Jeff Hawkins, Neurodudes-style

Jeff Hawkins is starting a new company, Numenta, to apply insights from neuroscience into developing better artificial intelligence. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this company as we get more details on what kind of AI applications they will be targeting. Undoubtedly, some of Jeff’s ideas in On Intelligence will probably be a large part of it.

Read on for the NY Times article by Markoff…
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Neuropharmacology goes mainstream

Overheard on MTV today in a Pop-Up Video-style commentary:

(In background, video for “Ohio is For Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights.)

College student 1: They are kind of like the Goo Goo Dolls on speed.

College student 2: I have to disagree with you there. I think they are actually more like Dashboard Confessional on healthy doses of Adderall.

This entry isn’t really about science, but I just thought it was interesting to see the reference to “healthy doses of Adderall” (emphasis is mine). This certainly lends credence to the idea that Adderall is being treated more of as a lifestyle drug than potentially a drug of abuse. Interesting.

Ibogaine/GDNF tackles addiction via VTA and dopamine

The March issue of Nature Rev. Neuroscience includes an interesting article about an herbal remedy, ibogaine, which appears to upregulate glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in the VTA (ventral tegmental area, which seems to play a key role in reward learning). Apparently, an increase in GDNF activity makes alcohol (and presumably other VTA-involved compounds, like opiates) less addictive.

Reading minds

This week’s Science includes a news focus article on how brain scanning technology (and, more specifically, the identification of particular brain states with functional states… eg. lying, mental disease, violent tendencies, etc.). It’s a nice quick read.

It’s nice to see this topic being addressed while the technology is still relatively young and (for the most part) still confined to the lab.

Also, this is our 100th posting on the blog… and it’s only been about a year…

Language origins without the semantic urge

In this very interesting article, Martin Sereno argues that rather than evolving out of inflexible, hardwired emotion-linked calls, language may have evolved out of complex, flexible learned vocalization patterns which at first had no meaning attached to them (something like birdsong).

Sereno, M. I.(2005) Language origins without the semantic urge. Cognitive Science Online, 3, pp. 1-12.

Read on for the abstract.
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McCulloch-Pitts-Wiener neurons?

Interesting article in the NYT about a new biography of Norbert Wiener, the father of the field of cybernetics. The surprising revelation is that Wiener (who received a PhD from Harvard in mathematical psychology at the age of 18) was “tricked” by his wife into stopping his collaboration with McCulloch, shortly before McCulloch went on to propose the perceptron with Walter Pitts.

The relevant portion is cited below…
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How much do neural systems vary between individuals?

An interesting article in J Neurosci from Eve Marder’s group on the variability of a neural system (in this case, lobster stomatogastric ganglion) between individuals. In the STG, they found no difference between adults and juvenile. (In lobsters, the adult is about 10X the size of the juvenile.) Also, between different adults, the waveforms displayed variability in frequency and bursts per peak but the phase relationships between specific neurons was the same.

To me, this work seems very exciting as I am not aware of much literature on saying *what* biological/neurophysiological phenomena are important in determining behavior (eg. individual spikes, synchronicity, Ca, dendritic effects, etc.) Of course, I don’t really know this literature in great depth…

Read on for the abstract.
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