Mar 31, 2012

Neurofeedback for insomnia: a pilot study of Z-score SMR and individualized protocols

Neurofeedback for insomnia: a pilot study of Z-score SMR and individualized protocols.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2011 Dec;36(4):251-64

Authors: Hammer BU, Colbert AP, Brown KA, Ilioi EC

Abstract. Insomnia is an epidemic in the US. Neurofeedback (NFB) is a little used, psychophysiological treatment with demonstrated usefulness for treating insomnia. Our objective was to assess whether two distinct Z-Score NFB protocols, a modified sensorimotor (SMR) protocol and a sequential, quantitative EEG (sQEEG)-guided, individually designed (IND) protocol, would alleviate sleep and associated daytime dysfunctions of participants with insomnia. Both protocols used instantaneous Z scores to determine reward condition administered when awake. Twelve adults with insomnia, free of other mental and uncontrolled physical illnesses, were randomly assigned to the SMR or IND group. Eight completed this randomized, parallel group, single-blind study. Both groups received fifteen 20-min sessions of Z-Score NFB. Pre-post assessments included sQEEG, mental health, quality of life, and insomnia status. ANOVA yielded significant post-treatment improvement for the combined group on all primary insomnia scores: Insomnia Severity Index (ISI p<.005), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Inventory (PSQI p<.0001), PSQI Sleep Efficiency (p<.007), and Quality of Life Inventory (p<.02). Binomial tests of baseline EEGs indicated a significant proportion of excessively high levels of Delta and Beta power (p<.001) which were lowered post-treatment (paired z-tests p<.001). Baseline EEGs showed excessive sleepiness and hyperarousal, which improved post-treatment. Both Z-Score NFB groups improved in sleep and daytime functioning. Post-treatment, all participants were normal sleepers. Because there were no significant differences in the findings between the two groups, our future large scale studies will utilize the less burdensome to administer Z-Score SMR protocol.

Stress, uncertainty and decision confidence

Stress, uncertainty and decision confidence.

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2011 Dec;36(4):273-9

Authors: Heereman J, Walla P

Abstract. We successfully manipulated decision confidence in a probabilistic prediction task by means of stress as induced by excessive cognitive demands. In particular, our results indicate that decisions (based on high and low, but not intermediate levels of uncertainty) made under stress (confirmed by skin conductance measures) are associated with increased confidence when outcome probabilities are incompletely known (20% residual uncertainty). A different pattern was found when outcome probabilities were completely known (0% residual uncertainty). Here, stress led to decreased decision confidence when decisions were associated with intermediate levels of uncertainty but had no effect in case of high and low levels of uncertainty. In addition we provide evidence for ambiguity--(understood as implicit-risk) assessment being impaired under stress conditions.

Microsoft patents projector eyewear for Xbox and beyond

Via KurzweilAI

[+]mshmspatent

Illustrations from Microsoft's patent show the rough schematics for both a helmet-based display and one embedded in a pair of glasses (credit: Microsoft)

According to Patent Bolt, Microsoft has been secretly working on a video headset since September 2010.

A New Microsoft patent reveals that they’ve been working two styles of headset: an aviation styled helmet aimed at Xbox gamers, and one that resembles a pair of sunglasses for use with smartphones, MP3 players and other future devices.

In the patent, Microsoft states that a compact display system may be coupled into goggles, a helmet, or other eyewear. These configurations enable the wearer to view images from a computer, media player, or other electronic device with privacy and mobility. When adapted to display two different images concurrently — one for each eye — the system may be used for stereoscopic display (e.g., virtual-reality) applications.

Paul G. Allen adding $300M to expand the Allen Institute for Brain Science

Paul G. Allen has donated additional $300 million to the Allen Institute for Brain Science to expand its scientific programs, the Institute announced Wednesday March 21.

The Institute was established with a 2003 contribution of $100 million from the former Microsoft executive, who then donated another $100 million. The latest contribution of $300 million will support the first four years of a 10-year plan to address critical questions about how the brain works.

