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The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains

“Who in the rainbow can draw the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other? So with sanity and insanity.” —Herman Melville, Billy Budd.

In Japan, people often refer to traffic lights as being blue in color. And this is a bit odd, because the traffic signal indicating ‘go’ in Japan is just as green as it is anywhere else in the world. So why is the color getting lost in translation? This visual conundrum has its roots in the history of language.

Blue and green are similar in hue. They sit next to each other in a rainbow, which means that, to our eyes, light can blend smoothly from blue to green or vice-versa, without going past any other color in between. Before the modern period, Japanese had just one word, Ao, for both blue and green. The wall that divides these colors hadn’t been erected as yet. As the language evolved, in the Heian period around the year 1000, something interesting happened. A new word popped into being – midori – and it described a sort of greenish end of blue. Midori was a shade of ao, it wasn’t really a new color in its own right.

Excerpt of a paper via Empirical Zeal. Read it HERE. Part 2 HERE

Bio · Human-ities · Science · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

Neuroscience: The mind reader. Communicating with vegetative patients

Adrian Owen still gets animated when he talks about patient 23. The patient was only 24 years old when his life was devastated by a car accident. Alive but unresponsive, he had been languishing in what neurologists refer to as a vegetative state for five years, when Owen, a neuro-scientist then at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium, put him into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and started asking him questions.

Incredibly, he provided answers. A change in blood flow to certain parts of the man’s injured brain convinced Owen that patient 23 was conscious and able to communicate. It was the first time that anyone had exchanged information with someone in a vegetative state.

Excerpt of an article written by David Cyranoski, at Nature. Continue HERE

Bio · Human-ities · Science · Technology

Scientists use light to control brain with flick of a switch

It is an area of science that has the power to control the human mind with the flick of a light switch.

Scientists have developed a way of using pulses of light to turn the brain cells that control our everyday actions and thoughts on or off at will. It provides a way of controlling the brain that has never been possible before.

The researchers have already conducted tests in monkeys, our closest relatives, using light to send them to sleep. They now hope to develop the techniques further for use in humans.

The technology promises to provide revolutionary new treatments for diseases that are notoriously difficult to control such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease and psychiatric illnesses. It could even help people make new memories.

Excerpt of an article written by Richard Gray, at Telegraph. Continue HERE

Bio · Design · Digital Media · Science · Technology

Connectograms and Circos Visualization Tool

Connectograms are circular representations introduced by LONI researchers in their NeuroImage article “Circular representation of human cortical networks for subject and population-level connectomic visualization:

“This article introduces an innovative framework for the depiction of human connectomics by employing a circular visualization method which is highly suitable to the exploration of central nervous system architecture. This type of representation, which we name a ‘connectogram’, has the capability of classifying neuroconnectivity relationships intuitively and elegantly.”

Details of the graphic are explained in the PLoS article. The outermost ring shows the various brain regions by lobe (fr – frontal, ins – insula etc.). The left (right) half of the connectogram figure represents the left (right) hemisphere of the brain and the brain stem is at the bottom, 6 o’clock position of the graph.

Phineas Gage Skull with reconstructed steel rod pathway and damage (Source: PLoS ONE). Based upon this geospatial model of the damaged brain overlaid against the typical brain connectogram from the healthy population they created another connectogram indicating the connections between brain regions lost or damaged in the accident.

Excerpts of an article via Visualign

Animalia · Bio · Human-ities · Science · Vital-Edible-Health

Hidden Epidemic: 
Tapeworms Living Inside People’s Brains

Parasitic worms leave millions of victims paralyzed, epileptic, or worse. So why isn’t anyone mobilizing to eradicate them?

Theodore Nash sees only a few dozen patients a year in his clinic at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s pretty small as medical practices go, but what his patients lack in number they make up for in the intensity of their symptoms. Some fall into comas. Some are paralyzed down one side of their body. Others can’t walk a straight line. Still others come to Nash partially blind, or with so much fluid in their brain that they need shunts implanted to relieve the pressure. Some lose the ability to speak; many fall into violent seizures.

Underneath this panoply of symptoms is the same cause, captured in the MRI scans that Nash takes of his patients’ brains. Each brain contains one or more whitish blobs. You might guess that these are tumors. But Nash knows the blobs are not made of the patient’s own cells. They are tapeworms. Aliens.

Excerpt from an article written by Carl Zimmer, DISCOVER. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Performativity · Science

Do Psychedelics Expand the Mind by Reducing Brain Activity?

