Can We Read Each Other’s Minds?

--Original published at Rickster's Psychology Blog

For the Chapter 2 First Impression Post, I selected the “How We Read Each Other’s Minds” TED talk presented by Rebecca Saxe.

I chose this talk because I was interested how we could already read minds. Then I thought maybe this video teaches telepathy. The title of the talk made me feel like I was missing out on something so it was an easy choice for me.

The talk started out with the special part of the brain called the RTPJ. It is the part of the brain which focuses on figuring out what other people are thinking. Then Dr. Saxe talked about the early development of this brain region. She showed a video of the difference in this brain region between a 3, 5, and a 7 year old.

The test was called the False Belief Task. The task involved 2 Pirates. 1 Pirate left his cheese sandwich on a chest to get a drink and the wind blew it over. Another Pirate had a cheese sandwich and put his sandwich on the same chest to go get a drink. Then the first Pirate came back. Then Dr. Saxe asked each participant which sandwich was the first Pirate going to take. The 3 year old chose the one on the ground. The 5 and 7 year old said the one on the Chest. The correct answer was the one on the chest. Then she asked the kids should the first Pirate get in trouble for taking the other’s sandwich? The 3 and 5 year old said yes. The 7 year old said the wind should get in trouble.

Then Dr. Saxe presented the adult version of the test. It turned out there is a negative correlation between the amount of blame people put on the defendant to the amount of RTPJ response so the more the RTPJ was functioning, the less amount of blame the defendant would recieve.

Lastly, she talked about a device called TMS. It sends a magnetic pulse to specific part of the brain and interferes with neurons. She used this device on people’s RTPJ and repeated the False Belief Task. The results showed the people thought defendant should receive less blame.

I found the TMS part to be the most interesting because it suggests building on the TMS could eventually lead to brain control or even curing mental diseases where certain parts of the brain don’t function at all.

I found the presenter trustworthy. She reported exactly how she conducted each experiment and showed videos for 2 of them. She said much more testing needs to be conducted and she said nothing controversial.

My research idea would be to see if it’s possible to use the TMS technology to prevent someone from lying. I would identify the parts of the brain involved in lying using FMRI. I would give them questions where lying would benefit them. Then I would use the TMS to send a magnetic pulse to the part of the brain which helps the person think about their ego. If the TMS eliminates the ego protection thought process, the person should never lie.

What Makes a Killer?

--Original published at Sherika's Psych Blog

Jim Fallon, a notable neuroscientist from the University of California, discusses what contributes to the makings of a serial killer, whether it’s the old age argument of nature vs nurture or something more complex like a person’s genes. Choosing this topic as I found the title of it to be intriguing; Fallon explores how society ends up with news or cases of psychopathic killers. Fallon describes how his colleagues give him brains to analyze, however, it’s a blind experiment as he isn’t given information on which brain belongs to a killer and which one is a regular person. Overall, Fallon notes that he’s analyzed over 70 different brains and because of the analyzation has come up with a bunch of differing data.

The data goes over different variables, such as genetics, brain damage, interaction with the environment, with a study on how each variable impacts which section of the brain and how much. In his research, Fallon attempted to look for a connection between all 3 variables and how that relates to ending up with a psychopathic killer, which all depends on when as he puts it “the damage occurs.” Fallon points out that at all of the brains he looked at, those who were a serial killer had damage to their orbital cortex. Along with that a high risk gene known as MAOA, which is mostly transmitted from mother to son’s because it can be given via the X chromosome. The MAOA gene is typically shown to lead to severe aggressiveness and is commonly found in male’s, many of whom end up as killers. The MAOA gene develops due to too much serotonin in the brain during fetal development which makes the brain become sensitive to the presence of it later on in life.

Fallon then goes on to say that in order for the MAOA gene to be expressed, young boys have to be exposed to cases of extreme violence which can lead to disaster. And with these genes, they can tend to become concentrated in the population especially if the genes continue to be passed on. Fallon then slips into his own anecdotal story about his family, in which his mother after hearing he’d been giving talks about psychotic killers explores their family tree and how Fallon discovered his relation to Lizzie Borden and several other murders throughout history on his father’s side of the family.

