diumenge, 9 de desembre de 2012

El rostro de la parte delantera y de la parte trasera. Ley del equilibrio (II)

Podemos ver que no todos los rostros evolucionan del mismo modo, en su parte anterior y su parte posterior. Hagamos como hicieron los fisiognomistas Polty y Gary a comienzos del siglo XX, y pongamos una cruz en el perfil del rostro, el eje de la cual se encuentra en el agujero de la oreja y que divida el rostro de perfil en zonas.

Parte delantera (E): se corresponde con las capacidades activas y a las fuerzas de expansión. Representa la parte del rostro que está insertada en el ambiente, puesto que tiene el receptores sensoriales que sirven de punto de intercambio con éste. Indica cuál es la parte de las fuerzas del sujeto que intervienen en la acción.

Parte trasera (F): se corresponde a las capacidades pasivas y receptivas. Representan la parte insconsciente de la personalidad, donde se almacena pasivamente la imaginación y el instinto.

Leer el artículo completo

dimecres, 14 de novembre de 2012

Explainer: what is dreaming? In other words: bad sleep equals bad memory

[...] in recent years the role of dreams in cognition has been reinvigorated by the discovery that the two basic modes of sleep – dream (REM) sleep and Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) – play quite different roles in how we recover from the trials and tribulations of wakefulness.

machineslikeus.com // Wednesday, 14 November 2012

In simplistic terms, SWS regulates physical recovery and REM mental recovery.

Starting with rodent studies, depriving animals of REM sleep was associated with impaired learning. The way in which memories are laid down and learning consolidated is profoundly linked to brain activity during dreaming sleep.

More recently, the same phenomena have been observed in human studies – and these have spawned a whole new field of REM sleep research linking the quality and quantity of dream sleep to memory and learning.

Back to the start

Ironically, the story may yet come full circle. While the first generation of “scientific” dream research did not find a simple link between the reported content of the dream and psychological health, the next generation of dream research may well uncover a link, however subtle.

Many of the drugs we use to treat depression have profound effects on REM or dreaming sleep. We know the ways in which depressed patients learn and recall memories is very different to people who are not depressed.

Depressed people are more likely to recall negative events, experiences and emotions, and more likely to forget positive ones. We know that people who do not get enough sleep, especially REM sleep, do not learn as effectively.

The next 20 years promise a very new and exciting period for research into REM sleep.

But if we stand aside from the immediacy of the new technologies of sleep and the “science” of recent dream research we can see some broader patterns repeating in the human history of dreaming.

We are still looking at dreams as a different state of consciousness that merges aspects of sleep and wakefulness. We still see dreams as an aspect of mind and brain that can influence how we see and interpret the world.

We now have sufficient knowledge of genetics to see that our brains carry the seeds of the past and that the ways our brains operate do reflect the collective unconscious – an idea posited by Freud’s famous student, Carl Jung.

We still see dreams as a source of inspiration and a canvas upon which we can create new and different possibilities, new futures.

One can only wonder on how we might understand and use our dreams in another thousand years.

Source: http://machineslikeus.com/news/explainer-what-dreaming/page/0/1

dijous, 25 d’octubre de 2012

Identifying the Brain's Own Facial Recognition System

The ability to recognize faces is so important in humans that the brain appears to have an area solely devoted to the task: the fusiform gyrus. Brain imaging studies consistently find that this region of the temporal lobe becomes active when people look at faces. Skeptics have countered, however, that these studies show only a correlation, but not proof, that activity in this area is essential for face recognition. Now, thanks to the willingness of an intrepid patient, a new study provides the first cause-and-effect evidence that neurons in this area help humans recognize faces—and only faces, not other body parts or objects.
Science Now // Elizabeth Norton // 23 October 2012

Well spotted. Two locations in the brain's fusiform gyrus respond to faces (red) but not to other objects (yellow). Credit: J. Parvizi et al., J. Neurosci, Advance Online Edition (2012)

An unusual collaboration between researchers and an epilepsy patient led to the discovery. Ron Blackwell, an engineer in Santa Clara, California, came to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, in 2011 seeking better treatment for his epilepsy. He had suffered seizures since he was a teenager, and at age 47, his medication was becoming less effective. Stanford neurologist Josef Parvizi suggested some tests to locate the source of the seizures—and also suggested that it might be possible to eliminate the seizures by surgically destroying a tiny area of brain tissue where they occurred.

Parvizi used electrodes placed on Blackwell's scalp to trace the seizures to the temporal lobe, about an inch above Blackwell's right ear. Then, surgeons placed more electrodes on the surface of Blackwell's brain, near the suspect point of origin in the temporal lobe. Parvizi stimulated each electrode in turn with a mild current, trying to trigger Blackwell's seizure symptoms under safe conditions. "If we get those symptoms, we know that we are tickling the seizure node," he explains.

Certain electrodes, however, produced a dramatically different result from the colors and memories that Blackwell typically experienced. When Parvizi sent a signal through these electrodes on the fusiform gyrus, Blackwell told him, "You just turned into somebody else. Your whole face just sort of metamorphosed." When the stimulation was halted, Blackwell reported that Parvizi's face had "returned" to normal. The same test caused Blackwell to perceive unsettling distortion in the face of Parvizi's assistant. (See accompanying video.)

But the electrode stimulation affected only Blackwell's perception of faces of people he could see in person. Stimulating the two points also produced no change in Parvizi's suit, tie, or skin color, or in other objects around the room.

While the electrodes were in place, Parvizi got Blackwell's permission to turn the clinical probe into a research study, described online tomorrow in The Journal of Neuroscience. Teaming up with Stanford neuroscientist Kalanit Grill-Spector, who studies the brain areas important in facial recognition, he scanned Blackwell's brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and confirmed that the two electrodes that influenced Blackwell's perception of faces were at points in the fusiform gyrus implicated by Grill-Spector's previous research. The researchers also recorded brain activity using the electrodes they'd placed on Blackwell's brain with a technique called electrocorticography. They found that the activity picked up by the electrodes at the two "hot spots" tracked with peak activity at these sites, as measured by fMRI.

Cognitive neuroscientist Juan R. Vidal of the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France applauds the authors' use of multiple methods and says the study is the first to prove that the fusiform gyrus plays a causal role in face perception. Previous studies only showed that the area is involved, Vidal says. "The complementary evidence of electrocorticography, fMRI, and brain stimulation will make it possible to study not only the effects of brain stimulation on the local neural networks that process face information, but also how they broadcast their information towards other regions in the brain."

