Neuroscience https://mag.uchicago.edu/tags/neuroscience en Left-hand man https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/left-hand-man <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1705_Allen_Left-hand-man.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="Left-handedness" title="Left-handedness" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Tue, 05/09/2017 - 10:07</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>How you judge everything from job candidates to consumer products to politicians may be influenced by your handedness. (Illustration by James Steinberg)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/susie-allen-ab09"> <a href="/author/susie-allen-ab09"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Susie Allen, AB’09</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Spring/17</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>By studying handedness, psychologist Daniel Casasanto hopes to understand the relationship between body and mind.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Left-handers make great baseball pitchers, but they’re generally considered lousy subjects for studies of the brain. “Every good neuroscientist knows you don’t test lefties,” explains <a href="https://psychology.uchicago.edu/directory/daniel-casasanto" target="_blank">Daniel Casasanto</a>, assistant professor in <a href="https://psychology.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">psychology</a>. “They mess up your data.”</p> <p>Perhaps it’s justice. After years of being relegated to uncomfortable right-handed desks (to say nothing of scissors or spiral notebooks) lefties exact their revenge in MRIs. Among righties, brain lateralization—the control of functions and behaviors by particular brain hemispheres—is fairly consistent. Among lefties, however, it’s messier and much less predictable, complicating results.</p> <p>But rather than avoiding southpaws, Casasanto has devoted years to studying them, hoping to learn how and why their brains diverge from those of right-handers. It’s part of a larger effort to understand the relationship between our bodies and our minds. Does experiencing the world in different bodies cause us to develop correspondingly different brains? Casasanto thinks so.</p> <p>Handedness offers especially powerful insights into the links between cognition and bodily experience. It’s “a model system where human bodies differ in clear and measurable ways, and in consequential ways—because our hands are a point of interface between the mind and the world,” he explains.</p> <p>It’s still not known why human handedness varies. While there appears to be a strong genetic component, environment plays a role too: identical twins share the same genome but not always the same handedness.</p> <p>Casasanto’s research has shown that, where handedness is concerned, experience matters more than genetics. Handedness is something you <em>do </em>rather than something you <em>are</em>. Lefties whose handedness was “corrected” in childhood behave consistently like righties in his studies.</p> <p>Casasanto started by exploring whether handedness influences perceptions of abstract concepts, like good and bad. In one study, subjects were presented with a drawing of a cartoon character, viewed from above, with an empty box on either side. They were told the character loved pandas but hated zebras (or vice versa) and then asked to draw a panda in the box that best represents good things, and a zebra in the box that best represents bad things. He found the subject’s choice of the “good” side was strongly associated with their handedness.</p> <p>The same study asked subjects to look at two columns of Fribbles, alien cartoon characters with various arm- and trunk-like appendages. Subjects were asked to assign positive or negative characteristics such as attractiveness or sadness to the Fribbles. Again, the results varied by handedness, with lefties assigning positive characteristics to the Fribbles on the left side of the page. The outcome was the same whether subjects responded orally or used their hands to indicate their choices—and the pattern extends far beyond the realm of the fictional Fribbles. The study showed identical effects for people picking among consumer products and between hypothetical job candidates whose names and qualifications were displayed in two columns.</p> <p>Handedness might even influence voting behavior. Lefties, Casasanto revealed in a 2015 paper, were 15 percentage points more likely than righties to vote for the candidate they saw on the left side of the ballot in a simulated election. Some states present opposing candidates’ names in two columns—a ballot design that may have unwittingly influenced election outcomes for years.</p> <p>These findings surprised Casasanto, given how strongly Americans associate “right” with “good.” This mapping is reinforced in idioms like “my right-hand man” or “two left feet,” and in customs like raising your right hand as you swear to tell the truth in court. “This body-based pattern goes against deeply entrenched patterns in our language and culture,” he says.</p> <p>The old myth that lefties are “right-brained” and therefore creative and artistic is just that—a myth, discredited by research. But Casasanto has found that lefties’ and righties’ brains do vary in how they organize a basic dimension of emotion—approach and avoidance motivation.</p> <p>Emotions are either approach related, like happiness or anger, or avoidance related, like fear. Generally speaking, we perform approach-related activities with our dominant hands and avoidance-related activities with our nondominant hands. Casasanto calls this the “sword and shield” pattern: if you were a knight, you’d hold your sword in your dominant hand and your shield in the weaker hand.</p> <p>Studies dating back as far as 1972 have shown that the left frontal lobe, which controls the right hand, is activated for approach-motivated emotions. But most of these studies didn’t take lefties into account. In a 2012 paper, Casasanto found that approach motivation is on the right frontal lobe in lefties. (Among the ambidextrous, approach motivation is “smeared across both hemispheres,” he says.) The finding bolstered Casasanto’s hypothesis that the lopsided ways in which all of us interact with the world cause our brains to develop in predictably lopsided ways too.</p> <p>Of course, bodies differ in many ways other than handedness, and Casasanto thinks those dissimilarities might also influence cognition, just as being left- or right-handed does. For instance, he discovered that your own eye color influences your perception of the eye color of others.</p> <p>The research stemmed from an argument between Casasanto and his wife about James Bond’s eye color in a recent film. His blue-eyed wife insisted Bond’s eyes were blue, “and I,” brown-eyed Casasanto says, “was expressing skepticism about whether you could have a blue-eyed James Bond.”</p> <p>The marital disagreement—and Casasanto’s ensuing study—yielded an interesting discovery: after seeing a photo of a celebrity, you’re more likely to remember them as brown-eyed if you’re brown-eyed yourself. “This is part of a broader tendency to use our own body as an index of what is likely to be true about other people’s,” he explains. Mostly it’s “a pretty good heuristic: what’s true of my body is likely true of yours in many cases, but of course ... it only works on average.”</p> <p>For the record, the most recent James Bond, actor Daniel Craig, is blue-eyed. And left-handed.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/cognition" hreflang="en">Cognition</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/data" hreflang="en">Data</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/psychology" hreflang="en">Psychology</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="https://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/04/20/biggest-brain-campus-shows-main-quad" target="_blank">Biggest Brain on Campus Shows Up on Main Quad</a>” (University of Chicago News Office, 04.20.2015)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedlinks field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p><strong>Follow</strong> Daniel Casasanto (<a href="https://twitter.com/d_casasanto" target="_blank">@D_Casasanto</a>) on Twitter.</p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/left-hand-man" data-a2a-title="Left-hand man"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fleft-hand-man&amp;title=Left-hand%20man"></a></span> Tue, 09 May 2017 15:07:37 +0000 jmiller 6441 at https://mag.uchicago.edu An interdisciplinary approach to the war on terror https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/interdisciplinary-approach-war-terror <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1605_Bacher-Huang_Interdisciplinary-approach.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Thu, 04/28/2016 - 13:47</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">(Photo courtesy the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism)</div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/graham-bacher"> <a href="/author/graham-bacher"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Graham Bacher</div> </a> </div> </div> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/wen-huang"> <a href="/author/wen-huang"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Wen Huang</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/dialogo" hreflang="en">Dialogo</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Spring/Summer 2016</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">Political science meets neuroscience to discover the appeal of terrorist recruitment videos.</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>What is the Islamic State’s appeal for young people? How do propaganda videos produced by extremist organizations actually incite violence?