Chapter 18. Attention and Higher Cognition

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By Christof Koch Consciousness is everything you experience. It is the tune stuck in your head, the sweetness of chocolate mousse, the throbbing pain of a toothache, the fierce love for your child and the bitter knowledge that eventually all feelings will end. The origin and nature of these experiences, sometimes referred to as qualia, have been a mystery from the earliest days of antiquity right up to the present. Many modern analytic philosophers of mind, most prominently perhaps Daniel Dennett of Tufts University, find the existence of consciousness such an intolerable affront to what they believe should be a meaningless universe of matter and the void that they declare it to be an illusion. That is, they either deny that qualia exist or argue that they can never be meaningfully studied by science. If that assertion was true, this essay would be very short. All I would need to explain is why you, I and most everybody else is so convinced that we have feelings at all. If I have a tooth abscess, however, a sophisticated argument to persuade me that my pain is delusional will not lessen its torment one iota. As I have very little sympathy for this desperate solution to the mind-body problem, I shall move on. The majority of scholars accept consciousness as a given and seek to understand its relationship to the objective world described by science. More than a quarter of a century ago Francis Crick and I decided to set aside philosophical discussions on consciousness (which have engaged scholars since at least the time of Aristotle) and instead search for its physical footprints. What is it about a highly excitable piece of brain matter that gives rise to consciousness? Once we can understand that, we hope to get closer to solving the more fundamental problem. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 25012 - Posted: 05.23.2018

By Tanya Lewis Every few seconds a wave of electrical activity travels through the brain, like a large swell moving through the ocean. Scientists first detected these ultraslow undulations decades ago in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of people and other animals at rest—but the phenomenon was thought to be either electrical “noise” or the sum of much faster brain signals and was largely ignored. Now a study that measured these “infraslow” (less than 0.1 hertz) brain waves in mice suggests they are a distinct type of brain activity that depends on an animal’s conscious state. But big questions remain about these waves’ origin and function. An fMRI scan detects changes in blood flow that are assumed to be linked to neural activity. “When you put someone in a scanner, if you just look at the signal when you don’t ask the subject to do anything, it looks pretty noisy,” says Marcus Raichle, a professor of radiology and neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and senior author of the new study, published in April in Neuron. “All this resting-state activity brought to the forefront: What is this fMRI signal all about?” To find out what was going on in the brain, Raichle’s team employed a combination of calcium/hemoglobin imaging, which uses fluorescent molecules to detect the activity of neurons at the cellular level, and electrophysiology, which can record signals from cells in different brain layers. They performed both measurements in awake and anesthetized mice; the awake mice were resting in tiny hammocks in a dark room. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 25011 - Posted: 05.23.2018

Emine Saner On any given day in Cambridge, you may see numerous people jogging along the towpaths, and it’s not unreasonable to assume neuroscientists may be over-represented. “You see so many,” says Hannah Critchlow, a neuroscientist who likes to jog along the river. Physical fitness may be a secondary consideration, she says; what they are really trying to do is ramp up their neurogenesis – the birth of new nerve cells in the brain. “People used to think that once you were born, that was it, that was all the nerve cells you have throughout life,” she says. “Then, 20 years ago, Rusty Gage [a professor at the Salk Institute in California] discovered that you get neurogenesis in adults, in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. It turns out that jogging is really good at increasing neurogenesis in the brain.” And so, Critchlow says with a laugh, she likes to run. “I go: ‘This is wonderful, my neurogenesis is really happy with me at the moment.’” We are sitting in her study at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Critchlow is outreach fellow, tasked with public engagement. Once described by the Telegraph as “a sort of female Brian Cox”, she has given numerous talks, been a presenter on Tomorrow’s World Live, the interactive version of the BBC science show, appeared on TV, radio and podcasts and was named as a top 100 scientist for her work in science communication. She has just written a book on consciousness – part of the Ladybird Expert series aimed at adults, a brief but mindbending introduction to the brain and the idea of consciousness, taking in philosophy, famous neuroscience breakthroughs and brain facts. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24999 - Posted: 05.19.2018

