Thursday, February 11, 2016

To Save New Brain Cells

Today's encore selection - from 'How To Save New Brain Cells' by Tracy J. Shors. The brain can grow new neurons, but these disappear unless cognitively challenged:

"Fresh neurons arise in the brain every day. ... Recent work, albeit mostly in rats, indicates that learning enhances the survival of new neurons in the adult brain. And the more engaging and challenging the problem, the greater the number of neurons that stick around. These neurons are then presumably available to aid in situations that tax the mind. It seems, then, that a mental workout can buff up the brain, much as physical exercise builds up the body. ...

"In the 1990s scientists rocked the field of neurobiology with the startling news that the mature mammalian brain is capable of sprouting new neurons. Biologists had long believed that this talent for neurogenesis was reserved for young, developing minds and was lost with age. But in the early part of the decade Elizabeth Gould, then at the Rockefeller University demonstrated that new cells arise in the adult brain-particularly in a region called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. ...

"Studies indicate that in rats, between 5,000 and 10,000 new neurons arise in the hippocampus every day. (Although the human hippocampus also welcomes new neurons, we do not know how many.) The cells are not generated like clockwork, however. Instead their production can be influenced by a number of different environmental factors. For example, alcohol consumption has been shown to retard the generation of new brain cells. And their birth rate can be enhanced by exercise. Rats and mice that log time on a running wheel can kick out twice as many new cells as mice that lead a more sedentary life. ...

"Exercise and other actions may help produce extra brain cells. But those new recruits do not necessarily stick around. Many if not most of them disappear within just a few weeks of arising. Of course, most cells in the body do not survive indefinitely. So the fact that these cells die is, in itself, not shocking. But their quick demise is a bit of a puzzler. Why would the brain go through the trouble of producing new cells only to have them disappear rapidly?

"From our work in rats, the answer seems to be: they are made 'just in case.' If the animals are cognitively challenged, the cells will linger. If not, they will fade away."
author:Tracey J. Shors
title:'Saving New Brain Cells'
publisher:Scientific American 
date:March 2009

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

German Angst

Germans are worriers. We can hardly go one day without suffering existential anxiety and we hate change. It’s even got a name: “German angst.”
It’s real. The Unisys Security Index, based on a bi-annual survey of national, financial, Internet and personal security, currently shows a value of 146 out of a possible 300 points for Germany. In comparison: Great Britain’s at 103 on the angst scale, while Holland is only at 66.The Germans are driven by a feeling of permanent threat. To counteract this, they invented the welfare state, accept things like a reform backlog and spend billions on insurance policies to secure against practically any risk that life could throw at them./.../
Definições da Web
  1. Angst é uma palavra alemã, dinamarquesa, norueguesa e holandesa para medo ou ansiedade. É usada para descrever um conflito intenso. O termo Angst diferencia-se da palavra Furcht, que se refere normalmente à uma ameaça material, enquanto Angst normalmente é uma emoção não direcional. ...

Buraco Negro gigante

feixe gigantesco de radiação
Uma nova imagem impressionante mostra um feixe gigantesco de radiação atirando para o espaço a partir de um buraco negro supermassivo.
De acordo com astrônomos, o jato de partículas é três vezes maior do que o diâmetro da Via Láctea.
Contrajato, buraco negro, jato, lóbulos de rádio, ponto azul brilhante

300 mil anos-luz

A imagem foi composta com dados de raios-X (em azul) coletados com o Observatório de Raios-X Chandra da NASA, em combinação com dados de rádio (em vermelho) do Telescope Array Compact, na Austrália.
Nela, vemos a galáxia chamada Pictor A, localizada a cerca de 500 milhões de anos-luz de distância da Terra. Os pesquisadores dizem que o buraco negro no centro de Pictor A libera uma enorme quantidade de energia gravitacional, conforme material é puxado em direção ao seu horizonte de eventos.
Esta energia produz um jato de partículas que flui por uma distância de 300.000 anos-luz.

