TRANSFORMING THE HUMAN BRAIN THROUGH MUSIC

TOPIC
  Learning to play a musical instrument impacts on other abilities, including speech perception, understanding emotions in the voice, and handling multiple tasks simultaneously.

TESA  Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

FINDING  This is a new area of scientific study and focuses on the benefits of music in the lives of children in education.  The findings are helping researchers identify the underlying mechanism which sees enhancement of language, reading, and math skills.

More than simply seeing the auditory system improved the findings are asking questions about whether music training trains a child’s executive functioning skills, leading to improvement of academic skills.  The studies compared the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain – where executive functioning takes place – in children musically trained and not.

More research will clarify which enhances which: musical enhancement enhancing executive functioning, or vice versa, but early implications are towards the former.

IMPLICATIONS Neuropsychologist Ani Patel has developed the OPERA hypothesis which suggests:

O = there’s an overlap between the networks of the brain that are involved with music and other day-to-day cognitive functions such as language, memory, and attention:
P = the precision in tuning an instrument is very important:
E-R-A = are emotionrepetition, and attention – three things known to promote brain plasticity.

As music places higher demands on the brain it seems music enhances these other networks and their abilities.

The conversation I mentioned at the beginning, fascinated, opening up different literacies, but it seems music – which we love around the world – opens up the possibilities of enhancing all forms of intelligence and literacy.

QUOTES 

“Music addresses some of the behaviors and skills that are necessary for academic success.  Since we started implementing El Sistema, the Venezuelan music program, as well as project-based learning, our test scores have increased dramatically.”  (Diana Lam;  Conservatory Lab Charter School, Boston)

“So this idea, that music sometimes places higher demands on the brain, on some of the same shared networks that we use for other abilities, allows the music to actually enhance those networks, and those abilities benefit.” (Associate Professor of Psychology Ani Patel; Tufts University)

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SOURCES 
Wbur’s Common Health (July 17): http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/07/music-language-brain

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THE DOCTOR IS IN — Virtual humans help us be more honest

TOPIC

Some first research exploring how people are more honest and less embarrassed when sharing very personal details with a virtual Human than they are with the real thing. There is the promise of help for people struggling with serious mental anguish, including post-traumatic stress. 

 

TESA  Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

 

FINDING 
Research carried out by the University of Southern California is the first of its kind and shows a willingness on the part of patients to divulge even very embarrassing information if they believe there is no human involved.

Subjects recruited through Craigslist aged between eighteen and sixty five were evaluated using SimSensei, a virtual human application able to pick up signals of depression and anxiety through both real-time sensing and non-verbal behaviours.

The aim is to see whether such technology can be of help to real people. The virtual human Ellie would ask questions, feedback, and express empathetic listening, thereby developing rapport and not judging – two important things when it comes to disclosing personal information important to the beginning of diagnosis and therapy.

 

IMPLICATIONS 
Whilst the researchers point out this is not a replacement to real people offering the necessary care and support, but a way of opening up the process with more important and critical information being available sooner.

I find it fascinating how people can be more honest to a virtual human and wonder about how this will not only be something which helps more serious mental conditions but also those carried around by people which inhibit them from flourishing in their lives.

 

QUOTES

“The study provides the first empirical evidence that virtual humans can increase a patient’s willingness to disclose personal information in a clinical setting. It also presents compelling reasons for doctors to start using virtual humans as medical screeners. The honest answers acquired by a virtual human could help doctors diagnose and treat their patients more appropriately.” (Tanya Abrams – USC)

“One participant who thought the virtual human was automated said the experience was “way better than talking to a person. I don’t really feel comfortable talking about personal stuff to other people”.” (Tanya Abrams – USC)

Tweet: The Doctor is in — meet Ellie, your virtual therapist. Trend spotting @theimn @geoffreybaines

 

SOURCES 
Futurity: 21st July 2014

Original article

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WILL AI GET A STANDING OVATION AT TED?

Geoffrey Baines Edinburgh, Scotland March 21, 2014
Submitted, March 21, 2014
Geoffrey Baines
Edinburgh, Scotland

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

FINDING
Peter Diamandis and TED’s Chris Anderson have announced an amazing XPrize to move Artificial Intelligence forward.  The challenge: “Can an A.I. give a TED talk so powerful and compelling that it commands a standing ovation?”

