Category: The Human Mind
“Why we are the way we are: the Internet of our brains. These are axonal nerve fibers in the real brain as determined by the measured anisotropy (directionality) of water molecules inside them. 3T 30 channel GRAPPA DTI scan protocol, deterministic tractography performed using TrackVis/FACT algorithm. You might know the subject :-)”
jgmarcelino from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Wikimedia . org
Disaster Survivors: How Stress Changes the Brain
How well a person recovers from traumatic events may depend in part on their self-esteem, according to researchers who examined the effects of a major earthquake on the survivors’ brains.
The researchers had conducted brain scans of university students for a study before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011. After the earthquake, they repeated the scans on 37 of the same people, and tracked stress-induced changes in their brains in the following months.
“Most importantly, what these findings show, is that the brain is dynamic — that it’s responding to things that are going on in our environment, or things that are part of our personality,” said Rajita Sinha, professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the study. [Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind]
In the brain scans taken immediately after the incident, the researchers found a decrease in the volume of two brain regions, the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex, compared with the scans taken before the incident.
One year later, the researchers repeated the scans and found that the hippocampus continued to shrink, and people’s levels of depression and anxiety had not improved.
TUESDAY, April 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A small study of people who experienced the devastating 2011 earthquake in Japan shows that although traumatic events can shrink parts of the brain, some of those regions can rebound once a person’s self-esteem returns.
“Higher self-esteem is one of the most important traits of resilience in the context of stressful life events,” said study author Atsushi Sekiguchi, who noted that these latest findings also illustrate that brain changes are dynamic and fluid over time.
Sekiguchi’s prior research had already demonstrated that people with lower self-esteem following a traumatic event are likely to experience a quick, short-term drop in the size of their orbitofrontal cortex and hippocampus. The first brain region is involved in decision-making and emotions, while the second area is involved in memory.
But by tracking the same individuals over time, Sekiguchi’s team observed that the “part of the brain volume which had decreased soon after a stressful life event [ultimately] increased, especially in individuals with [renewed] high self-esteem.”
Sekiguchi, from the division of medical neuroimage analysis at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and his team report the findings in the April 29 online edition of Molecular Psychiatry.
To gain insight into how the 2011 earthquake — and ensuing tsunami that heavily damaged several nuclear reactors in northern Japan — affected its victims, the researchers focused on 37 men and women who were about 21 at the time.
All had MRI brain scans right after the earthquake, and then again one year later.
At the same time, the earthquake victims were given psychological assessments to gauge anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and other characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Investigators concluded that none of the patients ever developed full-blown PTSD.
Yet, the group did experience a big dip in self-esteem immediately following the earthquake. And by comparing their brain scans with those of 11 other people taken before the earthquake, the team determined that the loss of self-esteem was accompanied by a downsizing of the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex.
Published on Jan 6, 2014
http://www.democracynow.org – As we continue our conversation on the nationwide shift towards liberalizing drug laws, we are joined by the groundbreaking neuro-psycho-pharmacologist Dr. Carl Hart. He is the first tenured African-American professor in the sciences at Columbia University where he is an associate professor in the psychology and psychiatry departments. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse and a Research Scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. However, long before he entered the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, Hart gained first hand knowledge about drug usage while growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods. He recently wrote a memoir titled, “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society.” In the book, he recalls his journey of self-discovery how he escaped a life of crime and drugs and avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies.
The Huffington Post | By Carolyn Gregoire Posted: 12/11/2013 9:13 am EST | Updated: 12/12/2013 4:05 am EST
Take a moment to think about the last time you memorized someone’s phone number. Was it way back when, perhaps circa 2001? And when was the last time you were at a dinner party or having a conversation with friends, when you whipped out your smartphone to Google the answer to someone’s question? Probably last week.
Technology changes the way we live our daily lives, the way we learn, and the way we use our faculties of attention — and a growing body of research has suggested that it may have profound effects on our memories (particularly the short-term, or working, memory), altering and in some cases impairing its function.
The implications of a poor working memory on our brain functioning and overall intelligence levels are difficult to over-estimate.
“The depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from working memory, the scratch pad of consciousness, to long-term memory, the mind’s filing system,” Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, wrote in Wired in 2010. “When facts and experiences enter our long-term memory, we are able to weave them into the complex ideas that give richness to our thought.”
While our long-term memory has a nearly unlimited capacity, the short-term memory has more limited storage, and that storage is very fragile. “A break in our attention can sweep its contents from our mind,” Carr explains.
