Recent quotes:

Estonia is using its citizens’ genes to predict disease

“The genetic risk score will be just another tool for doctors. In addition to measuring cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body mass index, the genetic risk score will be yet another measurement that our prediction algorithm can use,” says Milani. She explains that they’ve already piloted a number of diseases to be diagnosed  by the algorithm, but this currently takes place at the biobank, not in the doctor’s office. “For the genetic information to be used in everyday practice we need to undertake pretty extensive IT developments — which we’re actually starting now. We’re launching the development of automated decision support software for physicians. So when doctors enter various patient data — such as cholesterol level, blood pressure, and smoking status — in the system, then the genetic risk will be calculated by the algorithm, and it’ll provide specific guidance accordingly.” She adds that the final product will be owned by the government, or to be more specific, by the citizens of Estonia.

Facebook posts better at predicting diabetes, mental health than demographic info -- ScienceDaily

Using an automated data collection technique, the researchers analyzed the entire Facebook post history of nearly 1,000 patients who agreed to have their electronic medical record data linked to their profiles. The researchers then built three models to analyze their predictive power for the patients: one model only analyzing the Facebook post language, another that used demographics such as age and sex, and the last that combined the two datasets. Looking into 21 different conditions, researchers found that all 21were predictable from Facebook alone. In fact, 10 of the conditions were better predicted through the use Facebook data instead of demographic information.

After GWAS studies, how to narrow the search for genes? -- ScienceDaily

Borrowing the machine-learning concept of "cross-validation," Benchmarker enables investigators to use the GWAS data itself as its own control. The idea is to take the GWAS dataset and single out one chromosome. The algorithm being benchmarked then uses the data from the remaining 21 chromosomes (all but X and Y) to make predictions about what genes on the single chromosome are most likely to contribute to the trait being investigated. As this process is repeated for each chromosome in turn, the genes that the algorithm has flagged are pooled. The algorithm is then validated by comparing this group of prioritized genes with the original GWAS results. "You train the algorithm on the GWAS with one chromosome withheld, then go back to that chromosome and ask whether those genes were actually associated with a strong p-value in the original GWAS results," explains Fine. "While these p-values don't represent the exact 'right answers,' they do tell you roughly where some true genetic associations are. The end product is an evaluation of how each algorithm performed."

Owning a dog is influenced by our genetic make-up -- ScienceDaily

"We were surprised to see that a person's genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others." says Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

Why Is It So Hard to Predict the Future? - The Atlantic

Two days later, a team member with experience in finance saw that the hryvnia was strengthening amid events he’d thought would surely weaken it. He informed his teammates that this was exactly the opposite of what he’d expected, and that they should take it as a sign of something wrong in his understanding. (Tetlock told me that, when making an argument, foxes often use the word however, while hedgehogs favor moreover.) The team members finally homed in on “between 10 and 13” as the heavy favorite, and they were correct.

Why Is It So Hard to Predict the Future? - The Atlantic

One subgroup of scholars, however, did manage to see more of what was coming. Unlike Ehrlich and Simon, they were not vested in a single discipline. They took from each argument and integrated apparently contradictory worldviews. They agreed that Gorbachev was a real reformer and that the Soviet Union had lost legitimacy outside Russia. A few of those integrators saw that the end of the Soviet Union was close at hand and that real reforms would be the catalyst. The integrators outperformed their colleagues in pretty much every way, but especially trounced them on long-term predictions. Eventually, Tetlock bestowed nicknames (borrowed from the philosopher Isaiah Berlin) on the experts he’d observed: The highly specialized hedgehogs knew “one big thing,” while the integrator foxes knew “many little things.”

Auction bids decline with intensity of competition: Study reveals downside to having more bidders in an auction -- ScienceDaily

The study suggested that the more bidders there are in an auction, the lower each individual bidder perceives their probability of winning, which has demotivating effect on their desire to win the auction. "This is a counterintuitive finding because usually auctioneers would assume that the more bidders there are in an auction, the more money they will make -- the logic being that that the more bidders there are, the more likely it is that there is a bidder with a high willingness to pay for the good," said co-author Associate Professor Agnieszka Tymula from the University of Sydney's School of Economics. "However, it turns out that there is also a downside to having more bidders -- most people bid less."

