Tag: Neuroscience (page 1 of 2)

Dept. of Defense Agency DARPA Confirms Thought to Computer Technology Research

New effort aims for fully implantable devices able to connect with up to one million neurons

(Note from Greg: Implantable devices does not in any way imply mechanical or physical implants are necessary. Ex-CIA scientist Dr. Robert Duncan states in his book Project: Soul Catcher, wireless implantable brain to computer technology already exists and is in use.)  


From DARPA's official website
outreach@darpa.mil
1/19/2016

A new DARPA program aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world. The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology. The goal is to achieve this communications link in a biocompatible device no larger than one cubic centimeter in size, roughly the volume of two nickels stacked back to back.

The program, Neural Engineering System Design (NESD), stands to dramatically enhance research capabilities in neurotechnology and provide a foundation for new therapies.

“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”

Among the program’s potential applications are devices that could compensate for deficits in sight or hearing by feeding digital auditory or visual information into the brain at a resolution and experiential quality far higher than is possible with current technology.

Neural interfaces currently approved for human use squeeze a tremendous amount of information through just 100 channels, with each channel aggregating signals from tens of thousands of neurons at a time. The result is noisy and imprecise. In contrast, the NESD program aims to develop systems that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a given region of the brain.

Achieving the program’s ambitious goals and ensuring that the envisioned devices will have the potential to be practical outside of a research setting will require integrated breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing. In addition to the program’s hardware challenges, NESD researchers will be required to develop advanced mathematical and neuro-computation techniques to first transcode high-definition sensory information between electronic and cortical neuron representations and then compress and represent those data with minimal loss of fidelity and functionality.

To accelerate that integrative process, the NESD program aims to recruit a diverse roster of leading industry stakeholders willing to offer state-of-the-art prototyping and manufacturing services and intellectual property to NESD researchers on a pre-competitive basis. In later phases of the program, these partners could help transition the resulting technologies into research and commercial application spaces.

To familiarize potential participants with the technical objectives of NESD, DARPA will host a Proposers Day meeting that runs Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2-3, 2016, in Arlington, Va. The Special Notice announcing the Proposers Day meeting is available at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-16-16/listing.html. More details about the Industry Group that will support NESD is available at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-16-17/listing.html. A Broad Agency Announcement describing the specific capabilities sought is available at: http://go.usa.gov/cP474.
DARPA anticipates investing up to $60 million in the NESD program over four years.

NESD is part of a broader portfolio of programs within DARPA that support President Obama’s brain initiative. For more information about DARPA’s work in that domain, please visit: http://www.darpa.mil/program/our-research/darpa-and-the-brain-initiative.

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What happens to your body when you give up sugar?





Excerpt from independent.co.uk
By Jordan Gaines Lewis


In neuroscience, food is something we call a “natural reward.” In order for us to survive as a species, things like eating, having sex and nurturing others must be pleasurable to the brain so that these behaviours are reinforced and repeated.
Evolution has resulted in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain system that deciphers these natural rewards for us. When we do something pleasurable, a bundle of neurons called the ventral tegmental area uses the neurotransmitter dopamine to signal to a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The connection between the nucleus accumbens and our prefrontal cortex dictates our motor movement, such as deciding whether or not to taking another bite of that delicious chocolate cake. The prefrontal cortex also activates hormones that tell our body: “Hey, this cake is really good. And I’m going to remember that for the future.”
Not all foods are equally rewarding, of course. Most of us prefer sweets over sour and bitter foods because, evolutionarily, our mesolimbic pathway reinforces that sweet things provide a healthy source of carbohydrates for our bodies. When our ancestors went scavenging for berries, for example, sour meant “not yet ripe,” while bitter meant “alert – poison!”
Fruit is one thing, but modern diets have taken on a life of their own. A decade ago, it was estimated that the average American consumed 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, amounting to an extra 350 calories; it may well have risen since then. A few months ago, one expert suggested that the average Briton consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar each week.
Today, with convenience more important than ever in our food selections, it’s almost impossible to come across processed and prepared foods that don’t have added sugars for flavour, preservation, or both.
These added sugars are sneaky – and unbeknown to many of us, we’ve become hooked. In ways that drugs of abuse – such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin – hijack the brain’s reward pathway and make users dependent, increasing neuro-chemical and behavioural evidence suggests that sugar is addictive in the same way, too.

