Tag Archives: AI & Cognitive Science

My daughter is engaged to a robot

If your kid came home and told you she was planning to marry a robot, would you be accepting? Do you think the possibility of such is just folly? The author of this piece thinks we should take it seriously.

Guess Who’s Rolling to Dinner

August 13, 2011 by Mark Brady

In the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy have their white, liberal views tested when their daughter brings home Sidney Poitier as her new fiancé. Well, many parents raising children today are going to have their own views and values put to a similar test in the not too distant future. Only this time it won’t be a fiancé of a different color, he or she will be of a different techno-biological persuasion. Welcome to the singular world of … Loveotics.

Many parents already struggle with how much time their kids spend on the computer playing video games, living a Second Life and social networking. Just imagine what it’s going to be like when Johnny or Jane calls and breaks the news: they’ve decided to marry a bot. Sounds pretty far-fetched, doesn’t it? So do many developments in today’s world until we begin to raise our head and our consciousness and begin to look around. And then drill down into specifics and discover astonishing developments going on that we were completely unaware of.

Read the rest here: committedparent.wordpress.com

Understanding the Mind by Mapping the Brain

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1417334557

Physicists show that quantum ignorance is hard to expose

ScienceDaily (Aug. 4, 2011) — No one likes a know-it-all but we expect to be able to catch them out: someone who acts like they know everything but doesn’t can always be tripped up with a well-chosen question. Can’t they? Not so. New research in quantum physics has shown that a quantum know-it-all could lack information about a subject as a whole, yet answer almost perfectly any question about the subject’s parts.

Read more at: sciencedaily.com

How Smart Are Planet’s Apes? 7 Intelligence Milestones

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The supersmart chimpanzees of the new movieRise of the Planet of the Apes may exist only on the silver screen—but in real life, great apes are still brainiacs of the animal kingdom.

Suicide Victims Found to Have Abnormal Brain Cells | Astrocytes | LiveScience


CT scans of a human brain.
CT scans of a human brain.

CREDIT: Dreamstime


Changes to some of the star-shaped brain cells called astrocytes may play a role in depression, a new study finds.

The findings are based on the postmortem examination of brains of depressed individuals who committed suicide.

The researchers focused on a part of the brain involved in mood regulation and decision making, called the anterior cingulate cortex. In depressed people, some astrocytes were larger and more branched than those of people with no history of psychiatric illness who died suddenly, the researchers said.

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These differences showed up only in the brains’ white matter, not gray matter. White matter, found deep inside the brain, consists mostly of “cables” that allow different brain areas to communicate.

The study adds to a growing body of research linking changes in white matter to depression. It is the first study to “zoom in” and observe changes occurring at a cellular level, said study researcher Naguib Mechawar of McGill University in Quebec.

The researchers said they don’t know whether these alterations are a cause or effect of depression and can only speculate on how the changes would contribute to the mood disorder. It’s likely they would affect communication between the anterior cingulate cortex and other parts of the brain, Mechawar added.

Different matter

Astrocytes belong to a group of brain cells known as glial cells. (Glia is Greek for “glue.”) For most of the previous century, glial cells were thought to be minor players in brain activity, providing structural and nutritional support for neurons, which were thought to do the heavy lifting.

But recently scientists have come to realize these cells play an important role in brain function, and they have been implicated in diseases such as depression. “They’re not just innocent bystanders,” Mechawar said.

Mechawar and colleagues obtained brain samples from 10 people who had committed suicide while suffering depressive episodes, and from 10 other deceased people, which served as a control group. The researchers stained the brain cells so they could distinguish the cells’ individual features.

There was virtually no difference in astrocytes in the gray matter of the two groups. However, in the white matter, astrocytes were bigger, and had about twice as many branches, in the people who had committed suicide. Furthermore, the branches were about twice as long.

Inflammation in the brain

The researchers said the astrocytes may have changed in reaction to a change in their environment – specifically, inflammation in the brain. Chronically high levels of inflammation have been linked to stress and are known to be bad for health.

The immune system produces inflammation as a reaction to foreign invaders, but it also can occur independent of infection. Astrocytes are known to swell up when they sense inflammation.

