Evel Knievel Jumps into Past Memory

Evel Knievel (deceased Nov. 30, 2007) jumps the Snake River (Idaho) Canyon...

prototype for daredevil action adventure genre that created the six million dollar man...

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The Ones and Zeros of Genes

Duke University researchers have found that individual differences in disease through genetic heritability can sometimes be explained by an 'on' or 'off' switch which governs the activity of the genes.

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Brainstorming Going Green

Google is going to strive to bring the cost of solar power down to a level where it competes with coal. This is not that easy since solar is two Std. dev.'s away from coal's position in terms of absolute cost and making up the differential will require radical new thinking. There is a high altitude wind turbine proposal from this co. which is interesting. As one rises in the atmosphere, the sustained wind levels increase. Efforts to create windfarms on the surface have been so-so: the Altamont Pass (in the SF Bay Area) and a similar forest of wind harvesters on the Eastern side of the San Bernardino mountains frequently sit idle.

Here are some other ideas in my brain:

(1)The doldrums. All sailors know this term-which refers to those areas just north and south of the equator and the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn when the wind stops and the Sun beats down. Sailors stuck in the doldrums would get both sunburns and scurvy until Captain Cook forced everyone to eat lemons and float lemons in the casks of rum. Here you have ample solar energy and also plentiful water - in effect a migrating desert on the ocean. In fact, it was in these kind of high energy situations that blue-green algae flourished, may have organized itself into vast mats and then mutated into a host of derivative organisms. Speaking of photosynthesis...

Imagine a floating platform, anchored to the seafloor but motile, equipped with large mirrors which reflect sunlight onto an infinite series of tubules through which passes seawater. The steam drives massive turbines which generate hydroelectric power, sent via cable to the mainland. The water is continuously replenished via large waterwheels which dip into the ocean and then release the water in an elevated perimeter holding moat which uses gravity to distribute the water into the tubules.
Steam drives the waterwheel along with kinetic energy once it is in motion. No external power source is needed and energy and potential energy existing in nature are seamlessly and efficiently converted into clean power. Solar cells can also be utilized in these regions. Computational power can be run on-site, with close access to cooling water.

(2)Power ring....borrowing from Larry Niven's Ringworld or its inspiration the Dyson sphere.

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Protein Manipulation May be Key to Alzheimer's

Bolstering disintegrating neural connections may help boost brainpower in Alzheimer's disease patients, MIT researchers and colleagues reported in the Nov. 8 issue of Neuron.

The researchers zeroed in on the enzymes that manipulate a key scaffolding protein for synapses, the connections through which brain cells communicate. Synapses are weakened and lost in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

"We identified a major underlying mechanism through which synapses are strengthened and maintained," said Morgan H. Sheng, Menicon Professor of Neuroscience at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. "The enzymes involved could be good targets for potential drug treatments."

A protein called postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95) is a key building block of synapses. Like the steel girders in a building, it acts as a scaffold around which other components are assembled. "The more PSD-95 molecules, the bigger and stronger the synapse," said co-author Myung Jong Kim, a Picower research scientist.

Previous research had shown that mice genetically altered to have less PSD-95 experienced learning and memory problems.

In the current study, the researchers identified for the first time the enzymes that work behind the scenes on PSD-95, adding a phosphate group to a specific amino acid in the PSD-95 protein. This process--called phosphorylation--is critical for PSD-95 to do its job in supporting synapses.

"Adding a phosphate group to a single amino acid allows PSD-95 to promote synapse size and strength," said Sheng, who also holds an appointment in MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "Therefore, promoting this process could help improve cognitive function."

Sheng believes manipulating PSD-95 through phosphorylation could lead to bigger and more robust synapses, which would boost brainpower in both normal and diseased brains. "It's possible that promoting PSD-95 phosphorylation could also help neuropsychiatric illnesses in which synapse function goes awry, such as schizophrenia, depression and autism," Sheng said.

reference: science daily

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JAXA probe provides learning therapy for your brain

Recently, a Japanese probe, SELENE, launched by JAXA, imaged the moon and the rising earth using HDTV technology, which were the 1st high-def pictures of these two celestial bodies.