Meanwhile, new research has found that taking photos — an increasingly ubiquitous practice in our smartphone-obsessed culture — actually hinders our ability to remember that which we’re capturing on camera.
Concerned about premature memory loss? You probably should be. Here are five things you should know about the way technology is affecting your memory.
Information overload makes it harder to retain information.
Even a single session of Internet usage can make it more difficult to file away information in your memory, says Erik Fransén, computer science professor at Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology. And according to Tony Schwartz, productivity expert and author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, most of us aren’t able to effectively manage the overload of information we’re constantly bombarded with.
When the working memory is experiencing digital overload, it’s like a glass of water overflowing. Schwartz explained in an interview with The Huffington Post in June:
“It’s like having water poured into a glass continuously all day long, so whatever was there at the top has to spill out as the new water comes down. We’re constantly losing the information that’s just come in — we’re constantly replacing it, and there’s no place to hold what you’ve already gotten. It makes for a very superficial experience; you’ve only got whatever’s in your mind at the moment. And it’s hard for people to metabolize and make sense of the information because there’s so much coming at them and they’re so drawn to it. You end up feeling overwhelmed because what you have is an endless amount of facts without a way of connecting them into a meaningful story.”
The Internet is becoming the brain’s “external hard drive.”
Research has found that when we know a digital device or tool will remember a piece of information for us, we’re less likely to remember it ourselves. A recent Scientific American article likened the Internet to the brain’s “external hard drive,” explaining that the social aspect of remembering has been replaced by new digital tools.
How Poverty Molds the Brain: Poor Neural Processing of Sound Linked to Lower Maternal Education Background
Now new research conducted at Northwestern University has taken that finding in a neuroscientific direction: linking poor processing of auditory information in the adolescent brain to a lower maternal educational background.
“These adolescents had noisier neural activity than their classmates, even when no sound was presented,” said Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern and corresponding author of the study.
In addition, the neural response to speech for the adolescents from a lower maternal educational background was erratic over repeated stimulation, with lower fidelity to the incoming sound.
“Think about the neural noise like static in a radio — with the announcer’s voice coming in faintly,” Kraus said.
Maternal education acted as a proxy for socioeconomic status for the study. Adolescents were divided into two groups, according to whether their mothers had a high school education or less or had completed some post-secondary schooling.
Not only did the adolescents from a lower maternal educational background have neural responses to speech sounds that were nosier, more variable and represented the input signal weakly, but their performances on tests of reading and working memory also were poorer.
“The impoverished brain: Disparities in maternal education affect the neural response to sound” will be published Oct. 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience. Its authors are Erika Skoe, assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences at the University of Connecticut; Jennifer Krizman, a doctoral student in Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory; and Kraus, also the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab.
This study builds on evidence that children from low-income families experience a type of auditory impoverishment. The landmark study by Hart and Risley (1995) revealed that children in high-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare. This reduction in the quality and quantity of language input, along with greater exposure to unstructured sound such as ambient noise, may be affecting how the brain represents auditory information.
In urban populations, income and amount of noise exposure are known to be correlated. Consistent with the idea that noisy auditory environments increase neural noise, the new Journal of Neuroscience study found that the adolescents from the lower maternal educational group have increased neural activity in the absence of sound input.
According to the study, “Neural models indicate that when the input to a neuron is noisier, the firing rate becomes more variable, ultimately limiting the amount of sensory information that can be transmitted.”
“If your brain is creating a different signal each time you hear a sound, you might be losing some of the details of the sound,” said Skoe, lead author of the study. “Losing these details may create challenges in the classroom and other noisy settings.”
The new research conducted at Northwestern contributes to a recent wave of neuroscientific research demonstrating that sociocultural factors influence brain structure and function.
Another recently published study from the Kraus lab showed that inconsistent neural responses to sounds relate to poor reading but that by acoustically augmenting the classroom, neural responses became more stable.
“Modifying the auditory world for a particular student, even if just for a portion of the day, may improve academic performance and fine-tune how sound is automatically encoded in the brain,” Skoe said.
Ongoing work in Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory is investigating whether auditory enrichment in the form of music education and other school-based activities can offset the negative impact of an impoverished acoustic environment.
For the new study, brain activity of Chicago Public School adolescents, almost all ninth-graders, was assessed both in response to and in the absence of auditory input. The nervous system’s responses to speech sounds were observed through passive electrophysiological recordings, with students grouped according to the highest educational level achieved by their mothers.