Sugar addiction is real

Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a huge sweet tooth. I always have. My friend and fellow graduate student Andrew is equally afflicted, and living in Hershey, Pennsylvania – the “Chocolate Capital of the World” – doesn’t help either of us. But Andrew is braver than I am. Last year, he gave up sweets for Lent. “The first few days are a little rough,” Andrew told me. “It almost feels like you’re detoxing from drugs. I found myself eating a lot of carbs to compensate for the lack of sugar.”
There are four major components of addiction: bingeing, withdrawal, craving, and cross-sensitisation (the notion that one addictive substance predisposes someone to becoming addicted to another). All of these components have been observed in animal models of addiction – for sugar, as well as drugs of abuse.
A typical experiment goes like this: rats are deprived of food for 12 hours each day, then given 12 hours of access to a sugary solution and regular chow. After a month of following this daily pattern, rats display behaviours similar to those on drugs of abuse. They’ll binge on the sugar solution in a short period of time, much more than their regular food. They also show signs of anxiety and depression during the food deprivation period. Many sugar-treated rats who are later exposed to drugs, such as cocaine and opiates, demonstrate dependent behaviours towards the drugs compared to rats who did not consume sugar beforehand.
Like drugs, sugar spikes dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Over the long term, regular sugar consumption actually changes the gene expression and availability of dopamine receptors in both the midbrain and frontal cortex. Specifically, sugar increases the concentration of a type of excitatory receptor called D1, but decreases another receptor type called D2, which is inhibitory. Regular sugar consumption also inhibits the action of the dopamine transporter, a protein which pumps dopamine out of the synapse and back into the neuron after firing.
In short, this means that repeated access to sugar over time leads to prolonged dopamine signalling, greater excitation of the brain’s reward pathways and a need for even more sugar to activate all of the midbrain dopamine receptors like before. The brain becomes tolerant to sugar – and more is needed to attain the same “sugar high.”

Sugar withdrawal is also real

Although these studies were conducted in rodents, it’s not far-fetched to say that the same primitive processes are occurring in the human brain, too. “The cravings never stopped, [but that was] probably psychological,” Andrew told me. “But it got easier after the first week or so.”
In a 2002 study by Carlo Colantuoni and colleagues of Princeton University, rats who had undergone a typical sugar dependence protocol then underwent “sugar withdrawal.” This was facilitated by either food deprivation or treatment with naloxone, a drug used for treating opiate addiction which binds to receptors in the brain’s reward system. Both withdrawal methods led to physical problems, including teeth chattering, paw tremors, and head shaking. Naloxone treatment also appeared to make the rats more anxious, as they spent less time on an elevated apparatus that lacked walls on either side.
Similar withdrawal experiments by others also report behaviour similar to depression in tasks such as the forced swim test. Rats in sugar withdrawal are more likely to show passive behaviours (like floating) than active behaviours (like trying to escape) when placed in water, suggesting feelings of helplessness.
A new study published by Victor Mangabeira and colleagues in this month’s Physiology & Behavior reports that sugar withdrawal is also linked to impulsive behaviour. Initially, rats were trained to receive water by pushing a lever. After training, the animals returned to their home cages and had access to a sugar solution and water, or just water alone. After 30 days, when rats were again given the opportunity to press a lever for water, those who had become dependent on sugar pressed the lever significantly more times than control animals, suggesting impulsive behaviour.
These are extreme experiments, of course. We humans aren’t depriving ourselves of food for 12 hours and then allowing ourselves to binge on soda and doughnuts at the end of the day. But these rodent studies certainly give us insight into the neuro-chemical underpinnings of sugar dependence, withdrawal, and behaviour.
Through decades of diet programmes and best-selling books, we’ve toyed with the notion of “sugar addiction” for a long time. There are accounts of those in “sugar withdrawal” describing food cravings, which can trigger relapse and impulsive eating. There are also countless articles and books about the boundless energy and new-found happiness in those who have sworn off sugar for good. But despite the ubiquity of sugar in our diets, the notion of sugar addiction is still a rather taboo topic.
Are you still motivated to give up sugar? You might wonder how long it will take until you’re free of cravings and side-effects, but there’s no answer – everyone is different and no human studies have been done on this. But after 40 days, it’s clear that Andrew had overcome the worst, likely even reversing some of his altered dopamine signalling. “I remember eating my first sweet and thinking it was too sweet,” he said. “I had to rebuild my tolerance.”
And as regulars of a local bakery in Hershey – I can assure you, readers, that he has done just that.
Jordan Gaines Lewis is a Neuroscience Doctoral Candidate at Penn State College of Medicine

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Is playing ‘Space Invaders’ a milestone in artificial intelligence?





Excerpt from latimes.com

Computers have beaten humans at chess and "Jeopardy!," and now they can master old Atari games such as "Space Invaders" or "Breakout" without knowing anything about their rules or strategies.

Playing Atari 2600 games from the 1980s may seem a bit "Back to the Future," but researchers with Google's DeepMind project say they have taken a small but crucial step toward a general learning machine that can mimic the way human brains learn from new experience.