IMPLICATIONS
In the last four years, IBM’s Watson and Google’s Deep Learning have pushed forward AI’s evolution. Now, the XPrize promises to give the truest indication of just how human A.I. is really becoming.

There is also an opportunity to be involved in the project.  Peter Diamandis invites his Abundance 360 members to be part of the action: “Because the design of this XPRIZE isn’t easy or obvious, I’m turning to you, my Abundance & Bold community, for help and input. For example: How long should the A.I.’s TED talk be? How should the subject be chosen? How should the competition be judged? Should the A.I. be a physical robot that walks (or rolls) on stage or just a voice?”

I think I might just join in.

QUOTES
“We’re currently agnostic as to how the talk is presented. Could be a robot walking onto the stage, an avatar or Scarlett Johansson’s sexy disembodied voice. And the ‘standing O’ criterion is intended as a powerful symbol for the standard a talk should aspire to.” (Chris Anderson)

SOURCE
Email from Abundance 360, but you can also check in here:

http://blog.ted.com/2014/03/20/a-ted-talk-from-artificial-intelligence-theres-an-xprize-for-that/

 

Is Immortality Hardwired Into Humans?

TOPIC
: Where does the almost universal concept that we are immortal come from?
TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts
FINDING:
When it came to researching where notions of immortality come from, researchers decided to focus on pre-life beliefs. Cultures tend not to focus on life before birth, so the selected groups of children in the study could not have preconceived beliefs.

The two groups from Ecuador were comprised of indigenous children in one, and urbanised children in the other. Both groups were very similar, however, believing they didn’t have bodies before birth, but they did have feelings and emotions existing before birth.
immortal
IMPLICATIONS:
 At an early age Humans express a belief in the immortality of feelings and emotions. The researchers posited that this may come from our highly developed social reasoning. The ability to know what someone is thinking, how they are feeling, their needs, and, then, how they might act is such an important part of what it means to be Human that it can spill into other areas of life without our knowledge. However, scientifically, we still cannot explain where our concept of immortality comes from.

QUOTES:

“I study these things for a living but even find myself defaulting to them. I know that my mind is a product of my brain but I still like to think of myself as something independent of my body,” (Natalie Emmons; study leader)

Tweet: Click here to tweet this find. Thanks!

SOURCES:
http://www.futurity.org/hardwired-believe-immortal/?utm_source=Futurity+Today&utm_campaign=5c70919a35-January_29_20141_29_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e34e8ee443-5c70919a35-206308793
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12220/abstract

– See more at: http://theimn.com/tesa/technology/Is_Immortality_Hardwired_Into_Humans?

GENETICALLY ENHANCED HUMANS TAKE A STEP CLOSER

Geoffrey Baines Edinburgh, Scotland
Geoffrey Baines
Edinburgh, Scotland

TOPIC: Stem cells are programmed to grow cartilage inside the body TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

FINDING:
Researchers at Duke University have developed a way of incorporating viruses used to deliver gene therapy to the stem cells into a synthetic material that serves as a template for tissue growth.  and quality.

IMPLICATIONS:
The possibility of growing musculoskeletal tissues inside the human body – and more cheaply than can be envisaged outside of the body – tantalises the imagination with possibilities of lives being extended in both quantity and quality.

Other implications include strengthening healthy muscles and bones for sports and security purposes.  If the technology becomes mobile, it could be seen as a way of counteracting the affects of longterm space travel, allowing Humans to journey through the time and radiation barriers presently faced.
geneticallyenhancedeye

QUOTES:

“The resulting material is like a computer—the scaffold provides the hardware and the virus provides the software that programs the stem cells to produce the desired tissue.” (Futurity)

“While this study focuses on cartilage regeneration, [Farshid]Guilak and [Charles] Gersbach say that the technique could be applied to many kinds of tissues, especially orthopedic tissues such as tendons, ligaments and bones.  And because the platform comes ready to use with any stem cell, it presents an important step toward commercialisation.”  (Futurity)

Tweet: Click here to tweet this find. Thanks!
SOURCES:
Futurity: http://www.futurity.org/stem-cells-programmed-grow-cartilage-inside-body/?utm_source=Futurity+Today&utm_campaign=19d3465507-February_19_20142_19_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e34e8ee443-19d3465507-206308793

Original article: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/02/13/1321744111.abstract

– See more at: http://www.theimn.com/tesa/genetically_enhanced_humans