Aging Brain Games Fastest Growing Casual Game Segment

SEATTLE, March 30: The video game industry has found that its fasting growing segment of the U.S. casual market is women 40 and older.

Seattle-based PopCap Games found that 47 percent of its customers last year were older than 50 and 76 percent were women, The New York Times said Friday.

Electronic Arts learned people 50 and older comprised 28 percent of the visitors to its Pogo.com Web site in February, accounting for more than 40 percent of total time spent there. Female online gamers, on average, spent more time on the site daily than men.

"Baby boomers and up are definitely our fastest-growing demographic, and it is because the fear factor is diminishing," Beatrice Spaine, marketing director at Pogo.com, told the newspaper. "Women come for the games, but they stay for the community. It's kind of a MySpace for seniors."

John Vechey at PopCap said the company uses "the Mom Test" to gauge a product's likely success.

"When we were first making games like Bejeweled, we would sit our moms in front of the computers and just let them play, and that's a big way how we would see what works in an accessible, casual game," Vechey said to the Times.

--- UPI


The "Hexagon" of Saturn

Geometric shape...

First, Mars had a face, now Saturn has a hexagon. A strange hexagon shape over the north pole of Saturn was first spotted by the two Voyager spacecraft and has been revisited by the Cassini probe. The 26 years between sightings indicate it is likely a permanent feature on Saturn, according to NASA scientists. In fact, Cassini found a second hexagon, significantly darker than the original. This is the first time the feature has been captured on one image.

On NASA's Web site, Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, "Saturn's thick atmosphere where circularly shaped waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

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Organic Kiwi Fruit Boasts Higher Vitamin C content than Non

... In one of the most comprehensive and definitive studies of its kind to date, a team of researchers at the University of California, Davis have proven that organically grown kiwifruit contain more health-promoting factors than those grown under conventional conditions. The research is reported in the SCI's magazine Chemistry & Industry. The debate over the relative health benefits of organic versus conventional food has raged for years, with UK environment secretary David Miliband declaring in January that buying organic is just a lifestyle choice.

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Mamas and Papas Beginnings (2)

More on the beginning of the Mamas and the Papas, early to mid 1960's...Just click to watch and listen

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Beatles: Help

Here's the Fab Four piece. You'll know the song

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Laurel Canyon in the 1960s

If you want to read more about Laurel Canyon in the 1960's, see this interesting blog by the author of a book on the topic, which has gone through 5 printings since 2006. The name of the canyon comes from the laurel, native of California from Mexico to Oregon, maybe like, the madrone plant. A few years ago there was a movie of the same name, didn't happen to catch it. We found a great Fab Four clip - at the end of the video, it says who it was ripped by. Coming up. Microsoft getting into the human memory management business makes me think it could become part of the next release of Office.


Microsoft Gets into the Memory Business

We Can Remember it for you Wholesale...Pictures jog Your Memory. This is the premise of Memory TV and also our new test variations....good thing we've filed the patents

Scientists have found that Alzheimer's sufferers who were given a "human black box", have shown significant improvements in long-term memory.

The 'human black box' called 'SenseCam' is a square black camera 3in square and half an inch think, and is worn around the neck. It has a series of sensors that trigger a fish-eye lens to take pictures in response to changes such as motion and light variation, gestures or heat from a person in front of the camera.

The research was conducted by Microsoft.

As part of the study it was found that a patient, who without the camera, had virtually no recall of events five days after they happen, was able to recall details of trips several months after viewing images taken by the device to trigger her own memories, the Telegraph reported.

The device takes up to 2,000 pictures per day, which are downloaded to a home computer, and can be viewed as a speeded up slideshow or one by one. Microsoft is still testing prototypes.

The researchers claim that the miniature camera can enrich the lives of people with dementia and other memory problems.

SenseCam can also be used for tourism or as a personal digital diary. Combined with other sensors such as a heart rate monitor, it could have other medical applications.

The findings were revealed at the British Psychological Society conference in New York.

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Good Things Come in Threes

What does that mean? There is an allusion to "3" in this piece. Just click the arrow on the box below to get started. Another view of the 1960's, and providing you an introduction to the stories we've been running over the past few days...and there's more, so stay tuned.

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SuperComputer Holds Keys to Alzheimer's???

