The Helix Center for Interdisciplinary Investigation of the New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute Altruism and Empathy Saturday, June 8th, 2013 Is self...
Is selflessness a necessary illusion? Are we condemned to weigh the costs (whether consciously or not) of the welfare of others against the benefits to ourselves ? We develop a "theory of mind" around age three, concurrently building our capacity to recognize emotions experienced by others. In other words, we begin to develop empathy, the sine qua non of compassion, and hence, of altruism. But if altruism is evolutionarily adaptive, as many believe, can it be unadulterated by self-interest? Or might acts of altruism truly reveal "the better angels of our nature"?
That doesn't sound like a theory of the brain. That sounds like what is desired is a theory of consciousness. This does not surprise me; it's the big hairy audacious goal for many neuroscientists. I have a message for my fellow ...
In late January, The Human Brain Project—an attempt to create a computer simulation of the brain at every scale from the nano nano to the macro biotic—announced that it had successfully arranged a billion Euro funding package for a 10-year run.
And then on Feb. 18, an article in The New York Times took the wraps off a plan to spend perhaps billions of dollars for an effort to record large collections of brain cells and figure out what exactly they are doing. (...) - by Gary Stix, Nature, 28 February 2013
[Abstract] Over the past three decades numerous imaging studies have revealed structural and functional brain abnormalities in patients with neuropsychiatric diseases. These structural and functional brain changes are frequently found in multiple, discrete brain areas and may include frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital cortices as well as subcortical brain areas. However, while the structural and functional brain changes in patients are found in anatomically separated areas, these are connected through (long distance) fibers, together forming networks. Thus, instead of representing separate (patho)-physiological entities, these local changes in the brains of patients with psychiatric disorders may in fact represent different parts of the same ‘elephant’, i.e., the (altered) brain network. Recent developments in quantitative analysis of complex networks, based largely on graph theory, have revealed that the brain's structure and functions have features of complex networks. Here we briefly introduce several recent developments in neural network studies relevant for psychiatry, including from the 2013 special issue on Neural Networks in Psychiatry in European Neuropsychopharmacology. We conclude that new insights will be revealed from the neural network approaches to brain imaging in psychiatry that hold the potential to find causes for psychiatric disorders and (preventive) treatments in the future. - by Pol HH et al., European Neuropsychopharmacology, in Press, Available online 8 February 2013
"There is...a growing body of research that technology can be both beneficial and harmful to different ways in which children think. Moreover, this influence isn’t just affecting children on the surface of their thinking. Rather, because their brains are still developing and malleable, frequent exposure by so-called digital natives to technology is actually wiring the brain in ways very different than in previous generations. What is clear is that, as with advances throughout history, the technology that is available determines how our brains develops. For example, as the technology writer Nicholas Carr has observed, the emergence of reading encouraged our brains to be focused and imaginative. In contrast, the rise of the Internet is strengthening our ability to scan information rapidly and efficiently.
"The effects of technology on children are complicated, with both benefits and costs. Whether technology helps or hurts in the development of your children’s thinking depends on what specific technology is used and how and what frequency it is used. At least early in their lives, the power to dictate your children’s relationship with technology and, as a result, its influence on them, from synaptic activity to conscious thought.
"Over the next several weeks, I’m going to focus on the areas in which the latest thinking and research has shown technology to have the greatest influence on how children think: attention, information overload, decision making, and memory/learning. Importantly, all of these areas are ones in which you can have a counteracting influence on how technology affects your children."
A study with low statistical power has a reduced chance of detecting a true effect, but it is less well appreciated that low power also reduces the likelihood that a statistically significant result reflects a true effect. Here, we show that the average statistical power of studies in the neurosciences is very low. The consequences of this include overestimates of effect size and low reproducibility of results. There are also ethical dimensions to this problem, as unreliable research is inefficient and wasteful. Improving reproducibility in neuroscience is a key priority and requires attention to well-established but often ignored methodological principles. - By Button KS et al., Nature Reviews Neuroscience 14, 365-376 (May 2013)
Provisional Abstract: Single-cell recording in macaque monkeys has uncovered mirror neurons, which respond both when a monkey observes a transitive action (an action involving an actor and an object), carries out that ...
In autism, brain regions tailored to respond to voices are poorly connected to reward-processing circuits, according to a new study by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The research could help explain why children with autism struggle to grasp the social and emotional aspects of human speech. "Weak brain connectivity may impede children with autism from experiencing speech as pleasurable," said Vinod Menon, PhD, senior author of the study, published online June 17 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Technique to make tissue transparent offers three-dimensional view of neural networks.
A chemical treatment that turns whole organs transparent offers a big boost to the field of ‘connectomics’ — the push to map the brain’s fiendishly complicated wiring. Scientists could use the technique to view large networks of neurons with unprecedented ease and accuracy. The technology also opens up new research avenues for old brains that were saved from patients and healthy donors. (...) - by Helen Shen, Nature News, 10 April 2013
A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec, and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain's natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer's disease. This major breakthrough, details of which are presented today in an early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), opens the door to the development of a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and a vaccine to prevent the illness. (...) - eurekalert, 15/02/2013
Tan Le's astonishing new computer interface reads its user's brainwaves, making it possible to control virtual objects, and even physical electronics, with mere thoughts (and a little concentration). She demos the headset, and talks about its far-reaching applications.
Tan Le is the founder & CEO of Emotiv Lifescience, a bioinformatics company that's working on identifying biomarkers for mental and other neurological conditions using electroencephalography (EEG).
If you sign up to a weekend personal development workshop, you don’t really expect to emerge 10 years later a shadow of your former emotional self. What sets many groups apart from what we regard as cults is a range of powerful psychological techniques which can be difficult to see through—particularly if you are at a vulnerable time of your life. We hear the story of one woman’s escape from a cult and some insights into those persuasive techniques