neurology


Detecting Mental Illness by Watching You Type

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Artificial intelligence, often used to identify specific patterns in data, can detect anomalies in the way a person types that may be attributable to specific disorders. Researchers are experimenting with artificial intelligence (AI) software that is increasingly able to tell whether you suffer from Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, depression, or other types of mental disorders, simply from watching the way you type. The researchers are able to make these astounding diagnoses, they say, because the capabilities of computing devices have become so granular that smartphones, tablets, and computers all can measure typing activity down to the millisecond. Essentially, today's technologies, along with the capability of AI to learn to identify specific patterns in data, offer researchers a powerful lens on even the slightest abnormalities in everyday typing behavior. In a University of Texas study published earlier this year, for example, researchers were able to identify typists suffering from Parkinson's disease simply by capturing how study subjects worked a keyboard over time, then running that data through pattern-finding AI software.


Electrical properties of dendrites help explain our brain's unique computing power

MIT News

Neurons in the human brain receive electrical signals from thousands of other cells, and long neural extensions called dendrites play a critical role in incorporating all of that information so the cells can respond appropriately. Using hard-to-obtain samples of human brain tissue, MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that human dendrites have different electrical properties from those of other species. Their studies reveal that electrical signals weaken more as they flow along human dendrites, resulting in a higher degree of electrical compartmentalization, meaning that small sections of dendrites can behave independently from the rest of the neuron. These differences may contribute to the enhanced computing power of the human brain, the researchers say. "It's not just that humans are smart because we have more neurons and a larger cortex. From the bottom up, neurons behave differently," says Mark Harnett, the Fred and Carole Middleton Career Development Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.


Why Doesn't Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings? - Issue 65: In Plain Sight

Nautilus

Reading medieval literature, it's hard not to be impressed with how much the characters get done--as when we read about King Harold doing battle in one of the Sagas of the Icelanders, written in about 1230. The first sentence bristles with purposeful action: "King Harold proclaimed a general levy, and gathered a fleet, summoning his forces far and wide through the land." By the end of the third paragraph, the king has launched his fleet against a rebel army, fought numerous battles involving "much slaughter in either host," bound up the wounds of his men, dispensed rewards to the loyal, and "was supreme over all Norway." What the saga doesn't tell us is how Harold felt about any of this, whether his drive to conquer was fueled by a tyrannical father's barely concealed contempt, or whether his legacy ultimately surpassed or fell short of his deepest hopes. In his short story "Forever Overhead," the 13-year-old protagonist takes 12 pages to walk across the deck of a public swimming pool, wait in line at the high diving board, climb the ladder, and prepare to jump.


Brain-inspired algorithm helps AI systems multitask and remember

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Behind most of today's artificial intelligence technologies, from self-driving cars to facial recognition and virtual assistants, lie artificial neural networks. Though based loosely on the way neurons communicate in the brain, these "deep learning" systems remain incapable of many basic functions that would be essential for primates and other organisms. However, a new study from University of Chicago neuroscientists found that adapting a well-known brain mechanism can dramatically improve the ability of artificial neural networks to learn multiple tasks and avoid the persistent AI challenge of "catastrophic forgetting." The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a unique example of how neuroscience research can inform new computer science strategies, and, conversely, how AI technology can help scientists better understand the human brain. When combined with previously reported methods for stabilizing synaptic connections in artificial neural networks, the new algorithm allowed single artificial neural networks to learn and perform hundreds of tasks with only minimal loss of accuracy, potentially enabling more powerful and efficient AI technologies.


A pioneering scientist explains 'deep learning'

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Buzzwords like "deep learning" and "neural networks" are everywhere, but so much of the popular understanding is misguided, says Terrence Sejnowski, a computational neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Sejnowski, a pioneer in the study of learning algorithms, is the author of The Deep Learning Revolution (out next week from MIT Press). He argues that the hype about killer AI or robots making us obsolete ignores exciting possibilities happening in the fields of computer science and neuroscience, and what can happen when artificial intelligence meets human intelligence. The Verge spoke to Sejnkowski about how "deep learning" suddenly became everywhere, what it can and cannot do, and the problem of hype. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.


You really CAN follow your nose: People with a good sense of smell are better at navigation

Daily Mail

When asking for directions, you should look for someone with a good sense of smell. That is the advice of scientists who have found that people with a naturally good sense of direction also have a heightened ability to detect faint odours. Brain scans revealed two specific regions of the brain that are heavily involved in the control of both skills. Veronique Bohbot from McGill University in Canada led a team of scientists to determine if there was a link between the two very different traits. A group of 57 volunteers participated in an experiment which assessed the proficiency of their nose as well as their sense of direction.


How Artificial Intelligence and VR technologies apply to Reminiscence Therapy for seniors with…

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Dementia is not a particular disease, rather it is a group of different diseases that cause a deterioration in mental function. Major parts of mental function affected include memory, reasoning, perception, andability to focus. One of the major causes of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is more serious than you may think. It causes extensive brain damage which starts slowly and progressively becomes worse.


People With Speech Disabilities Are Being Left Out of the Voice-Assistant Revolution

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When Whitney Bailey bought an Amazon Echo, she wanted to use the hands-free calling feature in case she fell and couldn't reach her phone. She hoped that it would offer her family some peace of mind and help make life a little easier. In some ways, she says, it does. But because she has cerebral palsy, her voice is strained when she talks, and she struggles to get Alexa to understand her. To make matters worse, having to repeat commands strains her voice even more.


Protein has unique effects on information processing

MIT News

Our cognitive abilities come down to how well the connections, or synapses, between our brain cells transmit signals. Now new study by researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has dug deeply into the molecular mechanisms that enable synaptic transmission to show the distinct role of a protein that, when mutated, has been linked to causing intellectual disability. The key protein, called SAP102, is one of four members of a family of proteins, called PSD-MAGUKs, that regulate the transport and placement of key receptors called AMPARs on the receiving end of a synapse. But how each member of the family works -- for instance, as the brain progresses through development to maturity -- is not well understood. The new study, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, shows that SAP102 and other family members like PSD-95, work in different ways, a feature whose evolution may have contributed to the greater cognitive capacity of mammals and other vertebrates.


Squirrel! Dog MRI study reveals canines really CAN understand some of what their owners say

Daily Mail

While many dogs owners think their pets really do understand them, a new study has found they really do have a'rudimentary' understands of words. It could help explain the'squirrel phenomenon' where dogs instantly perk up, become agigated and even start hunting for squirrels when their owner tells them one is close by. However, researchers have been unclear what is actually happening in the canine brain - and how much they really understand. Eddie, a golden retriever-Labrador mix, was part of the study, along with his toys Piggy and Monkey. For the study, 12 dogs of varying breeds were trained for months by their owners to retrieve two different objects, based on the objects' names.