Dec 23, 2006
Mel Slater at UCL and colleagues have recreated Milgram’s classic obediency psychology experiment using virtual reality. Back in the 1960s Stanley Milgram appeared to show that student participants would obey a researcher and administer lethal electric shocks to a stranger, but the studies have not been replicated because of ethical concerns. Now researchers have tested participants’ willingness to administer electric shocks to a computer animated woman in a virtual reality environment. The study was published a few days ago in PLOS online
Slater, M., Antley, M., Davison, A., Swapp, D., Guger, C., Barker, C., Pistrang, N. & Sanchez-Vives, M.V. (2006). A Virtual Reprise of the Stanley Milgram Obedience Experiments. PLOS ONE, 1, e39 (open access).
PLoS ONE - the newest journal of the Public Library of Science - is looking to completely shift the way peer-reviewed literature works:
PLoS ONE features reports of primary research from all disciplines within science and medicine. By not excluding papers on the basis of subject area, PLoS ONE facilitates the discovery of the connections between papers whether within or between disciplines.
Each submission will be assessed by a member of the PLoS ONE Editorial Board before publication. This pre-publication peer review will concentrate on technical rather than subjective concerns and may involve discussion with other members of the Editorial Board and/or the solicitation of formal reports from independent referees. If published, papers will be made available for community-based open peer review involving online annotation, discussion, and rating.
All works published in PLoS journals are open access, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Everything is immediately available online without cost to anyone, anywhere--to read, download, redistribute, include in databases, and otherwise use--subject only to the condition that the original authorship is properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the author.
Dec 18, 2006
According to technology predictions by analysts Gartner, the blogging phenomenon is set to peak in 2007. Gartner said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million. The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.
Dec 15, 2006
a commentary at the Journal of Neuroscience speculates on the future of research journals and peer-review:
Research studies appear on databases, not in journals
First, I don't think that it makes any sense to continue with paper copies of research articles. Instead of the "quasi-legal" document that is the current scientific article, we should be moving to full data being available on the web together with the software that might have been used to manipulate the data, as well as multimedia presentations to back up the data. Research papers are primarily of interest to other researchers in the same area, and they usually don't need the introduction and certainly not the discussion, which mostly degenerates to hype anyway
If an absence of peer review (or post-publication review, as I call it) is a step too far, then we should have an author (or rather funder) pays model. These fees could support a peer review mechanism, which should be open in that both authors and readers would know who was reviewing studies. It's ethically unacceptable that such important judgements should be made an unidentified judge. Like it or not, we live in a world where what is not transparent is deemed to be biased, corrupt, or incompetent until proved otherwise. Plus I believe that peer review should be a scientific discourse rather than an arbitrary judgment. This is far from radical: it's simply science returning to its roots when science was presented and discussed at meetings rather than published in journals.
Perhaps we will invent new forms of peer review by learning from innovations like Wikipedia. It is in some ways a form of peer review, only reviewers make changes directly rather than simply commenting.
Another worry from the conservative about such a system is to wonder how credit would be allocated. At present credit comes from publishing in prestigious journals. Often the impact factor of the journal (a dubious and manipulated statistic) is allocated to the paper, which is wholly unscientific because there is little correlation between the citations to studies and the impact factor of the journals in which they are published, because the impact factor of a journal is driven by a small number of highly cited studies (Seglen, 1997). In the new world I'm imagining, credit would come from the buzz from researchers and hits on the study. These hits can be disclosed in real time, unlike citations, which come years after studies are published.
Nov 22, 2006
Nov 11, 2006
Via Frontal Cortex
The New York Times reports that British scientists have built an apparatus that simulates human digestion.
From the article:
Constructed from sophisticated plastics and metals able to withstand the corrosive acids and enzymes found in the human gut, the device may ultimately help in the development of super-nutrients, such as obesity-fighting foods that could fool the stomach into thinking it is full.
''There have been lots of jam-jar models of digestion before,'' said Dr. Martin Wickham of Norwich's Institute of Food Research, the artificial gut's chief designer, referring to the beakers of enzymes typically used to approximate the chemical reactions in the stomach.
Wickham's patented artificial gut is a two-part model that is slightly larger than a desktop computer. The top half consists of a funnel in which food, stomach acids and digestive enzymes are mixed. Once this hydration process is finished, the food gets ground down in a silver metal tube encased in a dark, transparent box.
Software sets the parameters of the artificial gut - how long food remains in a particular part of the stomach, predicted hormone responses at various stages, and whether it is an infant or adult gut.
With a capacity about half the size of an actual stomach, the artificial gut can ''eat'' roughly 24 ounces of food. To date, the most substantial meal it's enjoyed is vegetable soup.
''It's so realistic that it can even vomit,'' adds Wickham.