</p> <p>Recent terrorist attacks around the world have reraised these questions, which long have intrigued terrorism experts and policy makers. To determine how cultures of martyrdom mobilize support for violence, especially suicide attacks, UChicago political scientists have joined with neuroscientists to examine the neurological processes that create sympathy toward extremist groups.</p> <p><a href="http://political-science.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/pape.shtml" target="_blank">Robert Pape</a>, PhD’88 (Political Science), professor of political science, and <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/jdecety.shtml" target="_blank">Jean Decety</a>, a social neuroscientist and the Irving B. Harris Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry, lead the Social and Neurological Construction of Martyrdom Project. The <a href="http://www.defense.gov" target="_blank">Department of Defense</a> has funded the project for $3.4 million over five years, hoping to help prevent recruitment by extremist organizations.</p> <h5>[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3449","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"294","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]] Pape (left), a political scientist, and Decety (right), a social neuroscientist, collaborate to reveal the science behind terrorism recruitment. (Photography by Yuxuan Li; photo courtesy Jean Decety)</h5> <p>Since 2011, tens of thousands of foreign recruits from more than 100 countries have flocked to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In the past decade, social networks have allowed recruitment videos to be distributed quickly across the globe. “Martyr videos,” which document suicide bombers’ last testaments, have inspired new recruits to turn violent.</p> <p>Pape, who directs the <a href="http://cpost.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism</a>, and his team have compiled propaganda videos from extremist groups, including the September 11 hijackers, the July 2005 suicide bombers in London, and suicide attackers from Palestinian groups in Iraq and Lebanon. They’ve conducted surveys around the world “to gauge audience reaction and figure out what makes the videos appeal and what doesn’t,” he says. “Until now, there has not been a method to study whether it is a message’s intellectual content or emotional impact that resonates with a viewer.”</p> <h5>[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"3448","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"399","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"500"}}]] To measure extremist organizations’ influence, the researchers use functional MRI to see which brain circuits “light up” when survey participants watch recruitment videos. (Image courtesy the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism)</h5> <p>He and Decety will incorporate methods used in neuroscience and psychology to complement the existing research. Combining functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology and specific psychological tests to identify patterns of brain activity in young survey participants who are shown propaganda videos, “neuroscientists can see what circuits of the brain ‘light up’ when specific messages are heard,” Decety says, “and uncover exactly what is happening in the brain when an individual is persuaded to change their beliefs.”</p> <p>“The methodology will enable us to predict whether violent extremist organization appeals resonate with and influence the receiver,” says Decety, who directs the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory (scnl.org) and the <a href="http://childneurosuite.org" target="_blank">Child NeuroSuite</a>. Eventually, he says, the project will help “to create a whole new pool of knowledge and powerful tools in preventing future recruitment by extremist organizations.”</p> <p>In the first phase, the political science team will analyze videos produced by violent extremist organizations and conduct a comparative study of martyrdom cultures across all groups. Pape’s team has tapped UChicago’s alumni, in fact, showing the full videos to experts in political campaigning, art history, and rhetoric, as well as to activists and refugee workers. Having professionals in political campaign videos, for instance, share what they find puzzling, attractive, or repulsive, Pape says, “is helpful as we begin to form the more detailed hypotheses for the experiments.”</p> <p>The second phase will use fMRI and specific psychological assessments to determine the neural pathways through which martyrdom appeals evoke viewers’ sympathy—or apathy or antipathy. Later Pape and Decety plan to take their research to Turkey to study viewers closer to the zone of conflict to see how they differ from Chicagoland participants.</p> <p>Upon completion, the UChicago scholars will develop a detailed analysis of violent extremist organizations’ communication strategies and a breakdown by region and campaign. The final report will include a set of indicators that can predict a population’s susceptibility to persuasive videos distributed by the Islamic State and similar groups.</p> <p>Pape considers it a unique approach to bring together political scientists and neuroscientists on such a project. “We’ve never had these two streams of research married together to work hand in hand before,” he says.</p> <p>Decety hopes the project will encourage others to combine political science, psychology, and social neuroscience in new ways. “We are hoping that we can use this study as a platform to build more quality political neuroscience,” he says, “and to see how neuroscience can inform political theories of attitude change, of opinions.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/law-policy-society" hreflang="en">Law, Policy &amp; Society</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/terrorism" hreflang="en">Terrorism</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/propaganda" hreflang="en">propaganda</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/psychology" hreflang="en">Psychology</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/chicago-harris" hreflang="en">Harris Public Policy</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/division-social-sciences" hreflang="en">Division of the Social Sciences</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/12/09/project-examine-extremist-organizations-social-and-neurological-influence" target="_blank">Project to Examine Extremist Organizations’ Social and Neurological Influence</a>” (University of Chicago News Office, 12.09.2015)</p> <p>“<a href="https://socialsciences.uchicago.edu/announcement/social-and-neurological-construction-martyrdom-project-receives-32m-funding" target="_blank">The Social and Neurological Construction of Martyrdom Project Receives 3.2M Funding</a>” (Division of the Social Sciences, 05.26.2015)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedlinks field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">Follow @<a href="http://twitter.com/uchicagossd" target="_blank">UChicagoSSD</a>. Visit the Division of the Social Sciences <a href="https://socialsciences.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">website</a>.   <img src="http://mag.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/2016_Summer_Dialogo-cover.png" /><h5>This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of <em>Dialogo</em>, the biannual publication for University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences alumni.</h5> <div class="issue-link"><a href="../dialogo-archive" target="_self">VIEW ALL <em>DIALOGO</em> STORIES</a></div> <div class="issue-link"><a href="http://socialsciences.uchicago.edu/alumni" target="_blank">READ ADDITIONAL SSD NEWS</a></div></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/interdisciplinary-approach-war-terror" data-a2a-title="An interdisciplinary approach to the war on terror"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Flaw-policy-society%2Finterdisciplinary-approach-war-terror&amp;title=An%20interdisciplinary%20approach%20to%20the%20war%20on%20terror"></a></span> Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:47:22 +0000 jmiller 5594 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Mind readers https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/mind-readers <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1511_Searcy_Mind-readers.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Tue, 12/15/2015 - 16:20</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>By studying concentration and memory, Vogel (left) and Awh extend the scientific understanding of human attention. (Photography by Joel Wintermantle)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/maureen-searcy"> <a href="/author/maureen-searcy"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Maureen Searcy</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/dialogo" hreflang="en">Dialogo</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Fall 2015/Winter 2016</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Neuroscientists Ed Awh and Ed Vogel can read thoughts and tell the future. Sort of.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>In the Biopsychological Research Building basement, <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/vogel.shtml" target="_blank">Ed Vogel</a> swings open a metal door, revealing a metal-lined closet-sized compartment. Vogel and fellow neuroscientist <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/awh.shtml" target="_blank">Ed Awh</a>, collaborators since 2001 who share a lab, will use these electromagnetically shielded booths that block external noise and electronic interference to measure neural activity, signals as small as a millionth of a volt.</p> <p>The sparse room will be cozied up with carpet, a desk, and a chair before subjects are closed in. “Don’t worry,” assures Vogel, “there’s a handle on the inside.”</p> <p>Vogel and Awh joined the <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/index.shtml" target="_blank">Department of Psychology</a>; the <a href="http://neuroscience.uchicago.edu/grossman-institute/" target="_blank">Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology, and Human Behavior</a>; and the <a href="http://imb.