Source: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/10/identifying-the-brains-own-facia.html?rss=1

dimarts, 23 d’octubre de 2012

Link between creativity and mental illness confirmed

People in creative professions are treated more often for mental illness than the general population, there being a particularly salient connection between writing and schizophrenia. This according to researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, whose large-scale registry study is the most comprehensive ever in its field.

Last year, the team showed that artists and scientists were more common amongst families where bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is present, compared to the population at large. They subsequently expanded their study to many more psychiatric diagnoses – such as schizoaffective disorder, depression, anxiety syndrome, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, autism, ADHD, anorexia nervosa and suicide – and to include people in outpatient care rather than exclusively hospital patients.

The present study tracked almost 1.2 million patients and their relatives, identified down to second-cousin level. Since all were matched with healthy controls, the study incorporated much of the Swedish population from the most recent decades. All data was anonymized and cannot be linked to any individuals.

The results confirmed those of their previous study, that certain mental illness – bipolar disorder – is more prevalent in the entire group of people with artistic or scientific professions, such as dancers, researchers, photographers and authors. Authors also specifically were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse) and were almost 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Further, the researchers observed that creative professions were more common in the relatives of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anorexia nervosa and, to some extent, autism. According to Simon Kyaga, Consultant in psychiatry and Doctoral Student at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the results give cause to reconsider approaches to mental illness.

"If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment," he says. "In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. In psychiatry and medicine generally there has been a tradition to see the disease in black-and-white terms and to endeavour to treat the patient by removing everything regarded as morbid."

Source: http://machineslikeus.com/news/link-between-creativity-and-mental-illness-confirmed

dimarts, 16 d’octubre de 2012

How diet affects brain functions

Studies released today explore the neurological component of dietary disorders, uncovering evidence that the brain's biological mechanisms may contribute to significant public health challenges — obesity, diabetes, binge eating, and the allure of the high-calorie meal. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2012, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Machines Like Us

Scientists are ultimately searching for new ways to treat diet-related disorders while raising awareness that diet and obesity affect mental as well as physical health.

Today's new findings show that:
  • Being obese appears to affect cognitive function, requiring more effort to complete a complex decision-making task (Timothy Verstynen, PhD, abstract 802.20, see attached summary).
  • Brain images suggest that when people skip breakfast, the pleasure-seeking part of the brain is activated by pictures of high-calorie food. Skipping breakfast also appears to increase food consumption at lunch, possibly casting doubt on the use of fasting as an approach to diet control (Tony Goldstone, MD, PhD, abstract 798.02, see attached summary).
  • A study in rats suggests they may be able to curb binge-eating behavior with medication used to keep substance abusers clean and sober (Angelo Blasio, PhD, abstract 283.03, see attached summary).

Other recent findings discussed show that:
  • Amidst growing concern that diet-related metabolic disorders such as diabetes impair brain function, an animal study reports that a high-sugar diet may affect insulin receptors in the brain and dull spatial learning and memory skills. But omega-3 supplements may at least partially offset this effect (Rahul Agrawal, PhD, see attached summary).
  • Evidence from a rat study suggests that a new compound under development to treat compulsive eating disorders and obesity may be effective at blocking a specific receptor in the brain that triggers food cravings and eating when activated by "food related cues," such as pictures or smells, irrespective of the body's energy needs (Chiara Giuliano, PhD, see attached summary).
"These are fascinating studies because they show the brain is an often overlooked yet significant organ in an array of dietary disorders," said press conference moderator Paul Kenny, PhD, of The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, an expert on addiction and obesity. "Many of these findings have the potential to lead to new interventions that can help reduce the ranks of the obese, helping those who struggle daily with dietary decisions reassert control over what they eat."

dilluns, 1 d’octubre de 2012

Photo distance influences perception

Caltech study shows that the distance at which facial photos are taken influences perception.

Thursday, 27 September 2012 // by Katie Neith // Story Source // machineslikeus.com

[...] "It turns out that faces photographed quite close-up are geometrically warped, compared to photos taken at a larger distance," explains Bryan. "Of course, the close picture would also normally be larger, higher resolution and have different lighting—but we controlled for all of that in our study. What you're left with is a warping effect that is so subtle that nobody in our study actually noticed it. Nonetheless, it's a perceptual clue that influenced their judgments."

That subtle distance warping, however, had a big effect: close-up photos made people look less trustworthy, according to study participants. The close-up photo subjects were also judged to look less attractive and competent.[...]

Source: http://machineslikeus.com/news/photo-distance-influences-perception

divendres, 28 de setembre de 2012

Los niños piensan como los científicos

Experimentan, extraen conclusiones de la observación y tienen preferencia por patrones estadísticos, revela una investigación // Hace 30 años, Jean Piaget –pionero de la teoría del desarrollo cognitivo– defendió que los niños piensan de manera opuesta al método científico. El especialista describía de hecho a los pequeños como “irracionales, ilógicos y limitados al aquí y al ahora”. Ahora, una investigación ha revelado justo lo contrario: los niños aprenden de la experimentación, de la observación y de patrones estadísticos.

La comprensión de las relaciones causales al observar el entorno y la capacidad de establecer preferencias a partir de unos patrones estadísticos son algunas de las características de los niños que los convierten en pequeños investigadores.

 Ahora, la investigadora de la Universidad de California en Berkeley Alison Gopnik se ha adentrado en el aprendizaje de los más pequeños con un estudio que publica la revista Science y que puede ayudar a mejorar la enseñanza de las disciplinas científicas.

 Hace 30 años, pensadores como Jean Piaget –pionero de la teoría del desarrollo cognitivo– defendieron que los niños pensaban de manera opuesta al método científico. Él los describía como “irracionales, ilógicos y limitados al aquí y al ahora”, adjetivos que fueron base de inspiración para algunos modelos educativos y políticos de una época en la que, por encima de todo, las técnicas de enseñanza se centraban en el profesor.

Sin embargo, esta nueva investigación refuta las ideas de Piaget y relata un experimento curioso: dos niños menores de dos años ven a una persona ‘A’ que coge ranas de una caja llena de ranas, o bien ranas de una caja en la que solo hay patos.

 ‘A’ se marcha y otra persona ‘B’ da a los niños dos cajas, la primera con ranas y la segunda con patos. Cuando ‘A’ vuelve y extiende la mano, los niños pueden darle tanto una rana como un pato.

La sorpresa de la científica fue que cuando la persona ‘A’ había cogido ranas de la caja llena de patos, los niños le daban una rana porque intuían que prefería las ranas; en cambio, cuando había cogido una rana de la caja llena de ranas, le daban indistintamente un animal o el otro porque intuían que su elección había sido al azar.

Este tipo de respuestas “demuestran que los niños menores de dos años tienen preferencia por patrones estadísticos”, recoge el estudio.

