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The Almighty Buck

Poverty May Affect the Growth of Children's Brains 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the money-is-the-root-of-all dept.
sciencehabit writes: Stark and rising inequality plagues many countries, including the United States, and politicians, economists, and — fortunately — scientists, are debating its causes and solutions. But inequality's effects may go beyond simple access to opportunity: a new study finds that family differences in income and education are directly correlated with brain size in developing children and adolescents. The findings could have important policy implications and provide new arguments for early antipoverty interventions, researchers say.

Researchers: Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction 45

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-mind-of-its-own dept.
Rambo Tribble writes Researchers from the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Fribourg have found evidence that smartphone use changes the way your brain interacts with your thumbs. Using electroencephalography to study brain activity in smartphone users vs. feature-phone users, they found apparently persistent, increased activity in areas of the brain associated with the thumbs. Of course, this may well be true of other repetitive activities, like keyboard use. Reuters provide a bit more approachable coverage.

MRIs Show Our Brains Shutting Down When We See Security Prompts 79

Posted by timothy
from the all-persons-in-this-area-subject-to-palpatio-per-anum dept.
antdude writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs) show our brains shutting down when we see security prompts. The MRI images show a "precipitous drop" in visual processing after even one repeated exposure to a standard security warning and a "large overall drop" after 13 of them. Previously, such warning fatigue has been observed only indirectly, such as one study finding that only 14 percent of participants recognized content changes to confirmation dialog boxes or another that recorded users clicking through one-half of all SSL warnings in less than two seconds.

New Alzheimer's Treatment Fully Restores Memory Function For Mice 109

Posted by timothy
from the better-than-deja-vu dept.
New submitter wrp103 writes Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology [abstract] that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques — structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients. A slice: Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours. The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.

Stanford Study Credits Lack of Non-Competes For Silicon Valley's Success 114

Posted by timothy
from the santa-clara-clause dept. writes Natalie Kitroeff writes at Bloomberg that a new study says the secret to Silicon Valley's triumph as the global capital of innovation may lie in a quirk of California's employment law that prohibits the legal enforcement of non-compete clauses. Unlike most states, California prohibits enforcement of non-compete clauses that force people who leave jobs to wait for a predetermined period before taking positions at rival companies. That puts California in the ideal position to rob other regions of their most prized inventors, "Policymakers who sanction the use of non-competes could be inadvertently creating regional disadvantage as far as retention of knowledge workers is concerned," wrote the authors of the study "Regional disadvantage? Employee non-compete agreements and brain drain" (PDF). "Regions that choose to enforce employee non-compete agreements may therefore be subjecting themselves to a domestic brain drain not unlike that described in the literature on international emigration out of less developed countries."

The study, which looked at the behavior of people who had registered at least two patents from 1975 to 2005, focused on Michigan, which in 1985 reversed its longstanding prohibition of non-compete agreements. The authors found that after Michigan changed the rules, the rate of emigration among inventors was twice as a high as it was in states where non-competes remained illegal. Even worse for Michigan, its most talented inventors were also the most likely to flee. "Firms are going to be willing to relocate someone who is really good, as opposed to someone who is average," says Lee Fleming. For the inventors, it makes sense to take a risk on a place such as California, where they have more freedom. "If the job they relocate for doesn't work out, then they can walk across the street because there are no non-competes."

Speaking a Second Language May Change How You See the World 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-can-see-clearly-now,-der-regen-ist-weg dept.
sciencehabit writes: Where did the thief go? You might get a more accurate answer if you ask the question in German. How did she get away? Now you might want to switch to English. Speakers of the two languages put different emphasis on actions and their consequences, influencing the way they think about the world, according to a new study (abstract). The work also finds that bilinguals may get the best of both worldviews, as their thinking can be more flexible.

Controlling Brain Activity With Magnetic Nanoparticles 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-saw-that-episode-of-star-trek-too dept.
sciencehabit writes: Deep brain stimulation, which now involves surgically inserting electrodes several inches into a person's brain and connecting them to a power source outside the skull, can be an extremely effective treatment for disorders such as Parkinson's disease, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. The expensive, invasive procedure doesn't always work, however, and can be risky. Now, a study in mice (abstract) points to a less invasive way to massage neuronal activity, by injecting metal nanoparticles into the brain and controlling them with magnetic fields. The technique could eventually provide a wireless, nonsurgical alternative to traditional deep brain stimulation surgery, researchers say.

