Archive for the ‘neuroscience’ category

Nov 25, 2015

‘Go’ Is the Game Machines Can’t Beat. Google’s Artificial Intelligence Whiz Hints That His Will — By Mark Bergen | Re/code

Posted by in categories: business, computing, innovation, machine learning, neuroscience, robotics/AI


“When the world’s smartest researchers train computers to become smarter, they like to use games. Go, the two-player board game born in China more than two millennia ago, remains the nut that machines still can’t crack.”

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Nov 25, 2015

Stephen Hawking’s Legacy Could Be ‘Holy Grail’ Of Physics: Combining Gravity And Quantum Mechanics At Black Hole Horizons

Posted by in categories: cosmology, neuroscience, nuclear energy, particle physics, quantum physics, sustainability


To suggest that quantum mechanics and gravity are on the verge of being reconciled would be, to the physics world at least, as significant as the discover of splitting the atom. While splitting the atom might have led to the nuclear bomb, it also led to the technology of nuclear power, i.e. nuclear fission, which, if harnessed properly, creates a renewable and sustainable energy resource. The problem has always been that quantum mechanics — the rules that govern sub-atomic particles — and gravity, the rule that governs mass as we know it (the stuff we can touch and feel), do not agree with each other. The question has always been, what is it that “unifies” these two theories? Is quantum mechanics God playing dice, as Einstein suggested?

“God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”

Continue reading “Stephen Hawking’s Legacy Could Be ‘Holy Grail’ Of Physics: Combining Gravity And Quantum Mechanics At Black Hole Horizons” »

Nov 24, 2015

The Drug Lords of Tomorrow Will Be Biohackers

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

New article for Vice Motherboard on the future of drugs and implants:

Brain stimulation is the future of drugs.

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Nov 24, 2015

Hacking the Brain — Restoring Lost Abilities With the Latest Neurotechnologies

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, computing, cyborgs, genetics, nanotechnology, neuroscience, Ray Kurzweil

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Ray Kurzweil’s wild prediction that in the 2030s, nanobots will connect our brains to the cloud, merging biology with the digital world.

Let’s talk about what’s happening today.

Over the past few decades, billions of dollars have been poured into three areas of research: neuroprosthetics, brain-computer interfaces and optogenetics.

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Nov 17, 2015

Experimental Dementia Drug May Have Anti-Aging Effects

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, life extension, neuroscience

Researchers at the Salk Institute working on an experimental Alzheimer’s drug have discovered it may have a host of anti-aging effects too.

Building on previous work

Research had already been conducted on the drug candidate, J147, with the aim of targeting Alzheimer’s. The results showed the drug could help prevent and even regenerate; reversing memory loss and a form of inherited Alzheimer’s disease in mice subjects. While this form comprises only 1% of Alzheimer’s cases, the biggest risk factor for the remainder is old age. If you could target brain aging itself, risk factors would be significantly reduced.

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Nov 17, 2015

Are there More Stars in the Universe than Grains of Sand on Earth?

Posted by in categories: neuroscience, physics, space

It may hurt your brain to think about it, but it appears that the answer is possibly to be yes, or at least the numbers are almost in the same ballpark.

Astrophysicists in fact set out to answer this question about a decade ago. It’s a complicated problem to solve, but it’s somewhat easier if you throw in a couple of qualifiers — that we are talking about stars in the observable universe; and grains of sand on the whole planet, not just the seashores.

The researchers started by calculating the luminosity density of a section of the cosmos — this is a calculation of how much light is in that space. They then utilized this calculation to guess the number of stars needed to make that amount of light. This was quite a mathematical challenge!

Continue reading “Are there More Stars in the Universe than Grains of Sand on Earth?” »

Nov 16, 2015

A network of artificial neurons learns to use human language

Posted by in categories: computing, neuroscience

A computer simulation of a cognitive model entirely made up of artificial neurons learns to communicate through dialog starting from a state of tabula rasa —

A group of researchers from the University of Sassari (Italy) and the University of Plymouth (UK) has developed a cognitive model, made up of two million interconnected artificial neurons, able to learn to communicate using human language starting from a state of ‘tabula rasa’, only through communication with a human interlocutor. The model is called ANNABELL (Artificial Neural Network with Adaptive Behavior Exploited for Language Learning) and it is described in an article published in PLOS ONE. This research sheds light on the neural processes that underlie the development of language.

How does our brain develop the ability to perform complex cognitive functions, such as those needed for language and reasoning? This is a question that certainly we are all asking ourselves, to which the researchers are not yet able to give a complete answer. We know that in the human brain there are about one hundred billion neurons that communicate by means of electrical signals. We learned a lot about the mechanisms of production and transmission of electrical signals among neurons. There are also experimental techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, which allow us to understand which parts of the brain are most active when we are involved in different cognitive activities. But a detailed knowledge of how a single neuron works and what are the functions of the various parts of the brain is not enough to give an answer to the initial question.

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Nov 15, 2015

Lost And Found: Can We Restore Forgotten Memories?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, neuroscience

Memories are priceless, and the plight of dementia patients highlights how important they are to forming what makes us, well us. Now a new study has provided hope we may one day be able to restore lost memories.

Clearing the mist

A paper from researchers at MIT has demonstrated the reactivation of memories in amnesia patients with optogenetics — in which cell activity is controlled by bursts of light.

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Nov 14, 2015

Blood-brain barrier opened non-invasively for the first time in humans, using focused ultrasound

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health, neuroscience

Opening up the blood-brain barrier to deliver drugs (credit: Focused Ultrasound Foundation)

The blood-brain barrier has been non-invasively opened in a human patient for the first time. A team at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto used focused ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier (BBB), allowing for effective delivery of chemotherapy into a patient’s malignant brain tumor.

Continue reading “Blood-brain barrier opened non-invasively for the first time in humans, using focused ultrasound” »

Nov 13, 2015

Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, neuroscience

This animation depicts the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing – a powerful new technology with many applications in biomedical research, including the potential to treat human genetic disease. Feng Zhang, a leader in the development of this technology, is a faculty member at MIT, an investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and a core member of the Broad Institute. Further information can be found on Prof. Zhang’s website at

Images and footage courtesy of Sputnik Animation, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Justin Knight and pond5.

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