Summary of “Brain-Computer Interfaces Show That Neural Networks Learn by Recycling”

The hallmark of intelligence is the ability to learn.
The brain may be highly flexible and adaptive overall, but at least over short time frames, it learns by inefficiently recycling tricks from its neural repertoire rather than rewiring from scratch.
Now, while observing activity in the brain during learning, Yu and his colleagues have seen evidence of a similar lack of plasticity at the neural level.
In 2014, the researchers observed that test subjects could learn new tasks more easily if they involved patterns of neural activity within the intrinsic manifold rather than outside it.
Then the team switched the neural activity requirements for moving the cursor and waited to see what new patterns of neural activity, corresponding to new points in the intrinsic manifold, the animals would use to accomplish them.
Why would the brain use less than the best strategy for learning? The group’s findings suggest that, just as the neural architecture constrains activity to the intrinsic manifold, some further constraint limits how the neurons reorganize their activity during the experiments.
Chase likened the motor cortex to an old-fashioned telephone switchboard, with neural connections like cables linking inputs from other cortical areas to outputs in the brain’s cerebellum.
The researchers can’t yet rule out the possibility that reassociation is a fast interim way for the brain to learn new tasks; over a longer time period, realignment or rescaling might still show up.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Mind-Expanding Ideas of Andy Clark”

One problem with his Otto example, Clark thinks, is that it can suggest that a mind becomes extended only when the ordinary brain isn’t working as it should and needs a supplement-something like a hearing aid for cognition.
As the years passed, and better devices became available, and people started relying on their smartphones to bolster or replace more and more mental functions, Clark noticed that the idea of an extended mind had come to seem almost obvious.
After the paper was published, Clark began thinking that the extended mind had ethical dimensions as well.
What you saw was not just a signal from the eye, say, but a combination of that signal and the brain’s own ideas about what it expected to see, and sometimes the brain’s expectations took over altogether.
To Clark, predictive processing described how mind, body, and world were continuously interacting, in a way that was mostly so fluid and smoothly synchronized as to remain unconscious.
Clark saw the brain as travelling light, taking in only the news, only what it needed for its next move; but Hohwy saw how much heavy mental equipment was necessary to process even the briefest glance or touch.
In 2008, Clark came across an article in New Scientist that described what purported to be a unified theory of the brain.
Free energy, as Friston defined it, was roughly equivalent to what Clark called prediction error; and the brain’s need to minimize free energy, or minimize prediction error, Friston believed, drove everything the brain did.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Can Deep Brain Stimulation Make Patients Too Happy?”

Electrically stimulating the patient’s brain had worked rather well on his symptoms, but now it was time to change the stimulator battery.
The neurologist turned up the voltage one more notch for the sake of the experiment, but at five volts the patient said that the feeling was “Fantastic but a bit too much.” He had a feeling of ecstasy that was almost out of control, which made his sense of anxiety shoot up to seven.
The two agreed to set the stimulator at three volts, which left the patient at a “Normal” level of happiness and anxiety, and would not exhaust the $5,000 battery too quickly.
Patients “Don’t decide how to calibrate a heart pacemaker.”
Six patients on whom everyone had given up suddenly got better.
“I liberate my patients from pain and counteract the progress of disease. I pull them up out of a hole and bring them from minus 10 to zero, but from there the responsibility is their own. They wake up to their own lives and to the question: Who am I?”. Mayberg focused on a little area of the cerebral cortex with a gnarly name, the area subgenualis or Brodmann area 25.
Mayberg’s first patient treated with deep-brain stimulation had her operation on May 13, 2003.
Mayberg’s patients “Are aware I have not given them anything but have removed something that was bothering them,” she said.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How busy hands can alter our brain chemistry”

What all these have in common, of course, is they occupy our hands.
Of course, working with your hands is not always easy, as Matthew Crawford, a part-time mechanic from Richmond, Virginia, can attest.
In the garage, using his hands, Crawford finds that his mind goes into high gear.
Lambert said, “If you’re making something and painting or cooking and putting things together, and you’re using both hands in a little bit more creative way, that’s going to be more engaging for the brain.”
It’s something a lot of us crave – especially now, as fewer of us do much at all with our hands.
Few of us are as in touch with our hands as Zaria Forman.
“I always just started using my hands from an early age,” she said.
“I think there’s something very personal about feeling the pigment myself with my hands and moving it around. And in a way, that imbues a part of me, as the artist, into each piece I make.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Seven creatures with skills that easily beat humans”

To probe the nature of intelligence, scientists test animal skills and compare how different species think.
Examining how two critters with radically different wiring solve the same problem might illuminate brain science’s murkiest mystery: how a glob of neurons generates smarts.
Bird brains are so tiny and seemingly simple that people long assumed the creatures were stupid.
Figuring out how such different programming can arrive at the same results will reveal what’s common to both of us.
A pioneering 2007 study administered 16 cognitive tests to hundreds of chimps, orangutans, and toddlers, challenging abilities such as understanding how objects move in space, comprehending cause and effect, and communicating cooperatively.
The idea is to test how well their virtual brain works.
As divorce attorneys know, people aren’t good at figuring out how to make each other happy.
Low-status meerkats puzzle out how to open a container for a delicious scorpion, while their social superiors are lazier.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why You Can’t Remember Being a Kid”