Dois por um

Os novos dados do Chandra indicam que na verdade existem dois feixes sendo emitidos do buraco negro, embora um deles, chamado de “contrajato”, seja mais difícil de visualizar.
O contrajato se estende para o lado esquerdo da imagem e é comparativamente difícil de ver devido ao seu movimento para fora da linha de visão da Terra.
Os redemoinhos vermelhos, chamados lóbulos de rádio, indicam nuvens de gás circundantes através do qual o jato e o contrajato se estendem. Na extrema direita da imagem, você pode ver um ponto azul brilhante, que os pesquisadores dizem que é causado por ondas de choque, muito parecido com um estrondo sônico de um avião supersônico./.../

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


A quartet of complementary brain books

by vaughanbell
Last night I taught a two hour class called 'Navigating Neuroscience' for the Guardian Masterclass series and I had the interesting challenge of coming up with a two hour course on some key concepts to help people make better sense of brain science, how it's discussed, and its changing place in society.
As part of that, I recommended some books to give interested non-specialists a good critical introduction. I added a book after hearing some of the questions and I've included the list below.
I've mentioned some of them before on Mind Hacks in their own right, but I thought they're worth mentioning as a set.
The books have been chosen to complement each other and the idea is that if you read all four, you should have a solid grounding in modern cognitive neuroscience and beyond. In no particular order:
Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience
by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld
This is a great book for understanding common fallacies in conclusions drawn from cognitive neuroscience studies and what conclusions can reasonably be drawn from this evidence. It tackles several areas as examples of where these fallacies are having a significant effect: neuromarketing, neurolaw, lie detection, addiction and the brain-disease fallacy.
It’s a book of 50 small chapters each of which contains an essential idea on which the foundation of modern neuroscience rests. It’s very accessibly and accurately written and gets across some key subtleties that many academic textbooks miss. The great thing about this book is that it’s not just a ‘nuts and bolts’ guide to the brain and isn't afraid to go into quite technical areas (‘Default Mode’, ‘Prediction Error’) while making sure they’re described in straight-forward language.
Great Myths of the Brain
by Christian Jarrett
This is especially good for listing and dispelling commonly cited but erroneous brain ‘facts’. It starts with some historical ones (‘Drilling a Hole in the Head Releases Evil Spirits’), move on to more obvious contemporary myths (‘We Only Use Ten Percent of Our Brains’) but then includes a range of common myths that may be well understood by neuroscientists but which pervade popular discourse and the media (‘Mirror Neurons Make Us Human’, ‘The Brain Receives Information from Five Senses’).
Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind
by Nikolas Rose and Joelle M. Abi-Rachedneuro
This is a great book for understanding how neuroscience is understood and used in society. It’s actually an academic book and Rose and Abi-Rached are sociologists but it’s technically accurate without being densely written. I genuinely think it's one of the most important neuroscience books of the last decade. It is a brilliant analysis of how brain science and the practice of brain science have become associated with changing ideas of what it means to be human and their reciprocal relationship between politics and social influence in the world.
vaughanbell | February 9, 2016 at 10:32 pm | Categories: books | URL:

Comment   See all comments

Mouth Microbioma

A Blog by Ed Yong

The Forest In Your Mouth

The study of the human microbiome—the booming and much-hyped quest to understand the microbes that share our bodies—began in the mouth. Specifically, it began with dental plaque.
In 1683, Antony van Leeuwenhoek, the first human ever to see bacteria, became the first human ever to see his own bacteria. Untrained as a scholar but insatiably curious, he removed some of the thick plaque at the bottom of his teeth and examined it with his own hand-crafted microscopes. He saw multitudes of living things, “very prettily a-moving”, from spheres that spun like a top to rods that darted through water like fish. Enthralled, he soon started collecting plaque from the local citizenry and finding similar microbes within./.../

