Summary of “Meet the scientists who are training AI to diagnose mental illness”

They want to compare healthy people’s brains to those of people with mental health disorders.
Psychiatry is seeking to measure the mind, which is not quite the same thing as the brain For the Virginia Tech team looking at my brain, computational psychiatry had already teased out new insights while they were working on a study published in Science in 2008.
The algorithm can find new patterns in our social behaviors, or see where and when a certain therapeutic intervention is effective, perhaps providing a template for preventative mental health treatment through exercises one can do to rewire the brain.
With those patterns in hand, Chiu imagines the ability to diagnose more acutely, say, a certain kind of depression, one that regularly manifests itself in a specific portion of the brain.
The fMRI has its problems: for instance, scientists are not truly looking at the brain, according to Science Alert.
There is a brain chemical composition that is associated with some depressed people, Greenberg says, but not all who meet the DSM criteria.
The lab’s approach asks what the brain is doing during a task while considering the entire brain.
As the afternoon sun slants through the windows of a common area – partitioned by a math-covered wall – Chiu and King-Casas take turns bouncing their young baby and discussing a future of psychiatry in which she may live: algorithm-driven diagnostic models, targeted therapies, and brain training methods, driven by real-time fMRI results, that shift psychiatry into the arena of preventative medicine.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Happens When You Spend a Year Using Science to Improve Your Brain”

Neuroplasticity is real – that is, the brain really can change and learn and improve based on experience.
“So,” wondered science journalist Caroline Williams, “If brain training isn’t the way to apply it, what should we be doing?” Williams is the author of My Plastic Brain: One Woman’s Yearlong Journey to Discover if Science Can Improve Her Mind.
One of the poster children for neuroplasticity are the London taxi drivers, and studies show that as taxi drivers learn to navigate the streets and memorize the routes, the hippocampus – the part of the brain that does spatial navigation – gets larger.
I spent weeks and weeks trying to improve my navigational skills using wearable technologies and afterward, I got put into a brain scanner and they did an fMRI while I was pretending to navigate.
It’s like, I’m short and no amount of thinking I should be taller is going to help and it might be the same way for some parts of the brain.
There are things out there that try to blind people with complicated words, like a particular app that claims to improve your focus by playing specific music that gets your brain waves working in a particular way.
Most generic brain training apps, games, puzzles and so on are still not going to be that helpful, or do anything that wouldn’t happen by just having a conversation or doing something interesting you enjoy.
It’s not going to be something like, “I’m going to work on my hippocampus now.” That’s not going to be very useful to the average person, but you might be able to work to different brain zones or states.

The orginal article.

Summary of “We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s”

We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease.
Alzheimer’s constitutes some 70 per cent of these cases and yet, we don’t know what causes it.
The disease often involves the accumulation of proteins called amyloid and tau in the brain, and the leading hypothesis has been that the disease arises from defective control of these two proteins.
Evidence has been growing that the function of amyloid proteins may be as a defence against bacteria, leading to a spate of recent studies looking at bacteria in Alzheimer’s, particularly those that cause gum disease, which is known to be a major risk factor for the condition.
Bacteria involved in gum disease and other illnesses have been found after death in the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s, but until now, it hasn’t been clear whether these bacteria caused the disease or simply got in via brain damage caused by the condition.
We already know that amyloid and tau can accumulate in the brain for 10 to 20 years before Alzheimer’s symptoms begin.
Gum disease is far more common than Alzheimer’s.
A vaccine for gum disease would be welcome – but if it also stops Alzheimer’s the impact could be enormous.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Brain Maps Out Ideas and Memories Like Spaces”

