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Mindlessly mapping the brain – The Spike – Medium

We have one complete connectome, the 279 neurons of the nematode worm C. Elegans (for the pedants: its hemaphrodite form has 302 neurons, of which 279 form a single connected network). Texts uncountable have discussed this wiring diagram as the epitome of “a” connectome. Strictly speaking this is not true. Heroic as the original 1986 paper was, it missed out some connections; these were completed in 2011. The connectome we have is then actually an amalgam of two different creatures. What will happen if we replicate this connectome? Are there really all the exact same number of connections between the exact same neurons in every C. Elegans? It seems that each of the neurons is genetically specified, and in such a minuscule nervous system it is possible that each and every one of the connections is too. But would you bet your house on it?

Absence epilepsy: When the brain is like 'an orchestra without a conductor' -- ScienceDaily

"Normally the human brain, like an orchestra, is playing beautiful music and every player can understand what the others are playing. We thought that when a seizure started, the 'orchestra of neurons' would play extremely loud and intense music. And when the seizure ended, the neurons would go back to playing monotonous music," Maheshwari said. "Instead, we found that during an absence seizure the volume of the music went down and the 'musicians' were playing music without coordinating with others. Most of them were not playing at all, as if the conductor was not there anymore. When the seizure ended, it was like the conductor had returned and organized the musicians to play harmoniously again."

The model is not the reality

Doctors loved Kübler-Ross’s five stages. The stages gave doctors the capacity to diagnose their dying patients, to target their questions and categorize the evidence: if the patient wasn’t depressed, then maybe she was in denial. The stages provided guidance on what to say in impossible circumstances. She had, unwittingly, provided doctors with a system for discussing death like a medical process. Her collaborator, Kessler, told me that on more than one occasion, a medical colleague would stop by while he and Kübler-Ross were writing to seek help with a diagnosis. “They’d be like, ‘Elisabeth, what stage are they in?’ And she would say, ‘It’s not about the stages! It’s about meeting them where they are!’” She found it laughable how some doctors had the gall to hold an essential organ in their hand but had no capacity for ambiguity.

Mental Illness or Mental Injury? | Psychology Today

n fact, we do know from scientific research and the burgeoning field of epigenetics that most of what we call “mental illnesses” are really injuries and not just post-traumatic ones, but chronic and repeated complex trauma.  Even our very biological genetic material is affected not only by our own experiences, but those of our ancestors. The field of epigenetics has revived the evolutionary theory of Lamarck[1] from the dustpan of history.

What gives poetry its aesthetic appeal? New research has well-versed answer -- ScienceDaily

Their results showed that vividness of mental imagery was the best predictor of aesthetic appeal -- poems that evoked greater imagery were more pleasing. Emotional valence also predicted aesthetic appeal, though to a lesser extent; specifically, poems that were found to be more positive were generally found to be more appealing. By contrast, emotional arousal did not have a clear relationship to aesthetic appeal. Notably, readers did not at all agree on what poems they found appealing, an outcome that supports the notion that people have different tastes; nonetheless, there is common ground -- vividness of imagery and emotional valence -- in what explains these tastes, even if they vary. "The vividness of a poem consistently predicted its aesthetic appeal," notes Starr, author of Feeling Beauty: The Neuroscience of Aesthetic Experience (MIT Press). "Therefore, it seems that vividness of mental imagery may be a key component influencing what we like more broadly."

Reality is a UX

Suppose there’s a blue rectangular icon on the lower right corner of your computer’s desktop — does that mean that the file itself is blue and rectangular and lives in the lower right corner of your computer? Of course not. But those are the only things that can be asserted about anything on the desktop — it has color, position, and shape. Those are the only categories available to you, and yet none of them are true about the file itself or anything in the computer. They couldn’t possibly be true. That’s an interesting thing. You could not form a true description of the innards of the computer if your entire view of reality was confined to the desktop. And yet the desktop is useful. That blue rectangular icon guides my behavior, and it hides a complex reality that I don’t need to know. That’s the key idea. Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive.