By Maya Salam Three years ago, the internet melted down over the color of a dress. Now an audio file has friends, family members and office mates questioning one another’s hearing, and their own. Is the robot voice saying “Yanny” or “Laurel”? The clip picked up steam after a debate erupted on Reddit this week, and it has since been circulated widely on social media. One Reddit user said: “I hear Laurel and everyone is a liar.” “They are saying they hear ‘Yanny’ because they want attention,” a tweet read. Others claimed they heard one word for a while, then the other — or even both simultaneously. It didn’t take long for the auditory illusion to be referred to as “black magic.” And more than one person online yearned for that simpler time in 2015, when no one could decide whether the mother of the bride wore white and gold or blue and black. It was a social media frenzy in which internet trends and traffic on the topic spiked so high that Wikipedia itself now has a simple entry, “The dress.” Of course, in the grand tradition of internet reportage, we turned to a scientist to make this article legitimately newsworthy. Dr. Jody Kreiman, a principal investigator at the voice perception laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, helpfully guessed on Tuesday afternoon that “the acoustic patterns for the utterance are midway between those for the two words.” “The energy concentrations for Ya are similar to those for La,” she said. “N is similar to r; I is close to l.” She cautioned, though, that more analysis would be required to sort out the discrepancy. That did not stop online sleuths from trying to find the answer by manipulating the bass, pitch or volume. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hearing; Attention
Link ID: 24983 - Posted: 05.16.2018

Richard Harris Children and adolescents are getting fewer prescription drugs than they did in years past, according to a study that looks at a cross-section of the American population. "The decrease in antibiotic use is really what's driving this overall decline in prescription medication use that we're seeing in children and adolescents," says Craig Hales, a preventive medicine physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics and lead author of a study published Tuesday in JAMA. Hales says that's a good thing. "Thirty percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary and potentially dangerous," he says. They're often given for colds and other viral infections, where they are useless. And they may have side effects. Antibiotic overuse also increases the risk that these drugs lose their curative powers. The study is based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study, which included more than 38,000 children and adolescents. The study compared prescription drug use from 1999 to 2002 with prescriptions given in 2011 to 2014, the last period for which data were available. Overall, the proportion of children and teenagers getting prescriptions dropped from about 25 percent to 22 percent. Prescriptions for some drugs increased, such as for treatments for asthma, contraception and attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The survey also noted a large gap in prescription use among children and adolescents who were insured versus those who weren't. Some 23 percent of insured youth had recently taken a prescription of some sort, compared with 10 percent of those who were uninsured. © 2018 npr

Keyword: ADHD; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24981 - Posted: 05.16.2018

Adam Barrett Understanding the biology behind consciousness (or self-awareness) is considered by some to be the final frontier of science. And over the last decade, a fledgling community of “consciousness scientists” have gathered some interesting information about the differences between conscious and unconscious brain activity. But there remains disagreement about whether or not we have a theory that actually explains what is special about the brain activity which produces our miraculous inner worlds. Recently, “Integrated Information Theory” has been gaining attention – and the backing of some eminent neuroscientists. It says that absolutely every physical object has some (even if extremely low) level of consciousness. Some backers of the theory claim to have a mathematical formula that can measure the consciousness of anything – even your iPhone. These big claims are controversial and are (unfortunately) undermining the great potential for progress that could come from following some of the ideas behind the theory. Integrated Information Theory starts from two basic observations about the nature of our conscious experiences as humans. First, that each experience we have is just one of a vast number of possible experiences we could have. Second, that multiple different components (colours, textures, foreground, background) are all experienced together, simultaneously. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24972 - Posted: 05.13.2018

By John Horgan Which is more fundamental, mind or matter? You would think, in our ultra-materialistic era, that debate would be settled. But a surprising number of philosophers and scientists still resist the idea that mind is a mere afterthought of matter. One is Bernardo Kastrup, a computer engineer and author of several books, including Why Materialism Is Baloney. In “Should Quantum Anomalies Make Us Rethink Reality?”, recently posted by Scientific American, Kastrup contends that quantum mechanics—as well as cognitive science, which suggests that minds construct rather than passively mirroring reality--undermines the assumption that the physical world exists independently of our observations. He calls for a new paradigm that makes mind “the essence—cognitively but also physically—of what we perceive when we look at the world around ourselves.” On Twitter, physicist Sean Carroll slammed Kastrup’s “bad article on quantum mechanics,” and science journalist Michael Moyer called it “voodoo.” That’s a bit harsh. Kastrup’s interpretation of quantum mechanics reminds me of that of the great physicist John Wheeler. Decades ago, Wheeler pointed out deep resonances between quantum mechanics and information theory. An electron behaves like a particle or a wave depending on how we interrogate it. Information theory, similarly, posits that all messages can be reduced to “binary units,” or bits, which are answers to yes or no questions. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24949 - Posted: 05.07.2018

