Author Pratchett Won't Stop Fighting

When best-selling fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in December, 2007 at age 59 - he resolved to "not go down without a fight."

Pratchett invited the BBC to document the ups and downs of day to day life with the Disease, and the result is being aired in the U.K. next week.

The story is covered by Telegraph Media's Editor Anita Singh.

Labels: , , , ,


blade runner(2) test

The Blade Runner 2 picture test is here.

The Images are slightly pixellated and likely will be swapped out shortly for higher-res.

See if you can get 100% correct - that is determine if you saw something before, or not. If you can't recall during the test then you need to practice.

Labels: , , , ,


Serotonin Makes Locust Swarm

A boost in the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which influences anger, depression, body temperature, sexuality, sleep, and mood in human and mammal brains, has been linked to the swarming behavior of desert locusts. Scientists have found that the levels of this chemical increase 2x-3x and this causes the normally individualistic and even, anti-social insect to become hyper-social and gregarious. Accompanying the rise in serotonin is a physical color change: from brown to pink, green, and multicolored hues.

Up to 25% of the earth's surface is subject to their activity, including Africa, the Mediterranean, Western Asia, and parts of the Americas including the Southwestern U.S.

From the Abstract:

Desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria, show extreme phenotypic plasticity, transforming between a little-seen solitarious phase and the notorious swarming gregarious phase depending on population density. An essential tipping point in the process of swarm formation is the initial switch from strong mutual aversion in solitarious locusts to coherent group formation and greater activity in gregarious locusts. We show here that serotonin, an evolutionarily conserved mediator of neuronal plasticity, is responsible for this behavioral transformation, being both necessary if behavioral gregarization is to occur and sufficient to induce it. Our data demonstrate a neurochemical mechanism linking interactions between individuals to large-scale changes in population structure and the onset of mass migration.

1 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK.
2 Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK.
3 School of Biological Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.

Labels: , , , ,

Gattaca, remix of rocket science and genetics

Gattaca...via hulu here or just watch below...



A Circular Time Spectrum

Time reconsidered.

Physicists are now hinting at thepixellation of the universe and I had the thought (probably not unique, but here it is) that time itself may be structured along two fundamental dimensions. Physicists from Einstein onward have written about the plastic nature of time and indeed, it's well established that time is relative to the position of the observer .

Here's an example sometimes used since the 1960's (and regrettably no closer today than in old books from the 1970's). During a supposed trip to Alpha Centauri at a reasonable fraction of the speed of light, say 40-50% as speculated from the hypothesized attainable velocity of the interstellar ramjet, time passes much faster for the crew than for people back on earth.

This effect is even seen at slower speeds within our own solar system at the millisecond level when communicating with probes.

Physics also does not rule out time's essential malleability, e.g.,past and future are human concepts that are observed from our perspective, seeming to be constant laws like gravitation but in fact are not.

Yes, time can be measured linearly as in the variable t but directionality (e.g., past, present, future, is not axiomatic). Scientists also believe that around the edges of black holes the linear nature of time is disruptible.

Why is that? It's almost imponderable.

However, let's look at the nature of light.

On the one hand, light has wavelengths - very long spans measured from the peak of one wave to the next, like the spikes on a lemon meringue pie - to the hundreds of meters and kilometers in the low-end optical (red) and below, including infrared and radio. On the other hand, light has very short wavelengths in blue, violet, ultraviolet, up through gamma rays, etc.

We already know that the spectrum gives us a look at chemical composition of ignited gas and materials, but what if time also had a dual or tripartite nature?

That is, it can be measured (linear) but also has a wavelength-based spectrum, such that events in the past are shifted one way and events in the future are shifted in another direction. Let's assume that the human concept of "past" time with short wavelengths exists simultaneously with the long wavelength "future" time which appears not to have happened yet because of the slowed down intervals.

Going from the past to the future is simply a matter of moving along this continuuum from longer and slower wavelengths (the future) on the one hand and shorter and faster wavelengths in the past. The meeting point or defined gap between these two asymptotes constitutes our very limited observed perspective of the "present" state of time.