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">Institute for Mind and Biology</a> in July, coming from the <a href="http://uoregon.edu" target="_blank">University of Oregon</a>. At UChicago they continue to study how people visually take in information from the world and hold that information to make decisions and act. They also study our ability to focus attention and tendency to lapse into distraction.</p> <p>Their teams investigate cognitive variance, which is what makes certain memory tasks difficult or easy and explains why some individuals are better at these tasks than others. “Working memory and attention are strongly predictive of IQ and scholastic achievement,” says Awh. Memory and attention abilities are also involved in disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; better understanding these systems’ normal operations could help diagnose and rehabilitate those disorders.</p> <p>The neuroscientists measure cognitive ability through both behavioral performance and neural activity. To measure behavioral performance, they instruct subjects to look at a computer monitor showing small amounts of information—a certain color or shape in a certain position, for instance—as well as distractors. Subjects are asked to focus on and remember certain elements, which increase in complexity, and press buttons that record their reaction times and accuracy.</p> <p>“People with excellent memory function tend also to have excellent attention function,” says Awh. “Those two capacities are closely intertwined.”</p> <p>Behavioral performance research provides the foundation for Vogel and Awh’s neural activity research, primarily conducted by electroencephalogram (EEG) inside the radio frequency–shielded booths. Subjects don a cap with embedded electrodes that poke through their hair and touch their scalps. While the subjects perform a memory or perceptual task, the electrodes pick up electrical activity emanating from the brain.</p> <p>“We amplify those tiny signals so we can record them,” says Vogel, “and then try to understand that activity.” Science has made rapid advances in the ability to decode neural patterns, starting with functional MRI—which Awh and Vogel also use—and then with EEG.</p> <p>“So if a subject is holding a particular color or position in memory,” says Awh, then they will have a particular neural signature, and “we can decode what the content of that thought is.” They can tell what elements subjects are paying attention to, even if they’re not looking at them. Essentially, neuroscientists can read people’s minds.</p> <p>The EEG sessions can take three to four hours, which is why the new lab is such a boon. In addition to a data analysis and programming area and behavior performance rooms, Vogel and Awh have installed five of the shielded EEG booths. Their Oregon lab had three systems, and the added capacity will provide a significant boost in capacity for new programs of research.</p> <p>So how can Awh and Vogel’s work on attention improve our increasingly distracted lives? By studying microlapses—when our brains briefly and unexpectedly go out to lunch—the researchers have identified neural markers that can predict when a subject is about to lapse, which happens on average every four minutes. These markers could be developed into technology to help people self-correct, perhaps preventing mindless reading and missing an expressway exit as well as industrial accidents and plane crashes.</p> <p>These lapses might also be the root cause of cognitive differences between individuals. Vogel estimates lapses account for 25 percent of cognitive ability variance. “The rest, I’m starting to believe, is genetic predisposition.” Reducing lapse frequency won’t increase people’s innate memory and attention capacity, but it could help them optimize what they have. “The joking phrase I often say is, ‘We’re not trying to make anyone smarter—we’re trying to make them dumb less often.’”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/law-policy-society" hreflang="en">Law, Policy &amp; Society</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/quantitative-biology" hreflang="en">Quantitative Biology</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/human-behavior" hreflang="en">Human Behavior</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/iq" hreflang="en">IQ</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/division-social-sciences" hreflang="en">Division of the Social Sciences</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedlinks field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Follow @<a href="http://twitter.com/uchicagossd" target="_blank">UChicagoSSD</a>. Visit the Division of the Social Sciences <a href="https://socialsciences.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">website</a>.   <img src="http://mag.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/2016_Winter_Dialogo-cover.png" /></p> <h5>This article appears in the Fall 2015/Winter 2016 issue of <em>Dialogo</em>, the biannual publication for University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences alumni.</h5> <div class="issue-link"><a href="../dialogo-archive" target="_self">VIEW ALL <em>DIALOGO</em> STORIES</a></div> <div class="issue-link"><a href="http://socialsciences.uchicago.edu/alumni" target="_blank">READ ADDITIONAL SSD NEWS</a></div> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/mind-readers" data-a2a-title="Mind readers"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Flaw-policy-society%2Fmind-readers&amp;title=Mind%20readers"></a></span> Tue, 15 Dec 2015 22:20:10 +0000 jmiller 5300 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Decoding the brain https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/decoding-brain <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Wed, 08/12/2015 - 08:53</span> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/kevin-jiang"> <a href="/author/kevin-jiang"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Kevin Jiang</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/science-life" hreflang="en">Science Life</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item"><p>08.06.2015</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">UChicago neuroscientists are working on technology to help paraplegics move robotic arms using their minds.</div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/brain" hreflang="en">Brain</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/robotics" hreflang="en">Robotics</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/biological-sciences" hreflang="en">Biological sciences</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/grossman-institute-0" hreflang="en">Grossman Institute</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-story-ext-link field--type-link field--label-hidden field--item">Decoding the brain <a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2015/08/06/decoding-the-brain/">http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2015/08/06/decoding-the-brain/</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/decoding-brain" data-a2a-title="Decoding the brain"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fdecoding-brain&amp;title=Decoding%20the%20brain"></a></span> Wed, 12 Aug 2015 13:53:05 +0000 jmiller 4916 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Neural network https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/neural-network <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1508_Kelly_Neural-network.jpg" width="1600" height="743" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Thu, 07/16/2015 - 11:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The human brain contains more than 100 billion nerve cells, which makes complicated work for neurologist James Mastrianni. His research aims to predict, and eventually prevent, the onset of dementia. (©iStock.com/Ralwel)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">July–Aug/15</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Grossman Institute scholars explore—and begin to explain—the brain’s vast complexities.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Even experts have a hard time getting their heads around the magnitude of the human brain. “Each of our brains contains more than a hundred billion neurons,” says neurobiologist <a href="https://neurobiology.uchicago.edu/page/john-maunsell" target="_blank">John Maunsell</a>, “and your hundred billion neurons are interconnected by more than a hundred thousand miles of cellular wiring.”</p> <p>Maunsell directs the <a href="http://www.uchicago.edu/research/center/grossman_institute_for_neuroscience_quantitative_biology_and_human_behavior/" target="_blank">Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology, and Human Behavior</a>, the University’s “intellectual home” for researchers navigating that vast landscape. The institute encompasses the work of faculty members in biology, chemistry, psychology, molecular engineering, computer science, mathematics, medicine, and many other fields.</p> <p>There is no subject, in effect, that could not reveal something about the brain. “Every sensation, every movement, every thought, every emotion we have arises from the brain,” Maunsell says. How it works “is still largely a mystery, but we’re beginning to get answers.”</p> <p>At a <a href="https://discoveryseries.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">UChicago Discovery Series</a> event at the <a href="https://arts.uchicago.edu/explore/reva-and-david-logan-center-arts" target="_blank">Logan Center</a> this past spring, “<a href="https://discoveryseries.uchicago.edu/page/brain-teasers-cracking-minds-toughest-riddles" target="_blank">Brain Teasers: Cracking the Mind’s Toughest Riddles</a>,” Maunsell introduced four Grossman Institute scholars to share some of their answers. First <a href="http://pondside.uchicago.edu/oba/faculty/bensmaia_s.html" target="_blank">Sliman Bensmaia</a>, assistant professor of organismal biology and anatomy, explained how his lab is researching prosthetics that connect to the nervous system, recreating sensory experience for those who have lost it to injury or illness. Then<a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/sbeilock.shtml" target="_blank"> Sian Beilock</a>, professor of psychology, showed where in the brain the fear of math arises and how to prevent that anxiety from compromising test performance. And&nbsp;<a href="https://neurobiology.uchicago.edu/page/mason" target="_blank">Peggy Mason</a>, professor of neurobiology, reported the latest in her work with rats to understand the biological impulse that inspires mammals to help each other.