SCR Feature by Alain Morin 

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June 3, 2011

Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Table of Contents June 2011

The June issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences is available online.

Volume 15, Issue 6, pp. 241-288
Letters Response
Book Review


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June 1, 2011

Consciousness and Cognition: Table of Contents June 2011

cognition,journal,reviews — alice @ 7:55 pm

The June issue of Consciousness and Cognition is available online.

Volume 20, Issue 2, pp.173-488



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May 29, 2011

Short Video: Before and After Deep Brain Stimulation

brain networks,neuroscience,video — alice @ 1:42 am

Although there is still a lot to be learned about deep brain stimulation (DBS), the potential use of DBS seems like it could be promising. Click here to watch a video of a Tourette syndrome patient before and after his DBS operation. After the stimulation is turned on, it appears as if the patient’s Tourette symptoms disappear. However, despite the positive results of DBS for this particular patient, it is important to keep in mind the DBS is not a cure and that it is highly invasive.

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May 28, 2011

A Conversation on the Neuroethics of Deep Brain Stimulation

In this webcast provided by the Dana Foundation, Drs. Philip Campbell, Joseph Fins, Jonathan Moreno and Helen Mayberg discussed the ethical considerations of using deep brain stimulation. The topics covered in this interesting discussion included surgical experimentation, consciousness, depression, technology and public policy. Dr. Judy Illes served as the moderator.

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May 5, 2011

Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Table of Contents May 2011

The May issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences is available online.

Volume 15, Issue 5, pp. 185-240
Letters Response
Feature Review


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April 28, 2011

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting: 2011

conferences — alice @ 1:33 pm

41st Annual Meeting

Nov. 12-16, 2011, in Washington, DC.


The Society for Neuroscience annual meeting is the premier venue for neuroscientists from around the world to debut cutting-edge research.

Since 1971, the meeting has offered attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest breakthroughs and network with colleagues at top destinations throughout North America. Read about Neuroscience 2010, which took place Nov. 13-17, 2010 in San Diego, Calif.

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April 27, 2011

Toward a Science of Consciousness 2011: Final Announcement

conferences — alice @ 12:24 am

Toward a Science of Consciousness

Brain, Mind and Reality

Stockholm, Sweden, May 3-7, 2011

Sponsored by the Center for Consciousness Studies
The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
and Perfjell Foundation

The nature of consciousness is the most interesting and important question we face. Consciousness is awareness, subjective experience of internal and external worlds, of understanding, feeling, meaning, sense of self and choice. Our views of reality, of the universe, of ourselves depend on consciousness. Consciousness defines our existence.

How the brain produces consciousness is an open question, as is its place in the universe. Most scientists and philosophers assume consciousness emerged during evolution as a by-product of complex computation among brain neurons, that neurons and synapses are fundamentally no different than bit states and switches in computers. However this neurocomputational view pays a price. It requires consciousness to be an after-the-fact illusion, merely along for the ride, a helpless spectator. Free will is deemed impossible.

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April 20, 2011

Addiction and Brain Circuits

From Brain Briefings:

Humans have always struggled with addictions to mind-altering substances. Yet, only in the past few decades have neuroscientists begun to understand precisely how these substances affect the brain — and why they can quickly become a destructive and even deadly habit. 

For a long time, society viewed addiction as a moral failing. The addict was seen as someone who simply lacked self-control. Today, thanks to new advances in brain imaging and other technologies, we know that addiction is a disease characterized by profound disruptions in particular routes — or circuits — in the brain.

Scientists are learning how genetics and environmental factors, such as stress, contribute to these neural disruptions and increase the risk of addiction. This ongoing research is allowing researchers to:

  • Understand how addictive substances affect the brain’s reward system.
  • Develop more effective therapies for treating drug abuse and addiction.
  • Establish better methods of detecting people at risk of developing addictions.
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April 19, 2011

Scientists find way to map brain’s complexity

From Reuters:

Scientists say they have moved a step closer to developing a computer model of the brain after finding a way to map both the connections and functions of nerve cells in the brain together for the first time.

In a study in the journal Nature on Sunday, researchers from Britain’s University College London (UCL) described a technique developed in mice which enabled them to combine information about the function of neurons with details of their connections.

The study is part of an emerging area of neuroscience research known as "connectomics". A little like genomics, which maps our genetic make-up, connectomics aims to map the brain’s connections, known as synapses.

By untangling and being able to map these connections — and deciphering how information flows through the brain’s circuits — scientists hope to understand how thoughts and perceptions are generated in the brain and how these functions go wrong in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and stroke.

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April 18, 2011

Language and the Brain: What Makes Us Human

From Brain Briefings:

No other species on the planet uses language or writing — a mystery that remains unsolved even after thousands of years of research. Now neuroscientists are taking advantage of powerful new ways to peer into the brain to provide remarkable insights into this unique human ability.

Do you trip over your words, struggle to listen to a dinner companion in a noisy restaurant, or find it difficult to understand a foreign accent on TV? Help may be on the way. Using powerful new research tools, scientists have begun to unravel the long-standing mystery of how the human brain processes and understands speech.

