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Emma Young Every dog owner is familiar with the ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression. As the inner brow lifts, the eyes get bigger and bigger … It’s tempting to interpret this as a plea from a sad dog for a scrap of the family dinner. Now, a small study provides support for the idea that dogs do indeed produce facial expressions to communicate with people — although perhaps just to engage us, rather than to manipulate us. The dogs in the study produced more than twice as many facial expressions (‘puppy dog eyes’ was one of the most common) when a researcher was facing them than when she was turned away. But it didn't seem to matter whether she also held food. Earlier studies have shown that seeing food is more exciting to a dog than is social contact with a silent person, so something other than the dogs’ emotional state must have been responsible for the effect. “Dogs make their eyes more attractive to us while we are watching, not just when we are in the vicinity or in response to food,” says Brian Hare, a cognitive neuroscientist and co-director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “This is fantastic work.” The study, published on 19 October in Scientific Reports1, adds to a growing body of work that shows how sensitive dogs are to human attention. It also provides the first evidence in a non-primate species that facial expressions can be used actively to communicate, says psychologist Juliane Kaminski at the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. Researchers had previously assumed that such expressions are an involuntary reflection of an animal’s emotional state. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 24224 - Posted: 10.20.2017

Carl Safina Last week footage of five young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe to sell to zoos travelled round the world. Parks officials used helicopters to find the elephant families, shot sedatives into the young ones, then hazed away family members who came to the aid of the drugged young ones as they fell. The film, shared exclusively with the Guardian, showed the young captives being trussed up and dragged on to trucks. In the final moments of footage, two men repeatedly kick a small dazed elephant in the head. Removing young elephants from their parents and sending them into captivity is largely justified on the basis that they do not feel and suffer as we do. For decades we have been admonished against anthropomorphism – imbuing animals with human-type emotions such as sadness or love. But, actually, humans have these emotions because other animals do as well. Brain science, evolutionary biology, and behavioural science now show that elephants, humans, and many other animals share a near-identical nervous system and likely experience near-identical basic emotions. Human and elephant brains are bathed in the same chemicals that create mood and motivation in us. We are all mammals, and under the skin we are kin. Scientists have watched rats’ brains as they dream, and dogs’ brains showing love. In fact, sperm whales’ family structure is nearly identical to that of elephants. Animals living in stable social groups – apes and monkeys, wolves and wild dogs, hyenas and cats, various birds, some dolphins and others, know who they are and whom they are with. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 24197 - Posted: 10.16.2017

/ By Shayla Love Just after lunchtime, on a blistering summer day in Washington D.C., cultural psychologist Yulia Chentsova-Dutton is showing me the stars. They’re on her computer screen at Georgetown University, and labelled disturbingly: insomnia, anhedonia, headache, social withdrawal, chronic pain, and more. Each star represents a somatic or emotional sensation linked to depression. “There’s the way people express depression … and then there’s what Chinese people do.” Chentsova-Dutton’s father was an astronomer. She’s found a way to use what he studied, the night sky, to understand her own research: how culture can influence the way we feel and express emotion. If you look up, there are thousands of stars, she says. You can’t possibly take them all in. So, each culture has invented schemas to remember them by, constellations. She pushes a button, and several of the depression stars are connected by a thin yellow line. “This is depression according the DSM,” she says, referring to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. “This,” she says, pushing another button, “is a Chinese model of depression.” The constellation changes, morphing into a different shape. New stars pop up, most having to do with the body: dizziness, fatigue, loss of energy. Chentsova-Dutton and her colleagues have been comparing these two constellations — of Chinese and Western emotion — for years, trying to explain a long-standing assumption about Chinese culture. Since the 1980s, cultural psychologists had been finding that, in a variety of empirically demonstrable ways, Chinese people tend to express their feelings, particularly psychological distress, through their bodies — a process known as somatization. Copyright 2017 Undark

