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New Theory of Stages of Memory
Psychology Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @11:54PM
from the reasons-to-sleep-at-work dept.
In this month's issue of Nature, Matthew Walker proposes a new comprehensive theory of memory, including how memories are formed, forgotten -- and how sleep plays a role in safeguarding memories. The phases of memory include stabilizing a memory, strengthening through sleep and recalling a memory.

Walker and his colleagues focused on "procedural skill memory," the "how" type of memory that enables humans to learn coordination-based skills, such as driving, playing a sport, or learning to play a musical instrument or perform a surgical procedure. "This is the type of memory that we often take for granted," says Walker. "But for stroke patients or other individuals who have suffered neurological damage that has injured their motor skills functioning – including how they speak and how they move – it quickly becomes apparent how critically important this type of memory is to our daily existence." To identify these three stages of memory, the authors instructed a group of individuals (100 young healthy subjects, ages 18 to 27) in several different finger-tapping sequences (for example, 4,1,2,3,4) at various intervals and at various points of the sleep-wake cycle. Their resulting data disclosed several important findings, according to Walker.

EurekAlert has the press release. There's also a Harvard article and a popular press article about this sleep study and another from the same issue of Nature. For a previous CogNews article about Walker's work, check out Just Sleep On It.
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Battery for Bionic Neurons
Neuroscience Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @11:54PM
from the meet-the-borg dept.
Researchers at Quallion have recently announced their development of an implantable battery that can be used to power "bionic neurons." According to this Wired article, the device can be implanted in the brain and used to power devices that would send out small electrical pulses to stimulated damaged nerves. The battery would have to be recharged inductively (by magnetic fields) once every week to four weeks, depending on how much power the bionic neurons were using.

If tests prove the battery-powered bionic neurons effective, the devices could be used in a variety of treatments: to help control muscle tremors brought on by Parkinson's disease, to stimulate stroke victims' muscles to guard against atrophy, and to provide deep-brain stimulation for the treatment of migraines. picture
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vOICe - Seeing With Sound
Psychology Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @11:53PM
from the geek-humor dept.
"Blind see with sound", claims the BBC article that's reminiscent of the movie Daredevil. The vOICe system (where OIC stands for "oh I see") was developed by Peter Meijer to convert camera images into "highly complex soundscapes." The conversion process turns bright into loud, tall into high pitched and the system speaks out colors when that option is turned on.

While it can't track fast cars or read small print efficiently, it does allow blind users to trace out buildings, read a graph and even watch television.
To suit user preferences, Blue Edge Bulgaria has developed a simplified but highly portable mobile phone version of The vOICe for the Nokia 3650 camera phone. It is available as a free download at The vOICe site.

For more on the same concept, check out the previous CogNews article Human Echolocation.
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Forgiveness, Mind and Body
Neuroscience Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @11:44PM
from the transgressions dept.
With the up and coming Scientific Conference on Forgiveness, there's no shortage of press releases of exactly that -- science and forgiveness. Recent additions include forgiveness can be taught, forgiveness can rehabilitate the spine and forgiveness contributes to blood pressure. But perhaps the most relevant is the Biocompare article about Tom Farrow's fMRI study of the brain while making judgments about forgivability and empathy.

Forgiveness is likely to comprise multiple cognitive components. [...] We hypothesised that fronto-temporal regions would be differentially activated by these tasks.
Conclusions: Empathic and forgivability judgments activate specific regions of the human brain, which we propose contribute to social cohesion. The activation in these regions changed with symptom resolution in PTSD.

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PDA Talks Back
Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @11:32PM
from the jobless-human-secretaries dept.
If you don't like Amanda's voice, you can change it to have an Australian accent. Seems rather fitting, considering this PDA based agent with natural language capabilities was developed by Australians Mohammed Waleed Kadous and Claude Sammut. Just one of many portable personal assistants under development, interaction with Amanda takes place through her virtual agent on the PDA which currently recognizes voice commands, and will someday understand emotion. The PDA is powered by Internet Conversation Agent (InCA) techology, one of 60 initiatives from the Smart Internet Technology Co-operative Research Centre (CRC).

"You could be talking about exchange rates and then say 'Forget that, give me the news' and it will respond," Kadous, the project leader, says.
The technology runs on two domains: the client, a PDA, and the server, which synchronises speech recognition, speech synthesis and dialogue management and includes an artificial intelligence co-ordinator that manages real-time retrieval of data from the internet. It uses an 802.11b connection and IBM's ViaVoice speech recognition system.

SMH has the whole story.
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Possible Biological Basis of Sexual Preference
Psychology Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @11:19PM
from the the-debate-continues dept.
Qazi Rahman's recent research could show a biological basis for sexual preference, in contrast to other recent news. According to this article, the research shows that gay men and women have a significantly different startle reflex to loud noises. As the theory goes, the reflex is genetic, not learned, and so any difference would have to be genetic as well.

