Evolvemind

All ultimate explanations are bizarre

National Transportation Noise Map

This map of transportation noise in the U.S. should help us find our next place to be.

Mathematical field of topology reveals importance of ‘holes in brain’

New Scientist article: Applying the mathematical field of topology to brain science suggests gaps in densely connected brain regions serve important cognitive functions. Newly discovered densely connected neural groups are characterized by a gap in the center, with one edge of the ring (cycle) being very thin. It’s speculated that this architecture evolved to enable the brain to better time and sequence the integration of information from different functional areas into a coherent pattern.

Aspects of the findings appear to support Edelman’s and Tononi’s (2000, p. 83) theory of neuronal group selection (TNGS, aka neural Darwinism).


Edelman, G.M. and Tononi, G. (2000). A Universe of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination. Basic Books.

Mass and activity of brain structures correlate with political perspectives

Brain imaging research indicates some aspects of individual political orientation correlate significantly with the mass and activity of particular brain structures including the right amygdala and the insula. This correlation may derive in part from genetics, but is also influenced by environment and behavior.

“there’s a critical nuance here. Schreiber thinks the current research suggests not only that having a particular brain influences your political views, but also that having a particular political view influences and changes your brain. The causal arrow seems likely to run in both directions—which would make sense in light of what we know about the plasticity of the brain. Simply by living our lives, we change our brains. Our political affiliations, and the lifestyles that go along with them, probably condition many such changes.”

Thanks to member, Edward, for recommending this article: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/02/brain-difference-democrats-republicans 

In a similar vein, Bob Altemeyer conducted and reported on some seminal social science research and theory on political dispositions. See http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/. Note the free book link on the left.

 

Politicians use ‘salient availability’ bias to manipulate constituents and journalists

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/cognitive-bias-president-trump-understands-better/ 

“When something is memorable, it tends to be the thing you think of first, and then it has an outsize influence on your understanding of the world. After the movie Jaws came out, a generation of people was afraid to swim in the sea—not because shark attacks were more likely but because all those movie viewers could more readily imagine them.”

Immigrants are less crime prone that native-born Americans

I don’t find a lot of common ground with the libertarian Cato Institute, but I salute their honest reporting of research findings on immigrant-committed versus home-grown American crime:

“Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions.”

https://www.cato.org/blog/immigration-crime-what-research-says 

Neuroplasticity at the neuron and synapse level – Neurons sort into functional networks

“Until recently, scientists had thought that most synapses of a similar type and in a similar location in the brain behaved in a similar fashion with respect to how experience induces plasticity,” Friedlander said. “In our work, however, we found dramatic differences in the plasticity response, even between neighboring synapses in response to identical activity experiences.”

“Individual neurons whose synapses are most likely to strengthen in response to a certain experience are more likely to connect to certain partner neurons, while those whose synapses weaken in response to a similar experience are more likely to connect to other partner neurons,” Friedlander said. “The neurons whose synapses do not change at all in response to that same experience are more likely to connect to yet other partner neurons, forming a more stable but non-plastic network.”

Read more at: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-scientists-brain-plasticity-assorted-functional.html#jCp

An easy way to track changes in user agreements, privacy policies, and other public web pages

Given the increasing license commercial (and non-profit) internet-based services take with our private data, it becomes increasingly important to pay attention to user agreements and privacy policies. It’s challenging enough to read those legalistic tomes once, much less keep track of their frequent changes. Reputable companies and organizations will automatically notify customers and members of changes to policies, but many include clauses relieving them of change notification responsibility. I could find no federal law holding them accountable to secure your acknowledgment of such changes.

Some years ago I found Change Detection, a free web service that allows you to monitor changes to the text content on any publicly accessible (no login) web page. I’ve used it to monitor changes to the user agreements and privacy notices (nearly always public pages) of the services and products I use. When the text on a monitored page changes, Change Detection sends me an email message that identifies the target page and shows exactly how it has changed. This relieves me of the burden of manually monitoring those policies. Change Detection automates the parts of change monitoring that humans perform poorly at—remembering and following through on tedious, boring tasks.

MIT AI Primer

Here’s a useful artificial intelligence introductory lesson from an MIT course: 

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-825-techniques-in-artificial-intelligence-sma-5504-fall-2002/lecture-notes/Lecture1Final.pdf

How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail

Cognitive bias article of the day: How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail

A concise, timely look at how worldview-driven cognitive dissonance leads people to double down on their misbeliefs in the face of challenging evidence. It also recommends steps for having more meaningful conversations with others whose irrational positions differ from your own. 😉

New gene editing method modifies non-dividing cells in brain

Until now, gene editing has relied on cell division to propagate modifications made with techniques like CRISPR Cas9. Researchers at the Salk Institute have devised a new method that can modify the genes of non-dividing cells (the majority of adult cells). They demonstrated the method’s potential by inserting missing genes into the brains of young mice that were blind due to retinitis pigmentosa. After the team inserted fully functional copies of the damaged gene responsible for the condition into the relevant visual neurons, the mice experience rudimentary vision.

Team leader Izpisua Belmonte says of the new method, homology-independent targeted integration (HITI), “We now have a technology that allows us to modify the DNA of non-dividing cells, to fix broken genes in the brain, heart and liver. It allows us for the first time to be able to dream of curing diseases that we couldn’t before, which is exciting.”

While the team, naturally and appropriately, envisions therapeutic uses, could this method be used to modify brain function non-therapeutically, to improve normal functioning, for example?

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