Wednesday, August 31, 2005

This seems like potentially interesting news

New techniques study the brain's chemistry, neuron by neuron

We keep saying that if we could get down to a cellular level (or even better, a molecular level) of resolution for brain imaging techniques. Maybe this is the first step toward that level of detailed obervation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Exercise your neural synapses

Creating Passionate Users: Blow your own mind

This site remains one of my favorites. They typically have a business slant to thier posts, but overall they still have a great hold on practical application of cognitive theory.

How's your brain today?

Make sure the blood flow is...well...flowing, I guess.

Scientific Savvy In U.S.

Well, this clearly isn't good news.

For an amusing and disturbing look at this same phenomenon, check out this link.

Have you ever watched the Jay Leno bit where he walks up to people on the street and asks them very simple questions about subjects that I consider common knowledge (basic questions of U.S. history or questions about current affairs or about the city they live in), and the people he shows on TV are so clueless it's downright painful to watch.

It's amusing, and I like to think that these people are the exception and not the rule - but it looks like the percentages of clueless people is much higher than I'd like to admit.

Women are more complex than men

Well, in their voices anyway: ScienceDirect - NeuroImage : Male and female voices activate distinct regions in the male brain

Key quote:

The female voice is actually more complex than the male voice, due to differences in the size and shape of the vocal cords and larynx between women and men, and also due to women having greater natural ‘melody’ in their voices. This causes a more complex range of sound frequencies than in a male voice.

When a man hears a female voice the auditory section of his brain is activated, which analyses the different sounds in order to ‘read’ the voice and determine the auditory face.

When men hear a male voice the part of the brain that processes the information is towards the back of the brain and is colloquially known as the ‘mind’s eye’. This is the part of the brain where people compare their experiences to themselves, so the man is comparing his own voice to the new voice to determine gender.

Pretty cool.

Ignore everything on this site....

Well, maybe not everthing, but then there is this: Most published research findings may be false

Not terribly surprising when you think about it. Most publishing is really just hypothesis gathering - and much of what I report here is really on the fringe of science as far as emerging discoveries. The article probably applies even more in psychological or neurological settings as our level of understanding of basic concepts like "consciousness" or "creativity" is still vague at best.

This phenomenon is also extremely valuable to consider when looking at scientific findings or topics that are highly politically, socially or culturally charged.

Monday, August 29, 2005

What did you say there sonny?

Hearing loss in older adults may compromise cognitive resources for memory

Would this include hearing loss for younger adults for things like injury or repetitive stress?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Let us all marvel.... the collosal stupidity of this British researcher's report

Now, I'll be the first to look very curiously evidence of gender difference - but using IQ measurements? Is he being serious?

Let's look at what he says:

Dr Irwing, a senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Manchester University, said he was uncomfortable with the findings. However, he said, the evidence was clear, despite the insistence of many academics that there were no meaningful gender differences in levels of intelligence.

"For personal reasons I would like to believe men and women are equal, and broadly that's true," he said. "But over a period of time the evidence in favour of biological factors has become stronger and stronger.

"I have been dragged in a direction that I don't particularly like, but it would be sensible if the debate was based on what we pretty much know to be the case."

Again, I'm all for challenging accepted wisdom if you have credible evidence on your side. But using IQ scores is NOT a credible way of providing evidence in this case. All he has shown is the females score lower on IQ tests on average. So, isn't it just a little possible that the instrument you're using might just be flawed at being able to measure "intelligence" levels between men and women? Isn't it possible that IQ tests show very little regarding an individual's intelligence outside of their ability to successfully complete an IQ test? Is that the only measure of "intelligence" that you used?

Here's for all you MENSA folks out there - and IQ test shows nothing more than your ability to take an IQ test. That's all. Certainly a form of "intelligence" but not the only or even best indicator.

I will be a very happy man if the perception of IQ tests could ever be turned on its head.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Monkey see.....

Chimps Show Hallmark of Human Culture, Study Finds

I would think that if you looked at this from a strictly behavioristic/operant paradigm you wouldn't see culture so much as repeated behavior.

Spam in the comments

I'm getting a lot of spam comments. I'm trying to delete them as I find them, but they just keep coming. Just watch, there will be a ton of spam comments to this post warning against them.

I don't want to restrict comments to registered users, but I may have to.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Microscopic brain imaging in the palm of your hand.

Can I have one? Please?

College students everywhere rejoice!

New drug reverses effects of sleep deprivation on brain.

Seriously - all those late night cram sessions now look a whole lot better.

Kim Atwill will be glad to see this

Scientists link genetic pathway to development of hearing.

Good news as a starting point.

If you can't speak the language....

Immigrant children misdiagnosed as language-impaired.

