THYMOS
A newsletter of research on Consciousness, Mind and Life

by piero scaruffi

Researchers are welcome to submit news and articles about breakthroughs and events in the areas of cognitive science, artificial intelligence, neurobiology, artificial life, linguistics, neural networks, connectionism, cognitive psychology, mind, philosophy, psychology, consciousness. Email the editor at this Email address. Readers who would like to receive periodic news and updates on cognitive science, philosophy of mind, neurobiology, artificial intelligence, etc, are invited to register to my mailing list.

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Click here for the index of all years
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
  • Yoshiki Sasai's team at he RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan creates neurons of the cerebellum from embryonic stem cells (original paper). For the record, Sasai was already dead when the paper came out: he had committed suicide.

August 2014
July 2014
  • We lose our childhood memories as we grow up. Sheena Josselyn and Paul Frankland at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children explained this phenomenon as a side effect of high levels of hippocampal neurogenesis (article).

June 2014
  • Vladimir Veselov's and Eugene Demchenko's program Eugene Goostman, which simulates a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, passed the Turing test at the Royal Society in London

May 2014
  • Thomas Bak at the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh discovered that learning a second language slows the brain ageing (article)
  • Dena Dubal of the University of California at San Francisco and Lennart Mucke of the Gladstone Institutes showed that the gene KL-VS promotes longevity and cognitive lucidity: article

April 2014
  • Video of Lucia Jacobs at a Berkeley LASER (2014). The US psychologist Lucia Jacobs ("From chemotaxis to the cognitive map", 2012) points out that today olfaction for cognition is used by all animals, from nematodes to mammals, and it is, in fact, the only universal sense. It also happens to be the most efficient, even today surpassing vision in accuracy and capacity. Our brain is capable of coding a trillion olfactory stimuli. We can detect a few molecules from the source in an immediate manner that is not matched by vision. Furthermore, for all animals the largest gene family is devoted to olfaction. She argues that all brains existing today are inherited from a common ancestor. The first brain evolved underwater, in a world defined by chemicals. Single-celled organisms moved in response to chemicals. The first sensory system dealt with a rich chemical world, the marine world. Olfaction was the original sense for remote sensing. More importantly, olfaction helps to map where an animal is in space. Early brains learned to create maps based on turbulent gradients. The olfactory sense needs to be viewed as a mapping system. Once the brain had acquired that technology, vision was relatively easy to evolve. Vision did evolve late in evolutionary history. There are no fossil eyes before the Cambrian explosion. Jacobs speculates that the Cambrian explosion was due to the evolution of the ability to map and navigate. That ability created better predators, and it is not a coincidence that, by the end of the Cambrian, the planet is crowded with bloodthirsty armored animals. Vision is now widespread, as are organs for mapping such as antennas. More efficient predators also means a more efficient diet, and that led to larger brains. Today the olfactory system and the hippocampus are shared by the brains of all vertebrates, and they are the only regions in which new neurons are continuously created. Jacobs argues that the hippocampus is responsible for mapping the territory and it interacts closely with the olfactory system, and the creation of neurons correspond with exploring new spaces. Together these two regions of the brain constitute an integrated olfactory-navigational system.

March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
Click here for 2013 news
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