By Simon Makin Everyone has unwelcome thoughts from time to time. But such intrusions can signal serious psychiatric conditions—from “flashbacks” in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to obsessive negative thinking in depression to hallucinations in schizophrenia. “These are some of the most debilitating symptoms,” says neuroscientist Michael Anderson of the University of Cambridge. New research led by Anderson and neuroscientist Taylor Schmitz, now at McGill University, suggests these symptoms may all stem from a faulty brain mechanism responsible for blocking thoughts. Researchers studying this faculty usually focus on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a control center that directs the activity of other brain regions. But Anderson and his colleagues noticed that conditions featuring intrusive thoughts—such as schizophrenia—often involve increased activity in the hippocampus, an important memory region. The severity of symptoms such as hallucinations also increases with this elevated activity. In the new study, Anderson and his team had healthy participants learn a series of word pairs. The subjects were presented with one word and had to either recall or suppress the associated one. When participants suppressed thoughts, brain scans detected increased activity in part of the PFC and reduced activity in the hippocampus. The findings, which were published last November in Nature Communications, are consistent with a brain circuit in which a “stop” command from the PFC suppresses hippocampus activity. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24864 - Posted: 04.13.2018

By HEATHER MURPHY A battle over pleasure has broken out. On Twitter and in the pages of scientific journals, psychologists, neurologists and neuroscientists are forging alliances over the question of whether pleasure we get from art is somehow different from the pleasure we get from candy, sex or drugs. The debate was ignited by an opinion piece titled “Pleasure Junkies All Around!” published last year in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In it, Julia F. Christensen, a neuroscientist at the The Warburg Institute at the University of London who studies people’s responses to dance choreography, argued that many of us have been turned into “mindless pleasure junkies, handing over our free will for the next dopamine shoot” provided by social media, pornography and sugar. She offered up an unconventional solution: art, which she says engages us in ways these other pleasures do not and can “help overwrite the detrimental effects of dysfunctional urges and craving.” The paper struck a nerve with some of her fellow art and pleasure researchers, who published a rebuttal last month in the same journal. The idea that the way that art engages the brain is somehow special has been around for far too long and it is time to kill it off once and for all, they insist. “Christensen has recently argued that the pleasure induced by art is different to the pleasure induced by food, sex, sports, or drugs. Her argument, however, is contradicted by plenty of evidence showing that the pleasure from art is no different in genesis and function to the pleasure induced by food, drugs, and sex,” wrote Marcos Nadal, a psychologist at the University of the Balearic Islands who studies people’s responses to curvilinear lines in architecture and art, and Martin Skov, a neuroscientist at the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, who studies decision-making. Their comment spurred others to rally to Dr. Christensen’s defense. The arguments over Dr. Christensen’s paper pointed to disputes within the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, or the study of the neural processes underlying our appreciation and the production of beautiful objects and artworks: © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Attention
Link ID: 24853 - Posted: 04.11.2018

Jason Murugesu We all daydream, whether about marrying Rihanna, discovering a sudden ability to sing opera or never having to answer another email again. Yet it is only in the last few decades that the science behind daydreaming, or mind-wandering as it is termed in most academic literature, has transitioned from the realms of pseudoscience to the cutting edge of cognitive neuroscience. At its most basic, daydreaming is your mind wandering from the here and now. Traditionally, daydreaming was considered to be a single psychological state of mind. This, however, caused conflict in academic literature, and the resulting confusion is the reason why you might read that daydreaming is linked to happiness in one paper, but to depression in the next. Different types of mind-wandering have been conflated. Using neuroimaging techniques, a study conducted last year by the University of York found that different types of daydreams – for example, those which are fantastical, autobiographical, future orientated or past oriented – were built up of different neuronal activation patterns, and by virtue could not be considered a single psychological construct. Nevertheless, if we consider all these types of mind-wandering together, you would be surprised about how much of our waking time we spend daydreaming. In 2008, Professor Matthew Killingsworth, then at Harvard University, used an app that contacted a large group of people at random points of the day to find out how often they were daydreaming. The app would ask its users what they were doing, and whether they were thinking about something else entirely. They found that 46.9 per cent of the time, the user was mind-wandering.

