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"Last year we marched and we resisted and we organized, and now we're going to bring that collective power to the polls," said Bob Bland, co-chair of the Women's March. "Moving into 2018, we need to look beyond just 'resistance.'"

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A study using epilepsy patients undergoing surgery has given neuroscientists an opportunity to track in unprecedented detail the movement of a thought through the human brain, all the way from inspiration to response.
The findings confirm the role of the prefrontal cortex as the coordinator of complex interactions between different regions, linking our perception with action and serving as what can be considered the "glue of cognition".

Previous efforts to measure the passing of information from one area to the other have relied on processes such as electroencephalography (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which, whilenon-invasive, offer less than perfect resolution.
The study led by researchers from the University of California, Berkley, recorded the electrical activity of neurons using a precise technique called electrocorticograhy (ECoG).
This required hundreds of tiny electrodes to be placed right up against the cortex, providing more spatial detail than EEG and improving the resolution in time of fMRI.
While this poses an unethical level of risk for your average volunteer, patients undergoing surgery for epilepsy have their brain activity monitored in this very way, giving the researchers a perfect chance to conduct a few tests.
Each of the 16 test subjects performed a number of tasks varied to suit their individual arrangement of electrodes, all while having their neural activity monitored and tracked.
Participants were required to listen to a stimulus and respond, or watch images of faces or animals on a screen and asked to perform an action.
Some tasks were more complex than others; for example, a simple action involved simply repeating a word, while a more complex version was to think of its antonym.
Researchers monitored the split-second movement of electrical activity from one area, such as areas associated with interpreting auditory stimuli, to the prefrontal cortex, to areas required to shape an action, such as the motor cortex.
While none of this threw up any surprises, the results clearly emphasised the role of the prefrontal cortex in directing activity.

For some tasks its input was fairly limited. In others the area was required to work hard, managing signals from multiple parts of the brain to coordinate the recognition of words, possibly dredging up memories before setting to work a bunch of muscles to provide a novel answer.
These very selective studies have found that the frontal cortex is the orchestrator, linking things together for a final output says neuroscientist Robert Knight from UC Berkeley.
It's the glue of cognition.
The prefrontal cortex was seen to remain active throughout most of the thought process, as would be expected for a multitasking region of the brain.
The quicker the handoff from one area to the other, the faster people responded to a stimulus.
fMRI studies often find that when a task gets progressively harder, we see more activity in the brain, and the prefrontal cortex in particular says the study's lead author Avgusta Shestyuk.
Here, we are able to see that this is not because the neurons are working really, really hard and firing all the time, but rather, more areas of the cortex are getting recruited.
What did come as something of a surprise were details on the precise timing of each area.
Some of the responding areas lit up remarkably early, often during the stimulus, suggesting that even before we have a complete response handy, our brain is already getting those parts of the cortex ready for action.
This might explain why people sometimes say things before they think suggests Shestyuk.
This research was published in Nature Human Behaviour.

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We talk to computer scientist and entrepreneur Jamil El Imad about the cutting-edge intersection of neuroscience and IT
Arriving home at her poky London flat after a difficult day, Emma closes the door on the outside world, hangs up her coat and tries to forget the stress she is under. She changes into comfy pyjamas, settles in on the couch under a soft blanket and, plugging in her smartphone, places a small virtual reality (VR) headset over her head.
Floating before her eyes is a menu and the words Choose your dream. She sees a range of scenarios: a Buddhist monastery high in the Himalayas, the bright white sands of a deserted Hebridean beach, a steaming Icelandic hot spring, a fragrant Californian redwood grove. With a nod, Emma selects an Alpine meadow, and enters the dream scenario.
At first she sees nothing but a drifting white mist, but as she relaxes, feeling the tension draining from her neck and shoulders, her heart rate slows, her breathing becomes shallower, and the fog begins to part. She sees first a carpet of wildflowers spreading out before her. As she concentrates, the mist rolls back to reveal the full scene. She looks up at the clear sky and sees birds overhead. She hears the mountain breeze and cowbells in the distance. A valley somewhere in Austria is spread out before her. Emma sits back on her sofa, and feels herself like a feather on the wind, a thousand miles from her troubles.
It sounds like the opening to a Philip K Dick novel or a treatment for the next season of Black Mirror, but actually the technology Emma might one day use exists right now in prototype form.
It’s called the Dream Machine, it’s designed to improve mindfulness and concentration, and it’s the brainchild of computer scientist and serial entrepreneur Jamil El Imad.
It is the result of his work at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) on the Human Brain Project, a multi-year programme that is bringing together researchers from across Europe to advance the fields of neuroscience and computing.

