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
Letters Response
Book Review
Opinion
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 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
Letters Response
Opinion
Review
Feature Review

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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.

Click here for the complete article.

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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.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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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

Opinion

Review

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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.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Click here for full access to the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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March 17, 2011

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

In a BBC broadcastMelvyn 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.”

Click here to listen to the broadcast.

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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 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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March 6, 2011

Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Table of Contents March 2011

cognition,journal,reviews — alice @ 10:20 pm

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

Volume 15, Issue 3, pp. 95-140

Book Review

Opinion

Review

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March 1, 2011

A short video on the brain and concussions

Click here for a short clip on concussions and the brain provided by CBC.

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February 24, 2011

Meditation alters your grey matter, studies show

From the Globe and Mail:

Move over cryptic crosswords and Sudoku, and make way for the ultimate mental workout. It’s called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR for short. Recent neuroscience research shows that novices using the method – developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the 1970s – can get results in just eight weeks.

Brain-changing results, that is.

A 2010 study found that non-meditators who had eight weeks of MBSR training were more likely than a control group to access the brain region that provides a bodily sense of the “here and now” as opposed to the region associated with worry.

In other research published in January, brain scans of MBSR participants with no previous meditation experience showed increased grey-matter density in regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, self-awareness and perspective taking.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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February 23, 2011

Scientists look to new imaging techniques to measure metals in the brain

From the Globe and Mail:

We are metal heads. Our brains need iron, copper, manganese and zinc to function, yet there is growing evidence that these metals may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease multiple sclerosis and other illnesses.

Canadian scientists are developing new imaging techniques to accurately map and measure metals in the brain, a crucial step toward learning more about why they are so essential, as well as understanding the damage they can cause under some circumstances.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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February 22, 2011

Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Table of Contents February 2011

cognition,journal,reviews — alice @ 12:15 am

The February issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences is available online

Volume 15, Issue 2, pp. 47-94

Review

 

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February 21, 2011

Former CFL players’ brains used to study link between concussions and disease

From the Globe and Mail:

Concussion stories from Bobby Kuntz’s days with the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats made for family football folklore until a decade ago when they suddenly seemed bittersweet.

Mr. Kuntz, who suffered as many as 20 concussions playing football in the 1950s and 60s, developed a tremor and started to forget things. His golf game went and he had to give up his position as president and chief executive officer of his family’s metal finishing business.

His symptoms were progressive, yet difficult to diagnose. His wife, Mary, took him down to the Mayo Clinic – he was in his late 60s – and doctors suggested Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson’s.

“The only way you’ll ever find out if its Lewy Body disease is to have an autopsy,” Mrs. Kuntz recalled the Mayo Clinic doctors telling her about a decade ago.

She had always planned on having her husband autopsied as she was concerned about whether her five living children were at risk of inheriting his brain disease. Ms. Kuntz wants to know if there is a link between repeated concussions and his Lewy Body disease, a progressive form of dementia, or Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with similar characteristics.

Click here to read the rest of this article.

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October 25, 2010

Seizing an Opportunity: Broader Definitions of Epilepsy May Lead to Better Treatments

From The Dana Foundation:

There is not just one type of epilepsy. While some forms of the disease are characterized by convulsive seizures, others involve seizures that are barely noticeable. Seizures can occur for many reasons: they can be caused by genetic mutations, injury, or infection early in life. In addition, events in daily life, such as stress, or normal variations in hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, can influence brain activity and therefore influence seizures. By considering the powerful interactions between the brain and the endocrine system, this influence of hormones on seizures can be understood and new treatment options can be considered.

A common misconception is that a seizure involves sudden, uncontrolled movements or convulsions. However, convulsions do not always accompany seizures. One type of epilepsy—absence epilepsy—is characterized by seizures that involve little movement at all, only a blank, expressionless gaze. For a brief period, the person experiencing the seizure is unresponsive, or “absent.” These seizures are not easy to recognize and may therefore go undetected. Even the person having the seizure may not notice it, because consciousness is temporarily interrupted during an absence seizure.

The diversity in the types of seizures has led to difficulty in classifying them. It is often hard to bring seizures under control because there are many causes, some of which are not well understood. Fortunately, in the past few decades clinical and laboratory research has led to a better understanding of the diversity of seizures and the causes of epilepsy.

Click here to read the entire article

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October 21, 2010

Could an Experimental Memory Drug Put an End to “Senior Moments”?

From: Discover Magazine Online:

A new drug seems to be able to reverse normal age-related memory decline in old mice–like a face-lift for neurons, bringing them back to their younger days. The results of the experimental treatment, which works by blocking certain stress hormones, were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“What’s most surprising is that even short-term inhibition was able to reverse memory loss in old mice,” says Jonathan Seckl, a professor of molecular medicine who was involved in the research. “I don’t think people had realized this was so reversible. It takes [the animals] back to being relatively young.” [Technology Review].

Research has shown that stress hormones called glucocorticoids play a role in memory loss, by damaging the brain over time. But targeting the glucocorticoids themselves is dangerous, because reducing their levels would leave the body without a stress response. The researchers therefore targeted an enzyme instead, which activates the hormone in neurons.

Click here for the complete article.

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October 17, 2009

Alpha Oscillations, Attention and Consciousness

One way to describe brain activity measured by EEG or MEG is by its frequency content. Frequencies can be categorized into one of the following ranges: low, middle and high. The low frequencies include the delta and theta ranges, whereas the middle frequency range consists of the alpha and beta ranges. The gamma wave belongs to the high frequency group.

Different cognitive functions have been associated with these different frequency ranges. Specifically, alpha oscillations have been associated with the inhibition of brain regions that are not required to perform a given task. However, in a past paper, Palva and Palva summarized an accumulating body of evidence that suggested that alpha oscillations play a much larger role in cognition by contributing to mechanisms of attention and consciousness. Click here for full access to the paper.

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October 9, 2009

1/f Scaling and Emergent Pattern Formation in Complex Systems

1/f scaling (or 1/f noise) refers to a scaling relation followed by fluctuations that have been widely observed in nature. 1/f fluctuations have been observed ubiquitously across different disciplines of science (e.g. chemistry, psychology, biology). In specific relation to cognitive neuroscience, 1/f scaling has been observed widely in fMRI measurement series and treated, generally, as noise to work around as opposed to an object of study. The challenge is that since 1/f fluctuations seem to be present throughout the brain, they do not help localize specific cognitive functions to specific areas of the brain. However, studies have shown that the appearance of 1/f fluctuations in fMRI measurements change as a function of cognitive variables.

Whereas some researchers argue that 1/f scaling is a byproduct of processes that are irrelevant to theories of cognition, others argue that 1/f fluctuations reflect a general and essential principle of emergent pattern formation in complex systems, including cognitive systems.

In a past study Kello, Beltz, Holden and Van Orden examined the relevance of 1/f scaling to cognitive function in four experiments using simple and choice response tasks. (For full access to the paper, click here.) The results of this study supported the emergent coordination argument and the researchers concluded that “the generality of 1/f scaling in cognitive performance is evidence that cognitive functions are universally formed as emergent patterns of physiological and behavioral activity”.

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