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    1. #1
      Member memeticverb's Avatar
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      Arrow five biggest neuroscience developments

      "The five biggest neuroscience developments of the year.
      By William Saletan

      The human brain has spent its evolutionary history learning about everything else in the world. Since last summer, it has learned quite a bit about itself. It has discovered lots of things about female sexuality, incest, psychopaths, IQ, brain death, addiction, compulsive buying, and how to remotely control animals through cranial implants. But five major trends and breakthroughs stand out. Here they are, with links to related news items and columns.

      1. The arrival of mind reading. Scientists in Germany used pattern recognition software to predict, from functional magnetic resonance imaging of people's brains, whether each person had secretly decided to add or subtract two numbers he was looking at. The computer correctly predicted the decision 71 percent of the time. The advertised application of this technology is computers that can discern and execute your will when you want them to—for example, if you're paralyzed or don't want to use a mouse. The feared application is mental surveillance.

      2. The neural alteration of morality. Six people with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were presented with moral dilemmas (e.g., would you smother a baby to prevent bad guys from finding and killing people in hiding) and were found to be two to three times more willing to kill than people without brain damage. The advertised conclusion is that such willingness to kill is objectively immoral. The feared conclusion is that if brain design determines what's moral, you can change morality by changing the brain—and once technology manipulates ethics, ethics can no longer judge technology.

      3. The medicalization of sexual orientation. U.S. experiments confirmed that 7 percent to 10 percent of rams are gay. Research suggests brain biology is involved. The advertised application is identification of gay or asexual rams, "thus eliminating their use for general breeding purposes." The feared application is identification of gay male fetuses, leading parents to abort them or alter their orientation through hormone treatment in the womb. Some conservative Christian leaders have already endorsed this idea.

      4. The discovery of vegetative consciousness. For five months after her car crash, an English patient displayed "no reproducible evidence of purposeful behavior" and was declared vegetative. Then she was asked, during an fMRI scan, to imagine playing tennis and walking through her home. The scan lit up with patterns that in healthy brains signify language, movement, and navigation. A follow-up report cited anecdotal cases in which Ambien woke brain-damaged people from prolonged unresponsiveness. The happy implication is that some people we thought were finished may be salvageable. The horrifying corollary is that until we find these people, they're buried alive in their skulls.

      5. The progress of artificial intelligence. Computers completed their rout of humans at chess, as a $137 computer program beat the world chess champ in a six-game match, giving computers a 2-0-2 record (two wins, two ties) against human champs in their last four matches. Computers also improved their ability to adapt and modify themselves, as a robot demonstrated that it could recognize an injury to itself, infer how its limbs worked, and adjust its method of locomotion. However, DARPA scrapped a program to reverse-engineer the brain, leaving scientists to wonder whether the project had lost out to other priorities or had simply failed. "

      William Saletan is Slate's national correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.

      Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2164996/

      Copyright 2007 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

    2. #2
      Drivel's Advocate Xaqaria's Avatar
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      So you can copy an article; where is the discussion?

    3. #3
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      The philosophical import I thought was fairly obvious.

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      I found it quite humorous that the Christian leaders endorsed aborting gay babies. That seems like quite the contradiction there.

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      Quote Originally Posted by ataraxis View Post
      I found it quite humorous that the Christian leaders endorsed aborting gay babies. That seems like quite the contradiction there.
      I can't wait till this gets bigger, and they start getting called out on it.

    6. #6
      Xei
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      I love neuroscience, thank you so much for this!

      I had actually read about the vegetative state thing separately last year. I think it's an incredible discovery.

      Hopefully they'll be able to take this a lot further; I mean, they already have two different signals. They could simply teach the woman morse code, and then she can speak to the outside world, which would just be of immense value.

    7. #7
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      I was hoping someone would say something about how hilarious number 3 was! So predictable and ironic that the Christian right would both discover that homosexuality is natural and then in denial act as God to promote abortion.

      I thought numbers 1 and 2 were of most interest to problems in the philosophy of mind, and number 4 most interesting to discussions on lucid dreaming - though it shouldnt be too surprising to lucid dreamers.

