The Brain

“In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act. If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
George Orwell

 

What’s going on up there in your head?
Pass it on! Tell a friend!

 

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The Source of Consciousness

with Mark Solms
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Decoding the Brain

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Why and How Consciousness Arises

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Developmental Dyslexia

essential to human adaptive success

By University of Cambridge — MedicalXpress

Cambridge researchers studying cognition, behavior and the brain have concluded that people with dyslexia are specialized to explore the unknown. This is likely to play a fundamental role in human adaptation to changing environments.

They think this ‘explorative bias’ has an evolutionary basis and plays a crucial role in our survival.

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Overlooked Strengths of Dyslexia

essential to human adaptive success

By University of Cambridge — SciTechDaily

Researchers say people with Developmental Dyslexia have specific strengths relating to exploring the unknown that have contributed to our species’ successful adaptation and survival.

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Can We Think Without Using Language?

Science suggests that words aren’t strictly necessary for reasoning

By Joanna Thompson — LIVESCIENCE

What goes on inside our own heads when we think?

Humans have been expressing thoughts with language for tens (or perhaps hundreds) of thousands of years. It’s a hallmark of our species — so much so that scientists once speculated that the capacity for language was the key difference between us and other animals. And we’ve been wondering about each other’s thoughts for as long as we could talk about them.

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Silence for Thought

Special Interneuron Networks in the Human Brain

By Irina Epstein — Neuroscience Research News

The analysis of the human brain is a central goal of neuroscience. However, for methodological reasons, research has largely focused on model organisms, in particular the mouse.

Now, neuroscientists gained novel insights on human neural circuitry using tissue obtained from neurosurgical interventions. Three-dimensional electron microscope data revealed a novel expanded network of interneurons in humans compared to mouse.

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The Believing Brain

From ghosts and gods to politics and conspiracies

By Michael Shermer

How we construct beliefs and reinforce them as truths.

In this work synthesizing thirty years of research, psychologist, historian of science, and the world’s best-known skeptic Michael Shermer upends the traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world.

Simply put, beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow. 
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Theory of Mind

what chess and drug dealers can teach you about manipulation

By Jonny Thomson — BigThink

Theory of mind is the ability we all have to see things from another’s point of view. It’s essential in all our interactions.

Thinking ahead is one hallmark of intelligence. Without it, we’re simply slaves to our instincts and reflexes. The role of forward thinking when dealing with others is addressed in a recent study out of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. It shows just how far ahead we think when we interact with — and manipulate — other people.

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The Neural Architecture of Intelligence

Finding solutions to the diverse problems we encounter in life

By Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D. — Psychology Today

The human brain is home to around 100 billion neurons. That’s roughly the number of stars the Milky Way harbors. Compared to most stars that like to drift through the galaxy by their lonesome selves, our neurons are champion extroverts. They like to make connections; 10^15 of them. Thanks to the miraculous chemical and electrical choreography that our networking neurons stage on any ordinary day, we are able to write love letters, calculate gratuities, and cure diseases.

KEY POINTS:
  • General intelligence is our general problem-solving aptitude.
  • Intelligence doesn’t reside in one particular region or network of the brain.
  • Brain plasticity is central to general intelligence.
  • General intelligence reflects individual differences in the efficiency and flexibility of brain networks.
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Exploring Artificial Consciousness

in the context of the film “Being John Malkovich”

By Ingrid Fadelli — Tech Xplore

Computer scientists and neuroscientists have been pondering on the difference between intelligence and “consciousness,” wondering whether machines will ever be able to attain the latter. Amar Singh, Assistant Professor at Banaras Hindu University, recently published a paper in a special issue of Springer Link’s AI & Society that explores these concepts by drawing parallels with the fantasy film “Being John Malkovich.”

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Doctor Ice Pick

By Claire Prentice

A haunting and true short story of the lobotomist who cut a brutal swathe through the lives of thousands of vulnerable Americans.

In July 1952, Dr. Walter Freeman arrived at the gates of a West Virginia asylum. In his medical bag he carried two metal picks and a surgical hammer. He had invented a “cheap, easy” ten-minute lobotomy. The press described it as a miracle cure, a new frontier in psychosurgery.

That summer, in just twelve days, Freeman lobotomized 228 men, women, and children in West Virginia’s public mental hospitals. His blitzkrieg of brain surgery became known as “Operation Ice Pick,” named after the tools he wielded.

To some, the doctor was a hero, solving the crisis facing the nation’s underfunded and overcrowded psychiatric institutions. But many who watched him operate saw a dangerous risk-taker, a showman and a charlatan. This is the true story of a scientific pioneer whose misguided quest created one of the biggest tragedies in American medical history.

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The Third Man Factor

Surviving the Impossible

By John Geiger

An extraordinary account of how people at the very edge of death often sense an unseen presence beside them who encourages them to make one final effort to survive.