The dimension of linear time from a human perspective is simple one "play" setting on the cosmic time player, while time considered as a medium itself can be accessed either at the point of shorter wavelengths (the past) or longer wavelengths (the future). In this conception time is not a "river," which is solely dependent upon human perspective, but more like a circle with no beginning an end. Everything that exists (past, present, future) can be plotted somewhere along the circle.

Of course, we would need to work out the calculus that will connect this wavelength observation to modern physics.

If you think about it, this theory in a cursory sort of way might point to an answer to some of those problems of time plasticity which standard physics cannot rule out and in fact acknowledges. We also would need to amend natural philosophy.

If so, how do we explain the so called "time paradox problem," that is time travelers going back in time and influencing events which will make the present as we know it, impossible. This is a literary convention from Wells through the travails of Andrew Harlan in The End of Eternity (Asimov) and again in other literary works.

Reality, instead is turned on its head and it's actually a reverse paradox.

The question is whether this notion of time conflicts with observations and already derived fundamental laws and furthermore, how would develop a time-player allowing you to access different areas on the disk/points on the circle? That might be a problem for a scientist in the future.

Labels: , , , , ,


Preview: Blush Response

conference room at the Human Genetics firm Tyrell Corporation

A psychological test makes up one of the early scenes in Blade Runner. This is a preview of a new Blade Runner game - there will be another to follow for a total of three games building on the popular one introduced two years ago.

Listen to the sound here (will launch in Winamp, Quicktime, or Windows MP.)

Here's an approximation of the scene

Labels: , , ,


Bubble Popping Classic Makes an Appearance

There's a new game on our site, that may remind you of the pastime of squeezing packing bubbles until they pop, which some people find highly addictive.

Play here >

Labels: , , ,


Berries: Good for the Brain, Potent Against Cancer

New research points to even greater anti-oxidant powers for flavenol-containing dark-skinned berries such as blue and red blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, and blueberries, with the latter possibly slightly less potent than the former varieties.

The NY Times blog has a round-up.

health berry links as a resource:

elderberries as in 'your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of..."
chokeberries - the berry with the greatest concentration of antioxidants
black currants

Labels: , , , ,


Coglabs Exceeds 10 Million Visitors, 40 Million Page Views

As we announced earlier, we were closing in on 10 million visitors but recently passed that milestone and today passed 40 million page views.

Labels: , , ,


Sagittarian Exoplanet may be Earth-like

Artist conception of planet orbiting a red dwarf star

According to New Scientist, an exoplanet announced earlier (discovered in 2007 with analysis appearing in 2008) located in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius may be Earth-sized.
Earlier, astronomers had estimated it as 2x-3x earth-size and of a composition like Neptune, perhaps. Now, evidence seems to show more of a 'terran' character.

Note this is different than the exoplanet optically observed around the star Fomalhaut.

Labels: , , ,


The Face: What it Means

Men are red, women are green, the nose may be key to "reading" a face, and ordinary eyebrows may be what makes a face recognizable, rather than, say, provocatively bee-stung lips or baby blues. (Interestingly, in aspective Egyptian art, the convention is to show men as reddish in tone like the skin of a Spanish peanut, while women were shown in a yellowish tone, and the dead like Osiris, were green)

Those insights into how we "see" faces are part of the growing field of facial recognition, one of the hottest realms in psychology and neural science.

"It's very controversial: How do we see a face?" said Pawan Sinha, professor of vision and computational neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among the fiercely debated topics, he said, "is whether we learn to recognize faces or whether we come prewired with dedicated brainware for recognizing faces. The disagreement is deep - and rather sharp."

The focus on faces at universities and other research centers is far from purely academic. In the age of terrorism, police and intelligence agencies are clamoring for new technologies that can scan and accurately identify faces - winnow a "wanted" individual from the anonymous airport crowd, or a terrorist scoping out public buildings.

