Positron annihilation

YasuharuShirai.jpgBorag Thungg Earthlets!

I have just found the webpage of Professor Yasuharu Shirai from Osaka University in Japan.

He is currently involved in researching the “Development of Artificial Skin for Humanoid Robot and Body Image Acquisition Learning” and “Mechanism Behavior Generation by Imitation Learning of Humanoid Robot”.

Prof. Shirai also supervises an investigation into the “Positron Annihilation Study of Defects in Advanced Materials” and belongs to the mysterious “Society for Discrete Variational Xa“.

Is this the most sci-fi sounding scientist on the planet? Answers on a ram card please…

Link to Yasuharu Shirai’s webpage.

In Our Time analyses artificial intelligence

android_sketch.jpgBBC Radio 4’s programme on the history of ideas discussed artificial intelligence recently, with some of the leading researchers in the field.

The programme slipped past my attention when it was first on a couple of weeks ago, but the full audio archive is available online to listen to at your leisure.

“Can machines think?” It was the question posed by the mathematician and Bletchley Park code breaker Alan Turing and it is a question still being asked today. What is the difference between men and machines and what does it mean to be human? And if we can answer that question, is it possible to build a computer that can imitate the human mind?

Interestingly, Turing was quite bullish about the prospect, as shown in an excerpt from the 1950 edition of Whitakers Almanack.

I’ve yet to find out what the ‘300 year old sum’ is, that is mentioned as solved by the ‘mechanical brain’ from the article at the link above. Answers on a postcard please…

Link to In Our Time webpage on AI programme.
Realaudio archive of programme.

Christmas update

red_present.jpgHello Mind Hacks readers. Just a note to say that updates to the site might be a bit sporadic over the Christmas period as we’re likely to be enjoying the time to kick back and read all the neuroscience books that Santa brings.

Hopefully, the updates should be more or less daily, but please excuse the occasional brandy-fuelled omission. Here are some brief Christmas links to tide you over, though…

Christmas gingerbread could lift mood as spices contain amphetamine precursors! – This might need to be taken with a pinch of ginger I fear.

Mental health charity Mind has a guide to beating Christmas stress.

A light-hearted article from Psychology Today on the 12 neuroses of Christmas.

And, as it’s Christmas, indulge yourself in some untestable, unscientific pop-psychology: The psychology of Christmas shopping.

Roll on 2006!

2005-12-23 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:


Chronobiology site Circadiana recommends books about clocks and sleep.

Brain Waves previews the upcoming ‘5th International Neuroesthetics Conference’ which focuses on how the brain responds to gourmet food, fine wine and aromatic perfumes.

Feeling good is the ’cause, not effect’ of achievement according to researchers.

David Letterman’s lawyers fight an odd restraining order imposed by a judge who is perhaps suffering from folie √† deux?:/

Robot demonstrates ‘self awareness‘ (i.e. can distinguish itself in a mirror) (via /.)

Wired on watching your own real-time brain scan to ‘think away the pain‘.

The ‘quality’ of your dancing could advertse your ‘sexual quality‘ to others as measured by body symmetry.

New Scientist on the desperate need for adequate mental health care after the trauma of the Asian tsunami.

Trial of implanted stem cells to treat brain injury in children starts.

BBC All in the Mind returns

raj_persaud.jpgBBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind (not to be confused with the Australian radio show of the same name) has returned to the airwaves with a fascinating section on Anarchic Hand syndrome:

The idea of a hand with its own will has been used as a comic device by many movie makers and writers…including in “Dr Strangelove”. But a little known fact is that there is a rare and fascinating neurological phenomena which can cause this Strangelove-type behaviour to happen – called alien, or anarchic, hand syndrome, a condition which means that people cannot control the actions of one of their hands. This month an intriguing new case history of alien hand syndrome has just been reported by a Japanese group in the journal Surgical Neurology, and Raj discusses the syndrome with expert Sergio Della Sala, Professor of Human Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh.

Link to website and audio archive of BBC All in the Mind.

Theatre festival on brain injury

cartesian_theatre.jpgBrainBlog has picked up on an upcoming theatre festival based around the unusual consequences of brain injury and neurological disease.

NEUROfest will run from January 6th to the 29th in New York City, and includes:

* Multimedia by real-life neurologist James Jordan in CJD; to
* A family musical with Welcome to Tourettaville! (co-written by a 7 year-old with Tourette’s Syndrome); to
* A short monologue in The Taste of Blue, set in the realm of the senses; to
* A full-length opera/theater piece in Tabula Rasa; to
* An examination of communication in Linguish, when language isn’t an option; to
* A love story about two men, music, and vertigo in Vestibular; to
* A family drama about delusion and doppelgangers in Impostors
* and much more…

Impostors is about Capgras syndrome, the delusional belief that a close relative or spouse has been replaced by an idenical looking impostor.

Interestingly, the science-fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote a short story entitled ‘Impostor’, which has a Capgras-like plot. It eventually got turned into a low budget movie of the same name.

Link to BrainBlog on NEUROfest.
Link to NEUROfest homepage.

Depression and heart disease

psychosomatic.gif The journal Psychosomatic Medicine has a new free online supplement all about the link between depression and heart disease. There’s evidence that even mild depression can put people at increased risk of heart disease, and depression is three to four times more prevalent among cardiac patients than among the general population.

Link to free online supplement.