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 24140 - Posted: 10.03.2017

By Christina Leuker, Wouter van den Bos, Jon M. Jachimowicz It is often easier to access someone else’s heart than their mind. We can nearly effortlessly pick up on our partner’s mood or sense that a friend dismisses our plans, without them even speaking a word. But how do we know what is going on in their heads? How do we get this special access to the most private of domains—the human mind? A growing body of research reveals that looking at their eyes may be a neglected and powerful way to do so. The phrases “the eyes are the window to the soul” and “I can see it in your eyes” certainly sound poetic. Many singers, songwriters and writers have capitalized on it. But it turns out that the eyes really might be the windows to the soul. And here’s the great thing about eyes: even if people don’t want you to know how they feel, they can’t change how their eyes behave. So how does this work? The first thing to look for is changes in pupil size. A famous study published in 1960 suggests that how wide or narrow pupils are reflects how information is processed, and how relevant it is. In their experiment, the two experimental psychologists Hess and Polt of the University of Chicago asked male and female participants to look at semi-nude pictures of both sexes. Female participants’ pupil sizes increased in response to viewing men, and male participants’ pupils increased in response to viewing women. In subsequent studies, Hess and Polt find that homosexual participants looking at semi-nude pictures of men (but not women) also had larger pupils. This should come to no surprise: after all, pupils can also reflect how aroused we are. But women’s pupils also responded to pictures of mothers holding babies. Hence, changes in pupil size don’t only reflect how aroused we are, but also how relevant and interesting what we see is. © 2017 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 24129 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Maria Temming Bacteria living in the human gut have strange influence over mood, depression and more, but it has been unclear exactly how belly-dwelling bacteria exercise remote control of the brain (SN: 4/2/16, p. 23). Now research in rodents suggests that gut microbes may alter the inventory of microRNAs — molecules that help keep cells in working order by managing protein production — in brain regions involved in controlling anxiety. The findings, reported online August 25 in Microbiome, could help scientists develop new treatments for some mental health problems. Mounting evidence indicates “that the way we think and feel might be able to be controlled by our gut microbiota,” says study coauthor Gerard Clarke, a psychiatrist at University College Cork in Ireland. For instance, the presence or absence of gut bacteria can influence whether a mouse exhibits anxiety-like behaviors, such as avoiding bright lights or open spaces. Clarke and colleagues compared normal mice, whose gastrointestinal tracts were teeming with bacteria, with mice bred in sterile environments, whose guts didn’t contain any microbes. The researchers discovered that in brain regions involved in regulating anxiety — the amygdala and prefrontal cortex — microbe-free mice had an overabundance of some types of microRNA and a shortage of others compared with normal mice. After scientists exposed some sterilized mice to microbes, the rodents’ microRNA levels more closely matched those of normal mice. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 24012 - Posted: 08.30.2017

Nicola Davis The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind has come one step closer, say researchers working on methods to erase memories of fear. The latest study, carried out in mice, unpicks why certain sounds can stir alarming memories, and reveals a new approach to wiping such memories from the brain. The researchers say the findings could be used to either weaken or strengthen particular memories while leaving others unchanged. That, they say, could potentially be used to help those with cognitive decline or post-traumatic stress disorder by removing fearful memories while retaining useful ones, such as the sound of a dog’s bark. “We can use same approach to selectively manipulate only the pathological fear memory while preserving all other adaptive fear memories which are necessary for our daily lives,” said Jun-Hyeong Cho, co-author of the research from the University of California, Riverside. The research is the latest in a string of studies looking at ways to erase unpleasant memories, with previous work by scientists exploring techniques ranging from brain scans and AI to the use of drugs. Published in the journal Neuron by Cho and his colleague Woong Bin Kim, the research reveals how the team used genetically modified mice to examine the pathways between the area of the brain involved in processing a particular sound and the area involved in emotional memories, known as the amygdala. “These mice are special in that we can label or tag specific pathways that convey certain signals to the amygdala, so that we can identify which pathways are really modified as the mice learn to fear a particular sound,” said Cho. “It is like a bundle of phone lines,” he added. “Each phone line conveys certain auditory information to the amygdala.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 23974 - Posted: 08.18.2017