Flu and AF

Recomendado pela AMICOR Maria Inês Reinart Azambuja

Influenza Infection Linked to Increased Afib Risk

Increased risk of atrial fibrillation can be reduced with influenza vaccination
Increased risk of atrial fibrillation can be reduced with influenza vaccination
HealthDay News — Influenza infection is associated with increased odds of atrial fibrillation (AF), which can be reduced through vaccination, according to a study published online February 1 in Heart Rhythm.
Ting-Yung Chang, MD, from the Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues examined whether influenza infection was a risk factor for AF. Data were included for 11 374 patients with newly diagnosed AF, identified from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database from 2000 to 2010. Four control patients without AF were matched by age and sex for each study patient on the same date of enrollment.
The researchers found that patients with influenza infection without vaccination (1369 patients) had a significantly higher risk of AF compared with patients without influenza infection or vaccination (reference group; 38 353 patients), with an odds ratio of 1.182 after adjustment for baseline differences (P = 0.032). Patients receiving influenza vaccination without influenza infection (16 452 patients) had a lower risk of AF, with an odds ratio of 0.881 (P < 0.001). Patients who had received influenza vaccination and had influenza infection (696 patients) had a similar risk of AF as those in the reference group (odds ratio, 1.136; P = 0.214). In subgroup analyses the lower risk of AF with vaccination was consistent.
"Influenza infection was significantly associated with the development of AF, with an 18% increase in the risk, which could be reduced through influenza vaccination," the authors write.

Monday, February 08, 2016


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), was a brilliant German philosopher. These 38 Stratagems are excerpts from "The Art of Controversy", first translated into English and published in 1896.
Schopenhauer's 38 ways to win an argument are:
  1. Carry your opponent's proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it. The more general your opponent's statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow his or her propositions remain, the easier they are to defend by him or her.
  2. Use different meanings of your opponent's words to refute his or her argument.
  3. Ignore your opponent's proposition, which was intended to refer to a particular thing. Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than that which was asserted.
  4. Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitious route you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.
  5. Use your opponent's beliefs against him. If the opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
  6. Another plan is to confuse the issue by changing your opponent's words or what he or she seeks to prove.
  7. State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions. By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted. Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the opponent's admissions.
  8. Make your opponent angry. An angry person is less capable of using judgement or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.
  9. Use your opponent's answers to your questions to reach different or even opposite conclusions.
  10. If your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises. This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek them to concede.
  11. If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion. Later, introduce your conclusion as a settled and admitted fact. Your opponent may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.
  12. If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable in your proposition.
  13. To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him or her an opposite, counter-proposition as well. If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.
  14. Try to bluff your opponent. If he or she has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed.
  15. If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment. Instead, submit for your opponent's acceptance or rejection some true poposition, as thoug you wished to draw your proof from it. Should the opponent reject it because he or she suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponent is to reject a true proposition. Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your own for the moment. You can either try to prove your original proposition or maintain that your original proposition is proved by what the opponent accepted. For this, an extreme degree of impudence is required.
  16. When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions, or lack of action.
  17. If your opponent presses you with a counter proof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction. Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent's idea.
  18. If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him or her to carry it to its conclusion. Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.
  19. Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his or her argument, and you have nothing much to say, try to make the argument less specific.
  20. If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion. Rather draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.
  21. When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial, refute it by setting forth its superficial character. But it is better to meet the opponent with a counter argument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him or her. For it is with victory that your are concerned, and not with truth.
  22. If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.
  23. Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating his or her statements. By contractiong your opponent you may drive him or her into extending the statement beyond its natural limit. When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the orginal statement your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than you intended, redefine your statement's limits.
  24. This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition and by false inference and distortion of his or her ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd. It then appears the opponent's proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.
  25. If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary. Only one valid contradiciton is needed to overthrow the opponent's proposition.
  26. A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent's arguments against him or herself.
  27. Should your opponent surprise you by becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal. Not only will this make the opponent angry, it may be presumed that you put your finger on the weak side of his or her case, and that the opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.
  28. This trick is chiefly practicable in a dispute if there is an audience who is not an expert on the subject. You make an invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience. This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes the opponent look ridiculous or if the audience laughs. If the opponent must make a long, complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen.
  29. If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had bearing on the matter in dispose. This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.
  30. Make an appeal to authority rather than reason. If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case. If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance. Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are those which he or she generally admires the most. You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have invented entirely yourself.
  31. If you know that you have no reply to an argument that your opponent advances, you may, by a fine stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.
  32. A quick way of getting rid of an opponent's assertion, or throwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.
  33. You admit your opponent's premises but deny the conclusion.
  34. When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, or evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is a sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have as it were, reduced the opponent to silence. You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade it, even when you do not know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.
  35. This trick makes all unnecessary if it works. Instead of working on an opponent's intellect, work on his or her motive. If you succeed in making your opponent's opinion, should it prove true, seem distinctly to his or her own interest, the opponenent will drop it like a hot potato.
  36. You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast. If the opponent is weak or does not wish to appear as ife he or she has no idea what you are talking about, you can easily impose upon him or her some argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.
  37. Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you have refuted the whole position. This is the way which bad advocates lose a good case. If no accurate proof occurs to the opponent or the bystanders, you have won the day.
  38. A last trick is to become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick, because everyone is able to carry it into effect.
(abstracted from the book:Numerical Lists You Never Knew or Once Knew and Probably Forget, by: John Boswell and Dan Starer)