The new study adds weight to what is called the neuroinflammatory theory of depression. This theory posits that molecules involved in inflammation play a role in the development of depressive symptoms. Several independent studies have found elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood of depressed people. And treatments that include molecules that promote inflammation can induce depressive-like symptoms, the researchers said.

If inflammation in the brain is indeed tied to depression, treatment to reduce inflammation may one day help ameliorate the mental condition, Mechawar said.

The results were published this week in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Pass it on: Astrocytes in the brain’s white matter are abnormal in depressed subjects who have committed suicide.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, sister site to LiveScience.

Rise of the Intelligent Machines (Part 1)

Will machines ever think?

 

Clockwork gears

The human mind is the most complex intelligence we know of. It represents the apex in a world filled with intellectual diversity. Perhaps because of this, most of us seem to find it exceedingly easy to dismiss any attempt to equate the behaviors of machines with intelligence.* After all, these are mere bits of metal and silicon, the descendants of clockwork dolls and mechanical calculators. But perhaps if we looked a little closer, we’d think differently.

 

We are far from the only biological intelligence on the planet. Primates and cetaceans are certainly intelligent, even sentient. Few of us would quibble with that. If we step back a little further, even “lower” mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians display significant intelligence. Taken a bit further, we have little problem ascribing intelligence to insects and worms, even if it is, by our standards, rudimentary.

So how far back along our ancestral line can we take this? One of the earliest multi-celled animals, cnidarians, had the first neural net, a precursor to the far more complex brains that would come later. Can we go further still? Single-celled organisms such as paramecium and cyanobacteria can move in response to light, heat and chemical gradients. Is this intelligence? The better question might be, relative to what?

Read more here: pt5.psychologytoday.com

Transcendental Meditation Improves Brain Functioning In Students With ADHD

students in the study

Students with ADHD practiced Transcendental Meditation 10 minutes twice a day at school during a study to measure brain functioning and cognitive development. Credit: Maharishi University of Management

A random-assignment controlled study published today in Mind & Brain, The Journal of Psychiatry found improved brain functioning and decreased symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, in students practicing the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique. The paper, “ADHD, Brain Functioning, and Transcendental Meditation Practice,” is the second published study demonstrating Transcendental Meditation’s ability to help students with attention-related difficulties. Included in this report is a link to a free digital version of this journal that includes the referenced study.

The first exploratory study, published in Current Issues in Education, followed a group of middle school students diagnosed with ADHD who meditated twice a day in school. After 3 months, researchers found over 50% reductions in stress, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms. During the study, a video was made of some students discussing what it felt like to have ADHD, and how those experiences changed after 3 months of regular Transcendental Meditation practice.

In this second study, lead author, neuroscientist Fred Travis, PhD, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, joined principal investigator Sarina J. Grosswald, EdD, a George Washington University-trained cognitive learning specialist, and co-researcher William Stixrud, PhD, a prominent Silver Spring, Maryland, clinical neuropsychologist, to investigate the effects of Transcendental Meditation practice on task performance and brain functioning in 18 ADHD students, ages 11-14 years.

The study was conducted over a period of 6 months in an independent school for children with language-based learning disabilities in Washington, DC. The study showed improved brain functioning, increased brain processing, and improved language-based skills among ADHD students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique.

A local TV news station reported on the study in-progress during the first 3 months.

Futurity.org – Bilingual kids tune into right stuff

Bilingualism helps young children know what they should pay attention to and what they can ignore. (Credit: iStockphoto)

CORNELL (US) — Young children who learn a second language have a heightened ability to pay attention to what’s important and to ignore what’s not.

“Our study showed that bilingualism in young children strengthens what is known as executive attention, which helps orient individuals in the sea of information coming in,” says Sujin Yang, formerly a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University and currently professor at Tyndale University College in Canada. “It helps them know what to pay attention to, what to ignore, and what action to take.”

The study is published in the July issue of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

Straight from the Source

Read the original study

DOI: 10.1017/S1366728910000611


“We were able to begin to separate out the effects of bilingualism from the effects of culture, which other studies had not done,” notes co-author Barbara Lust, professor of human development at Cornell University.

