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Feb 02, 2014

Activation of the human mirror neuron system during the observation of the manipulation of virtual tools in the absence of a visible effector limb

Activation of the human mirror neuron system during the observation of the manipulation of virtual tools in the absence of a visible effector limb.

Neurosci Lett. 2013 Oct 25;555:220-4

Authors: Modroño C, Navarrete G, Rodríguez-Hernández AF, González-Mora JL

Abstract. This work explores the mirror neuron system activity produced by the observation of virtual tool manipulations in the absence of a visible effector limb. Functional MRI data was obtained from healthy right-handed participants who manipulated a virtual paddle in the context of a digital game and watched replays of their actions. The results show how action observation produced extended bilateral activations in the parietofrontal mirror neuron system. At the same time, three regions in the left hemisphere (in the primary motor and the primary somatosensory cortex, the supplementary motor area and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) showed a reduced BOLD, possibly related with the prevention of inappropriate motor execution. These results can be of interest for researchers and developers working in the field of action observation neurorehabilitation.

Effect of Meditation on Cognitive Functions in Context of Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases

Effect of Meditation on Cognitive Functions in Context of Aging and Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Front Behav Neurosci. 2014;8:17

Authors: Marciniak R, Sheardova K, Cermáková P, Hudeček D, Sumec R, Hort J

Abstract. Effect of different meditation practices on various aspects of mental and physical health is receiving growing attention. The present paper reviews evidence on the effects of several mediation practices on cognitive functions in the context of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. The effect of meditation in this area is still poorly explored. Seven studies were detected through the databases search, which explores the effect of meditation on attention, memory, executive functions, and other miscellaneous measures of cognition in a sample of older people and people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, reviewed studies suggested a positive effect of meditation techniques, particularly in the area of attention, as well as memory, verbal fluency, and cognitive flexibility. These findings are discussed in the context of MRI studies suggesting structural correlates of the effects. Meditation can be a potentially suitable non-pharmacological intervention aimed at the prevention of cognitive decline in the elderly. However, the conclusions of these studies are limited by their methodological flaws and differences of various types of meditation techniques. Further research in this direction could help to verify the validity of the findings and clarify the problematic aspects.

A low-cost sonification system to assist the blind

Via KurzweilAI.net

An improved assistive technology system for the blind that uses sonification (visualization using sounds) has been developed by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) researchers, with the goal of replacing costly, bulky current systems.

Called Assistive Technology for Autonomous Displacement (ATAD), the system includes a stereo vision processor measures the difference of images captured by two cameras that are placed slightly apart (for image depth data) and calculates the distance to each point in the scene.

Then it transmits the information to the user by means of a sound code that gives information regarding the position and distance to the different obstacles,  using a small audio stereo amplifier and bone-conduction headphones.

Assistive Technology for Autonomous Displacement (ATAD) block diagram (credit: P. Revuelta Sanz et al.)

Jan 25, 2014

Chris Eliasmith – How to Build a Brain

Via Futuristic news

He’s the creator of “Spaun” the world’s largest brain simulation. Can he really make headway into mimicking the human brain?

Chris Eliasmith has cognitive flexibility on the brain. How do people manage to walk, chew gum and listen to music all at the same time? What is our brain doing as it switches between these tasks and how do we use the same components in head to do all those different things? These are questions that Chris and his team’s Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network (Spaun) are determined to answer. Spaun is currently the world’s largest functional brain simulation, and is unique because it’s the first model that can actually emulate behaviours while also modeling the physiology that underlies them.

 

This groundbreaking work was published in Science, and has been featured by CNN, BBC, Der Spiegel, Popular Science, The Economist and CBC.He is co-author of Neural Engineering , which describes a framework for building biologically realistic neural models and his new book, How to Build a Brain applies those methods to large-scale cognitive brain models.

Chris holds a Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Neuroscience at the University of Waterloo. He is also Director of Waterloo’s Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, and is jointly appointed in the Philosophy, Systems Design Engineering departments, as well as being cross-appointed to Computer Science.
For more on Chris, visit http://arts.uwaterloo.ca/~celiasmi/
Source: TEDxTalks

MemoryMirror: First Body-Controlled Smart Mirror

The Intel® Core™ i7-based MemoryMirror takes the clothes shopping experience to a whole different level, allowing shoppers to try on multiple outfits, then virtually view and compare previous choices on the mirror itself using intuitive hand gestures. Users control all their data and can remain anonymous to the retailer if they so choose. The Memory Mirror uses Intel integrated graphics technology to create avatars of the shopper wearing various clothing that can be shared with friends to solicit feedback or viewed instantly to make an immediate in-store purchase. Shoppers can also save their looks in mobile app should they decide to purchase at a later time online.