Unlike the Watson and Deep Blue computers that beat "Jeopardy!" and chess champions with intensive programming specific to those games, the Deep-Q Network built its winning strategies from keystrokes up, through trial and error and constant reprocessing of feedback to find winning strategies.

Image result for space invaders

“The ultimate goal is to build smart, general-purpose [learning] machines. We’re many decades off from doing that," said artificial intelligence researcher Demis Hassabis, coauthor of the study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature. "But I do think this is the first significant rung of the ladder that we’re on." 
The Deep-Q Network computer, developed by the London-based Google DeepMind, played 49 old-school Atari games, scoring "at or better than human level," on 29 of them, according to the study.
The algorithm approach, based loosely on the architecture of human neural networks, could eventually be applied to any complex and multidimensional task requiring a series of decisions, according to the researchers. 

The algorithms employed in this type of machine learning depart strongly from approaches that rely on a computer's ability to weigh stunning amounts of inputs and outcomes and choose programmed models to "explain" the data. Those approaches, known as supervised learning, required artful tailoring of algorithms around specific problems, such as a chess game.

The computer instead relies on random exploration of keystrokes bolstered by human-like reinforcement learning, where a reward essentially takes the place of such supervision.
“In supervised learning, there’s a teacher that says what the right answer was," said study coauthor David Silver. "In reinforcement learning, there is no teacher. No one says what the right action was, and the system needs to discover by trial and error what the correct action or sequence of actions was that led to the best possible desired outcome.”

The computer "learned" over the course of several weeks of training, in hundreds of trials, based only on the video pixels of the game -- the equivalent of a human looking at screens and manipulating a cursor without reading any instructions, according to the study.

Over the course of that training, the computer built up progressively more abstract representations of the data in ways similar to human neural networks, according to the study.
There was nothing about the learning algorithms, however, that was specific to Atari, or to video games for that matter, the researchers said.
The computer eventually figured out such insider gaming strategies as carving a tunnel through the bricks in "Breakout" to reach the back of the wall. And it found a few tricks that were unknown to the programmers, such as keeping a submarine hovering just below the surface of the ocean in "Seaquest."

The computer's limits, however, became evident in the games at which it failed, sometimes spectacularly. It was miserable at "Montezuma's Revenge," and performed nearly as poorly at "Ms. Pac-Man." That's because those games also require more sophisticated exploration, planning and complex route-finding, said coauthor Volodymyr Mnih.

And though the computer may be able to match the video-gaming proficiency of a 1980s teenager, its overall "intelligence" hardly reaches that of a pre-verbal toddler. It cannot build conceptual or abstract knowledge, doesn't find novel solutions and can get stuck trying to exploit its accumulated knowledge rather than abandoning it and resort to random exploration, as humans do. 

“It’s mastering and understanding the construction of these games, but we wouldn’t say yet that it’s building conceptual knowledge, or abstract knowledge," said Hassabis.

The researchers chose the Atari 2600 platform in part because it offered an engineering sweet spot -- not too easy and not too hard. They plan to move into the 1990s, toward 3-D games involving complex environments, such as the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise. That milestone could come within five years, said Hassabis.

“With a few tweaks, it should be able to drive a real car,” Hassabis said.

DeepMind was formed in 2010 by Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman, and received funding from Tesla Motors' Elon Musk and Facebook investor Peter Thiel, among others. It was purchased by Google last year, for a reported $650 million. 

Hassabis, a chess prodigy and game designer, met Legg, an algorithm specialist, while studying at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at University College, London. Suleyman, an entrepreneur who dropped out of Oxford University, is a partner in Reos, a conflict-resolution consulting group.

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Out of Body and Near-Death Experiences May be Real Says Largest-Ever Study

A team based in the UK has spent the last four years seeking out cardiac arrest patients to analyse their experiences, and found that almost 40 per cent of survivors described having some form of “awareness” at a time when they were declared clinically dead.Experts currently believe that the brain shuts down within 20 to 30 seconds of the heart stopping beating – and that it is not possible to be aware of anything at all once that has happened.But scientists in the new s [...]

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Inducing Higher Intelligence and Heightened Senses with Gamma Brain Waves

Anna Hunt, Staff WriterWaking TimesBrainwave entrainment is a way to train the brain to synchronize to a certain frequency, such as gamma, beta, delta, theta and alpha. Each frequency matches a certain state of consciousness. For example, delta is the brainwave dominant while in an unconscious state such as sleeping; while theta and alpha inspire relaxation and help get away from our beta state of consciousness that, at a higher frequency, promotes stress and anxiety. Listening to low [...]