</p> <p><a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/physicians/james-mastrianni.html" target="_blank">James Mastrianni</a>, associate professor of neurology and director of the <a href="http://www.uchicago.edu/research/center/center_for_comprehensive_care_and_research_on_memory_disorders/" target="_blank">Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders</a>, discussed a particularly vexing challenge for brain researchers—dementia. Like cancer, Mastrianni explained, dementia is a general term that encompasses many types of conditions. He’s an expert in exceedingly rare forms called prion diseases—transmissible neurodegenerative conditions, such as mad cow disease, that occur mostly in cattle, sheep, and cannibals. Although prion diseases affect only about 300 people per year in the United States, the pathological similarities to more common types of dementia extend the impact of Mastrianni’s clinical work and research.</p> <p>Conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS share a characteristic with prion diseases—they all progress through the spread of misfolded proteins. When a misfolded protein interacts with a healthy cell, it causes the normal protein to fold incorrectly, a process that perpetuates itself, Mastrianni said, “until it really encompasses the entire brain and causes severe neurological disease.”</p> <p>Brain scans of patients with prion diseases reveal clumps of a protein called amyloid, the presence of which also marks Alzheimer’s disease. Mastrianni’s lab is testing treatments to break down accumulated amyloid, to stop the misfolding process, and to potentially prevent that process in people who have a genetic predisposition.</p> <p>The nature of the disorders, though, makes it difficult to diagnose patients early enough to make a difference. Many people have age-related memory problems that are a nuisance, but these are not necessarily a symptom of disease, and often never require treatment.</p> <p>In that context, identifying people most likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases before they reach a clinical point of no return becomes a confounding but essential challenge. “If we wait too long,” Mastrianni said, “patients are not going to get better.”</p> <p>Using brain imaging techniques and tracking subjects through neuropsychological evaluations, he has gathered data that shows promise in predicting who will develop Alzheimer’s. Examining the “fiber bundles of neurons that lead into the hippocampus”—the pathways to the brain’s center for consolidating and storing memories—Mastrianni evaluated the likelihood of disease progression.</p> <p>Scans from patients with mild impairment fell into two groups. One group had neural connections comparable to the brains of people with no memory problems, while the other showed atrophy that already resembled Alzheimer’s patients.</p> <p>Over time people in the latter group developed the disease and those in the first group did not, results that suggest a potential path to targeted treatment. The research offers a hopeful peek into a future where the most debilitating effects of neurodegenerative conditions can be mitigated or avoided with early therapies for those at the highest risk.</p> <p>“This is a pilot study,” Mastrianni emphasized, “but so far we’ve been having 100 percent success in predicting who is going to develop Alzheimer’s disease.”</p> <p>If not yet a definitive answer, those results go a long way toward unraveling one of the brain’s most stubborn mysteries.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/biology" hreflang="en">Biology</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/human-behavior" hreflang="en">Human Behavior</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="../science-medicine/spotlight" target="_self">Spotlight</a>” (<em>Dialogo</em>, Fall 2014/Winter 2015)</p> <p>“<a href="../science-medicine/free-thinking" target="_self">Free Thinking</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Sept–Oct/14)</p> <p>“<a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/04/22/ask-peggy-mason-anything/" target="_blank">Ask Peggy Mason Anything!</a>” (<em>Science Life </em>blog, 04.22.2014)</p> <p>“<a href="../science-medicine/emotional-release" target="_self">Emotional Release</a>” <span style="line-height: 1.538em;">(</span><em style="line-height: 1.538em;">University of Chicago Magazine</em><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">, Nov–Dec/12)</span></p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/neural-network" data-a2a-title="Neural network"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fneural-network&amp;title=Neural%20network"></a></span> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:55:43 +0000 jmiller 4857 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Spotlight https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/spotlight <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1412_Allen_Spotlight.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Tue, 12/02/2014 - 13:42</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal (left) and Peggy Mason (right) demonstrated for the first time that empathy is not unique to humans. (Photography by Kevin Jiang)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/susie-allen-ab09"> <a href="/author/susie-allen-ab09"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Susie Allen, AB’09</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/dialogo" hreflang="en">Dialogo</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Fall 2014/Winter 2015</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">The lowly rat got a much-needed reputation boost when a team of UChicago researchers discovered the rodents demonstrate empathy and helping behavior.</div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, AM’09, PhD’12, </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">(<a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/index.shtml" target="_blank">Psychology</a>), was the lead author of two </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">studies in which rats learned to use a tricky door mechanism to free a trapped cage </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">mate. The interdisciplinary team also included <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/jdecety.shtml" target="_blank">Jean Decety</a>, the Irving B. Harris Professor in </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">Psychology and the <a href="https://college.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">College</a>, and <a href="https://neurobiology.uchicago.edu/page/mason" target="_blank">Peggy </a></span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;"><a href="https://neurobiology.uchicago.edu/page/mason" target="_blank">Mason</a>, professor of <a href="https://neurobiology.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">neurobiology</a>. </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">In the studies, Bartal trapped one rat in </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">a restrainer and observed the reaction of </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">its cage mate. She observed that free rats showed signs of distress at the plight of </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">their companions and worked hard to free them by learning to open the restrainer. </span> “We’re raised and educated with this notion that people are born with this animalistic drive for aggression and dominance,” says Bartal, now doing a three-year fellowship at <a href="http://berkeley.edu/index.html" target="_blank">UC Berkeley</a>’s <a href="http://millerinstitute.berkeley.edu" target="_blank">Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science</a>. “There’s something so encouraging in finding out that this kind of empathic behavior and pro-social behavior is not something that goes against nature.” <strong>Why study empathy in rats?</strong> Like all science, it didn’t really end up being what I planned. My original idea was related to how food sharing would be influenced by stress. I went down to animal facilities and put a restrainer inside a cage and trapped one of the rats, just to test it out. I noticed that the rat’s cage mate was kind of going berserk. That’s a basic form of empathy: just being able to recognize the fact that this trapped rat was distressed and getting a similar emotional response.  It occurred to me that it really looked like the free rat was trying to get the trapped rat out. Designing a restrainer that the free rat could potentially learn to open would provide an example of helping behavior in rats.  <strong>How did you feel while running these experiments?</strong> Seeing those rats so disturbed by the plight of their fellow rats was very moving. One of my undergrads told me that I looked like I was watching a <span style="line-height: 1.538em;">suspense film. I would sit there for days on days and watch them: are they going </span><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">to learn to open it? </span> <strong>What do other scientists think of your research on helpful rats?</strong> In previous decades, when people were working with animal models, there was a lot of criticism of anthropomorphism. That criticism shut down research that connects psychological experience to biology in animals. As a result, the field has been missing out, because there’s so much you can learn: models of mental illness in rats have led to serious advances in medicine and producing drugs that help people.  