What would you see if you could look inside a hallucinating brain? Despite decades of scientific investigation, we still lack a clear understanding of how hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), mescaline, and psilocybin (the main active ingredient in magic mushrooms) work in the brain. Modern science has demonstrated that hallucinogens activate receptors for serotonin, one of the brain’s key chemical messengers. Specifically, of the 15 different serotonin receptors, the 2A subtype (5-HT2A), seems to be the one that produces profound alterations of thought and perception. It is uncertain, however, why activation of the 5-HT2A receptor by hallucinogens produces psychedelic effects, but many scientists believe that the effects are linked to increases in brain activity. Although it is not known why this activation would lead to profound alterations of consciousness, one speculation is that an increase in the spontaneous firing of certain types of brain cells leads to altered sensory and perceptual processing, uncontrolled memory retrieval, and the projection of mental “noise” into the mind’s eye.

The English author Aldous Huxley believed that the brain acts as a “reducing valve” that constrains conscious awareness, with mescaline and other hallucinogens inducing psychedelic effects by inhibiting this filtering mechanism. Huxley based this explanation entirely on his personal experiences with mescaline, which was given to him by Humphrey Osmond, the psychiatrist who coined the term psychedelic. Even though Huxley proposed this idea in 1954, decades before the advent of modern brain science, it turns out that he may have been correct. Although the prevailing view has been that hallucinogens work by activating the brain, rather than by inhibiting it as Huxley proposed, the results of a recent imaging study are challenging these conventional explanations.

Excerpt of an article written by Adam Halberstadt and Mark Geyer at Scientific American . Continue HERE
Image above: “Prayer” by Alex Grey

Art/Aesthetics · Bio · Science · Theory

The Age of Insight: Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel Explains How Our Brain Perceives Art

Many strands of Eric Kandel’s life come together in his latest work, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present. The 82-year-old University Professor and co-director of the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative was born in Vienna, where, as a boy of 8, he witnessed the Nazis march into the Austrian capital. Decades later, he recalls how much his own intellectual interests were shaped not only by the Holocaust that followed, but by the cosmopolitan city that in the early 1900 served as an extraordinary incubator for creativity and thought that shaped the world we live in today.

Q. What made you decide to turn your attention to the neurobiology of how we perceive art?

There are many motivating factors. One was my longterm interest in Klimt, Kokoschka and Schiele, the three Austrian Modernists, my fascination with Vienna 1900 and with Freud. I wanted to become a psychoanalyst and I’m Viennese so I sense a shared intellectual history, particularly with turn-of-the-century Vienna. But the immediate stimulus actually came from [Columbia President] Lee Bollinger. The idea behind the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative is to try to understand the human mind in biological terms and to use these insights to bridge the biology of the brain with other areas of the humanities. Lee expressed the belief that the new science of the mind could have a major impact on the academic curriculum, that in a sense everyone at the University works on the human mind. I felt I was doing this for personal reasons, but isn’t it wonderful that it is also in line with one of the missions of the University?

Excerpts from an Interview at Columbia University in the City of New York

Bio · Digital Media · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

Facebook, Twitter Activate Brain’s Reward Regions

Many people constantly update about their lives on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter mainly because of the “kicks” that self-disclosure offers, according to a new Harvard study.

The study found that sharing personal information is as good as eating food or even having sex. The nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), regions that are associated with reward, were active when people talked about themselves.

Continue article at Medical Daily

Bio · Human-ities · Performativity · Science · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

Dreaming in color after 20 years: Eye implant restores vision to blind patient

It was the ‘magic moment’ that released Chris James from ten years of blindness.

Doctors switched on a microchip that had been inserted into the back of his eye three weeks earlier.

After a decade of darkness, there was a sudden explosion of bright light – like a flash bulb going off, he says.

Now he is able to make out shapes and light. He hopes his sight – and the way his brain interprets what the microchip is showing it – will carry on improving.

Mr James, 54, is one of two British men who have had their vision partly restored by a pioneering retina implant.

The other, Robin Millar, one of Britain’s most successful music producers, says he has dreamed in color for the first time.

Both had lost their vision because of a condition known as retinitis pigmentosa, where the photoreceptor cells at the back of the eye gradually cease to work.

Their stories bring hope to the 20,000 Britons with RP – and to those with other eye conditions such as advanced macular degeneration which affects up to half a million.