This incorporeal being offers a feeling of hope, protection, and guidance, and leaves the person convinced he or she is not alone. There is a name for this phenomenon: it’s called the Third Man Factor.

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Why Some People Are More Prone to Believing Conspiracy Theories

a neuroscientist explains it

By Francesca Benson — IFLSCIENCE!

Recently, droves of people have hurled themselves headfirst into the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. While some of the more outlandish theories make for a fun read, many take them completely seriously, declaring that they see a sinister underbelly to everyday life.

Neuroscientist Shannon Odell explains why in this video from Inverse.

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Conspiracy Theories Are a Mental Health Crisis

The complex relationship between mental health, conspiracy theories, and disinformation that no one’s talking about. 

By Rebecca Ruiz — Mashable

Every day, people who spend time online face a deluge of conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation. Plenty of them move along, clicking past outlandish or false content that’s designed to lure them in. Some, however, become ensnared for reasons experts don’t fully understand. People quickly slip into dark corners of the internet and find a community of believers, or even zealots, who swear they’ve discovered hidden truths and forbidden knowledge.

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Moonwalking with Einstein

The art and science of remembering everything

By Joshua Foer

The blockbuster phenomenon that charts an amazing journey of the mind while revolutionizing our concept of memory

Moonwalking with Einstein recounts Joshua Foer’s yearlong quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top “mental athletes.” He draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of remembering, and venerable tricks of the mentalist’s trade to transform our understanding of human memory. From the United States Memory Championship to deep within the author’s own mind, this is an electrifying work of journalism that reminds us that, in every way that matters:

We are the sum of our memories.
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Reading Transforms Us

How books can help us develop our key emotional and cognitive skills.

By Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D. — Psychology Today

KEY POINTS:
  • Reading fiction can spur growth and self-development.
  • Exiting our self-narratives and simulating others’ mental states is behind the mechanism of fiction’s transformational powers.
  • Reading fiction can help increase cognitive empathy and teach us about ourselves.
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Why Do We Forget Books We’ve Read?

Dr Sean Kang, a cognitive psychologist, says the information is still there, but it’s tucked away in long-term memory

By Coco Kahn — The Guardian

Ever thought about a book you’ve read, and had no recollection of the plot? Or followed a recommendation to watch a TV show, only to find you’ve already seen it? We live in an age of mass content, with TV, books and films consumed at some of the highest levels in recent years. Could this be wreaking havoc with our ability to remember them?

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Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling

By Paul J. Zak — Harvard Business Review

Many business people have already discovered the power of storytelling in a practical sense – they have observed how compelling a well-constructed narrative can be. But recent scientific work is putting a much finer point on just how stories change our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

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Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling

By Scott Myers

Your Protagonist, must resonate with a reader.

What that boils down to is creating a sense of empathy on the part of the reader.

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Other Minds

The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness

By Peter Godfrey-Smith

Philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith dons a wet suit and journeys into the depths of consciousness in Other Minds!

Although mammals and birds are widely regarded as the smartest creatures on earth, it has lately become clear that a very distant branch of the tree of life has also sprouted higher intelligence: the cephalopods, consisting of the squid, the cuttlefish, and above all the octopus.

In captivity, octopuses have been known to identify individual human keepers, raid neighboring tanks for food, turn off lightbulbs by spouting jets of water, plug drains, and make daring escapes.

How is it that a creature with such gifts evolved through an evolutionary lineage so radically distant from our own? What does it mean that evolution built minds not once but at least twice?

The octopus is the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien. What can we learn from the encounter?

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Thinking Is for Suckers

but if you’re an octopus, suckers are for thinking

By A.J. Fillo — NOVA PBS

Octopuses “think” with neurons so distributed throughout their bodies that sometimes the left hand literally doesn’t know what the…left hand is doing.

Like humans, octopuses are incredibly intelligent. But an octopus’ mind is about as alien to the human mind as the human mind is…well, to an alien’s.

“I like to [ask], ‘How are they intelligent?’ rather than ‘How intelligent are they?’” says Dominic Sivitilli, a behavioral neuroscientist and astrobiologist at the University of Washington who presented a new octopus cognition model at the AbSciCon 2019 conference this week.

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Octopus Brain and Human Brain Share the Same Jumping Genes

By International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA) — PHYS.ORG

The octopus is an exceptional organism with an extremely complex brain and cognitive abilities that are unique among invertebrates. So much so that in some ways it has more in common with vertebrates than with invertebrates. The neural and cognitive complexity of these animals could originate from a molecular analogy with the human brain, as discovered by a research paper recently published in BMC Biology and coordinated by Remo Sanges from SISSA of Trieste and by Graziano Fiorito from Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples.

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Your Brain Operates at the Edge of Chaos

why that’s actually a good thing

By Monisha Ravisetti — CNET

We derive a wealth of benefits from teetering between calmness and mayhem.