There is a need for people to be more accepting of this type of integrative work. I had the luck of having amazing and supportive mentors and help from talented students. Most people would have laughed me out of the lab if I proposed looking at empathy at rats. <em>This interview has been edited and adapted for </em>Dialogo.</div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neurobiology" hreflang="en">Neurobiology</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/interdisciplinary-research" hreflang="en">Interdisciplinary research</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/psychology" hreflang="en">Psychology</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/empathy" hreflang="en">Empathy</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/division-social-sciences" hreflang="en">Division of the Social Sciences</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item">“<a href="../science-medicine/free-thinking" target="_self">Free Thinking</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Sept–Oct/14) “<a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/04/22/ask-peggy-mason-anything/" target="_blank">Ask Peggy Mason Anything!</a>” (<em>Science Life </em>blog, April 22, 2014) “<a href="../science-medicine/emotional-release" target="_self">Emotional Release</a>” <span style="line-height: 1.538em;">(</span><em style="line-height: 1.538em;">University of Chicago Magazine</em><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">, Nov–Dec/12)</span>   <a href="http://mag.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/Dialogo_Fall2014-Winter2015.pdf">[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2159","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"259","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"200"}}]]</a> <h5>This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014/Winter 2015 issue of <em>Dialogo</em>, the biannual publication for University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences alumni.</h5> <div class="issue-link"><a href="../dialogo-archive" target="_self">VIEW ALL <em>DIALOGO</em> STORIES</a></div> <div class="issue-link"><a href="http://mag.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/Dialogo_Fall2014-Winter2015.pdf">DOWNLOAD THE LATEST ISSUE (PDF)</a></div> <div class="issue-link"><a href="http://socialsciences.uchicago.edu/alumni" target="_blank">READ ADDITIONAL SSD NEWS</a></div></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/spotlight" data-a2a-title="Spotlight"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fspotlight&amp;title=Spotlight"></a></span> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 19:42:09 +0000 jmiller 4195 at https://mag.uchicago.edu A society for social neuroscience https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/society-social-neuroscience <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1411_Dialogo-placeholder_38.jpg" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Fri, 11/21/2014 - 14:28</span> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/dialogo" hreflang="en">Dialogo</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Spring/Summer 2011</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Chicago professors Jean Decety and John Cacioppo are bringing researchers together to focus on mutual influences between biology and social behavior.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>In a recent Australian study, a group of teenage male skateboarders performed two tricks—one that they could do easily, another that they often crashed on—ten times in front of a male experimenter and then repeated the process. A second group did the same, first in front of a male experimenter and then in front of an attractive 18-year-old female. In her presence, the skateboarders in the second group aborted fewer of their difficult tricks. Saliva tests after the experiment showed that the second group had higher testosterone levels than the first, suggesting that the young woman’s proximity elevated the skateboarders’ testosterone and that elevated testosterone sparked a drive to mate and therefore to display health and vigor through risk taking.</p> <p>This sort of work—illuminating how social processes like sexual desire influence neurochemical events and how neurochemical events like elevated testosterone influence social processes—is the central concern of social neuroscience, a discipline conceptualized in the early 1990s by John Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology, and Gary Berntson, a professor at Ohio State University.</p> <p>Twenty years later, research in social neuroscience is conducted worldwide, and Cacioppo and his colleague Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry, have been instrumental in founding an international social neuroscience group to organize and advance this interdisciplinary field. With Cacioppo as its first president and Decety as a founding board member, the&nbsp;<a href="https://s4sn.org/">Society for Social Neuroscience</a>&nbsp;comprises some 1,500 researchers from approximately 40 countries. The society’s first conference was held in San Diego in November 2010, with seminars on topics including neuropeptides, bonding, and social cognition; brain and body health; and the new field’s ethical, legal, and policy implications.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Dialogo</em>&nbsp;recently sat down with Decety to talk about the society, social neuroscience, and his own research.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> <h3><strong style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.538em;">Does the field of social neuroscience apply only to humans?</strong></h3> </p> <p>No, there are a lot of organisms that are social and not human. Think about social insects, prairie voles, meerkats, or chimpanzees. Social behavior is the result of a complex integration between biological and social factors. An example of these reciprocal influences is found in monkeys: increased testosterone levels promote sexual behavior in males; the availability of sexually receptive females increases testosterone levels.</p> <p><strong>Why study social neuroscience in animals?</strong></p> <p>Humans are what we’re ultimately interested in, and this is why I became a neuroscientist. But we share a lot of genes with other animals, even with simple organisms such as the worm&nbsp;<em>C. elegans</em>. In an interdisciplinary field of study that includes behavioral neuroscience, system neuroscience, behavioral ecology, and social psychology, and which seeks to understand how biological systems implement social behavior, we need to understand how the molecular and cellular mechanisms underpinning social interaction have evolved across species. Besides, you can investigate the neurobiological mechanisms in nonhuman animals in ways that you cannot do in humans, for obvious ethical reasons. Thus to me, comparative research is extremely important and valuable.</p> <p><strong>How did the neuroscience society come about?</strong></p> <p>About two years ago, John came down to my office. Some colleagues were criticizing the way correlations were computed in some social neuroscience studies, especially in experiments using functional neuroimaging and personality assessments. Some studies that were not very serious in terms of concepts, analytic methods, and power were published in high-profile journals and received widespread coverage in the media. For example, newspapers would run stories linking political decision making or moral judgment to a single brain region. People started to say, “Oh these guys, they will find correlations with anything. Should these studies be funded by NSF or NIH?” John and I were quite concerned about various overblown conclusions, faulty methods, and misleading press coverage. We discussed how we could do something about the situation by helping organize and focus the field. We decided to do two things. The first was to coedit the&nbsp;<a href="http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780195342161.do"><em>Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience</em></a>, a huge book that will be published at the end of this year. We contacted people we knew who were excellent scholars in their respective domains of expertise, from endocrinology to neuroethics, and invited them to contribute.</p> <p><strong>And the second was founding the society?</strong></p> <p>Yes. John and I discussed starting a society, but we wanted our colleagues from all over the world to tell us to do it. Otherwise, it would seem like American arrogance, when science is international and not just a matter of American universities. Last January, we went on a trip to several countries in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, six cities in 14 days. Afterwards I went to Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Israel, and various countries in Europe. We gave talks, held workshops, and discussed with scientists around the world the opportunities and challenges we faced with this discipline. Most of the colleagues we spoke with—whether they were biologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, psychologists, economists, people working with animals, people working with humans—said, “We should have a society. We should meet regularly and set standards for the science and so on.”&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What about your own research, particularly your work on empathy?