Friday, March 06, 2015

Cognition Testing Aboard the International Space Station (ISS)

A NASA interview posted today:

Watch interview here.

A description of the testing protocol:

Read a description of the tests here

Read a Task Report here.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Real and Fictive Outcomes

Fischer, A.G. & Ullsperger, M. (2013). Real and fictive outcomes are processed differently but converge on a common adaptive mechanism. Neuron, 79, 1243-1255. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.07.006.

The ability to learn not only from experienced but also from merely fictive outcomes without direct rewarding or punishing consequences should improve learning and resulting value-guided choice. Using an instrumental learning task in combination with multiple single-trial regression of predictions derived from a computational reinforcement-learning model on human EEG, we found an early temporospatial double dissociation in the processing of fictive and real feedback. Thereafter, real and fictive feedback processing converged at a common final path, reflected in parietal EEG activity that was predictive of future choices. In the choice phase, similar parietal EEG activity related to certainty of the impending response was predictive for the decision on the next trial as well. These parietal EEG effects may reflect a common adaptive cortical mechanism of updating or strengthening of stimulus values by integrating outcomes, learning rate, and certainty, which is active during both decision making and evaluation. Neuronal processing of real (rewarding, punishing) and fictive action outcomes (which would have happened had one acted differently) differs for 400 ms and then converges on a common adaptive mechanism driving future decision making and learning.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID: 24050408 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Shell Shock"

From the British Psychological Society:

A lecture from October 2014 by Prof. Edgar Jones on the topic, "Shell Shock: The First World War and the Origins of Psychological Medicine"

Watch the lecture here.

This is a very informative historical presentation about the topic.

Alzheimer's Disease: Julianne Moore on Preparing for Her Role in "Still Alice"

BBC Front Row's interview with Julianne Moore included a description of how she prepared for her role as Alice:

Listen here

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Language: Redefining the Role of Broca's Area?

This reference (with free-access .pdf) has been getting some media attention this week and is a good read:

Flinker, A. et al. (2015). Redefining the role of Broca's area in speech.

article pdf

The authors report one of their findings that when the motor cortex is activated during spoken responses, Broca’s area is "surprisingly silent". They provide additional information about activity of Broca's area - relative to motor cortex - depending upon the novelty of what is spoken.

The study used electrical recording from the cortical surface in a sample of seven participants who were to undergo neurosurgical treatment for refractory epilepsy.

The authors note that results were consistent to the presentation of patients with cortical lesions that are limited to Broca’s - it is typical for this presentation not to cause a Broca’s aphasia but to result in an acute, transient mutism.

The authors conclude that Broca's area might not be the historically defined 'seat of articulation' but may be "a key node" in the transformation of neural information as it is processed within comprehensive networks essential for speech production.

Please read the paper itself to get a full understanding of the methodology, results, and implications of this study.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Teaching Social Psychology

I am teaching a course in Social Psychology this term for the MSc online program where I have an affiliation. Although social neuroscience has had quite the growth over the past decade and we all get experience in the neurobehavioral syndromes resulting from certain types of brain disease and damage, the course has been a good reminder to me that just about any graduate student in psychology and in neuropsychology would benefit by a good course in core social psychological principles as it relates to normal behavior by mentally and neurologically healthy adults.

OBIT: Dr. Karl Pribram

Here is the obituary for Dr. Pribram, which appeared on his website recently: Dr. Karl Pribram

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Can Video Games Fend Off Mental Decline?"

An informative, good read:

"Can Video Games Fend Off Mental Decline?"
by Clive Thompson
The New York Times Sunday Magazine
26 October 2014

read the full feature article here

Website for Akili, mentioned in the piece: Akili

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dementia: Dosh for Docs to Diagnose Dementia - Dumb Dumb Dumb Dumb

Dumb, unethical, foolish, bad -

NHS dementia plan to give GPs cash for diagnoses criticised as ‘ethical travesty’
NHS condemned as ‘odious’ after introducing scheme whereby GPs given £55 each time they identify the disease in a patient
The Guardian
21 October 2014

Read the full article here

Brain Training: Scientific Commentary Statement

A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community
Posted on the Stanford Center on Longevity website
20 October 2014

Read the statement here

The authors and signatories may over-extend themselves in stating that they represent "the scientific community", but the points they raise are important to add to the conversation.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Brain Research Wins Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded for locating brain’s GPS
John O’Keefe, May-Britt and Edvard Moser found how the brain creates a map to enable us to navigate our environment
The Guardian
06 October 2014

Read article here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"World Alzheimer Report 2014"

Released today from Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI):

World Alzheimer Report 2014
Access the report here

Friday, September 12, 2014

Alzheimer Disease: "Perhaps the Nose Knows: UPSIT and Alzheimer Disease"

My new column for

Perhaps the Nose Knows: UPSIT and Alzheimer Disease
Anthony H. Risser, Ph.D.
12 September 2014

Perhaps the Nose Knows

Friday, September 05, 2014

Where is the Brain in the "Human Brain Project"? (Nature)

"Where is the brain in the Human Brain Project?"
03 September 2014

full text content here

Monday, September 01, 2014

"Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" (ModPo) Begins This Week - Join Us!

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

-Emily Dickinson

In the world of MOOCs, few courses have shown the creativity of purpose and the dedicated following as has the course "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" by Dr. Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania and Director of its wonderful Kelly Writers House.

Few courses, in real life or online, have such a dedicated teacher as Al.

The course, part of Al's regular teaching at Penn in its English Department, has been presented in MOOC form at this time of year in 2012 and in 2013 at Coursera. The ten-week course is back, opening later this week to over 30,000 students, myself included (third timer). Week after week, this likely remains the largest single collection of dedicated students reading and discussing the same poets and poems at any one time on the planet. And it remains intimate, lively, and interactive.

Although I am in the outlier minority in terms of my interpretation of Emily's poem (above) - seeing it as a tragic though wonderful poetic expression of brain damage in the time of Broca, whilst the common interpretation is one of freeing ones' self from the mundane - as a neuropsychologist, discussing it was one of the true highlights of the course for me.

It is a wonderful experience. Neuroscientists need poetry! Join us!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Upcoming Event: BPS Division of Neuropsychology Annual Conference (November 2014, London)

The British Psychological Society Division of Neuropsychology will hold its annual conference on the 28th of November in London. Here is the conference webpage: webpage

Prior to the conference, they will hold their first half-day pre-conference workshop. The workshop, about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - will be held on the 27th.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Glasgow Coma Scale, 40 Years On

Dr. Graham Teasdale speaks with The Lancet about his Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) forty years after he and his colleagues introduced it. Available here at: Lancet podcast.