Friday, May 31, 2013

Beauty is in the medial orbito-frontal cortex of the beholder

English: Transverse section of the caudate nuc...
English: Transverse section of the caudate nucleus from a structural MR image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A region at the front of the brain 'lights up' when we experience beauty in a piece of art or a musical excerpt, according to new research funded by the Wellcome Trust. The study, published July 6 in the open access journal PLoS One, suggests that the one characteristic that all works of art, whatever their nature, have in common is that they lead to activity in that same region of the brain, and goes some way to supporting the views of David Hume and others that beauty lies in the beholder rather than in the object.



"The question of whether there are characteristics that render objects beautiful has been debated for millennia by artists and philosophers of art but without an adequate conclusion," says Professor Semir Zeki from the Wellcome Laboratory of Neurobiology at UCL (University College London). "So too has the question of whether we have an abstract sense of beauty, that is to say one which arouses in us the same powerful emotional experience regardless of whether its source is, for example, musical or visual. It was time for neurobiology to tackle these fundamental questions."

...

Professor Zeki and colleague Dr Tomohiro Ishizu found that an area at the front of the brain known as the medial orbito-frontal cortex, part of the pleasure and reward centre of the brain, was more active in subjects when they listened to a piece of music or viewed a picture which they had previously rated as beautiful. By contrast, no particular region of the brain correlated generally with artwork previously rated 'ugly,' though the experience of visual ugliness when contrasted with the experience of beauty did correlate with activation in a number of regions.

The medial orbito-frontal cortex has previously been linked to appreciation of beauty, but this is the first time that scientists have been able to show that the same area of the brain is activated for both visual and auditory beauty in the same subjects. This implies that beauty does, indeed, exist as an abstract concept within the brain.

The medial orbito-frontal cortex was not the only region to be activated by beauty. As might be expected, the visual cortex, which responds to visual stimuli, was more active when viewing a painting than when listening to music, and vice versa for the auditory cortex.

However, particularly interesting was that activity in another region, the caudate nucleus, found near the centre of the brain, increased in proportion to the relative visual beauty of a painting. The caudate nucleus has been reported previously to correlate with romantic love, suggesting a neural correlate for the relationship between beauty and love
.






http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110706195800.htm
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scientists find mechanism that causes noise-induced tinnitus and drug that can prevent it

Teufelskreise beim Tinnitus-Syndrom
Teufelskreise beim Tinnitus-Syndrom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An epilepsy drug shows promise in an animal model at preventing tinnitus from developing after exposure to loud noise, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, reported this week in the early online version of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal for the first time the reason the chronic and sometimes debilitating condition occurs.An estimated 5 to 15 percent of Americans hear whistling, clicking, roaring and other phantom sounds of tinnitus, which typically is induced by exposure to very loud noise, said senior investigator Thanos Tzounopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor and member of the auditory research group in the Department of Otolaryngology, Pitt School of Medicine.


"There is no cure for it, and current therapies such as hearing aids don't provide relief for many patients," he said. "We hope that by identifying the underlying cause, we can develop effective interventions."

The team focused on an area of the brain that is home to an important auditory center called the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). From previous research in a mouse model, they knew that tinnitus is associated with hyperactivity of DCN cells -- they fire impulses even when there is no actual sound to perceive. For the new experiments, they took a close look at the biophysical properties of tiny channels, called KCNQ channels, through which potassium ions travel in and out of the cell.

"We found that mice with tinnitus have hyperactive DCN cells because of a reduction in KCNQ potassium channel activity," Dr. Tzounopoulos said. "These KCNQ channels act as effective "brakes" that reduce excitability or activity of neuronal cells."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130527153701.htm
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Cogmed Update of Day 10

Talked to Cogmed Coach on Friday.  Not to worry about progress on memory.  People often dont show progress on day 10.  It takes a little longer for things to kick in.
Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Small Breakthrough with Music Therapy

The modern keyboard is based on the intervalli...
The modern keyboard is based on the intervallic patterns of the diatonic scale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The other day, my music therapist asked me to sit down at the piano and play with her.  I am very much a beginner piano player so I have always been very hesitant.  When I have played the piano in the past, I always stuck to playing with one hand because it has been to much for me to think about improvising and coordinate both hands.  A lot of times my playing has tended to be a bit rote and mechanical as well.

But this time, I said that I was going to be a bit adventuresome and I sat down and played with two hands using the pentatonic scale (just the black keys).  I was also a lot more expressive and fluid.


Copyright © 2010-2013 Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Cogmed: Day 10

English: Baddeley's model of working memory in...
English: Baddeley's model of working memory in English (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just finished day 10 of Cogmed and am a bit disappointed.