Shortly, this event will become our newest brain game. Astronomy is a popular pastime in Japan-more than in the U.S.

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JAXA probe provides learning therapy for your brain

Recently, a Japanese probe, SELENE, launched by JAXA, imaged the moon and the rising earth using HDTV technology, which were the 1st high-def pictures of these two celestial bodies.

Shortly, this event will become our newest brain game. Astronomy is a popular pastime in Japan-more than in the U.S.

The War is Televised: on Youtube

In World War I, there was shell shock, a condition brought on by exposure to constant artillery barrages made worse by the fact that metal helmets were not worn. To wear a metal helmet was considered un-modern. By the end of the war the Allies and the Germans had adopted the same steel headgear that they wore at the start of World War 2...

Now, change is again foisted upon the world through TBI-traumatic brain injury. One of the causes of this condition are IED's as are experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan. Experts are working as fast as they can to reduce the phenomenon and also to help soldiers recover cognitive function once they have returned from duty. Palo Alto,CA is one of the top locations in the world for this research, right in the midst of the techies and investors of Silicon Valley.

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Giant Sea Scorpion Dwarved a Man: New Fossil Discovery

A giant fossilized claw discovered in Germany belonged to an ancient sea scorpion that was much bigger than the average man, an international team of geologists and archaeologists reported Tuesday.

A computer-generated image shows a size comparison between a human and an ancient sea scorpion.A computer-generated image shows a size comparison between a human and an ancient sea scorpion.

The 46-centimetre-long claw was discovered by report co-author Markus Poschmann, from Germany, in a quarry near Pruem, a city about 200 kilometres east of Frankfurt...speculation is that higher oxygen levels than at present contributed to the large size.(Breathing and Circulation is more challenging in an open-system organism, ostensibly-capping size)


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What is the State of the Art in Memory Monitoring?

Cognitive Labs connected with colleagues and also met some new experts at the 60th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America (in S.F.), which is focused on all parts of healthy aging. Dr. Ashford presented a paper, and I was fortunate to attend a breakfast meeting on screening (or monitoring of) cognitive impairment held by Eric Hall, CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

Among the proactively-minded, essentially, there are two schools of thought:
(a) People around age 65 should be checked for potential memory loss and
(b) People starting around age 30 should concern themselves with proactive monitoring

As you might guess, these two positions, while different are not in opposition. Scientists increasingly recognize that a number of causal factors are involved in cognitive decline and they tend to begin early - an analogy is the contributory vectors for heart disease. As you monitor your heart rate, so you should monitor your brain.

Building up cognitive reserve is the name of the game, so that as you age-slight changes in capability are counterbalanced by reinforcing cognitive reserve built up over a lifetime of education and training. Some new research involving pilots conducted by Dr. Taylor at Stanford in a forthcoming publication suggests that cognitive reserve can overcome some serious inherited challenges-such as having 2 copies of the APOEe4 gene, which is associated with increased propensity for Alzheimer's. In the genes vs. environmental stimuli debate, stimulus can overcome heritability.

Case in point, look at the website 23andme, which tells the story of a champion long-jumper who succeeded despite having genes diametrically opposed to that normally associated with star athletes, who may have 1 but more usually 2 functioning copies of the ACTN3 gene.

All agreed that there is a vast opportunity to pursue research based on access to large populations, something the Internet is extraordinarily good at, in order to begin to track, monitor, and enhance cognitive ability as a prong in the overall effort to live longer healthier lives. To that end, we look forward to working with a global collection of scientists and colleagues who can help us assess the data to find the meaningful patterns, which in turn can hone our efforts. The methodology may be cross-disciplinary - Dr. Shankle is working with a NASA planetary scientist in evaluating his information, and the irony is that the swarm of data points may hold some behavioral similarity to other patterns seen in nature, such as trace feedback from an interplanetary probe, ant colonies, or flight of geese, it was recognized during the breakfast. What algorithms are optimal for analysis? What is the best presentation? Our role is basically a technologist who is tasked to tie together these disparate links and advance the state of knowledge.

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Improve Your Brain Over the Internet? Yes.

