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Blind Mice, No Longer

In a study published on April 19, 2011 in the journal Molecular Therapy, researchers at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT and the University of Southern California used optogenetic technology to restore vision in blind mice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jY5Aynh1-cU

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How to create a Connectome Observatory of the mouse brain and beyond

How to create a Connectome Observatory of the mouse brain and beyond | Science-Videos | Scoop.it

Several laboratories are now using Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopes (FIB-SEM) to image small volumes of plastic embedded brain tissue at resolutions approaching 5x5x5nm voxel size. The fact that FIBSEM can obtain such resolution is of fundamental importance since at this resolution all neuronal processes should be traceable with 100% accuracy using fully automatic algorithms. A fundamental physical limitation of the FIB ablation process is that this resolution can only be obtained for very small samples on the order of 20 microns across. To overcome this limitation Ken Hayworth has developed a technique using a heated, oil-lubricated, ultrasonically vibrating diamond knife which can section large blocks of plastic-embedded brain tissue into 20 micron thick strips optimally sized for high-resolution FIB-SEM imaging. Crucially, this thick sectioning procedure results in such high-quality surfaces that the finest neuronal processes can be traced from strip to strip.

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New Scientist TV: Matrix-like fly-through shows brain in amazing detail

New Scientist TV: Matrix-like fly-through shows brain in amazing detail | Science-Videos | Scoop.it

It may look like you're entering the Matrix but this video is actually a mouse brain fly-through captured with unprecedented sharpness. Imaged by Francesco Pavone from the European Laboratory for Non Linear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Italy and his team, the 3D map was created by combining two microscope techniques to eliminate the blurriness that typically occurs when trying to capture large biological samples.

 

The video starts by navigating through the mouse cerebellum, where green spots represent neurons that generate all the electrical signals leaving the region. The subsequent close-ups move through neurons in the hippocampus, the area responsible for brain functions like memory or spatial navigation. When focusing on smaller regions like in the last clips, the benefit isn't in resolution so much as in the speed of the image capture.

 

The new technique is able to image a 3D sample slice by slice using lasers, while background blur is eliminated thanks to a filtering system that removes stray light. The team hopes it will give new insight into mouse versions of diseases like autism and stroke or be used to examine other types of biological specimens. Lusovico Silvestri, another member of the team, thinks it could also be developed to image human brain samples.

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Chimp Ayumu outperforming humans with his photographic memory placing numbers in right order: try yourself

Play and try to beat the chimp: http://games.lumosity.com/chimp.html. What really sets us apart from our cousins?

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Chemical Brain Preservation: How to Live "Forever" - by John Smart

A number of neuroscientists, working today with simple model organisms, are investigating the hypothesis that chemical brain preservation may inexpensively preserve the organism's memories and mental states after death. Chemically preserved brains can be stored at room temperature in cemeteries, contract storage, even private homes. A 501c3 nonprofit organization, the Brain Preservation Foundation (http://brainpreservation.org), is offering a $100,000 prize to the first scientific team to demonstrate that the entire synaptic connectivity ("connectome") of mammalian brains can be perfectly preserved using either chemical preservation ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_brain_preservation ) or more expensive cryopreservation ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryonics ) techniques.

 

Such preserved brains may be "read" in the future, analogous to the way a computer hard drive is read today, so that either memories or the complete identities of the preserved individuals can be restored or "uploaded" in computer form. Chemical preservation techniques are already being used to scan and upload the connectomes of very small animal brains (C. elegans and http://www.openworm.org , zebrafish, soon flies). Though these scans are not yet sufficiently complex to extract memories from the uploaded organisms, give them a little more time, we're very close now to cracking long term memory. Now, one just needs to know a bit more about this process at the protein/receptor/gene level: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-term_potentiation

 

Amazingly, if information technologies continue to improve at historical rates, a person whose brain is chemically preserved in 2020 might have their memories read or even fully return to the world in a computer form not centuries but just a few decades from now, while their children and loved ones are still alive. Given progress in electron microscopy and connectomics research to date, we can even forsee how this may be done as a fully automated and inexpensive process ( http://openconnecto.me/services ).

 

Today, only 1% of people in developed societies are interested in living beyond their biological death (see "When I'm 164", David Ewing Duncan, 2012, http://www.amazon.com/When-Im-164-Extension-ebook/dp/B008XB16ME ). With chemical brain preservation, this 1% may soon have a validated, low-cost method that will allow them to do just that. Once it becomes a real option, and recovery of simple memories has been demonstrated in model organisms, this 1% may grow larger as well.

 

John Smart is particularly excited by chemical brain preservation's ability to improve the social contract: what benefits we may reasonably expect from the universe and society when we choose to live a good and moral life. He personally believes that having the *option* of chemical brain preservation at death, if the science is validated, may help all our societies become significantly more science-, future-, progress-, preservation-, sustainability-, truth and justice-, and community-oriented in coming years.

 

Would you choose chemical brain preservation at death if it was widely available, validated, and inexpensive? If not, why not? Would you do it to donate your brain to science? Your memories to your children or others who might want them? Would you be willing to come back in person, if that turns out to be possible? If it is sufficiently inexpensive, would it be best to preserve your brain at death, and let future society decide if either your memories or your identity are "worth" reanimating?

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Randal Koene: A Brief Tutorial on Substrate Independent Minds

Randal Koene, Neuroscientist and Neuroengineer, discusses Substrate Independent Minds with Stuart Mason Dambrot on Critical Thought TV. Topics covered include the science, technology and ethics of Whole Brain Emulation, Universal Darwinism, Pattern Survival and a possible very far-future universe.

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Daniel Tammet - The Boy With The Incredible Brain

Tammet has been "studied repeatedly" by researchers in Britain and the United States, and has been the subject of several peer-reviewed scientific papers.Professor Allan Snyder at the Australian National University has said of Tammet: "Savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do. It just comes to them. Daniel can describe what he sees in his head. That's why he's exciting. He could be the 'Rosetta Stone'

to science." In his mind, he says, each positive integer up to 10,000 has its own unique shape, colour, texture and feel. He has described his visual image of 289 as particularly ugly, 333 as particularly attractive, and pi as beautiful. The number 6 apparently has no distinct image yet what he describes as an almost small nothingness, opposite to the number 9 which he calls large and towering. Tammet has described 25 as energetic and the "kind of number you would invite to a party". In his memoir, Tammet states experiencing a synaesthetic and emotional response for words and numbers, but not letters in algebraic contexts.

 

Tammet holds the European record for reciting pi from memory to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes on 14 March 2004. Tammet has reportedly learned 10 languages, including Romanian, Gaelic, Welsh, and Icelandic which he learned in a week for a TV documentary.

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Francis Crick Memorial Conference 2012: Consciousness in Humans and Animals

Francis Crick Memorial Conference 2012: Consciousness in Humans and Animals | Science-Videos | Scoop.it

The First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference, focusing on "Consciousness in Humans and Non-Human Animals", aims to provide a purely data-driven perspective on the neural correlates of consciousness. The most advanced quantitative techniques for measuring and monitoring consciousness will be presented, with the topics of focus ranging from exploring the properties of neurons deep in the brainstem, to assessing global cerebral function in comatose patients. Model organisms investigated will span the species spectrum from flies to rodents, humans to birds, elephants to dolphins, and will be approached from the viewpoint of three branches of biology: anatomy, physiology, and behavior. Until animals have their own storytellers, humans will always have the most glorious part of the story, and with this proverbial concept in mind, the symposium will address the notion that humans do not alone possess the neurological faculties that constitute consciousness as it is presently understood.

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