory path change that happened without our volition on the servers - that has been rectified so that those assets are properly called within the application.

Much better.

Hal 9000
Stephen Hawking talk

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Inverse Saturns Orbiting a Tiny Black Hole

According to New Scientist...
If we ever make black holes on Earth, they might be much stranger objects than the star-swallowing monsters known to exist in space. According to a new theory, any black hole that pops out of the Large Hadron Collider under construction in Switzerland might be surrounded by a black ring – forming a microscopic "black Saturn".

A black hole and a black ring can co-exist, in theory, as long as they are set spinning, say Henriette Elvang of MIT in Cambridge, US, and Pau Figueras of the University of Barcelona in Spain. "If you just had a ring, it would collapse. It's essential that it rotates to keep balanced," Elvang told New Scientist.

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Sudoku Playing Quantum Computer ?

Check out this sudoku-playing computer at CNET that might be able to tell us how to improve the earth via its quantum brain, maybe one of the more significant breakthroughs in computing since the Turing test. Maybe it will help crack the Alzheimer's code.

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The Well and Cognitive Labs

Cognitive Labs just received some nice feedback from The Well, billed as the first online community, going back to 19985....especially Stackopolis.

As you know, our mission is to improve brains the world over with extensible, easy to use technology that's accessible to anyone. That's it. Watch for those brain widgets! Coming soon, to an internet connected device near you.

Here's more about The Well.

Learn About The WELL
What is The WELL? spot illustration of a tree with many branches

The WELL is a cherished and acclaimed destination for conversation and discussion. For twenty years it has captivated intelligent, creative people. It is widely known as the primordial ooze where the online community movement was born — where Howard Rheingold first coined the term "virtual community." Over the last two decades, it's been described as "the world's most influential online community" in a Wired Magazine cover story, and "the Park Place of email addresses" by John Perry Barlow. It's won Dvorak and Webby Awards, inspired songs and novels, and almost invisibly influences modern culture.

Now run by Salon Media Group, independent publishers of the ground-breaking Salon.com online news magazine, The WELL continues to cast a long cultural shadow. For many people it's the place you aren't quite sure you've heard of, but may just wish you had. For members, it's a place to come up with the next interesting thing and a way to live.

Where Is The WELL?

The WELL is a cluster of electronic towns on the Net, inhabited by people from all over the world. Once a regional dial-up service, it has long since become a territory in its own right.

The WELL's conversations take place on keyboards around the world, but the servers and staff have always been in northern California. The first WELL computer and modem rack were located in Sausalito, California, near the classic rustic houseboat harbor in the 1980s. The WELL's office and servers are now at Salon.com, in downtown San Francisco, but the action is online, and a few keystrokes away for WELLfolk all over.

Where is The WELL? There's no simple answer to that question, but as Gertrude Stein might have said, "There's a there there."

How Did It Get So Good?

There is nothing quite like The WELL, and the secret has a lot to do with its evolution. Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant founded the Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link in 1985, starting with a dialog between the fiercely independent writers and readers of the Whole Earth Review. This set the tone for the open but remarkably literate and uninhibited intellectual gathering that continues today. Over the years, WELL members have made fast friends, created enduring traditions, gathered casually face-to-face in cities 'round the world, and provided support to strangers. They have founded organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Craig's List, and documented what was emerging in books like Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community, John Seabrook's Deeper, and Katie Hafner's The WELL. They have gone into business together, fallen in and out of love, cultivated feuds, taken kickass vacations together and enriched lives. Salon.com bought The WELL in 1999, and upgraded its servers to greet the century. These days WELL members enjoy access to Salon's remarkable independent journalism and the benefits of Salon Premium.

The WELL social experience continues to evolve and surprise.

Plunge Into The WELL

The WELL is a place made of words, an extraordinary word palace with thousands upon thousands of topics of interest. There are members pages and WELL conferences you can look at without a password, but the bottom line is that members know it's the interactive experience that engages, informs, enrages and transforms us.

You don't need an invitation from a member in order to become part of The WELL. The service is distinguished by our non-anonymous participants, and by uncommon policies. This unique gathering is both greatly valued and directly supported by WELL subscribers. If you are ready to participate, you are welcome to come along for the ride.