Jan 23, 2014

Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on distressed (type D) personality traits

Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on distressed (type D) personality traits: a randomized controlled trial.

J Behav Med. 2013 Aug;36(4):361-70

 Authors: Nyklíček I, van Beugen S, Denollet J

Abstract. Distressed ('Type D') personality, the combination of negative affectivity (NA) and social inhibition (SI), has been associated with adverse health outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine if an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program could reduce Type D personality characteristics. Distressed individuals from the Dutch general population (N = 146; mean age = 46.07; 69 % female) participated in a randomized trial comparing the mindfulness intervention with waitlist control. Although change in Type D caseness did not differ between groups, the intervention group showed stronger reductions for both NA (p < .001) and SI (p < .05) dimensions, even when change in state negative affect was statistically controlled. These effects were mediated by change in self-reported mindfulness. In conclusion, MBSR may reduce characteristics of the distressed personality type, likely through the mechanism of increased mindfulness.

Mobile biofeedback of heart rate variability in patients with diabetic polyneuropathy: a preliminary study

Mobile biofeedback of heart rate variability in patients with diabetic polyneuropathy: a preliminary study.

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2014 Jan 20;

Authors: Druschky K, Druschky A

Abstract. Biofeedback of heart rate variability (HRV) was applied to patients with diabetic polyneuropathy using a new mobile device allowing regularly scheduled self-measurements without the need of visits to a special autonomic laboratory. Prolonged generation of data over an eight-week period facilitated more precise investigation of cardiac autonomic function and assessment of positive and negative trends of HRV parameters over time. Statistical regression analyses revealed significant trends in 11 of 17 patients, while no significant differences were observed when comparing autonomic screening by short-term HRV and respiratory sinus arrhythmia at baseline and after the 8 weeks training period. Four patients showed positive trends of HRV parameters despite the expected progression of cardiac autonomic dysfunction over time. Patient compliance was above 50% in all but two patients. The results of this preliminary study indicate a good practicality of the handheld device and suggest a potential positive effect on cardiac autonomic neuropathy in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Transparent display @MIT

The innovative system is described in a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, co-authored by MIT professors Marin Soljačić and John Joannopoulos, graduate student Chia Wei Hsu, and four others.

Abstract of Nature Communications paper:

The ability to display graphics and texts on a transparent screen can enable many useful applications. Here we create a transparent display by projecting monochromatic images onto a transparent medium embedded with nanoparticles that selectively scatter light at the projected wavelength. We describe the optimal design of such nanoparticles, and experimentally demonstrate this concept with a blue-color transparent display made of silver nanoparticles in a polymer matrix. This approach has attractive features including simplicity, wide viewing angle, scalability to large sizes and low cost.

 

 

 

Apple 1984

Jan 21, 2014

The Oculus Rift 'Crystal Cove' prototype is 2014's Best of CES winner

Jan 20, 2014

The Future of Gesture Control - Introducing Myo

Thalmic Labs at TEDxToronto

Jan 12, 2014

Wearable Pregnancy Ultrasound

Melody Shiue, an industrial design graduate from University of New South Wales, is proposing a wearable fetal ultrasound system to enhancing maternal-fetal bonding as a reassurance window. It is an e-textile based apparatus that uses 4D ultrasound. Latest stretchable display technology is also employed on the abdominal region, allowing other members of the family especially the father to connect with the foetus in its context. PreVue not only gives you the opportunity to interact and comprehend the physical growth of the baby, but also an early understanding of its personality as you see it yawning, rolling, smiling etc., bringing you closer till the day it finally rests into your arms.

More information at Tuvie

Dec 24, 2013

Speaking and cognitive distractions during EEG-based brain control of a virtual neuroprosthesis-arm

Speaking and cognitive distractions during EEG-based brain control of a virtual neuroprosthesis-arm.

