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Anatomy

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Original author: 
Ben Popper

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The field of neuroscience has been animated recently by the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI. When a person lies in an fMRI machine, scientists can see their brain activity in real time. It’s a species of mind reading that promises to unlock the still mysterious workings of our grey matter.

In April, a team in Japan announced that they could identify when a subject was dreaming about different types of objects like a house, a clock, or a husband. Last November, another group of researchers using this technique was able to predict if gadget columnist David Pogue was thinking about a skyscraper or a strawberry.

What earlier studies couldn’t determine, however, was how the subjects were actually feeling. A new...

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Original author: 
Soulskill

An anonymous reader writes "We're seeing a new revolution in artificial intelligence known as deep learning: algorithms modeled after the brain have made amazing strides and have been consistently winning both industrial and academic data competitions with minimal effort. 'Basically, it involves building neural networks — networks that mimic the behavior of the human brain. Much like the brain, these multi-layered computer networks can gather information and react to it. They can build up an understanding of what objects look or sound like. In an effort to recreate human vision, for example, you might build a basic layer of artificial neurons that can detect simple things like the edges of a particular shape. The next layer could then piece together these edges to identify the larger shape, and then the shapes could be strung together to understand an object. The key here is that the software does all this on its own — a big advantage over older AI models, which required engineers to massage the visual or auditory data so that it could be digested by the machine-learning algorithm.' Are we ready to blur the line between hardware and wetware?"

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Photo

Last week we heard about the Argus II, a device that can restore partial sight to some blind people, and this week a new retinal prosthesis is promising to go one step further. While the Argus II relies on glasses, an externally-mounted video camera, and a separate processing box, the Alpha IMS system detects light coming into the eye via electrodes implanted underneath the patient's retina, before feeding it into a microchip that sends the signals to the brain. The brain then processes the data as it would organic signals from a healthy eye, and the patient sees a black and white image. There's also a dial fitted behind the ear for adjusting brightness, and the whole system is powered wirelessly by a pocket battery.

Developed by...

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"Thanks for the memories, but I'd prefer a bite to eat."

UFL.edu

As the organ responsible for maintaining equilibrium in the body and the most energy-demanding of all the organs, the brain takes a lot of the body's energy allocation. So when food is in short supply, the brain is the organ that is fed first. But what happens when there isn’t enough food to fulfill the high-energy needs of the brain and survival is threatened?

The brain does not simply self-allocate available resources on the fly; instead it “trims the fat” by turning off entire processes that are too costly. Researchers from CNRS in Paris created a true case of do-or-die, starving flies to the point where they must choose between switching off costly memory formation or dying. When flies are starved, their brains will block the formation of aversive long-term memories, which depend on costly protein synthesis and require repetitive learning.

But that doesn't mean all long-term memories are shut down. Appetitive long-term memories, which can be formed after a single training, are enhanced during a food shortage.

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Pyramidal neurons have a distinctive shape and set of connections.

Gao lab, Drexel

The cerebral cortex—the gray matter that forms the outer layers of the mammalian cerebrum and cerebellum—is divided into six different layers based on the presence of specialized neurons, and we've known that since the early 1900s. Denis Jabaudon is interested in using the tools of modern biology to understand the genetic mechanisms that establish and maintain those layers. Over the past few years, his lab has published papers implicating various genes in the generation of specific neuronal subtypes.

Now they have gone a step further. They have developed a new electrochemical method to transfer genes into specific types of neurons—they call it iontoporation. Using it, they have transformed one type of neuron in a mature brain into a different type entirely. (Imagine a lightning bolt and crash of thunder here to indicate how momentous and scary this is.) Just kidding—it’s not actually scary. Instead, it tells us something about the ability of a mature brain to adapt to being rewired.

Although Jabaudon and others have made some headway in working out how the different neurons arise, they still don’t know how plastic they are—if they can change fates after they started differentiating down one particular path. In the context of brain injury, it would be useful to know if certain neural circuits could be reprogrammed and repaired by having the neurons that are already present change fates to adapt to the damage. But this has been challenging to determine, because changing the fate of specific neurons in the latter stages of differentiation has been technically difficult.

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adeelarshad82 writes "Oculus VR Rift is a one of the seventeen kickstarter projects to raise more than a million dollars in 2012 and a recently published hands-on shows exactly why it was so successful. Using Oculus VR Rift with the upcoming Infinity Blade and a modified version of Unreal Tournament 3, the analyst found that the 3D effect and head tracking provided a great sense of immersion. At one point while playing Infinity Blade, the analyst describes walking around the guards and watching their swords shift as he stepped, seeming like they were inches from cutting him. While he felt that the demo was impressive, he found that the software limitations made the whole experience a bit unrealistic. Needless to say that Oculus Rift is a long way from hitting stores but Oculus VR is getting ready to ship developer kits."

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Einstein brain

Researchers at Florida State University have gotten a close look at unpublished photos of Albert Einstein's brain that collectively reveal the brilliant physicist's entire cerebral cortex. 14 images in all were analyzed, with most taken from "unconventional angles" according to a study published today. They reveal some striking physical differences between Einstein's cranium and that of your average person.

First and foremost, Einstein's prefrontal cortex is described as "extraordinary," with experts surmising this may have contributed to his astute cognitive abilities. The photos also dispel earlier beliefs that Einstein's brain was spherical in shape; it was not. All in all, the research suggests such anomalies may have "provided...

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You’ve just run a marathon in the sweltering August sun and you’re body is overheating. While other runners are gulping down cups of cold water, you calmly plug your forearm into the Glove. Not only does it cool your core temperature down in minutes, it erases muscle fatigue, which enables you to push your body farther and harder. The technology is “equal to or substantially better than steroids … and it’s not illegal,” said one Stanford biologist working on the Glove.

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