New theory derived from classical physics predicts how economies respond to major disturbances -- ScienceDaily

The concept for the new model is inspired by classical physics: Linear response theory (LRT) explains, for example, how electric or magnetic substances react to strong electrical or magnetic fields. This is known as susceptibility. It can be measured with special devices, but also be mathematically derived from properties of the material. "We show that LRT applies just as well to input-output economics," says Peter Klimek. "Instead of material properties, we use economic networks; instead of electrical resistance, we determine the susceptibility of economies, their response to shocks." Visualizing economies To make it intuitively understandable how economies work, scientists at the CSH employ an interactive visualization tool. It will be constantly fed with new data until the final version should represent the whole world economy. The tool visualizes the various dependencies of countries and production sectors. "Users can change all kinds of parameters and immediately see the effects across countries and sectors," says Stefan Thurner. A preliminary version, showing Trump tariff effects on Europe, can be seen at https://csh.ac.at/ecores/

Abundance of information narrows our collective attention span - ScienceBlog.com

The scientists have studied Twitter data from 2013 to 2016, books from Google Books going back 100 years, movie ticket sales going back 40 years, and citations of scientific publications from the last 25 years. In addition, they have gathered data from Google Trends (2010-2018), Reddit (2010-2015), and Wikipedia (2012-2017). Rapid exhaustion of attention ressources On this background, they find empirical evidence of ever-steeper gradients and shorter bursts of collective attention given to each cultural item. The paper uses a model for this attention economy to suggest that the accelerating vicissitudes of popular content are driven by increasing production and consumption of content, and therefore are not intrinsic to social media. This results in a more rapid exhaustion of limited attention resources.

'Mindreading' neurons simulate decisions of social partners -- ScienceDaily

The researchers go on to speculate that if simulation neurons became dysfunctional this could restrict social cognition, a symptom of autism. By contrast, they suggest overactive neurons could result in exaggerated simulation of what others might be thinking, which may play a role in social anxiety. The study's lead author, Dr Fabian Grabenhorst from the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, says: "We started out looking for neurons that might be involved in social learning. We were surprised to find that amygdala neurons not only learn the value of objects from social observation but actually use this information to simulate a partner's decisions." Simulating others' decisions is a sophisticated cognitive process that is rooted in social learning. By observing a partner's foraging choices, for instance, we learn which foods are valuable and worth choosing. Such knowledge not only informs our own decisions but also helps us predict the future decisions of our partner.

How to Turn Your Mistakes into an Advantage | Yale Insights

One group was then told that when Best Scoops’ supplier announced a shift to lower-quality beans on its website, Best Scoops preventively found a new supplier. A second group was told that Best Scoops mistakenly used the lower-quality beans until realizing the error and correcting it. Those in the second group, in which Best Scoops erred, reported Best Scoops as more likely to achieve its goals. Other experiments of similar design demonstrated a greater willingness to purchase from companies that made and corrected mistakes compared to those that simply prevented mistakes. Underlying this behavior is a simple chain of assumptions. First, people believe that correcting an error requires greater change to the status quo than preventing one, and therefore greater effort. Second, people tend to associate greater effort with a greater commitment to goals, and so a higher likelihood of achieving them.

Schizophrenia: 30 genes under suspicion -- ScienceDaily

Alex Schier's team has now identified 30 genes in these regions and has been able to show that they have concrete effects on the structure and function of the brain as well as on various behavioral patterns. "Of the 132 suspects, we were ultimately able to establish a more precise perpetrator profile for 30 genes," said Schier. "One of the perpetrators is the transcription factor znf536, which controls the development of the forebrain. This brain region influences our social behavior and the processing of stress." The research team not only deciphered the function of the individual genes, but also generated an atlas of all genes with their respective consequences for the brain

Time to say goodbye to “statistically significant” and embrace uncertainty, say statisticians – Retraction Watch

The bright-line thinking that is emblematic of declaring some results “statistically significant” (p<0.05) and others “not statistically significant” (p>0.05) obscures that uncertainty, and leads us to believe that our findings are on more solid ground than they actually are. We think that the time has come to fully acknowledge these facts and to adjust our statistical thinking accordingly.

First evidence for necessary role of human hippocampus in planning -- ScienceDaily

The work centers on the hippocampal "cognitive map," the brain's spatial localization system discovered by University College of London's John O'Keefe, who was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The hippocampal cognitive map has been long thought to allow us to "mentally simulate" the future outcomes of our actions as we plan into the future. However, there had previously been no direct evidence in humans that the hippocampus is actually necessary for planning. "Our results show that both goal-directed planning and remembering locations in space depend on the human hippocampus" says Oliver Vikbladh, a doctoral candidate at New York University's Center for Neural Science and the paper's lead author. "By clarifying the scope of hippocampal contributions to behavior, the study may have implications for diseases that affect the hippocampus, such as epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease."