Xiaomeng (Mona) Xu, assistant professor of experimental psychology, and Ariana Tart-Zelvin, If you have experienced the evolution from having a crush to falling in love, it may seem like the transition happens naturally. But have you ever wondered how we make such a huge emotional leap? In other words, what changes take place in our brains that allow us to fall deeply in love? Stephanie Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago who has studied the neuroscience of romantic love for the past decade, explains that the process involves several complex changes, particularly in the brain’s reward system. More specifically, in a 2012 review of the love research literature Lisa Diamond and Janna Dickenson, psychologists at the University of Utah, found romantic love is most consistently associated with activity in two brain regions—the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the caudate nucleus. These areas play an essential role in our reward pathway and regulate the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. In other words, during the early stages of love you crave the person because he or she makes you feel so good. And over time these feelings persist. Our neuroimaging research and that of others suggests that once you are in love—as long as the relationship remains satisfying—simply thinking about your partner not only makes you feel good but can also buffer against pain, stress and other negative feelings. © 2017 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23852 - Posted: 07.20.2017

Nicola Davis If you want your smile to appear pleasant, you might want to avoid a dazzling beam, research suggests. A study by scientists in the US has found that wide smiles with a high angle and showing a lot of teeth are not the best at creating a positive impression. “A lot of people don’t understand how important their smiles are and how important this aspect of communication we do with each other every day is,” said Stephen Guy, a co-author of the research from the University of Minnesota. The authors say the findings could prove valuable for clinicians working to restore facial movement and expression to those who have experienced facial paralysis. “When you have different surgical options, how do you choose which one is better?” Guy said, pointing out that some options might offer more extent of smile – referring to breadth – but others might improve the angle. “In order to do that, you need to say, ‘Oh, this smile is better or worse than that smile.’” To find the perfect smile, the team showed a 3D, computer-animated virtual face smiling in a range of different ways to 802 members of the public, ranging in age from 18 to 82. All had consumed fewer than six alcoholic drinks – the study was carried out at the Minnesota state fair. Each animation ran for 250 milliseconds and the faces showed differences in the angle of the smile, how broad it was, and the amount that teeth on show. In addition, the team took one smile – featuring a high angle, low extent and medium amount of dental show – and tinkered with the symmetry of the smile, changing the length of time it took the left side of the face to smile compared with the right. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23789 - Posted: 06.29.2017

By Timothy Revell Feeling sad? Soon your dolls will be able to tell. To demonstrate the power of a new chip that can run artificially intelligent algorithms, researchers have put it in a doll and programmed it to recognise emotions in facial images captured by a small camera. The doll can recognise eight emotions in total, including surprise and happiness, all while running on a small battery and without doing any processing in the cloud. The total cost of putting the new chip together is just €115 – an indicator of how easy it is becoming to give devices basic AI abilities. “In the near future, we will see a myriad of eyes everywhere that will not just be watching us, but trying to help us,” says project leader Oscar Deniz at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Ciudad Real, Spain. Recent advances in AI mean we already have algorithms that can recognise objects, lip-read, make basic decisions and more. It’s only a matter of time before these abilities make their way on to little cheap chips like this one, and then put into consumer devices. “We will have wearable devices, toys, drones, small robots, and things we can’t even imagine yet that will all have basic artificial intelligence,” says Deniz. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23752 - Posted: 06.20.2017

By EMILIE LE BEAU LUCCHESI Benjamin Stepp, an Iraq war veteran, sat in his graduate school course trying to focus on the lecture. Neither his classmates nor his professor knew he was silently seething. But his service dog, Arleigh, did. She sensed his agitation and “put herself in my lap,” said Mr. Stepp, 37, of Holly Springs, Miss. “I realized I needed to get out of class. We went outside, I calmed down. We breathed.” During his two deployments to Iraq, Mr. Stepp endured a traumatic brain injury and multiple surgeries on his ankle, and most days he suffers excruciating pain in his legs and lower back. He says he also returned from the war with a lot of anger, which wells up at unexpected times. “Anger kept us alive overseas,” Mr. Stepp said. “You learn that anger keeps you alive.” Now that he is back, though, that anger no longer serves a useful purpose. And Arleigh, a lab and retriever mix who came to Mr. Stepp from K9s For Warriors, a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs, has been helping him to manage it. The dog senses when his agitation and anxiety begin rising, and sends him signals to begin the controlled breathing and other exercises that help to calm him down. Pet owners and trainers have long been aware of a dog’s ability to sense a human’s emotions. In the last 10 years, researchers, too, have begun to explore more deeply the web of emotions, both positive and negative, that can spread between people and animals, said Natalia Albuquerque, an ethologist who studies animal cognition at the University of São Paulo in Brazil and the University of Lincoln in England. The spread of emotions between animals and people, or between animals — what researchers refer to as emotional contagion — is an emerging field of science. But “there are still many unanswered questions we need to address,” Ms. Albuquerque said. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23708 - Posted: 06.05.2017