Experimentación y observación 

 En la última década algunas líneas de investigación han propuesto demostrar que los pequeños adquieren conocimiento mediante procesos similares a la inducción característica de la ciencia: analizan patrones estadísticos, hacen experimentos y asimilan conocimientos mediante la observación de lo que hacen los demás.

 El uso de los métodos probabilísticos para conocer el entorno es muestra de la vertiente científica infantil. Las personas adultas, especialmente los científicos, son capaces de saber que hay muchas hipótesis compatibles con la evidencia y que, además, algunas tienen mayor probabilidad de ser acertadas que otras. 

El trabajo explica cómo utilizando la técnica del ‘tiempo de observación’, un grupo de científicos situó a dos niños ante dos cajas, una llena de bolas rojas de pimpón y otra con bolas blancas. Cuando alguien extraía bolas rojas de la caja donde la mayoría de ellas eran blancas, los niños miraban durante más tiempo que cuando cogía muchas bolas rojas de una caja llena de bolas rojas. “Los niños menores de dos años infieren un estado mental subyacente –una preferencia– a partir de un patrón estadístico”, explica el estudio.

 Utilizar la curiosidad infantil para enseñar ciencias 

 Otra faceta del comportamiento científico de los niños es la que les permite “aprender extrayendo conclusiones a partir de lo que hacen los demás”.

 En su investigación se ha analizado el caso de niños de cuatro años que veían secuencias distintas de tres acciones con un juguete. Esas acciones sucedían o no en cada prueba y el análisis estadístico de los datos sugería que solo las últimas dos maniobras eran necesarias para activar el juguete.

Sorprendentemente, cuando los niños cogían el juguete, con frecuencia solo reproducían esas dos acciones relevantes en lugar de imitar todo lo que habían observado antes, lo que explica que “pueden aprender las relaciones causales observando lo que otras personas hacen y el resultado de esas acciones”.

 Saber que los niños aprenden a partir de la estadística y de las acciones de los demás del mismo modo que lo hacen los científicos podría facilitar el marco necesario para que “a partir de ahora se utilice la curiosidad natural de los niños para diseñar nuevos métodos de enseñar y aprender la ciencia”.

Referencia bibliográfica:
Alison Gopnik. Scientific Thinking in Young Children:Theoretical Advances, Empirical Research, and Policy Implications. 27 de septiembre de 2012. Vol 337. 10.1126/science.1223416.

Fuente: http://www.tendencias21.net/Los-ninos-piensan-como-los-cientificos_a13407.html

dijous, 23 d’agost de 2012

Bipolar disorder and creativity found to be linked

Does some fine madness yield great artists, writers, and scientists? The evidence is growing for a significant link between bipolar disorder and creative temperament and achievement.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012 // Machines Like Us // by Claudia Slegers

Does some fine madness yield great artists, writers, and scientists? The evidence is growing for a significant link between bipolar disorder and creative temperament and achievement.

People with bipolar disorder swing repeatedly from depression to euphoria and hyperactivity, or intensely irritable mood states. Sometimes likened to being on an emotional rollercoaster, each swing up then down affects one’s behaviour, energy levels, thought patterns and sleep.

Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is strongly genetically linked, passing down through each generation of an affected family. It is fairly common and very treatable with modern medicines and psychotherapy.

A seminal work in the field is Kay Redfield Jamison’s 1993 book Touched with Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. The American psychologist combined current diagnostic criteria with biographical data, diaries, family trees and other historical information, to closely examine the lives of a sample of major 18th century British poets born between the years 1705 and 1805.

Jamison found a rate of bipolar disorder 30 times greater in these poets than is present in the general population. Jamison’s work also found that the periods psychiatrists call hypomania – mild but not full-blown mania – can also involve heightened creative thinking and expansiveness, high mental speed, cognitive flexibility, and ability to make original connections between otherwise disparate ideas, all elements underlying creativity.

Other studies by Jamison – as published here and here – established that a number of speech components occur in individuals when hypomanic: they are more likely to use alliteration, to rhyme, to use idiosyncratic words, and engage in a playful use of language.

When given drills, they can list synonyms or form word associations more rapidly than control groups. And so they rate highly on tests of creativity. Jamison’s 1989 study of 47 eminent British writers and artists – selected on the basis of their having won at least one of several major prestigious prizes or awards in their fields – found 38% of this group had been treated for a mood disorder, a category that includes depression as well as bipolar disorder.

Recent, large-scale studies provide additional scientific support to Jamison’s work. A whole-population cohort study of all individuals in the Swedish national school register showed that those who demonstrated excellent school performances were nearly four times as likely to develop bipolar disorder as those who exhibited only average performance.

Excellence in language or music was particularly correlated with an increased risk for developing bipolar disorder. Other recent large-scale studies have addressed a different pattern of association – one between creative occupation and mental illness.

These studies found a clear over-representation of people with bipolar disorder (and their healthy siblings) in the most creative occupational categories, which included artists, musicians, writers and scientists.

While large, population-based studies provide us with the scientific rigour to test the link between bipolar disorder and creativity, some of the more interesting studies have involved smaller-scale, reflexive approaches.

Here, writers and artists with personal experience of bipolar disorder have reflected on their own and their peers’ creative processes, exploring how their mood states interact with their productivity.

In 2010, Stephanie Stone Horton reflexively traced her own and her colleagues’ writing creativity and dysfunction as early career writers with bipolar disorder or depression.

Horton described how hypomanic moods often facilitate writing periods characterised by fluency, flair and persuasive power, whereas the periods of mild depression or euthymia (even moods between the extremes) may be better used for the editing and proofing.

Olivia Sagan explored the experiences of mentally ill, developing artists through longitudinal biographical interviews conducted with art students at two university sites.

Narratives involved complex stories in which participants considered their illness to be part of themselves, albeit one that they needed to “manage."

One of the details of the narratives was the hypervigilance of health and ill-health on a continuum which at times threatened to jeopardise the dearly won achievement of becoming an art student. Here, participants often talked about the potentially productive, but also potentially destabalising, role of hypomanic moods.

Let’s be clear. To argue for a link between bipolar disorder and creative achievement is not to argue that all, or even most, artists and writers automatically have a mental illness: indeed, most do not. To make such simplistic generalisations can reinforce the idea of the “mad genius” and trivialise a serious medical condition that can end in suicide.

Yet the evidence to date suggests that a high number of artists and writers, far more than could be expected by chance, meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder.

What are the implications for treatment? First line medication for bipolar disorder, lithium, can cause cognitive dulling and slowing, and limit emotional and perceptual range for some individuals. This is especially significant for those working in creative fields such as artists and writers, who draw on their emotions for creating their work.