Scientists Insert a Synthetic Memory Into the Brain of a Sleeping Mouse 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-party-you-never-had dept.
the_newsbeagle writes: Scientists are learning how to insert fake memories into the brain via precise electrical stimulation (abstract). In the latest experiment, they gave sleeping mice a synthetic memory that linked a particular location in a test chamber to a pleasurable sensation. (At least they gave the mice a nice memory.)

The researchers first recorded the electrical signals from the mice's brains while the mice were awake and exploring the test chamber, until the researchers identified patterns of activity associated with a certain location. Then, when the mice slept, the researchers watched for those neural patterns to be replayed, indicating that the mice were consolidating the memory of that location. At that moment, they zapped a reward center of the mice's brains. When the mice awoke and went back into the chamber, they hung around that reward-associated location, presumably expecting a dose of feel-good.

Marissa Mayer On Turning Around Yahoo 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the steering-the-ship dept.
An anonymous reader writes For the 20th anniversary of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer discusses how she's trying to reinvent the company. In a wide-ranging interview, Mayer shares her vision for fixing the company's past mistakes, including a major investment in mobile and a new ad platform. Yet she's been dogged by critics who see her as an imperious micromanager, who criticize her $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr, and who fault her for moving too slowly. The company's executives explain that the business could only return to health after she first halted Yahoo's brain drain and went big on mobile. As one Yahoo employee summarized Mayer's thinking: "First people, then apps."

Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black? 420

Posted by timothy
from the enoy-your-lovely-ochre-sky dept. writes Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. Now the Washington Post reports that a puzzling thing happened on Thursday night consuming millions — perhaps tens of millions — across the planet and trending on Twitter ahead of even Jihadi John's identification. The problem was this: Roughly three-fourths of people swore that this dress was white and gold, according to BuzzFeed polling but everyone else said it's dress was blue. Others said the dress could actually change colors. So what's going on? According to the NYT our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting conditions. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn't give many clues about the ambient light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? If you think the dress is in shadow, your brain may remove the blue cast and perceive the dress as being white and gold. If you think the dress is being washed out by bright light, your brain may perceive the dress as a darker blue and black.

According to Beau Lotto, the brain is doing something remarkable and that's why people are so fascinated by this dress. "It's entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It's seeing one reality, but knowing there's another reality. So you're becoming an observer of yourself. You're having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that's the basis of imagination." As usual xkcd has the final word.
It would make the comments more informatively scannable if you include your perceived color pair in the title of any comments below.

Invented-Here Syndrome 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-of-this-has-happened-before-and-all-of-this-will-happen-again dept.
edA-qa writes: Are you afraid to write code? Does the thought linger in your brain that somewhere out there somebody has already done this? Do you find yourself trapped in an analysis cycle where nothing is getting done? Is your product mutating to accommodate third party components? If yes, then perhaps you are suffering from invented-here syndrome.

Most of use are aware of not-invented-here syndrome, but the opposite problem is perhaps equally troublesome. We can get stuck in the mindset that there must be a product, library, or code sample, that already does what we want. Instead of just writing the code we need a lot of effort is spent testing out modules and trying to accommodate our own code. At some point we need to just say, 'stop!', and write the code ourselves.

Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way For Large Human Brain 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-the-big-brain-on-test-subject-35 dept.
sciencehabit writes Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species. "This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness," says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work.

Facebook AI Director Discusses Deep Learning, Hype, and the Singularity 71

Posted by timothy
from the you-like-this dept.
An anonymous reader writes In a wide-ranging interview with IEEE Spectrum, Yann LeCun talks about his work at the Facebook AI Research group and the applications and limitations of deep learning and other AI techniques. He also talks about hype, 'cargo cult science', and what he dislikes about the Singularity movement. The discussion also includes brain-inspired processors, supervised vs. unsupervised learning, humanism, morality, and strange airplanes.