</strong></p> <p>Empathy is a complex construct, so I am very careful to study it from many angles, components, and perspectives. My primary research tool is functional magnetic resonance imaging. This allows us to look at the brain in vivo to see how it responds to empathy-laden scenarios. We can, for instance, characterize neurodevelopmental changes across age, from early childhood to adulthood, and their relation to morality, or explore abnormal neural processing associated with socioemotional dysfunctions in children with aggressive conduct disorder and in incarcerated psychopaths. I am also very interested in empathy in the context of medical practice. In such a context, empathy is challenging because doctors and nurses are dealing with the most emotionally distressing situations—illness, dying, suffering in every form. Too little and too much empathy can be detrimental to the physicians’ well-being. We’re scanning medical students in Japan and Taiwan when they start their medical residency. After some of them go through an empathy training program, they get scanned a second time to evaluate the impact of the intervention. Our goal is to see how we can educate more physicians to engage in clinical empathy, thus enhancing the effectiveness of their care for patients while preventing the costs of too much emotional sensitivity that can lead to burnout or compassion fatigue. This work will shed light on the medical profession’s long-standing struggle to achieve an appropriate balance between empathy and clinical distance.</p> <p><strong>So you’re interested in not only the science but its effect on society as well.</strong></p> <p>Yes, and John is the same—we want the science to go beyond the lab. This is also what we want the Society for Social Neuroscience to be good at: explaining to policy makers and the public that the research done in social neuroscience can have a positive influence on society. Progress in social neuroscience will affect law making, social policies, education, mental health—everything.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/law-policy-society" hreflang="en">Law, Policy &amp; Society</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/biology" hreflang="en">Biology</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/social-behavior" hreflang="en">social behavior</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/division-social-sciences" hreflang="en">Division of the Social Sciences</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/interview" hreflang="en">Interview</a></div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/law-policy-society/society-social-neuroscience" data-a2a-title="A society for social neuroscience"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Flaw-policy-society%2Fsociety-social-neuroscience&amp;title=A%20society%20for%20social%20neuroscience"></a></span> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:28:34 +0000 jmiller 4148 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Inquiring minds https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/inquiring-minds <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1412_Jiang_Inquiring-minds_0.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/rsmith" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">rsmith</span></span> <span>Wed, 10/29/2014 - 13:19</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p><span style="line-height: 1.538em;">John Maunsell. (</span>Photography by Robert Kozloff)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/kevin-jiang"> <a href="/author/kevin-jiang"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Kevin Jiang</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Nov–Dec/14</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Neuroscientist John Maunsell leads a new institute’s research into the mysteries of the brain.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>From how the brain processes pain to why it becomes diseased to the origins of consciousness, questions remain about virtually all of its structures and functions. To begin to answer these questions, the University of Chicago has launched the <a href="http://neuroscience.uchicago.edu/grossman-institute/" target="_blank">Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology, and Human Behavior</a>.</p> <p>John Maunsell, editor in chief of the <a href="http://www.jneurosci.org" target="_blank"><em>Journal of Neuroscience</em></a> and a former <a href="http://www.harvard.edu" target="_blank">Harvard University</a> professor, came to UChicago in July as the institute’s founding director. In an <a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/08/11/the-brains-got-it-all-a-qa-with-john-maunsell-director-of-the-grossman-institute-part-ii/" target="_blank">interview</a> with <a href="http://www.uchospitals.edu/index.shtml" target="_blank">UChicago Medicine</a>’s <a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu" target="_blank"><em>Science Life</em> blog</a>, edited and adapted below, Maunsell discusses the new frontiers of neuroscience.</p> <p><strong>Human behavior and the brain</strong></p> <p>In a very real sense all neuroscience is about human behavior. That includes not only experiments that directly measure the limits of human performance but also studies of the thousands of individual circuits and structures that make up the brain. This includes the nuts and bolts—the specialized molecules that make up brain cells and the genetics that support the brain’s development and its amazing capacity to learn throughout our lives.</p> <p>Human behavior can be viewed as the ultimate challenge for neuroscience. We won’t understand the brain until we can explain how it allows us to reach, grasp, walk, and run gracefully. Standing up and walking seem simple and uninvolved, but it took you a year and a half of practicing every day before you could do them even moderately well. And after decades of effort, we still haven’t made robots that perform half as well as any toddler.</p> <p>Human behavior also includes cognition. How do we make decisions or do mental calculations? Cognition might arise from computations similar to those used by the brain to control muscle actions, or it might require quite distinct mechanisms. Emotions, reward, fear, pain—all of these are critical to our social interactions and survival, but the mechanisms that generate those experiences are poorly understood.</p> <p><strong>More brain power</strong></p> <p>We’ve suddenly got so many powerful tools that we were only dreaming of 10 to 20 years ago. We’ve got new molecular and cellular methods that make it possible to identify and distinguish different classes of brain cells. We have multielectrode devices where you can record from hundreds or thousands of cells electrically. New optical methods sound almost like science fiction. By genetically engineering neurons to make fluorescent molecules, we can monitor the electrical activity of hundreds of brain cells at once by detecting the light they emit. Even more powerfully, we can focus light on them to change their electrical activity and look at how the animal’s behavior changes. And we can analyze the new data with computational approaches that were unimaginable just a short time ago.</p> <p><strong>Potential neuro knowledge</strong></p> <p>We are eventually going to understand the control of behavior. We’re going to understand emotion, and we’re going to understand mental disease, including devastating conditions such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and other impairments that we have no mechanistic understanding of at the moment. Virtually everyone has someone in their extended family who is affected by mental disorders. These are terrible diseases that touch what a person is, but they’re not beyond our understanding.</p> <p>Understanding the brain will have other far-reaching consequences. For example, on the computational side, there isn’t a facial recognition system today that does half as well as any human. It seems that recognizing a face should be a straightforward problem, but the human brain integrates sensory information in ways that we don’t yet fathom. Once we do, and then translate this understanding for computers and diagnostic systems and logical systems, it’s going to be transformational.</p> <p>Even fields like law will be affected. A lot of what goes on in courts involves attempting to understand the mental state of someone who’s committed a crime. In civil cases, there’s a huge amount of focus on pain and suffering. These assessments seem subjective and squishy, but we’re talking about biological mechanisms that can be measured and understood in objective ways if we really know what we are dealing with.</p> <p><strong>The ultimate question</strong></p> <p>Learning how our perceptions, feelings, and ideas can emerge from the combined activity of billions of individual brain cells will profoundly advance our understanding of who we are. There’s an answer to the question of consciousness and it’s going to come from neuroscience, eventually.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/grossman-institute" hreflang="en">Grossman Institute</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/interview" hreflang="en">Interview</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2014/07/01/john-maunsell-takes-helm-of-neuroscience-institute-at-university-of-chicago/" target="_blank">John Maunsell Takes Helm of Neuroscience Institute</a>” (Science Life blog, 06.01.2014)</p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/inquiring-minds" data-a2a-title="Inquiring minds"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Finquiring-minds&amp;title=Inquiring%20minds"></a></span> Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:19:36 +0000 rsmith 4045 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Free thinking https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/free-thinking <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1410_Kelly_Free-thinking.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/rsmith" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">rsmith</span></span> <span>Wed, 08/27/2014 - 17:20</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>(Graphic courtesy Peggy Mason)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/jason-kelly"> <a href="/author/jason-kelly"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Jason Kelly</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/university-chicago-magazine" hreflang="en">The University of Chicago Magazine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item"> Sept–Oct/14</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Neurobiologist Peggy Mason gives almost 55,000 students an online introduction to the brain.