Want to read about a 500-person study conducted over the Internet? The study showed that cognitive speed can be improved! A web-based toolset was used in the Cognitive Labs' research

Released: Spring 2005 at the Society of Neuroscience annual meeting.

Scroll down and read it.

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Beowulf: 4th/5th Century Throwback

The film Beowulf opens today. In the English language, it is signatory as one of the first writings in Old English, students probably rate it slightly higher than the later Canterbury Tales because of the epic subject matter-swords, gold, and dragons-though the diction is obtuse and filled with Nordic/Germanic words which did not survive the francophonetic induction of the Normans.

It tells the tale of the Saxons before they left the area of Denmark and Northern Germany and came to England, most likely in the 5th century A.D. This followed the 4th Century invasion of Britain by the Picts(L: Picti),Scots (L: Scoti),and Attacotti which was repulsed by Count Theodosius, the magister militum of the western Roman empire. The latter groups were enrolled in the legions, according to the historian Ammianus, and are listed in the Noticia Dignitatum,which enumerates every military unit and fortification from Arab auxilaries in Syria and Mesopotamia(a buffer zone separating the Roman and Persian empires) to units in northern Britain and the Rhine and as far south as Aswan and Elephantine Island in Egypt. In England, there was a late Roman military command known as "Count of the Saxon Shore" responsible for fending off attacks of oceangoing Saxons from the Nordic lands.

However, the Vandal invasion of Africa resulted in the loss of the tax base and good weather locale of the Western empire, akin to the loss of California to the U.S., and its decline into insignificance. Rome abandoned Britain in 410 A.D., despite feel-good propaganda efforts such as this medallion of Emperor Constantius entering London with the legend "Restorer of the Eternal Light" -L: redditor lucis aeternae

Vigorous Germanic societies, such as the one featured in Beowulf, operating at the edge of the former Roman empire thus came to prominence. J.R.R. Tolkien, a scholar of Old English, was largely responsible for the serious poetic study of Beowulf and advancing its role as a literary masterpiece. The theme influenced the Lord of the Rings, his fictional work.



Stroop Test in BrainAge

One of the tests in Brain Age is the classic Stroop Test, rendered for the small handheld device.

Stroop tests were named of course after Stroop, way back in 1935 and his doctoral dissertation.

In this test you have to inhibit your expectation. For example, I see the word 'Yellow' but the font is green. Typically you are asked to choose whether the color/text association is correct or not.

Introducing 'speed' into the measurement makes it a more challenging brain exercise.

The Univ. of Michigan has a good discussion of Stroop, directed attention, and the effects on the brain for any budding game developers or just the curious.

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Use-A-Bility or Why They Come

Sometimes we get asked interesting questions. "Why do you have this or that game, why do you have a 'different' log-in process, etc., etc?"

This site has been an experiment in simplicity, among other things, including scientifically validated games and tests.

We thought that people would be more likely to sign-up if everything was at least 50% easier than the usual site. So it is. You just have to log-in with a quick one step process, which also puts you in touch with us for as long as you have your email address.

Simple design leads to other advantages as well - a more organic following. We're not to the extreme of let's say Jakob Nielsen, who argued that Flash be banned for several years, nor are we desperate for the latest Ajax style trends, some of which complicate the interface with superfluous motion and activity and require doubleclicking rather than single clicking.

The idea is to achieve a harmonious balance between elements that contribute to a simple but useful experience. As a result, there is an increasing returns trend with sign-ups, where we are probably 3X-5X more effective than 'standard' sites and may be less plagued by bot sign-ups that can easily (and do) defeat capchas - the squiggly letters and numbers that you are often asked to enter. A case study is the discussion board, where a standard log-in process (with capcha) is in effect.A simple, in-line system (as featured on 99% of the site) defeats the registration bots, as nonconforming registrations are simply deleted. This, explains the information approach. The simpler the better.

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Carotene may Cut Risk for Alzheimer's

Men who take long-term supplements of beta-carotene -- an antioxidant found in carrots and other vegetables -- may enjoy less cognitive decline, according to a US study published Monday.

The study led by Francine Grodstein, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, could have implications for the prevention of Alzheimer's and other debilitating mental conditions.