"Understanding how the brain works is the greatest mystery facing us in this century," said Garrison W. Cottrell, professor of computer science at the University of California in San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering. "And facial recognition is among the greatest challenges to understanding the brain."

In pursuit of answers, psychologists and brain scientists have come up with some unexpected data.

Michael J. Tarr, codirector of Brown University's Center for Vision Research, recently published research in the journal Psychological Science that showed males have more reddish skin while women's skin has a greenish cast.

"The coloration is subtle, but actual - not just a trick of the mind or matter of perception. Men are redder, on average; women greener," Tarr said. "Color information is very robust."

The color difference, he theorized, may be because women need a certain skin pigmentation to better absorb ultraviolet light to synthesize vitamin B for lactation and bone development.

Meanwhile, research at the University of California in San Diego suggests people use the nose as a sort of main navigational point for charting a face.

Scientists found we focus first on the nose - looking just to the left of it, and then to the center - before deciding in a split-instant whether we recognize the person.

Other research suggests eyebrows may be as important as eyes when it comes to recognition. "Put on glasses with thick lenses or strange frames, and people will still recognize you," said MIT's Sinha, whose lab explores how the mind recognizes objects and scenes. "But shaving eyebrows is acutely disruptive to recognition."

Scientists aren't sure why, but one possibility is that eyebrows - like noses or mouths - are important because we recognize other features in relationship to them.
A very few people can be recognized by one salient feature - Jay Leno for his chin, for example. But most faces require fast mental computation," said Marlene Behrmann, professor of psychology at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. "We are quickly measuring distances from nose to eyes, nose to mouth, eyebrows to cheek, before we recognize the face. It is these subtle relationships [of distance plus shape] that give most of us our individuality, not just our pretty nose or exquisite lips; those tend to be more similar to everyone else's than we'd care to admit."

No other object is as important for humans to recognize and interpret as faces, say scientists in the field.

"Unless you're an ornithologist, it's not important to know a robin from a sparrow; it's enough to recognize them as birds," Behrmann said. "But . . . to function in society, people have to recognize faces at a highly individualized level."

Nancy Kanwisher, a neuroscientist at MIT, is prominent among scientists whose research suggests a specific "sweet spot" in the brain - called the fusiform face area - has evolved to recognize faces. The ability is seen as coming as naturally as breathing or burping.

"Face perception may be a special domain of cognition, one with its own independent cognitive and neural machinery," she wrote recently.

But other scientists disagree, saying research points more to facial recognition as an acquired skill.

Clues to facial recognition can be found in conditions that hamper it.

Stroke victims and individuals suffering from autism have a tough time recognizing faces, as do people with a puzzling affliction called "prosopagnosia," or face blindness.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon determined that individuals with prosopagnosia had disruptions in nerves connecting parts of the brain associated with recognizing faces.

"Most of us see the face as a whole, an assemblage. That's why you have no trouble recognizing your wife, but may not even notice her new hair style or lipstick," said Behrmann, a co-author of the study published last month in Nature Neuroscience. "People with the condition, however, can only see the parts, not the larger pattern."

Labels: , , , , , ,

Barack Obama Taking over as President of U.S.

With the inauguration, this means a new addition to the Presidents Brain Gym.
Barack Obama is the first president to be born in the 1960's.

Here's a shortcut to the test.

Labels: , ,


The Myth of the Singing Fish

by Nobel prize winner Haldor Laxness

There is truth to the myth that some creatures of the sea can sing, such as fish, so there is more to the meme than the fantabulous vocalist mermaids of Greek myth, the sirens. Two researchers, Roderick Suthers and Tobias Riede believe that singing originated in fish and gradually was adopted - and perfected - by birds.

"Babies go through several phases of learning before they fully speak such as babbling, one word, two words, etc. -- and so do songbirds," Riede told Discovery News.