gravitational waves

After 100 years, scientists are finally closing in on Einstein’s ripples

Ars goes inside ground zero of the search for gravitational waves.

LIVINGSTON, La.—The rain began to fall as Joe Giaime and I scrambled down a lonely rise, back toward the observatory’s main building. It wasn’t so much rain as a hard mist, characteristic of the muggy weather southern Louisiana often sees in January when moisture rolls inland from the Gulf of Mexico. As gray clouds fell like a shroud over the loblolly pines all around us, Giaime mused, “Well, I guess you’ve already gathered that we’re in the middle of nowhere."
Middle of nowhere happens to be ground zero in the search for gravitational waves, which were first posited by Albert Einstein a century ago and may soon become one of the hottest fields in science. Livingston is remote in terms of geography, but as humans scan the heavens for gravitational waves this forest is practically the center of the physics universe.
Because of general relativity, we understand that large masses curve spacetime, kind of like standing in the middle of a trampoline distorts the fabric. When massive, dense objects in space accelerate, such as black holes or neutron stars, they create ripples in the fabric of spacetime. These ripples carry gravitational radiation away from the very massive objects, and the radiation then propagates through the Universe. This Louisiana observatory, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO, exists to try to measure these subtle ripples.
Were they to succeed in this, scientists would not only validate Einstein’s genius yet again, they also will have created a powerful new tool to understand the Universe. Unlike light, gravitational waves are not diminished by interstellar dust as they propagate through space. By detecting them, astrophysicists could therefore peer into not only the most energetic realms of the Universe, they could gain unfettered insight into its farthest reaches.
Some of the very smallest lengths humans have ever measured, then, might allow us to see the greatest of distances./.../

Sunday, February 07, 2016

2745 - AMICOR 18

Global Wealth Inequality

What you never knew you never knew 2013
Video :

Área de anexos

Crowds wisdom

The future of prediction markets: how technology can enable the wisdom of crowds

Dates: February 22, 2016
Location: London, UK
In the wake of crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing comes crowd-wisdom. Given the complexity and difficulty of many of the challenges facing humanity, the development of systems for improved crowd-wisdom can be seen as a major priority.
Researchers have shown that, in the right circumstances, people working together to forecast future outcomes can produce far more accurate results than individuals, even when these individuals are recognised experts in their field. Sharing and debating the results with others can quickly eliminate bias and sharpen predictive reliability. This interaction allows predictive markets to live up to their full potential as aggregators of insight from diverse sources.

