TechnologyReview:
A simple mathematical model of the brain explains the pattern of murders by a serial killer, say researchers.
On 20 November 1990, Andrei Chikatilo was arrested in Rostov, a  Russian state bordering the Ukraine. After nine days in custody,  Chikatilo confessed to the murder of 36 girls, boys and women over a 12  year period. He later confessed to a further 20 murders, making him one  of the most prolific serial killers in modern history.
Today, Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury at the University of  California, Los Angeles, release a mathematical analysis of Chikatilo’s  pattern of behaviour. They say the behaviour is well characterised by a  power law and that this is exactly what would be expected if Chikatilo’s  behaviour is caused by a certain pattern of neuronal firing in the  brain.
Their thinking is based on the fundamental behaviour of neurons. When  a neuron fires, it cannot fire again until it has recharged, a time  known as the refractory period.
Each neuron is connected to thousands of others. Some of these will  also be ready to fire and so can be triggered by the first neuron. These  in turn will be connected to more neurons and so on. So it’s easy to  see how a chain reaction of firings can sweep through the brain if  conditions are ripe.
[…]
The results are remarkably similar to the distribution of Chikatilo’s  real murders and Simkin and Roychowdhury speculate that it would be  relatively straightforward to introduce a realistic correction factor  that would make the fit closer.
[…]
Interestingly,  Simkin and Roychowdhury’s work bares much similarity to  other recent work suggesting that the distribution of epileptic fits  also follows a power law. The reasoning here is the same too—that  patterns of neuronal firing can spread through the brain, like an  avalanche, causing a fit in the process.
Read full article

TechnologyReview:

A simple mathematical model of the brain explains the pattern of murders by a serial killer, say researchers.

On 20 November 1990, Andrei Chikatilo was arrested in Rostov, a Russian state bordering the Ukraine. After nine days in custody, Chikatilo confessed to the murder of 36 girls, boys and women over a 12 year period. He later confessed to a further 20 murders, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history.

Today, Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury at the University of California, Los Angeles, release a mathematical analysis of Chikatilo’s pattern of behaviour. They say the behaviour is well characterised by a power law and that this is exactly what would be expected if Chikatilo’s behaviour is caused by a certain pattern of neuronal firing in the brain.

Their thinking is based on the fundamental behaviour of neurons. When a neuron fires, it cannot fire again until it has recharged, a time known as the refractory period.

Each neuron is connected to thousands of others. Some of these will also be ready to fire and so can be triggered by the first neuron. These in turn will be connected to more neurons and so on. So it’s easy to see how a chain reaction of firings can sweep through the brain if conditions are ripe.


[…]

The results are remarkably similar to the distribution of Chikatilo’s real murders and Simkin and Roychowdhury speculate that it would be relatively straightforward to introduce a realistic correction factor that would make the fit closer.

[…]

Interestingly, Simkin and Roychowdhury’s work bares much similarity to other recent work suggesting that the distribution of epileptic fits also follows a power law. The reasoning here is the same too—that patterns of neuronal firing can spread through the brain, like an avalanche, causing a fit in the process.

Read full article

"These findings are incredibly revealing, as they document the banal secret of willpower. It’s not that these people have immaculate wills, able to stare down tempting calories. Instead, they are able to intelligently steer clear of situations that trigger problematic desires. They don’t resist temptation – they avoid it entirely. While unsuccessful dieters try to not eat the ice cream in their freezer, thus quickly exhausting their limited willpower resources, those high in self-control refuse to even walk down the ice cream aisle in the supermarket."

Wired’s Jonah Lehrer on “the willpower trick,” the science of failed resolutions, and the power of strategic situational choice. See also the excellent Situations Matter.  (via curiositycounts)

(via curiositycounts)

Tags: neuroscience

A Couple in the Street, 1887 CHARLES ANGRAND 

From SEED Magazine: 
To answer our most fundamental questions, Science needs to find a place for the Arts. 
By Jonah Lehrer
Human eyes are horizontally offset from each other, and the visual  system uses that offset to calculate depth. When an object is fixated  upon, images are cast on the same place on each retina.
 A view with many  identical (or similar) objects casts multiple images on the eyes, which  can either be correctly matched, giving a flat impression, or  mismatched, so one image corresponds to the other, but at a different depth. 
I think that the artists from the impressionist and  post-impressionist periods figured this out. They said they could paint  air and managed to do so by creating false stereopsis cues, which  manipulate depth perception. So Angrand’s painting actually looks more  three-dimensional when you view the painting with both eyes instead of  with a single eye.
—Margaret Livingstone, Neuroscientist, Harvard University
~
In the early 1920s, Niels Bohr was struggling to reimagine the  structure of matter. Previous generations of physicists had thought the  inner space of an atom looked like a miniature solar system with the  atomic nucleus as the sun and the whirring electrons as planets in  orbit. This was the classical model.
But Bohr had spent time analyzing the radiation emitted by electrons,  and he realized that science needed a new metaphor. The behavior of  electrons seemed to defy every conventional explanation. As Bohr said,  “When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.”  Ordinary words couldn’t capture the data.
Bohr had long been fascinated by cubist paintings. As the  intellectual historian Arthur Miller notes, he later filled his study  with abstract still lifes and enjoyed explaining his interpretation of  the art to visitors. For Bohr, the allure of cubism was that it  shattered the certainty of the object. The art revealed the fissures in  everything, turning the solidity of matter into a surreal blur.
Bohr’s discerning conviction was that the invisible world of the  electron was essentially a cubist world. By 1923, de Broglie had already  determined that electrons could exist as either particles or waves.  What Bohr maintained was that the form they took depended on how you  looked at them. Their very nature was a consequence of our observation.  This meant that electrons weren’t like little planets at all. Instead,  they were like one of Picasso’s deconstructed guitars, a blur of  brushstrokes that only made sense once you stared at it. The art that  looked so strange was actually telling the truth.
[Read More]

An excellent article on the role of Art in Science.