What I found interesting about Fallon’s talk however is that even though he goes on constantly about how there are certain variables that can be found that are common among psychotic killers, these same variables can be found in people around the world who object to war or live morally good lives. People like Fallon’s own family as well. Overall this talk seemed to be fairly trustworthy as Fallon had his own extensive set of research, even going so far as to do scans of his own family’s brains to bolster the points he was making in his TED talk.

Based on the information presented in the TED talk, it would be interesting to have a research study that analyzes how brains in a comatose state function and what happens to the brain when a comatose person wakes up. In order to conduct such an experiment there would need to be a large sample pool of brain scans of people who were comatose, people who aren’t, and people who were comatose either due to medical intervention or other reasons but woke up.

Introduction Post; Neuroscience

--Original published at olivyahvanek

I chose to watch the TED Talk Jim Fallon: Exploring the mind of a killer. I was drawn to choose this post because I have always been interested in different serial killers and their stories. I have also always been interested in what makes them kill people and why they are the way that they are. This TED talk talked about how there are different chromosomes in males and females and there is a certain gene that people can inherit and if kids with that gene experience a major trauma in their life, then this can lead to them being a killer themselves.

I did find this presenter and the information to be trustworthy because of his background and his knowledge of killers previously. Also, Jim Fallon, the author, was a Sloan Scholar, a Fulbright Fellow, and he was a Professor if Neuroscience. He has researched towards the subject of psychopaths and he focused on killers, so he has a large, reliable background on the topic of his TED talk.

A research idea I could do to test this would be to compare the data of a human brains at a young age with the potential psychotic gene and compare them to the brains of children who have the gene and have experienced trauma to see the difference in the brain scans of someone who is sane compared to the brain of someone who is considered to be a psychopath.

Chapter 2 First Impression Post

--Original published at Noah'sPSY105blog

For my First Impression post on chapter two, I decided to watch the TED talk on brain to brain communication by Miguel Nicolelis.

I decided to choose this TED talk because I did not believe that it was possible to transmit information between one mind to another without either expressing the information verbally, or writing the information down.

Mr.Nicolelis started off his presentation by using a young man as an example of how far modern technology has come. This young man was in a terrible car accident that rendered him immobile from his torso to the tips of his toes. But utilizing technology that Mr.Nicolelis had been working on for roughly 15 years, used the electrical signals from his brain to move an exoskeleton which had let him kick off the FIFA World Cup that was being hosted in Brasil that year. After the numerous years of research, Nicolelis and his colleague were able to develop the sensors that made this massive feat possible. The sensors were not only able to pick up on the brains electrical signals, but could also translate these signals into digital commands. Not only can these sensors control a variety of different specialized equipment, the equipment can send signals back to the brain to let the user know that they have either succeeded or failed to complete the task or motion they meant to do. What Nicolelis also mentions later in the talk is that he proposed the idea of the kickoff to FIFA and the Brazilian government 18 months in advance to the World Cup, although apprehensive at first both parties eventually agreed on the idea and Nicolelis had to find test subjects and finalize an exoskeleton within this 18 month period. Whilst developing the exoskeleton, the developers not only wanted for the subjects to be able to walk on their own again, but also worked in conjunction with other researchers so that the exoskeleton would make the subjects experience the sensation that they were walking without any assistance at all. The final technology that Nicolelis discusses in the talk is the actual technology that allows brain to brain contact. This was best represented by tests in which monkeys had to collaborate to achieve a common goal in simple mental tests, and had no way of communicating with one another other than utilizing this technology.

I found the part where the monkeys had to communicate through the brain to brain interface the most interesting part of this lecture.

I think that the presenter was very trustworthy whilst presenting this information because he was one of the founders of the technology, and has been working to advance this technology from the time the initial prototype was created.

I would research how effectively this technology could work with humans. A test could be as simple as giving one person a simple map to a maze, and having to direct another person through the maze by just using the brain to brain interface, and see how effective this method truly is when it comes to people.

