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Science of Consciousness

Here is the follow up to an earlier post on The Royal Institution event:

presentations

discussion

How to Train the Aging Brain

Here’s an article from the New York Times

The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster than a young person can.

The Extended Mind Revisited

Here’s a rare treat to hear David Chalmers on the extended mind – typically, it’s been his co-author Andy Clark who has been exploring this idea in great detail. Here is their original paper;  stay tuned for Rob Rupert’s review of Andy’s Supersizing the Mind to appear in the Journal of Mind and Behavior (as Chalmers says in his talk, he wrote the Forward to “Supersizing”).

Robotic pet

Meet Paro. He’s a robotic seal developed by Japanese researchers to help dementia patients feel that they have companionship and a feeling of security, without the responsibilities of a living pet. (Thanks to Suzie Katz for alerting me to this story).

Made to emulate a live pet as much as possible, he can cuddle, nod and blink his big black eyes. Paro is currently being tested with patients in Baden-Baden and there are already 1,000 robot seals deployed in long-term care homes in Japan.

V. S. Ramachandran

VS

 

Speaking of homuncularity there is a nice profile of V. S. Ramachandran in the latest issue of The New Yorker (sorry it’s by subscription only). It’s a far superior piece than the one done on the Churchlands a while back. Beyond the areas that have made V.S. so well-known (synesthesia, phantom limb syndrome), several interesting topics (at least for me) that are covered include:

1. I had no idea that V. S. worked with (the very amusing) Richard Gregory

2. Penfield homunculus related to phantom limb syndrome

3. Picking up the Parma discoveries of mirror neurons in monkeys and seeing if he could, through non-evasive techniques, find them in humans.

In case you haven’t seen V.S in action, here is a video of him I posted some time back. 

Merging of Mind and Machine

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Ray Kurzweil’s article from last year’s Scientific American special on robotics is reprinted again here.  

Extended Mind: An Introduction

If you’ve ever heard the term “extended mind” and thought it denoted some sort of hocus pocus, then this recording will set you straight. Zoe Drayson of Bristol University has recorded a superb overview of the notion and the ethical implications arising from it. Zoe’s motivation for coming to this multidisciplinary literature had resonance for me – Cartesian philosophy of mind seemed to be so tired and infertile.

Zoe’s piece starts at 2:25 minutes into the recording – so please don’t think you’ve got the wrong clip. This recording will remain available for only 6 more days. Click here.

Alzheimer’s

Here’s a restrained and sensitive article from the Scotsman on Claude Wischik‘s work on Alzheimer’s disease. The tone of the article matches the low-key disposition and existential focus of Wischik. Speaking to an Alzheimic patient on a regular basis, I have often used synonyms for the metaphor of “tangles”:

Wischik has spent 24 years studying the neurofibrillary ‘tangles’ that first destroy nerve cells critical for memory and then neurons in other parts of the brain in those suffering from Alzheimer’s.