It is not surprising then that some artists and writers with bipolar disorder choose not to take medications. But unless an individual has a mild expression of bipolar disorder, the consequences of the condition (suicide, for example) nearly always argue for active treatment.

More research is need to understand not only how mood experiences interact with creative processes and artistic production, but to learn how mood episodes shape decisions about whether or not to accept treatment and if so, the treatment choices.

We also need to learn more about how people with bipolar disorder can best be supported to make the most of their lives, with the highest degree of satisfaction in their achievements.

Society benefits from the achievements of its talented writers, artists, and scientists with mental illness, yet those affected don’t always judge their moments of brilliance to be worth the accompanying pain and distress, and don’t always place their personal wellbeing and adherence to taking medication ahead of the potential to express their creativity.

Source: http://machineslikeus.com/news/bipolar-disorder-and-creativity-found-be-linked

Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain

Exposure to nonstop negativity actually impairs brain function. Here's how to defend yourself

Aug 20, 2012 // Minda Zetlin // http://www.inc.com/

Do you hate it when people complain? It turns out there's a good reason: Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session.

"The brain works more like a muscle than we thought," Blake says. "So if you're pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you're more likely to behave that way as well."

Even worse, being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity--including viewing such material on TV--actually peels away neurons in the brain's hippocampus. "That's the part of your brain you need for problem solving," he says. "Basically, it turns your brain to mush."

But if you're running a company, don't you need to hear about anything that may have gone wrong? "There's a big difference between bringing your attention to something that's awry and a complaint," Blake says. "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. You can almost hear brains clink when six people get together and start saying, 'Isn't it terrible?' This will damage your brain even if you're just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you'll become the target of the complaint."

So, how do you defend yourself and your brain from all the negativity? Blake recommends the following tactics:

1. Get some distance

"My father was a chain smoker," Blake confides. "I tried to change his habit, but it's not easy to do that." Blake knew secondhand smoke could damage his own lungs as well. "My only recourse was to distance myself."

You should look at complaining the same way, he says. "The approach I've always taken with complaining is to think of it as the same as passive smoking." Your brain will thank you if you get yourself away from the complainer, if you can.

2. Ask the complainer to fix the problem

Sometimes getting distance isn't an option. If you can't easily walk away, a second strategy is to ask the complainer to fix the problem.

"Try to get the person who's complaining to take responsibility for a solution," Blake says. "I typically respond to a complaint with, 'What are you going to do about it?'" Many complainers walk away huffily at that point, because he hasn't given them what they wanted, Blake reports. But some may actually try to solve the problem.

3. Shields up!

When you're trapped listening to a complaint, you can use mental techniques to block out the griping and save your neurons. Blake favors one used by the late Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros during a match against Jack Nicklaus--a match the crowd wanted Ballesteros to lose. "He was having difficulty handling the hostility of the crowd," Blake says. "So he imagined a bell jar that no one could see descending from the sky to protect him."

Major League Baseball pitchers can sometimes be seen mouthing "Shields on!" as they stride to the mound, he says. He adds that his own imaginary defense is "more like a Harry Potter invisibility cloak."

A related strategy is to mentally retreat to your imagined favorite spot, someplace you'd go if you could wave a magic wand. "For me, it was a ribbon of beautiful white sugary sand that extended out in a horseshoe shape from a private island," Blake says. "I would take myself to my private retreat while people were ranting and raving. I could smile at them and nod in all the right places and meanwhile take myself for a walk on my private beach."

Blake first saw the picture of the island in a magazine, and the image stuck with him. Eventually, he got a chance to try it for real. "It turned out the island was for rent, and it was the same one I'd seen," he says. "So I rented it for a week. And I got to take that walk."

Source: http://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/listening-to-complainers-is-bad-for-your-brain.html

dimarts, 24 de juliol de 2012

Libro manual de Morfopsicología: "La cara, reflejo del alma" de Jean Spinetta

"Conócete a ti mismo y aprende a conocer a los demás, y conocerás todos los secretos del universo. Esta inscripción del frontón del templo de Delfos sigue siendo de gran actualidad. ¿Cómo se puede encontrar el camino de este conocimiento? La morfopsicología, ciencia del conocimiento del alma, es decir, de los pensamientos y sentimientos del ser humano por la forma de la cara, es uno de los posibles caminos. Esta obra práctica nos hace entrar en él."

Nº de páginas: 272 págs.
Editorial: IBERIA
Encuadernación: Tapa blanda
ISBN: 9788470823008
Año edicón: 1992
Plaza de edición: BARCELONA


dimarts, 26 de juny de 2012

Seeking Emotional Clues Without Facial Cues // NYT

NYT // April 5, 2010 // By BENEDICT CAREY

STUDYING EXPRESSIONS Kathleen Bogart, with her husband, Beau, at Tufts University, where she is a graduate student. Ms. Bogart has Moebius syndrome, which causes facial paralysis.

Like many of the Hurricane Katrinarefugees who straggled into Baton Rouge, La., in the summer of 2005, she needed more than food and shelter. She needed company, sympathy — someone, anyone, to see and feel her loss — and searched the face of her assigned social worker in vain.

But the social worker, barely out of college, seemed somehow emotionally removed. Something was missing.

“I could see the breakdown in the emotional connection between us, could see it happening and there was nothing I could do,” said Kathleen Bogart, 28, the social worker who is now a psychology researcher at Tufts University here. Ms. Bogart has Moebius syndrome, a rare congenital condition named for a 19th-century neurologist that causes facial paralysis.

When the people she helped made a sad expression, she continued, “I wasn’t able to return it. I tried to do so with words and tone of voice, but it was no use. Stripped of the facial expression, the emotion just dies there, unshared. It just dies.”

Researchers have long known that facial expressions are crucial to social interaction and have categorized them in great detail. They know which expressions are universal; they can distinguish slight differences in expression, for example between a polite smile and a genuine one.

Still, a central question remains: How does the brain interpret others’ expressions so quickly and accurately? The answer is likely to be enormously important, experts say, both for understanding how social interactions can go smoothly and how they can go off track.

Studies so far point to what psychologists call facial mimicry. During a social exchange, people subconsciously mirror each other’s surprise, disgust or delight — and, in effect, interpret the emotion by sensing what’s embodied on their own face. Interfere with the ability to mimic, these studies suggest, and people are less adept at reading others’ expressions.

But what if a person cannot mimic any expressions, at all?

