Why Tononi is wrong

In a recent NY Times article, Tononi chooses to propose a rather sketchily-described “Shannon informational” model to supplant a gamma synchrony model partly on these grounds;

“Dr. Tononi sees serious problems in these models. When people lose consciousness from epileptic seizures, for instance, their brain waves become more synchronized. If synchronization were the key to consciousness, you would expect the seizures to make people hyperconscious instead of unconscious, he said. “

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/science/21consciousness.html?_r=1

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When Will We Be Able to Build Brains Like Ours?

When Will We Be Able to Build Brains Like Ours? – by Terry Sejnowski – scientificamerican.com

Terry Sejnowski discusses the recent ‘catfight’ that erupted between Dharmenda Modha of IBM and Henry Markram of the EPFL over claims from Modha that his group had successfully modeled the brain of a cat.

Dr. Sejnowski provides a summary of the quest to describe the nervous system using computational models and introduces a central question: What level of abstraction is appropriate?

“Looking at the same neuron, physicists and engineers tend to see the simplicity whereas biologists tend to see the complexity. The problem with simplified models is that they may be throwing away the baby with the bathwater. The problem with biophysical models is that the number of details is nearly infinite and much of it is unknown. How much brain function is lost by using simplified neurons and circuits?”

Despite the differing approaches, both Modha and Markram say we’ll have a model human brain by 2019. Sejnowski claims that these will be impoverished brain models, “at best these simulations will resemble a baby brain, or perhaps a psychotic one”, but he does remain hopeful in his closing remarks:

“And gradually, as it increasingly mimics the workings of our brains, the world around us will become smarter and more efficient. As this cognitive infrastructure evolves, it may someday even reach a point where it will rival our brains in power and sophistication. Intelligence will inherit the earth.”

Submitted By: Dan Knudsen

What does it really mean to be "smart?"

CNN News ran a segment last month on the meaning and impact of intelligence on a person’s life, as measured through a test such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale which gives an “IQ.” Dr. John Gabrieli of MIT displays brain scans that  show functional differences between brains of low IQ and high IQ subjects while completing intelligence tests in an MRI scanner. The higher IQ brain shows less activity than the lower IQ brain during the same task, indicating that smarter brains are more efficient.

The findings on IQ mentioned in the report are remarkable. The standing debate on the importance of IQ is also on display here. Researchers have found that 25% of what makes one successful can be attributed to IQ -but Dr. Gabrieli points to findings that increases in IQ are linked to “a better paying job, a healthy future, more stability in your family life.” This makes the prospect of “training intelligence” to increase IQ scores all the more alluring and relevant. A demonstration of a computer working memory task that is used to “train intelligence” is featured in the segment.

Watch the segment here:

http://cnn.com/video/?/video/health/2010/03/22/am.cho.intelligence.part1.cnn

Read more about the working memory task featured in the segment:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/04/25/0801268105.abstract

-A Neurodudes Reader

Conference on Neuroprosthetic Devices

The First International Conference on Neuroprosthetic Devices will take place at National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan on March 19th and 20th, 2009. The mission of this newly founded conference is to foster West-East interaction and collaboration in the rapidly advancing clinical use of neuroprosthetics. The specific aim of the first conference is to expose unique technological and neurological research opportunities in Taiwan. National Chaio Tung University is one of the best universities in Taiwan and is located right next to the world-famous HsinChu Science Park hosting hundreds of biotechnology, semiconductor, and electronics companies.

The conference sessions will cover several key areas in the neuroprosthetic development, such as deep brain stimulation for treatment of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, devices for restoring hearing and overcoming muscle paralysis, microelectrode biocompatibility, and novel microelectrode technologies. For detailed conference program and registration information, please visit http://www.bsrc.nctu.edu.tw/ICND/.

Determining research trends from Neuroscience abstracts

In this paper at arXiv, Yin et al. report on an analysis of the abstracts from the SfN meetings from 2001 to 2006. It sounds like their analysis uncovered several interesting trends: Two they mention in their abstract are that 60% of authors appear in only one year’s abstracts over the studied period, and that systems neuroscience seems to be on the rise relative to cellular and molecular neuroscience.

-John O’Leary

A Compact Multiphoton 3D Imaging System for Recording Fast Neuronal Activity

People have been talking about doing this for many years, but this article is the first I’ve seen that describes a practical two-photon microscope that I’ve seen that can image a decent field of view (e.g., 150 microns x 150 microns x 150 microns) at “over 100 volumes per second, at the resolution limit.” And the whole thing — laser included — costs around $40,000. Paper shows sample images as well as schematics and protocols.

— posted by Ed

Bad-ass squirrels

In the new issue of PNAS, a totally awesome discovery about an infrared inter-species signalling system:

Ground squirrels not only heat up their tails to deter snake attacks — but they also seem to use the strategy selectively against infrared-sensitive snakes — leading us to the ultimate conclusion that when the bees are gone, the squirrels will inherit the earth…

You can check out an infrared-eye-view of squirrel/snake battles here because I don’t know how to post movies on the internet yet

–Davie

SciVee provides video supplements for academic publications

The supercomputer center in San Diego has created a cool site called SciVee for scientists to upload brief videos introducing/explaining their publications.

There is quite some variety in the style of these short lectures (even though there are only a few currently posted). Some give a list of the key findings of the publications and others doing a much better job of making their work more accessible by providing an introduction/context and avoiding technical jargon.

NYTimes article on light-triggered stimulation

“It sounds like a science-fiction version of stupid pet tricks: by toggling a light switch, neuroscientists can set fruit flies a-leaping and mice a-twirling and stop worms in their squiggling tracks. But such feats, unveiled in the past two years, are proof that a new generation of genetic and optical technology can give researchers unprecedented power to turn on and off targeted sets of cells in the brain, and to do so by remote control…”

Reviews the use of photosensitive proteins in neuroscience and even gives a shout-out to Ed Boyden, of Stanford and MIT fame…

— Davie (who had the same advisor as Ed for about a day and is therefore 0.01% more famous by association)