I have been doing a series of exercises that target various aspects of working and short term memory.  Some of the exercises that rely on auditory memory, I am doing reasonably well with.  Assembly, which has you listen to letters and then click on them in order was a no brainer.  Did really well with it and after 3 trials at level 8, Cogmed stopped that exercise.

Memory exercises like remembering numbers and then clicking them on in reverse order have been more challenging but have been making some progress.  So that's nice.

But exercises that work on visual spatial system have been a bear.  I have been getting some small hard won progress on some exercises that simply have you remember things in sequence. But I have been getting nowhere on exercises that show items and then change orientation by 90 degrees or have you track rotating items.

Had my almost midterm assessment.  I didn't sleep well last night so maybe that has something to do with it.  Or maybe not.  Good news is that my ability to follow instructions has gone up to a low average.  Bad news is getting nowhere on working memory.  Doing simple math is OK, I am only missing two items on the test.  Don't know if that is significant or not.

Just wish I was doing better on visual spatial.  One thing I am noticing is that I am doing better with items that are near each other than with figuring out where items are that are across the grid.  I am wondering how much of this is due to my visual midline shift problems or eye tracking problems.  With visual midline shifts you don't know where things are in relationship to your body.  With eye tracking, your eyes are bouncing around a bit when trying to focus on things.

Or, am I just stuck.  I've done as much as I can do and that's that.

So, this is the question that has bedeviled me since the beginning of the Journey Through The Cortex.  How much is a sensory issue and how much are global issues?
Copyright © 2010-2013  Traveller Journey Through The Cortex
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Auditory processing disorder (APD): Schisms and skirmishes

Spanish version of a schematic representation ...
Spanish version of a schematic representation of auditory signaling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Survey of the controversies within Auditory Processing disorder, especially when using a SCAN-C, a common diagnostic test, with children who do not speak English well. 

In 2006, David
Moore, Director of the Medical Research Council’s Institute of Hearing Research
in Nottingham, created a stir when he published a paper arguing that APD
diagnosis should be based on performance on non-linguistic tests of auditory
perception. Moore’s concern was that tests such as SCAN-C, which use speech
stimuli, can’t distinguish an auditory problem from a language problem. I made
similar arguments in a blog post written last year. Consider the task of doing a speech perception test in a
foreign language: if you don’t know the language very well, then you may fail
the test because you are poor at distinguishing unfamiliar speech sounds or
recognising specific words. This wouldn’t mean you had an auditory disorder.


A recent paper by
Loo et al (2012) provided concrete evidence for this concern. They compared
multilingual and monolingual children on performance on an APD battery. All
children were schooled in English, but a high proportion spoke another language
at home.  The child’s language background
did not affect performance on non-linguistic APD tests, but had a significant
effect on most of the speech-based tests.


In 2006, David
Moore, Director of the Medical Research Council’s Institute of Hearing Research
in Nottingham, created a stir when he published a paper arguing that APD
diagnosis should be based on performance on non-linguistic tests of auditory
perception. Moore’s concern was that tests such as SCAN-C, which use speech
stimuli, can’t distinguish an auditory problem from a language problem. I made
similar arguments in a blog post written last year. Consider the task of doing a speech perception test in a
foreign language: if you don’t know the language very well, then you may fail
the test because you are poor at distinguishing unfamiliar speech sounds or
recognising specific words. This wouldn’t mean you had an auditory disorder.




A recent paper by
Loo et al (2012) provided concrete evidence for this concern. They compared
multilingual and monolingual children on performance on an APD battery. All
children were schooled in English, but a high proportion spoke another language
at home.  The child’s language background
did not affect performance on non-linguistic APD tests, but had a significant
effect on most of the speech-based tests.



Dillon and
Cameron (Australia) queried the usefulness of a general term such as APD, when
the reality was that there may be many different types of auditory difficulty,
each requiring its own specific test. They described their own work on ‘spatial
listening disorder’, arguing that this did relate to clinical presentation.


The most critical
of Moore et al’s arguments were Bellis and colleagues (USA). They implied that
a good clinician can get around the confound between language and auditory
assessments: “Additional controls in cases in which the possible presence of a
linguistic or memory confound exists may include assessing performance in the
non-manipulated condition (e.g. monaural versus dichotic, nonfiltered versus
filtered, etc.) to ensure that performance deficits seen on CAPD tests are due
to the acoustic manipulations rather than to lack of familiarity with the
language and/or significantly reduced memory skills.” Furthermore, according to
Bellis et al, the fact that speech tasks don’t correlate with non-speech tasks
is all the more reason for using speech tasks in an assessment, because “in
some cases central auditory processing deficits may only be revealed using
speech tasks”. 


http://albertochil.blogspot.com/2012/10/auditory-processing-disorder-apd.html
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The brain is the body

I am working on working memory and doing Cogmed so I thought I would augment it a bit by looking into memorizing some choreography.  The folks at A Total Approach had great success when they integrated more than one modality so I am thinking about rolling my own little motor memory routine.