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2013 Dec 21;10(1):116

Authors: Foldes ST, Taylor DM

BACKGROUND: Brain-computer interface (BCI) systems have been developed to provide paralyzed individuals the ability to command the movements of an assistive device using only their brain activity. BCI systems are typically tested in a controlled laboratory environment were the user is focused solely on the brain-control task. However, for practical use in everyday life people must be able to use their brain-controlled device while mentally engaged with the cognitive responsibilities of daily activities and while compensating for any inherent dynamics of the device itself. BCIs that use electroencephalography (EEG) for movement control are often assumed to require significant mental effort, thus preventing users from thinking about anything else while using their BCI. This study tested the impact of cognitive load as well as speaking on the ability to use an EEG-based BCI. FINDINGS: Six participants controlled the two-dimensional (2D) movements of a simulated neuroprosthesis-arm under three different levels of cognitive distraction. The two higher cognitive load conditions also required simultaneously speaking during BCI use. On average, movement performance declined during higher levels of cognitive distraction, but only by a limited amount. Movement completion time increased by 7.2%, the percentage of targets successfully acquired declined by 11%, and path efficiency declined by 8.6%. Only the decline in percentage of targets acquired and path efficiency were statistically significant (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: People who have relatively good movement control of an EEG-based BCI may be able to speak and perform other cognitively engaging activities with only a minor drop in BCI-control performance.

Case hand prosthesis with sense of touch allows amputees to feel

Via Medgadget

There have been a few attempts at simulating a sense of touch in prosthetic hands, but a recently released video from Case Western Reserve University demonstrates newly developed haptic technology that looks convincingly impressive. Here’s a video of an amputee wearing a prosthetic hand with a sensor on the forefinger, while blindfolded and wearing headphones that block any hearing, pulling stems off of cherries. The first part of the video shows him doing it with the sensor turned off and then when it’s activated.

For a picture of the electrode technology, please visit:http://www.flickr.com/photos/tylerlab/10075384624/

NeuroOn mask improves sleep and helps manage jet lag

Via Medgadget

A group of Polish engineers is working on a smart sleeping mask that they hope will allow people to get more out of their resting time, as well as allow for unusual sleeping schedules that would particularly benefit those who are often on-call. The NeuroOn mask will have an embedded EEG for brain wave monitoring, EMG for detecting muscle motion on the face, and sensors that can track whether your pupils are moving and whether they are going through REM. The team is currently raising money on Kickstarter where you can pre-order your own NeuroOn once it’s developed into a final product.

The Creative Link: Investigating the Relationship Between Social Network Indices, Creative Performance and Flow in Blended Teams

The Creative Link: Investigating the Relationship Between Social Network Indices, Creative Performance and Flow in Blended Teams

Andrea Gaggioli, Elvis Mazzoni, Luca Milani, Giuseppe Riva

Computers in Human Behavior. 01/2014; Forthcoming publication. DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2013.12.003

This study presents findings of an exploratory study, which has investigated the relationship between indices of social network structure, flow and creative performance in students collaborating in blended setting. Thirty undergraduate students enrolled in a Media Psychology course were included in five groups, which were tasked with designing a new technology-based psychological application. Team members collaborated over a twelve-week period using two main modalities: face-to-face meeting sessions in the classroom (once a week) and virtually using a groupware tool. Social network indicators of group interaction and presence indices were extracted from communication logs, whereas flow and product creativity were assessed through survey measures. Findings showed that specific social network indices (in particular those measuring decentralization and neighbor interaction) were positively related with flow experience. More broadly, results indicated that selected social network indicators can offer useful insight into the creative collaboration process. Theoretical and methodological implications of these results are drawn.

Evaluation of neurofeedback in ADHD: The long and winding road.

Evaluation of neurofeedback in ADHD: The long and winding road.

Biol Psychol. 2013 Dec 6;

Authors: Arns M, Heinrich H, Strehl U

Among the clinical applications of neurofeedback, most research has been conducted in ADHD. As an introduction a short overview of the general history of neurofeedback will be given, while the main part of the paper deals with a review of the current state of neurofeedback in ADHD. A meta-analysis on neurofeedback from 2009 found large effect sizes for inattention and impulsivity and medium effects sizes for hyperactivity. Since 2009 several new studies, including 4 placebo-controlled studies, have been published. These latest studies are reviewed and discussed in more detail. The review focuses on studies employing 1) semi-active, 2) active, and 3) placebo-control groups. The assessment of specificity of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD is discussed and it is concluded that standard protocols such as theta/beta, SMR and slow cortical potentials neurofeedback are well investigated and have demonstrated specificity. The paper ends with an outlook on future questions and tasks. It is concluded that future controlled clinical trials should, in a next step, focus on such known protocols, and be designed along the lines of learning theory.

Effectiveness and feasibility of virtual reality and gaming system use at home by older adults for enabling physical activity to improve health-related domains: a systematic review

Effectiveness and feasibility of virtual reality and gaming system use at home by older adults for enabling physical activity to improve health-related domains: a systematic review.

