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The Latest Brain News

December 2012 - Here are some interesting bits of news and information about the brain and brain power that I have gathered from around the internet.

Mind Reading Computers

It is now possible for a computer to recognize what you are thinking about, at least when you are being scanned by an fMRI and you have limited choices as to your focus. In an article in Scientific American the reporter says he was instructed (while his brain was being scanned) to imagine different objects, and when the computer had to figure out which of two objects he had thought of first, it got it right 100% of the time. The program can also determine what number you are thinking of (in limited circumstances).

Brain Effects of Drinking During Pregnancy

A recent study on drinking during pregnancy found that drinking a glass of wine daily will not harm a mothers unborn child or have any measurable cognitive effects. Heavy drinking does do damage.

Mind After Death

John Smart, who calls himself a "technology foresight educator and a scholar in global processes of evolution, development, and accelerating change," argues that we will soon be able to preserve some aspects of our memories and identity after we die. The process he envisions will use chemical or cryogenic techniques. In a recent article he predicts that if the necessary technologies (including robotics and computational neuroscience) keep developing at projected rates, by the end of the century we will be able upload our memories and elements of identity to a computer, effectively reanimating them, or at least simulating them.

You can read why he thinks this will happen in his article on preserving the self. But a question naturally arises if the technology will preserve only some parts of our identities and memories, and if the parts preserved are a choice. It is: Which parts of yourself would you choose to save?

A Computer Based on the Brain

IBM is working on a computer that will more closely simulate the human brain. They are trying to bring together nanotechnology, neuroscience, and supercomputing to create one of the worlds most powerful computers. In the video here Dharmendra Modha explains the idea of "cognitive computing" and how he and others are developing an electronic neuromorphic (brain-simulation) machine technology. Note his analogy of current computers as "left brain" simulators, while the goal is to have a computer that works more holistically like the entire human brain, left and right sides.

New Formats for Brain Information

You have seen the pages of the website, and perhaps subscribe to the Brainpower Newsletter (if not there should be a form somewhere on this page where you can sign up for free). You may have noticed that I use only a few photos and other images, and an occasional video. I will be trying to include more of these in the future. One media format I have not used yet is the podcast, which is just another word for a recording (although they were originally meant for playing on MP3 players you can listen on the computer or put them on a CD as well.

I found a site that has a podcast program you might enjoy. You can download free episodes of the Brain Science Podcast, and then listen to them at your leisure. If you are a Brainpower Newsletter subscriber, hit that "reply" button when you get the next issue and let me know what you think (I am not at all involved with the podcasts, but I always am looking for some feedback on the resources that I link to).

Einstein's Brain

It turns out that Albert Eistein's brain may have been different than our own brains. According to a recent report on Fox News Online, photographs, published in the journal Brain in November (2012), show extra folds in the gray matter where conscious thinking is done. In general thinker gray matter is found in those with higher IQs, and Einstein's brain appears to have "unusually elaborate folding."

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