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Tag Archives: neuroscience

Musician and researcher Charles Limb wondered how the brain works during musical improvisation — so he put jazz musicians and rappers in an fMRI to find out. What he and his team found has deep implications for our understanding of creativity of all kinds.

O coroa aí de baixo é Antonio Damasio, um “Behavioral Neurobiologist“.

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Ainda rola a transcrição:

Feeling of an emotion is a process that is distinct from having the emotion in the first place. So it helps to understand what is an emotion, what is a feeling, we need to understand what is an emotion. And the emotion is the execution of a very complex program of actions. Some actions that are actually movements, like movement that you can do, change your face for example, in fear, or movements that are internal, that happen in your heart or in your gut, and movements that are actually not muscular movements, but rather, releases of molecules. Say, for example, in the endocrine system into the blood stream, but it’s movement and action in the broad sense of the term.

And an emotion consists of a very well orchestrated set of alterations in the body that has, as a general purpose, making life more survivable by taking care of a danger, of taking care of an opportunity, either/or, or something in between. And it’s something that is set in our genome and that we all have with a certain programmed nature that is modified by our experience so individually we have variations on the pattern. But in essence, your emotion of joy and mine are going to be extremely similar. We may express them physically slightly differently, and it’s of course graded depending on the circumstance, but the essence of the process is going to be the same, unless one of us is not quite well put together and is missing something, otherwise it’s going to be the same.

And it’s going to be the same across even other species. You know, there’s a, you know, we may smile and the dog may wag the tail, but in essence, we have a set program and those programs are similar across individuals in the species.

Then the feeling is actually a portrayal of what is going on in the organs when you are having an emotion. So it’s really the next thing that happens. If you have just an emotion, you would not necessarily feel it. To feel an emotion, you need to represent in the brain in structures that are actually different from the structures that lead to the emotion, what is going on in the organs when you’re having the emotion. So, you can define it very simply as the process of perceiving what is going on in the organs when you are in the throws of an emotion, and that is achieved by a collection of structures, some of which are in the brain stem, and some of which are in the cerebral cortex, namely the insular cortex, which I like to mention not because I think it’s the most important, it’s not. I actually don’t think it’s the number one structure controlling our feelings, but I like to mention because it’s something that people didn’t really know about and many years ago, which probably now are going close to 20 years ago, I thought that the insular would be an important platform for feelings, that’s where I started. And it was a hypothesis and it turns out that the hypothesis is perfectly correct. And 10 years ago, we had the first experiments that showed that it was indeed so, and since then, countless studies have shown that when you’re having feelings of an emotion or feelings of a variety of other things, the insular is active, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the only thing that is active and there are other structures that are very important as well.

Uma das palestras mais pancadas que eu já vi. Muito foda quando o cara compara o último século – programming silicon – com este novo século – programming life.

It would be entirely another thing altogether to be able to design and program DNA, and cells. The ability to design an organism’s function, program it in DNA and then ‘compile’ it to the biochemistry of life to define not just what life is, but what life does would profoundly transform biological science and our understanding of biology, and form the foundations for a profound revolution in medicine, agriculture, energy. We have developed this ability – the ability to program Life. Although in its infancy, we are pioneering a new field from synthetic biology based upon understanding and designing biological computation: Living software.

Isso aí embaixo é a parada mais bizarra que eu já vi. É uma interface visual de programação cuja linguagem é só o DNA humano. E aí, tá bom pra vc?

Eu também fiquei curioso com o título desta palestra e dei o play. A explicação por trás é foda, parte da premissa que o sexo possibilitou a cada pessoa ter em seu cérebro inovações genéticas que vêm de outras pessoas. Essas inovações genéticas se acumulam e espalham ao longo das gerações, e o que importa não é o quão inteligente é uma pessoa, mas sim o quão inteligente é um coletivo. Confuso? O cara aí de baixo explica muito melhor.

Tem um slide muito foda que me chamou a atenção, que é a evolução da renda per capita global:

Mais um texto foda da The Atlantic. Nada menos do que uma bela resposta ao clássico artigo do Nick Carr sobre o google e a nossa estupidez.

