Neuroscience

We all avoid different things. I avoid polyester clothing. They avoid talking about death.  (Lisa Daxer)

Projects on SETI projects look for extraterrestrial signals from space.  Work with dolphins, elephants, even chickens seeks to see if these animals are intelligent communicators.  In all this, we take for granted that we understand how we humans, as social creatures, think and react.  But our understanding of communications and social interaction relies on some unusual assumptions.
There has been much debate surrounding Ray Kurzweil and his talk at the Singularity Summit on August 14th 2010, where he discussed reverse engineering the brain, among other things. He was criticized quite harshly by science blogger and biologist PZ Myers (of ScienceBlogs), based mainly on a second-hand account of the presentation by a journalist who covered the event. Ray has since responded to these criticisms, and I have collected the links to those arguments/responses here.
Well, you knew this day was coming. Ray Kurzweil, futurist and author, was attacked for his supposed lack of understanding of how the brain functions, by popular biologist and ScienceBlogs blogger PZ Myers earlier this week.


Image courtesy of Singularity Hub
A word is vague if it has borderline cases. Yul Brynner (the lead in "The King and I") is definitely bald, I am (at the time of this writing) definitely not, and there are many people who seem to be neither. These people are in the “borderline region” of ‘bald’, and this phenomenon is central to vagueness.

Nearly every word in natural language is vague, from ‘person’and ‘coercion’ in ethics, ‘object’ and ‘red’ in physical science, ‘dog’ and ‘male’ in biology, to ‘chair’ and ‘plaid’ in interior decorating.
Vagueness is the rule, not the exception. Pick any natural language word you like, and you will almost surely be able to concoct a case -- perhaps an imaginary case -- where it is unclear to you whether or not the word applies.
The Open Source movement has been an integral part of software development for many years now, and it is starting to explode into the science world. The latest project might even transform brain science communication and understanding to a new level as the new Whole Brain Catalog is now available for anyone to access.
Some people can sleep through a Who concert while others wake up if a mouse in the yard moves.   A new report in Current Biology says the difference is that sound sleepers show a distinct pattern of spontaneous brain rhythms.

During sleep, brain waves become slow and organized and the thalamus, a way station for all types of sensory information except smell, spontaneously engages with the cortex. This interaction can produce transient fluctuations of the brain's electric field visible on the EEG as rhythmic spindles - brief bursts of faster-frequency waves. 
Stained motor neuron from human spinal cord; Courtesy Wikimedia CommonsHistorically, the medical approach to curing the incurable effects of tragic spinal cord injuries--such as the case made famous by America's classic super hero, Christopher Reeve--has been to affect regeneration of damaged nerves through stem cell therapy or by introducing growth factor proteins, like <
A pig's 'mood' can show us how content he is, say researchers at Newcastle's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

Led by Dr Catherine Douglas, the team has employed a technique to 'ask' pigs if they are feeling optimistic or pessimistic about life as a result of the way in which they live and their results say that pigs are capable of complex emotions which are directly influenced by their living conditions.

The Newcastle team taught the pigs to associate a note on a glockenspiel with a treat (an apple) and a dog training 'clicker' with something unpleasant – rustling a plastic bag.
Almost 30 years ago philosopher James Flynn discovered that IQ scores were increasing in every industrialized country around the globe. But before we pat ourselves on back, Bronson and Merryman warn us that we may be in the midst of a Creativity Crisis. Although IQ scores continue to climb, creativity scores, at least as measured on the Torrance Test of Creativity are dropping through the floor. 

After reviewing the scores of 300,000 children using the Torrance Test of Creativity, Kyung-Hee Kim of the College of William and Mary saw a steep decline in scores from kindergarteners to 6th graders.


The basal ganglia is a series of highly connected brain areas localised deep in the cerebral cortex that recently has attracted interest of neuroscientists when it was linked to learning, and discovered to be affected in a number of disorders of the addictive and obsessive spectrum, but also in Parkinson’s disease (PD). And now researchers think they have understood why as they found that neurons in this area signal the beginning and the end of voluntary actions.