The responses reflect activity from a communication hub within the central nervous system that provides a snapshot of sensory, cognitive and reward circuits that are engaged to process sound. These fundamental, automatic responses to sound reflect past and ongoing sensory experiences and relate to linguistic and cognitive function.
The collection protocol for “the impoverished auditory brain” lasted roughly 20 minutes, during which participants sat comfortably watching a self-selected subtitled movie, while the brain response to speech syllables was passively collected.
The syllables were presented at a rapid rate to the right ear through an earphone placed in the ear canal. The left ear remained unblocked, making the movie sound track audible yet not intense enough to mask the stimulus.
The syllables chosen are common to many languages of the world, and their acoustic characteristics are perceptually challenging.
In addition, IQ assessments for the students were collected, and they were administered a standardized, age-normed test battery of reading ability and executive function (working memory). Previous work has revealed that the neurobiological systems mediating higher order functions such as language, memory and executive function are especially sensitive to disparities in socioeconomic status.
“By studying socioeconomic status within a neuroscientific framework, we have the potential to expand our understanding of the biological signatures of poverty,” Kraus concluded. “And a better understanding of how experiences shape the brain could inform educational efforts aimed at closing the socioeconomic achievement gap.”
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.
- Skoe E, Krizman J, Kraus N. The impoverished brain: Disparities in maternal education affect the neural response to sound. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013
Published on Aug 12, 2013
Gayla Benefield was just doing her job — until she uncovered an awful secret about her hometown that meant its mortality rate was 80 times higher than anywhere else in the U.S. But when she tried to tell people about it, she learned an even more shocking truth: People didn’t want to know. In a talk that’s part history lesson, part call-to-action, Margaret Heffernan demonstrates the danger of “willful blindness” and praises ordinary people like Benefield who are willing to speak up. (Filmed at TEDxDanubia.)
Should the government be trying to figure out if we are going to commit a crime in advance? That sounds like something out of a Tom Cruise movie, but the truth is that “pre-crime” technologies such as were portrayed in Minority Report are being aggressively developed, and some have actually already been deployed.
We live at a time when technology is advancing at an exponential rate, and it can be really hard to keep up with how rapidly our world is changing. In the future, authorities may not only be able to use pre-crime technology to read our minds, they might also be able to use technology to directly control our minds as well.
Yes, I know that sounds science fiction, but after I tell you about some cutting edge research that has been taking place at Harvard Medical School you might not think that such a notion seems so bizarre.
But first I want to discuss some of the very disturbing pre-crime technologies that the government is working on.
One of the most prominent programs is known as FAST (Future Attribute Screening Technology). According to Wikipedia, this pre-crime system is already so advanced that developers claim that it has about an 80% success rate…
Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) is a program created by the Department of Homeland Security. It was originally titled Project Hostile Intent. The purpose is to detect “Mal Intent” by screening people for “psychological and physiological indicators” in a “Mobile Screening Laboratory”.
The program was under the Homeland Security Advanced Research Agency and the Science & Technology Human Factors Behavior Science Division of DHS. In a meeting held on July 24, 2008 the DHS Under Secretary Jay Cohen stated, the goal is to create a new technology that would be working in real time as opposed to after a crime is already committed.
The DHS science spokesman John Verrico stated in September 2008 that preliminary testing had demonstrated 78% accuracy on mal-intent detection and 80% on deception.
The technology behind FAST is extremely complex, but it can be fooled. So once FAST is operational you better not get too nervous or have a particularly bad day, because according to Professor Margaret Hu the consequences of being “convicted” of a pre-crime by FAST could potentially include “deportation, prison, or death”…
FAST is currently under testing by DHS and has been described in press reports as a “precrime” program. If implemented, FAST will purportedly rely upon complex statistical algorithms that can aggregate data from multiple databases in an attempt to “predict” future criminal or terrorist acts, most likely through stealth cybersurveillance and covert data monitoring of ordinary citizens. The FAST program purports to assess whether an individual might pose a “precrime” threat through the capture of a range of data, including biometric data. In other words, FAST attempts to infer the security threat risk of future criminals and terrorists through data analysis.
Under FAST, biometric-based physiological and behavioral cues are captured through the following types of biometric data: body and eye movements, eye blink rate and pupil variation, body heat changes, and breathing patterns. Biometric- based linguistic cues include the capture of the following types of biometric data: voice pitch changes, alterations in rhythm, and changes in intonations of speech. Documents released by DHS indicate that individuals could be arrested and face other serious consequences based upon statistical algorithms and predictive analytical assessments. Specifically, projected consequences of FAST ‘can range from none to being temporarily detained to deportation, prison, or death.’
