BrainWorks: Exploring the Brain-Computer Interface

At the end of the day, computers and brains share at least one trait. On a very basic level, both use electrical currents to send messages and commands to accomplish certain tasks. Understanding exactly how that process works within our brain and how it relates to computers may be key for researchers and doctors when it comes to helping various types of patients.

Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D., is back with another BrainWorks video to help educate children on how our brains and computers can talk to each other and why this is an important area of research. Chudler, the executive director for the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington, won a Northwest Emmy Award last year for his BrainWorks video “Exercise and the Brain,” and this new video in the series, “Brain-Computer Interface,” is just as informative and entertaining.

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How Our Brains Respond to Gratitude

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means that along with spending time with our families and overeating turkey and side dishes, many of us will think at least a little bit about what we are thankful for in our lives. Whether that be our aforementioned families, our careers, our educations, or something more tangible such as the discounted items we can buy on Black Friday, the holiday unofficially requires us to gives thanks for something before we dive into the mashed potatoes. Is there, however, something more to giving thanks than simply assuaging grandma at the dinner table?

As it turns out, there is. Studying the effects of gratitude on the brain is nothing new–studies on the topic seem to have begun in the early 2000s–and the results appear to remain consistent regardless of the methodology used. In short, having gratitude has positive effects on us psychologically and neurologically, so we should probably try to be more thankful throughout the year instead of waiting for November. Continue reading

Fumiko Hoeft Receives SfN Science Educator Award

Fumiko Hoeft  (photo by Peter Morenus/UConn)

Each year, the Society for Neuroscience recognizes outstanding neuroscientists who have strongly added to public education and awareness about the field. The Dana Foundation sponsors these awards. This year’s award was presented to Fumiko Hoeft, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of the Brain Imaging Research Center (BIRC) at the University of Connecticut and director of the Laboratory for Learning Engineering and Neural Systems (brainLENS.org) located at UConn/UCSF , during the society’s annual meeting, in San Diego, on Tuesday.

Q: Was it a conscious decision for you to do a lot of education and outreach, as well as research?

Dr. Hoeft: Yes. The experience of education and outreach is not so different than what we do as physicians. I always wanted to be a physician: In my elementary school graduation album I wrote, “I want to be a physician and help the underserved.” When I started research at Harvard, three years after graduating from medical school in Japan, I missed clinical work and interacting with people terribly. Continue reading

SfN18 Celebrates Brain Awareness

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With this year’s Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting now in full swing, downtown San Diego couldn’t be more bustling. Everywhere you turn, street signs, store windows, and flyers read “Neuroscience 2018” to encourage visitors to check out at least one of the many events happening at the San Diego Convention Center.

Helping to kick off the meeting on Saturday was the Brain Awareness Campaign reception and poster presentation. Alongside the reception stage, shared by numerous Brain Awareness Week “influencers,” were aisles lined with more than 40 colorful poster boards created largely by neuroscientists at various stages of their careers to showcase their neuroscience outreach initiatives.

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Neuroscientists Heading to San Diego This Week – and So Are We

We’re heading off to attend the Society for Neuroscience’s Annual Meeting, Neuroscience 2018, which starts on Saturday in San Diego. More than 30,000 neuroscientists and their friends will converge on the San Diego Convention Center–a city’s worth of brain-lovers! Before SfN’s official start, we’ll also be taking in the annual meeting of the International Neuroethics Society (INS), held at the San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Boulevard. Stay tuned for posts and photos and more from both events.

Here’s some of what we’re looking forward to. **NOTE: If you’re nearby, three of the events I’ve listed (the ones with boldface type) are free and open to the public—come by and say hi! **

Thursday, Nov. 1

ins horizontalWe’ll be at the whole day of INS events at San Diego Central Library, with topics including digitally decoding brain and behavior, managing neuroinformation to protect identity, and deep brain stimulation and sense of self. Follow along via Twitter hashtags #neuroethics and  #INS2018.

5:30 pm to 7 pm (Pacific time): “My Brain Made Me Buy It: The Neuroethics of Advertising,” a public forum opened by Carl Marci, who will describe how advertising techniques based on big data are challenging social and ethical boundaries. Then he’ll join researchers Read Montague, Uma Karmarker, and Steve Hyman in deeper discussion. Come on by if you’re in the area: This event, part of the INS meeting at San Diego Central Library, is free, but please register. (There will be a short reception afterward.) Continue reading

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