The best way to learn about it is to plunge in and explore for a month or two, to see if this is the place for you.

As you'll soon see, there's nothing like The WELL. Join us.

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The Dead Heart

The topic in the last post sure needs more investigation. On a lighter front, here is one of those old tunes to jog your memory. This dates back to the 80's. The lead singer, Peter Garret (tall and bald)is now a Member of Parliament in Australia.

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Scientists: Vasectomies Linked to Alzheimer's

Northwestern University researchers have discovered men with an unusual form of dementia have a higher rate of vasectomy than men the same age who are cognitively normal.

The dementia is Primary Progressive Aphasia ( PPA ), a neurological disease in which people have trouble recalling and understanding words. In PPA, people lose the ability to express themselves and understand speech. It differs from typical Alzheimer's disease in which a person's memory becomes impaired.

Sandra Weintraub, principal investigator and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, began investigating a possible link between the surgery and PPA when one of her male patients connected the onset of his language problem at age 43 to the period after his vasectomy.

At a twice-yearly Chicago support group for PPA patients Weintraub sees from around the country, the male patient rushed into the room and asked the men sitting there, "OK, guys, how many of you have PPA?" Nine hands went up.

"How many of you had a vasectomy?" he demanded next. Eight hands shot up.

Weintraub and her team of researchers surveyed 47 men with PPA who were being treated at Northwestern's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center and 57 men with no cognitive impairment who were community volunteers. They ranged from 55 to 80 years old.

Of the non-impaired men, 16 percent had undergone a vasectomy. In contrast, 40 percent of the men with PPA had had the surgery.

"That's a huge difference," said Weintraub, director of neuropsychology in the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center. "It doesn't mean having a vasectomy will give you this disease, but it may be a risk factor to increase your chance of getting it."

In addition, the men who had undergone a vasectomy developed PPA at a younger age ( 58 years ) than men with PPA who hadn't had one ( 62 years. )

While PPA robs people of their ability to speak and understand language, an unusual twist of the disease is patients are still able to maintain their hobbies and perform other complicated tasks for a number of years before other symptoms develop. Some people garden, build cabinets and even navigate a city subway system. By contrast, Alzheimer's patients lose interest in their hobbies, family life and may become idle. As PPA progresses over a number of years, however, patients eventually lose their ability to function independently.

Preliminary evidence from the study also seemed to connect another form of dementia to a vasectomy. In a smaller group of 30 men with a dementia called frontotemporal dementia ( FTD, ) 37 percent had undergone a vasectomy. The earliest symptoms of FTD are personality changes, lack of judgment and bizarre behavior. As in PPA, FTD usually starts at an earlier age, in the 40s and 50s.

One of Weintraub's patients with FTD was eating lunch in a restaurant with his family and excused himself to go to the bathroom. When he hadn't returned after 10 minutes, his sons went to investigate. They found him doing pushups on the bathroom floor. Other FTD patients begin shoplifting, compulsively gambling, misspending large amounts of money or become sexually demanding.

The most common form of dementia caused by brain deterioration in individuals over age 65 is Alzheimer's disease. Weintraub did not find an increased rate of vasectomy in patients with Alzheimer's.

Many patients with FTD and PPA share a common brain disease that is completely different from Alzheimer's. Whether a patient will get the behavioral or language problems depends on where the disease causes the most destruction in the brain. In FTD, most of the damage is in the frontal lobes; in PPA, it's in the language centers of the left hemisphere of the brain.

Weintraub theorizes a vasectomy may raise the risk of PPA ( and possibly FTD ) because the surgery breeches the protective barrier between the blood and the testes, called the blood-testis barrier.

Certain organs � including the testes and the brain � exist in what is the equivalent of a gated community in the body. Tiny tubes within the testes ( in which sperm are produced ) are protected by a physical barrier of Sertoli cells. The tight connections between these cells prevent blood-borne infections and poisonous molecules from entering the semen.

After a vasectomy, however, the protective barrier is broken and semen mixes into the blood. The immune system recognizes the sperm as invading foreign agents and produces anti-sperm antibodies in 60 to 70 percent of men.