In a new study, the largest to date of Moebius syndrome, Ms. Bogart and David Matsumoto, a psychologist at San Francisco State, found that people with the disorder, whatever their social struggles, had no trouble at all recognizing others’ expressions. They do just as well as anyone else in identifying emotions in photographed faces, despite having no way to mimic.

The findings strongly suggest that the brain has other systems to recognize facial expressions, and that people with facial paralysis learn to take advantage of those. “It seems likely they would develop compensatory strategies in response to the long-term impairment,” said Tanya Chartrand, a psychologist at Duke University who is not involved in the Moebius Syndrome study, in an e-mail message. “Ones that don’t rely on the mimicry process and allow them to understand emotion through a different route.”

If such strategies are teachable, experts say, they could help others with social awkwardness, whether because of anxiety, developmental problems like autism, or common causes of partial paralysis, like Bell’s palsy.

“I had no special interest in studying facial paralysis, even though I had it; there were many other things I could have done,” Ms. Bogart said, in her office at Tufts. “But in college I looked to see what psychologists had to say about it, and there was nothing. Very, very little on facial paralysis at all. And I was just — well, I was angry.”

The emotion tightened her fist, straightened her frame and ran up into her eyes, bypassing her face: “Angry. I thought, I might as well do it because certainly no one else is.”

Moebius syndrome has no known cause; it strikes less than one in 100,000 children at birth, resulting in total, or nearly total, facial paralysis. In most cases the eyes don’t blink, and the irises move only up and down, robbing people of sideways glances and an entire vocabulary of gazes, squints and eye-rolls. The taunts tend to start early in childhood and pile up, and no one can see the embarrassment or pain in the target. “Like having a deformity and not being able to communicate, all in one,” Ms. Bogart said.

Most people with the condition adapt. “Just like for blind people, whose senses of touch, smell, hearing become sharper,” Dr. Matsumoto said. “Same thing here, I think, only it’s in the domain of nonverbal communication.” 

In the first of two studies, Ms. Bogart and Dr. Matsumoto had 36 people with Moebius syndrome look at 42 standardized photographs online of expressions, like anger, happiness and sadness. The participants correctly identified the emotions about three-quarters of the time — the same rate as adults without the condition. Their level of impairment was not related to their score. 

The results do not imply that socializing is easy or natural for people with such paralysis; most do struggle, Ms. Bogart and Dr. Matusmoto found in a follow-up study. The main reason for this (beyond the immobile features, which distract some people) has little to do with a deficit in recognizing emotions in others, the studies suggest.

It most likely comes back to mimicry, or the lack thereof. In a series of studies, psychologists have found that social bonding between conversation partners is highly dependent on a rhythmic and usually subconscious give and take of gestures and expressions that creates a kind of shared good will. “Part of that could be the buying in on the interaction itself,” Dr. Chartrand said. If the timing is not just right — the Moebius study did not account for timing — then the buy-in can feel uncertain, and interaction fizzles. The way that many people with complete, or near complete, paralysis overcome this problem is by relying on channels other than the face: eye contact, hand gestures, posture and voice tone. Many people with paralysis can make that expressive instrument as subtle and potent as a string section.
“I found my voice, figuratively and literally, in speech therapy,” said Matthew S. Joffe, the director of student services at LaGuardia Community College and a therapist in private practice, who has Moebius syndrome. Dr. Joffe described his paralysis as pronounced, “with a mouth that hangs open, and a lower lip that protrudes downward.”

“I use humor a lot,” he said. “It’s a way of showing my humanity, for one thing, and over the years people have said I have a great laugh. And I’m old enough now — I can agree. I laugh from the innards of my belly, I have many different laughs for different occasions, each one looks distinct in my body. I learned pretty early on that, given the fairly harsh standards society imposes, that if I didn’t laugh at stuff I would probably just collapse.”

Ms. Bogart, too, has a distinctive laugh. Her jaw drops,, her lips stretch and lift slightly, and her entire torso shakes. The need to rely on these peripheral channels makes people with paralysis especially sensitive to such cues in others. “At a party, I feel like I can tell whether someone will be worth talking to within seconds,” she said. “I can read people’s comfort level, or whether they can work through discomfort, very quickly.”

Taken together, some psychologists say, the evidence from people with paralysis and those without it suggests that the brain is tuning into several channels at once when it reads others’ emotional vibes. Mimicry is surely one — but it needs help. In an experiment published last year, Dutch researchers had 46 students at Leiden University pair off for a three-minute interaction with a fellow student who was either lying or telling the truth about a donation to charity. Those students told not to mimic the expressions of their conversation partner were significantly better at determining who was telling the truth than students told to mimic, or given no instructions. “Mimicry, whether spontaneous or the product of instruction, hinders observers in objectively assessing” people’s true feelings.
The gestures and tones that people with paralysis are so adept at using add more information. “And we think there may be other systems as well, in pre-motor areas of the brain, that are compiling all of this information” so that the cortex can make a judgment on the emotion, Dr. Matsumoto said.
In her current research project, Ms. Bogart is videotaping dozens of social interactions with people with all variety of paralysis, not just Moebius, but Bell’s palsy, which often stills half the face, and nerve injuries.

“The plan is to show the interviews to people to see what their impressions are, to tease apart all the elements of face, voice, gestures to see what is perceived by people as positive or negative,” she said. “The idea is that if we could learn what the best nonverbal communication techniques are, we could teach those to people who are socially awkward for any reason.”


dilluns, 18 de juny de 2012

El epigenoma cambia a lo largo de la vida

Este hallazgo sugiere que cambios dietéticos o el uso de fármacos podrían prolongar la existenciaUna investigación de colaboración internacional ha revelado que el epigenoma de los recién nacidos y el de los centenarios es distinto, incluso para un mismo tejido u órgano. Estos resultados demuestran que el centenario presenta un epigenoma distorsionado que ha perdido muchos interruptores encargados de apagar la expresión de genes inapropiados y, en cambio, ha apagado el interruptor de algunos genes protectores. La modificación de estos procesos, mediante cambios dietéticos o por el uso de fármacos, podría inducir un aumento del tiempo de vida, afirman los autores del estudio. IDIBELL/T21.