Read the full story here
Nov 10, 2006
Re-blogged from Smart Mobs
Technnorati has posted the State of the Blogosphere, October, 2006. [via Joi Ito]
As of October 2006, about 100,000 new weblogs were created each day, which means that on average, there was a slight decrease quarter-over-quarter in the number of new blogs created each day.
...The total posting volume of the blogosphere has leveled off somewhat, showing about 1.3 million postings per day, which is a little lower than what we were seeing last quarter but still about double the volume of this time last year. ...
Via Mind Hacks
Ogi Ogas, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at Cognitive and Neural Systems at Boston University, has applied techniques from cognitive psychology to win $500,000 on the show 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?'.
These techniques take advantage of well-studied psychological processes such as such as priming and the structure of associations in memory.
Read how he describes his method in an article appeared on Seed Magazine:
The first technique I drew upon was priming. The priming of a memory occurs because of the peculiar "connectionist" neural dynamics of our cortex, where memories are distributed across many regions and neurons. If we can recall any fragment of a pattern, our brains tend to automatically fill in the rest....
I used priming on my $16,000 question: "This past spring, which country first published inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed?" I did not know the answer. But I did know I had a long conversation with my friend Gena about the cartoons. So I chatted with [quiz show host] Meredith about Gena. I tried to remember where we discussed the cartoons and the way Gena flutters his hands. As I pictured how he rolls his eyes to express disdain, Gena's remark popped into my mind: "What else would you expect from Denmark?"
Nov 08, 2006
Via Mind Hacks
A recent article published in The Washington Post focuses on the socio-ethical implications of the emerging neuroscience of lying. The article reports about a company called No Lie MRI Ltd that claims to use "the first and only direct measure of truth verification and lie detection in human history".
From the article:
No Lie MRI's Web site has proclaimed that the company hopes to revolutionize truth telling in America, offering "objective, scientific, mental evidence, similar to the role in which DNA biological identification is used," to everyone from the FBI, CIA and NSA to the Department of Homeland Security.
No Lie is not alone. Its Massachusetts competitor, Cephos Corp., has licensed competing fMRI lie detection technology from the Medical University of South Carolina.
The boundless desire for a way to dig through deception is why political consultant John Zogby, president of Zogby International, expects the new brain scanning devices to be in widespread use in the 2008 presidential election. He can clearly see a demand to discover what voters really think of candidates - and their commercials.
Brain-scan lie detection is now reliable enough that it is starting to be admissible in court.
Nov 06, 2006
Geriatricians from Saint Louis University have developed a new test for diagnosing dementia - the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS) - which appears to be more effective than the widely-used Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE).
The study has been published in the current issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (14:900-910, November 2006)
From the news release
"This early detection of mild neurocognitive disorder by the SLUMS offers the opportunity for the clinicians to begin early treatment as it becomes available," says Syed Tariq, M.D., lead author and associate professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University.
John Morley, M.D., director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, created the SLUMS to screen more educated patients and to detect early cognitive problems.
"There are potential treatments available and they slow down the progression of the disease," says Morley, who is a coinvestigator. "The earlier you treat, the better people seem to do. But families go through denial and sometimes miss diagnosing dementia until its symptoms are no longer mild."
The researchers found the new screening tool developed by SLU detects early cognitive problems missed by the MMSE.
"The Mini Mental Status Examination has limitations, especially with regard to its use in more educated patients and as a screen for mild neurocognitive disorder," Tariq says.
It takes a clinician about seven minutes to administer the SLUMS, which supplements the Mini Mental Status Examination by asking patients to perform tasks such as doing simple math computations, naming animals, recalling facts and drawing the hands on a clock.
Nov 05, 2006
Nov 01, 2006
Oct 30, 2006
Oct 27, 2006
Oct 26, 2006
An experimental study of the emergence of human communication systems [pdf]
Author: B. Galantucci
Cognitive Science, (29):737–767, 2005.
The emergence of human communication systems is typically investigated via 2 approaches with complementary strengths and weaknesses: naturalistic studies and computer simulations. This study was conducted with a method that combines these approaches. Pairs of participants playedvideogames requiring communication. Members of a pair were physically separated but exchanged graphic signals through a medium that prevented the use of standard symbols (e.g., letters). Communication systems emerged and developed rapidly during the games, integrating the use of explicit signs with information implicitly available to players and silent behavior-coordinating procedures. The systems that emerged suggest 3 conclusions: (a)signs originate from different mappings;(b)sign systems developp arsimoniously; (c) sign forms are perceptually distinct, easy to produce, and tolerant to variations.
Oct 13, 2006
Detection of Differential Viewing Patterns to Erotic and Non-Erotic Stimuli Using Eye-Tracking Methodology.