Bringing his total commitment to date to $500 million, Allen has charged the Institute with tackling some of the most fundamental and complex questions in brain science today.

Mar 28, 2012

Emotizer

Emotizer is a new emotional social network that allows you to bookmark places, people, objects, dreams and thoughts and link them to the emotions you're feeling within.

 

Istantanea iPhone 1
 
 
Istantanea iPhone 2

Mar 22, 2012

1st Summer School on Human Computer Confluence

 

The 1st Summer School on Human Computer Confluence will take place in Milan, Italy, on 18-20 July 2012.

The Summer School is hosted and organized by the Doctoral School in Psychology of the Faculty of Psychology at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano.

enquires: hcc.summerschool@unicatt.it

The specific objectives of the Summer School are to provide selected and highly-motivated participants hands-on experience with question-driven Human-Computer Confluence projects, applications and experimental paradigms, as well as to gather project leaders’ researchers and students working together on a list of inter-disciplinary challenges in the field of HCC. Participants will be assigned to different teams, working creatively and collaboratively on specific topics of interest.

The 1st Summer School will be addressed up to 40 Ph.D. students attendees, interested in the emerging symbiotic relation between humans and computing devices. There is no registration fee for the Summer School and financial aid will be available for a significant number of students towards travel and accommodation.

About Human Computer Confluence

HCC, Human-Computer Confluence, is an ambitious research program funded by the EU, studying how the emerging symbiotic relation between humans and computing devices can enable radically new forms of sensing, perception, interaction, and understanding.

The initiative aims to investigate and demonstrate new possibililities emerging at the confluence between  the human and technological realms. It will examine new modalities for individual and group perception, actions and experience in augmented, virtual spaces. Such virtual spaces would span the virtual reality continuum, also extending to purely synthetic but believable representation of massive, complex and dynamic data. Human-Computer confluence fosters inter-disciplinary research (such as Presence, neuroscience, machine learning and computer science) towards delivering unified experiences and inventing radically new forms of perception/action.

Mar 11, 2012

Augmenting cognition: old concept, new tools

The increasing miniaturization and computing power of information technology devices allow new ways of interaction between human brains and computers, progressively blurring the boundaries between man and machine. An example is provided by brain-computer interface systems, which allow users to use their brain to control the behavior of a computer or of an external device such as a robotic arm (in this latter case, we speak of “neuroprostetics”).

 

The idea of using information technologies to augment cognition, however, is not new, dating back in 1950’s and 1960’s. One of the first to write about this concept was british psychiatrist William Ross Ashby.

In his Introduction to Cybernetics (1956), he described intelligence as the “power of appropriate selection,” which could be amplified by means of technologies in the same way that physical power is amplified. A second major conceptual contribution towards the development of cognitive augmentation was provided few years later by computer scientist and Internet pioneer Joseph Licklider, in a paper entitled Man-Computer Symbiosis (1960).

In this article, Licklider envisions the development of computer technologies that will enable users “to think in interaction with a computer in the same way that you think with a colleague whose competence supplements your own.” According to his vision, the raise of computer networks would allow to connect together millions of human minds, within a “'thinking center' that will incorporate the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval.” This view represent a departure from the prevailing Artificial Intelligence approach of that time: instead of creating an artificial brain, Licklider focused on the possibility of developing new forms of interaction between human and information technologies, with the aim of extending human intelligence.

A similar view was proposed in the same years by another computer visionnaire, Douglas Engelbart, in its famous 1962 article entitled Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.

In this report, Engelbart defines the goal of intelligence augmentation as “increasing the capability of a man to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit his particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems. Increased capability in this respect is taken to mean a mixture of the following: more-rapid comprehension, better comprehension, the possibility of gaining a useful degree of comprehension in a situation that previously was too complex, speedier solutions, better solutions, and the possibility of finding solutions to problems that before seemed insoluble (…) We do not speak of isolated clever tricks that help in particular situations.We refer to away of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human ‘feel for a situation’ usefully co-exist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids.”