    8. #8
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I love neuroscience, thank you so much for this!

      I had actually read about the vegetative state thing separately last year. I think it's an incredible discovery.

      Hopefully they'll be able to take this a lot further; I mean, they already have two different signals. They could simply teach the woman morse code, and then she can speak to the outside world, which would just be of immense value.
      Hey your very welcome. Indeed its quite a groundbreaking discovery and has probably upset a lot of people: traditional-minded researchers, insurance companies, and right-to-unplug types (ever see that episode of Arrested Development?). While on the other hand families with loved ones in these conditions can have renewed hope. Morse code, now thats an idea.

    9. #9
      Look away wendylove's Avatar
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      The other three were good, however these two were flawed
      2. The neural alteration of morality. Six people with damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex were presented with moral dilemmas (e.g., would you smother a baby to prevent bad guys from finding and killing people in hiding) and were found to be two to three times more willing to kill than people without brain damage. The advertised conclusion is that such willingness to kill is objectively immoral. The feared conclusion is that if brain design determines what's moral, you can change morality by changing the brain—and once technology manipulates ethics, ethics can no longer judge technology.

      This had been known for about fifty years, so it is not a development. The first ever recorded case was a man who got brain damaged in the 80's and then with no history of violence, raped three people and started to steal. As for drugs that control your morality the CIA knew that fifty years ago as they were giving drugs to terrorist to change their personailty. The americans and soviets where going on a mind control race, as mind control would actually be a big weapon if they were to develope it.
      5. The progress of artificial intelligence. Computers completed their rout of humans at chess, as a $137 computer program beat the world chess champ in a six-game match, giving computers a 2-0-2 record (two wins, two ties) against human champs in their last four matches. Computers also improved their ability to adapt and modify themselves, as a robot demonstrated that it could recognize an injury to itself, infer how its limbs worked, and adjust its method of locomotion. However, DARPA scrapped a program to reverse-engineer the brain, leaving scientists to wonder whether the project had lost out to other priorities or had simply failed. "
      Okay, not a neuroscience developement. First off all chess program are not a big achievement as all they basically do is have a big algorithm that basically works everything out, like a big calculator. Now the human brain is quite the opposite of a calculator. Now the chess machine beating human is weak as the person is picking and choosing, now their are about 50 matches between humans and computers and once you played a few computers and our a grandmaster their is no problem. Well, even if this was a developement in neuroscience, as it doesn't involve neuroscience just computer science, it still is not a developement, its is like saying calculators were a developement in mathematics. We would never reverse-engineer the brain, it just not possible with the level of technology we have and the understanding of how things function together. Plus alot of computer scienctist working in AI believe in what is called weak AI, which basically says a computer can't become conscious or intelligent. Also, the project was not scrapped, look up the blue brain.
      Last edited by wendylove; 07-03-2007 at 02:34 PM.

    10. #10
      Drivel's Advocate Xaqaria's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by wendylove View Post
      We would never reverse-engineer the brain, it just not possible with the level of technology we have and the understanding of how things function together.
      I completely disagree, especially when you apply the word never to the sentence. Actually, I would be willing to say that given enough time we will almost certainly reverse engineer the brain. Also, our current understanding of the brain is actually very indepth and so it is possible that this will be done within our lifetimes.

    11. #11
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      Quote Originally Posted by wendylove View Post
      This had been known for about fifty years, so it is not a development. The first ever recorded case was a man who got brain damaged in the 80's and then with no history of violence, raped three people and started to steal. As for drugs that control your morality the CIA knew that fifty years ago as they were giving drugs to terrorist to change their personailty. The americans and soviets where going on a mind control race, as mind control would actually be a big weapon if they were to develope it.
      I think in this example, the thought-experiments were done as a choice between two evils, one of them being lesser but still abhorrent--they example was, Should you kill a baby to save several people? If I remember right, the normal people had trouble making a decision. The brain-damaged people had no trouble picking the logical choice--they did what they thought was right thing by saving more people, but were not bothered that a baby had to die for it to happen. It was as if they were more rational and less emotional.

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