Mr James had a ten-hour operation to insert the wafer-thin microchip in the back of his left eye at the Oxford University Eye Hospital six weeks ago. Three weeks later, it was turned on.

Mr James, who lives in Wroughton, Wiltshire, with his wife Janet, said of his ‘magic moment’: ‘I did not know what to expect but I got a flash in the eye, it was like someone taking a photo with a flashbulb and I knew my optic nerve was still working.’

The external device that allows chip pairs to process images.

Written by y Jenny Hope (Hopeful article by the way) at the Daily Mail. Continue article HERE

Images via Daily Mail, and The Telegraph

Bio · Science

The Eye Limits the Brain’s Learning Potential

The concept of a critical period for visual development early in life during which sensory experience is essential to normal neural development is now well established. However recent evidence suggests that a limited degree of plasticity remains after this period and well into adulthood. Here, we ask the question, “what limits the degree of plasticity in adulthood?” Although this limit has been assumed to be due to neural factors, we show that the optical quality of the retinal image ultimately limits the brain potential for change. We correct the high-order aberrations (HOAs) normally present in the eye’s optics using adaptive optics, and reveal a greater degree of neuronal plasticity than previously appreciated.

Read this scientific report at Nature

Bio · Science · Sonic/Musical

Attention tunes the mind’s ear. Brain activity shows how one voice pattern stands out from the crowd

The brain’s power to focus can make a single voice seem like the only sound in a room full of chatter, a new study shows. The results help explain how people can pick out a speaker from a jumbled stream of incoming sounds.

A deeper understanding of this feat could help scientists better treat people who can’t sort out sound signals effectively, an ability that can decline with age.

“I think this is a truly outstanding study, which has deep implications for the way we think about the auditory brain,” says auditory neuroscientist Christophe Micheyl of the University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the new research.

Excerpt from an article written by Laura Sanders, Science News. Continue HERE

For the project, engineer Nima Mesgarani and neurosurgeon Edward Chang, both of the University of California, San Francisco, studied what happens in the brains of people who are trying to follow one of two talkers, a scenario known to scientists as the cocktail party problem.

Animalia · Human-ities · Science · Theory

Memory Foraging: When the Brain Behaves Like a Bee

Researchers test the idea that we hunt for memories in our minds the same way some animals search for food. In search of nectar, a honeybee flies into a well-manicured suburban garden and lands on one of several camellia bushes planted in a row. After rummaging through the ruffled pink petals of several flowers, the bee leaves the first bush for another. Finding hardly any nectar in the flowers of the second bush, the bee flies to a third. And so on.

Our brains may have evolved to forage for some kinds of memories in the same way, shifting our attention from one cluster of stored information to another depending on what each patch has to offer. Recently, Thomas Hills of the University of Warwick in England and his colleagues found experimental evidence for this potential parallel. “Memory foraging” is only one way of thinking about memory—and it does not apply universally to all types of information retained in the brain—but, so far, the analogy seems to work well for particular cases of active remembering.

Excerpt of an article written by Ferris Jabr, Scientific American. Continue HERE

Bio · Science · Technology

Brain imaging: fMRI 2.0

Functional magnetic resonance imaging is growing from showy adolescence into a workhorse of brain imaging.

The blobs appeared 20 years ago. Two teams, one led by Seiji Ogawa at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, the other by Kenneth Kwong at Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown, slid a handful of volunteers into giant magnets. With their heads held still, the volunteers watched flashing lights or tensed their hands, while the research teams built the data flowing from the machines into grainy images showing parts of the brain illuminated as multicoloured blobs.

The results showed that a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) could use blood as a proxy for measuring the activity of neurons — without the injection of a signal-boosting compound1, 2. It was the first demonstration of fMRI as it is commonly used today, and came just months after the technique debuted — using a contrast agent — in humans3. Sensitive to the distinctive magnetic properties of blood that is rich in oxygen, the method shows oxygenated blood flowing to active brain regions. Unlike scanning techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG), which detects electrical activity at the skull’s surface, fMRI produces measurements from deep inside the brain. It is also non-invasive, which makes it safer and more comfortable than positron emission tomography (PET), in which radioactive compounds are injected and traced as they flow around the body.