“Culture strongly influences parenting and child development. Emphasis on behavioral control and inhibition at an early age—a feature more often found in East Asian cultures—has been linked to improved attention in children. Western cultures, by contrast, tend to emphasize individuality and self expression.”

In the study of 56 4-year-olds with college-educated parents living in middle-class neighborhoods, researchers compared native English-only speaking U.S. children, bilingual children in the United States, Korean-only speaking children in the United States, and Korean-only speaking children in Korea.

The Korean and Korean-English speaking children from the United States had first generation native Korean parents; the bilingual children had about 11 months of formal exposure to English through a bilingual daycare program.

A child’s version of a computer-game test that is designed to assess various components of executive attention showed that the Korean-English bilingual children were significantly faster and more accurate compared with the other three groups.

The Korean-speaking children in Korea were more accurate than the Korean-only and English-only speaking children in the United States, indicating a sizable effect of culture. This accuracy, however, was accompanied by slower response times.

The results suggest not only that bilingualism is good for executive attention, but also that executive attention develops quite early in both cognitive development and in the process of gaining a second language.

“If executive attention is improved by bilingualism, then we should be able to detect and perhaps enhance improvements in academic skills,” Lust says.

“Ultimately, we want to understand how bilingualism is creating the advanced executive attention. Understanding this could potentially lead to other interventions to facilitate the development of this essential capacity.”

More news from Cornell University: www.news.cornell.edu

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Futurity.org – Bilingual kids tune into right stuff

Bilingualism helps young children know what they should pay attention to and what they can ignore. (Credit: iStockphoto)

CORNELL (US) — Young children who learn a second language have a heightened ability to pay attention to what’s important and to ignore what’s not.

“Our study showed that bilingualism in young children strengthens what is known as executive attention, which helps orient individuals in the sea of information coming in,” says Sujin Yang, formerly a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University and currently professor at Tyndale University College in Canada. “It helps them know what to pay attention to, what to ignore, and what action to take.”

The study is published in the July issue of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition.

Straight from the Source

Read the original study

DOI: 10.1017/S1366728910000611


“We were able to begin to separate out the effects of bilingualism from the effects of culture, which other studies had not done,” notes co-author Barbara Lust, professor of human development at Cornell University.

“Culture strongly influences parenting and child development. Emphasis on behavioral control and inhibition at an early age—a feature more often found in East Asian cultures—has been linked to improved attention in children. Western cultures, by contrast, tend to emphasize individuality and self expression.”

In the study of 56 4-year-olds with college-educated parents living in middle-class neighborhoods, researchers compared native English-only speaking U.S. children, bilingual children in the United States, Korean-only speaking children in the United States, and Korean-only speaking children in Korea.

The Korean and Korean-English speaking children from the United States had first generation native Korean parents; the bilingual children had about 11 months of formal exposure to English through a bilingual daycare program.

A child’s version of a computer-game test that is designed to assess various components of executive attention showed that the Korean-English bilingual children were significantly faster and more accurate compared with the other three groups.

The Korean-speaking children in Korea were more accurate than the Korean-only and English-only speaking children in the United States, indicating a sizable effect of culture. This accuracy, however, was accompanied by slower response times.

The results suggest not only that bilingualism is good for executive attention, but also that executive attention develops quite early in both cognitive development and in the process of gaining a second language.

“If executive attention is improved by bilingualism, then we should be able to detect and perhaps enhance improvements in academic skills,” Lust says.

“Ultimately, we want to understand how bilingualism is creating the advanced executive attention. Understanding this could potentially lead to other interventions to facilitate the development of this essential capacity.”

More news from Cornell University: www.news.cornell.edu

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Chemical found in grapes may protect against Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that grape seed polyphenols—a natural antioxidant—may help prevent the development or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

The research, led by Giulio Maria Pasinetti, MD, PhD, The Saunder Family Professor in Neurology, and Professor of Psychiatry and Geriatrics and Adult Development at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, was published online in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Read about it at alzheimersreadingroom.com