December 30, 2005

Imitating minds

sociology — thomasr @ 7:27 pm

Social interaction is one of the most complex undertakings of the primate brain. It is the result of collaboration between different levels of the brain. Imitation is an important social function that – among other things – enables an organism to relate to other organisms and learn from them. In a paper in Current Opinion in Neurobiology, Marco Iacoboni reviews evidence that imitation is actually a heterogeneous function, consisting of different sub-functions.

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December 29, 2005

Self and Identity — New issue

journal — thomasr @ 9:15 pm

A new issue of the journal Self and Identity is out, including papers on defense mechanisms and self-perception.

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December 27, 2005

Information Integration Theory of Consciousness

SCR Feature,reviews — thomasr @ 11:29 pm
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Attention: inhibition or facilitation?

brain imaging — thomasr @ 9:18 pm

What are the mechanisms behind attention, our ability to focus on some aspects or stimuli, and ignore others? Is it due to an inhibition of all other inputs than the attended one or by facilitating the one input and not the others? Or are both mechanisms at stake? A recent neuroimaging study contradicts a widespread belief that attention is due to inhibition, and instead lends support to theories suggesting that facilitation is the primary function in attention.

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Detecting a touch

animal minds — thomasr @ 7:59 pm

What happens in the brain when a stimulus is detected? How does the brain activity look when there is no such detection? This question has been addressed by study by de Lafuente et al. in a study of monkeys. Using somatosensory stimuli, the results indicated that the primary sensory cortices are not part of the neural correlates of conscious detection. On the other hand, conscious detection led to increased activity in the frontal lobes. This study corresponds nicely with theories suggesting that consciousness involves a spread network of brain areas instead of sensory-specific areas. Furthermore, this study is interesting due to its use of somatosensory stimuli, while the majority of studies on NCC is about visual perception.

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December 26, 2005

NeuroImage special issue on social cognitive neuroscience

journal — thomasr @ 9:42 pm

Many relevant articles were published in the December 2005 issue of NeuroImage, which is a special issue on social cognitive neuroscience.

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Social reasoning in schizophrenia

abnormal states — thomasr @ 9:06 pm

How do people suffering from schizophrenia think socially? In this study by Russell et al. patients were asked to verbally describe cartoons of different social complexity. The results demonstrate that patients suffering from schizophrenia show different result profiles according to their symptomalogy, and that verbal measures may be used as an indicator for social reasoning deficits in schizophrenia.

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Beauty in the brain of the beholder

phenomenology — thomasr @ 8:56 pm

A new study by Jacobsen et al. demonstrate brain areas involved in aesthetic judgements of beauty.

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Waiting for an aversive event

brain imaging — thomasr @ 8:48 pm

A study by Nitschke and colleagues now demonstrate the neural correlates to the expectation of an aversive event. Experiencing as well as anticipating an aversive event involves specific structures such as the amygdala, insula cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex. An additional network involving smaller parts of the anterior cingulate, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex was involved in the anticipation of an aversive event.

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Brain mapping of social cognition

brain imaging — thomasr @ 8:33 pm

What is the relationship and difference between Theory of Mind (ToM) and empathy? In the literature of social cognition, these terms have been used interchangeably. Völlm and colleagues demonstrate that there are indeed some differences in the brain systems underlyding these functions. While a certain extent of the network involved is similar for the two functions, they also have distinct systems. Empathy, for example, also involves the activation of well-known emotional structures such as the amygdala. In this way, functional brain imaging is used for mapping out functional units in the brain.

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Fooling the brain-sense

phenomenology — thomasr @ 5:20 pm

In a new study, Schaefer et al demonstrate that the primary sensory cortex is involved in a special illusion of sensation in a limb that is not one’s own.

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New issue: Emotion

journal — thomasr @ 5:05 pm

A new issue of Emotion is out. Among the many articles are some on: attention and memory, sensation seeking, the worrying mind, and mental imagery.

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December 21, 2005

Mind over pain

brain imaging — thomasr @ 9:08 pm

Patients could suppress chronic pain by learning to control the activity of certain areas of their brains.

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Heart-beating music for the unconscious mind

unconscious processes — thomasr @ 8:35 pm

Doctors in an Illinois hospital are trying a musical therapy experiment to see if harp music can help calm a racing, erratic heartbeat.

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Are emotions different in schizophrenia?

abnormal states — thomasr @ 7:01 pm

A recently published review Alemana and colleagues argue that patients suffering from schizophrenia are different in their emotional experiences. This difference is due to alterations in the functions of specific brain circuits, especially the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.

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Your body gives away what you think

misc — thomasr @ 6:37 pm

Is it possible to predict what people think by looking at their body signals? In a new study Fairclough and colleagues used a range of psychophysiological measures (such as EEG, ECG, and skin conductance) while asking their subjects to perform a demanding task. The researchers were able to use the psychophysiological measures to predict how much people felt engaged in the task and how much they were stressed by it. On the other side, they were not able to predict other subjective states such as worry.

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Electricity and awakenings in vegetative state

unconscious states — thomasr @ 3:16 pm

A new study documents the effects of brain stimulation in vegetative state, a paradoxial unconscious state. As it seems, stimulation of the thalami – deep yet vital parts of the information processing in the brain – may help patients move from an unconscious state towards a minimally conscious state. As such, these results indicate that deep brain stimulation may be used clinically for raising patients’ level of consciousness.

In a recent review it is also claimed that electric stimulation can have a positive effect on unconscious or disturbed mental states such as coma and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The innate mind

books — thomasr @ 1:09 pm

This is the first volume of a projected three-volume set on the subject of innateness. The extent to which the mind is innate is one of the central questions in the human sciences, with important implications for many surrounding debates. By bringing together the top nativist scholars in philosophy, psychology, and allied disciplines these volumes provide a comprehensive assessment of nativist thought and a definitive reference point for future nativist inquiry.

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The space between our ears

books — thomasr @ 12:30 pm

In The Space Between our Ears Michael Morgan explains how our brain interprets what we see. Using a wealth of sources from over the centuries including philosophical writings, scientific thinking, experiments, passages from poems and novels, and scenes from films, Morgan reveals the difficulty in working out exactly how we make and receive our visual perceptions.

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December 18, 2005

Brain areas disconnect during deep sleep

unconscious states — thomasr @ 9:33 pm

Experiments shed light on what happens to consciousness during sleep.

Article from MSNBC.com reproduced below.

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