Beta-carotene, which gives carrots their orange color, is broken down by the liver to become a form of vitamin A and is also helpful against damage caused by free radicals. Other sources include spinach, sweet potatoes and coriander.

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Wiring Artificial Limbs to the Brain: Darth Vader Process

More on the theme of cognitive control of devices and objects...

Todd A. Kuiken, M.D., Ph.D. has pioneered a technique known as targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), that allows a prosthetic arm to respond directly to the brain's signals, allowing wearers to open and close their artificial hands and bend and straighten their artificial elbows nearly as naturally as their own arms. Doctors first perform nerve transfer surgery to redirect nerves that go to the amputated arm to the patient's chest muscles. Then when the chest muscle contracts, an electromyogram picks up the electrical signal to move the prosthetic arm. So when the patient thinks 'close hand,"' the hand closes. Now the team wants to see if they can extract more information from the electrical signals produced by the nerves to provide a greater number of hand and arm movements. Theyd have been able to identify unique EMG patterns with 95% accuracy for 16 different elbow, wrist, hand, thumb, and finger movements. 'We've been able to demonstrate remarkable control of artificial limbs and it's an exciting neural machine interface that provides a lot of hope,' says Dr. Kuiken.


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Search in The Brain: from the Worm

It is supposed that the brain evolved from the ganglia of the earthworm.

"Each level allows to answer specific "how" questions.
Strong coupling between the levels, no systematic approximations leading from one level to another.

Basic neuroanatomy and localization of functions.

Brain imaging techniques: MRI, fMRI, EEG, MEG, SPECT, combinations.
Lesions, diseases and injuries, controlled experiments on animals."

from this AI site

"coupling" is a key, and may refer to the arguments of an algorithm and how they inter-relate with one another.

Making sense of the sea of material is the challenge, so you can have some fundamental 'ruling' relationships and subroutines that extend as appendages.

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2 million visitors

Cognitive Labs passes 2 million visitors in 2007...30 minutes ago. Pass the word to friends.

We reached one million here.

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Diet and the Brain: More Links

Diet Linked to Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Research has shown convincing evidence that dietary patterns practiced during adulthood are important contributors to age-related cognitive decline and dementia risk.

An article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences highlights information on the benefits of diets high in fruit, vegetables, cereals and fish and low in saturated fats in reducing dementia risk.

Adults with diabetes are especially sensitive to the foods they eat with respect to cognitive function. Specifically, an adult with diabetes will experience a decline in memory function after a meal, especially if simple carbohydrate foods are consumed. While the precise physiological mechanisms underlying these dietary influences are not completely understood, the modulation of brain insulin levels likely contributes.

This deficit can be prevented through healthful food choices at meals. The findings suggest that weight maintenance reduces the risk of developing obesity-associated disorders, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and is an important component of preserving cognitive health.

The work shows another benefit of maintaining healthful eating practices with aging - the same ones proposed by most diabetes and heart & stroke foundations. "This type of information should be able to empower the individual, knowing that he/she can be actively engaged in activities and lifestyles that should support cognitive health with aging," says Carol Greenwood, author of the study.

This study, entitled "Dietary Influences on Cognitive Function with Aging," is published in volume 1114 of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Healthy Aging and Longevity.

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Thought Police May Use MRI to Analyze You

One of the open issues linked to neuroscience-related 'helper' applications is the potential loss of privacy and individual thought. While greater understanding can be achieved, what are the ramifications of having individuals or government authorities becoming omniscient?

Those with incorrect thought may be detected and helped in the sense of THX-1138, with therapeutics. Could it happen? With so many people on earth competing for what could become scarcer resources, authorities may feel compelled to save us from ourselves, in the name of social harmony.

You can read more at the Popular Mechanics site (Yahoo! grab)

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Congressional Testimony on Alzheimer's: CogLabs in Washington?

Wes Ashford (M.D.,Ph.D.) gave testimony to the U.S. Congress yesterday in Washington. The topic he was asked to speak to was Alzheimer's Disease, in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. He advocated that Congress get actively involved in supporting screening for dementia, utilizing either the faster/more accurate computerized methods or the less desirable paper practices. He was scheduled to meet with some of Hillary Clinton's staff (among others). We'll pass on how it went and some details later today.

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