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Eternal Sunshine of the Rodent’s Mind

"this study and others like it are illuminating the neural mechanisms of memory in unprecedented detail, and showing that it’s possible to activate, alter, or even create memories just by tweaking the right neurons" (Wired).

First memory prosthetics could be implanted within four years

"They first print microelectrodes on a polymer that sits atop a silicon wafer, then peel the polymer off and mold it into flexible cylinders about 1 millimeter in diameter. The memory prosthesis will have two of these cylindrical arrays, each studded with up to 64 hair-thin electrodes, which will be capable of both recording the activity of individual neurons and stimulating them" (IEEE Spectrum).

"I’m already there." - Dave Bowman


Focus on naturally occurring protein to tackle dementia

Scientists at the University of Warwick have provided the first evidence that the lack of a naturally occurring protein is linked to early signs of dementia.

Published in Nature Communications, the research found that the absence of the protein MK2/3 promotes structural and physiological changes to cells in the nervous system. These changes were shown to have a significant correlation with early signs of dementia, including restricted learning and memory formation capabilities.

An absence of MK2/3, in spite of the brain cells (neurons) having significant structural abnormalities, did not prevent memories being formed, but did prevent these memories from being altered.

The results have led the researchers to call for greater attention to be paid to studying MK2/3.

Lead researcher and author Dr Sonia Corrêa says that “Understanding how the brain functions from the sub-cellular to systems level is vital if we are to be able to develop ways to counteract changes that occur with ageing.

“By demonstrating for the first time that the MK2/3 protein, which is essential for neuron communication, is required to fine-tune memory formation this study provides new insight into how molecular mechanisms regulate cognition”.

Neurons can adapt memories and make them more relevant to current situations by changing the way they communicate with other cells.

Information in the brain is transferred between neurons at synapses using chemicals (neurotransmitters) released from one (presynaptic) neuron which then act on receptors in the next (postsynaptic) neuron in the chain.

MK2/3 regulates the shape of spines in properly functioning postsynaptic neurons. Postsynaptic neurons with MK2/3 feature wider, shorter spines (Fig.1) than those without (Fig2).

The researchers found that change, caused by MK2/3’s absence, in the spine’s shape restricts the ability of neurons to communicate with each other, leading to alterations in the ability to acquire new memories.

“Deterioration of brain function commonly occurs as we get older but, as result of dementia or other neurodegenerative diseases, it can occur earlier in people’s lives”, says Dr Corrêa. “For those who develop the early signs of dementia it becomes more difficult for them to adapt to changes in their life, including performing routine tasks.

“For example, washing the dishes; if you have washed them by hand your whole life and then buy a dishwasher it can be difficult for those people who are older or have dementia to acquire the new memories necessary to learn how to use the machine and mentally replace the old method of washing dishes with the new. The change in shape of the postsynaptic neuron due to absence of MK2/3 is strongly correlated with this inability to acquire the new memories”.

Dr Corrêa argues that “Given their vital role in memory formation, MK2/3 pathways are important potential pharmaceutical targets for the treatment of cognitive deficits associated with ageing and dementia.”

#TrueNorth: 4,096 cores on the road to #SubstrateIndependence

"Although there have been some attempts to teach students “critical thinking skills” with respect to the Web, too often these programs adopt a sanctimonious tone, with all the rebellious appeal of extra-credit study hall. The history of anti-smoking campaigns offers a potentially more effective alternative. Granted, clicking a link or posting a status update won’t give teenagers lung cancer. But the undisciplined use of technology can waste their time, fragment their focus, and interfere with their learning. Just like their health, young people’s attention is a precious resource, and they should be empowered to resist the companies that would squander it."


Anti-smoking campaigns and educating teens about the Internet. (via infoneer-pulse)

Maybe. What if kaleidoscopic curiosity with fractal focus is another emergent abstraction layer? Or, at least, adaptive branching of human intelligence, cognition, agency? Or not, of course. Isn’t the question more interesting than frozen answers?

(via infoneer-pulse)

"Cyborgness is a continuum"

The Verge: “Cyborgness is a continuum.

Brainstorm (1983). Fletcher. Walken. Wood. Classic.

Like Trekkies and their communicators, this classic movie moved many of us to become brain geeks and freaks, believing we could and should achieve mind to machine, and mind to mind communication to uplift human understanding and capabilities. We’re getting there.

Infamous “look at the stars…” line requires five minutes of context viewing from (1:37:40). Worth it, IMHO. Note the scene is complete with suitcase modem from public phone booth. Hilarious. Try not to laugh too hard at BREAK.

For GoPro and G.Glass developers and product designers of all kinds, there the classic, “whatdoicare what it looks like?” (19:20).

And for everyone, “With a thing like that, you could finish the 7th grade in about five minutes” (37:30). “Then start it up, dad!”

How far the REAL Robot Revolution has come and how far it has to go. Both = Long, long way. We’re both “there” & “nowhere close” …