2006-04-28 Spike activity

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


Scientific American investigate the neuroscience and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease in a new feature article.

Researchers devise software that tracks the mood swings of 150,000 LiveJournal users.

The New York Times examines the neuropsychology of investor behaviour – christened neuroeconomics.

The New Atlantis Magazine takes an in-depth look at the trouble with the Turing Test (via 3quarksdaily).

In light of the first ‘female viagra’ The Observer discusses whether it will be a substitute fix for emotional problems in couples.

The New York Times examines evidence about the role of the gene neuregulin in the risk for schizophrenia.

Physicists devise mathematical model to simulate how sensory neurons operate.

UK nurses back harm-reduction scheme to supervise chronic self-harmers.

A curious case-vignette of a person with depression is published in The New York Times.

BBC News reports that female ovulation makes men more wary of ‘rival’ masculine males, according to a new study.

NewSci: Likes love, neuroscience, psychology, GSOH

white_bg_rose.jpgI take it Spring has truly sprung, as this week’s New Scientist keeps the theme of love alive by devoting a special issue to that most curious of human behaviours.

There’s feature articles on everything from the psychology of finding (and keeping) the perfect partner to the darker side of obsession and stalking.

Unfortunately, the articles are only available if you stump up hard cash, except for a one-off personals page that has adverts from scientists around the world wanting to meet potential partners. Some are quite poetic:

60’s CHILD (F), thrives on serendipity and chaos, globally involved, healthily skeptical. Curiously awaits nice guy with nourishing bio-psycho-social alternative to flaming hot cheetos for perspectives sharing. Los Angeles. Reply number: 134

Keep an eye out for any hypocoristics.

Link to this week’s table of contents.
Link to New Scientist personals page.

Neuroscience for lovers

glitter_ball.jpgOnline science and humanities e-zine LabLit has an article about one guy’s experience of ‘luring the ladies’ with smooth talking neuroscience chit-chat (and presumably it works well for luring men too).

So, next thing I know, I’m actually chatting away with three beautiful young ladies in a bar in Baltimore. And we’re chatting about signal transduction mechanisms and the implications of cerebral ischemia! Not in strict scientific terminology of course, but in decent general terms. I explain about signal transduction by using the band as an example. The signal leaves the guitarist‚Äôs hand as he makes the strings vibrate. This is transmitted to the pick-ups in the guitar, and turned into a signal that travels along his cable to his amplifier (or amp, as we rock stars say). There the signal has to be transduced into a sound…

Link to article ‘How to lure in the ladies with your PhD’.
Link to LabLit (via MeFi).

Fast Artificial Neural Network Library

Zhang_neural_stem_cells04s.jpgThe Fast Artificial Neural Network Library is a programming library that takes much of the pain out of constructing artificial intelligence and cognitive modelling projects.

It is free software, incredibly professional, well documented, fully supported, and available for a number of programming languages both mainstream and obscure.

There’s also a concise introduction to neural networks (pdf) which covers some of the operating principles for those wanting to know how they work.

Neural networks are used both as software tools for completing otherwise difficult tasks, and in cognitive science for simulating cognitive processes.

In neuropsychology, neural networks are often created to simulate a certain cognitive task, and then the network is ‘damaged’ to see whether the network can predict the effects of brain injury or impairment.

This connectionist approach to cognitive science was made particularly popular by the 1986 book Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in the microstructure of cognition (ISBN 0262631121) by David Rumelhart and James McClelland.

Link to Fast Artificial Neural Network Library.
pdf of ‘Neural Networks Made Simple’.
Link to Wikipedia page on ‘connectionism’.

The Age of Neuroelectronics

odd_skull_image.jpgTechnology and society magazine The New Atlantis has a comprehensive article on ‘neuroelectronics’ – the science of interfacing digital components with neural wetware.

The potential merging of mind and machine thrills, frightens, and intrigues us. For decades, experiments at the border between brains and electronics have led to sensationalistic media coverage, vivid science fiction portrayals, and dreams of cyborgs and bionic men. But recently, this area of science has seen remarkable advances—from robotic limbs controlled directly by brain activity, to brain implants that alter the mood of the depressed, to rats steered by remote control. Adam Keiper explores the peculiar history and present directions of this research, and considers the challenges of staying human in the age of neuroelectronics.

Link to article ‘The Age of Neuroelectronics’.