The Idea of Will

This article presents a new conceptual view on the conscious will. This new concept approaches our will from the perspective of the requirements of our neural-muscular system and not from our anthropocentric perspective. This approach not only repositions the will at the core of behavior control, it also integrates the studies of Libet and Wegner, which seem to support the opposite. The will does not return as an instrument we use to steer, but rather as part of the way we learn new automatic behavior and of how our neural system steers us. The new concept suggests that understanding of our will is more about understanding of our daily behavior then about the will itself.


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Networks of the Brain

Over the last decade, the study of complex networks has expanded across diverse scientific fields. Increasingly, science is concerned with the structure, behavior, and evolution of complex systems ranging from cells to ecosystems. In Networks of the Brain, Olaf Sporns describes how the integrative nature of brain function can be illuminated from a complex network perspective.

Highlighting the many emerging points of contact between neuroscience and network science, the book serves to introduce network theory to neuroscientists and neuroscience to those working on theoretical network models. Sporns emphasizes how networks connect levels of organization in the brain and how they link structure to function, offering an informal and nonmathematical treatment of the subject. Networks of the Brain provides a synthesis of the sciences of complex networks and the brain that will be an essential foundation for future research.


Posted in Brain networks, Brains | Tagged ,

Brain Anatomical Network and Intelligence

Intuitively, higher intelligence might be assumed to correspond to more efficient information transfer in the brain, but no direct evidence has been reported from the perspective of brain networks. In this study, we performed extensive analyses to test the hypothesis that individual differences in intelligence are associated with brain structural organization, and in particular that higher scores on intelligence tests are related to greater global efficiency of the brain anatomical network. We constructed binary and weighted brain anatomical networks in each of 79 healthy young adults utilizing diffusion tensor tractography and calculated topological properties of the networks using a graph theoretical method. Based on their IQ test scores, all subjects were divided into general and high intelligence groups and significantly higher global efficiencies were found in the networks of the latter group. Moreover, we showed significant correlations between IQ scores and network properties across all subjects while controlling for age and gender. Specifically, higher intelligence scores corresponded to a shorter characteristic path length and a higher global efficiency of the networks, indicating a more efficient parallel information transfer in the brain. The results were consistently observed not only in the binary but also in the weighted networks, which together provide convergent evidence for our hypothesis. Our findings suggest that the efficiency of brain structural organization may be an important biological basis for intelligence.


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Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science

Brains, it has recently been argued, are essentially prediction machines. They are bundles of cells that support perception and action by constantly attempting to match incoming sensory inputs with top-down expectations or predictions. This is achieved using a hierarchical generative model that aims to minimize prediction error within a bidirectional cascade of cortical processing. Such accounts offer a unifying model of perception and action, illuminate the functional role of attention, and may neatly capture the special contribution of cortical processing to adaptive success. This target article critically examines this “hierarchical prediction machine” approach, concluding that it offers the best clue yet to the shape of a unified science of mind and action. Sections 1 and 2 lay out the key elements and implications of the approach. Section 3 explores a variety of pitfalls and challenges, spanning the evidential, the methodological, and the more properly conceptual. The paper ends (sections 4 and 5) by asking how such approaches might impact our more general vision of mind, experience, and agency.


Posted in Brains, Cognitive science, Situated agents | Tagged , ,

The fugue of life: why complexity matters in neuroscience

While it is unclear exactly which mechanisms give way to neural complexity and healthy behaviour, keeping track of complexity is important to understanding and identifying brain disorders such as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia. Measuring the complexity of brain activity could soon allow doctors to predict which infants will develop autism and how schizophrenia patients will respond to medication. As the physicist Emerson Pugh said: ‘If our brains were simple enough for us to understand them, we’d be so simple that we couldn’t.’


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Bonding Benefits in Breastfeeding Extend Years Beyond Infancy

A new study reveals longer breastfeeding is associated with increased maternal sensitivity well into childhood. Women who breastfeed their children longer exhibit more maternal sensitivity well past the infant and toddler years, according to a 10-year longitudinal study published by the American Psychological Association. The results held even after accounting for maternal neuroticism, parenting attitudes, ethnicity, mother’s education and presence of a romantic partner. The findings are published in the journal Developmental Psychology.


Read also: Breastfeeding for two months halves risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

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Emoticons in mind

It is now common practice, in digital communication, to use the character combination “:-)”, known as an emoticon, to indicate a smiling face. Although emoticons are readily interpreted as smiling faces, it is unclear whether emoticons trigger face-specific mechanisms or whether separate systems are utilized. A hallmark of face perception is the utilization of regions in the occipitotemporal cortex, which are sensitive to configural processing. We recorded the N170 event-related potential to investigate the way in which emoticons are perceived. Inverting faces produces a larger and later N170 while inverting objects which are perceived featurally rather than configurally reduces the amplitude of the N170. We presented 20 participants with images of upright and inverted faces, emoticons and meaningless strings of characters. Emoticons showed a large amplitude N170 when upright and a decrease in amplitude when inverted, the opposite pattern to that shown by faces. This indicates that when upright, emoticons are processed in occipitotemporal sites similarly to faces due to their familiar configuration. However, the characters which indicate the physiognomic features of emoticons are not recognized by the more laterally placed facial feature detection systems used in processing inverted faces.


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Culture in social neuroscience: A review

The aim of this review is to highlight an emerging field: the neuroscience of culture. This new field links cross-cultural psychology with cognitive neuroscience across fundamental domains of cognitive and social psychology. We present a summary of studies on emotion, perspective-taking, memory, object perception, attention, language, and the self, showing cultural differences in behavior as well as in neural activation. Although it is still nascent, the broad impact of merging the study of culture with cognitive neuroscience holds mutual distributed benefits for multiple related fields. Thus, cultural neuroscience may be uniquely poised to provide insights and breakthroughs for longstanding questions and problems in the study of behavior and thought, and its capacity for integration across multiple levels of analysis is especially high. These findings attest to the plasticity of the brain and its adaptation to cultural contexts.


Posted in Cultural Neuroscience, Culture, Neuroscience, Social neuroscience | Tagged , , ,

A cultural neuroscience approach to the biosocial nature of the human brain

Cultural neuroscience (CN) is an interdisciplinary field that investigates the relationship between culture (e.g., value and belief systems and practices shared by groups) and human brain functions. In this review, we describe the origin, aims, and methods of CN as well as its conceptual framework and major findings. We also clarify several misunderstandings of CN research. Finally, we discuss the implications of CN findings for understanding human brain function in sociocultural contexts and novel questions that future CN research should address. By doing so, we hope to provide a clear picture of the CN approach to the human brain and culture and to elucidate the intrinsically biosocial nature of the functional organization of the human brain.


Posted in Biosocial, Cultural Neuroscience, Human brains | Tagged , ,

The neuroscience of prejudice and stereotyping

Despite global increases in diversity, social prejudices continue to fuel intergroup
conflict, disparities, and discrimination. Moreover, as norms have become more egalitarian, prejudices seem to have ‘gone underground’, operating covertly and often unconsciously, such that they are difficult to detect and control. Neuroscientists have recently begun to probe the neural basis of prejudice and stereotyping in an effort to identify the processes through which these biases form, influence behavior and are regulated. This research aims to elucidate basic mechanisms of the social brain while advancing our understanding of intergroup bias in social behavior.


Posted in Neuroscience, Prejudice, Stereotyping | Tagged , ,