Arch Sex Behav. 2006 Oct 10;
Authors: Lykins AD, Meana M, Kambe G
As a first step in the investigation of the role of visual attention in the processing of erotic stimuli, eye-tracking methodology was employed to measure eye movements during erotic scene presentation. Because eye-tracking is a novel methodology in sexuality research, we attempted to determine whether the eye-tracker could detect differences (should they exist) in visual attention to erotic and non-erotic scenes. A total of 20 men and 20 women were presented with a series of erotic and non-erotic images and tracked their eye movements during image presentation. Comparisons between erotic and non-erotic image groups showed significant differences on two of three dependent measures of visual attention (number of fixations and total time) in both men and women. As hypothesized, there was a significant Stimulus x Scene Region interaction, indicating that participants visually attended to the body more in the erotic stimuli than in the non-erotic stimuli, as evidenced by a greater number of fixations and longer total time devoted to that region. These findings provide support for the application of eye-tracking methodology as a measure of visual attentional capture in sexuality research. Future applications of this methodology to expand our knowledge of the role of cognition in sexuality are suggested.
Oct 06, 2006
Background: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been widely used in studying human brain functions and neurorehabilitation. In order to develop complex and well-controlled fMRI paradigms, interfaces that can precisely control and measure output force and kinematics of the movements in human subjects are needed. Optimized state-of-the-art fMRI methods, combined with magnetic resonance (MR) compatible robotic devices for rehabilitation, can assist therapists to quantify, monitor, and improve physical rehabilitation. To achieve this goal, robotic or mechatronic devices with actuators and sensors need to be introduced into an MR environment. The common standard mechanical parts can not be used in MR environment and MR compatibility has been a tough hurdle for device developers. Methods: This paper presents the design, fabrication and preliminary testing of a novel, one degree of freedom, MR compatible, computer controlled, variable resistance hand device that may be used in brain MR imaging during hand grip rehabilitation. We named the device MR_CHIROD (Magnetic Resonance Compatible Smart Hand Interfaced Rehabilitation Device). A novel feature of the device is the use of Electro-Rheological Fluids (ERFs) to achieve tunable and controllable resistive force generation. ERFs are fluids that experience dramatic changes in rheological properties, such as viscosity or yield stress, in the presence of an electric field. The device consists of four major subsystems: a) an ERF based resistive element; b) a gearbox; c) two handles and d) two sensors, one optical encoder and one force sensor, to measure the patient induced motion and force. The smart hand device is designed to resist up to 50% of the maximum level of gripping force of a human hand and be controlled in real time. Results: Laboratory tests of the device indicate that it was able to meet its design objective to resist up to approximately 50% of the maximum handgrip force. The detailed compatibility tests demonstrated that there is neither an effect from the MR environment on the ERF properties and performance of the sensors, nor significant degradation on MR images by the introduction of the MR_CHIROD in the MR scanner. Conclusions: The MR compatible hand device was built to aid in the study of brain function during generation of controllable and tunable force during handgrip exercising. The device was shown to be MR compatible. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first system that utilizes ERF in MR environment.
Oct 02, 2006
LOS ANGELES - Scientists frustrated by the iron grip that academic journals hold over their research can now pursue another path to fame by taking their research straight to the public online.
Instead of having a group of hand-picked scholars review research in secret before publication, a growing number of internet-based journals are publishing studies with little or no scrutiny by the authors' peers. It's then up to rank-and-file researchers to debate the value of the work in cyberspace.
The web journals are threatening to turn the traditional peer-review system on its head. Peer review for decades has been the established way to pick apart research before it's made public.
Next month, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Public Library of Science will launch its first open peer-reviewed journal called PLoS ONE, focusing on science and medicine. Like its sister publications, it will make research articles available for free online by charging authors to publish.
Read the full story
Sep 30, 2006
Endoscopic eye tracking system for fMRI.
J Neurosci Methods. 2006 Sep 13;
Authors: Kanowski M, Rieger JW, Noesselt T, Tempelmann C, Hinrichs H
Here we introduce a new video-based real-time eye tracking system suitable for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) application. The described system monitors the subject's eye, which is illuminated with infrared light, directly at the headcoil using an endoscopic fibre optical system. This endoscopic technique assures reliable, easy-to-use and fast adjustment. It requires only a minimal amount of equipment at the headcoil and inside the examination room. Moreover, the short distance between the image acquisition optics and the eye provides high spatial tracking resolution. Interference from physiological head movement is effectively reduced by simultaneous tracking of both eye and head movements.
Sep 19, 2006
Pseudoneglect in back space.
Brain Cogn. 2006 Aug 23;
Authors: Cocchini G, Watling R, Sala SD, Jansari A
Successful interaction with the environment depends upon our ability to retain and update visuo-spatial information of both front and back egocentric space. Several studies have observed that healthy people tend to show a displacement of the egocentric frame of reference towards the left. However representation of space behind us (back space) has never been systematically investigated in healthy people. In this study, by means of a novel visual imagery task performed within a virtual reality environment, we found that representation of right back space is perceived as smaller than the left. These results suggest that there is a selective compression or distortion for mental representation related to the right space behind us.