These “electronic aids” nowdays include any kind of harware and software computing devices used i.e. to store information in external memories, to process complex data, to perform routine tasks and to support decision making. However, today the concept of cognitive augmentation is not limited to the amplification of human intellectual abilities through external hardware. As recently noted by Nick Bostrom and Anders Sandberg (Sci Eng Ethics 15:311–341, 2009), “What is new is the growing interest in creating intimate links between the external systems and the human user through better interaction. The software becomes less an external tool and more of a mediating ‘‘exoself’’. This can be achieved through mediation, embedding the human within an augmenting ‘‘shell’’ such as wearable computers (…) or virtual reality, or through smart environments in which objects are given extended capabilities” (p. 320).

At the forefront of this trend is neurotechnology, an emerging research and development field which includes technologies that are specifically designed with the aim of improving brain function. Examples of neurotechnologies include brain training games such as BrainAge and programs like Fast ForWord, but also neurodevices used to monitor or regulate brain activity, such as deep brain stimulators (DBS), and smart prosthetics for the replacement of impaired sensory systems (i.e. cochlear or retinal implants).

Clearly, the vision of neurotechnology is not free of issues. The more they become powerful and sophisticated, the more attention should be dedicated to understand the socio-economic, legal and ethical implications of their applications in various field, from medicine to neuromarketing.


 

Jan 27, 2012

Moodscope

Moodscope is "an online personal mood management tool that helps people grappling with depression or mood disorders to effectively measure and track their moods". It allows tracking your "ups and downs" and displaying them on a graph to better understand how your mood fluctuates over time. And yes, of course it allows sharing your scores with trusted friends so they can support you if you are down..

Positive Technology: Using Interactive Technologies to Promote Positive Functioning

Positive Technology: Using Interactive Technologies to Promote Positive Functioning

G. Riva, R.M. Baños, C. Botella, B.K. Wiederhold, A. Gaggioli

Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking (Online Ahead of Print: December 9, 2011) DOI

Abstract. It is generally assumed that technology assists individuals in improving the quality of their lives. However, the impact of new technologies and media on well-being and positive functioning is still somewhat controversial. In this paper, we contend that the quality of experience should become the guiding principle in the design and development of new technologies, as well as a primary metric for the evaluation of their applications. The emerging discipline of Positive Psychology provides a useful framework to address this challenge. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning and flourishing. Instead of drawing on a “disease model” of human behavior, it focuses on factors that enable individuals and communities to thrive and build the best in life. In this paper, we propose the “Positive Technology” approach—the scientific and applied approach to the use of technology for improving the quality of our personal experience through its structuring, augmentation, and/or replacement—as a way of framing a suitable object of study in the field of cyberpsychology and human–computer interaction. Specifically, we suggest that it is possible to use technology to influence three specific features of our experience—affective quality, engagement/actualization, and connectedness—that serve to promote adaptive behaviors and positive functioning. In this framework, positive technologies are classified according to their effects on a specific feature of personal experience. Moreover, for each level, we have identified critical variables that can be manipulated to guide the design and development of positive technologies.

A sign language interpreter glove for smartphone

A team of three designers, Oleg Imanilov, Zvika Markfield, and Tomer Daniel, have recently developed a novel sign language interpreter glove. Basically, the glove works as an input device from which the user is able to use sign language to create a text message. The hw system consists of AD board, gyroscope, finger sensor, Lilypad Adriano and an accelerometer. The prototype was demonstrated at a recent Google developers event in Tel Aviv, and can be seen in the video below.

 

A smart-phone will detect people's emotions

MIT's Technology Review reports that Samsung researchers have released a smart-phone designed to "read" people's emotions. Rather than relying on specialized sensors or cameras, the phone infers a user's emotional state based on how he's using the phone.