How Vector Space Mathematics Reveals the Hidden Sexism in Language

The team does this by searching the vector space for word pairs that produce a similar vector to “she: he.” This reveals a huge list of gender analogies. For example, she;he::midwife:doctor; sewing:carpentry; registered_nurse:physician; whore:coward; hairdresser:barber; nude:shirtless; boobs:ass; giggling:grinning; nanny:chauffeur, and so on. The question they want to answer is whether these analogies are appropriate or inappropriate. So they use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to ask. They showed each analogy to 10 turkers and asked them whether the analogy was biased or not. They consider the analogy biased if more than half of the turkers thought it was biased.

In marketing: use an analogy to create questions, then answer the questions

Consumers like to figure out analogies for themselves; when the analogy is close, consumers don't need a great deal of additional information. For test subjects who read the first Coravin ad, the extra details about expanding their palates was detrimental. "When we give too much information, consumers are like, 'We get it. Stop bugging us!" she said. "We rob them of the positive feeling they get from understanding it themselves." Meanwhile, those who read the second Coravin ad found the palate details beneficial. As Herzeinstein's research noted, when an analogy is distant, too little information leaves consumers confused and annoyed. Marketers need to give a lot of information to help consumers understand the analogy, she said.

Before the metaphor became reality

In a glowing review for the Los Angeles Times, Larry Magid expressed amazement over many of the metaphor and skeuomorphic features that would come to define the personal computer, surrounded by quotation marks that are remarkably quaint today. "Once you've set up your machine, you insert the main system disk, turn on the power, and in a minute you are presented with the introductory screen. Apple calls it your 'desk top'. What you see on your screen looks a lot like what you might find on a desk," he wrote. His analysis of the user-friendly visual interface—which was quickly copied by Microsoft and soon spread to virtually every personal computer—sounds strikingly like the awe we expressed after first seeing the iPhone's intutitive touch screen-controlled operating system in 2007.  "It uses a hand-held 'mouse'—a small pointing device which enables the user to select programs, and move data from one part of the screen to another," Magrid wrote. "When this process was described to me, it sounded cumbersome, especially since I'm already comfortable with using a keyboard. But the mouse is so much more intuitive. As infants we learned to move objects around our play pens. Using a mouse is an extension of that skill."

Identity, time and the brain

Seung told me to imagine a river, the roiling waters of the Colorado. That, he said, is our experience from moment to moment. Over time, the water leaves its mark on the riverbed, widening bends, tracing patterns in the rock and soil. In a sense, the Grand Canyon is a memory of where the Colorado has been. And of course, that riverbed shapes the flow of the waters today. There are two selves then, river and riverbed. The river is all tumult and drama. The river demands attention. Yet it’s the riverbed that Seung wants to know.

Invoking Star Wars to justify your movie is a bad sign

But when people say "this is my Star Wars," they usually aren't comparing any of the actual elements of Star Wars to anything in their movie. They're meaning "this will be a huge expansive saga with cuteness and danger," or else, "This was something where I obsessed about the crunchy edges of the mythos for way too long." For example, Last Airbender writer/director M. Night Shyamalan made a big point of comparing his movie to Star Wars in every interview, but the resulting film did a disservice to both the original cartoon and Star Wars. Also, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem writer/directors the Strause Brothers invoked the Star Wars comparison a lot. The point is not that people shouldn't invoke Star Wars — it's just a bad sign when you invoke it for stuff that's really nothing like Star Wars.

"The Dress" is the perfect mirror for the subjective, fractured Internet

The fact that a single image could polarize the entire Internet into two aggressive camps is, let’s face it, just another Thursday. But for the past half-day, people across social media have been arguing about whether a picture depicts a perfectly nice bodycon dress as blue with black lace fringe or white with gold lace fringe. And neither side will budge. This fight is about more than just social media—it’s about primal biology and the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world.
Like ripples around a stone, influential circles appear seemingly wherever he dips his toe.
Jesus H. Christ piloting a U2 over Havana, we’re getting the Titanic and Bay of Pigs in one column. Someone really should get hold of Peggy’s cable and block The History Channel.
Metaphors are our shortest stories.