Riede, a researcher at the National Center for Voice and Speech, explained that young songbirds also "babble," producing sub-songs, before they create more varied "plastic" songs and then graduate to bird crooning perfection with their adult songs.

read the article

Labels: , , , , , ,


Coffee Consumption and Reduced Alzheimer's Risk

Howard Schultz must be having kittens.

Another paper appeared today documenting reduced risk of cognitive impairment in middle-aged people who drank between 3 and 5 cups of coffee per day.

"Middle-aged people who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease by between 60 and 65 per cent later in life," said Miia Kivipelto, a professor at the University of Kuopio in Finland and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Other research (University of North Dakota) has shown that in rabbits, the blood brain barrier was kept intact when the rabbits were given the caffeine equivalent of one cup of coffee per day even when their diet was high in cholesterol. The scientists surmised that caffeine has a blocking effect on the absorption of potentially toxic material through the blood brain barrier.

In another study we covered earlier, caffeine was shown to accelerate the speed of transfer between neurotransmitters, increasing cognitive effectiveness and inter-neural reaction.

Gene expression was also improved simply through sniffing the aroma of coffee.

Too much caffeine though, and you might become like Timothy Leary and start hallucinating. So, like in all things, proper proportionality is required. The happy wo/man has some pleasure from her/his cup of java, but not too much, as too much violates Nature (in the Stoic sense).

Labels: , , ,

Lounge Chair Made of Skate Boards: Relax the Back

If you can score some old skateboards, they can be fabricated easily into a comfy lounge chair with fabulous lumbar support.

Labels: , , ,


So You Want to Hack Your Brain? Here's How

Simple tricks and tips from the Boston Globe to arrive at that oh-so-desired altered state. Don't worry, we haven't tried any of them yet.

Labels: , , , ,

The Brain Mechanisms of Social Conformity

or, how one Learns to Build a Social Network without really Trying

From Eureka Alert:

New research (by Dr. Vasily Klucharev) reveals the brain activity that underlies our tendency to "follow the crowd." The study, published by Cell Press in the January 15th issue of the journal Neuron, provides intriguing insight into how human behavior can be guided by the perceived behavior of other individuals.

Many studies have demonstrated the profound effect of group opinion on individual judgments, and there is no doubt that we look to the behavior and judgment of others for information about what will be considered expected and acceptable behavior.

"We often change our decisions and judgments to conform with normative group behavior," says lead study author Dr. Vasily Klucharev from the F.C. Donders Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging in The Netherlands. "However, the neural mechanisms of social conformity remain unclear."

Dr. Klucharev and colleagues hypothesized that social conformity might be based on reinforcement learning and that a conflict with group opinion could trigger a "prediction error" signal. A prediction error, first identified in reinforcement learning models, is a difference between expected and obtained outcomes that is thought to signal the need for a behavioral adjustment.

Read all

Labels: , , , ,

51,000 visitors

de young museum...

On Monday and Tuesday we had 25,000 and 26,000 visitors, back-to back. We were in SF on Tuesday for the whole day with intermittent web access and still had 26,000 visits more or less on autopilot. :-)

Labels: , , , ,


New labs info, the black wall

Some new information and a video is on the labs page.

Labels: , , , ,

Study: 10% Improvement in Cognitive Scores from Exercise

Another study has found links between fitness and mental capacity, in addition to the two reports that surfaced at the end of December.

Researchers at the University of Calgary find older women who are more physically fit have better cognitive function.

The study, published in the international journal Neurobiology of Aging, finds that physical fitness helps the brain function at the top of its game because physical activity benefits blood flow in the brain and, as a result, aids cognitive abilities.

"Being sedentary is now considered a risk factor for stroke and dementia," Poulin says in a statement. "This study proves for the first time that people who are fit have better blood flow to their brain. Our findings also show that better blood flow translates into improved cognition."

read more at upi.com

Labels: , , ,


Stonehenge: the Ideal place for a Rave

It is, according to accoustic scientists in a Discovery piece by Rosella Lorenzi. Admittedly, that's much better than a heavy metal riff with a tiny miniature of the Druidic wonder as in This is Spinal Tap.