Your brain is constantly perched on the edge of chaos. And it’s not because you’re behind on 47 laptop updates or obsessing over that typo in an email you sent your boss.

No, because even at your most zen, your 86 billion brain cells strut along a tightrope between calm and catastrophe; serenity and disarray; order and disorder. At any moment, they could domino into disaster. But no need to panic. 

This tricky brain stunt is actually a good thing. 

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The Memory of Fear

Why It is Seared Into Our Brains

By Barri Bronston — MedicalXpress

Experiencing a frightening event is likely something you’ll never forget. But why does it stay with you when other kinds of occurrences become increasingly difficult to recall with the passage of time?

A team of neuroscientists from the Tulane University School of Science and Engineering and Tufts University School of Medicine have been studying the formation of fear memories in the emotional hub of the brain—the amygdala—and think they have a mechanism.

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The Complexity of the Brain

new insights

By Complexity Science Hub Vienna — Medical Xpress

A recent study out of the Complexity Science Hub (CSH) Vienna paves the way to a deeper insight into the complexity of the human brain, one of the largest and most sophisticated organs in the human body. The study develops a mathematical and computational framework for analyzing neural activity.

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Mysteries of the Brain

By CNET

A collection of articles about they mysterious brain.

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The Quantum Origin of Consciousness

the collapse of a leading theory

By Foundational Questions Institute — PHYS.ORG

The origin of consciousness is one of the greatest mysteries of science. One proposed solution, first suggested by Nobel Laureate and Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hammeroff, at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, attributes consciousness to quantum computations in the brain. This in turn hinges on the notion that gravity could play a role in how quantum effects disappear, or “collapse.” But a series of experiments in a lab deep under the Gran Sasso mountains, in Italy, has failed to find evidence in support of a gravity-related quantum collapse model, undermining the feasibility of this explanation for consciousness.

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Biological Difference Between Psychopaths and Normal People

By NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY — ScienceTechDaily

A new study has shown that psychopathic people have a bigger striatum area in their brain.

Neuroscientists using MRI scans discovered that psychopathic people have a 10% larger striatum, a cluster of neurons in the subcortical basal ganglia of the forebrain, than regular people. This represents a clear biological distinction between psychopaths and non-psychopathic people. 

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The Empty Brain

By Robert Epstein — Pocket

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge, or store memories. In short: Your brain is not a computer.

No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli. The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories’.

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Why Idiots Think They’re Smart

Dunning On The Dunning–Kruger Effect

By Tom Hale — IFLSCIENCE

“I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing,” a wise guy once said. 

Have you ever noticed that the person with the least amount of knowledge on a subject is often the most confident to blast you with their opinion about it?

This is a well-known experience that can perhaps be explained by the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias whereby people with limited ability in a given field tend to greatly overestimate their own competence. The less ability, the more they tend to overestimate their competence. 

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How the Brain Changes During Treatment

By UBC Faculty of Medicine — SciTechDaily

Researchers have for the first time shown what occurs in the brain during repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, a treatment for depression (rTMS). When other strategies, such as medications, have failed to help a patient with their depression, rTMS is often used as a treatment. 

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Socially Isolated People Have Differently Wired Brains

and poorer cognition

By Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, Christelle Langley, Chun Shen, and Jianfeng Feng — Neuroscience News

Summary: Social isolation is linked to alterations in brain structure and cognitive deficits. Additionally, social isolation can increase the risk of developing dementia as a person ages.

Why do we get a buzz from being in large groups at festivals, jubilees and other public events? According to the social brain hypothesis, it’s because the human brain specifically evolved to support social interactions. Studies have shown that belonging to a group can lead to improved well-being and increased satisfaction with life.

Unfortunately though, many people are lonely or socially isolated. 

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How Dogs Think of Their Toys

a glimpse into the dog’s mind

By Sara Bohm — Neuroscience News

Summary: Dogs have multi-modal mental imagery of items and objects that are familiar to them. When a dog thinks about an object, they imagine the object’s different sensory features.

In a new study just published in the journal of Animal Cognition, researchers from the Family Dog Project (Eötvös Loránd University University, Budapest) found out that dogs have a “multi-modal mental image” of their familiar objects.

This means that, when thinking about an object, dogs imagine the object’s different sensory features. For instance, the way it looks or the way its smells.

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The Brain Has a “Low-Power” Mode

that bunts our senses

By Matt Curtis — Quanta Magazine

When our phones and computers run out of power, their glowing screens go dark and they die a sort of digital death. But switch them to low-power mode to conserve energy, and they cut expendable operations to keep basic processes humming along until their batteries can be recharged.

Our energy-intensive brain needs to keep its lights on too. Brain cells depend primarily on steady deliveries of the sugar glucose, which they convert to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel their information processing.

When food has been in short supply for a long time and body weight falls below a critical threshold, the brain reduces its energy consumption by changing how it processes information.

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