So how did a computer scientist become interested in neuroscience? The answer goes back to the 1970s, when El Imad left Lebanon for the UK to pursue a career in IT, working at first with IBM punch cards. Stints in the IT departments of oil giant Halliburton and French pharmaceuticals company Roussel followed (a job he found in the back pages of Computer Weekly), before a return to the Middle East in an IT services role in the early 2000s. However, by his own admission, by 2005 he was starting to get bored.
I returned to the UK and rejoined academia at Imperial [College London] he tells Computer Weekly over coffee around the corner from his Mayfair pad. I wanted to work on something disruptive and, at that time, I took a very early interest in VR, and cloud was just starting to be talked about back in 2008.
At first, El Imad perceived the cloud merely as a godsend for the IT department.
Most developments in the 1980s and 1990s were bespoke he says. Nobody was taking a one-size-fits-all approach, and it was a huge effort to implement, unlike today. Now we have applications that allow every company to customise and use technology however they want.
In my view, cloud has come as a saviour from IT overspend, when I think about the inefficiencies of managing large IT platforms, when you’re able to access computing on demand and not have to budget for peak. In my capacity planning, I always used to have to budget for a peak of maybe two hours a day, and for the other 22 hours, my machine was running at 20% capacity.
The novelty of the cloud led El Imad to look at other emerging areas, such as VR and artificial intelligence (AI). But he says the penny really dropped about the link between computer science and neuroscience when IBM Watson beat Jeopardy.
El Imad proclaims himself somewhat sceptical about some of the grandiose claims made about AI, saying: I believe intelligence is biological, not logical.
He adds: I can get a computer to read 1,000 books on a subject and answer my questions with cognitive computing, but that’s not intelligence, that’s intellect. I want to build applications that capitalise on that.

Understanding the brain
Reduced attention span, poor sleep quality, increased anxiety levels, much has been written about the negative effects that having such a glut of technology at our fingertips can have on our brains, and the evidence against smartphones, social media and so on continues to mount.
El Imad says people are now overusing their mental capacity and that the human brain is not built to handle such a deluge of information, hence the growing mental health crisis around the world.
We are overusing our mental capacity he says. We are not able to handle so much multitasking, and we are constantly trying to move at the speed of information, rather than at our own speed. I think this is why you see a lot of mental health problems today.
The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the rise in conditions such as ADD [attention deficit disorder]. The teams I have worked on, computer scientists and physicians all draw this conclusion.
El Imad adds: I was under the impression that we really understand the brain, but the truth is that nobody really knows how it works. The truth is that in the last 30 years, neuroscience has not advanced nearly as much as it should have. These are not my words, but the words of those who work in this field. This is why there must be a renewed effort to bring it back to public attention.
He believes technology can both address the shortfall in research and resolve the global mental health crisis, hence his involvement in the field and the development of the so-called Dream Machine described above.
About 15 years ago, together with some investor partners, El Imad was instrumental in the formation of the Brain Forum a charity designed to promote neuroscience and technology, bringing together computer scientists, clinicians and investors to exchange ideas and increase the sum of knowledge in this field.

Biosensor data to fight illness
At the same time, El Imad came to the realisation that in terms of digitisation, the healthcare sector was some way behind verticals such as financial services. This was the impetus behind the founding of NeuroPro, which he set up to try to change this.
We decided to focus on brain signals and brain data because this type of content seemed to be very popular, not only in the health sector but also in a lot of applications around the internet of things he says.
Ultimately, the ecosystem that NeuroPro created can be described as like iTunes, but for biosensor data generated by electroencephalography (EEG), says El Imad.
The VMLPro [Virtual Mobile Laboratory] cloud sits on Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure and provides an as-a-service environment to store, manage and process EEG data in such a way that the datasets can be used to run remote monitoring on patients, perform remote diagnostics, and collaborate with other clinicians.
The NeuroPro cloud enables clinicians to process EEG data on any device using very complex algorithms that it would not be possible for individual hospitals to run on their own, says El Imad.
To give you an example, at a hospital in Switzerland that we work with, they have an algorithm that they need to run prior to performing brain surgery. It reads very complex brain signals and processes terabytes of data to try to tell them where the incision should take place. But it takes them six days for the algorithm to give them the output they need, subject to which they proceed with the surgery. We brought that down to six hours he says.
That can save lives, hospital bookings, and not only that but we can potentially make it, if they wish, a revenue generator because if it is good enough for them, it must be good enough for other hospitals. That is the power of the cloud, and I would say that any enterprise, any CIO who is looking to transform must look seriously at cloud. If you can overcome the challenges of security, the efficiencies can be considerable.

With the VMLPro platform built at NeuroPro, El Imad is working with a number of institutions specialising in neurological conditions.
Among them is the Swiss Epilepsy Centre, which has been operating since the days when epilepsy was treated by locking people away for life, but is now one of the most advanced institutions in its field anywhere in the world.
They are experimenting with it because at the moment a lot of their specialists have to travel to other hospitals to work with local doctors to analyse data and diagnose says El Imad. Our cloud allows you to do collaboration on the fly. It doesn’t matter where the patient is being monitored, now two doctors from two different hospitals can watch the EEG data in real time.
But the NeuroPro cloud is about more than just enabling collaboration. El Imad is also working with researchers to use the data he has collected from epilepsy patients to allow machine learning algorithms to mine it for new information and patterns that humans might not be able to spot, which may in future be able to improve the patients’ quality of life, maybe even predict and ward off seizures.
A lot of research on seizure prediction that we’ve worked on is to do with actually picking up environmental changes he says. Circumventing the problem is as good as curing the problem.
The implications of this volumetric pattern matching can be extended way beyond epilepsy. Today a skilled clinician can recognise tiny changes in scans over time to detect cancer growing in the lungs, for example. But imagine a world where a constant flow of data and a powerful algorithm can detect even tinier changes in the body months before a doctor, or before the patient even notices they are ill. Ultimately, says El Imad, would you prefer to cure your cancer, or to never have it in the first place?

