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A writer for publications including The New York Times and Wired, Clive Thompson is used to defending the latest trends in digital technology from naysayers and skeptics. In 2008, he was one of the first to describe how sites like Twitter were about more than sharing what you had for breakfast. Now he’s written his first book, Smarter Than You Think, an investigation of how technology is helping us to learn more and retain information longer. Clive took some time to talk with us about the new book, distraction, MOOCs, and how he uses technology with his kids.

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A video of a new virtual reality prototype that uses both Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra technology shows how users can use their mind to move around artificial environments.

Users require an Emotiv EPOC, a device capable of mapping certain thought patterns to actions, to read their brainwaves in order to interact with the prototype through thought. Naturally, this is still in its experimental phase; While virtual reality technology is becoming affordable, the Emotiv EPOC's capabilities are "still quite primitive," and not wholly user friendly, writes developer Chris Zaharia.

"With my experience in the education industry through my startup Zookal and keen interest in neuroscience, I had a thought around how these technologies could be used together to enhance education and at the same time, see how far can we go with using cognitive control in a virtual simulation," he writes.

Zaharia hopes to explore the possibility of using virtual reality for educational purposes ranging from engineering to biology. The demo offers a look at what is currently possible using virtual reality headsets, motion tracking through Razer Hydra and cognitive control in virtual simulations.

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Original author: 
John Timmer

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One of the problems with cognitive and behavioral research is getting a good cross-section of the general population. Although they're convenient to work with, a couple hundred college students rarely represent the full diversity of human capability and behavior, yet that's exactly what many studies rely on. But a brain-training game may now provide access to data on scales that behavioral scientists probably never dreamed of. With a user base of over 35 million, the data obtained through the game could help us tease out very subtle effects. But as a start, a team of researchers have focused on some simpler questions: how aging and alcohol affect our ability to learn.

The software is less a game itself than a game and survey platform. Developed by a company called Lumosity, it's available on mobile platforms and through a Web interface. The platform can run a variety of games (a typical one asks users to answer math questions that appear in raindrops before they hit the ground), all with an emphasis on brain training. A few games are available for free and users can pay to get access to more advanced ones.

The scientific literature on brain training games is a bit mixed, and there's some controversy about whether the games improve mental function in general, or only those specific areas of cognition that the game focuses on. Lumosity clearly argues for the former and one of its employees pointed Ars to a number of studies that he felt validate the company's approach. What's not in doubt, however, is that it has a huge user base with over 35 million registered users. And because the Lumosity platform is flexible, it has been able to get basic demographic information from many of those users; they and others have also filled out personality profiles and other assessments.

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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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TEDxTalks


You Can Change Your Brain: Matthew Keener at TEDxGrandviewAve

A physician and brain imaging researcher, Dr. Keener is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the CEO and founder of Emodt healt...
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TEDTalks

When two people are trying to make a deal -- whether they’re competing or cooperating -- what’s really going on inside their brains? Behavioral economist Colin Camerer shows research that reveals just how little we’re able to predict what others are thinking. And he presents an unexpected study that shows chimpanzees might just be better at it than we are. (Filmed at TEDxCalTech.)

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Neural Computation: Markus Meister at TEDxCaltech

Markus Meister is professor of biology at the Caltech. He studied physics in Germany and then at Caltech, where he received his Ph.D. (1987). After postdoctoral research at Stanford, Markus moved to Harvard University, where he held the Jeff C. Tarr Chair in Molecular and Cellular Biology until 2012. Last summer he finally followed the siren song of Southern California and returned to his roots. Markus has been studying how large circuits of nerve cells work. In particular, his research opened a window onto the sophisticated computations performed by the retina. His long-term goal is a framework akin to electronics by which one can understand how structure and function of the neural circuits are related. He received the Lawrence C. Katz Prize for Innovative Research in Neuroscience and the Golden Brain Award for Vision and Brain Research from the Minerva Foundation. In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations) On January 18, 2013, Caltech hosted TEDxCaltech: The Brain, a forward-looking celebration of <b>...</b>
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Can We Expand Our Consciousness with Neuroprosthetics?: Malcolm MacIver at TEDxCaltech

Malcolm Maclver's formative years were as a grade four dropout living with his off-the-grid parents in a remote part of northern Ontario, Canada. He's since overcompensated by getting training in a host of disciplines including computer science, philosophy, neuroscience, and engineering, and is now a professor of engineering and neurobiology at Northwestern University. He works on the relationship between how animals move and how they sense their environment. He also develops technology based on exotic movement and sensing capabilities of animals. He pioneered the development of a new sensor inspired by the ability of certain fish to sense using a self-generated electric field. This new technology holds great promise for enabling work around oil spills or in submerged vessels where ordinary vision is useless. He has served as science advisor for several sci-fi TV series and movies, blogs about science for Discover magazine, and develops science-inspired interactive art installations that have exhibited internationally. In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are <b>...</b>
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