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24852 - Posted: 04.11.2018

by Meeri Kim On a beautiful autumn afternoon in New York’s Central Park, Carol Berman had the horrifying realization that her husband of 40 years no longer recognized her as his wife. In his eyes, she wasn’t the real Carol but rather some strange woman pretending to be Carol — effectively, an impostor. They were out for a stroll when he started yelling at a woman with a similar hairdo farther up the street: “Carol! Carol, come here!” Shocked, his wife faced him head-on, looked deep into his eyes and reassured him that she was right here. But he refused to acknowledge her as the real Carol. Marty Berman had been a warmhearted, highly intelligent and hard-working patent lawyer for much of his life. But at 74, he began to show signs of dementia. Once proficient in math and engineering, he could no longer subtract simple numbers correctly. A man who had walked the whole of Manhattan couldn’t go a few blocks by himself anymore without getting lost. Perhaps the most painful part for Carol was when her husband’s delusion developed a year or two after his initial symptoms arose. Capgras syndrome is a psychological condition that prompts a person to believe that loved ones have been replaced by identical duplicates of themselves. As a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University, Carol had treated several Capgras patients. But witnessing the delusion in the person she loved the most, whom she was already losing to dementia, was agonizing. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24833 - Posted: 04.07.2018

By Rachel Aviv Before having her tonsils removed, Jahi McMath, a thirteen-year-old African-American girl from Oakland, California, asked her doctor, Frederick Rosen, about his credentials. “How many times have you done this surgery?” Hundreds of times, Rosen said. “Did you get enough sleep last night?” He’d slept fine, he responded. Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, encouraged Jahi to keep asking questions. “It’s your body,” she said. “Feel free to ask that man whatever you want.” Jahi had begged not to get the surgery, but her mother promised that it would give her a better life. Jahi had sleep apnea, which left her increasingly fatigued and unable to focus at school. She snored so loudly that she was too embarrassed to go to slumber parties. Nailah had brought up four children on her own, and Jahi, her second, was her most cautious. When she saw news on television about wars in other countries, she would quietly ask, “Is it going to come here?” Her classmates made fun of her for being “chunky,” and she absorbed the insults without protest. A few times, Nailah went to the school and asked the teachers to control the other students. The operation, at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, took four hours. When Jahi awoke, at around 7 p.m. on December 9, 2013, the nurses gave her a grape Popsicle to soothe her throat. About an hour later, Jahi began spitting up blood. The nurses told her not to worry and gave her a plastic basin to catch it in. A nurse wrote in her medical records that she encouraged Jahi to “relax and not cough if possible.” By nine that night, the bandages packing Jahi’s nose had become bloody, too. Nailah’s husband, Marvin, a truck driver, repeatedly demanded that a doctor help them. A nurse told him that only one family member was allowed in the room at a time. He agreed to leave. © 2018 Condé Nast.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24827 - Posted: 04.06.2018

Laura Y. Cabrera Mr. B loves Johnny Cash, except when he doesn’t. Mr. X has watched his doctors morph into Italian chefs right before his eyes. The link between the two? Both Mr. B and Mr. X received deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure involving an implant that sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain to alter neural activity. While brain implants aim to treat neural dysfunction, cases like these demonstrate that they may influence an individual’s perception of the world and behavior in undesired ways. Mr. B received DBS as treatment for his severe obsessive compulsive disorder. He’d never been a music lover until, under DBS, he developed a distinct and entirely new music preference for Johnny Cash. When the device was turned off, the preference disappeared. Mr. X, an epilepsy patient, received DBS as part of an investigation to locate the origin of his seizures. During DBS, he hallucinated that doctors became chefs with aprons before the stimulation ended and the scene faded. In both of these real-world cases, DBS clearly triggered the changed perception. And that introduces a host of thorny questions. As neurotechnologies like this become more common, the behaviors of people with DBS and other kinds of brain implants might challenge current societal views on responsibility. Lawyers, philosophers and ethicists have labored to define the conditions under which individuals are to be judged legally and morally responsible for their actions. The brain is generally regarded as the center of control, rational thinking and emotion – it orchestrates people’s actions and behaviors. As such, the brain is key to agency, autonomy and responsibility. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24822 - Posted: 04.04.2018