A Couple in the Street, 1887
CHARLES ANGRAND

From SEED Magazine:

To answer our most fundamental questions, Science needs to find a place for the Arts.

By Jonah Lehrer

Human eyes are horizontally offset from each other, and the visual system uses that offset to calculate depth. When an object is fixated upon, images are cast on the same place on each retina.

A view with many identical (or similar) objects casts multiple images on the eyes, which can either be correctly matched, giving a flat impression, or mismatched, so one image corresponds to the other, but at a different depth.

I think that the artists from the impressionist and post-impressionist periods figured this out. They said they could paint air and managed to do so by creating false stereopsis cues, which manipulate depth perception. So Angrand’s painting actually looks more three-dimensional when you view the painting with both eyes instead of with a single eye.

—Margaret Livingstone, Neuroscientist, Harvard University

~

In the early 1920s, Niels Bohr was struggling to reimagine the structure of matter. Previous generations of physicists had thought the inner space of an atom looked like a miniature solar system with the atomic nucleus as the sun and the whirring electrons as planets in orbit. This was the classical model.

But Bohr had spent time analyzing the radiation emitted by electrons, and he realized that science needed a new metaphor. The behavior of electrons seemed to defy every conventional explanation. As Bohr said, “When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.” Ordinary words couldn’t capture the data.

Bohr had long been fascinated by cubist paintings. As the intellectual historian Arthur Miller notes, he later filled his study with abstract still lifes and enjoyed explaining his interpretation of the art to visitors. For Bohr, the allure of cubism was that it shattered the certainty of the object. The art revealed the fissures in everything, turning the solidity of matter into a surreal blur.

Bohr’s discerning conviction was that the invisible world of the electron was essentially a cubist world. By 1923, de Broglie had already determined that electrons could exist as either particles or waves. What Bohr maintained was that the form they took depended on how you looked at them. Their very nature was a consequence of our observation. This meant that electrons weren’t like little planets at all. Instead, they were like one of Picasso’s deconstructed guitars, a blur of brushstrokes that only made sense once you stared at it. The art that looked so strange was actually telling the truth.

[Read More]

An excellent article on the role of Art in Science.

Submission: Link

In response to your post about the brains of boys and girls….

—-

(Thank you artist-astoria! :D)

A short essay by the late Stephen Jay Gould on the brains of women.

WIRED.COM

 
In a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners could predict people’s decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them.
 
The decision studied — whether to hit a button with one’s left or right hand — may not be representative of complicated choices that are more integrally tied to our sense of self-direction. Regardless, the findings raise profound questions about the nature of self and autonomy:
How free is our will? Is conscious choice just an illusion?

(Don’t tell me there isn’t chemistry in this.)

WIRED.COM

In a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners could predict people’s decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them.

The decision studied — whether to hit a button with one’s left or right hand — may not be representative of complicated choices that are more integrally tied to our sense of self-direction. Regardless, the findings raise profound questions about the nature of self and autonomy:

How free is our will? Is conscious choice just an illusion?

(Don’t tell me there isn’t chemistry in this.)

Henry Gustav Molaison (February 26, 1926 – December 2, 2008)

Wikipedia:
This portrait of Henry Gustav Molaison, or H.M., was taken shortly before he underwent the experimental surgery that would destroy his ability to form long-term memories.
 
A faculty member from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences writes, “He is considered the most important patient in the study of the human brain, known worldwide only by his initials, HM. In death, we learned his name. He was Henry Gustav Molaison. He died at a nursing home on December 2, 2008, at the age of 82, after living for most of his life in a state of permanent amnesia. Over 55 years, Mr. Molaison was the subject of intense scientific study, and he’s credited with helping scientists unlock secrets of how we form memories. When he was 27, Mr. Molaison underwent brain surgery to cure a seizure disorder, and that surgery left him unable to form new memories of his own. Dr. Suzanne Corkin (a faculty member at MIT) studied him extensively.
"H.M. was studied extensively at MIT by many faculty and students. H.M. hoped the research he took part in would help other people. He and his court-appointed guardian consented to the studies, and they also agreed to donate his brain for future study. The result was a far better understanding of how our brains makes new memories, and researchers were able to tease out the differences between short-term and long-term memory creation.”

Happy birthday, HM.
(NYTimes Orbituary - The Unforgettable Amnesiac)

Henry Gustav Molaison (February 26, 1926 – December 2, 2008)

Wikipedia:

This portrait of Henry Gustav Molaison, or H.M., was taken shortly before he underwent the experimental surgery that would destroy his ability to form long-term memories.

A faculty member from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences writes, “He is considered the most important patient in the study of the human brain, known worldwide only by his initials, HM. In death, we learned his name. He was Henry Gustav Molaison. He died at a nursing home on December 2, 2008, at the age of 82, after living for most of his life in a state of permanent amnesia. Over 55 years, Mr. Molaison was the subject of intense scientific study, and he’s credited with helping scientists unlock secrets of how we form memories. When he was 27, Mr. Molaison underwent brain surgery to cure a seizure disorder, and that surgery left him unable to form new memories of his own. Dr. Suzanne Corkin (a faculty member at MIT) studied him extensively.

"H.M. was studied extensively at MIT by many faculty and students. H.M. hoped the research he took part in would help other people. He and his court-appointed guardian consented to the studies, and they also agreed to donate his brain for future study. The result was a far better understanding of how our brains makes new memories, and researchers were able to tease out the differences between short-term and long-term memory creation.”

Happy birthday, HM.

(NYTimes Orbituary - The Unforgettable Amnesiac)