Friday, July 31, 2009

Can Do - A Visual Exploration of Benjamin Franklin's Inventions

[30 July 2009 - New York Times] How Benjamin Franklin turned America into the land of invention. More

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Artistic tendencies linked to 'schizophrenia gene'

[16 July 2009 - New Scientist] We're all familiar with the stereotype of the tortured artist. Salvador Dali's various disorders and Sylvia Plath's depression spring to mind. Now new research seems to show why: a genetic mutation linked to psychosis and schizophrenia also influences creativity. The finding could help to explain why mutations that increase a person's risk of developing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar syndrome have been preserved, even preferred, during human evolution, says Szabolcs Kéri, a researcher at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, who carried out the study. Kéri examined a gene involved in brain development called neuregulin 1, which previous studies have linked to a slightly increased risk of schizophrenia. Moreover, a single DNA letter mutation that affects how much of the neuregulin 1 protein is made in the brain has been linked to psychosis, poor memory and sensitivity to criticism. About 50 per cent of healthy Europeans have one copy of this mutation, while 15 per cent possess two copies. More

People do not 'learn from their mistakes'

[30 July 2009 - Telegraph (UK)] The old adage that we "learn more from our mistakes" could be wrong, with new research showing our brain only learns from experience when we do something right. ... Using monkeys, scientists gave the animals the task of looking at two alternating images on a computer screen. For one picture, the monkey was rewarded when it shifted its gaze to the right; for another it was similarly rewarded for looking the other way. The researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that the monkeys' brain cell neural activity responded more positively to a correct answer. When they failed to get the right image however, there was little or no change in the brain, or any improvement in behaviour. They found that when an action was rewarded or not, neural activity in regions of the brains, the prefronal cortex and basal ganglia, long associated with learning and memory, lasted for several seconds, until the next trial. Response was stronger on a given trial if the previous one had been rewarded and weaker if the previous trial was an error. More