Scientists refer to the 12,000 years or so since the last ice age as the Holocene epoch. It encompasses the rise of human civilization and our co-evolution with tools and technologies that allow us to grapple with our physical environment. But if intelligence augmentation has the kind of impact I expect, we may soon have to start thinking of ourselves as living in an entirely new era. The focus of our technological evolution would be less on how we manage and adapt to our physical world, and more on how we manage and adapt to the immense amount of knowledge we’ve created. We can call it the Nöocene epoch, from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the Nöosphere, a collective consciousness created by the deepening interaction of human minds. As that epoch draws closer, the world is becoming a very different place.

Parte interessante sobre cigarro e café:

The rise of urbanization allowed a fraction of the populace to focus on more-cerebral tasks—a fraction that grew inexorably as more-complex economic and social practices demanded more knowledge work, and industrial technology reduced the demand for manual labor. And caffeine and nicotine, of course, are both classic cognitive-enhancement drugs, primitive though they may be.

Se o artigo do Nick se chamava Is Google Making Us Stupid?, este vem com o sugestivo título Get Smarter. Eis o por que:

The Mount Toba incident, although unprecedented in magnitude, was part of a broad pattern. For a period of 2 million years, ending with the last ice age around 10,000 B.C., the Earth experienced a series of convulsive glacial events. This rapid-fire climate change meant that humans couldn’t rely on consistent patterns to know which animals to hunt, which plants to gather, or even which predators might be waiting around the corner.

How did we cope? By getting smarter. The neuro­physi­ol­ogist William Calvin argues persuasively that modern human cognition—including sophisticated language and the capacity to plan ahead—evolved in response to the demands of this long age of turbulence. According to Calvin, the reason we survived is that our brains changed to meet the challenge: we transformed the ability to target a moving animal with a thrown rock into a capability for foresight and long-term planning. In the process, we may have developed syntax and formal structure from our simple language.

if the next several decades are as bad as some of us fear they could be, we can respond, and survive, the way our species has done time and again: by getting smarter. But this time, we don’t have to rely solely on natural evolutionary processes to boost our intelligence. We can do it ourselves.

The very act of ‘thinking about thinking’, in which people develop an understanding of how brains and behaviours work, has the potential to empower people as part of a new model of active, 21st century citizenship.

De um PDF com o pomposo título “Steer: Mastering our behaviour through instinct, enviroment and reason“, cujo link foge ao meu preguiçoso alcance. Essa parte aqui é foda, fala que para entender comportamento é preciso entender que o cérebro humano se divide entre dois sistemas, o controlado e o automático. E é a forma como esses dois sistemas se entrelaçam que origina a nossa espantosa e até aqui subestimada irracionalidade:

The controlled system appears to be more or less unique to humans and comprises the abilities to think, set and pursue goals, and deliberate.

The automatic system is shared with animals, and consists of a battery of intuitive and instinctive behavioural responses.

However, it would be wrong to see the human brain as an animal brain with the controlled system tacked on top. In fact, the two systems work together in humans in a very sophisticated way so that our emotions (as compared to animal emotions) are far more complex and cognitive (consider the social emotions of admiration and respect).

The automatic system does not require conscious control. It is fast, can process information in parallel, and tends to be associative rather than logical. For example, when you cross the road safely while talking on your mobile phone, your automatic system is doing all kinds of processing to make this possible.

It is probably right to say that most of our behaviour is guided by the automatic system. We think, deliberate and plan much more rarely than we would care to admit.

A gente tira onda que é racional mas na maioria das vezes agimos tal qual os animais. E assim segue a humanidade em sua insignificância arrogante.

Esta é uma frase que eu costumo usar por aqui com certa frequência, e esta matéria da BBC, chamada Creative minds mimic schizophrenia“, não me deixa mentir.

Creativity is akin to insanity, say scientists who have been studying how the mind works.

Brain scans reveal striking similarities in the thought pathways of highly creative people and those with schizophrenia. Both groups lack important receptors used to filter and direct thought.

O assunto por si só é interessantíssimo, mas essa última frase torna a matéria ainda mais deliciosa. Ora, nos dias de hoje, o que mais precisamos para sobreviver à enxurrada informacional são filtros. Além dos filtros dentro da nossa caixola, estamos somando filtros artificias. De que forma isso pode impactar a criatividade? Devaneio concluído, voltemos à matéria da BBC:

Some of the world’s leading artists, writers and theorists have also had mental illnesses – the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and American mathematician John Nash (portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind) to name just two.