That is a sad, sad commentary on society. Just because you can't speak English, you must be language-impaired. How obtuse...

Meanwhile, all paranormal skeptics say "Duh!"

Not strictly brain development, but still - 'Out-of-body' experiences may come from within.

Every paranormal skeptic is now saying: Uh...yea...duh...

Astral projection has always been one of those things I've looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Flys have goals?

Someone is looking at it that way: Gap-climbing fruit flies reveal components of goal-driven behaviors.

Okay, the idea is more centered on overcoming obstacles, which I suppose could be viewed as goal-oriented, but I doubt that there flys have anything close to the complexity you would see in human behavior.

Playing violent video games can heighten aggression

Well, this study (well, a review of studies actually) seems to indicate that, yes, playing violent video games can heighten aggression.

I'm still not totally sure that we're looking at causality, but the results will certainly be something you'll see soon in media coverage.

Chinese, Americans Truly See Differently

Chinese, Americans Truly See Differently

Wow - who would have thought that cultural norms would affect things like eye-tracking (which I had always heard was an evolutionary development and somewhat hard-wired).

The short version is that Westerners tend to focus on the key or focal object in an image, whereas Eastern peoples tend to look at contextual items.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Neural Communication - do we really understand it?

This article (free registration required) indicates that neural cell communication occurs in other places besides the synaptic endings.

The scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences at UC San Diego found that nerve cells release neurotransmitters outside of synapse, a process they call "ectopic neurotransmission" (which is just fun to say - especially if you're Bill Murray).

A few years ago it was discovered that glial cells played a stronger role in communication than was previously thought, and now this - we're going to have to re-write a few textbooks once we figure out what all of it means.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Alteration of brain protein regulates learning

Alteration of brain protein regulates learning

"Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified a biochemical switch that affects how neurons fire in a part of the brain associated with learning, findings that may aid in understanding schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease."

Insight into the processes of 'positive' and 'negative' learners

Insight into the processes of 'positive' and 'negative' learners

A complex enough article that it can't be summarized easily, but it looks like they have found a way to identify when somone is reacting postively or negatively to consequences from their decisions.

A picture may be worth a thousand words...

But it apparently does notautomatically activate a thousand words.

Imaging study shows brain maturing

Imaging study shows brain maturing

I want to see the whole series of images. The movie is pretty cool though.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Waging a high-tech war against sinusitis

Well, it's not the brain, but it's near the brain.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm happy to hear it.

Blogging About Science Blogging

Derek Lowe has some thoughts on science blogging.

I like his thinking. While this blog has previously been a clearing house for all the brain-related links that I find interesting, I hope to devote more time to it and turn it into something much more useful. Like doing what Mr. Lowe suggests and explain what I'm trying to do and why.

Not a bad idea.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Smackdown Learning Model

The Smackdown Learning Model

Interesting thoughts from a very interesting blog.

Memories light up the corners of our minds

Memories light up the corners of our minds

Researchers pinpoint brain areas that process reality, illusion

Researchers pinpoint brain areas that process reality, illusion

Real vs. false memories

Briain scans show a difference between real and false memories

Music instruction aids verbal memory

Music instruction aids verbal memory

Sleep more if you want to learn

Penn: Office of University Communications: Sleep Deprivation within Five Hours of Learning Impairs Memory Consolidation in Mice

Brain Scans Show Working Memory, Moments Of Insight

FuturePundit: Brain Scans Show Working Memory, Moments Of Insight

Very worthwhile read.

Size = intelligence?

Despite intelligence measurement questions asside, this study on the correlation of the volume and location of gray matter tissue to intelligence is pretty interesting.

In an update to the study, the authors apparently found some very different structure to male and female brains.

Minimize distractions to enhance productivity

Study: Email overload hurts IQ more than marijuana use

Diet enhances learning

Diet, exercise, stimulating environment helps old dogs learn

Well, for dogs anyway.

Proving a point

Students aren't terribly bright about some things.
Pressed to do well on admissions tests, students take drugs

The dangers of this should be quite self-evident.

Plug in your scalp

Electric Current To Scalp Improves Speed Of Word Recall

Hmmm...zap your brain when studying - the general student population probably would take this a little too seriously I fear....

I wish my office had known this

Cornell News: Office temperature and productivity

For all you coffee drinkers

Small, frequent doses of caffeine is the best strategy for staying awake.

But, be careful, because caffeine can have some undesireable side effects.

Yet another reason for women to take their iron supplements

Moderate iron deficiency affects cognitive performance - but iron supplementation improves it

Aftereffects of cognitive drugs

In the previous post about cognitive drugs, it seems you can't enhance one without making sacrifices in another - in long-term vs. short-term memory anyway.

Now THIS would be nice

FuturePundit: Many Cognitive Enhancement Drugs Under Development

Give me some of those drugs NOW!