by Amy Ellis Nutt In the first comprehensive imaging study of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in preschoolers, researchers have found evidence that structural changes in the brain are already recognizable at the age of 4. “One of our big questions was thinking about an early-onset disorder and linking it to early-onset brain anomalies,” said Lisa Jacobson, one of the researchers involved in the study, which appeared Monday in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. The results “tell us that this is not just a behavioral disorder. It is a neurological disorder.” The study found widespread reductions in the volume of gray matter in the brains of children with ADHD. And the more severe their behavior, the more their brains differed from those of children who were not diagnosed with ADHD, according to Jacobson, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Johns Hopkins University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins and the site of the research. The most significant differences in brain volume were seen in the temporal and prefrontal lobes, including areas associated with activity, attention and motor control. The results seen in the preschoolers mirror those of earlier research in school-age children and adolescents. “When they designed the study, even [lead author] Mark Mahone did not think he would find these differences,” said James Griffin of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research. Griffin is the deputy chief of NIH’s Child Development and Behavior branch. “They were surprised at how early these differences were already evident in the brain.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: ADHD; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24787 - Posted: 03.27.2018

By Simon Makin Everyone has unwelcome thoughts from time to time. But such intrusions can signal serious psychiatric conditions—from “flashbacks” in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to obsessive negative thinking in depression to hallucinations in schizophrenia. “These are some of the most debilitating symptoms,” says neuroscientist Michael Anderson of the University of Cambridge. New research led by Anderson and neuroscientist Taylor Schmitz, now at McGill University, suggests these symptoms may all stem from a faulty brain mechanism responsible for blocking thoughts. Researchers studying this faculty usually focus on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a control center that directs the activity of other brain regions. But Anderson and his colleagues noticed that conditions featuring intrusive thoughts—such as schizophrenia—often involve increased activity in the hippocampus, an important memory region. The severity of symptoms such as hallucinations also increases with this elevated activity. In the new study, Anderson and his team had healthy participants learn a series of word pairs. The subjects were presented with one word and had to either recall or suppress the associated one. When participants suppressed thoughts, brain scans detected increased activity in part of the PFC and reduced activity in the hippocampus. The findings, which were published last November in Nature Communications, are consistent with a brain circuit in which a “stop” command from the PFC suppresses hippocampus activity. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Attention; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 24775 - Posted: 03.21.2018

By LEONARD MLODINOW Ten years ago, when my son Nicolai was 11, his doctor wanted to put him on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “It would make him less wild,” I explained to my mother, who was then 85. “It would slow him down a bit.” My mother grumbled. “Look around you,” she said in Yiddish. “Look how fast the world is changing. He doesn’t need to slow down. You need to speed up.” It was a surprising recommendation from someone who had never learned to use a microwave. But recent research suggests she had a point: Some people with A.D.H.D. may be naturally suited to our turbocharged world. Today the word “hyperactive” doesn’t just describe certain individuals; it also is a quality of our society. We are bombarded each day by four times the number of words we encountered daily when my mother was raising me. Even vacations are complicated — people today use, on average, 26 websites to plan one. Attitudes and habits are changing so fast that you can identify “generational” differences in people just a few years apart: Simply by analyzing daily cellphone communication patterns, researchers have been able to guess the age of someone under 60 to within about five years either way with 80 percent accuracy. To thrive in this frenetic world, certain cognitive tendencies are useful: to embrace novelty, to absorb a wide variety of information, to generate new ideas. The possibility that such characteristics might be associated with A.D.H.D. was first examined in the 1990s. The educational psychologist Bonnie Cramond, for example, tested a group of children in Louisiana who had been determined to have A.D.H.D. and found that an astonishingly high number — 32 percent — did well enough to qualify for an elite creative scholars program in the Louisiana schools. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 24766 - Posted: 03.19.2018

By Abby Olena Diagnosing neurobiological disorders, such as the autism spectrum disorders, focuses on complex clinical evaluations. But a study published last week (March 6) in eLife shows that an objective measure—how the pupil varies in size while viewing an optical illusion—reveals differences in perceptual styles and correlates with a self-reported score of autistic traits. The findings suggest that tracking fluctuations in pupil size, which is called pupillometry, could be used alongside clinical assessments to help researchers and clinicians understand autism. “We used to think that the pupil was a simple light reflex or that it just indexed arousal,” says Stefan Van der Stigchel, an attention and perception researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who did not participate in the work. This study shows “how the pupil can be informative of, in this situation, perceptual styles.” Previous research has shown that people with autism spectrum disorders allocate their attention differently—and therefore may perceive things differently—than people in the general population. For instance, rather than perceiving an image as a forest, they might focus on the individual trees, says coauthor David Burr of the University of Florence. It’s possible to measure what people pay attention to by having them look at images with both bright and dark areas. Their pupils are slightly larger when they attend to the dark parts and slightly smaller when they attend to the light parts. Burr, Paola Binda of the University of Pisa in Italy, and Marco Turi, a postdoc at the University of Pisa, decided to take advantage of this phenomenon and study how attention, via pupil size, tracks with autistic traits. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Autism; Attention
Link ID: 24755 - Posted: 03.15.2018

