Archive for the Brain & Behaviour Category

Scientists wants to build a ROBOT WITH A HUMAN BRAIN!

Posted in Brain & Behaviour, Robots & Cyborgs on September 10, 2009 by Gustav

Mad Scientists Kevin Warwick and Ben Whalley at the University of Reading, UK, wants to build a robot controlled by human brain cells. Awesome.

They’re not doing it (just) because they’re afflicted with Science Related Memetic Disorder, though:

The team say that observing how their neuron culture responds to stimulation could improve our understanding of neurological conditions such as epilepsy.

For instance, the way large numbers of neurons sometimes spike in unison – a phenomenon known as “bursting” – may be similar to what happens during an epileptic seizure. If that behaviour can be altered by changing the culture chemically, electrically or physically, it might hint at potential therapies. [New Scientist]

The team of genuine Mad Scientists have already shown that a robot can be controlled using rat neurons, but a culture of human neurons would be a better model for human disease, so they want that next.

They just have to finish they’re work with the rat neurons, then they can start building the ROBOT WITH A HUMAN BRAIN!

I can hear the mad laughter from here… No, wait, that’s me.

Great tits bite head off sleeping bats

Posted in Brain & Behaviour, Nature Attacks! on September 9, 2009 by Gustav

Headless BatIn a cave in Hungary the birds with the funny name, the great tits, have been caught sneaking up on hibernating bats and biting their head off.

This very surprising behaviour of a small bird that usually only eat caterpillars and such. The great tits are thought to only resort to anti-bat violence when food is otherwise scarce.

“The birds don’t kill the bats before they start eating them,” says [bat ecologist Björn] Siemers, “but the bats eventually die when the birds peck open their brain case.”

As the bats are still very cold, only a degree above ambient temperature, they are extremely slow and easy for the birds to subdue. Nevertheless, it is a considerable feat for the tits given that a pipistrelle weighs approximately 5 grams and a great tit only four times as much. [New Scientist]

There’s anecdotal evidence that the great tits in that cave have been doing this for more than a decade. If this is true it suggests that the birds Ozzy Ozbourne impersonations have been passed on culturally through the generations.

Blue tits in Britain famously exhibited such learned behaviour when one of them learned to open milk bottles and the trick spread through out the country.

Also, “great tits” is the best name for anything, anywhere. Just wanted to say.

Wolves beat dogs (and babies) in logic test

Posted in Brain & Behaviour, Nature Attacks! on September 7, 2009 by Gustav

In a psychological experiment designed to test logic, dogs and babies have been shown to have similar logical abilities, whereas wolves have greater.

The test goes like this: a researcher hides an object in a box while the subject (dog, baby or wolf) is looking on and then allow the subject to find it. The researcher does this several times, but then switches and hides the object in another box.

When this happen, both dog and baby still go to the first box, even though they have seen the researcher hide the object in another box. Wolves, however, go for the second box.

“I wouldn’t say one species is smarter,” said Adam Miklosi of Eötvös University in Hungary, co-author of a paper describing the results in the Sept. 4 issue of the journal Science.

“If you assume an animal has to survive without human presence, then wolves are smarter. But if you are thinking that dogs have to survive in a human environment where it’s very important to follow the communications of humans, then in this aspect, dogs are smarter.” [LiveScience]

Dogs have been bred by humans for domestication for 10, 000 years and wolves have not, so no wonder dogs are more keen to follow and listen to humans than wolves are.

Still, there’s some difference between dog and baby. If, however, the researcher doing the hiding is switched mid-experiment, only the baby still looks for the object in the first box, while the dog go for the second.

Via 80beats.

Psychos may all have an abnormality in the brain

Posted in Brain & Behaviour, Health & Disease on August 11, 2009 by Gustav

Psychos, Declan Murphy, professor at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London, believes, have an abnormality in a part of the brain called uncinate fasciculus (UF). The UF connects the orbitofrontal cortex (involved in decision making) and the amygdala (involved with emotions) and a dysfunction in that connection may be what causes the pathological immorality of psychopaths. The Examiner:

Using a precise form of MRI, Murphy studied the brains of those labeled as psychopaths who had been convicted of crimes ranging from manslaughter to repeated rapes. The imaging found “a significant reduction in the integrity of the small particles that make up the structure of the UF of psychopaths, compared to control groups of people with the same age and IQ. Also, the degree of abnormality was significantly related to the degree of psychopathy.” [EurekAlert]

This is the first clear evidence of the biological basis of psychopathy, and if the results can be further verified by larger studies, the findings will have profound effects not just on the neurological studies, but also on criminal justice systems: brain scanning to reveal psycho killers, anyone?

Brain surgery, with a scalpel made of sound

Posted in Brain & Behaviour, Health & Disease, Technology Attacks! on July 23, 2009 by Gustav

Brain surgeons may soon have a shiny new tool to play with, a device that can kill damaged brain tissue by zapping it with high-intensity ultrasound. The device is being developed by the ultrasound technology company InSightec. From Technology Review:

The major challenge in using ultrasound in the brain is figuring out how to focus the beams through the skull, which absorbs energy from the sound waves and distorts their path. The InSightec device consists of an array of more than 1,000 ultrasound transducers, each of which can be individually focused. “You take a CT scan of the patient’s head and tailor the acoustic beam to focus through the skull,” says Eyal Zadicario, head of InSightec’s neurology program.

The ultrasound beams are focused on a specific point in the brain–the exact location depends on the condition being treated–that absorbs the energy and converts it to heat. This raises the temperature to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit and kills the cells in a region approximately 10 cubic millimeters in volume.

Hooked in to the device are both a cooling system to prevent overheating and a MRI so that the surgeons can see in real-time where they are shooting brain tissue. A question, though, can the device be modified to become a macabre beam-weapon, exploding brains right and left, or is it to clunky a device to carry around? Just wondering.

Psychedelic CT-scans of the human anatomy

Posted in Brain & Behaviour, Health & Disease, Images & Videos on July 22, 2009 by Gustav

New Scientist has a gallery of radiologist Kai-hung Fang’s artistically rendered CT-scans of his patients. The image below is a top-down view of a patient’s head. The blue is the network of veins and arteries in the brain. The green in the background is the skull base.

Brains aren't usually purple

Note: heads aren't usually purple