Visita da semana

Prof. Julio Bittencourt Francisco
Tivemos o prazer de receber no dia 2 p.p. a visita do Historiador, professor da UFRGS, elaborando tese sobre imigração Libanesa para o Rio Grande do Sul
ResearchGate is the professional network for scientists and researchers. 

Read 29 publications
by Julio Bittencourt Francisco

Join now to access them and millions
of other full-texts for free.

CO2 >> Methanol

How to efficiently convert carbon dioxide from air to methanol fuel
February 3, 2016

A twofer: sustainable fuel source from greenhouse gas emissions
Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute have created fuel out of thin air — directly converting carbon dioxide from air into methanol at relatively low temperatures for the first time. While methanol can’t currently compete with oil, it will be there when we run out of oil, the researchers note. … more…

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016)

Marvin Minsky, who pioneered artificial intelligence research, dies at age 88
February 5, 2016
Photo of Marvin Minsky, PhD, who was a computer scientist in the field of artificial intelligence, born 1927 and passed away in 2016. Minsky’s many inventions include the first head mounted graphical display in 1963. He created the confocal microscope in 1957, a predecessor to today’s widely used confocal laser scanning microscope. His extensive background in math enabled him to pioneer the first days of the commercial computer. He held a math doctorate from Princeton University. He’s best known for his popular mainstream books on the possibility of computers achieving human level thinking. — credit | Royal Society of Chemistry
host Robert Siegel of All Things Considered speaks to Ray Kurzweil
NPR’s Robert Siegel speaks to Ray Kurzweil, the inventor and futurist, and founder of Kurzweil Technologies, about Marvin Minsky, PhD. Minsky, who was a founding father of artificial intelligence, has died at the age of 88. Kurzweil is a Director of Engineering at Google. NPR | All Things Considered episode title | Marvin Minsky who … more…


Scientists discover how the human brain folds
February 1, 2016

gel model of brain ft 
Understanding how the brain folds could help unlock the inner workings of the brain and unravel brain-related disorders, as function often follows form
Folded brains likely evolved to fit a large cortex into a small volume, with the added benefit of reducing neuronal wiring length and improving cognitive function. But how does the brain fold? A simple mechanical instability associated with buckling, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, collaborating with scientists in … more…

Graphene is ideal substrate for brain electrodes, researchers find
February 1, 2016

graphene-neuron interface ft An international study headed by the European Graphene Flagship research consortium has found that graphene is a promising material for use in electrodes that interface with neurons, based on its excellent conductivity, flexibility for molding into complex shapes, biocompatibility, and stability within the body. The graphene-based substrates they studied* promise to overcome problems with “glial …more…

Mitochondria: cell aging

Mayo Clinic researchers extend lifespan by up to 35 percent in mice
February 3, 2016

Aged mice with and without senescent cell clearance (credit: Mayo Clinic) Researchers at Mayo Clinic have discovered that senescent cells — cells that no longer divide and accumulate with age — shorten lifespan by as much as 35 percent in normal mice. Removing these aging cells delays tumor formation, preserves tissue and organ function, and extends lifespan without observed adverse effects, the researchers found, writing Feb. 3 in Nature. … more…

Mitochondria trigger cell aging, researchers discover
February 5, 2016

Components of a typical mitochondrion (credit: Kelvinsong/Creative Commons)
How to rejuvenate or prevent aging in human and mice cells
An international team of scientists led by João Passos at Newcastle University has for the first time shown that mitochondria (the “batteries” of the cells) are major triggers for aging, and eliminating them upon the induction of senescence prevents senescence in the aging mouse liver. As we grow old, cells in our bodies accumulate different types … more…

Delivering genes across the blood-brain barrier to treat brain diseases
February 2, 2016

BBB penetration ft 
Could also help researchers map the brain
Caltech biologists have modified a harmless virus to allow it to enter the adult mouse brain through the bloodstream and deliver genes to cells of the nervous system. The modified virus could lead to novel therapeutics to address diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, help researchers map the brain, and target cells in other organs, according … more…