Permalink to How the brain recognises objects

How the brain recognises objects

To recognise a chair or a dog, our brain separates objects into their individual properties and then puts them back together. Until recently, it has remained unclear what these properties are. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have now identified them - from "fluffy" to "valuable" - and found that all it takes is 49 properties to recognise almost any object. We live in a world full of things that we have to identify and classify into different categories. Only when you are able to identify the things around you, you can communicate with others about them and act in a meaningful way. If we see something in front of us that we recognise as a chair, we can sit on it. Once we have identified an object as a cup, we...

Read More
Permalink to Neuroscience can help us understand why free will is real

Neuroscience can help us understand why free will is real

Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder and biologist Jerry Coyne, who deny free will, don't seem to understand the neuroscience Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne seems obsessed with denying free will. In a recent post on his blog, Why Evolution Is True, he supported the claim of theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder that we do not have free will: If you've read this site, you'll know that my own views are pretty much the same as hers, at least about free will. We don't have it, and the fundamental indeterminacy of quantum mechanics doesn't give it to us either. Hossenfelder doesn't pull any punches: "This means in a nutshell that the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out."... QED! Jerry Coyne, "Sabine Hossenfelder says we don't have free will,...

Read More
Permalink to SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Susannah Hays Interview: Polyvagal Theory, Gurdjieff and the Evolution of Man

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Susannah Hays Interview: Polyvagal Theory, Gurdjieff and the Evolution of Man

In recent years researchers like Stephen Porges have brought a newfound understanding of the body's all-important polyvagal system to greater and deeper awareness. The tenth cranial nerve, or vagus nerve, has a great impact on the health of major organs (including the brain), and even direct impact on a human being's 'higher' functioning. Interestingly however, is the historic fact that the wandering nerve has also been the subject of research and speculation for hundreds of years, among the scientists of the West - as well as the mystics of the East. This week on MindMatters we discuss a new development in research that seeks to bring together these seemingly separate subjects with Susannah Hays, MFA PhD. In her doctoral thesis and subsequent paper 'Nature as Discourse: Transdisciplinarity and Vagus Nerve Function,' Dr. Hays lays out not only the historical precedent...

Read More
Permalink to We were made for these times

We were made for these times

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people. You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been...

Read More
Permalink to The curse of game theory and why it’s in your self-interest to break the rules of the game

The curse of game theory and why it’s in your self-interest to break the rules of the game

Game theory, the mathematical theory of games of strategy, was developed by John von Neumann in several successive stages in 1928 and 1940-41, according to his book Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour which he co-authored with Oskar Morgenstern. The crux of the theory is that an individuals' behaviour will always be motivated towards achieving an optimal outcome, which is determined by self-interest. An assumption made is that the players in such a game are rational, which translates to, "will strive to maximize their payoffs in the game". In other words, it is assumed they are motivated by selfish self-interests. Over the years, other contributors such as John Nash (Nash equilibrium) and John Maynard Smith (evolutionary stable strategy) have added to the theory and we are now at a point where it is considered by many to be an essential...

Read More
Permalink to Study on decision-making behavior – Nerve cell activity shows how confident we are

Study on decision-making behavior – Nerve cell activity shows how confident we are

Should I or shouldn't I? The activity of individual nerve cells in the brain tells us how confident we are in our decisions. This is shown by a recent study by researchers at the University of Bonn. The result is unexpected - the researchers were actually on the trail of a completely different evaluation mechanism. The results are published in the journal Current Biology. You are sitting in a café and want to enjoy a piece of cake with your cappuccino. The Black Forest gateau is just too rich for you and is therefore quickly eliminated. Choosing between the carrot cake and the rhubarb crumble is much trickier: The warm weather favors the refreshingly fruity cake. Carrot cake, however, is one of your all-time favorites. So what to do? Every day we have to make decisions, and we are much...

Read More
Permalink to New clues about ‘travelling brain waves’

New clues about ‘travelling brain waves’

Next time you can't find the car keys sitting right in front of you, try blaming your "travelling brain waves". Scientists in North America believe these neural signals exist in the visual system of the awake brain and are organised to allow the brain to perceive objects that are faint or just difficult to see - or not. "We've discovered that faint objects are much more likely to be seen if visualising the object is timed with the travelling brain waves," says John Reynolds from the Salk Institute, US, senior author of the team's paper in Nature. "The waves actually facilitate perceptual sensitivity, so there are moments in time when you can see things that you otherwise could not. It turns out that these travelling brain waves are an information-gathering process leading to the perception of an object." The waves...

Read More
Permalink to We learn faster when we aren’t told what choices to make says new study

We learn faster when we aren’t told what choices to make says new study

In a perfect world, we would learn from success and failure alike. Both hold instructive lessons and provide needed reality checks that may safeguard our decisions from bad information or biased advice. But, alas, our brain doesn't work this way. Unlike an impartial outcome-weighing machine an engineer might design, it learns more from some experiences than others. A few of these biases may already sound familiar: A positivity bias causes us to weigh rewards more heavily than punishments. And a confirmation bias makes us take to heart outcomes that confirm what we thought was true to begin with but discount those that show we were wrong. A new study, however, peels away these biases to find a role for choice at their core. A bias related to the choices we make explains all the others, says Stefano Palminteri of the...

Read More
Permalink to New study says writing by hand makes kids smarter

New study says writing by hand makes kids smarter

New brain research shows that writing by hand helps children learn more and remember better. At the same time, schools are becoming more and more digital, and a European survey shows that Norwegian children spend the most time online of 19 countries in the EU. Professor Audrey van der Meer at NTNU believes that national guidelines should be put into place to ensure that children receive at least a minimum of handwriting training. Results from several studies have shown that both children and adults learn more and remember better when writing by hand. Now another study confirms the same: choosing handwriting over keyboard use yields the best learning and memory. "When you write your shopping list or lecture notes by hand, you simply remember the content better afterwards," Van der Meer says. ...

Read More
Permalink to Epicurus on the role of suffering and pursuit of happiness

Epicurus on the role of suffering and pursuit of happiness

We've all been there. Fear, anxiety, depression, existential dread...these are common side effects of the human condition and part of life experience. No matter where you have found yourself in history or what may be happening in global society, anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional challenges present themselves to us all at some point in our journey through life. Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 - 270BC) recognized the suffering within himself and his fellow men and women. He established the Epicurean school of philosophy that promoted the Art of Simple Living. ...

Read More