Excerpt of an article written by Kerri Smith at NATURE. Continue HERE

Art/Aesthetics · Bio · Design · Digital Media · Performativity · Science · Sonic/Musical · Technology · Videos

BRAIN PULSE MUSIC by Masaki Batoh

Masaki Batoh, former musician of the band Ghost and currently also an acupuncturist, recently released the album called Brain Pulse Music. Here, he experimented with his BPM Machine and used traditional Japanese ritual melodies and instrumentation to form a prayer/requiem for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Fortunately, I read some of his wise insights thanks to Co.Design

“We survivors were mentally shattered like our dead victims.” He explains to Co.Design

Batoh wanted to articulate that devastation, but the worst experiences can be tough to articulate. Talking can require that you catalog each emotion, and how do you do that when your whole psyche is a mess? How do you share the truth of what you feel, if you have no idea what that truth is?

“Human beings lie, but their brain waves never lie,” writes Batoh. And with that mantra in mind, Batoh moved beyond words. He turned to a modified EEG, what he calls a Brain Pulse Machine, to measure the brain waves of earthquake victims and play them back as music. He then mixed these tracks with his own to create Brain Pulse Music, a memorial album to raise money for Japan’s orphans.

To get Masaki Batoh’s $699.99 Brain Pulse Music Machine go to Drag City.
Hear audio samples HERE

+++ Info about the history of Brainwave Music? Read: A Young Person’s Guide to Brainwave Music: Forty years of audio from the human EEG

Electronic music pioneer Alvin Lucier amplifies his own brain waves in “Music For Solo Performer”
Nicolas Collins electronics. 1965.

Science · Technology

Brain imaging study finds evidence of basis for caregiving impulse

Distinct patterns of activity– which may indicate a predisposition to care for infants — appear in the brains of adults who view an image of an infant face — even when the child is not theirs, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and in Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Seeing images of infant faces appeared to activate in the adult’s brains circuits that reflect preparation for movement and speech as well as feelings of reward.

The findings raise the possibility that studying this activity will yield insights into care giving behavior, but also in cases of child neglect or abuse.

“These adults have no children of their own. Yet images of a baby’s face triggered what we think might be a deeply embedded response to reach out and care for that child,” said senior author Marc H. Bornstein, Ph.D., head of the Child and Family Research Section of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute that collaborated on the study.

Continue article HERE

Bio · Human-ities · Science · Technology · Vital-Edible-Health

Nuffield Council on Bioethics: Exploring the Impact of ‘Novel Neurotechnologies’

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body that examines and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine. It was established by the Trustees of the Nuffield Foundation in 1991, and since 1994 it has been funded jointly by the Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

The Council has achieved an international reputation for advising policy makers and stimulating debate in bioethics.


To launch a Nuffield Council on Bioethics consultation, Professor Tom Baldwin, chair of the inquiry, outlines the ethical issues raised by novel neurotechnologies that intervene in the brain. Dr Alena Buyx, Assistant Director of the Council, goes on to describe neurostimulation and neural stem cell therapy in more detail, and Professor Kevin Warwick, a member of the Working Party, discusses some of his work around brain-computer interfaces.

Terms of reference

The Council’s terms of reference require it:

1. To identify and define ethical questions raised by recent advances in biological and medical research in order to respond to, and to anticipate, public concern;

2. To make arrangements for examining and reporting on such questions with a view to promoting public understanding and discussion; this may lead, where needed, to the formulation of new guidelines by the appropriate regulatory or other body;

3. In the light of the outcome of its work, to publish reports; and to make representations, as the Council may judge appropriate.

All text via The Nuffield Council on Bioethics

Paint/Illust./Mix-Media · Performativity · Videos

Esref Armagan, a blind man who can paint

Esref Armagan is a 54-year-old contemporary Turkish painter who has been completely blind since birth. He grew up poor and uneducated, and never had an art lesson, yet he paints detailed pictures in bright colors and 3-point perspective without assistance. For decades, Armagan was the subject of curiosity, awe, and skepticism in his native Turkey. Then in 2004, he became the subject of scientific brain studies in the United States. The astonishing results have been published in science journals, magazines, and newspapers around the globe. In 2008 the Discovery Channel aired a documentary which featured Armagan and three others with extraordinary abilities called The Real Superhumans.

Animalia · Bio · Science · Vital-Edible-Health

How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy. Toxoplasma gondii can rewire our brains and modify human behavior in unexpected ways.

Jaroslav Flegr is no kook. And yet, for years, he suspected his mind had been taken over by parasites that had invaded his brain. So the prolific biologist took his science-fiction hunch into the lab. What he’s now discovering will startle you. Could tiny organisms carried by house cats be creeping into our brains, causing everything from car wrecks to schizophrenia?