A "supercomputer" is being harnessed by U.S. scientists to help pinpoint the causes of neurological disease like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

The massive machine has already been used by scientists at the University of California at San Diego to map out a model of how a protein called alpha-synuclein damages cells by creating structures on human membranes that resemble rings or pores.

This is the same type of damage found in the brain cells of patients with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, the researchers said.

"This is one of the first studies to use supercomputers to model how alpha-synuclein complexes damage the cells, and how that could be blocked," said Eliezer Masliah, professor of neurosciences and pathology at U.C. San Diego. "We believe that these ring- or pore-like structures might be deleterious to the cells, and we have a unique opportunity to better understand how alpha-synuclein is involved in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease, and how to reverse this process."

The supercomputer's modeling approach might also unlock keys to other diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers noted.

The study is published in this week's Federation of European Biochemical Societies Journal.

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Hey, Mr Tambourine Man

While we continue on the 60's theme....take a break from exercising your mind


The Cognitive Conflict of Quitting Smoking

- New brain scans reveal a raging battle in the brain of smokers trying to quit, says a U.S. study.

The findings, published online in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found certain regions of the brain that control dependence on nicotine light up when a smoker takes a puff.

One region, the thalamus, may control symptoms of withdrawal, which stem from the inability to focus thoughts and the feeling of being overwhelmed, according to lead study investigator Jed E. Rose, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research at Duke University Medical Center in Durham.

Another region of the brain that lights up is the pleasure system of the brain, and the third part deals with cognitive functions such as conflict, self-regulation, decision-making and emotion.

These insights into the brain may explain why 70 percent of smokers who say they want to quit fail and why people try to quit several times before they are successful, according to Rose.

Another 60's song

Ever move from New York to LA or back? Or just make that commute? Part of those 60's memories, from a rockumentary on Mamas and Papas..


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Video Games Do Improve Sight

Parents who warn teens that they will ruin their eyes playing video games may wish to avoid the current issue of the journal Psychological Science. (or try this exercise or here(no registration required)

In it, researchers from the University of Rochester in New York report that playing action video games for an hour or so daily actually helps sharpen visual acuity.

Specifically, in tests that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored higher than non-players.

"Action-video-game play changes the way our brains process visual information," said Daphne Bavelier, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester and lead author of the study.

"After just 30 hours of training, people who didn't normally play video games showed a substantial increase in the spatial resolution of their vision, meaning they could see small, closely packed letters, like those on an eye chart, more clearly, even when other symbols crowded in," she explained.

Researchers stress that playing video games won't have any effect on most of the things that influence a normal person's ability to read an eye chart - the size of the eye, the shape and thickness of the cornea and lens.

Some visual deficits are not really optical in nature, but instead are the result of dysfunction in optical nerves and the brain.

"It is our hope that video-game training can help these people," Bavelier said.

The researchers anticipate that video games might be particularly useful for patients suffering from conditions such as amblyopia, or "lazy-eye" - a situation where one eye becomes stronger and the visual nerve system suppresses the image from the weaker eye.

While corrective lenses or surgery may be needed to deal with the underlying cause, visual exercises along with eye patching and medications are often part of follow-up therapy.

Bavelier said video games might even be useful in stemming visual impairment resulting from normal aging of the brain.

Only certain games - first-person action games that require, say, spotting a target and shooting at it - have the desired effect. Slower, puzzle-style games, like "Tetris," showed no effect on test scores for a group of Rochester students who played the game daily for a month.

"When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing," Bavelier said. "These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it. That learning carries over into other activities and possibly everyday life."

Previous studies have shown that some video games also can improve hand-eye coordination, and some professionals like surgeons and pilots use them to keep sharp.

On the downside, research suggests that too much time on a bright screen can cause eyestrain and may disrupt the body's biological clock, particularly if played just before bedtime, and that some games may be psychologically damaging.

On the Net: http://www.psychologicalscience.org



1960's Memory

Today is the anniversary of the passing of John Phillips, from the 1960's group Mamas and the Papas. If you don't know the band, you'll know the song California Dreamin' which has been re-made by different acts recently. If you were in the 1960's you'll remember it, if your weren't - you'll get a sense of what it was like.

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Cutting Down the Mightiest Tree in the Forest.

Solving the Alzheimer's Puzzle....more difficult "than cutting down the mightiest tree in forest... with - a herring".

