Thursday, July 5, 2007

4th of July news purging

Happy fireworks day USA!

It might not be "new"s but it's not quite "old"s.
(Fun trivia fact for the week - the word "news" has a controversial history. Some think it comes from the word "new", pluralized for multiple items of new interest, but I have heard from at least a few people in the media that "news" was adopted by English speaking people because it stood for "North East West South". When English magistrates would receive reports on the status of their more distant provinces, they received them by location. The overall report was called the NEWS. This may not be the case entirely, but I have heard similar stories, and thought it made for an interesting little tidbit to think about.)

- 'Brain fitness' has made the rounds in the media, thanks to Ozzie Osborne being enrolled in a program. There were mentions of Posit Science's program and the Nintendo DS game "Brain Age". There are plenty of other games out there, and an almost equal number of programs or book that promise to increase your mental abilities. Here's a thought: If you practice at a particular skill you get better at it. If it happens to be one you use outside 0f practice task, that ability transfers. Silly unscientific people.
[correction: This is not THE Ozzie Osborne, but some unfortunate grandparent with the last name Osborne whose kids thought it would be funny to nickname him Ozzie. Buncha freaks probably dress their dogs up in costumes and eat soup with a fork. Thanks to the awesome Natalia for bringing it to my attention.]

- Hebrew University scientists have successfully watched the generation of new neurons from undifferentiated cells; declare it more boring that watching paint dry.

- A new push for an ALS cure has started. More info at

- An interesting look at training race car drivers based on neuroscience. This is the neuro-geek equivalent of those motion capture systems used on baseball pitchers and tennis players to perfect their movements.

- Brainy and Techy new book reviews. Yum.

- Who would have thought that an exercise machine that shakes you rapidly and violently would cause brain problems? Oh, wait. Everyone.

- Stems cells, an always popular election year topic, have been shown to aid in spinal cord regeneration following injury. Membrane protein techniques get a little funding boost.

- Ah Japan. The fact that you treat your scientists like rock stars makes me love you even more. (Planning a trip to there to visit a friend sometime in October! Exciting!)

- Ah DARPA. You're sure to lead us to ultimate destruction. But it will be such a friggin cool one, I don't mind. Cyborg moth spies? Oh you better believe it! HI-MEMS program info.

- Out of nowhere, there's an article on the relation between neural noise and learning in motor cortex. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute bulletin highlights Sebastian Seung's work on drifting motor cortical configurations of equal output, and how good ole noise allows small shifts in bias. If you work on motor system research, definitely worth a quick read if you're not familiar with it. One of those interesting thought experiments is to consider that 'noise' is only noise because we can't trace back the activity or account for all the variables (minute changes in glucose, minuscule ionic concentration changes around active cells, glial uptake of nutrients, eddies created by Nodes of Ranvier, etc.). Try to think of how many factors contribute to changes in discharge patterns, and the complexity and resulting simplicity are just beautiful.

- From the "Awesome Topic, Crappy Explanation" department we have a TMS study on viewing contortionists (in progress). From what I can gather, they look at possible vs impossible poses but use TMS over "various regions" to localize the site of somewhere in the mirror neuron system... This just doesn't make sense. First, you want possible, difficult, and impossible poses (use a program like Poser to make it REALLY impossible - we've all seen contortionists and know those poses are 'possible'). Second, use a friggin fMRI, then TMS to mess with it. It's an interesting idea, though, and has BCI implications as far as reducing the state-space of possible prosthetic positions. Original info here.


Natalia said...

That article claims Ozzie's real name is Arthur. Wikipedia disagrees. Hmm...

I like that theory about the word "news".

Hope you are doing well!

Brandon King said...

I get what happened...

Someone decided to be clever and nickname their grandpa Obsorne "Ozzie". I don't think the 'real' Ozzie is 85, yet. Bastards. It does sound like how Ozzie acts, and who would blame him for entering a program like this anyway?

Yeh Natalia! Hope things are going well in Cali. Drop me an email and let me know how things are going.

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