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2013 International Neuroethics Society Annual Meeting

Session “The Science and Ethics of Moral Enhancement


Can we create a morality pill?  Neuroscientists are discovering how hormones and brain chemicals shape aspects of social behavior relevant for morality, including empathy, cooperation, aggression, trust, and altruism. This work opens potential avenues for pharmacological manipulation of ethical values. In this session, speakers will review studies demonstrating how neuromodulators shape moral decisions, evaluate the evidence for and challenges facing the development of moral-enhancing interventions, and discuss the ethical implications of shaping human morality. 

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Social Neuroscience Advances
Understanding ourselves and how we interact
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Alzheimer’s Diagnostic Tests Inch Forward, but Treatments Are Still Lacking

Alzheimer’s Diagnostic Tests Inch Forward, but Treatments Are Still Lacking | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers are trying to develop ways to more quickly and accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s, which might lead to better treatments and understanding in the future

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Study Shows How the Brain Can Trigger a Deep Sleep

Study Shows How the Brain Can Trigger a Deep Sleep | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
According to a new study, deeper sleep can be triggered by chemically 'switching on' neurons in the preoptic hypothalamus.

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Study: Long-term meditation can help slow down aging-related brain volume decline | SharpBrains

Study: Long-term meditation can help slow down aging-related brain volume decline | SharpBrains | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
“Peo­ple who reported med­i­tat­ing for an aver­age of 20 years had higher brain vol­umes than the aver­age per­son, researchers report in Fron­tiers in Psychology.

Kurth and his col­leagues write that they can’t say med­i­ta­tion caused its prac­ti­tion­ers to lose less brain vol­ume, how­ever. Other habits of long-term med­i­ta­tors may also influ­ence brain volume…

Nearly 18 mil­lion adults and 1 mil­lion chil­dren prac­ticed med­i­ta­tion in the U.S. in 2012, accord­ing to a sur­vey on com­ple­men­tary med­i­cine from the National Insti­tutes of Health and the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention…

Over­all, the vol­ume of gray mat­ter shown on the brain scans decreased as the age of the par­tic­i­pants increased. But the med­i­ta­tors’ brains appeared bet­ter pre­served than aver­age peo­ple of the same age…

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Ivon Prefontaine's curator insight, February 28, 5:14 PM

This is an interesting abstract and link.

 

@ivon_ehd1

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Left or Right? The Brain Knows Before You Move

Left or Right? The Brain Knows Before You Move | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new study reports researchers have identified a neural circuit which connects motor planning to movement.
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New compounds protect nervous system from the structural damage of MS

New compounds protect nervous system from the structural damage of MS | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A newly characterized group of pharmacological compounds block both the inflammation and nerve cell damage seen in mouse models of multiple sclerosis, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published...
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Researchers discover a gene for human brain size - only found in humans

Researchers discover a gene for human brain size - only found in humans | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

About 99 percent of human genes are shared with chimpanzees. Only the small remainder sets us apart. However, we have one important difference: The brain of humans is three times as big as the chimpanzee brain. During evolution our genome must have changed in order to trigger such brain growth. Wieland Huttner, Director and Research Group Leader a the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), and his team identified for the first time a gene that is only present in humans and contributes to the reproduction of basal brain stem cells, triggering a folding of the neocortex. The researchers isolated different subpopulations of human brain stem cells and precisely identified, which genes are active in which cell type. In doing so, they noticed the gene ARHGAP11B: it is only found in humans and in our closest relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisova-Humans, but not in chimpanzees. This gene manages to trigger brain stem cells to form a bigger pool of stem cells. In that way, during brain development more neurons can arise and the cerebrum can expand. The cerebrum is responsible for cognitive functions like speaking and thinking.