The most ambitious suggestions even venture that these grid codes could be the key to understanding how the brain processes all details of general knowledge, perception and memory.
Different sets of grid cells form different grids: grids with larger or smaller hexagons, grids oriented in other directions, grids offset from one another.
The single point where various grids overlap tells the brain where the body must be.
“What the grid cell captures is the dynamic instantiation of the most stable solution of physics,” said György Buzsáki, a neuroscientist at New York University’s School of Medicine: “The hexagon.” Perhaps nature arrived at just such a solution to enable the brain to represent, using grid cells, any structured relationship, from maps of word meanings to maps of future plans.
In 2010 neuroscientists figured out a certain kind of signal to look for in functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain as an indirect signature of grid cell activity.
These ideas could make it worthwhile to pursue clues hidden in other kinds of spatial metaphors, too: Neurons beyond place cells and grid cells, after all, might also have something to contribute.
To further cement the grid code’s broader applications researchers first hope to figure out how these cells may be working in more than two dimensions, given that higher-level knowledge tends to involve far more than pairs of qualities, like neck length and leg length, or power and association.
According to his “Thousand brains theory of intelligence,” he said, “The cortex is not just processing sensory input alone, but rather processing and applying it to a location.” When he first thought of the idea, and how grid cells might be facilitating it, he added, “I jumped out of my chair, I was so excited.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Want to ‘Train Your Brain’? Forget Apps, Learn a Musical Instrument”

While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older.
Playing a musical instrument is a rich and complex experience that involves integrating information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, as well as fine movements, and learning to do so can induce long-lasting changes in the brain.
Together, these studies show that learning to play a musical instrument not only increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, but can also strengthen the long-range connections between them.
Importantly, the brain scanning studies show that the extent of anatomical change in musicians’ brains is closely related to the age at which musical training began, and the intensity of training.
What’s more, the benefits of musical training seem to persist for many years, or even decades, and the picture that emerges from this all evidence is that learning to play a musical instrument in childhood protects the brain against the development of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Unlike commercial brain training products, which only improve performance on the skills involved, musical training has what psychologists refer to as transfer effects – in other words, learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a far broader effect on the brain and mental function, and improves other abilities that are seemingly unrelated.
Learning to play a musical instrument seems to be one of the most effective forms of brain training there is.
Musical training can induce various structural and functional changes in the brain, depending on which instrument is being learned, and the intensity of the training regime.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Sleepwalking Is the Result of a Survival Mechanism Gone Awry”

Sleepwalking is on the rise, in part due to increased use of pharmacologically based sleep aids – notably Ambien.
Why do some enter into such a potentially harmful state during sleep? One answer comes from studies suggesting that ‘sleepwalking’ might not be an appropriate term for what is going on; rather, primitive brain regions involved in emotional response and complex motor activity remain in ‘active’ states that are difficult to distinguish from wakefulness.
It’s as though sleepwalking results when the brain doesn’t completely transition from sleep to wakefulness – it’s essentially stuck in a sleep-wake limbo.
Why would our brains enter into such a mixed state, representative of neither wakefulness nor sleeping? We need a restful sleep – would it not be more beneficial if the brain went totally ‘comatose’ until that rest was achieved? When one considers our distant, pre-human ancestors, answers begin to take shape.
Many animals can maintain brain activity required for survival during sleep.
‘During sleep, we can have an activation of the motor system, so although you are sleeping and not moving, the motor cortex can be in a wake-like state – ready to go,’ explains Nobili, who led the team that conducted the work.
“Ok, so we are not going to wake up the sleeper” or “This is potentially threatening so we should.” But the process of going from sleep to wakefulness is, in sleepwalkers, dysfunctional, clearly.
Despite evidence of localised activity during sleep in both human and non-human animal brains, sleepwalking is, among primates, apparently a uniquely human phenomenon.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Can’t the World’s Greatest Minds Solve the Mystery of Consciousness?”

In theory, everything else you think you know about the world could be an elaborate illusion cooked up to deceive you – at this point, present-day writers invariably invoke The Matrix – but your consciousness itself can’t be illusory.
Few people doubted that the brain and mind were very closely linked: if you question this, try stabbing your brain repeatedly with a kitchen knife, and see what happens to your consciousness.
As Chalmers explained: “I’m talking to you now, and I can see how you’re behaving; I could do a brain scan, and find out exactly what’s going on in your brain – yet it seems it could be consistent with all that evidence that you have no consciousness at all.” If you were approached by me and my doppelgänger, not knowing which was which, not even the most powerful brain scanner in existence could tell us apart.
One interpretation is that DB was a semi-zombie, with a brain like any other brain, but partially lacking the magical add-on of consciousness.
Daniel Dennett, the high-profile atheist and professor at Tufts University outside Boston, argues that consciousness, as we think of it, is an illusion: there just isn’t anything in addition to the spongy stuff of the brain, and that spongy stuff doesn’t actually give rise to something called consciousness.
It’s like asserting that cancer doesn’t exist, then claiming you’ve cured cancer; more than one critic of Dennett’s most famous book, Consciousness Explained, has joked that its title ought to be Consciousness Explained Away.
Since we don’t know how the brains of mammals create consciousness, we have no grounds for assuming it’s only the brains of mammals that do so – or even that consciousness requires a brain at all.
The human brain certainly fits the bill; so do the brains of cats and dogs, though their consciousness probably doesn’t resemble ours.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Cute Aggression: Adorableness Overload Can Lead To Violent Urges”