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NASA Brings Scientists & Theologians Together To Prepare World For Extraterrestrial Contact

Arjun Walia, Collective-EvolutionA couple of months ago top U.S. astronomers gathered in front of congress to let them know that extraterrestrial life exists without question. Their main argument was the size of the universe, emphasizing that there are trillions of stars out there, with one in every five most likely harboring an Earth-like planet. It’s also important to keep in mind that planets do not have to be “Earth-like” in order to harbor life. You can read mor [...]

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No sedative necessary: Scientists discover new ‘sleep node’ in the brain



No sedative necessary: Scientists discover new 'sleep node' in the brain
Using designer genes, researchers at UB and Harvard were able to 'turn on' specific neurons in the brainstem that result in deep sleep.


medicalxpress.com

(Medical Xpress)—A sleep-promoting circuit located deep in the primitive brainstem has revealed how we fall into deep sleep. Discovered by researchers at Harvard School of Medicine and the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, this is only the second "sleep node" identified in the mammalian brain whose activity appears to be both necessary and sufficient to produce deep sleep.

Published online in August in Nature Neuroscience, the study demonstrates that fully half of all of the brain's sleep-promoting activity originates from the parafacial zone (PZ) in the brainstem. The brainstem is a primordial part of the brain that regulates basic functions necessary for survival, such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature.
"The close association of a sleep center with other regions that are critical for life highlights the evolutionary importance of sleep in the brain," says Caroline E. Bass, assistant professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a co-author on the paper.
The researchers found that a specific type of neuron in the PZ that makes the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is responsible for deep sleep. They used a set of innovative tools to precisely control these neurons remotely, in essence giving them the ability to turn the neurons on and off at will.
"These new molecular approaches allow unprecedented control over brain function at the cellular level," says Christelle Ancelet, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard School of Medicine. "Before these tools were developed, we often used 'electrical stimulation' to activate a region, but the problem is that doing so stimulates everything the electrode touches and even surrounding areas it didn't. It was a sledgehammer approach, when what we needed was a scalpel."
"To get the precision required for these experiments, we introduced a virus into the PZ that expressed a 'designer' receptor on GABA neurons only but didn't otherwise alter brain function," explains Patrick Fuller, assistant professor at Harvard and senior author on the paper. "When we turned on the GABA neurons in the PZ, the animals quickly fell into a deep sleep without the use of sedatives or sleep aids."
How these neurons interact in the brain with other sleep and wake-promoting brain regions still need to be studied, the researchers say, but eventually these findings may translate into new medications for treating sleep disorders, including insomnia, and the development of better and safer anesthetics.
"We are at a truly transformative point in neuroscience," says Bass, "where the use of designer genes gives us unprecedented ability to control the brain. We can now answer fundamental questions of brain function, which have traditionally been beyond our reach, including the 'why' of sleep, one of the more enduring mysteries in the neurosciences."

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Study Proves Extrasensory Mind-to-Mind Interaction at a Distance

A group of international neuroscientists and robotics engineers have discovered for the first time that human brains can indeed ‘talk’ directly to one another, even from thousands of miles away.A brain-to-brain communication study conducted in coordination with Harvard Medical School has proven that extrasensory mind-to mind interaction can happen over great distances by leveraging different pathways in the mind.The study, coauthored by Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Director of th [...]

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Mind Messaging: Thoughts Transmitted by Brain-to-Brain Link

In an experiment that sounds more like science fiction than reality, two humans were able to send greetings to each other using only a digital connection linking their brains.livescience.comUsing noninvasive means, researchers made brain recordings o...

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The Transhumanism Trap: Why Biohacking Chains Consciousness to the Material World

Can technology help humanity realise its full potential? Transhumanists see the merging of man and machine as a natural “next step” in human evolution, but where does consciousness fall in the equation? Instead of bringing freedom, merging ourselves with technology could chain consciousness to the physical body and material world, overriding our natural capacity for spiritual evolution.The search for expanded states of consciousness is part of the human experience. With technology d [...]

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Feed Your Head: Harnessing Neurogenesis

The human brain contains around 86 billion neurons, and 86 trillion connections between these neurons. That is more connections than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy, or galaxies in the known universe. The human brain is one of the most complex and wondrous things we know of, and is the product over three and half billion years of evolution.There is much we can do to look after our brain, and by doing so we in effect are taking very good care of ourselves. A healthy brain is essential fo [...]

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Intermittent fasting promotes brain health

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by Michelle Bosmier

(NaturalNews) According to a new study carried out at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, fasting for one or two days each week may help improve the condition of individuals suffering from Alzheimer&...

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What’s Love Got to Do With It?

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6 July 2011  

Love’s role in Psychiatry Heidi Waltos, RN, MSN, CNS

http://www.retreatatsp.org/latest-news/uncategorized/loves-role-in-psychiatry/

Every few months I ask my boss if he doesn’t agree that l...

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