No one would accuse Jaroslav Flegr of being a conformist. A self-described “sloppy dresser,” the 63-year-old Czech scientist has the contemplative air of someone habitually lost in thought, and his still-youthful, square-jawed face is framed by frizzy red hair that encircles his head like a ring of fire.

Certainly Flegr’s thinking is jarringly unconventional. Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others.

The parasite, which is excreted by cats in their feces, is called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii or Toxo for short) and is the microbe that causes toxoplasmosis—the reason pregnant women are told to avoid cats’ litter boxes. Since the 1920s, doctors have recognized that a woman who becomes infected during pregnancy can transmit the disease to the fetus, in some cases resulting in severe brain damage or death. T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage. Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells—or at least that’s the standard medical wisdom.

Written by Kathleen McAuliffe, The Atlantic. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Science · Technology

My connectome, myself

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each of which is connected to many others. Neuroscientists believe these connections hold the key to our memories, personality and even mental disorders such as schizophrenia. By unraveling them, we may be able to learn more about how we become our unique selves, and possibly even how to alter those selves.

Mapping all those connections may sound like a daunting task, but MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung believes it can be done — one cubic millimeter of brain tissue at a time.

“When you start to explain how difficult it would be to find the connectome of an entire brain, people ask, ‘What’s the point? That seems too far off.’ But even finding or mapping the connections in a small piece of brain can tell you a lot,” says Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience and physics at MIT.

Even more than our genome, our connectome shapes who we are, says Seung, who outlines his vision for connectome research in a new book, Connectome, published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “Clearly genes are very important, but because they don’t change after the moment of conception, they can’t really account for the effects of experience,” he says.

Via Medical Xpress. Continue HERE

Animalia · Bio · Science · Vital-Edible-Health

Cloning scientists create human brain cells

Scientists in Edinburgh who pioneered cloning have made a technological breakthrough that could pave the way for better medical treatment of mental illnesses and nerve diseases.

Scientist Ian Wilmut with Dolly, the worlds first cloned sheep, at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh in 2001. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

The news that Edinburgh scientists had created the world’s first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, at the university’s Roslin Institute made headlines around the world 16 years ago. Her birth raised hopes of the creation of a new generation of medicines – with a host of these breakthroughs occurring at laboratories in the university over the following decade.

And now one of the most spectacular has taken place at Edinburgh’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine, where scientists have continued to develop the technology used to make Dolly. In a series of remarkable experiments, they have created brain tissue from patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar depression and other mental illnesses.

The work offers spectacular rewards for doctors. From a scrap of skin taken from a patient, they can make neurones genetically identical to those in that person’s brain. These brain cells, grown in the laboratory, can then be studied to reveal the neurological secrets of their condition.

“A patient’s neurones can tell us a great deal about the psychological conditions that affect them, but you cannot stick a needle in someone’s brain and take out its cells,” said Professor Charles french-Constant, the centre’s director.

Written by Robin McKie, The Observer. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Science

Searching the Brain for the Roots of Fear

Alex Gorodskoy

You are taking a walk in the woods ― pleasant, invigorating, the sun shining through the leaves. Suddenly, a rattlesnake appears at your feet. You experience something at that moment. You freeze, your heart rate shoots up and you begin to sweat ― a quick, automatic sequence of physical reactions. That reaction is fear.

A week later, you are taking the same walk again. Sunshine, pleasure, but no rattlesnake. Still, you are worried that you will encounter one. The experience of walking through the woods is fraught with worry. You are anxious.

This simple distinction between anxiety and fear is an important one in the task of defining and treating of anxiety disorders, which affect many millions of people and account for more visits to mental health professionals each year than any of the other broad categories of psychiatric disorders.

Scientists generally define fear as a negative emotional state triggered by the presence of a stimulus (the snake) that has the potential to cause harm, and anxiety as a negative emotional state in which the threat is not present but anticipated. We sometimes confuse the two: When someone says he is afraid he will fail an exam or get caught stealing or cheating, he should, by the definitions above, be saying he is anxious instead.

Written by JOSEPH LEDOUX at the NYT. Continue HERE

Human-ities · Performativity · Social/Politics

Deaf sign language users pick up faster on body language

Deaf people who use sign language are quicker at recognizing and interpreting body language than hearing non-signers, according to new research from investigators at UC Davis and UC Irvine.