Weintraub said these antibodies might cross the blood-brain-barrier and cause damage resulting in dementia. "There are other neurological models of disease which you can use as a parallel," Weintraub said. Certain malignant tumors produce antibodies that reach the brain and cause an illness similar to encephalitis, she noted.

The next step in Weintraub's research will be to launch a national study to see if her results will be confirmed in a larger population.

"I don't want to scare anyone away from getting a vasectomy," Weintraub stressed. "It's obviously a major birth control alternative. This is just a correlational observation," she said of the dementia connection. "We need to do more research to find out."

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Former NFL Player Diagnosed with Early Alzheimer's like Condition at age 34

Former NFL player Ted Johnson of the New England Patriots has been diagnosed with the likely early stages of Alzheimer's Disease at age 34. Johnson's condition appears to result from repetitive concussions suffered while a player. Concussions have a cumulative degrading effect on cognitive ability. Scientists are just now realizing how tremendously damaging the effect of this kind of injury can be.

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Test Your Brain

From time to time, we'll bring your music from the past...for example, who remembers this video? It is 19.75 years old! incredible.

Something to do before or after your cognitive exercise.

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Internet Cafe?

This is from reddit. Google in Cairo.

from reddit

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3 Cups of Coffee Per Day: Key to Fighting Alzheimers

Having three cups of coffee a day can significantly reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer's disease, say researchers.

A ten-year study of 600 elderly men found those getting a regular caffeine fix experienced a much smaller decline in their mental abilities than non coffee-drinkers.

The results support earlier studies that show coffee has a protective effect on the brain.

Researchers believe caffeine may trigger a chain reaction in the brain that prevents the damage of Alzheimer's.

In a report on their findings, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, they raised the possibility that doctors may one day recommend coffee to the elderly.

"Drinking three cups a day was associated with the smallest cognitive decline," they said."

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A new Look

Here is a cut at a new look....(right here). This will let you quickly assess your brain (in about 2 minutes). Not only is the test patented but it also appears in an article about to be published in a major scientific journal.

>>go to the test
Training with this exercise can help you increase your brain's speed. You'll notice, too, that we now have several versions available...from a kitten to an image of earth and also, an image of Christ from a medieval bronze coin of Constantinople (Zeus-like pantokrator/ruler of all)...or, a palimpsest from the Nag Hammadi papyri.

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New score display

After you take a test, you will start to see this kind of interface...

Think of it as supply-chain optimization for your brain. Rather than nodes in a supply chain, we optimize nodes in the brain, where impedance collects.

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Forget Nukes: Give Me Chim Chim

It's interesting to note that the U.S. Nuclear Reg. Commission is thinking about chim-chim the monkey from "SpeedRacer" rather than worrying about prosaic, 'nukular' stuff.

(recent search query of today...inquiring minds want to know)

location domain entry

Rockville, Maryland, US nrc.gov search.msn.com/results.asp...
Search: speed racer chimchim

ip (hidden) (organization)

IP----.174.-- United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

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Video games: good for eye power

Action-oriented video games, according to a new study, can increase visual dexterity.

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World's Oldest Newspaper Suspends Paper Edition

The World's oldest newspaper, published for centuries, has ceased publishing a paper version and now will only produce a digital version on the Internet.

Isn't this an ironic twist of events? In a similar vein, imagine companies that produces typesets and printing presses - long gone - however, the purveyors of tools to create digital media have been thriving for two decades...with no end in sight.

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Dr. Williams reaction time test

If you would rather not use a computer, there is another way to test your reaction time, though you won't get as much detail as here.

Dr. David Williams' site:


New Test Look

It's about time for a refresh and some new functionality in our testing, to wit:

and also, we are beginning to modify the scoreboard portion so it is less nomenclature-driven. Can't say we are there yet, but getting closer...

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Alzheimer's expert dies in plane crash

Pioneering Alzheimer's researcher Dr. Leon Thal perishes in small plane crash in the mountains east of San Diego. Dr. Thal organized large, national studies of Alzheimer's Disease and orchestrated efforts in California to research the promising areas, such as the large study of the substance Huperzine A which is ongoing now...

