Sunday, January 18, 2009
Although the idea that instrumental learning can occur subconsciously has been around for nearly a century, it had not been unequivocally demonstrated. Now, new research uses sophisticated perceptual masking, computational modeling, and neuroimaging to show that instrumental learning can occur in the human brain without conscious processing of contextual cues.
|Neuroscientists have solved a mystery that lies at the heart of human learning, and they say the solution may help explain some forms of mental retardation as well as provide clues to overall brain functioning.|
Plastic Brain Outsmarts Experts: Training Can Increase Fluid Intelligence, Once Thought To Be Fixed At BirthCan human beings rev up their intelligence quotients, or are they stuck with IQs set by their genes at birth? Until recently, nature seemed to be the clear winner over nurture. But new research suggests that at least one aspect of a person's IQ can be improved by training a certain type of memory.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Stuart Hameroff, an anesthesiologist and director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, argues that the highest function of life—consciousness—is likely a quantum phenomenon too. This is illustrated, he says, through anesthetics. The brain of a patient under anesthesia continues to operate actively, but without a conscious mind at work. What enables anesthetics such as xenon or isoflurane gas to switch off the conscious mind?
Hameroff speculates that anesthetics “interrupt a delicate quantum process” within the neurons of the brain. Each neuron contains hundreds of long, cylindrical protein structures, called microtubules, that serve as scaffolding. Anesthetics, Hameroff says, dissolve inside tiny oily regions of the microtubules, affecting how some electrons inside these regions behave.
He speculates that the action unfolds like this: When certain key electrons are in one “place,” call it to the “left,” part of the microtubule is squashed; when the electrons fall to the “right,” the section is elongated. But the laws of quantum mechanics allow for electrons to be both “left” and “right” at the same time, and thus for the microtubules to be both elongated and squashed at once. Each section of the constantly shifting system has an impact on other sections, potentially via quantum entanglement, leading to a dynamic quantum-mechanical dance.
It is in this faster-than-light subatomic communication, Hameroff says, that consciousness is born. Anesthetics get in the way of the dancing electrons and stop the gyration at its quantum-mechanical core; that is how they are able to switch consciousness off.
It is still a long way from Hameroff’s hypothetical (and experimentally unproven) quantum neurons to a sentient, conscious human brain. But many human experiences, Hameroff says, from dreams to subconscious emotions to fuzzy memory, seem closer to the Alice in Wonderland rules governing the quantum world than to the cut-and-dried reality that classical physics suggests. Discovering a quantum portal within every neuron in your head might be the ultimate trip through the looking glass.
For a key paper, go here.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
"Parents, leave those kids alone": Freedom’s Just Another Word For Less Sexually Active Teens Rigid parenting appears to be linked to increased sexual activity in older teens. More than two of every three American teens has sexual intercourse before age 19. Although it is difficult to confirm that controlling mothers and fathers cause kids to have more sex, the findings suggest it is wise to give children freedom.
|The quality of life of adolescents who think they are too fat is worse than for adolescents who really are obese. This was a result of the all Germany Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) of the Robert Koch Institute, as presented by Bärbel-Maria Kurth and Ute Ellert in the current edition of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.|
Humor Shown To Be Fundamental To Our Success As A Species
Experts explain how and why we find things funny and identify the reason humor is common to all human societies, its fundamental role in the evolution of homo sapiens and its continuing importance in the cognitive development of infants.
And [only referring to myself] "IT'S NOT MY FAULT! I JUST THINK TOO MUCH":
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
"...Much of what we call schooling forecloses or shuts down or walls off meaningful choice-making. Much of it is based on obedience and conformity, the hallmarks of every authoritarian regime. Much of it banishes the unpopular, squirms in the presence of the unorthodox, hides the unpleasant. There's no space for skepticism, irreverence, or even doubt. While many of us long for teaching as something transcendent and powerful, we find ourselves too-often locked in situations that reduce teaching to a kind of glorified clerking, passing along a curriculum of received wisdom and predigested and often false bits of information. This is a recipe for disaster in the long run...."