Enhance your baby's intelligence

By using very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy.

For all you music buffs

Imperial College London - Researchers find way to improve musical performance

This would be nice for humans

Making older mice bright again.

More on crying

Babies' cries linked to their neurological and medical status

Crying affects cognitive development

Or, prolonged crying anyway.

Development of working memory, allowing voluntary control of behavior, defined

Development of working memory, allowing voluntary control of behavior, defined

Children Process Words by Sound While Adults Process by Meaning

A Time to Rhyme: Children Process Words by Sound While Adults Process by Meaning

I find this very cool.

Mature television watching

Television watching may hasten puberty

Mommy! I need to watch TV so I can grow up!

Fetal Brain Gene Expression Patterns Differ By Sex

FuturePundit: Fetal Brain Gene Expression Patterns Differ By Sex

Very related to a previous post regarding gender development.

Brain Overgrowth During First Year of Life in Autism

UCSD Researchers Find Brain Overgrowth During First Year of Life in Autism

So, hyperactive brain development in smaller brains may be the cause of autism - very interesting.

More adolescence effects

Response to new faces varies by temperament, tied to brain activity

Much related to a previous post about adolescent brain development

Brain Gets Sex Orientation Before Genitals

FuturePundit: Brain Gets Sex Orientation Before Genitals

This is just cool, and provides some rather interesting implications toward gender differentiation.

Adolescence Is Tough On The Brain

FuturePundit: Adolescence Is Tough On The Brain

It affects their ability to understand emotions, and hence the likelihood for misunderstandings goes through the roof.

Coke versus Pepsi: who cares?

Coke versus Pepsi: It's all in the head

Well, our brains care apparently, or, at least, our culturally based perception of branding. Marketing folks, take note!

Bandura strikes again

Human see, human do

Seems that modeling is pretty powerful as a learning tool. Which we already knew.

Prenatal alcohol exposure and brain development

Prenatal alcohol exposure can lead to lasting changes in cognitive processing

Seems that alcohol exposure (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) for a fetus affects brain development by slowing down processing.

Just one more reason not to drink when you're pregnant.

Erotic images can blind you

New Scientist Breaking News - Erotic images can turn you blind

I know what you're thinking - but just read the article. It basically is saying that certain types of erotic (or even "exotic") images grab your attention more aggressively and hold it, basically creating a temporary bottleneck of sensory perception. The effect also seems to be greater for some individuals and lesser for others. Thrill seekers (extreme sports enthusiasts) for example don't seem to be affected as much.

Being able to generating that type of bottleneck for less erotic subject matter (read: public education curriculum) would seem to be a fantastic way to generate long-term learning.

Symbolic thinking

Scientific American: Mindful of Symbols
A well presented article that talks about how children are able to think symbolically and the difficulities they encouter in trying to transition to that type of thinking.

In defense of common sense

In the NYTimesIn Defense of Common Sense - a shorter version of John Horgan's book The End of Science.

He makes some very interesting points regarding "brain resesearch" and psychology in general. Worth a read.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Scientists uncover how brain retrieves and stores older memories

Scientists uncover how brain retrieves and stores older memories

Scientists Pinpoint Where Old Memories Are Stored

Scientists Pinpoint Where Old Memories Are Stored

Evidence That Memories are Consolidated During Sleep

Evidence That Memories are Consolidated During Sleep

The (brain) stuff of which dreams are made

The (brain) stuff of which dreams are made

Related stories here and here.

Old habits, both good and bad, are hard to break, suggests study of human memory

Old habits, both good and bad, are hard to break, suggests study of human memory

How the brain creates false memories

How the brain creates false memories

Sleep in - it's good for you

At least...if you're a teenager. High school start times deprive teens of sleep, affect academic performance

Nature determines religiosity?

Some scientists think so.

Violence at a young age

Apparently, some researchers think that humans are at their most violent when they are 2 yrs old.
Registration required

Stress and aggression reinforce each other at the biological level

Stress and aggression reinforce each other at the biological level

Our brains aren't computers

While this may not entirely be a "duh" moment, research suggests that our minds don't process the same as computers. Computers work in packets of info, and brains seem to process continually.

The bionic man/monkey

While not technically on topic with my normal posts, I think this technology is totally cool. Apparently they've installed robotic arms on monkeys, and they work just dandy. Now, they want to do the same thing for humans.

Now, while a robotic arm might not be the newest cool thing, the fact that these arms are wired directly to the brain IS new - and that's what makes it so cool.

Nasal spray clears Alzheimer’s brain plaques

Wow, and here I thought it only helped me breathe better when I get sick. Turns out that nasal spray can do so much more: Nasal spray clears Alzheimer’s brain plaques.