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Written by Nita Farahany, professor of law and philosophy at Duke University

Nita Farahany quote

Pick up a newspaper any day of the week and you’ll likely see articles breathlessly describing our progress towards unlocking the mysteries of the human brain. If the 1990s were the decade of the human genome, marked by the Human Genome Project (the world’s largest collaborative biological project), this is the era of the human brain.

With projects such as BRAIN and the Human Brain Project now well underway, and billions of dollars of private funding advancing neurological research and discovery, the future of brain science is within sight.

When he launched the BRAIN initiative in the United States, President Barack Obama said: “As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter between our ears.” Unlocking those mysteries will be transformative for society. Which is terrific, and terrifying. Consider the possibilities:

Read more on World Economic Forum website, published on Thursday 21 January 2016.
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NPR’s “On Point” host Tom Ashbrook interviews three experts to discuss the best ways to keep our brain sharp as we get older.

Listen to the interview here.

Guests

Melissa Healy, health and science reporter for the Los Angeles Times. (@latmelissahealy)

Sandra Bond Chapman, cognitive neuroscientist. Founder and chief director at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she is also a professor of in brain health and behavioral and brain sciences. Author of “Make Your Brain Smarter.” (@brainhealth)

Kathleen Taylor, expert in adult brain development and learning. Researcher and professor in the Saint Mary’s College of California’s school of education. Author of the forthcoming “Facilitating Brain-Aware Adult Learning,” as well as co-author of “Developing Adult Learners” and “The Neuroscience of Adult Learning.”

A team of Stanford scientists has developed an entirely non-invasive technique that provides a view of blood flow in the brain. The tool could provide powerful insights into strokes and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

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This illustration shows how carbon nanotubes, once injected into the subject, can be fluoresced using near-infrared light in order to visualize the brain vasculature and track cerebral blood flow. Courtesy Dai Lab

Some of the most damaging brain diseases can be traced to irregular blood delivery in the brain. Now, Stanford chemists have employed lasers and carbon nanotubes to capture an unprecedented look at blood flowing through a living brain.

The technique was developed for mice but could one day be applied to humans, potentially providing vital information in the study of stroke and migraines, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The work is described in the journal Nature Photonics.

Current procedures for exploring the brain in living animals face significant tradeoffs. Surgically removing part of the skull offers a clear view of activity at the cellular level. But the trauma can alter the function or activity of the brain or even stimulate an immune response. Meanwhile, non-invasive techniques such as CT scans or MRI visualize function best at the whole-organ level; they cannot visualize individual vessels or groups of neurons.

Read More

 BBC News

It has long been known that happiness depends on many different life circumstances.

Now scientists have developed a mathematical equation that can predict momentary delight. They found that participants were happiest when they performed better than expected during a risk-reward task. Brain scans also revealed that happiness scores correlated with areas known to be important for well-being. The team says the equation, published in PNAS Journal, could be used to look at mood disorders and happiness on a mass scale. It could also help the UK government analyse statistics on well-being, which they have collected since 2010.

Happiness equation

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Heated debate over a high-profile project of the European Commission to simulate the entire brain on a supercomputer – a long needed “paradigm-shift” in neuroscience, or an over-hyped, over-funded boondoggle destined to fail, at the expense of other smaller, cheaper, less sexy researches?

Researchers say European commission-funded initiative to simulate human brain suffers from ‘substantial failures’

From The Guardian 

Many researchers refused to join on the grounds that it was too premature to attempt a simulation of the entire human brain. Photograph: Sebastian Kaulitzki /Alamy

Many researchers refused to join on the grounds that it was too premature to attempt a simulation of the entire human brain. Photograph: Sebastian Kaulitzki /Alamy

The world’s largest project to unravel the mysteries of the human brain has been thrown into crisis with more than 100 leading researchers threatening to boycott the effort amid accusations of mismanagement and fears that it is doomed to failure.

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By Russell Brandom for The Verge

(Images from Facebook's DeepFace scan)

(Images from Facebook’s DeepFace scan)

If you’re worried about Big Brother and computerized facial recognition, this summer has given you plenty of reason to be scared. Law enforcement has been toying with facial recognition for a while, but the FBI is getting set to deploy its own system, called Next Generation Identification (NGI for short), planned to be fully operational this summer. NGI will bring together millions of photos in a central federal database, reaching all 50 states by the end of the year. After years of relative anonymity, it’s easy to think 2014 is the year that law enforcement will finally know you by face.  Read More

By Dr Llewellyn Cox, Principal, LieuLabs

On an otherwise unremarkable Saturday in June 2014, a group of computer scientists, public figures, and celebrities gathered at London’s Royal Society. They were all there for one reason — to engage in a text-based chat game to determine if a computer could pass the “iconic” Turing test.

A few hours later, the results were in. Professor Warwick of Reading University announced that a chatbot had successfully tricked 33% of the judges into thinking it was a real boy, and had therefore become the first computer to have passed the Turing test:

It is fitting that such an important landmark has been reached at the Royal Society in London, the home of British science and the scene of many great advances in human understanding over the centuries. This milestone will go down in history as one of the most exciting. — Prof. Kevin Warwick

 

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Within hours, breathless tweets, likes and pins swept across the internet, announcing this amazing result to the world, or at least across the subculture that apparently really f***ing loves science, but doesn’t seem to have much time or inclination toward actual critical analysis. A day or so later came the rebuttals and debunkings from the more inquisitive corners of the online universe. So what really happened, and what does a machine passing a Turing test mean for society?

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where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

Musings on Memory and Aging

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

Stanford Center on Longevity

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

where neural understanding interacts with the rest of life

The Beautiful Brain

a website about neuroscience and art that peaked in 2009 but is still going