The Deep Mind of Demis Hassabis - "The big thing is what we call transfer learning. You've mastered one domain of things, how do you abstract that into something that's almost like a library of knowledge that you can now usefully apply in a new domain? That's the key to general knowledge. At the moment, we are good at processing perceptual information and then picking an action based on that. But when it goes to the next level, the concept level, nobody has been able to do that." (previously: 1,2) [more inside]
Portia is a jumping spider that eats other spiders, through complex layers[PDF] of visual recognition and planned, trial-and-error[PDF, html] movement, even losing sight of it's target. How does a hunter get to be smarter than the prey, while having the same number of neurons, not even as many as a honeybee? Well, that's the interesting part ... [more inside]
How Tripping On Mushrooms Changes The Brain - "New research [pdf] suggests that psilocybin, the main psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, sprouts new links across previously disconnected brain regions, temporarily altering the brain's entire organizational framework." [more inside]
Our Inconsistent Ethical Instincts
We like to believe that the principled side of the equation is rooted in deep, reasoned conviction. But a growing wealth of research shows that those values often prove to be finicky, inconsistent intuitions, swayed by ethically irrelevant factors. What you say now you might disagree with in five minutes. And such wavering has implications for both public policy and our personal lives.[more inside]
Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
The simulated brain - "First computer model to produce complex behaviour performs almost as well as humans at simple number tasks." [1,2,3,4,5,etc.]
Is seeing believing? BBC Horizon looks at sensory perception, illusions and the interplay of our different senses. (Full program for UK viewers here). Makes you feel like you've entered The Twilight Zone. [more inside]
Researchers at MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences have identified two "morality centers" of the brain. In two separate experiments, they have shown a correlation between a particular part of the brain and the ability to make moral jusgments related to intent to commit a crime. In one experiment, patients with brain damage in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain don't consider hypothetical perpetrators to be morally responsible for their actions. In another experiment (noted on NPR today) the researchers showed that they could switch off the moral judgment function by applying a magnetic field to the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) of the brain. The TPJ has also been implicated in "out of body experiences", both in cases of brain damage and by artificially stimulating the area.
Music and the Brain The Library of Congress' Music and the Brain podcasts offer lectures and conversations about new research at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and music. Sufi rituals, Wednesday is Indigo Blue (synaesthesia), Your Brain on Jazz, The Music of Language and the Language of Music, and more.
There are times when having a fully developed brain can almost seem like an impediment. Are babies more aware of the world around them than adults are? Can "thinking like a baby" lead us to be more in tune with our creativity and our ability to learn? Scientists have taken a new look inside the baby mind, which is "unfocused, random, and extremely good at what it does."
How Google Is Making Us Smarter: Humans are "natural-born cyborgs," and the Internet is our giant "extended mind."
My Genome, My Self: Steven Pinker considers what we can expect from personal genomics. Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes: Carl Zimmer looks at the hunt to learn about the role of genes in intelligence.
An Introduction to Sine-Wave Speech Play the first sound and you'll probably hear nothing but squeaks and bleeps. Play the second one and then go back to the first. Cool!
A New State of Mind. "New research is linking dopamine to complex social phenomena and changing neuroscience in the process."
You know the feeling that something is on the tip of your tongue? It offers deep insights into the nature of the mind. [Via The Frontal Cortex]
Recursion and Human Thought - Why the Piraha don't have numbers
Neurogenesis Neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells, was something we were all taught was impossible after a certain point. Professor Elizabeth Gould, doctor of psychology at Princeton, has claimed that it happens all the time. (more) Now, she and her team at Princeton are saying not only is our brain always changing, stress and environment directly affect brain development.
Don't Even Think About Lying fMRI is poised to transform the security industry, the judicial system, and our fundamental notions of privacy. I'm in a lab at Columbia University, where scientists are using the technology to analyze the cognitive differences between truth and lies. By mapping the neural circuits behind deception, researchers are turning fMRI into a new kind of lie detector that's more probing and accurate than the polygraph, the standard lie-detection tool employed by law enforcement and intelligence agencies for nearly a century.
Nootropics ("smart" drugs) - all wish to be smarter, correct ? And - while exercise, nutrition, learning, travel, and social interaction (the last 3 via release of neurotrophins) effectively do this, Nootropic drugs have been researched since the 1950's and have been shown to cause at least short term cognitive function enhancement. Piracetam, the first of this drugs, shows promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's and Attention deficit Disorder. Alas, as with poor little Algernon, the effect seems temporary. Nootropics can be a little difficult to acquire in the US. Beer is not a nootropic, but sex on the other hand.....