¿Qué ocurre en nuestras células tras cien años de vida? ¿En qué se diferencian a nivel molecular un recién nacido y un centenario? ¿Se trata de cambios graduales o súbitos? ¿Es posible revertir el proceso de envejecimiento? ¿Cuáles son las claves moleculares de la longevidad?Estas cuestiones centrales en biología, fisiología y medicina humana han sido foco de estudio de investigadores durante décadas.La revista internacional Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) publica una investigación de colaboración internacional dirigida por Manel Esteller, director del programa de Epigenética y Biología del Cáncer del Instituto de Investigación Biomédica de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), profesor de genética de la Universidad de Barcelona e investigador ICREA, que proporciona una pista esencial en este campo: el epigenoma de los recién nacidos y de los centenarios es distinto.Mientras que el genoma de todas las células del cuerpo humano, con independencia de su aspecto y función, es idéntico, las señales químicas que lo regulan, conocidas como marcas epigenéticas, son específicas de cada tejido humano y de cada órgano.Es decir, que todos nuestros componentes tienen el mismo abecedario (genoma), pero la ortografía (epigenoma) es distinta en cada parte de nuestra anatomía.El resultado sorprendente del trabajo del grupo del Dr. Esteller es que incluso para un mismo tejido u órgano, el epigenoma varía en función de la edad de la persona.

Posibilidad de aumentar el tiempo de vida

En el estudio publicado en PNAS se han secuenciado totalmente los epigenomas de las células blancas de la sangre de un recién nacido, un individuo de edad intermedia y una persona de 103 años.Los resultados demuestran que el centenario presenta un epigenoma distorsionado que ha perdido muchos interruptores (grupo químico metilo), encargados de apagar la expresión de genes inapropiados y, en cambio, se apaga el interruptor de algunos genes protectores.“Extendiendo los resultados a un grupo numeroso de neonatos, individuos situados en el punto medio y nonagenarios o centenarios nos damos cuenta de que se trata de un proceso progresivo en el que cada día que pasa el epigenoma se va torciendo”, afirma el investigador.Sin embargo, el doctor Esteller destaca que “las lesiones epigenéticas, a diferencia de las genéticas, son reversibles y, por tanto, la modificación de los patrones de la metilación del ADN por cambios dietéticos o por el uso de fármacos podría inducir un aumento del tiempo de vida”.

Fuente: http://www.tendencias21.net/El-epigenoma-cambia-a-lo-largo-de-la-vida_a12100.html
Heyn H, Li N, Ferreira HJ, Moran S, Pisano DG, Gomez A, Diez J, Sanchez-Mut JV, Setien F, Carmona FJ, Pucaf AA Sayols S, Pujana MA, Serra-Musach J, Iglesias-Plata I, Formiga F, Fernandez AF, Fraga MF, Heath S, Valencia A, Gut IG, Wang J, Esteller M. The Distinct DNA Methylomes of Newborns and Centenarians. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, DOI10.1073, 2012.

dimecres, 13 de juny de 2012

"When being scared twice is enough to remember"

One of the brain's jobs is to help us figure out what's important enough to be remembered. Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have achieved some insight into how fleeting experiences become memories in the brain. 

MachinesLike Us //  Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Their experimental system could be a way to test or refine treatments aimed at enhancing learning and memory, or interfering with troubling memories. The results were published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers set up a system where rats were exposed to a light followed by a mild shock. A single light-shock event isn't enough to make the rat afraid of the light, but a repeat of the pairing of the light and shock is, even a few days later.

"I describe this effect as 'priming'," says the first author of the paper, postdoctoral fellow Ryan Parsons. "The animal experiences all sorts of things, and has to sort out what's important. If something happens just once, it doesn't register. But twice, and the animal remembers."

Parsons was working with Michael Davis, PhD, Robert W. Woodruff professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, who has been studying the molecular basis for fear memory for several years.

Even though a robust fear memory was not formed after the first priming event, at that point Parsons could already detect chemical changes in the amygdala, part of the brain critical for fear responses. Long term memory formation could be blocked by infusing a drug into the amygdala. The drug inhibits protein kinase A, which is involved in the chemical changes Parsons observed.

It is possible to train rats to become afraid of something like a sound or a smell after one event, Parsons says. However, rats are less sensitive to light compared with sounds or smells, and a relatively mild shock was used.

Fear memories only formed when shocks were paired with light, instead of noise or nothing at all, for both the priming and the confirmation event. Parsons measured how afraid the rats were by gauging their "acoustic startle response" (how jittery they were in response to a loud noise) in the presence of the light, compared to before training began.

Scientists have been able to study the chemical changes connected with the priming process extensively in neurons in culture dishes, but not as much in live animals. The process is referred to as "metaplasticity," or how the history of the brain's experiences affects its readiness to change and learn. 

"This could be a good model for dissecting the mechanisms involved in learning and memory," Parsons says. "We're going to be able to look at what's going on in that first priming event, as well as when the long-term memory is triggered."

"We believe our findings might help explain how events are selected out for long-term storage from what is essentially a torrent of information encountered during conscious experience," Parsons and Davis write in their paper.


dimarts, 8 de maig de 2012

El lado izquierdo es percibido como el más atractivo

Your Left Side Is Your Best Side: Our Left Cheek Shows More Emotion, Which Observers Find More Aesthetically Pleasing

ScienceDaily  //  Apr. 20, 2012

Your best side may be your left cheek, according to a new study by Kelsey Blackburn and James Schirillo from Wake Forest University in the US. Their work shows that images of the left side of the face are perceived and rated as more pleasant than pictures of the right side of the face, possibly due to the fact that we present a greater intensity of emotion on the left side of our face

Their work is published online in Springer's journal Experimental Brain Research. Others can judge human emotions in large part from facial expressions. Our highly specialized facial muscles are capable of expressing many unique emotions. Research suggests that the left side of the face is more intense and active during emotional expression. It is also noteworthy that Western artists' portraits predominantly present subjects' left profile. Blackburn and Schirillo investigated whether there are differences in the perception of the left and right sides of the face in real-life photographs of individuals. The authors explain: "Our results suggest that posers' left cheeks tend to exhibit a greater intensity of emotion, which observers find more aesthetically pleasing. Our findings provide support for a number of concepts -- the notions of lateralized emotion and right hemispheric dominance with the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the face during emotional expression. "Participants were asked to rate the pleasantness of both sides of male and female faces on gray-scale photographs. The researchers presented both original photographs and mirror-reversed images, so that an original right-cheek image appeared to be a left-cheek image and vice versa.They found a strong preference for left-sided portraits, regardless of whether the pictures were originally taken of the left side, or mirror-reversed. The left side of the face was rated as more aesthetically pleasing for both male and female posers. These aesthetic preferences were also confirmed by measurements of pupil size, a reliable unconscious measurement of interest. Indeed, pupils dilate in response to more interesting stimuli -- here more pleasant-looking faces, and constrict when looking at unpleasant images. In the experiment, pupil size increased with pleasantness ratings.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120420123847.htm Springer (2012, April 20). Your left side is your best side: Our left cheek shows more emotion, which observers find more aesthetically pleasing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 8, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/04/120420123847.htm

divendres, 27 d’abril de 2012

"Facial Attraction: Choice Of Sexual Partner Shaped The Human Face"

Men with large jaws, flaring cheeks and large eyebrows are sexy, at least in the eyes of our ancestors, researchers at the Natural History Museum have discovered. Facial attractiveness played a major role in shaping human evolution, as studies on our fossil ancestors have shown our choice of sexual partner has shaped the human face. 