2 Stage Learning in Humans

Using advanced brain imaging techniques, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have watched how humans use both lower and higher brain processes to learn novel tasks, an advance they say may help speed up the teaching of new skills as well as offer strategies to retrain people with perceptual deficits due to autism.

In the March 15 issue of Neuron, the research team provides the first human evidence for a two-stage model of how a person learns to place objects into categories discerning, for example, that a green apple, and not a green tennis ball, belongs to "food." They describe it as a complex interplay between neurons that process stimulus shape ("bottom-up") and more sophisticated brain areas that discriminate between these shapes to categorize and "label" that information ("top-down").

A human can't function without the ability to sort between objects and organize them in fluid ways, said the study's lead author, Maximilian Riesenhuber, Ph.D., the principal investigator for the Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience. "We make sense of the world by learning to recognize objects as members of categories such as 'food,' 'friend,' or 'foe,' but it has not been clear how the human brain does this," he said.

The researchers theorized that a very simple yet efficient way of doing this kind of learning would be for the brain to first learn how objects vary in shape, and then, in a second stage, to learn which shapes go with which labels, allowing the brain to sort an object into different labeled "bins" when necessary. For example, a green apple and a green tennis ball are both green and round, but only an apple can be eaten and only a green tennis ball belongs to a sport.

In this study, the research team asked human volunteers to undertake a series of tasks presented to them on a computer screen. All of them involved cars that were generated with a computer graphics morphing system, allowing the researchers to generate thousands of cars with subtle shape differences. "In the beginning, all the cars looked very similar to the participants because they did not have any experience with them," said Riesenhuber. "It's like if a person had never seen faces before, they would all look similar at first."

In the first experiment, the participants looked at series of cars presented at different parts of the screen and performed simple position judgments on the images, while their brain activity was being measured using an advanced functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) technique that made it possible to more directly probe neuronal tuning than in previous studies. Investigators found that cars activated a particular region in participants' brains, the lateral occipital cortex, which had also been found by other studies to be important for object recognition.

Then the volunteers were given several hours of training using images of the cars. In these sessions, participants had to learn how to group the cars into two distinct categories. This was easy at first, Riesenhuber said, because the cars were obviously not alike, but then the researchers began to "tighten the screws" by making the two categories increasingly more similar.

"Over the course of the training, the participants got better at finer and finer category discriminations," Riesenhuber said. "This represents a crucial step in category learning where small differences in shape can have a big impact on category labels -- as in the tennis ball and apple example -- and where big differences in shape -- such as between an apple and a banana -- can have no impact on the label, such as when categorizing both as 'fruit'."

Now that the volunteers had learned how to categorize small shape changes, they were shown the cars from the first experiment while again being scanned, allowing the researchers to compare how training had enhanced the brain's ability to process car shapes. They found again that cars selectively activated an area in lateral occipital cortex, but that now neurons in that area appeared to be finely tuned to small car shape differences.

In a third scan, the investigators finally asked subjects to categorize the same car images shown in the other scans. This time, two areas of the brain, the now familiar area in lateral occipital cortex as well as an area in lateral prefrontal cortex, were found to be active when processing the images. "The lateral prefrontal cortex is known to be the center of cognitive control," Riesenhuber said. "That is where the brain connects physical input to an action or response, deciding what task to do and how to respond to a stimulus."

In essence, fMRI was showing that both the higher and lower brain regions had worked together to learn a task, he said.

These findings might be helpful in understanding disorders that involve differences in the interaction of bottom-up and top-down information in the brain, such as autism or schizophrenia, Riesenhuber said. It also suggests how the learning of visual skills can be enhanced by directly monitoring neuronal activity. "This could be useful, for instance, to speed up learning to detect targets in unfamiliar imaging modalities, such as baggage X rays or radar images," he said.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and a National Science Foundation CAREER award to Riesenhuber. Co-authors include, from Georgetown University, first author Xiong Jiang, Ph.D., Evan Bradley, B.S., Regina Rini, B.A., and John VanMeter, Ph.D.; and Thomas Zeffiro, M.D., Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital.



Search with brain.com

On the home page you will see a chart showing Cognitive Labs' current status, as of March 12, 2007. We are moving towards a policy of 'visibility' so that there is no distinction between results for the system and what is publicly illustrated, if that makes sense, so that important operating numbers are transparent.