Cute aggression is often baffling and embarrassing to the people who experience it.
Cute aggression was first described in 2015 by researchers at Yale University.
A cute aggressor herself, wanted to know what it looked like in the brain.
The more cute aggression a person felt, the more activity the scientists saw in the brain’s reward system.
The idea is that the appearance of these negative emotions helps people get control of the positive ones running amok.
“It could possibly be that somehow these expressions help us to just sort of get it out and come down off that baby high a little faster,” says Oriana Aragón, an assistant professor at Clemson University who was part of the Yale team that gave cute aggression its name.
“So people who, you know, want to pinch the babies cheeks and growl at the baby are also people who are more likely to cry at the wedding or cry when the baby’s born or have nervous laughter,” she says.
Aragon says she’s one of these people: “For me, puppies are just amazing and adorable and cute and I cannot resist them.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Empty Brain”

No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli.
Predictably, just a few years after the dawn of computer technology in the 1940s, the brain was said to operate like a computer, with the role of physical hardware played by the brain itself and our thoughts serving as software.
Although he acknowledged that little was actually known about the role the brain played in human reasoning and memory, he drew parallel after parallel between the components of the computing machines of the day and the components of the human brain.
A wealth of brain studies tells us that multiple and sometimes large areas of the brain are often involved in even the most mundane memory tasks.
Because neither ‘memory banks’ nor ‘representations’ of stimuli exist in the brain, and because all that is required for us to function in the world is for the brain to change in an orderly way as a result of our experiences, there is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience.
If you and I attend the same concert, the changes that occur in my brain when I listen to Beethoven’s 5th will almost certainly be completely different from the changes that occur in your brain.
Worse still, even if we had the ability to take a snapshot of all of the brain’s 86 billion neurons and then to simulate the state of those neurons in a computer, that vast pattern would mean nothing outside the body of the brain that produced it.
To understand even the basics of how the brain maintains the human intellect, we might need to know not just the current state of all 86 billion neurons and their 100 trillion interconnections, not just the varying strengths with which they are connected, and not just the states of more than 1,000 proteins that exist at each connection point, but how the moment-to-moment activity of the brain contributes to the integrity of the system.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why you shouldn’t be afraid of your aging brain”

“Is exercise and intellectual engagement, social interaction, diet, going to cure anything? There’s no evidence of that,” says Art Kramer, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive and Brain Health at Northeastern University, where he researches the effect of exercise on cognition.
Kramer is one of scores of researchers in Boston and elsewhere who can now measure cognition with functional MRIs that show not just the structure of the brain but what parts of it subjects actually use when performing specific tasks.
Brain size peaks around age 20.”We prune our brain to get rid of the excess, based on which nerve cells are making connections, and so the nerve cells making more connections are preserved,” says Dr. Marissa Natelson Love, assistant professor in the division of memory disorders and behavioral neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Aging brains also deal with what Natelson Love calls “Software problems,” issues that are not related to the structure of our brains but affect how well we use them – disrupted sleep, chronic pain, vascular disease, mood disorders, medications, alcohol, and stress, among others.
After a while, it was, wait a minute. We can actually see now that the brain does make new brain cells in adulthood, but it has to be certain activities that will promote the production of new brain cells.”
Not only do super agers’ brains have the memory networks of younger brains, but those networks seem to help keep super agers motivated and engaged.
“We started out by measuring the structure, the size and shape, and thickness of certain parts of the brain, within networks of the brain we know are important for memory or important for motivated performance and attention,” Dickerson says.
Forget websites like Lumosity, which promises to build brain fitness through cognitive games, and concentrate on taking on new cognitive challenges, whatever they might be, says Richmond.

The orginal article.