Wieland Huttner’s researchers developed a method that isolates and identifies special subpopulations of brain stem cells from the developing human cerebrum. No one has managed to do this so far. The scientists first isolated different stem and progenitor cell types from fetal mice and human cerebrum tissue. In contrast to the big and folded human brain, the brain of mice is small and smooth. After the isolation, the researchers compared the genes that are active in the various cell types and were able to identify 56 genes that are only present in humans and which play a role in brain development. “We noticed that the gene ARHGAP11B is especially active in basal brain stem cells. These cells are really important for the expansion of the neocortex during evolution,” says Marta Florio, PhD student in Wieland Huttner’s lab, who carried out the main part of the study.


The human-specific gene also works in mice: In the further course of the study, the researchers focused on the function of this special gene. The researchers suspected that if it was responsible for a bigger pool of brain stem cells in humans and thereby for an expanded cerebrum, then this human-specific gene should trigger a similar development in the smaller brain of a mouse. They introduced the gene into mice embryos and indeed: Under the influence of the human-specific gene, the mice produced significantly more brain stem cells and in half of all cases even a folding of the neocortex, which is typical for human brains. All these results suggest that the gene ARHGAP11B plays a key role in the evolutionary expansion of the human neocortex.


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The Science of Changing Behavior with Compassionate Coaching

The Science of Changing Behavior with Compassionate Coaching | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Coaching with Compassion Activates the PEA
Now you know what these modes mean for your mood and your body – what do they mean for coaching someone?

Dr. Anthony Jack, the principal investigator of the Brain, Mind, and Consciousness Lab at CWRU, collaborated with Dr. Boyatzis on a coaching study using functional MRI (fMRI) technology.¹ In this study, they divided student volunteers into two groups. Group one experienced traditional coaching for compliance. In other words, the coaches asked volunteers to focus on the challenges they face in their academic performance and used problem-solving techniques. Group two experienced coaching with compassion.


When being coached with compassion, volunteers are asked questions to help them imagine a positive vision of their future.


by:Jessica Worny Janicki



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Brain makes decisions with same method used to break WW2 Enigma code (w/ Video)

Brain makes decisions with same method used to break WW2 Enigma code (w/ Video) | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
When making simple decisions, neurons in the brain apply the same statistical trick used by Alan Turing to help break Germany's Enigma code during World War II, according to a new study in animals by researchers at Columbia University's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and Department ...
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Study shows how the brain can trigger a deep sleep

Study shows how the brain can trigger a deep sleep | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Scientists have discovered that switching on one area of the brain chemically can trigger a deep sleep.
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Effect of kindness-based meditation on health and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

OBJECTIVE: Kindness-based meditation (KBM) is a rubric covering meditation techniques developed to elicit kindness in a conscious way. Some techniques, for example, loving-kindness meditation and compassion meditation, have been included in programs aimed at improving health and well-being. Our aim was to systematically review and meta-analyze the evidence available from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the effects of KBM on health and well-being against passive and active control groups in patients and the general population. METHOD: Searches were completed in March 2013. Two reviewers applied predetermined eligibility criteria (RCTs, peer-reviewed publications, theses or conference proceedings, adult participants, KBM interventions) and extracted the data. Meta-analyses used random-effects models. RESULTS: Twenty-two studies were included. KBM was moderately effective in decreasing self-reported depression (standard mean difference [Hedges's g] = -0.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] [-1.08, -0.14]) and increasing mindfulness (Hedges's g = 0.63, 95% CI [0.22, 1.05]), compassion (Hedges's g = 0.61, 95% CI [0.24, 0.99]) and self-compassion (Hedges's g = 0.45, 95% CI [0.15, 0.75]) against passive controls. Positive emotions were increased (Hedges's g = 0.42, 95% CI [0.10, 0.75]) against progressive relaxation. Exposure to KBM may initially be challenging for some people. RESULTS were inconclusive for some outcomes, in particular against active controls. The methodological quality of the reports was low to moderate. RESULTS suffered from imprecision due to wide CIs deriving from small studies. CONCLUSIONS: KBM showed evidence of benefits for the health of individuals and communities through its effects on well-being and social interaction. Further research including well-conducted large RCTs is warranted. 


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Dr James Hawkins's curator insight, December 31, 2014 5:01 AM

Encouraging but we do need better research.

