To See or Not to See

Motor-Neurons

The brain is a complicated network of small units called neurons, all working to carry information from the outside world, create an internal model, and generate a response. Neurons sense a signal through branching dendrites, carry this signal to the cell body, and send it onwards through a long axon to signal the next neuron. However, neurons can function in many different ways; some of which researchers are still exploring. Read More →

Brain Model Pins Down Motor Decisions

Image Credit: University of Nottingham

Image Credit: University of Nottingham

Talking or reading. Texting a message or listening. The dilemma of choosing between various tasks is not an invention of the modern information age. Humans and all vertebrates have to prioritize their actions. But to understand the neurobiology of how these decisions are made is a challenging scientific problem. Now, the EU-funded project Select-and-Act, completed in 2012, has provided further insight into the problem. Read More →

When Neurons Have Less to Say, They Speak Up

Even when neurons in the visual cortex are cut off from their main source of information, within 48 hours their activity returns to a level similar to that prior to the disruption. Under the microscope the currently active cells light up thanks to the addition of a calcium indicator. Credit: MPI of Neurobiology/Hübener

Even when neurons in the visual cortex are cut off from their main source of information, within 48 hours their activity returns to a level similar to that prior to the disruption. Under the microscope the currently active cells light up thanks to the addition of a calcium indicator. Credit: MPI of Neurobiology/Hübener

The brain is an extremely adaptable organ – but it is also quite conservative. That’s in short, what scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and their colleagues from the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum were now able to show. The researchers found that neurons in the brain regulate their own activity in such a way that the overall activity level in the network remains as constant as possible. Read More →

I’m OK, You’re Not OK

Empathy

The right supramarginal gyrus plays an important role in empathy

Egoism and narcissism appear to be on the rise in our society, while empathy is on the decline. And yet, the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes is extremely important for our coexistence. A research team headed by Tania Singer from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences has discovered that our own feelings can distort our capacity for empathy. This emotionally driven egocentricity is recognized and corrected by the brain. When, however, the right supramarginal gyrus doesn’t function properly or when we have to make particularly quick decisions, our empathy is severely limited. Read More →

Human Brains Hardwired for Empathy & Friendship

Friendships

Perhaps one of the most defining features of humanity is our capacity for empathy – the ability to put ourselves in others’ shoes. A new University of Virginia study strongly suggests that we are hardwired to empathize because we closely associate people who are close to us – friends, spouses, lovers – with our very selves. Read More →

Track Your Concentration with Innovative Headband

Melon comes in black or white.

Melon comes in black or white.

Are you on a quest for greater self-awareness or simply a productivity junkie seeking to frugally extort every second out of the day?  The Melon headband quantifies the brain’s focus during any activity of your choosing to better understand your working habits. Together with its proprietary mobile app, Melon gives insight into the brain’s response to various stimuli: action, environments, emotions, or whatever behavior you decide to measure, and visually records the data. Read More →

Study Finds Brain System for Emotional Self-Control

Human Brain

Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University. Read More →

Mind Over Evolution: An Alternative Vision of Humanity

consciousness

Part of the reason why fierce debates rage around the origins of man – in the conflicts between Creationism and Darwinism that we see within many schools, for example – is because our beliefs about where we came from can strongly influence our sense of identity and our feelings of self-worth. It’s impossible to separate our self-image from our life philosophies in that regard. The stories we cling to will paint our inner pictures of who we are, where we come from and what our race can achieve.

Unfortunately, the stories that we’ve inherited in our culture paint a fairly unflattering picture that does little to inspire us to discover and express our true potential in this world.

Science spins its own version of reality. If you believe that the sky is blue because of the chemical composition of the gases that exist up there, and the way that light refracts off of them, then that’s all you’ll ever see. You won’t perceive the unfathomable mystery of it all. What is the true nature of light, or gases, or the color blue? Questions like these are beyond our ken. The theory of evolution teaches us that it’s useless to ask such questions anyhow, though. This theory, which forms the backbone of so much scientific thought and of our very definitions of humanity, maintains that matter came first and consciousness emerged later – almost as an afterthought; and certainly by accident.

consciousness (1)What if the mind formed matter? What if consciousness preceded everything else, and created form? Our scientific indoctrination has convinced us that reality works the other way around, but we’ve been offered little actual proof of this. What is obvious, however, is that the belief that consciousness always comes first would do much more to uphold the beauty, grace and potential of our natures than does the belief that our existence was the random result of accidental evolution.

We would do well to adopt stories that inspire us and offer us a new vision of what humanity can aspire to. When trying to grasp the nature of our reality as human beings, and drawing upon the resources that civilization offers us, we’ve thus far been essentially left with a choice between atonement (the predominant religious thinking of the West), accepting that the world we exist in is illusory (the predominant religious thinking of the East), or the theory of evolution. Typically, we are never taught or encouraged to believe that we are, ourselves, divine.

None of the arguments that uphold a notion of a barren and sterile universe can hold water. Most children know better than to believe in those wet-blanket descriptions of reality. Sadly, though, they eventually learn to accept them. How could they not, when our cultural beliefs make their survival virtually dependent upon it?

Love has to come from somewhere. But within the world’s established religions, love always has its conditions; and within the world of science, love can be explained away in terms of neurological transmissions and chemical interactions. It seems that our race, by and large, is willing to accept practically any belief except for one that maintains that what we are is something miraculous.

Most scientists or religious scholars would dispute that we are miraculous, by virtue of being conscious beings. Could it be that consciousness came first; that we did not become humans by accident? What if consciousness created our world in order to express all that it is, and to become better acquainted with itself? If this is true, how might it change the idea that consciousness will arise in machines once we’ve reverse-engineered the brain?

Marketers Reading Your Mind [Video]

Researchers in New York have shown that measuring human brain waves could help marketers develop more effective advertising campaigns. The team monitored brain wave activity in volunteers to determine what types of film scenes elicited universal responses. They say their data shows that the method could be far more effective than conventional market research techniques. Thoughts?

 

Robot Reveals the Inner Workings of Brain Cells

Gaining access to the inner workings of a neuron in the living brain offers a wealth of useful information: its patterns of electrical activity, its shape, even a profile of which genes are turned on at a given moment. However, achieving this entry is such a painstaking task that it is considered an art form; it is so difficult to learn that only a small number of labs in the world practice it. Read More →