Apparently, it was designed so that a fast rhythym of up to 160 beats per minute could be sustained and amplified by drum players combined with the repetitive echoes from the slabs of stone, approximating the redline speed of the human heart under vigorous exercise. Research is now showing that megaliths perfectly reflect ambient sound. Keep that in mind for your landscape architecture plans. As such, it may have played a role in shamanic tradition.

The researchers' work strongly suggests that the monument's builders knew how to direct the movement of sound. Indeed, the stones at Stonehenge amplify higher-frequency sounds, such as the human voice, while lower-frequency sounds such as drums pass around the stones and can be heard for some distance.

The effect would have been a "dynamic multisensory experience."

Labels: , , ,


Tetris May Qwell Flashbacks, PTSD

may improve conditions for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. In a study of 40 healthy volunteers who were exposed to stressful images and ads for drunk driving, those who played tetris for 10.5 minutes immediately after seeing the images had fewer flashbacks than those who saw the images but didn't play the game.

Oxford scientist Dr. Emily Holmes believes the game may disrupt the memories that are retained of the sights and sounds witnessed at the time, and which are later re-experienced through involuntary, distressing flashbacks of that moment.

More material is added to the growing body of evidence pointing to health benefits of game intervention to impact a wide variety of cognitive conditions.

PDF | article

Labels: , , , ,


Mice Rave Offers Clues to Disease Spread

Scientists wanting to find out how diseases are spread, in this case, the hanta immunovirus carried by the Western Deer mouse, applied psychedelic, fluorescent colors to captured and released deer mice at 12 sites in the western Utah desert during the spring and fall of 2005. The researchers collected blood samples and tagged some mice with radio transmitters while dusting others with the fluorescent powders.

For two nights during the spring and fall, toothbrushes were used to apply colored powders to five mice at each of the 12 sites, resulting in each site having five different colored mice: pink, blue, green, yellow and orange.

The next day, the researchers viewed mice captured in animal traps under an ultraviolet light (black light), looking for fluorescent powder on each mouse's head, ears, mouth, feet and tail....(read more)

What's a rave?:

Here's a sample Paul Oakenfold/Shifty Shellshock tune (diet Coke flavored for Pete Sealey)

and here's the Oakenfold rave video:

So now you know.

Labels: , , , , ,

2008 Final Analysis

We're still analyzing the numbers, but there was an increase in unique visitors of 220% between the year 2007 and the year 2008 for Cognitive Labs. At the end of the day, it's all about reach and audience. The television people have known this for years, and it is the same on the Internet-though attitudes bounce between higher and lower intervals of interest depending on external factors. But the fundamentals don't change.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Cafe Scientifique at SRI: Gladstone Institute

Wes says this looks like an interesting evening. I agree. I'll have a doppio espresso, twist of lime


Please note: the January Café will take place on THURSDAY!

Come to SRI for a conversation with our next Café Scientifique speaker:

Lennart Mucke, MD

Director, Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease
Professor of Neurology & Neuroscience, UCSF

will discuss:

What Will it Take to Defeat Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders
Thursday, January 22, 2009 from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m.

Labels: , ,


Final Numbers

The Final 2008 numbers included 6.2 million visitors...


Sneak Preview: new Game

It'll be on the boards(game_list) tomorrow.

It's by two marvelous guys from Spain.

and the normal game rss feed by some-time AM as well.

But you get it now...

Ran out of red bull, and whole foods is closed...time to sign off.

Rumor: Captain Kirk is launching a social network...is it true?

Labels: , ,


Ever Wonder What the Seven Years War was Like?

Me Neither.

But only a philosopher could understand the cause. In the Americas, it was called the French & Indian war. Stanley Kubrick adroitly captured it in one of his films...

Labels: , , , ,

Vocal Trance Brain

Experiment: A pic from the video game Final Fantasy trains your brain....combined with vocal trance. Neuropsych meets Trance? This is a twist on the super-popular game-rip vids that are all over the social networks...

Labels: , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?