ScienceDaily // Aug. 13, 2007

The face holds the secret to determining the sex of our ancestors and what makes us attractive to the opposite sex for reproduction.

According to palaeontologists at the Natural History Museum, men have evolved short faces between the brow and upper lip, which exaggerates the size of their jaw, the flare of their cheeks and their eyebrows. The shorter and broader male face has also evolved alongside and the canine teeth have shrunk, so men look less threatening to competitors, yet attractive to mates. 

At puberty, the region between the mouth and eyebrows, known as upper facial height, develops differently in men and women. Unlike other facial features, however, this difference cannot be explained simply in terms of men being bigger than women. In spite of their larger size men have an upper face similar in height to a female face, but much broader. These differences can be found throughout human history. As a result, a simple ratio of measures could be used to calculate facial attractiveness in a biological and mathematical way.

Dr Eleanor Weston, palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum said, 'The evolution of facial appearance is central to understanding what makes men and women attractive to each other. We have found the distance between the lip and brow was probably immensely important to what made us attractive in the past, as it does now.' 

Citation: Weston EM, Friday AE, Liò P (2007) Biometric Evidence that Sexual Selection Has Shaped the Hominin Face. PLoS One 2(8): e710. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000710


dimecres, 25 d’abril de 2012

"Research Turns the World Upside Down: New Study Examines Brain Processes Behind Facial Recognition"

When you think you see a face in the clouds or in the moon, you may wonder why it never seems to be upside down

ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2011) 
It turns out the answer to this seemingly minor detail is that your brain has been wired not to. Using tests of visual perception and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Lars Strother and colleagues at The University of Western Ontario's world-renowned Centre for Brain & Mind recently measured activity in two regions of the brain well known for facial recognition and found they were highly sensitive to the orientation of people's faces. The team had participants look at faces that had been camouflaged and either held upright or turned upside down. They found that right-side up faces were easier to see -- and activated the face areas in the brain more strongly -- thus demonstrating that our brains are specialized to understand this orientation. The surprise came when they found this bias in brain activity also applies to pictures of animals. Like faces, animals are biological visual forms that have a typical upright orientation. In the study, published in the current issue of the journal PLoS ONE, Strother and his colleagues propose that the human visual system allows us to see familiar objects -- not just faces -- more easily when viewed in the familiar upright orientation. They also demonstrated this bias can be found in the neural activity of those brain areas involved with the most basic steps in visual processing, when visual inputs from the eyes first reach the brain. In future research, the team hopes to chase down how this bias is set up in these early visual areas of the brain -- and what this tells us about how brain circuits can be modified by knowledge and experience.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110418152508.htm

dijous, 19 d’abril de 2012

Body language // Lenguage no verbal

Do you want to learn body language? You should follow Understanding Body Language. Liars, Cheats and Happy Feet [!]. Here comes a little example of his videos.

 Conrad Murray Trial - Nicole Alvarez - My Body Language Analysis. Michael Jackson. CJB

dilluns, 2 d’abril de 2012

Eric Kandel: A Biological Basis for the Unconscious?

" (...) We now know we make a lot of decisions, we choose our partner in part by unconscious evaluations. There are lots of decisions that are made unconsciously then consciously. Conscious decision-making is very good when there are two alternatives because you can focus consciously very effectively on one thing at a time. If you’ve got a lot of options . . . (...) That decision that you have to make is likely to be more effective if you make it unconsciously. So there is now a whole psychology on unconscious decision-making that is emerging, in part stimulated by Libet’s interest but also a continuation from Freud’s interest. " 


dimarts, 20 de març de 2012

Recognising Faces (1/3): Face Blindness

¿Sabías que hay personas que no pueden reconocer caras y que creen que es lo "normal"? Por la prosopagnosia -que puede ser de nacimiento- uno es incapaz de reconocer a las personas de la familia e incluso asustarse delante del espejo por no reconocerse a uno mismo // Imagine you couldn't recognize people's faces, and even your own family looked unfamiliar. Lesley Stahl reports on face blindness, a puzzling neurological disorder.

CBS // "Face Blindness" // March 18, 2012. Lesley Stahl is the correspondent. Shari Finkelstein, producer.

(CBS News) Imagine going to school to pick up your child and not being certain which kid is yours. Imagine brushing your teeth every morning and not wholly recognizing the face in the mirror. All of this is unimaginable for most of us, but a basic fact of life for people with the mysterious neurological condition called "face blindness" -- or prosopagnosia - which can make it almost impossible to recognize faces, even of one's nearest and dearest. Dr. Oliver Sacks knows something about the condition, and not only because he's a neurologist, but also because Dr. Sacks himself is face blind. Lesley Stahl reports.

diumenge, 18 de març de 2012

Magia y cerebro, Susana Martínez en 'Los engaños de la mente' (audio)

Los trucos de magia pueden dar pistas sobre cómo funciona nuestro cerebro. Lo sabe bien Susana Martínez-Conde.

Asuntos propios // Radio RTVE //08/03/12

La científica española dirige el Laboratorio de Neurociencia Visual del Barrow Neurological Institute de Phoenix, uno de los centros neurológicos punteros en el mundo. Susana Martínez-Conde nos presenta su último libro: Los engaños de la mente, el que analiza cómo los magos nos 'engañan' jugando con nuestras neuronas. La relación entre magia y cerebro permite avanzar en el estudio de enfermedades como el Alzheimer o el autismo (08/03/12).

Fuente: http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/audios/programa/asuntos-propios-susana-martinez-analiza-los-mecanismos-cerebrales-durante-magia/1344165/

dimarts, 13 de març de 2012

"Are You Evil? Profiling That Which Is Truly Wicked" Scientific American

A cognitive scientist employs malevolent logic to define the dark side of the human psyche

By Larry Greenemeier // October 27, 2008

INTRODUCING "E": a computer character
first created in 2005 to embody Bringsjord's
working definition of evil.