Rebecca Hersher Emotions, the classic thinking goes, are innate, basic parts of our humanity. We are born with them, and when things happen to us, our emotions wash over us. "They happen to us, almost," says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital. She's also the author of a book called How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. In it, she argues for a new theory of emotions which is featured in the latest episode of NPR's program and podcast Invisibilia. The "classical view" of emotions as innate and limited in variety, she says, "matches the way that many of us experience emotion, as if something's happening outside of our control," she tells Shots. "But the problem with this set of ideas is that the data don't support them. There's a lot of evidence which challenges this view from every domain of science that's ever studied it." Lisa Feldman Barrett spoke to Shots about her alternative theory of emotions. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. On the "classical" theory of emotions The classical view of emotion is the idea that somewhere lurking deep inside you are the animalistic engine parts of your brain. There are circuits — one each for anger, sadness, fear, disgust and so on. And that when something happens in the world to trigger one of those circuits — say, for fear — you will have a very specific facial expression, a very specific bodily response, and that these expressions and responses have universal meaning. Everyone in the world makes them and recognizes them without learning or any experience at all. © 2017 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23703 - Posted: 06.03.2017

Nicola Davis Being in a state of anxiety makes it harder to read the emotions of others, researchers have claimed. Difficulties in interpreting the facial expressions of others have previously been linked to a number of psychiatric disorders, while people with a greater tendency to be anxious have been found to have a greater sensitivity to faces showing fear. However, it was not clear whether such effects existed among people who experience a situation that triggers anxiety. “We were specifically trying to answer the question: how does our current level of anxiety influence how we see the world, and in particular emotions in faces?” said Marcus Munafò, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol and a co-author of the new study. To tackle the conundrum, Munafò and colleagues from the University of Bristol looked at the impact of an anxiety-inducing situation on the ability of 21 healthy participants to interpret emotion in facial expressions. The participants’ general tendencies to worry about situations varied, but none had anxiety disorders. The participants were each fitted with a face mask delivering either normal air, or air enriched with carbon dioxide – an approach known to induce worry and tension, as well as a raised heart rate and blood pressure. After completing each part of the study, the participants repeated the experiment breathing the alternative type of air.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23684 - Posted: 05.31.2017

By Jack Turban We all know that person. Her Instagram is covered with more pictures of feline friends than human companions. Not an insignificant number of these pictures feature mini cat-sized lattes with the caption “Fluffy simply adores her morning coffee.” And let us not forget that the archetype of crazy cat man may be just as prevalent. When you look at these pictures, you probably wonder: is he like this because of the cat? Or does he have the cat because he is like this? It turns out that cats have a mischievous and somewhat dark reputation in neuroscience. There is research to suggest that a cat’s proximity to other mammals can cause them to behave strangely. This feline power has been attributed to a protozoan that lives in their stool, called Toxoplasma gondii (or Toxo for short). In one classic story, researchers showed that Toxo can travel into a rat’s brain and cause the rat to no longer avoid areas where cats live. The rats, in fact, become attracted to the smell of cat urine. Previously repulsed by the smell, these brain-infected rodents run joyously through urine-laden environments. They walk right through the cat’s trap, until their young rodent lives come to an end under a forceful paw. These same protozoans can affect the brains of humans. Immuno-compromised patients, like those with AIDS, can contract the infection from a litter box and develop dangerous brain abscesses. We treat these patients with powerful antibiotics and frequently recommend that they give away their cats. Pregnant women are also advised not to handle cat litter, as a fetus does not yet have the immune system needed to fight Toxo. Fetuses exposed to the protozoan can suffer from seizures, cognitive problems, and blindness. But what about your immunocompetent and decidedly non-pregnant Instagram friend; is she under the influence of this cat’s protozoan minion? . © 2017 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23651 - Posted: 05.24.2017