"For example, it monitors certain inputs, such as the speed at which a user types, how often the “backspace” or “special symbol” buttons are pressed, and how much the device shakes. These measures let the phone postulate whether the user is happy, sad, surprised, fearful, angry, or disgusted, says Hosub Lee, a researcher with Samsung Electronics and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology’s Intelligence Group, in South Korea. Lee led the work on the new system. He says that such inputs may seem to have little to do with emotions, but there are subtle correlations between these behaviors and one’s mental state, which the software’s machine-learning algorithms can detect with an accuracy of 67.5 percent."

Once a phone infers an emotional state, it can then change how it interacts with the user: "The system could trigger different ringtones on a phone to convey the caller’s emotional state or cheer up someone who’s feeling low. “The smart phone might show a funny cartoon to make the user feel better,” he says.

Cued motor imagery in patients with multiple sclerosis

Cued motor imagery in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Neuroscience. 2012 Jan 8

Authors: Heremans E, Nieuwboer A, Spildooren J, Bondt SD, D'hooge AM, Helsen W, Feys P

Abstract. Motor imagery (MI) is a promising practice tool in neurorehabilitation. However, in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), impairments in MI accuracy and temporal organization were found during clinical assessment, which may limit the benefits of MI practice. Therefore, we investigated whether the MI quality of MS patients could be optimized by means of external cueing. Fourteen patients with MS and 14 healthy control patients physically executed and visually imagined a goal-directed upper limb task in the presence and absence of added visual and auditory cues. MI quality was assessed by means of eye-movement registration. As main results, it was found that MS patients had significant higher eye-movement times than controls during both execution and imagery, and overestimated the to-be-imagined movement amplitude when no external information was provided during imagery. External cues, however, decreased patients' MI duration and increased the spatial accuracy of their imagined movements. In sum, our results indicate that MS patients imagine movements in a better way when they are provided with external cues during MI. These findings are important for developing rehabilitation strategies based on MI in patients with MS.

A combined robotic and cognitive training for locomotor rehabilitation

A combined robotic and cognitive training for locomotor rehabilitation: evidences of cerebral functional reorganization in two chronic traumatic brain injured patients.

Front Hum Neurosci. 2011;5:146

Authors: Sacco K, Cauda F, D'Agata F, Duca S, Zettin M, Virgilio R, Nascimbeni A, Belforte G, Eula G, Gastaldi L, Appendino S, Geminiani G

Abstract. It has been demonstrated that automated locomotor training can improve walking capabilities in spinal cord-injured subjects but its effectiveness on brain damaged patients has not been well established. A possible explanation of the discordant results on the efficacy of robotic training in patients with cerebral lesions could be that these patients, besides stimulation of physiological motor patterns through passive leg movements, also need to train the cognitive aspects of motor control. Indeed, another way to stimulate cerebral motor areas in paretic patients is to use the cognitive function of motor imagery. A promising possibility is thus to combine sensorimotor training with the use of motor imagery. The aim of this paper is to assess changes in brain activations after a combined sensorimotor and cognitive training for gait rehabilitation. The protocol consisted of the integrated use of a robotic gait orthosis prototype with locomotor imagery tasks. Assessment was conducted on two patients with chronic traumatic brain injury and major gait impairments, using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Physiatric functional scales were used to assess clinical outcomes. Results showed greater activation post-training in the sensorimotor and supplementary motor cortices, as well as enhanced functional connectivity within the motor network. Improvements in balance and, to a lesser extent, in gait outcomes were also found.

Dec 31, 2011

10 videos on our near future

Happy New Year to all PT readers! - Andrea Gaggioli
 
 

10:41 Posted in Blue sky | Permalink | Comments (0)

Motor performance may be improved by kinesthetic imagery, specific action verb production, and mental calculation

Motor performance may be improved by kinesthetic imagery, specific action verb production, and mental calculation.