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Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Mental State Attribution and Empathizing

Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Mental State Attribution and Empathizing | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

(Free full text available)The ability to infer and understand the mental states of others (i.e., Theory of Mind) is a cornerstone of human interaction. While considerable efforts have focused on explicating when, why and for whom this fundamental psychological ability can go awry, considerably less is known about factors that may enhance theory of mind. Accordingly, the current study explored the possibility that mindfulness-based meditation may improve people’s mindreading skills. Following a 5-minute mindfulness induction, participants with no prior meditation experience completed tests that assessed mindreading and empathic understanding. The results revealed that brief mindfulness meditation enhanced both mental state attribution and empathic concern, compared to participants in the control group. These findings suggest that mindfulness may be a powerful technique for facilitating core aspects of social-cognitive functioning.


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Dr James Hawkins's curator insight, February 24, 1:29 AM

Great stuff ... short "breathing space" mindfulness exercises can be useful in so many ways ... including between clients as a psychotherapist, at the start of groups, and so on.

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Is an Optimistic Mind Associated with a Healthy Heart?

Is an Optimistic Mind Associated with a Healthy Heart? | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” — World Health Organization (1946) Many poets,...
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Big-brained mice engineered using human DNA

Big-brained mice engineered using human DNA | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
In the quest to understand what are the crucial differences between human and chimpanzee brains, scientists have isolated a stretch of DNA, once thought to be “junk”, near a gene that regulates brain development in mice.
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Study Maps Extroversion Types in the Brain's Anatomy

Study Maps Extroversion Types in the Brain's Anatomy | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us that there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious “people-persons” who find reward in sharing affection and affiliation with others, and the ambitious “go-getters” who flash those bright-white smiles in their pursuit of achievement and leadership agendas. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

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Research series: How, when and why does targeted cognitive training work to promote behavioral and emotional health? | SharpBrains

Research series: How, when and why does targeted cognitive training work to promote behavioral and emotional health? | SharpBrains | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
“Research on the treat­ment of men­tal dis­or­ders often cen­ters on under­stand­ing which treat­ments work. But know­ing that a treat­ment is effec­tive doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily tell us why the treat­ment works. A bet­ter under­stand­ing of the pre­cise mech­a­nisms that con­tribute to behav­ioral and emo­tional dis­or­ders, and of how treat­ments effect change, can help enhance cur­rent treat­ments and spur the devel­op­ment of new inter­ven­tion and pre­ven­tion approaches…

“We now have a few hun­dred evidence-based treat­ments, but our under­stand­ing of the mech­a­nisms of action remains to be elab­o­rated, with very few excep­tions,” writes jour­nal edi­tor Alan Kazdin.”The series that Lisa Onken has devel­oped pro­vides stud­ies that approach under­stand­ing dis­or­ders, treat­ments, and mech­a­nisms in dif­fer­ent ways. The diver­sity of the research shows the range of options avail­able and needed to under­stand clin­i­cal dys­func­tion, treat­ment effects, and their interrelations.”

Taken together, says Onken, the research pre­sented in the spe­cial series “is both sci­en­tif­i­cally mean­ing­ful, by pro­vid­ing knowl­edge about mech­a­nisms, and at the same time espe­cially prac­ti­cal, by lay­ing the foun­da­tion for devel­op­ing inter­ven­tions that have the poten­tial for rel­a­tively easy implementation.”

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Study Identifies Neurons That Help Predict What Another Individual Will Do

Study Identifies Neurons That Help Predict What Another Individual Will Do | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new study reports researchers have identified two groups of neurons which appear to play key roles in social interaction.
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Neurogenesis: How To Grow New Brain Cells

Neurogenesis: How To Grow New Brain Cells | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Adults can still grow new brain cells -- neurogenesis -- but what are they for?
Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog.
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Breaking Research: Separable short- and long-term memories can form after a momentous occasion

Breaking Research: Separable short- and long-term memories can form after a momentous occasion | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Imagine that you are a starving fruit fly, desperately searching for food in a new area. Suddenly, you encounter a mysterious new odor and discover a nearby source of life-sustaining food. After a single experience such as this, flies can instantly form an association between that new odor and food, and will follow the odor if it encounters it again (Figure 1-1). Yamagata et al. took advantage of this instinctual behavior to study how the fly brain stores a long-term memory after one event.

