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
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
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).
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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