Miller KJ, Adair BS, Pearce AJ, Said CM, Ozanne E, Morris MM. Age Ageing. 2013 Dec 17. [Epub ahead of print]

BACKGROUND: use of virtual reality and commercial gaming systems (VR/gaming) at home by older adults is receiving attention as a means of enabling physical activity. OBJECTIVE: to summarise evidence for the effectiveness and feasibility of VR/gaming system utilisation by older adults at home for enabling physical activity to improve impairments, activity limitations or participation. METHODS: a systematic review searching 12 electronic databases from 1 January 2000-10 July 2012 using key search terms. Two independent reviewers screened yield articles using pre-determined selection criteria, extracted data using customised forms and applied the Cochrane Collaboration Risk of Bias Tool and the Downs and Black Checklist to rate study quality. RESULTS: fourteen studies investigating the effects of VR/gaming system use by healthy older adults and people with neurological conditions on activity limitations, body functions and physical impairments and cognitive and emotional well-being met the selection criteria. Study quality ratings were low and, therefore, evidence was not strong enough to conclude that interventions were effective. Feasibility was inconsistently reported in studies. Where feasibility was discussed, strong retention (≥70%) and adherence (≥64%) was reported. Initial assistance to use the technologies, and the need for monitoring exertion, aggravation of musculoskeletal symptoms and falls risk were reported. CONCLUSIONS: existing evidence to support the feasibility and effectiveness VR/gaming systems use by older adults at home to enable physical activity to address impairments, activity limitations and participation is weak with a high risk of bias. The findings of this review may inform future, more rigorous research.

Dec 22, 2013

Cubli

Researchers at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, ETH Zurich, Switzerland developed a small cube (cm 15X15X15) that can jump up and balance on its corner. Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up. Once the Cubli has almost reached the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques are applied to make it balance on its corner. In addition to balancing, the motor torques can also be used to achieve a controlled fall such that the Cubli can be commanded to fall in any arbitrary direction. Combining these three abilities - jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling - the Cubli is able to 'walk'.

20:59 Posted in Blue sky | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dec 21, 2013

New Scientist: Mind-reading light helps you stay in the zone

Re-blogged from New Scientist

WITH a click of a mouse, I set a path through the mountains for drone #4. It's one of five fliers under my control, all now heading to different destinations. Routes set, their automation takes over and my mind eases, bringing a moment of calm. But the machine watching my brain notices the lull, decides I can handle more, and drops a new drone in the south-east corner of the map.

The software is keeping my brain in a state of full focus known as flow, or being "in the zone". Too little work, and the program notices my attention start to flag and gives me more drones to handle. If I start to become a frazzled air traffic controller, the computer takes one of the drones off my plate, usually without me even noticing.

The system monitors the workload by pulsing light into my prefrontal cortex 12 times a second. The amount of light that oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin in the blood there absorbs and reflects gives an indication of how mentally engaged I am. Harder brain work calls for more oxygenated blood, and changes how the light is absorbed. Software interprets the signal from this functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and uses it to assign me the right level of work.

Dan Afergan, who is running the study at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, points to an on-screen readout as I play. "It's predicting high workload with very high certainty, and, yup, number three just dropped off," he says over my shoulder. Sure enough, I'm now controlling just five drones again.

To achieve this mind-monitoring, I'm hooked up to a bulky rig of fibre-optic cables and have an array of LEDs stuck to my forehead. The cables stream off my head into a box that converts light signals to electrical ones. These fNIRS systems don't have to be this big, though. A team led by Sophie Piper at Charité University of Medicine in Berlin, Germany, tested a portable device on cyclists in Berlin earlier this year – the first time fNIRS has been done during an outdoor activity.

Afergan doesn't plan to be confined to the lab for long either. He's studying ways to integrate brain-activity measuring into the Google Glass wearable computer. A lab down the hall already has a prototype fNIRS system on a chip that could, with a few improvements, be built into a Glass headset. "Glass is already on your forehead. It's really not much of a stretch to imagine building fNIRS into the headband," he says.

Afergan is working on a Glass navigation system for use in cars that responds to a driver's level of focus. When they are concentrating hard, Glass will show only basic instructions, or perhaps just give audio directions. When the driver is focusing less, on a straight stretch of road perhaps, Glass will provide more details of the route. The team also plans to adapt Google Now – the company's digital assistant software – for Glass so that it only gives you notifications when your mind has room for them.

Peering into drivers' minds will become increasingly important, says Erin Solovey, a computer scientist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many cars have automatic systems for adaptive cruise control, keeping in the right lane and parking. These can help, but they also bring the risk that drivers may not stay focused on the task at hand, because they are relying on the automation.

Systems using fNIRS could monitor a driver's focus and adjust the level of automation to keep drivers safely engaged with what the car is doing, she says.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Stay in the zone"