The work suggests that deaf people may be especially adept at picking up on subtle visual traits in the actions of others, an ability that could be useful for some sensitive jobs, such as airport screening.

“There are a lot of anecdotes about deaf people being better able to pick up on body language, but this is the first evidence of that,” said David Corina, professor in the UC Davis Department of Linguistics and Center for Mind and Brain.

Corina and graduate student Michael Grosvald, now a postdoctoral researcher at UC Irvine, measured the response times of both deaf and hearing people to a series of video clips showing people making American Sign Language signs or “non-language” gestures, such as stroking the chin. Their work was published online Dec. 6 in the journal Cognition.

“We expected that deaf people would recognize sign language faster than hearing people, as the deaf people know and use sign language daily, but the real surprise was that deaf people also were about 100 milliseconds faster at recognizing non-language gestures than were hearing people,” Corina said.

This work is important because it suggests that the human ability for communication is modifiable and is not limited to speech, Corina said. Deaf people show us that language can be expressed by the hands and be perceived through the visual system. When this happens, deaf signers get the added benefit of being able to recognize non-language actions better than hearing people who do not know a sign language, Corina said.

The study supports the idea that sign language is based on a modification of the system that all humans use to recognize gestures and body language, rather than working through a completely different system, Corina said.

Provided by University of California – Davis. Via Medical Xpress

Human-ities · Science · Technology · Theory

Brain Damage – 83 ways to stupefy intelligence

Are we hurting our noggins? Internationally, are there social customs, diseases, pollutants, school policies, parental choices, drugs, diets and philosophies that cause, or are correlated with, decreased intelligence?

Here are fourscore-and-a-trio of the mind-mangling menaces. A preponderance of the fearsome factors have undergone scientific scrutiny, with statistics filed in the massive archives of pubmed.gov.

Prenatal – Damaged before you’re delivered

Cousin Marriages – “Consanguineous” marriages between cousins or relatives more than triples the rate of mental retardation. One study shows an average IQ drop of 7 points; another reveals a loss of 11.2 points.

Avoiding PreNatal Diagnosis –
Fetal Screening can determine if fetuses have birth defects or genetic diseases that cause cognitive damage. Recommended for older parents and those carrying genes of genetic disorders.

Prenatal Iodine Deficiency – The World Health Organization says iodine deficiency is the “single greatest preventable cause of mental retardation.” Average deduction is 10-17 IQ points.

Prenatal Folic Acid Deficiency – Infants with neural tube defects suffer a loss of 15 IQ points.

Prenatal Choline Deficiency – Can wreck spatial memory and hippocampal plasticity in adulthood.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (Heavy Alcohol Exposure) – Children afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome have an average IQ of 75.

Moderate Prenatal Alcohol Exposure –
Gestating women who imbibe two alcoholic drinks per day hamper their child’s IQ with a 7-point loss.

Pesticide Exposure – Prenatal (and postnatal) exposure to organophosphate pesticides can cause a deficit of 7.0 IQ points.

Prenatal Cigarette Exposure –
Loss of IQ is reported as 3.3, 6.2, and 15 points in various studies.

Prenatal Hydrocarbons (Smog) Exposure –
Two studies showed IQ losses of 4.31 and 3.8 points.

Prenatal Cocaine Exposure – Boys exposed to cocaine had lower IQs at 4, 6, and 9 years of age.

Prenatal Methamphetamine Exposure – Meth exposure leads to weakened verbal memory, and damage to visual motor integration, attention, and long-term spatial memory.

Embryonic Malnutrition – Multiple infants sharing a womb are at risk of suboptimal nutrition. Lighter twins have verbal IQ that’s 7.5 points lower than heavier twins.

Maternal Stress – Children exposed to high cortisol levels in the womb, caused by maternal stress, suffer an average verbal IQ loss of 3.83 points.

Prenatal Valproate Exposure –
Embryos exposed to Valproate have IQ scores up to 9 points lower than children exposed to other anti-epileptic medications.

Prenatal Excess Mercury Exposure –
Reports vary, but one study concluded that excessive prenatal intake of mercury in fish costs children 1.5 points in IQ.

Prenatal Radiation Exposure – Embryos exposed to radiation had more speech-language disorders, emotional disorders, and borderline IQ.

Premature Birth –
Babies delivered before 40 weeks have smaller heads and an IQ 4.9 points lower than infants delivered after 40+ weeks.