Michelle Trudeau Bears do it; bats do it. So do guinea pigs, dogs and humans. They all yawn. It's a common animal behavior, but one that is something of a mystery. There's still no consensus on the purpose of a yawn, says Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Provine has studied what he calls "yawn science" since the early 1980s, and he's published dozens of research articles on it. He says the simple yawn is not so simple. "Yawning may have the dubious distinction of being the least understood common human behavior," Provine says. There are many causes for yawning. Boredom, sleepiness, hunger, anxiety and stress — all cause changes in brain chemistry, which can trigger a spontaneous yawn. But it's not clear what the yawn accomplishes. One possibility is the yawn perks you up by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory function. "[Yawning] stirs up our physiology and it plays an important role in shifting from one state to another," Provine says. When violinists get ready to go on stage to play a concerto, they often yawn, says Provine. So do Olympians right before a competition, or paratroopers getting ready to do their first jump. One study found that yawning has a similar impact on the brain as a dose of caffeine. But not all yawn researchers agree with this theory. © 2017 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23613 - Posted: 05.15.2017

By Daniel Shalev Maddie* couldn't stop crying. The first few days after her stroke, it had made sense. She had led a charmed retirement, with annual trips across the country, time with family and an active life. Now everything was in flux. A week before, Maddie, who was in her late 70s, had woken up unable to use half of her body. Her husband called an ambulance, and a diagnosis was reached within hours. Maddie had suffered a blockage in the blood vessels supplying her brain stem, affecting the pons, a region that conducts messages from higher centers of control and consciousness down to her body. At the hospital, she began to undergo a rush of frightening tests to evaluate the cause of her stroke and the risk of having another. She figured it made sense to cry. A few days later, when Maddie was transferred from the stroke unit to the rehabilitation service, she was feeling more hopeful. Her risk of further strokes had been minimized with drugs to regulate her blood pressure, cholesterol and clotting. She could hear that her speech, initially slurred, returning to clarity. On the stroke unit, the emphasis had been on stabilization, but in rehabilitation, the goal was improvement. Maddie felt ready to work on her recovery. Even with the hope of rehabilitation, though, the tears continued. Maddie cried when her husband came in and when he left. She cried during therapy meetings and medical updates. She cried through eating and bathing. The only time she did not weep was while she slept. Most oddly, Maddie cried even when she did not feel sad. On the stroke unit, the crying had been annoying. In rehabilitation, it was downright disruptive. Maddie's therapy sessions were impeded by bouts of sobbing that invariably led the befuddled therapists to cut short their work with her. © 2017 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23595 - Posted: 05.09.2017

By Elizabeth Preston A common parasite that lives in fish eyeballs seems to be a driver behind the fish’s behaviour, pulling the strings from inside its eyes. When the parasite is young, it helps its host stay safe from predators. But once the parasite matures, it does everything it can to get that fish eaten by a bird and so continue its life cycle. The eye fluke Diplostomum pseudospathaceum has a life cycle that takes place in three different types of animal. First, parasites mate in a bird’s digestive tract, shedding their eggs in its faeces. The eggs hatch in the water into larvae that seek out freshwater snails to infect. They grow and multiply inside the snails before being released into the water, ready to track down their next host, fish. The parasites then penetrate the skin of fish, and travel to the lens of the eye to hide out and grow. The fish then get eaten by a bird – and the cycle starts again. Many parasites can change an animal’s behaviour to fit their own needs. Mice infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, for example, lose their fear of cats – the animal the parasite needs to reproduce inside. In a 2015 study, Mikhail Gopko at the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow and his colleagues showed that fish infected with immature fluke larvae swam less actively than usual – making themselves less visible to predators – and were harder to catch with a net than uninfected controls. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23587 - Posted: 05.08.2017

Hannah Devlin An “emotional chatting machine” has been developed by scientists, signalling the approach of an era in which human-robot interactions are seamless and go beyond the purely functional. The chatbot, developed by a Chinese team, is seen as a significant step towards the goal of developing emotionally sophisticated robots. The ECM, as it is known for short, was able to produce factually coherent answers whilst also imbuing its conversation with emotions such as happiness, sadness or disgust. Prof Björn Schuller, a computer scientist at Imperial College London who was not involved in the latest advance, described the work as “an important step” towards personal assistants that could read the emotional undercurrent of a conversation and respond with something akin to empathy. “This will be the next generation of intelligence to be met in daily experience, sooner rather than later,” he said. The paper found that 61% of humans who tested the machine favoured the emotional versions to the neutral chatbot. Similar results have been found in so-called “Wizard of Oz” studies in which a human typing responses masquerades as advanced AI. “It is not a question whether they are desirable – they clearly are – but in which applications they make sense and where they don’t,” said Schuller. Minlie Huang, a computer scientist at Tsinghua University, Beijing and co-author, said: “We’re still far away from a machine that can fully understand the user’s emotion. This is just the first attempt at this problem.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23584 - Posted: 05.06.2017

