Brain scans could steer career choices


IRVINE, Calif. (UPI) — Your talents and abilities could someday be revealed through a brain scan, possibly guiding your career choices, U.S. scientists say.

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine, scanned 6,000 volunteers in an effort to build a brain “map” that could match particular areas to particular skills and knowledge, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

While being scanned, volunteers performed cognitive tests to see if there was a connection between brain and aptitude, the newspaper said.

Researchers said the amount of gray matter, areas of the brain used for computations, and white matter, used for communication, and where they were positioned seemed to suggest how good someone would be at a number of tasks including arithmetic, learning and remembering facts and figures.

The results, though preliminary, suggest brain scans could eventually be used to help a person consider a career path, psychologist Professor Richard Haier said.

“A person’s pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is related to their brain structure, so there is a possibility that brain scans could provide unique information that would be helpful for vocational choice,” he said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

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‘Computer Viruses gone to your head?’

Science (May 26, 2010) — A scientist at the University of Reading has become the first person in the world to be infected by a computer virus.


Dr Mark Gasson, from the School of Systems Engineering, contaminated a computer chip which had been inserted into his hand as part of research into human enhancement and the potential risks of implantable devices.

These results could have huge implications for implantable computing technologies used medically to improve health, such as heart pacemakers and cochlear implants, and as new applications are found to enhance healthy humans.

Dr Gasson says that as the technology behind these implants develops, they become more vulnerable to computer viruses.

“Our research shows that implantable technology has developed to the point where implants are capable of communicating, storing and manipulating data,” he said. “They are essentially mini computers. This means that, like mainstream computers, they can be infected by viruses and the technology will need to keep pace with this so that implants, including medical devices, can be safely used in the future.”

Dr Gasson will present his results next month at the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in Australia, which he is also chairing.

A high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted into Dr Gasson’s left hand last year. Less sophisticated RFID technology is used in shop security tags to prevent theft and to identify missing pets.

The chip has allowed him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone. It has also enabled him to be tracked and profiled. Once infected, the chip corrupted the main system used to communicate with it. Should other devices have been connected to the system, the virus would have been passed on.

Dr Gasson said: “By infecting my own implant with a computer virus we have demonstrated how advanced these technologies are becoming and also had a glimpse at the problems of tomorrow.

“Much like people with medical implants, after a year of having the implant, I very much feel that it is part of my body. While it is exciting to be the first person to become infected by a computer virus in this way, I found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves. Indeed we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not. However we must be mindful of the new threats this step brings.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 28th May 2010

Rats found to mentally re-enact events

TRAIN YOUR RAT

look_im_a_star_mouse Rat thinks its a star

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have discovered rats engage in a mental re-enactment of their recent experiences when choosing what actions to take.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers said they recorded the activity of single neurons called “place cells” in a brain structure — the hippocampus — that has been shown to be crucial for learning and memory. They found place cells are activated in a unique pattern and sequence for each specific location in a maze.

When examining the brain recordings, the scientists determined the same pattern and sequence of activation took place during pauses in activity, and when rats confronted a choice of routes in the maze. The researchers found while a rat is awake but standing still in the maze, its neurons fire in the same pattern of activity that occurred while it was running.

“This may be the rat equivalent of ‘thinking,'” said Professor Matthew Wilson, who led the study. “This thinking process looks very much like the reactivation of memory that we see during non-REM dream states, consisting of bursts of time-compressed memory sequences lasting a fraction of a second. So thinking and dreaming may share the same memory reactivation mechanisms.”

The researchers, who included Fabian Kloosterman and Thomas Davidson, say their findings might also reflect how memory systems fail in people with Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

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The study appears in the journal Neuron.

Copyright 2009 by United Press Internationa

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009

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Study: Tetris changes young brains

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ALBUQUERQUE (UPI) — U.S. and Canadian scientists say the brains of adolescent girls who play the computer game Tetris appear to have greater thickness and efficiency.

Researchers from the Mind Research Network, a non-profit organization in Albuquerque, and the Montreal Neurological Institute performed both structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of the brains of girls who practiced the computer game Tetris for three months, and of girls who did not play the game.

The scientists said the structural MRI measured the thickness of areas of the brain, and the functional MRI measured the efficiency of brain activity.

“We were excited to see cortical thickness differences between the girls that practiced Tetris and those that did not,” said Dr. Richard Haier, one of the study’s authors.

But he expressed surprise “that these changes were not where we saw more efficiency.”

Haier said girls who played Tetris had thicker brain tissue in the left frontal and temporal areas that are believed to control complex movements and the coordination of sensory data. However, the brain areas of the girls who practiced Tetris showed greater efficiency in the right frontal and parietal lobes that are associated with critical reasoning and language use.

The research, published in the online journal BMC Research Notes, was funded by an agent for the Tetris Company that also employs Haier as a consultant.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009

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