Perhaps you are reading this and you assume that the widespread implementation of such a system is still a long way off.
Well, if that is what you are thinking, you would be wrong.
In fact, pre-crime cameras are already being installed at important transit locations in San Francisco…
Hundreds of pre-crime surveillance cameras are to be installed in San Francisco’s subway system that will analyze “suspicious behavior” and alert guards to potential criminal or terrorist activity – before any crime has been committed.
“Manufacturers BRS Labs said it has installed the cameras at tourist attractions, government buildings and military bases in the U.S. In its latest project BRS Labs is to install its devices on the transport system in San Francisco, which includes buses, trams and subways,” reports the Daily Mail.
The cameras are programmed with a list of behaviors considered “normal”. Anything that deviates from usual activity is classified as suspicious and guards are immediately alerted via text message or a phone call.
Equipped with the ability to track up to 150 suspects at a time, the cameras build up a “memory” of suspicious behavior to determine what constitutes potential criminal activity.
A total of 288 cameras will be installed across 12 transport hubs.
And without a doubt more major cities will soon be adopting such technology.
So try not to act suspiciously – someone may be watching.
Another very disturbing technological development was recently reported on by Businessweek.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have apparently found a way for a human to control the mind of a rat…
The Frightening New Mind Control Technology That Can Hack Your Brain
by Daniel G. J.
July 28th, 2013
Updated 07/29/2013 at 2:58 am
There’s a frightening new technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that’s right out of a comic book. Scientists at the technical school have figured out how to implant false mental reactions in a mouse.
This technological ‘advancement’ is terrifying when considering that it could lead to real life brainwashing and mind control like that shown in the classic movie The Manchurian Candidate (the classic film starring Frank Sinatra). In the film, communists turn an average man into an assassin by implanting false memories into his mind.
A similar plot is found in Total Recall. The brainwashing shown in these movies were fantasy, but what’s happening at MIT is apparently real.
A team of MIT researchers led by neuroscientist Susumu Tongawa figured out how to implant responses in the brains of mice by manipulating neurons. They even have a name for their technique, optogenetics, and it allows them to manipulate brain cells with chemicals. Remember the term optogenetics; we’re going to be hearing a lot about it in years to come.
Basically, these scientists have figured out how to hack the brain much like cyber crooks can hack your computer. They’re still a long way from hacking human brains, but that seems to be the goal here.
Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
July 23, 2013
Given the enormous potential for great harm, one has to wonder how the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, gets away with giving its stamp of approval on a new “brain wave test,” that allegedly will “help confirm an ADHD diagnosis,” when there is no scientific or medical proof that any physical abnormality exists.
In fact, the mandate of the FDA demands the opposite of its latest approval action. According to the FDA website, the federal agency is tasked with protecting “the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use and medical devices.”
What part of approving a “brain waive test” for a psychiatric diagnosis that doesn’t exist is “assuring the safety and effectiveness?” More to the point, since there is no proof that the alleged psychiatric diagnosis exists, how can the FDA possibly claim that any test, least of all one that consists of interpreting squiggly lines on a piece of paper, is safe or effective? Is this a case of group-think? The FDA heard, has been told, believes ADHD exists?
This kind of thinking is so two months ago. Remember it was just before the American Psychiatric Association (APA), held its annual get-together in May that the National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH, slammed the door on the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which includes “ADHD,” stating the manual is “at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each.”
The NIMH further explained that the APA’s diagnoses “are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure…” and “the weakness is its lack of validity.”
And the APA, itself, writes, “There are no laboratory tests, neurological assessments, or attentional assessments that have been established as diagnostic in the clinical assessment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Okay, seems pretty clear. The ADHD diagnosis is completely subjective and not based in science.
The FDA ignored these facts and, in what appears to be an irresponsible attempt to validate ADHD as a science-based psychiatric diagnosis, has opened the floodgates for creating more victims and the already epidemic numbers of children being diagnosed with the alleged ADHD will skyrocket.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, there has been a 41 percent increase in the diagnosis of ADHD over the past decade and one in five high school boys (11 percent of all school-age children) have received the non-scientific diagnosis.
More troubling is that based on a 100 percent subjective ADHD diagnosis, nearly 3 million American children are currently taking prescription mind-altering drugs as “treatment” that are the equivalent of cocaine, carrying serious adverse reactions.
And aside from the fact that there is zero proof that ADHD is an abnormality of the brain, the FDA’s approval of the new EEG device called, “Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid,” the NEBA System, is suspect on a number of levels, including its blatant lack of information about the data used to decide on approval.