Brain Imaging Shows Abnormal White Matter Areas In the Brains of Stutterers 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the bonus-smarts dept.
n01 writes: Stuttering — a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged — affects more than 70 million people, or about 1% of the population, worldwide. Once treated as a psychological or emotional condition, stuttering can now be traced to brain neuroanatomy and physiology. Two new studies from UC Santa Barbara researchers provide insight into the treatment of the speech disorder as well as understanding its physiological basis. The first paper, published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, finds that the MPI stuttering treatment program, a new treatment developed at UCSB, was twice as effective as the standard best practices protocol. The second study, which appears in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, uses diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) in an MRI scanner to identify abnormal areas of white matter in the brains of adult stutterers. According to co-author Janis Ingham, a professor emerita of speech and hearing sciences at UCSB and co-author of both papers, the two studies taken together demonstrate two critical points: A neuroanatomic abnormality exists in the brains of people who stutter, yet they can learn to speak fluently in spite of it.

Humans' Big Brains Linked To a Small Stretch of DNA 95

Posted by timothy
from the can't-have-nuclear-bombs-without-big-brains dept.
A new study (abstract) described in the L.A. Times suggests that "just 10 differences on one particular strand of human DNA lying near a brain-development gene could have been instrumental in the explosive growth in the human neocortex." The DNA region, containing just 1,200 base pairs, is not a gene. But it lies near one that is known to affect early development of the human neocortex, according to the study, published online Thursday in Current Biology. Researchers showed that the region, known as HARE5, acts as an enhancer of the gene FZD8. Embryos of mice altered with human HARE5 developed significantly larger brains and more neurons compared with embryos carrying the chimp version, according to the study.

Smart Rendering For Virtual Reality 25

Posted by Soulskill
from the works-way-better-than-dumb-rendering dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Intel have been working on new methods for improving the rendering speed for modern wide-angle head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. Their approach makes use of the fact that because of the relatively cheap and lightweight lenses the distortion astigmatism happens: only the center area can be perceived very sharp, while with increasing distance from it, the perception gets more and more blurred. So what happens if you don't spend the same amount of calculations and quality for all pixels? The blog entry gives hints to future rendering architectures and shows performance numbers.

Human DNA Enlarges Mouse Brains 193

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-vice-versa dept.
sciencehabit writes Researchers have increased the size of mouse brains by giving the rodents a piece of human DNA that controls gene activity. The work provides some of the strongest genetic evidence yet for how the human intellect surpassed those of all other apes. The human gene causes cells that are destined to become nerve cells to divide more frequently, thereby providing a larger of pool of cells that become part of the cortex. As a result, the embryos carrying human HARE5 have brains that are 12% larger than the brains of mice carrying the chimp version of the enhancer. The team is currently testing these mice to see if the bigger brains made them any smarter.
Classic Games (Games)

When Chess Players Blunder 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the knight-to-sand-trap-6 dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Joe Doliner has done a statistical analysis of mistakes in rated chess games. He used a chess engine called Crafty, which is capable of not only finding mistakes, but quantifying how bad they are. After crunching all the matches on in 2014, which amounted to almost 5 million moves, Crafry found only 67,175 blunders that were equivalent to a 2-pawn deficit or worse. With a pair of graphs, Doliner shows how mistakes decrease as player rating increases, as you'd expect. According to the trendline, gaining 600 rating points roughly halves the number of mistakes a player makes. He made the data and tools available in a public repository for others to dig into.

Inside the Mind of a Schizophrenic Through Virtual Reality 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-their-shoes dept.
blottsie writes Viscira produces videos and technology simulations for the healthcare industry, and the project I tested called "Mindscape" was created for a pharmaceutical company that wanted to give potential clients insight into what some schizophrenic patients might feel like in a real-life scenario. Unlike audio tests or videos that show you a first-person perspective of schizophrenic experiences, Viscira's demonstration uses the Oculus Rift headset and is entirely immersive. You can look around at each individual's face, and up and down the hallway. Walk through the elevator, and hear voices that appear to be coming from both strangers and your own head.

Mood-Altering Wearable Thync Releases First Brain Test Data 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the make-me-happy dept.
blottsie writes Thync, the world's first wearable that alters a user's mood has released the first set of data that shows its device reduces stress without chemicals. The study found that "the levels of salivary -amylase, an enzyme that increases with stress, as well as noradrenergic and sympathetic activity, significantly dropped for the subjects that received electrical neurosignaling compared to the subjects that received the sham."