While the brain undergoes this prolonged development outside the womb, the large and complex network of disparate brain regions that collectively create and maintain our memories is still under construction, Bauer explains, and not as capable of forming memories as it will be in adulthood.
As a consequence, the long-term memories formed in our first three years of life are the least stable memories we ever make and highly prone to disintegrating as we age.3.
As the couple knew, exercise on a running wheel promotes neurogenesis-the growth of whole new neurons-in the seahorse-shaped hippocampus, a brain region that is essential for memory.
New brain cells might crowd the territory of other neurons or even replace them altogether, which could in turn break or reconfigure the small circuits that likely store individual memories.
To get a really close look at how neurogenesis might change memory, Frankland and Josselyn used a virus to insert a gene encoding a green fluorescent protein into the DNA of the mice’s newly sprouted brain cells.
Studies have shown that people can retrieve at least some childhood memories by responding to specific prompts-dredging up the earliest recollection associated with the word “Milk,” for example-or by imagining a house, school, or specific location tied to a certain age and allowing the relevant memories to bubble up on their own.
Even if we manage to untangle a few distinct memories that survive the tumultuous cycles of growth and decay in the infant brain, we can never fully trust them; some of them might be partly or entirely fabricated.
Van Abbema, D.L. & Bauer, P.J. Autobiographical memory in middle childhood: recollections of the recent and distant past.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How flashing lights and pink noise might banish Alzheimer’s, improve memory and more”

Scientists identified the waves of electrical activity that constantly ripple through the brain almost 100 years ago, but they have struggled to assign these oscillations a definitive role in behaviour or brain function.
More than two dozen clinical trials are aiming to modulate brainwaves in some way – some with flickering lights or rhythmic sounds, but most through the direct application of electrical currents to the brain or scalp.
The oscillations also provide a potential mechanism for how the brain creates a coherent experience from the chaotic symphony of stimuli hitting the senses at any one time, a puzzle known as the ‘binding problem’.
By synchronizing the firing rates of neurons responding to the same event, brainwaves might ensure that the all of the relevant information relating to one object arrives at the correct area of the brain at exactly the right time.
Flashing lights at specific frequencies has been shown to influence oscillations in some parts of the brain, so the researchers turned to strobe lights.
His team had already been using tACS to stimulate the brain, and he wondered whether it might elicit stronger effects than a flashing strobe.
“This kind of stimulation can target areas of the brain more specifically than sensory stimulation can – after seeing Tsai’s results, it was a no-brainer that we should try it in Alzheimer’s patients.”
In addition to potentially leading to treatments, these studies could break open the field of neural oscillations in general, helping to link them more firmly to behaviour and how the brain works as a whole.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The rapper Dessa scanned her brain to fall out of love”

Scientists like Fisher have used brain scans to find the so-called neural correlates of love or the places in the brain where the love “Lives.” The experiment that followed would mark her foray into science and influence her new album Chime, which comes out today.
She began a study of one, to see if brain imaging and a technique called neurofeedback could help her, finally, fall out of love.
Cheryl Olman, a professor and brain imaging expert at the university, agreed to wheel Dessa inside a huge machine that uses magnetic fields to measure blood flow in different parts of the brain and show them in pictures.
You could think about a brain scan like a playlist of music, one where the activated regions, or brain waves, represent the songs and moods you play over and over.
If brain scans function like a visual playlist, explains Gracefire, the specific shape of these waves tell you whether your brain is always playing the blues station or a hyper-neurotic dubstep channel.
To get rid of something like obsessive love, where the brain is stuck in a loop, you have to train the brain to work differently.
There, Gracefire took EEG readings of the rapper’s brain and compared them to existing studies showing the typical range of brain activity involved in the cognitive and emotional parts of romantic love.
“To be able to 3D-print the structure of my brain responsible for these feelings for the past 10 years and hold it in my hand” – Dessa holds her left hand up in front of her, palm out – “Well, what a different kind of investigation to feel like than any I’d been able to do before,” she says.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Where Do You Go When You Die? The Increasing Signs That Human Consciousness Remains After Death”

Clinically, we understand death to mean the state that takes hold after our hearts stop beating.
Philosophically our definition of death hinges on something else: the point past which we’re no longer able to return.
“What’s fascinating is that there is a time, only after you and I die, that the cells inside our bodies start to gradually go toward their own process of death,” Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at New York University Langone Medical Center, told Newsweek.
Scientists working on human cadavers have from time to time observed genes that are active after death, according to University of Washington microbiology professor Peter Noble.
Quite a few of these are developmental genes, Noble said, raising the fascinating and slightly disturbing possibility that in the period immediately following death, our bodies start reverting to the cellular conditions that were present when we were embryos.
Exactly why some cells are more resilient to death than others can’t yet be said.
Parnia’s research has shown that people who survive medical death frequently report experiences that share similar themes: bright lights; benevolent guiding figures; relief from physical pain and a deeply felt sensation of peace.
How these patients were able to describe objective events that took place while they were dead, we’re not exactly sure, just as we’re not exactly sure why certain parts of us appear to withstand death even as it takes hold of everything else.

The orginal article.

Summary of “It’s not just in the genes: the foods that can help and harm your brain”

Our diet has a huge effect on our brain and our mental wellbeing, even protecting against dementia.
The foods we eat are broken down into nutrients, taken into the bloodstream and carried up into the brain.
Next-generation medical imaging and genomic sequencing studies, including work from my lab at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, have helped us understand that some foods play a neuro-protective role, shielding the brain from harm.
It’s no surprise that, conversely, other foods are harmful for the brain, slowing us down and increasing the risk of cognitive decline.
A specific kind of fats called polyunsaturated long-chain fatty acids, such as the famous omega-3s. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines, is the best natural source of the only kind of fat the brain needs throughout a lifetime.
Glucose is the only energy source for the brain, so it’s crucial that the brain gets enough of it.
Dementia risk was further reduced by taking vitamin E in combination with vitamin C. Both these vitamins protect brain cells from the harmful effects of toxins and free radicals, while vitamin E has the added benefit of increasing oxygen delivery to the brain.
Beyond thoughts, moods and memory, diet plays a clear and determinant role in brain ageing and the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, which affects 46 million people worldwide.

The orginal article.