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Toward the end of week seven in Peggy Mason’s online course, <a href="https://www.coursera.org/course/neurobio" target="_blank">Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life</a>, the University of Chicago professor introduced the concept of self-generated movement, “where neurobiology and philosophy meet.” The subjects intersect because movements that fall into the self-generated category are open to interpretation.</p> <p>Reflexes, which the spinal cord predominantly produces, tend not to be considered self-generated. The same goes for stereotypical movements, the standardized processes that all healthy humans automatically learn to perform, such as walking and chewing.</p> <p>But there’s a third type of movement, originating in the forebrain, the anatomical source of self-generation. Within that category there are two subtypes: volitional and emotional movements.</p> <p>Volitional movements include the fine motor control required for writing, turning a page, or playing a musical instrument. They also encompass facial expressions, speech, and gestures. “There are descending pathways,” Mason said, “that go from the forebrain to the brain stem and the spinal cord to produce either volitional movements of the appendages, the limbs, or of the face, the upper airway, the tongue.”</p> <p>But not all movements originating in the forebrain are deliberate. There are also those defined as emotional movements—instinctive reactions like smiling and frowning, even posture that reflects our feelings. “We embody our emotion,” Mason said. Like volitional movements, emotional actions originate in the forebrain, but they follow different, still largely uncharted neural routes. A lesson in those mysterious pathways created a startling illustration of the nervous system’s complexity.</p> <p>Mason displayed a series of photos of a stroke patient. A doctor had asked the woman to smile and she could move only half her face, the right side remaining slack. But when she reacted to a joke, a smile spread across her entire face, the stroke damage undetectable in her expression. The same thing held true when she grew frustrated with the doctor’s orders. No impairment prevented a symmetrical and unmistakable look of exasperation.</p> <p>The pathways that her conscious movements travel had been damaged by the stroke, but the neural trajectory of her emotional actions remained healthy. “An individual who has an inability to produce volitional movements in response to a command,” Mason said, “has complete ability to do the same movement for some other emotional reason.”</p> <p>I don’t remember my exact reaction to that information—Mason also explains how we edit memories in the retelling, so any recollection would probably be imprecise anyway—but I must have responded with emotional movements expressing surprise, a common response from me during the intriguing introduction to neurobiology.</p> <p>The free, noncredit online course grew out of the University’s relationship with <a href="https://www.coursera.org" target="_blank">Coursera</a>, a provider of massive open online courses (known as MOOCs). Coursera offered its first two UChicago courses in 2013—Global Warming with climate scientist David Archer and Asset Pricing with Chicago Booth finance professor John Cochrane. This year the University also joined an online education consortium called edX, a platform developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.</p> <p>Two faculty committees recommended allowing interested professors to experiment with online education. The UChicago-based courses, although still few in number, reflect different motivations among faculty. Archer, for example, has described his MOOC as an extension of his public outreach to educate people about climate change.</p> <p>Mason, author of the textbook <em><a href="http://global.oup.com/academic/product/medical-neurobiology-9780195339970;jsessionid=87048DAEA93D293FDF824DAF2A4A8A3F?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;" target="_blank">Medical Neurobiology</a></em> (Oxford University Press, 2011), calls herself a “neuro-evangelist,” which makes Coursera her megachurch. Her infectious preaching made me a believer in online learning itself, which appealed to Mason as a form of “educational social justice.”</p> <p>Designed for the general public, Understanding the Brain required no prerequisites. Each week included a series of video lectures that could be absorbed whenever time permitted, convenient for the nearly 55,000 students enrolled, but challenging circumstances for a professor to attract and maintain their attention.</p> <p>During the first few weeks of recording this past January, Mason did not feel invigorated like she usually does after teaching. She sensed that the lectures, essentially repackaged from her med school course, would not connect with the target audience that producer Emily Joy Bembeneck had described: people who were eating dinner, doing the dishes, or otherwise distracted by life.</p> <p>On a train ride home in late February, the conductor mentioned to Mason that he had registered for the course. “I couldn’t sleep that night,” she said, recalling the nagging thoughts that kept her up. “This is so not going to work for Jeff. It’s so not right.”</p> <p>After meeting with Bembeneck, who works in the University’s academic and scholarly technology services department, six weeks of recordings went into the trash. The rush to replace them before the course went live in April came with reassurance: the crew’s once blank expressions showed increasing understanding and interest. “Then I was completely energized,” Mason said. “A totally different feeling.”</p> <p>The student response energized her even more. Discussion forums were lively, quizzes and final projects impressive. And, Mason said, she would sometimes get more emails in a day than Bembeneck told her to expect for the duration of the course.</p> <p>I took in only the video lectures, often bingeing to keep up—online education illustrated, all too well, the notion of self-generated movement. But the information was interesting and accessible enough to be digestible even in much larger quantities than the intended bite-sized portions.</p> <p>There was, for example, the revelation about fever. I always believed the chills that accompany a high temperature were the body’s cooling mechanism. Not so.</p> <p>The hypothalamus, Mason explained, holds our body temperature “rock steady” at 37 degrees Celsius under all external conditions. Stepping out into the cold, for example, creates a sensory response that prompts changes that maintain our inner warmth. “Your skin temperature would change,” she said, “but the hypothalamic temperature would not change.”</p> <p>That unwavering level is called the set point. A fever happens when the hypothalamus changes the set point to fight an infection. And the chills come from the body’s lag in increasing its temperature to the new set point, perhaps 40 degrees. “Before we got sick, when we were at 37 and the set point was at 37, we felt comfortable,” Mason said, illustrating a new set point and the body temperature’s delayed rise with a marker on a whiteboard. “Now we’re at 37 or even 38, but the set point’s at 40. What do we feel? We feel cold.”</p> <p>Nuggets like that studded the video lectures. Hovering over it all was the spirit of Jean-Dominique Bauby, author of <em>The Diving Bell and the Butterfly</em> (Knopf, 1997).</p> <p>After suffering a massive stroke in his brain stem, Bauby was left paralyzed and tethered to a respirator, unable to breathe or swallow. His incapacitated condition, called locked-in syndrome, left him with only a single working eyelid.</p> <p>With assistants pointing to or reading from an alphabet, Bauby cobbled his book together by blinking each time they arrived at the letter he wanted.  “With the one avenue that Bauby had to express himself,” Mason said, “he did.”</p> <p>His achievement served as an introduction to “the power and the profundity of what our nervous system does,” after which Mason spent ten weeks detailing the physical and emotional ways the brain moves us.</p> <p><strong>Syllabus</strong></p> <p>Over ten weeks Peggy Mason’s free, noncredit online course Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life covered three main topics: neuroanatomy, neural communication, and neural systems. With video lectures and labs, discussion forums, and quizzes, the material was structured in weekly units such as voluntary movements, homeostasis, and executive function. The estimated time commitment was four to six hours per week. Weekly quizzes made up 75 percent of a student’s grade while the final project—to illustrate a personal example of everyday neurobiology in an essay, slide presentation, or video—accounted for 25 percent.