Neuroreport. 2011 Nov 25;

Authors: Rabahi T, Fargier P, Rifai-Sarraj A, Clouzeau C, Massarelli R

Abstract. Several results in the literature show that motor imagery, language production, mental calculation, and motor execution share the same or closely related brain motor cortical areas. The present study aimed at investigating the possible influence of specific action verb (AV) pronunciation and mental calculus upon motor performance compared with kinesthetic imagery (KI). Participants, novice in mental imagery, performed a vertical jump after a cognitive task (AV, silent AV, mental subtraction, meaningless verb, and KI). The results show that specific lower limbs AV, mental calculation, and KI improved the vertical jump in male, but not in female participants.

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies.

Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1041-56

Authors: Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ

Abstract. Within the past few decades, there has been a surge of interest in the investigation of mindfulness as a psychological construct and as a form of clinical intervention. This article reviews the empirical literature on the effects of mindfulness on psychological health. We begin with a discussion of the construct of mindfulness, differences between Buddhist and Western psychological conceptualizations of mindfulness, and how mindfulness has been integrated into Western medicine and psychology, before reviewing three areas of empirical research: cross-sectional, correlational research on the associations between mindfulness and various indicators of psychological health; intervention research on the effects of mindfulness-oriented interventions on psychological health; and laboratory-based, experimental research on the immediate effects of mindfulness inductions on emotional and behavioral functioning. We conclude that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation. The review ends with a discussion on mechanisms of change of mindfulness interventions and suggested directions for future research.

Improving spatial abilities through mindfulness: effects on the mental rotation task

Improving spatial abilities through mindfulness: effects on the mental rotation task.

Conscious Cogn. 2011 Sep;20(3):801-6

Authors: Geng L, Zhang L, Zhang D

Abstract. In this study, we demonstrate a previously unknown finding that mindful learning can improve an individual's spatial cognition without regard to gender differences. Thirty-two volunteers participated in the experiment. Baselines for spatial ability were first measured for the reaction time on the mental rotation task. Next, the participants were randomly assigned to either a mindful or mindless learning condition. After learning, the mental rotation task showed that those in the mindful learning condition responded faster than those in the mindless learning condition. This study provides promising evidence for applying mindful learning to education.

Dec 19, 2011

Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity

Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2011 Nov 23;

Authors: Brewer JA, Worhunsky PD, Gray JR, Tang YY, Weber J, Kober H

Abstract. Many philosophical and contemplative traditions teach that "living in the moment" increases happiness. However, the default mode of humans appears to be that of mind-wandering, which correlates with unhappiness, and with activation in a network of brain areas associated with self-referential processing. We investigated brain activity in experienced meditators and matched meditation-naive controls as they performed several different meditations (Concentration, Loving-Kindness, Choiceless Awareness). We found that the main nodes of the default-mode network (medial prefrontal and posterior cingulate cortices) were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control), both at baseline and during meditation. Our findings demonstrate differences in the default-mode network that are consistent with decreased mind-wandering. As such, these provide a unique understanding of possible neural mechanisms of meditation.

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health

Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies.

 

Clin Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;31(6):1041-56

 

Authors: Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ

Abstract. Within the past few decades, there has been a surge of interest in the investigation of mindfulness as a psychological construct and as a form of clinical intervention. This article reviews the empirical literature on the effects of mindfulness on psychological health. We begin with a discussion of the construct of mindfulness, differences between Buddhist and Western psychological conceptualizations of mindfulness, and how mindfulness has been integrated into Western medicine and psychology, before reviewing three areas of empirical research: cross-sectional, correlational research on the associations between mindfulness and various indicators of psychological health; intervention research on the effects of mindfulness-oriented interventions on psychological health; and laboratory-based, experimental research on the immediate effects of mindfulness inductions on emotional and behavioral functioning. We conclude that mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation. The review ends with a discussion on mechanisms of change of mindfulness interventions and suggested directions for future research.

‘Brainlink’ lets you remotely control toy robots and other gadgets

BirdBrain Technologies, a spin-off of Carnegie Mellon University has developed a device called Brainlink that allows users to remotely control robots and other gadgets (including TVs, cable boxes, and DVD players) with an Android-based smartphone. This is achieved through a small triangular controller that you attach to the gadget, with a Bluetooth range of 30 feet.