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September 22, 2007

"What Makes Up My Mind?"

Today, Washington Post carried a wonderful piece on the Decade of the Mind Proposal.  Here are some excerpts:

Earlier this year, Jim Olds gathered a bunch of big thinkers at George Mason University for a two-day conference on the mind. He and his allies want the federal government to invest $4 billion in an initiative that would be called the "Decade of the Mind." This would be a follow-up to a 1990s program called the "Decade of the Brain," which brought increased attention to neuroscience. The new initiative would be an attempt to take science into a realm previously explored only by philosophers, theologians and mountaintop yogis.

"Brain science is an exhaustive collection of facts without a theory," Olds says. "This is for the nation as a whole to invest in one of the fundamental intellectual questions of what it is to be a human being." 

In a letter published a few weeks ago in the journal Science, 10 scientists said that a Decade of the Mind would help us understand mental disorders that affect 50 million Americans and cost more than $400 billion a year. It might also aid in the development of intelligent machines and new computing techniques. A breakthrough in mind research, the scientists wrote, could have "broad and dramatic impacts on the economy, national security, and our social well-being."

Ten years and $4 billion: That's a reasonable cost. The evolution of the human mind is arguably the most important biological event in the history of our planet since the origin of life itself.

We should try to understand how the brain makes the mind. And then we can make up our minds about what to do with ourselves.

September 14, 2007

"Computers to rival humans, predicts IBM exec"

Visionary IBM executive, Alfred Zollar, General Manager of Tivoli Software, said in his keynote address  ‘Innovation that matters' at GITEX Technology Week:

"By 2010, supercomputers will execute one quadrillion calculations per second. We will have computing capacity that operates at the same speed as the human brain."

See here for the press article.

September 06, 2007

Robert Dougherty: The Neuroanatomy of Reading Development

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of a great talk from Dr. Robert Dougherty.


Proficient reading is an impressive skill that requires precise coordination of various cognitive, sensory, and motor systems. I will describe measurements of functional and anatomical development in the visual pathways of children that are essential for reading. We have found several functional and anatomical measures that are correlated with the development of reading skills, including: 1. fMRI word visibility responsivity to an incidental reading task in ventral occipito-temporal cortex, 2. fMRI contrast responsivity in human MT+ to drifting gratings, and 3. diffusion tensor imaging measurements in several regions within the white matter, including the splenium of the corpus callosum. These functional and anatomical results implicate a network of visual regions important for skilled reading and are clinically relevant to understanding healthy reading development and identifying reading disabilities.


The goal of my research is to understand the brain circuits that are crucial for skilled reading and to chart the development of these circuits in children. I specialize in measuring the structure and function of the human brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). By combining these brain measurements with careful measurements of behavior, we can understand the intimate connection between brain maturation and the development of complex behaviors such as skilled reading. I received my BA from Rutgers University in 1991 and my PhD in experimental psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1996. I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia and BC's Children's Hospital Visual Neuroscience Lab. It was there that I began to investigate the perceptual aspects of reading and reading disabilities in children. I continue to study reading development as project lead of the NIH-funded SIRL Longitudinal Study of Reading Development.

September 05, 2007


Philip Low a Fellow of the Sloan-Swartz Center for Theoretical Neurobiology and a Ph.D. candidate in the Computational Neurobiology laboratory at the Salk Institute has founded NeuroVigil.

According to the UCSD website:

Neurovigil has developed a technology that accurately analyzes an entire night of sleep data in under a minute using a single channel of EEG. NeuroVigil's goal is to provide an internet-based service allowing individuals to accurately diagnose their sleep patterns in the comfort of their own homes and avoid protracted and expensive hospital stays.

Philip Low's advisor is Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, Professor of Computational Neurobiology, Salk Institute and UCSD.