How genetic background shapes individual differences within a species: Every genome is different and scientists are beginning to understand what this means for life of an organism -- ScienceDaily

With all this information, Hou was able to scan the genomes of all 1000 yeast isolates and accurately guessed which other strains will act like Sigma or the Sake yeast and be completely reliant on the CYS genes to survive. This is similar to being able to single out, from 1000 patients with the same genetic disorder, those individuals who have a higher chance of developing a more severe form of disease.

The unexpected creates reward when listening to music: Scientists prove difference between expected/actual outcomes cause reward response -- ScienceDaily

Using an algorithm, the researchers then determined the reward prediction error for each choice -- the difference between an expected reward and the actual reward received. They compared that data to the MRI data, and found that reward prediction errors correlated with activity in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region that in previous studies has been shown to activate when the subject is experiencing musical pleasure. This is the first evidence that musically elicited reward prediction errors cause musical pleasure. It is also the first time an aesthetic reward such as music has been shown to create such a response. Previous studies have focused on more tangible rewards such as food or money. Subjects whose reward prediction errors most closely matched activity in the nucleus accumbens also showed the most progress in learning the choices that led to the consonant tones. This establishes music as a neurobiological reward capable of motivating learning, showing how an abstract stimulus can engage the brain's reward system to potentially pleasurable effect and motivate us to listen again and again.

Pitch perfect: Strategic language use maximizes the chances of influencing an audience: Researcher determines pitching strategies used by influential entrepreneurs -- ScienceDaily

"In our paper we call it a logical time gap, which basically refers to the idea that if someone pitches an idea to you and you start thinking about how it plays out in the future, then these things don't match because you don't know what the future looks like," Dr van Werven said. "But if you talk about the future in terms of the present, both the evidence and the claim are in the same time and space.

Your genes could impact the quality of your marriage: Specific genes relevant to how partners provide and receive support from each other -- ScienceDaily

"However, what emerged as most relevant to overall marital quality for both partners was genotypic variation among husbands at a specific location on OXTR. Husbands with a particular genotype, which other researchers associated with signs of social deficits, were less satisfied with the support they were provided. Being less satisfied with the support they got from their wives was also associated with being less satisfied with their marriage. The researchers hope their findings provide the foundation for replication and additional study of OXTR as an enduring determinant of marital functioning, as well as encourage research more broadly evaluating the role of genetic factors in interpersonal processes important to overall marital quality. "Genes matter when it comes to the quality of marriage, because genes are relevant to who we are as individuals, and characteristics of the individual can impact the marriage," said Mattson. "Our findings were the first to describe a set of genetic and behavioral mechanisms for one possible route of the genetic influence on marriage. In addition, we added to the increasing awareness that the expression of genotypic variation differs greatly depending on context."

An Expanded View of Complex Traits: From Polygenic to Omnigenic: Cell

This debate was resolved in a seminal 1918 paper by R.A. Fisher, who showed that, if many genes affect a trait, then the random sampling of alleles at each gene produces a continuous, normally distributed phenotype in the population (Fisher, 1918). As the number of genes grows very large, the contribution of each gene becomes correspondingly smaller, leading in the limit to Fisher’s famous “infinitesimal model” (Barton et al., 2016).

‘Omnigenic’ Model Suggests That All Genes Affect Every Complex Trait | Quanta Magazine

“What we realized was that the signal for height was coming from almost the whole genome,” he said. If the genome were a long string of ornamental lights, and every DNA snippet linked to height were illuminated, more than 100,000 lights would be shining all the way down the string. That result contrasted starkly with the general expectation that GWAS findings would be clustered around the most important genes for a trait.

The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler - The New York Times

“What best distinguishes our species,” Seligman wrote in a Times Op-Ed with John Tierney, “is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future.” He went on: “A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise.”

Time-traveling illusion tricks the brain: How the brain retroactively makes sense of rapid auditory and visual sensory stimulation -- ScienceDaily

The first illusion is called the Illusory Rabbit. To produce the illusion, first a short beep and a quick flash are played nearly simultaneously on a computer, with the flash appearing at the left side of the screen. Next, 58 milliseconds after the first beep, a lone beep is played. Finally, 58 milliseconds after the second beep, a second nearly simultaneous beep-flash pair occurs, but with the flash appearing on the right side of the screen. The beep location is always central and does not move. Though only two flashes are played, most people viewing the illusion perceive three flashes, with an illusory flash coinciding with the second beep and appearing to be located in the center of the screen. The fact that the illusory flash is perceived in between the left and right flashes is the key evidence that the brain is using postdictive processing. "When the final beep-flash pair is later presented, the brain assumes that it must have missed the flash associated with the unpaired beep and quite literally makes up the fact that there must have been a second flash that it missed," explains Stiles. "This already implies a postdictive mechanism at work. But even more importantly, the only way that you could perceive the shifted illusory flash would be if the information that comes later in time -- the final beep-flash combination -- is being used to reconstruct the most likely location of the illusory flash as well."