Chapter 2 First Impression

--Original published at Courtney's College Blog

For this assignment, I chose to analyze Jim Fallon’s TED Talk, “Exploring the Mind of a Killer.” I was compelled to this video because I was interested in what factors create a psychopathic killer. It is something I had never thought about before, so I was surprised when Fallon mentioned that the interaction of genes, biological and environmental factors, and how these situations are timed perfectly, is how a psychopathic killer can arise. He analyzed 70 killers and determined that all of them had damage to their orbital cortex and the anterior temporal lobe. The gene aspect of what makes a psychopathic killer is the presence of the MAOA gene. This gene is sex-lined, and is maternal. This describes why mostly men are psychopathic killers. It causes too much serotonin when the person is in utero, which makes the brain insensitive to it when the person is born. In order for the MAOA gene to be expressed, the person had to experience a traumatic event sometime before puberty. Fallon ended the talk with how he determined that his father’s side of the family had several psychopathic killers. He tested his family by PET scans, EEG tests, and genetic analyses. Fallon found two of his family members had suspicious similarities to psychopathic killers.

I found the fact that the gene that causes psychopathic killers is sex linked most surprising. I had always wondered why there are many more male murders than female ones. I had always assumed that it had something to do with testosterone levels and societal norms.

Jim Fallon is a trustworthy source because he studied psychopathic killers for years. He is a neuroscientist at a brain imaging center, and a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine.

A study that I would conduct is determining what types of trauma were common to fulfill the environmental aspect of a psychopathic killer. I would interview the family and friends of as many killers and I can. I would ask questions about the killer’s childhood to determine if a certain type of trauma is commonly present. This information can help society to determine who is at a greater risk of becoming a psychopathic killer.

Chapter 2 First Impression

--Original published at JVershinski's Blog

I watched the Ted Talk about serial killers by Jim Fallon. What drew me to it is the idea that serial killers structurally have a different brain that normal people do. This is interesting to me because they’re just another person, but their brain structure causes them to act differently.

This talk told me about how serial killers have different brains based off of brain damage, genetics, and their environment. It talks about how these things need to development at a certain time in order for the outcome of a serial killer to be present.

The most interesting thing about the talk was the idea that the timing of when the brain damage occurs affects whether or not someone will be a psychopath. I find this interesting because if someone does have brain damage, it could’ve been a matter of a few weeks difference that lends them to being a psychopath or a normal person.

I find the information presented fairly trustworthy. Ted Talks do not just invite anybody who is a self-proclaimed expert on a topic onto the show. They do their background research and see how reliable this source of information actually is before inviting them onto the show. Additionally, the information presented by the speaker was done in a very professional manner, along with photos that were specifically designated to help understand what is going on. Many people can access these photos with a quick google search, but the speaker explained what was going on in the pictures, and if he wasn’t reliable, he did a very good job telling everyone about the brains of psychopaths.

A research idea that could be interesting to investigate would be if neuron development is affected by brain damage. To conduct this experiment, you could take some individuals and determine an estimate of how many functioning neurons are in their body, and then you could take a brain damaged individual and determine the same. Compare the results to see if neuron quantity or at least functioning neuron quantity is significantly different.

Can the Damaged Brain Repair Itself?

--Original published at Olivia's College Blog

I chose to investigate the TED talk, “Can the Damaged Brain Repair Itself?”, by Siddharthan Chandran. I was drawn to the topic because it is at the intersection of the themes of the courses I am taking; biology, neuroscience, and psychology. I also am curious to learn about this topic because people in my family have multiple sclerosis, so I feel it is important for me to be educated on the brain’s mechanics and processes.

Chandran stated that any given time, 35 million people are suffering from devastating yet untreatable diseases of the brain. They occur when the cells of the brain die or become damaged, interfering with the brain’s electrical activity and disrupting and slowing connections. Chandran steers his talk into the direction of stem cells. Stem cells can renew themselves or become specialized—two extremely useful functions for a damaged brain. He explains that the brain naturally repairs itself, but not at the rate it needs to for controlling a brain disease. Using stem cells, he describes, would promote the spontaneous repair that is already occurring within the brain.