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/online-learning" hreflang="en">online learning</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refformats field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/formats/course-work" hreflang="en">Course work</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/04/22/neurobiology-online-course-attempt-world-s-largest-memory-experiment" target="_blank">Neurobiology Online Course to Attempt World’s Largest Memory Experiment</a>” (University of Chicago News Office, April 22, 2014) “<a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/03/20/uchicago-expand-online-offerings-partnership-edx" target="_blank">UChicago to Expand Online Offerings in Partnership with edX”</a> (University of Chicago News Office, March 20, 2014) <a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2014/03/20/uchicago-expand-online-offerings-partnership-edx" target="_blank">“</a><a href="http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2013/06/04/uchicago-signs-coursera-begins-online-education-experiment" target="_blank">UChicago Signs with Coursera, Begins Online Education Experiment</a>” (University of Chicago News Office, June 14, 2013) “<a href="../science-medicine/emotional-release" target="_self">Emotional Release</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, Nov–Dec/12)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedlinks field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href="https://www.coursera.org/chicago" target="_blank">UChicago Coursera offerings</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/neuromooc" target="_blank">@neuromooc</a> <a href="http://thebrainissocool.com" target="_blank">Mason’s blog</a> <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/23o5w4/science_ama_series_hi_im_peggy_mason_i_study/" target="_blank">Mason’s Reddit AMA</a>  </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-storymedia field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><h2 class="media-icon media-icon-video">Video</h2> <iframe width="200" height="113" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/KOuDSTjuJbE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>A behind-the-scenes look at Peggy Mason recording a lesson video for her online course Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life.</p> <p> <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOuDSTjuJbE" target="_blank" class="more-link">WATCH THE VIDEO AT YOUTUBE</a></p> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/free-thinking" data-a2a-title="Free thinking"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Ffree-thinking&amp;title=Free%20thinking"></a></span> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:20:13 +0000 rsmith 3893 at https://mag.uchicago.edu Brain wave https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/brain-wave <div class="field field--name-field-letter-box-story-image field--type-image field--label-hidden field--item"> <img src="/sites/default/files/1405_Golus_Think-Tank.png" width="700" height="325" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <span><span lang="" about="/profile/jmiller" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">jmiller</span></span> <span>Fri, 05/30/2014 - 11:45</span> <div class="field field--name-field-caption field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The Think Tank partnered with NEURO to engage students in experiments for Brain Awareness Week in March. (Photography by Tom Tian, AB’10)</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refauthors field--type-entity-reference field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field--label sr-only">Author</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field--item"> <div about="/author/carrie-golus-ab91-am93"> <a href="/author/carrie-golus-ab91-am93"> <div class="field field--name-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field--item">Carrie Golus, AB’91, AM’93</div> </a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refsource field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/publication-sources/dialogo" hreflang="en">Dialogo</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-issue field--type-text field--label-hidden field--item">Spring–Summer/14</div> <div class="field field--name-field-subhead field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The Think Tank dispatches neuroscience from the lab to the neighborhood.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Last year, when psychology professor Daniel Casasanto was a faculty member at the New School, one of his research assistants came to him with a quirky idea: a Brainmobile.</p> <p>The Brainmobile—a mobile neuroscience lab with a giant glowing brain on its roof—could be used not only to publicize new research in neuroscience, Tyler Alterman suggested, but also to study different populations. Casasanto’s research centers on how experience shapes the brain and mind, so studying people with diverse life experiences is important.</p> <p>Casasanto was skeptical. The project would require a lot of time and money, and he wasn’t sure the populations would be all that different: “The truck wouldn’t let us go to Namibia,” he says. And why use a truck to publicize science when PBS does such a good job?</p> <p>With Casasanto’s qualified support, Alterman set up a web page for the project—renamed the <a href="http://thinktank.uchicago.edu" target="_blank">Think Tank</a> at his mother’s suggestion—on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. In just a few months, Alterman had reached his fundraising goal of $10,000.</p> <p>The project was now possible, but Casasanto still wasn’t convinced of its mission. Then he visited UChicago on a faculty recruitment trip. “I learned about all the ways the University is working to increase diversity in the sciences,” he says.</p> <p>For example, psychology professors John and Stephanie Cacioppo, along with Hakizumwami Birali Runesha, director of the Research Computing Center, had recently founded the High Performance Brain Academy, which brings Chicago Public Schools students to campus to study neuroimaging. Suddenly Casasanto saw a clear purpose for the mobile neurolab: “I realized the Think Tank could be, so to speak, a vehicle for change.”</p> <p>After Casasanto and Alterman arrived at UChicago last fall, they developed three programs for the Think Tank: Street Science, School Science, and Think Tank Fellows.</p> <p>Street Science, which involves sidewalk talks and live demonstrations from the back of the truck, debuted at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in February. One demonstration uses the Robo-Roach, a tiny backpack that connects to a live roach; participants can control the roach’s movements using their smartphones.</p> <p>School Science, a five-week curriculum developed in conjunction with the undergraduate club NEURO, takes neuroscience to the University of Chicago Charter School Woodlawn Campus. “Science is usually taught as a catalog of facts,” says Casasanto. “As a working scientist, I can tell you that is not how science works at all.” (Casasanto and Alterman both “hated” science in high school; Casasanto spent a decade as an opera singer, and Alterman studied graphic design in college, before each discovered neuroscience.) “You could even say there are no facts in science. It’s not about finding the right answers but about becoming progressively less wrong.”</p> <p>The Think Tank’s inquiry-focused curriculum is aligned with new science standards adopted by Illinois in 2011. “For science teachers who’ve been teaching a certain way for 20 years, it’s going to be a struggle to adapt,” Alterman says. “So School Science is intended to serve as a model.”</p> <p>The Think Tank Fellows will come out of the School Science program at the Woodlawn high school. “A small handful of students who have the right stuff,” says Casasanto, will be invited to join the program, which will bring rising juniors into psychology and neuroscience labs for two summers. The students will be mentored one-on-one by graduate students and postdocs in the Department of Psychology, and they will be paid: “One of the practices that contributes to the exclusivity of higher education is the unpaid internship,” says Casasanto. “We want to make sure that money is no object.” The fellows program will pilot this summer; Casasanto and Alterman hope to raise funds for a full-fledged program next year.</p> <p>In March the Think Tank had more fundraising success: in collaboration with NEURO it won a $9,000 award from the College’s Uncommon Fund to pay for the Illuminoggin, the glowing fiberglass brain atop the truck. “The hope is that someone would be able to control it with their own brain—to activate certain parts of your brain and have the giant brain light up,” says Alterman. “We’re still not sure that’s possible.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-reftopic field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><a href="/topics/science-medicine" hreflang="en">Science &amp; Medicine</a></div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/tags/neuroscience" hreflang="en">Neuroscience</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-refuchicago field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/division-social-sciences" hreflang="en">Division of the Social Sciences</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-relatedstories field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>“<a href="../science-medicine/vehicle-change">Vehicle for Change</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, May–June/14) “<a href="../science-medicine/protein-enriched" target="_self">Protein Enriched</a>” (<em>University of Chicago Magazine</em>, May–June/14)   [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1467","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"259","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"200"}}]]</p> <h5>This article originally appeared in the Spring–Summer/14 issue of <em>Dialogo</em>, the biannual publication for University of Chicago Division of the Social Sciences alumni.</h5> <div class="issue-link"><a href="../dialogo-archive" target="_self">VIEW ALL <em>DIALOGO</em> STORIES</a></div> <div class="issue-link"><a href="http://mag.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/Dialogo_Spring-Summer_2014.pdf" style="line-height: 1.538em;">DOWNLOAD THE LATEST ISSUE (PDF)</a></div> <div class="issue-link"><a href="http://socialsciences.uchicago.edu/alumni" target="_blank">READ ADDITIONAL SSD NEWS</a></div> </div> <span class="a2a_kit a2a_kit_size_32 addtoany_list" data-a2a-url="https://mag.uchicago.edu/science-medicine/brain-wave" data-a2a-title="Brain wave"><a class="a2a_button_facebook"></a><a class="a2a_button_twitter"></a><a class="a2a_button_google_plus"></a><a class="a2a_button_print"></a><a class="a2a_dd addtoany_share_save" href="https://www.addtoany.com/share#url=https%3A%2F%2Fmag.uchicago.edu%2Fscience-medicine%2Fbrain-wave&amp;title=Brain%20wave"></a></span> Fri, 30 May 2014 16:45:45 +0000 jmiller 3598 at https://mag.uchicago.edu