TROY, N.Y.—The hallowed halls of academia are not the place you would expect to find someone obsessed with evil (although some students might disagree). But it is indeed evil—or rather trying to get to the roots of evil—that fascinates Selmer Bringsjord, a logician, philosopher and chairman of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Department of Cognitive Science here. He's so intrigued, in fact, that he has developed a sort of checklist for determining whether someone is demonic, and is working with a team of graduate students to create a computerized representation of a purely sinister person.
"I've been working on what is evil and how to formally define it," says Bringsjord, who is also director of the Rensselaer AI & Reasoning Lab (RAIR). "It's creepy, I know it is."
To be truly evil, someone must have sought to do harm by planning to commit some morally wrong action with no prompting from others (whether this person successfully executes his or her plan is beside the point). The evil person must have tried to carry out this plan with the hope of "causing considerable harm to others," Bringsjord says. Finally, "and most importantly," he adds, if this evil person were willing to analyze his or her reasons for wanting to commit this morally wrong action, these reasons would either prove to be incoherent, or they would reveal that the evil person knew he or she was doing something wrong and regarded the harm caused as a good thing.
Bringsjord's research builds on earlier definitions put forth by San Diego State University philosophy professor J. Angelo Corlett as well as the late sociopolitical philosophers and psychologists, Joel Feinberg and Erich Fromm, but most significantly by psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck in his 1983 book, People of the Lie, The Hope for Healing Human Evil. After reading Peck's tome about clinically evil people, "I thought it would be interesting to come up with formal structures that define evil," Bringsjord says, "and, ultimately, to create a purely evil character the way a creative writer would."
He and his research team began developing their computer representation of evil by posing a series of questions beginning with the basics—name, age, sex, etcetera—and progressing to inquiries about this fictional person's beliefs and motivations.
This exercise resulted in "E," a computer character first created in 2005 to meet the criteria of Bringsjord's working definition of evil. Whereas the original E was simply a program designed to respond to questions in a manner consistent with Bringsjord's definition, the researchers have since given E a physical identity: It's a relatively young, white man with short black hair and dark stubble on his face. Bringsjord calls E's appearance "a meaner version" of the character Mr. Perry in the 1989 movieDead Poets Society. "He is a great example of evil," Bringsjord says, adding, however, that he is not entirely satisfied with this personification and may make changes.
The researchers have placed E in his own virtual world and written a program depicting a scripted interview between one of the researcher's avatars and E. In this example, E is programmed to respond to questions based on a case study in Peck's book that involves a boy whose parents gave him a gun that his older brother had used to commit suicide.
The researchers programmed E with a degree of artificial intelligence to make "him" believe that he (and not the parents) had given the pistol to the distraught boy, and then asked E a series of questions designed to glean his logic for doing so. The result is a surreal simulation during which Bringsjord's diabolical incarnation attempts to produce a logical argument for its actions: The boy wanted a gun, E had a gun, so E gave the boy the gun.
Bringsjord and his team by the end of the year hope to have completed the fourth generation of E, which will be able to use artificial intelligence and a limited set of straightforward English (no slang, for example) to "speak" with computer users.
Following the path of a true logician, Bringsjord's interest in the portrayal of virtuousness and evil in literature led to his interest in software that helps writers develop ideas and create stories; this, in turn, spurred him to develop his own software for simulating human behavior, both good and odious, says Barry Smith, a distinguished professor of bioinformatics and ontology at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is familiar with Bringsjord's work. "He's known as someone on the fringe of philosophy and computer science."
Bringsjord and Smith both have an interest in finding ways to better understand human behavior, and their work has attracted the attention of the intelligence community, which is seeking ways to successfully analyze the information they gather on potential terrorists. "To solve problems in intelligence analysis, you need more accurate representations of people," Smith says. "Selmer is trying to build really good representations of human beings in all of their subtlety."
Bringsjord acknowledges that the endeavor to create pure evil, even in a software program, does raise ethical questions, such as, how researchers could control an artificially intelligent character like E if "he" was placed in a virtual world such asSecond Life, a Web-based program that allows people to create digital representations of themselves and have those avatars interact in a number of different ways.
"I wouldn't release E or anything like it, even in purely virtual environments, without engineered safeguards," Bringsjord says. These safeguards would be a set of ethics written into the software, something akin to author Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" that prevent a robot from harming humans, requires a robot to obey humans, and instructs a robot to protect itself—as long as that does not violate either or both of the first two laws.
"Because I have a lot of faith in this approach," he says, "E will be controlled."

divendres, 9 de març de 2012

Brain developement: the early years, pre- and post-natal

Baby brains don't actually have more neurons than adults, but way more (and way denser) synapses (the connections between neurons). But as they grow up, neurons and synapses tend to die out while, at the very same time, they remaining neurons tend to specialize and reinforce the kind of connections they've learnt to use.

In the ground breaking report of their Early Years Study, co-chairs Margaret Norrie McCain and J. Fraser Mustard stated that ". . . early child development is as important, if not more important . . . than the periods children spend in education or post-secondary education." Their study found that the development of the brain (at an early age) sets the base for competence and coping skills for the later stages of life.

The first three years, the study concluded, are especially crucial in the growth of a child's brain. A baby is born with billions of neurons in its brain. While brain cells grow throughout life, it is during the early years, the most sensitive period, when these neurons develop their function and key connections. Loving interactions between the child and other human beings provide the stimulation and nourishment that these neurons need "to connect" with one another. Conversely, if neurons are not stimulated early in life, they tend to wither and become more difficult to stimulate.

How well this web of connectedness is established in an individual child depends on two factors:

  • who the parents are, in other words, what genetic code is passed on to the child; and
  • the environment in which the child is raised - how the child is nurtured, protected and loved.

Source: http://www.take30.pe.ca/home.php?page=learn

Source : http://snarkmarket.com/blog/snarkives/science/

Alison Gopnik, Ph.D., an internationally recognized leader in the study of children's learning and development, served as the keynote speaker at this year's It's Good Business to Invest in Young Children Annual Luncheon, giving attendees insight into the sophisticated way that young children learn.

Graph developed by the Council for Early Child Development
(re: Nash, 1997; Early Years Study, 1999, Shonkoff, 2000).

There are a number of critical periods in the first three years of brain development. During these periods, specific brain functions go through fundamental growth and formation. The months after birth, for example, are critical periods for the development of vision and hearing. The years between three and four are a critical period for the development of social skills.

During critical periods, the brain is most sensitive, or able to be shaped, by a child’s environment and experiences, positive and negative. These sensitive periods present unique opportunities to affect healthy development. Providing appropriate experiences during critical periods of development helps children to reach their potential.

As with building a house, the brain is built in a particular order, from the “bottom up.” Brain circuits that process basic information are wired earlier than circuits that process more complex information. If lower-level circuits aren’t wired properly, then higher-level circuits will be faulty. Speech, for example, must be built on circuits for hearing that are developed very early in an infant’s life, long before a child starts talking.