Emily S. Cross, a dancer turned neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, so marveled at the complexity required to learn Laura Dean’s Skylight, a piece that her dance ensemble was rehearsing, that she began to devise a neuroimaging experiment to investigate the ways the brain and body interact to learn movement. She has since created a landmark study on dancers’ brains. Cross takes the mirror neuron theory into the realm of dance and visual learning. She discovered that learning steps can be accelerated whenever dancers watch a movement sequence they have performed before. Observation of the same movement patterns deepens the neural grooves placed there by actually performing the steps.

Cross’ work has established the neurological roots of movement visualization principles. She uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map areas of the brain that are engaged when dancers observe movement. “My work supports the common intuition that a combination of observation and physical rehearsal is the best way to learn new work,” says Cross. “Performing along with an expert demonstrator standing in front of the learner, facing away from the learner so that the right arm is mapped on to the right arm and so on, is ideal.”

 Reck, who has studied Cross’ work,  asks her dancers to watch others perform movement as a rehearsal strategy. She also conducts a “neural rehearsal,” which requires precise movement and visualization with each step. Her dancers must see the movement in their minds as they do it. “Neural rehearsals are great for getting a sequence into place,” notes Cross, “while full energy rehearsals are required to build the patterning that will be required to perform the piece.”

So maybe a watch and do and then neural rehearsal.  


http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/July-2010/Your-Body-Memory-Builders
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Local and Global Auditory Processing: Behavioral and ERP Evidence

Since my vision is improving and I am able to do more with two eyes, I am noticing that I am doing more global processing.  I was wondering about improving my global processing with my auditory system as well and I came across this interesting article that suggests that timing is a key component of global auditory processing. 

The study described here suggests that temporal aspects of auditory stimuli better capture the local-global distinction. By combining short (40 ms) frequency modulated tones in series to create global auditory patterns (500 ms), we independently varied whether pitch increased or decreased over short time spans (local) and longer time spans (global). Accuracy and reaction time measures revealed better performance for global judgments and asymmetric interference that were modulated by amount of pitch change. 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1850243/
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Executive Function Skills

Really Good presentation on Executive Function Skills.  Incorporates people skills along with executive function.

STOP:  Space, Time, Objects, People.  


Space:  Read the Room.  What's Going On?

Time:  Be on the TimeLine, Have a sense of Pace and Time Passing
            What is coming Up?

Object:  Read the Object

People:  Read People, Face, Body, Appearance, Mood, Pace, Saying

Then Discusses the STOP Paradigm in terms of 3 Levels of Executive Functioning:  



  • Self Regulation
  • Organization and Integration of Information 
  • Higher Order Reasoning Skills 
For Self Regulation:

Picture the Space You are in or are Going to be In 

  • What does the outcome look like?
  • What plan will you need to make it look like this?

T: Account for Time
  • When will this happen or does it need to be completed by •What are the time expectations
  • How much time is involved
  • Will the pace of time feel fast or slow
  • Sequence
  • The information, The materials , The plan
O: Determine what objects are necessary to complete the task

  • Find materials
  • Purchase materials
  • Make do with what you have
P: What people do you need or can you expect to interact with? 

Also, think about capacity for Attention.  




http://westborough.ma.schoolwebpages.com/education/page/download.php?fileinfo=ZWZfbGVjdHVyZXdlc3Rib3JvdWdoaGFuZG91dHMucGRmOjo6L3d3dzcvc2Nob29scy9tYS93ZXN0Ym9yb3VnaC9pbWFnZXMvZG9jbWdyLzEyOTVmaWxlODMyMy5wZGY=§iondetailid=5936

I really like the presentation because it gives me a framework to look at some of my higher order deficits:


  • Space:  It can be hard for me to read the room when my eyes aren't focusing and I don't have depth perception, yet.  These skills are getting better day by day but they aren't there yet.
  • Time:  Still a bit of a problem making and being on the time line.  Getting better at being on time but still not there yet.  I think getting my sleep sorted out is helping as my body just doesn't get as tired out and can maintain the pace.
  • Object:  Read the Object.  Ditto on vision skills.  Also, occular motor integration is getting important.  So I can manipulate the object.
  • People.  Ditto on Vision skills.  Need to work on Auditory.  Also audio visual integration is really important here. 

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