Cognitive Science


What's in a face?

MIT News

Our brains are incredibly good at processing faces, and even have specific regions specialized for this function. But what face dimensions are we observing? Do we observe general properties first, then look at the details? Or are dimensions such as gender or other identity details decoded interdependently? In a study published in Nature Communications, neuroscientists at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research measured the response of the brain to faces in real-time, and found that the brain first decodes properties such as gender and age before drilling down to the specific identity of the face itself.


Alana gift to MIT launches Down syndrome research center, technology program for disabilities

MIT News

As part of its continued mission to help build a better world, MIT is establishing the Alana Down Syndrome Center, an innovative new research endeavor, technology development initiative, and fellowship program launched with a $28.6 million gift from Alana Foundation, a nonprofit organization started by Ana Lucia Villela of São Paulo, Brazil. In addition to multidisciplinary research across neuroscience, biology, engineering, and computer science labs, the gift will fund a four-year program with MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation called "Technology to Improve Ability," in which creative minds around the Institute will be encouraged and supported in designing and developing technologies that can improve life for people with different intellectual abilities or other challenges. The Alana Down Syndrome Center, based out of MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, will engage the expertise of scientists and engineers in a research effort to increase understanding of the biology and neuroscience of Down syndrome. The center will also provide new training and educational opportunities for early career scientists and students to become involved in Down syndrome research. Together, the center and technology program will work to accelerate the generation, development, and clinical testing of novel interventions and technologies to improve the quality of life for people with Down syndrome.


Scientists grow 'mini brains' which are able to contract muscles and connect to the spinal cord

Daily Mail

Mini brains have been grown in a lab by scientists striving to cure motor neuron disease. The tiny organoid - approximately the size of a lentil - was made of connected human brain cells. It was then able to create connections with nearby spinal cord and muscular tissue. Scientists say they were able to see it spontaneously merge with the spinal cord of the animal while also contracting the muscles. The tiny organoid - approximately the size of a lentil - was made of connected human brain cells.


Michael Clements on LinkedIn: "A great example of one science discipline feeding many others #AI #MachineLearning #Neuroscience"

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For the past decade or so, Karl Friston has devoted much of his time and effort to developing an idea he calls the free energy principle. With this idea, Friston believes he has identified nothing less than the organizing principle of all life, and all intelligence as well.


Age of AI -- The Paradigm Shift to Natural UI

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I always loved products and technology. But ever since I was a child, I was especially fascinated by these big inventions, powered by transformative technological revolution that changed - everything! So I felt extremely lucky, when about 20 years ago, at the beginning of my career, I was just in time for one of these revolutions: when the Internet happened. Through the connected PC, the world we lived in has been transformed from a "physical world" -- where we used to go to places like libraries, and use things like encyclopedias and paper maps, to a "digital world" -- where we consume digital information and services from the convenience of our home. What was especially amazing, was the rate and scale of this transformation.


How Human Intelligence Differs From Artificial Intelligence

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Through my Twitter and on LinkedIn feeds I see a lot of postings about technology. Many (primarily technology experts) write about the massive potential of technologies, for example Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and other technologies. In the current blog I will refer specifically to AI, not to other technologies. Other people write about AI in a way that implies that they fear AI; that AI is a risk, maybe more than an opportunity. Articles with titles like "Robots will take our jobs. We'd better plan now, before it's too late" can create fear, especially when non-tech-experts read the title on Twitter, absorb the connotation "robots danger for my job", without reading the full article and doing additional research on the topic.


The brain is (mostly) not a computer - ten pence piece

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I recently had my attention drawn to this essay from May 2016 – The Empty Brain – written by psychologist Robert Epstein (thanks Andrew). In it, Epstein argues that the dominant information processing (IP) model of the brain is wrong. He states that human brains do not use symbolic representations of the world and do not process information like a computer. Instead, the IP model is one chained to our current level of technological sophistication. It is just a metaphor, with no biological validity.


Emotion AI, explained MIT Sloan

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What did you think of the last commercial you watched? Would you buy the product? You might not remember or know for certain how you felt, but increasingly, machines do. New artificial intelligence technologies are learning and recognizing human emotions, and using that knowledge to improve everything from marketing campaigns to health care. These technologies are referred to as "emotion AI." Emotion AI is a subset of artificial intelligence (the broad term for machines replicating the way humans think) that measures, understands, simulates, and reacts to human emotions.


The neural circuitry of affect-induced distortions of trust

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Aversive affect is likely a key source of irrational human decision-making, but still, little is known about the neural circuitry underlying emotion-cognition interactions during social behavior. We induced incidental aversive affect via prolonged periods of threat of shock, while 41 healthy participants made investment decisions concerning another person or a lottery. Negative affect reduced trust, suppressed trust-specific activity in the left temporoparietal junction (TPJ), and reduced functional connectivity between the TPJ and emotion-related regions such as the amygdala. The posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) seems to play a key role in mediating the impact of affect on behavior: Functional connectivity of this brain area with left TPJ was associated with trust in the absence of negative affect, but aversive affect disrupted this association between TPJ-pSTS connectivity and behavioral trust. Our findings may be useful for a better understanding of the neural circuitry of ...


When your tech knows you better than you know yourself

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For more on new technology that can read human emotions, check out the third episode of Should This Exist? the podcast that debates how emerging technologies will impact humanity. If we were sitting across a table from each other at a cafe and I asked about your day, you might answer with a polite response, like, "Fine." But if you were lying, I'd know from your expression, tone, twitches, and tics. We read subtext--unspoken clues--to get at the truth, to cut through what people say to understand what they mean. And now, with so many of our exchanges taking place in text online, much of our messaging, traditionally delivered via subtext, tells us less than ever before.