Kevin Davis When his criminal trial begins next week, attorneys for Andres “Andy” Avalos, a Florida man charged with murdering his wife, a neighbor and a local pastor, will mount an insanity defense on behalf of their client because, as they announced last summer, a PET scan revealed that Avalos has a severely abnormal brain. In March, shortly after an Israeli American teenager was arrested on suspicion that he made bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the U.S. and abroad, his lawyer declared that the teenager had a brain tumor that might have affected his behavior. Both cases are part of a growing movement in which attorneys use brain damage in service of a legal defense. To support such claims in court, lawyers are turning to neuroscience. The defense brings in hired guns to testify that brain scans can identify areas of dysfunction linked to antisocial behavior, poor decision-making and lack of impulse control. The prosecution calls their own expert witnesses to argue that what a scientist might observe in brain scans shows nothing about that person’s state of mind or past actions. The truth is that even the most sophisticated brain scans cannot show direct correlations between brain dysfunction and specific criminal behavior, nor can they prove whether someone is legally insane. What neuroscience can show is that a person’s decision to commit a crime — or to do anything in life for that matter — is triggered by a series of chemical and electrical interactions in the brain. It can also show approximately where those interactions are occurring.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 23572 - Posted: 05.04.2017

By Diana Kwon Most of us will laugh at a good joke, but we also laugh when we are not actually amused. Fake chuckles are common in social situations—such as during an important interview or a promising first date. “Laughter is really interesting because we observe it across all human cultures and in other species,” says Carolyn McGettigan, a cognitive neuroscientist at Royal Holloway, University of London. “It's an incredibly important social signal.” In a 2013 study, McGettigan, then a postdoctoral researcher at University College London, and her colleagues scanned the brains of 21 participants while they passively listened to clips of laughter elicited by funny YouTube videos or produced on command (with instructions to sound as natural as possible). Subjects whose medial prefrontal cortex “lit up” more when hearing the posed laughter were better at detecting whether laughs were genuine or not in a subsequent test. (This brain region is involved in understanding the viewpoint of others.) “If you hear a laugh that seems ambiguous in terms of what the person means,” McGettigan explains, “it makes sense that you're going to try to work out why this person sounds like this.” In a follow-up study in 2016, McGettigan and her colleagues recruited a fresh set of participants to rate the laugh tracks on various qualities, such as authenticity and positivity. They compared these findings with the original brain data and found that the activity in the medial prefrontal cortex was negatively correlated with the genuineness of the laughs. Their analyses also revealed that both types of laughter engaged the auditory cortices, although activity in these brain regions increased as the laughs became happier, more energetic and more authentic. © 2017 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23528 - Posted: 04.24.2017

By Emily Langer Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist who helped reveal the emotional lives of animals by tickling rats and listening to their ultrasonic laughter in experiments that upended his field and opened new possibilities for the treatment of depression and other forms of mental illness, died April 18 at his home in Bowling Green, Ohio. He was 73. The cause was cancer, said his wife, Anesa Miller. For much of his career, Dr. Panksepp was brushed aside by colleagues who accepted the prevailing notion that emotions were uniquely human experiences. Dr. Panksepp — along with many pet owners — suspected otherwise, and he sought to prove his intuition through the rigors of science. “People don’t have a monopoly on emotion,” he once said. “Rather, despair, joy and love are ancient, elemental responses that have helped all sorts of creatures survive and thrive in the natural world.” He was long associated with Bowling Green State University where, in the late 1990s, he conducted the experiments with lab rats that would vault him to national renown. He recalled walking into the laboratory one day and remarking to an assistant, “Let’s go tickle some rats.” He credited a graduate student with repurposing a bat detector — a tool capable of recording high-pitched sounds — as the instrument they would use to listen into the rats’ laughterlike chirps. “Lo and behold,” he told the Toledo Blade in 1998, “it sounded like a playground!” © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 23521 - Posted: 04.22.2017