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Thought-Powered Wheelchair

Wired covers a instance of a thought-powered device, in this case, of a wheelchair...

Patients who suffer from disease or injury that leave them unable to move have little hope of independent mobility. But that may be about to change. Researchers are developing a thought-controlled robotic wheelchair.

Spanish scientists have begun work on a new brain-computer interface, or BCI, capable of converting thought into commands that a wheelchair can execute.

Other researchers have already had some success with hard-wired brain computer interfaces, but they're powered by large computers and are physically plugged into the brain.

The Spanish researchers hope to develop a small, mobile interface that works with electroencephalogram electrodes, or EEG, placed on the scalp.

"We are planning to use non-invasive devices to record the rhythms from the surface of the skull," says Javier Minguez, a researcher at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. "We also plan to use this system with a school for disabled children that we collaborate with and (we) prefer to use non-invasive techniques with these children."

The Spanish Ministry of Education and Science has invested 180,000 euros in the "Biomedical Evaluation Of Robots to Assist Human Mobility" project. The goal is to bring mobility and a degree of independence to people with limited motor capabilities as the result of injury, disability or old age.

While EEGs have a reputation for providing very crude signals, advances in decoding algorithms yield patterns that are precise enough to control the movements of a wheelchair.

"You're not going to be using EEGs to control a robotic arm to play the

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brain.com - test mecca

Roughly 1,000 people per day are signing up on brain.com - now a cognitivelabs.com property - and this is giving a shot in the arm to our registration efforts - now closing in on the 2 million mark - (just under 100,000 away)

This is basically people just going to the site and registering...it is now ranked 4th on yahoo and 5th on google when you enter the word "brain". You can help us reach #1 by placing those quality, organic links.

brain.com is a little easier to remember than cognitivelabs.com, though the latter has built a quality brand in its own right.

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Scientists: Global Warming Likely Unstoppable

The Associated Press will be reporting on Friday, according to the wires, that the world's leading climate scientists have said global warming has begun and is "very likely" caused by man, and will be unstoppable for centuries.

The scientists — using their strongest language yet on the issue — said now that world has begun to warm, hotter temperatures and rises in sea level "would continue for centuries" no matter how much humans control their pollution. The report also linked the warming to the recent increase in stronger hurricanes.

"The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice-mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that is not due to known natural causes alone," said the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a group of hundreds of scientists and representatives of 113 governments.

The phrase "very likely" translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that global warming is caused by man's burning of fossil fuels. That was the strongest conclusion to date, making it nearly impossible to say natural forces are to blame.

What that means in simple language is "we have this nailed," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who originated the percentage system.

The 20-page report, which was due to be officially released later in the day, represents the most authoritative science on global warming.


What to do? Take action by doing simple things like walking and becoming more self-reliant. Our modern existence is held together by a tenuous web called the power grid which controls everything from the Internet and the media to our finances and work. If there are drastic climatic changes than it is likely that there could be extended periods of powerlessness - impacting the availablity of fresh food, among other things. Proximity of naturally occuring resources then become highly valuable, since it means security. Habitation, due to modern technology, does not always require proximity of natural resources - but this could change. Imagine California becoming populated only in the areas where there is enough water - where people once were settled densely, but no more (by the Carmel or Salinas Rivers for example). The sprawl has moved out into areas that were sparsely settled in the past. If something happens to the artifical water supply, these natural areas would quickly become overtaxed and one thinks, become a source of contention between groups of people. This is a situation not unlike places like Mesa Verde, where invading groups would attempt to seize the uninterruptible water supply enjoyed by the cliff dwellers.

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Take Action to Help your Brain

Do you want to read more about tests and games for your brain? Then go over to the blog section at healthcentral and read about what you can do right now from Jacqueline Marcell.

Healthcentral is a new concept in health content, as is evident on their site(s). Investors include Allen & Company (like CAA in days yore, too cool to have a website), Sequoia Capital, Polaris Ventures, and the Carlyle Group. Sequoia 'invented' pong according to their site, among other things.

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