Creativity is known to be associated with an increased risk of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Similarly, people who have mental illness in their family have a higher chance of being creative.

Fica a dica: se vc tem algum parente pancada da cabeça, coloque no currículo.

Essa frase aí embaixo é foda!

“Creativity is uncomfortable. It is their dissatisfaction with the present that drives them on to make changes.

“Creative people, like those with psychotic illnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It’s like looking at a shattered mirror. They see the world in a fractured way.

“Creativity is certainly about not being constrained by rules or accepting the restrictions that society places on us. Of course the more people break the rules, the more likely they are to be perceived as ‘mentally ill’.”

Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge have previously found that the brain responds to near miss gambling outcomes in much the same way it does to as winning. In moderate gamblers, both types of outcome activate the reward circuitry, and although near miss events are experienced to be somewhat less rewarding than wins, they nevertheless increase the desire and motivation to gamble. For games involving skill, near misses indicate an improvement in performance and spur the player to try again. But gambling is a game of chance, which distorts gamblers’ thought processes – near misses cause them gambler to overestimate both the level of skill involved and their chances of winning. This spurs them to continue gambling.

Bizarro é saber que os caras que desenham jogos estilo caça níquel já sabiam disso:

Manufacturers of gambling games have apparently known the rewarding effects of near misses all along, and they design slot machines in such a way as to exploit the cognitive distortions of gamblers. Using a technique called clustering, they create a high number of failures that are close to wins, so that what the player sees is a misrepresentation of the probabilities and randomness that the game involves. The gambler who nearly hits the jackpot will therefore want to continue playing, because he thinks he has a good chance of winning.

Filhos da puta! E como bem disse o Noah, este é um bom assunto para se pensar em um mundo cada vez mais infestado de mecanismos de jogos.

Li um texto foda na New Scientist, entitulado “A slow mind may nurture more creative ideas“.

Rex Jung at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and his colleagues had found that creativity correlates with low levels of the chemical N-acetylaspartate, which is found in neurons and seems to promote neural health and metabolism.

Several recent studies have suggested that white matter of high integrity in the cortex, which is associated with higher mental function, means increased intelligence. But when Jung looked at the link between white matter and creativity, he found something quite different.

Jung suggests that slower communication between some areas may actually make people more creative. “This might allow for the linkage of more disparate ideas, more novelty, and more creativity,” he says.

The results are surprising, given that high white-matter integrity is normally considered a good thing, says Paul Thompson at the University of California in Los Angeles. He acknowledges that speedy information transfer may not be vital for creative thought. “Sheer mental speed might be good for playing chess or doing a Rubik’s cube, but you don’t necessarily think of writing novels or creating art as being something that requires sheer mental speed,” he says.

Complementando o post aí de baixo, mais uma idéia fascinante e assustadora, desta vez do futurista Ray Kurzweil. Trata-se de uma simulação a partir da nanotecnologia:

In his book, The Singularity is Near, futurist Ray Kurzweil describes how a nanotechnology powered neural network could give rise to the ultimate virtual reality experience. By suffusing the brain with specialized nanobots, he speculates that we will someday be able to override reality and replace it with an experience that’s completely fabricated. And all without the use of a single brain jack.

Here’s how:

First, we have to remember that all sensory data we experience is converted into electrical signals that the brain can process. The brain does a very good job of this, and we in turn experience these inputs as subjective awareness (namely through consciousness and feelings of qualia); our perception of reality is therefore nothing more than the brain’s interpretation of incoming sensory information.

Now imagine that you could stop this sensory data at the conversion point and replace it with something else.

That’s where the nano neural net comes in. According to Kurzweil, nanbots would park themselves near every interneuronal connection coming in from our senses (sight, hearing, touch, balance, etc.). They would then work to 1) halt the incoming sensory signals (not difficult—we already know how to use “neuron transistors” that can detect and suppress neuronal firing) and 2) replace these inputs with the signals required to support a believable virtual reality environment (a bit more challenging).

As Kurzweil notes, “The brain does not experience the body directly.” As far as the conscious self is concerned, the sensory data would completely override the feelings generated by the real environment. The brain would experience the synthetic signals just as it would the real ones.