Unless We Spot Changes, Most Life Experiences are Fabricated From Memories - Neuroscience News

HomeFeatured Unless We Spot Changes, Most Life Experiences are Fabricated From Memories Neuroscience NewsJuly 25, 2018 FeaturedNeurosciencePsychology8 min read Summary: A new psychological model suggests change detection plays a key role in how we construct reality. Source: WUSTL. We may not be able to change recent events in our lives, but how well we remember them plays a key role in how our brains model what’s happening in the present and predict what is likely to occur in the future, finds new research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. “Memory isn’t for trying to remember,” said Jeff Zacks, professor of psychology and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and an author of the study. “It’s for doing better the next time.” The study, co-authored with Chris Wahlheim of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), brings together several emerging theories of brain function to suggest that the ability to detect changes plays a critical role in how we experience and learn from the world around us. Known as “Event Memory Retrieval and Comparison Theory” or EMRC, the model builds on previous research by Zacks and colleagues that suggests the brain continually compares sensory input from ongoing experiences against working models of similar past events that it builds from related memories. When real life does not match the “event model,” prediction errors spike and change detection sets off a cascade of cognitive processing that rewires the brain to strengthen memories for both the older model events and the new experience, the theory contends. “We provide evidence for a theoretical mechanism that explains how people update their memory representations to facilitate their processing of changes in everyday actions of others,” Wahlheim said. “These findings may eventually illuminate how the processing of everyday changes influences how people guide their own actions.” In their current study, Zacks and Wahlheim tested the change detection model with experiments that take advantage of the well-documented fact that older adults often have increased difficulty in recalling details of recent events. Groups of healthy older and younger adults were shown video clips of a woman acting out a series of routine, everyday activities, such as doing dishes or preparing to exercise. One week later, they were shown similar videos in which some event details had been changed. “When viewers tracked the changes in these variation-on-a-theme videos, they had excellent memory for what happened on each day, but when they failed to notice a change, memory was horrible,” Zacks said. “These effects may account for some of the problems older adults experience with memory — in these experiments, older adults were less able to track the changes, and this accounted for some of their lower memory performance.”

Poker Has a ‘Tell’ About Strategic Thinkers - Neuroscience News

The game offers many mechanisms by which players can strategically misinform each other about the value of their cards. Players with strong hands may signal weak hands with small bets to keep the pot growing, and players with weak hands may signal strong hands with large bets to intimidate their opponents into folding before “showdown,” when all players remaining in the game must reveal their hands. Often there is one player left who collects the pot of money. The online version of the game eliminates in-person knowledge of other players, including cues such as eye contact and body language, which could be a disadvantage. However, most online experts take advantage of software and other resources, making up for lack of in-person knowledge by building behavioral dossiers on their opponents and even collecting or buying records of other players’ “hand histories,” Frey said.

Wearable technology and AI to predict the onset of health problems -- ScienceDaily

The study monitored active, healthy men in their twenties who wore a shirt for four days that incorporated sensors for heart rate, breathing and acceleration. They then compared the readings with laboratory responses and found that it was possible to accurately predict health-related benchmarks during daily activities using only the smart shirt. "The research found a way to process biological signals and generate a meaningful single number to track fitness," said Richard Hughson, co-author and kinesiology professor at the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging.

Link between hallucinations and dopamine not such a mystery, finds study -- ScienceDaily

"Our brain uses prior experiences to generate sensory expectations that help fill in the gaps when sounds or images are distorted or unclear," said Guillermo Horga, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at CUIMC and a research psychiatrist at NYSPI. "In individuals with schizophrenia, this process appears to be altered, leading to extreme perceptual distortions, such as hearing voices that are not there. Furthermore, while such hallucinations are often successfully treated by antipsychotic drugs that block the neurotransmitter dopamine in a brain structure known as the striatum, the reason for this has been a mystery since this neurotransmitter and brain region are not typically associated with sensory processing." The researchers designed an experiment that induces an auditory illusion in both healthy participants and participants with schizophrenia. They examined how building up or breaking down sensory expectations can modify the strength of this illusion. They also measured dopamine release before and after administering a drug that stimulates the release of dopamine. Patients with hallucinations tended to perceive sounds in a way that was more similar to what they had been cued to expect, even when sensory expectations were less reliable and illusions weakened in healthy participants. This tendency to inflexibly hear what was expected was worsened after giving a dopamine-releasing drug, and more pronounced in participants with elevated dopamine release, and more apparent in participants with a smaller dorsal anterior cingulate (a brain region previously shown to track reliability of environmental cues).