They trained groups of flies to associate a particular odor (A) with a sugar reward by presenting them with both stimuli at the same time. They confirmed that the flies formed a memory by giving them a choice between odor A and a different odor (B), and found that flies preferably flocked to an area scented with odor A.

They also identified a large group of dopamine neurons (known as PAM neurons) that were activated by the sugar reward. If the researchers activated the PAM neurons instead of providing sugar when the flies encountered odor A, the flies still associated that odor with a reward (Figure 1-2).

Now the question: how does PAM neuron activity paired with an odor form a long-term memory?  The researchers found that the PAM neurons could actually be grouped into two types. When they activated one type, which they dubbed stm-PAM, the flies only formed a short-term memory. The researchers tested their memory immediately after training and found most of the flies hanging around odor A. But 24 hours later, the memory was gone.

Surprisingly, when the researchers activated the other type of PAM neurons during training (called ltm-PAM), the flies only formed a long-term memory! The flies weren’t particularly interested in odor A immediately after training, but 24 hours later the flies flocked toward it. This incredible result showed that long-term memory doesn’t necessarily require a short-term counterpart. So, instead of the reward pathway forming a short-term memory that later transforms into a long-term memory, this sugar reward formed two complementary memories.


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Sex redefined

Sex redefined | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.


http://www.nature.com/news/sex-redefined-1.16943


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Bernard Ryefield's comment, February 27, 11:14 AM
Nature and sex redefined – we have never been binary
A recent article in Nature suggests that biologists ‘now think’ the idea of two sexes is inaccurate; in fact, says Vanessa Heggie, for decades biologists have been at the forefront of campaigns against this simplistic understanding of sex: http://www.theguardian.com/science/the-h-word/2015/feb/19/nature-sex-redefined-we-have-never-been-binary
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Empathy, Compassion & Neuroscience Part 1 - YouTube

Professor Al Kaszniak's talk to the UA Psychology Department (not to AMRIG) on 4/2/10.

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Skin test may shed new light on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases

Skin test may shed new light on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Scientists have discovered a skin test that may shed new light on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, according to a study released today will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 67th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., April 18 to 25, 2015.
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Decisions are reached in the brain by the same method used to crack the Nazi Enigma code

Decisions are reached in the brain by the same method used to crack the Nazi Enigma code | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
The highlight of the award winning film, "The Imitation Game", is when Alan Turing and colleagues devise an ingenious statistical method that eventually helped decipher the Nazis' Enigma code.
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Morality is the key to personal identity

Morality is the key to personal identity | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

We tend to think that our memories determine our identity, but it’s moral character that really makes us who we are ... ‘Know thyself’ is a flimsy bargain-basement platitude, endlessly recycled but maddeningly empty. It skates the very existential question it pretends to address, the question that obsesses us: what is it to know oneself? The lesson of the identity detector is this: when we dig deep, beneath our memory traces and career ambitions and favourite authors and small talk, we find a constellation of moral capacities. This is what we should cultivate and burnish, if we want people to know who we really are.


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Dr James Hawkins's curator insight, January 15, 1:05 AM

Very interesting article by psychologist Nina Strohminger

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Why You Should Marry An Emotionally Complex Man

Why You Should Marry An Emotionally Complex Man | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Trust us ladies — we’re worth the hassle.
_____
by Serge Bielanko for YourTango
Of all the types of guys you might ever end up with in this world, you could do a lot worse that the emotionally complex one.
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Hard Feelings: Science’s Struggle to Define Emotions

Hard Feelings: Science’s Struggle to Define Emotions | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
When Paul Ekman was a grad student in the 1950s, psychologists were mostly ignoring emotions. Most psychology research at the time was focused on behaviorism—classical conditioning and the like.
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