Biosensor data for peace of mind
The cloud has myriad novel applications, but is now well-established technology. VR is arguably older, but despite having been around in some form or another for the best part of three decades, it is only now beginning to come into its own – and it is here where El Imad is doing work that could change society, not just healthcare.
Back at the EPFL and with assistance from the Human Brain Project, El Imad and his team have devised something they call reality substitution, which uses video, not computer-generated images (CGI), to generate a VR environment.
Basically, we transport you live to a new environment that is being filmed on a rig that we built using 14 GoPros he says.
We took the rig to a mountaintop to test it for people with a fear of heights. Imagine, if you have a phobia, you can film it and you can practise exposing yourself to it at home.
This brings us back to the hypothetical Emma and her personal Dream Machine, which marries EEG data and VR to promote mindfulness and concentration.
By transporting the user to the environment of their choice, the program helps them to relax and concentrate by rewarding them. It does this by reading their EEG data to detect activity in the relevant parts of the brain, slowing heart rate, and so on.

When the biological conditions are right, the user is portrayed within the environment as a feather on the breeze, and the fog described earlier begins to part, revealing the scene to the user bit by bit. At the end of the session, they receive a personalised score, which they can then work to improve.
You have no idea how relaxing it is says El Imad. You don’t want to take it off.
He envisages that one day the Dream Machine might be used to help employees de-stress in a busy office, or even in the gym. But wherever it is used, he is clear that it will be a product that is available for consumers to buy, and not a medical service.
We are going down the non-clinical route and doing non-clinical trials because these tools [smartphones and headsets] are available in the home he says. You don’t need specialist equipment to enjoy it.
It seems ironic that in dealing with the problems that technology has caused for our mental wellbeing, it is technology that may ride to the rescue, and El Imad is all too aware of this. But, he says, the way the world and society now work lend themselves to a technological solution.
What is the alternative? he says. It would be nice if we all had access to a nice park, but things are not like that, people live in high-rise blocks with no outdoor space. So why should they not have that sort of experience and that moment of pleasure?

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On this day in 2006, the New Horizons spacecraft was launched on its long journey to Pluto and beyond.

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Your Eyes Are the Windows to Your Brain Activity

From the article: “We found that pupil size rhythmically fluctuates during sleep... Intriguingly, these pupil fluctuations follow the sleep-related brain activity so closely that they can indicate with high accuracy the exact stage of sleep—the smaller the pupil, the deeper the sleep.”

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Apple’s ‘Everyone Can Code’ program expands more broadly in Europe

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Kim Kardashian's CRYPTIC Instagram Post Reveals Baby #3's Name?! #celebs #celebrities #kimkardashian

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illusiveness and being

#hqsplandscape +HQSP Landscape
#btplandscapepro +BTP Landscape Pro

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Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park

Up late passed midnight in the mountains one night, photographing the Aoraki mountain range on the south island of New Zealand. Alone in the mountains is such an incredible feeling, especially in the still of the night with a full moon. There’s something really soothing about it.

Also, apologies for the recent radio silence. I decided to spend the last month travelling around New Zealand largely without social media. It was quite refreshing to be honest  However, I’m back now and ready to start bringing you some of these stunning scenes I’ve been chasing...

Hope you’ve all had a great start to 2018!

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Your monthly Amazon Prime membership fees are about to increase

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Taming the transcriptome with RNA-Seq.

Scientists are developing a more comprehensive and sophisticated conception of the transcriptome.

Read more:

#microfluidics #RNA #DNA

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Chuck Schumer responsible for possible government shutdown: Rep. Collins Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) on efforts by Congress to avoid a government shutdown. @SenSchumer @RepChrisCollins @MorningsMaria @FoxBusiness

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4,000-Year-Old Mummies Are Half Brothers, DNA Analysis Shows

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NFL conference championships Q&A: What are the odds …?: Can the Jaguars actually beat the Patriots, and which unlikely quarterback will lead his team to the Super Bowl out of the NFC?

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Hidden black hole caught flinging star back and forth in distant cluster.

Stop playing with your food!

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NFL Coaches are Kryptonite to Your Fantasy Football Teams
By Gladys Louise Tyler

Let’s face it, during fantasy football draft season we are consumed by which running back, wide receiver and quarterback we are going to draft. Unfortunately, we overlook the ‘masterminds’ behind the players, the men behind the curtain. No matter how talented your draft decision is, it all depends on who is making the decisions, whether it be the head coach, the offensive coordinator and or the defensive coordinator. They matter people. But no worry, we here at FakePigSkin are here to make your upcoming fantasy season a success, and it all starts with an evaluation of the coaching positions.

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Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior - Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

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Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation
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