"The startle response is preconscious and cannot be learned," Qazi Rahman from the University of East London explains. "It is mediated by an ancient region of the brain called the limbic system which also controls sexual behavior."
"The PPI test is a powerful measure of the brain's ability to filter and process information," says Rahman. "Information processing is fundamental to the way the brain works, and these results show real and possibly profound differences between male and female oriented brains."

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LinkGrammar-WN English Parser Lexicon Addon Released
Posted by on Wednesday October 08, @01:29PM
from the open-source-nlp-is-fun dept.
LinkGrammar-WN v1.0 has been released. LinkGrammar-WN is a lexicon addon for the Link Grammar Parser, an open source syntactic English parser based on the Link Grammar theory of English syntax.

This project aims to import lexical information from WordNet into the LGP lexicon. WordNet is an online lexical reference system that in recent years has become a popular tool for AI researchers.

LinkGrammar-WN v1.0 contains 14,392 noun word forms not available within the original LGP lexicon, thus increasing the size of the LGP lexicon by roughly 25%. The project page is here.
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Squids and Neuroscience
Neuroscience Posted by on Tuesday October 07, @11:56PM
from the squids-and-beer dept.
Following the line of thinking that bigger neurons are easier to study, George Langford hopes that his 30+ years of research of giant axons of squids will yield clues to the functioning of the brain and memory. The giant axons of squids are several times larger than the axons of humans, offering researchers good opportunities for observation and experimentation.

Langford’s progress has been quiet and steady over the decades as he seeks no less than cures to various degenerative brain diseases.
“It’s part of what drives me in my research,” the Dartmouth biology professor said. “It’s really understanding the basic process that’s going on and using that information to try to solve human diseases.
He added, “It takes a long time.”

Newsday has an article, and MSNBC has an article too. In similar news, check out the previous CogNews article about sea slugs and neuroscience.
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Denton and Mind Games
Psychology Posted by on Tuesday October 07, @11:56PM
from the are-you-thinking-what-i'm-thinking dept.
Soon to be "octogenarian" (80 years old) Derek Denton is definately a member of the old-school of cognitive science. This article from The Age highlights Denton's views on theory of mind, neuroscience and comparative psychology. Also keep an eye out for his forthcoming book, "Primal Emotions: A Theory on the Dawning of Consciousness".

One of the characteristics of consciousness in humans is said to be the ability to imagine what is going on in the minds of others. In other words, to choose a course of action influenced by what we think another might be thinking. Denton believes the brain has evolved progressively, and what we often refer to as "the mind" is something we gained because it gave us a survival advantage. "It is the overwhelming view of the majority of neuroscientists that the mind is what the brain does," he says. "We know we are conscious because, among other things, we can distinguish between what thinking is going on in our own head and what we might wish to do. Then we contrast this with information coming in from the outside world."
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Genes for Facial Expressions
Posted by on Tuesday October 07, @11:56PM
from the smile-for-the-dna dept.
Researchers Mario Capecchi, Gary Gaufo, and Kirk Thomas have found genes in mice that ensure the developent of the correct nerves for wiggling their whiskers, rolling their eyes, pulling back their ears and blinking their eyelids. According to this article, since the genes are common to all mammals, they likely control human facial expressions such as smiles and frowns.

As an animal embryo develops, the hindbrain starts as a flat plate, then curls to form what is called the neural tube. The neural tube subdivides into seven or eight segments that ultimately become the hindbrain. The segmentation vanishes by the time the animal is born.
In one of the new study's two main findings, Capecchi and colleagues showed that in segment 5 of the developing hindbrain, genes named Hoxa3 and Hoxb3 specify which neurons or nerve cells develop axons or nerve fibers to carry nerve impulses to muscles that control outward eye movements - the left eye looking left and the right eye looking right. When the two genes were disabled in mouse embryos, those nerve connections failed to form.

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Recent Articles

Wednesday, October 08

  • New Theory of Stages of Memory 
  • Battery for Bionic Neurons 
  • vOICe - Seeing With Sound 
  • Forgiveness, Mind and Body 
  • PDA Talks Back 
  • Possible Biological Basis of Sexual Preference 
  • LinkGrammar-WN English Parser Lexicon Addon Released 
  • Tuesday, October 07

  • Squids and Neuroscience 
  • Denton and Mind Games 
  • Genes for Facial Expressions 
  • Robot Competition FAQ 
  • Forgetting Names 
  • Rob McLean on AI 
  • Brain Matters, Inc 
  • Monday, October 06

  • 'Fixing' Gays  (2)
  • Nobel Prize Awarded for MRI 
  • USC Dept of Implantable Prosthetics 
  • Prejudice and Implicit Associations 
  • Make Robots, Not War 
  • Sunday, October 05

  • Davidson and The Real 
  • Ig Nobel Awards 
  • Unlearning Fear 
  • The Brain's CEO 
  • Perspective on Second Languages 

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Tuesday, October 07

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