Progress toward virtual E. Coli

For those who contemplate the day when we can say the workings of the brain are fully understood and solved, this article (Building a Virtual Microbe, Gene by Gene by Gene – New York Times) about the consortium trying to do the same for the simple bacterium E. Coli is humbling.

Click more for some interesting excerpts. Continue reading

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Evolutionary psychology of gossip

Have You Heard? Gossip Turns Out to Serve a Purpose – New York Times

From the article:

Gossip not only helps clarify and enforce the rules that keep people working well together, studies suggest, but it circulates crucial information about the behavior of others that cannot be published in an office manual. As often as it sullies reputations, psychologists say, gossip offers a foothold for newcomers in a group and a safety net for group members who feel in danger of falling out.

Myomancy

Myomancy is my blog on research into ADHD, dyslexia and autism. Its aim is to take the scientific research and make it accessible for parents, sufferers and educators. My background is in computers but my interest in nueroscience comes from a lifetime of trying to understand how my dyslexic brain was different from everyone else. This interest grew into a hobby and it now threatens to become semi-professional involvement following my successful dyslexia treatment and the lauch on Myomancy.

Chris Tregenza

RNI becomes Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience

Jeff Hawkins has just sent out an email to the Redwood Neuroscience Institute mailing list announcing that it’s moving to UC Berkeley and changing its name to the Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience. It will be directed by Bruno Olshausen. Jeff also mentions that he will now be working full-time on his brain-theory-inspired AI projects at Numenta.

Full letter after the jump.

Continue reading

More than mirror neurons?

The Aug 4 issue of Neuron has an interesting article (news & views) on fMRI of the ventral (“what”/perception) and dorsal (“where”/motor) visual pathways.

Subjects in the fMRI were either shown images of objects alone or hands grasping these objects. Reliably, the object-only stimuli activated the contralateral ventral visual pathway. In the case of grasping stimuli where the hand was presented in the opposite visual hemifield from the object, contralateral activation of the dorsal and ventral visual pathways was seen. When subjects were asked to focus their attention on either object or grasping hand, activation was pronounced in the ventral or dorsal visual streams, respectively.

Most importantly, the study affirms that there really isn’t a single fundamental visual representation in the brain — the representation used to recognize an object is not the same as the representation used to pick up that object. Because of the different functions of these tasks, this probably doesn’t sound too surprising but, to me, it is surprising! What we consciously see is neurally separate from what our motor system is “seeing” and the break between the two pathways happens quite early in visual processing.

Like the mirror neuron work, this provides further evidence in the “seeing is believing/doing” vein. As the author of the news and views summary points out, this work

remind[s] us once more that (ultimately) the brain did not evolve to enable us to think; it evolved to enable us to act.

Lastly, this type of idea is the basis of Rodolfo Llinas’s elegant book i of the vortex, which I’ve been reading recently. So far, it’s great and I recommend it highly!

Design Principles of a Neuromotor Prosthetic Device

Hi guys,

First of all, congratulations for this great blog that even allows the readers to publish stuff. My name is David and I am a Ph.D student at the Max Planck Institute for molecular genetics in Berlin, Germany. I just wanted to share with you a paper from Dr. Donoghue, one of the founders of Cyberkinetics and an expert in the field of computer-brain interfaces, which provides very useful analysis and insights on these devices. Anyone interested on the field, should take a look at it. Lots of interesting material!

http://donoghue.neuro.brown.edu/pubs/2003-SerruyaDonoghue-Chap3-preprint.pdf [Design Principles of a Neuromotor Prosthetic Device]