Breech Birth – Males born via breech birth have a 7-point lower IQ than boys who were born in cephalic presentation.

Compiled by Hank Pellissier. Continue at The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

Education · Human-ities · Science · Theory

What Mind, Brain, and Education (MBE) Can Do for Teaching


Discipline and sub-disciplines in Mind, Brain, and Education Science. Source: Bramwell for Tokuhama-Espinosa

Evidence-Based Solutions for the Classroom

How do we learn best? What is individual human potential? How do we ensure that children live up to their promise as learners? These questions and others have been posed by philosophers as well neuroscientists, psychologists, and educators for as long as humans have pondered their own existence. Because MBE science moves educators closer to the answers than at any other time in history, it benefits teachers in their efficacy and learners in their ultimate success.

Great teachers have always “sensed” why their methods worked; thanks to brain imaging technology, it is now possible to substantiate many of these hunches with empirical scientific research. For example, good teachers may suspect that if they give their students just a little more time to respond to questions than normal when called upon, they might get better-quality answers. Since 1972 there has been empirical evidence that if teachers give students several seconds to reply to questions posed in class, rather than the normal single second, the probability of a quality reply increases.[1] Information about student response time is shared in some teacher training schools, but not all. Standards in MBE science ensure that information about the brain’s attention span and need for reflection time would be included in teacher training, for example.

The basic premise behind the use of standards in MBE science is that fundamental skills, such as reading and math, are extremely complex and require a variety of neural pathways and mental systems to work correctly. MBE science helps teachers understand why there are so many ways that things can go wrong, and it identifies the many ways to maximize the potential of all learners. This type of knowledge keeps educators from flippantly generalizing, “He has a problem with math,” and rather encourages them to decipher the true roots (e.g., number recognition, quantitative processing, formula structures, or some sub-skill in math). MBE science standards make teaching methods and diagnoses more precise. Through MBE, teachers have better diagnostic tools to help them more accurately understand their students’ strengths and weakness. These standards also prevent teachers from latching onto unsubstantiated claims and “neuromyths” and give them better tools for judging the quality of the information. Each individual has a different set of characteristics and is unique, though human patterns for the development of different skills sets, such as walking and talking, doing math or learning to read, do exist. One of the most satisfying elements of MBE science is having the tools to maximize the potential of each individual as he or she learns new skills.

The following was an excerpt from Mind, Brain, and Education Science: A comprehensive guide to the new brain-based teaching (W.W. Norton) a book based on over 4,500 studies and with contributions from the world’s leaders in MBE Science. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Science

BRAINTRUST: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality

BRAINTRUST: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality. Patricia S. Churchland. xii + 273 pp. Princeton University Press, 2011.

Robert J. Richards at American Scientis: In Braintrust, Patricia Churchland, a philosopher at the University of California at San Diego, seems intent on advancing a project comparable to Darwin’s through the application of the most recent science, as the subtitle of her book suggests: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality. Readers may, however, decide instead to stick with that old-time evolution.

Churchland does not think that moral behavior can be reduced to any special kind of activity, as Darwin believed; rather, in her view, the term “moral” hovers over a variety of social behaviors, behaviors that might attract the same term but vary considerably across different cultures and individuals. Such behaviors, she argues, are not usually governed or motivated by explicit rules but are constituted by habits and emotionally guided decisions. She seeks to understand those habits and emotionally fed values as consequences of our neurobiology. She thus undertakes in several chapters to lay out the terrain of the brain, its regions and functions, and the kinds of hormones important for fertilizing the flowering of social relationships.

Churchland investigates other neurological features that might plausibly be offered as part of the scaffolding of moral behavior. She considers, for example, the possibility that there is an innate and heritable impulse to behave morally (Darwin’s view) and the hypothesis that moral behavior is grounded in mirror neurons, so that we might effortlessly imitate empathetic behaviors. Churchland chips away at these as possible neural structures for moral behavior. For instance, she attempts to undermine the concept of innate behavior generally by requiring a specification of the relevant genes and their relation to brain circuitry—a criterion beyond reach even for highly heritable traits, such as height. Indeed, by that criterion Darwin’s general theory of heritable adaptations, for which he had no reliable genetic foundation, would be but a passing fancy for the delectation of Intelligent Designers. Continue review HERE

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Vertical progression through the human brain

…data from http://brainmaps.org