In some ways, language is one of the oldest topics in human history, fascinating everyone from ancient philosophers to modern computer programmers. This is because language helps make us human. Although other animals communicate with one another, we are the only species to use complex speech and to record our messages through writing. This newly invigorated field, known as the neurobiology of language, helps scientists:

  • Gain important insights into the brain regions responsible for language comprehension.
  • Learn about underlying brain mechanisms that may cause speech and language disorders.
  • Understand the “cocktail party effect,” the ability to focus on specific voices against background noise.
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April 14, 2011

Mind vs. Machine

By Brian Christian of Atlantic Magazine:

In the race to build computers that can think like humans, the proving ground is the Turing Test—an annual battle between the world’s most advanced artificial-intelligence programs and ordinary people. The objective? To find out whether a computer can act “more human” than a person. In his own quest to beat the machines, the author discovers that the march of technology isn’t just changing how we live, it’s raising new questions about what it means to be human.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND, SEPTEMBER 2009. I wake up in a hotel room 5,000 miles from my home in Seattle. After breakfast, I step out into the salty air and walk the coastline of the country that invented my language, though I find I can’t understand a good portion of the signs I pass on my way—LET AGREED, one says, prominently, in large print, and it means nothing to me.

I pause, and stare dumbly at the sea for a moment, parsing and reparsing the sign. Normally these kinds of linguistic curiosities and cultural gaps intrigue me; today, though, they are mostly a cause for concern. In two hours, I will sit down at a computer and have a series of five-minute instant-message chats with several strangers. At the other end of these chats will be a psychologist, a linguist, a computer scientist, and the host of a popular British technology show. Together they form a judging panel, evaluating my ability to do one of the strangest things I’ve ever been asked to do.

I must convince them that I’m human.

Fortunately, I am human; unfortunately, it’s not clear how much that will help.

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April 12, 2011

Using light to probe the brain’s self-repair after a stroke

Anne McIlroy of The Globe and Mail�has written a nice article on how researchers are using optogenetics to study how the brain repairs itself after a stroke.

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April 4, 2011

Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Table of Contents April 2011

The April issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences is available online.

Volume 15, Issue 4, pp. 141-184

Update – Forum: Science & Society




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March 29, 2011

Being rejected a real pain, brain images show

From CBC News:

The pain of rejection is more than just a figure of speech: regions of the brain that respond to physical pain overlap with those that react to social rejection, a brain imaging study shows.

The study used brain imaging on people involved in romantic breakups.

“These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection ‘hurts,”‘ wrote psychology professor Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. Their findings are reported in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Edward Smith of Columbia University explained that the research shows that psychological or social events can affect regions of the brain that scientists thought were dedicated to physical pain.

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March 28, 2011

Experimental Philosophy and the Problem of Free Will

free will,philosophy — alice @ 9:16 am

S. Nichols
Article in Science

Many philosophical problems are rooted in everyday thought, and experimental philosophy uses social scientific techniques to study the psychological underpinnings of such problems. In the case of free will, research suggests that people in a diverse range of cultures reject determinism, but people give conflicting responses on whether determinism would undermine moral responsibility. When presented with abstract questions, people tend to maintain that determinism would undermine responsibility, but when presented with concrete cases of wrongdoing, people tend to say that determinism is consistent with moral responsibility. It remains unclear why people reject determinism and what drives people’s conflicted attitudes about responsibility. Experimental philosophy aims to address these issues and thereby illuminate the philosophical problem of free will.

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March 23, 2011

“I Am My Connectome”: TED Talk given by Sebastian Seung

In this TED talk Sebastian Seung, Professor of Computational Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Physics at MIT, discusses the “connectome” – the connections formed between neurons – and its possible role in consciousness. Dr. Seung highlights neuroscientists’ belief that neural activity is the physical basis of thoughts, feelings and perceptions and discusses the relation between neural activity and the connectome: neural activity travels through a connectome, but at the same time, these connections can grow and be modified by neural activity and experience. As Dr. Seung put it “the connectome is where nature meets nurture”.

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March 17, 2011

BBC4′s “In Our Time”: Discussion on Free Will

In a BBC broadcast,  Melvyn Bragg and his guests Simon Blackburn, Helen Beebee, and Galen Strawson discuss the philosophical idea of free will.

From the broadcast description:

“Free will – the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions – is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism – the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before – seems to suggest so.

Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: “Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion.” But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.”

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March 14, 2011

Consciousness and Cognition: Table of Contents March 2011

cognition,journal,reviews — alice @ 2:53 pm

The March issue of Consciousness and Cognition is available online.

Volume 20, Issue 1, pp.1-172

Special issue: Brain and Self: Bridging the Gap




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March 10, 2011

Can Someone in a Vegetative State Communicate Thoughts?

In this short video (about 4 mins) from the New York Times, David Corcoran discusses evidence from an fMRI study that suggests that people in a vegetative state can communicate thoughts.

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March 8, 2011

Can You Beat a Computer at Paper-Scissors-Rock?

To see if you can outwit a computer at Paper-Scissors-Rock, check out this interactive feature in the New York Times. The feature demonstrates basic artificial intelligence, and allows you to play against the computer at two different levels: novice, where the computer learns from scratch; and veteran, where the computer uses over 200,000 rounds of experience against you.

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