Also, we suggest considering using brain.com for your Internet searches. The Internet is in esence a 'brain' of interconnected information (whether or not Al Gore invented it). A good reason for using brain.com is for the sake of balance: your point of access is in balance with that you are searching, and it increases exposure of Cognitive Labs' tools, which enable anyone to optimize their brain while also accessible to all the visitors on their site or blog.

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Biology: A Solution to Universal Questions?

Dr.Robert Lanza, a figure associated with stem cell research, asserts that our present approach to cosmology is insufficient to explain life and fails as a unifying theory. Rather, he suggests, we need to look to biology for these answers.


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10,000 by 8:47

One of the ways we measure growth here is the time we hit milestones...once we used to reach 10,000 page views in a day - by 11:59 PM - (June '06) and we though that was great. But this milestone keeps getting rolled back...to earlier and earlier times. Today it was at 8:46 AM. (Pacific time) - earliest ever, and not as a result of an unnatural 'spike' of traffic from slashdot or something like that. One of the reasons is growth in the U.S. but also a bit of a surge in India where Cognitive Labs is getting more popular.

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Blogger Code Available!

This code works perfectly on Blogger and will display a memory game in your post (just like below) and also works on your template, for example, next to your Ads. Give people something else to do while reading your posts. Here is what is produced....Get the code for blogger right here

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Object Recognition: MIT Scientists Demo Cool Virtual Brain Technology

Object Recognition: MIT scientists have applied a computer model of how the brain processes visual information to a complex, real-world task: recognizing the objects in a busy street scene.

A couple of years ago I saw the same kind of demo at Redwood Neuroscience Institute, Jeff Hawkins' Neuroscience gathering. The demo concerned a street scene in Italy. The institute has moved over to Berkeley - instead Numenta, Hawkins' latest start-up has taken its place. This kind of object recognition is quite a bit different from cognitivelabs.com, in case you're wondering - numenta is kind of a successor to machine vision - rather than chronometrics, defined as "nerve conduction velocity" by Arthur Jensen, which could be considered a measure of the human OS relative to silicon/network mediation and also is sensitive to genetic factors. (see the latest Cognitive Labs' paper: advance abstract here)

..."People have been talking about computers imitating the brain for a long time," said Tomaso Poggio, the Eugene McDermott professor of brain and cognitive sciences and a member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. "Our work is biologically inspired computer science," said Poggio.

"We developed a model of the visual system that was meant to be useful for neuroscientists in designing and interpreting experiments but that also could be used for computer science," said Thomas Serre, a postdoctoral associate in Poggio's lab and lead author of a paper on the work in the March 2007 IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence."We chose street-scene recognition as an example because it has a restricted set of object categories, and it has practical social applications," said Serre. The IEEE paper describes how the team "showed" the model randomly selected images so that it could "learn" to identify commonly occurring features in real-word objects such as trees and people. In so-called supervised training sessions, the model used those features to label by category examples of objects found in digital photographs of street scenes, such as buildings and cars.

read more>>

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Stephen Hawking Set for Zero-G Flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who authored the best-selling book, "A Brief History of Time," soon will experience a brief history with weightlessness. (Don't miss the Hawking brain test, below)

Hawking, who uses a wheelchair and is almost completely paralyzed by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, plans to go on a weightless flight on April 26, officials at the flight operator said Thursday.

The flight, operated by Zero Gravity Corporation, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based space tourism and entertainment company, will take off and return to a landing strip at the
Kennedy Space Center.

"As someone who has studied gravity and black holes all of my life, I am excited to experience first hand weightlessness and a zero-gravity environment," Hawking said in a statement.

The modified Boeing 727 generally soars to 32,000 feet at a sharp angle and then plunges 8,000 feet so passengers can experience 25-second snippets of zero gravity during the descent. As the plane climbs, passengers experience 25 seconds of being pushed down hard, as they feel 1.8 times the normal pull of the Earth.

Zero Gravity CEO Peter Diamandis said assistants will be onboard to help Hawking.

"The key thing here is that weightless and personal spaceflight is something available to everyone, even someone like Prof. Hawking," Diamandis told The Associated Press. "This something that almost everyone can now experience."

Zero Gravity will pick up the bill, which normally is $3,750...

(AP article - no video/test, (c) cognitivelabs.com

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