Sue Blackmore Are you longing for your brain and all its memories to be preserved for ever? That once fanciful idea seems creepily closer now that a complete pig’s brain has been successfully treated, frozen, rewarmed and found to have its neural connections still intact. This achievement, by the cryobiology research company 21st Century Medicine (21CM), has just won the final phase of the Brain Preservation Foundation’s prize – a prize that demanded all of a brain’s synaptic connections be preserved in a way that allowed for centuries-long storage of the entire information content of a whole large mammal’s brain. They used a pig’s brain, which was perfused with lethal glutaraldehyde before being frozen at –135C, a method called aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation (ASC). This process kills any chance of the brain being brought to life again, but they won because when the treated brain was warmed up again its connectome – the brain’s wiring diagram – was amazingly well preserved. In fact it was so well preserved that even the fine ultrastructural details of dendritic spine synapses could still be seen with a 3D electron microscope. This means potentially 150 trillion connections, all of which may be implicated in storing memory. A human brain treated this way could never be brought back to life. Yet all its preserved information could potentially be uploaded into an artificial or virtual body indistinguishable from the previously living one – like “uploading a person’s mind” after a long wait. Would this then be “you”? © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24753 - Posted: 03.15.2018

Laura Sanders We can’t see it, but brains hum with electrical activity. Brain waves created by the coordinated firing of huge collections of nerve cells pinball around the brain. The waves can ricochet from the front of the brain to the back, or from deep structures all the way to the scalp and then back again. Called neuronal oscillations, these signals are known to accompany certain mental states. Quiet alpha waves ripple soothingly across the brains of meditating monks. Beta waves rise and fall during intense conversational turns. Fast gamma waves accompany sharp insights. Sluggish delta rhythms lull deep sleepers, while dreamers shift into slightly quicker theta rhythms. Researchers have long argued over whether these waves have purpose, and what those purposes might be. Some scientists see waves as inevitable but useless by-products of the signals that really matter — messages sent by individual nerve cells. Waves are simply a consequence of collective neural behavior, and nothing more, that view holds. But a growing body of evidence suggests just the opposite: Instead of by-products of important signals, brain waves are key to how the brain operates, routing information among far-flung brain regions that need to work together. MIT’s Earl Miller is among the neuro­scientists amassing evidence that waves are an essential part of how the brain operates. Brain oscillations deftly route information in a way that allows the brain to choose which signals in the world to pay attention to and which to ignore, his recent studies suggest. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24750 - Posted: 03.14.2018

Shankar Vedantam Economic theory rests on a simple notion about humans: people are rational. They seek out the best information. They measure costs and benefits, and maximize pleasure and profit. This idea of the rational economic actor has been around for centuries. But about 50 years ago, two psychologists shattered these assumptions. They showed that people routinely walk away from good money. And they explained why, once we get in a hole, we often keep digging. Think Fast with Daniel Kahneman The methods of these psychologists were as unusual as their insights. Instead of writing complex theorems, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky spent hours together...talking. They came up with playful thought experiments. They laughed a lot. "We found our mistakes very funny," recalls Kahneman. "What was fun was finding yourself about to say something really stupid." The insights that Kahneman developed with Tversky, who passed away in 1996, transformed the way we understand the mind. That transformation also had philosophical implications. "The stories about the past are so good that they create an illusion that life is understandable, and they create an illusion that you can predict the future," Kahneman says. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel prize in 2002, and over the past 99 episodes of Hidden Brain, we've drawn extensively on research inspired by his work. This week, we celebrate our 100th episode by interviewing Kahneman about judgment, memory, and the mind itself. He spoke with us before a live audience at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Emotions
Link ID: 24744 - Posted: 03.13.2018