The most interesting aspect of Chandran’s talk were the statistics he pointed out to support his argument that it is crucial to find treatment for brain diseases. He said that the prevalence of brain diseases is on the rise, because they are age-related diseases, and the population is living longer. Chandran’s TED talk is essentially a call to action, and he uses this fact to insight passion in viewers because it illuminates the dark reality behind this rapidly growing world-wide epidemic.

I found Siddharthan Chandran’s TED talk to be extremely credible. Aside from his expertise in neuroscience, he is an excellent presenter. Chandran modifies his talk by giving the audience a lesson on the mechanics of the brain. He is especially skilled at modifying his jargon for a broader audience, which shows a deep understanding and mastery of his material. In addition, he uses real life examples from patients that he has worked with. From patients with motor neuron disease to multiple sclerosis, he uses personal examples of how the stem cell technique is revolutionizing brain diseases and repair. Overall, I think his presentation was very successful and I trust his work.

For a research idea of my own, I think it would be fascinating to study the impact of stem cells across various diseases. The study could consist of a large pool of patients who agreed to screenings and stem cell infusions, with diseases like MS, motor neuron, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s.  The research could be used to compare the effects of the stem cell therapy on different diseases, and therefore see if it is a more useful for one type of disease over another. This could potentially help categorize types of brain diseases.


--Original published at Zach Nawrocki's Blog

The TED Talk that I chose to watch was “Can the damaged brain repair itself?” by Siddharthan Chandran. The reason I chose this TED Talk is because when I had the neuroscience class we talked about neuroplasticity which is when the neurons in the brain change when the brain is damaged and to rewire the brain to keep it functioning. I find this topic very interesting because of how complex the brain is and how amazing it is to be able to do some of the things it can do.

In this talk Siddharthan Chandran talks about the effect that different neurodegenerative diseases have on the functioning of neurons in the brain. The main disease that is focused on in the talk is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and how it degrades the myelin sheath. He also talks about how research is taking so long to discover new treatments/medicines and the main reason it is taking so long is because most screening for new treatments is done on animals instead of humans. One way that the process is starting to be sped up is by taking human stem cells, growing them in the lab and actually doing screenings on them to find new treatments. The main topic of the talk however, is that he is finding a way to use existing stem cells in the brain to create new myelin to repair the neurons in the brain.

The thing I found most interesting about the talk is how scientists can use existing stem cells in the brain and activate/trigger them to create new myelin that would be able to repair neurons on its own. One other interesting fact that I found is that if we cannot active the existing stem cells we can grow some in a lab and physically plant them in the brain to help repair neurons.

I find the information that is being presented in this talk by Siddharthan Chandran very trustworthy. He is the Head of Neurology at the University of Edinburgh and the Director of the Centre for Clinical Brain Science and Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research. He has been in the field of regenerative neuroscience for many years and is well known in the field.

One research idea would be to take stem cells from an animal (such as a mouse) and grow them in a lab. With them you can then use different medicines on them to see how it effects the activation of the stem cells outside of the brain. Once the best medication is found that stimulates the stem cell the most the next step would be to transplant them into a mouse brain that suffers from a disease such as MS or some other motor neuron disease and scan the mouse brain every few hours to see if the stem cell is in fact repairing the damaged neurons. Nevertheless, as explained in the talk the best research would be to conduct this using humans instead of mice however, this is a touchy subject because of how ethical it would be to do research like this on a human.

Chapter 2: Biology in Behavior

--Original published at Jessica K's College Blog

This week, I will learn about the biological standpoint on emotions, daily functions of the body, and anything that relates to the brain.

Even if the lesson will be reasonably short, and even if I’m not too much of a science person, learning the multiple sections and functions of the brain will be tiring enough. However, it would be a more scientific take on how we all work through every day, from everything as simple as breathing and walking, to even more complex actions, I will then learn everything the brain will transmit and perform to be the supercomputer of people all over the globe.

Chapter 2 – Neuroscience

--Original published at Grace's College Blog

I chose to watch Thomas Insel’s TED talk: Toward a New Understanding of Mental Illness. I was drawn to this talk because many of my friends and family members suffer from mental illnesses and I was interested to learn more. In his talk, he first showed remarkable statistics on the survival rate of diseases like heart disease, leukemia, strokes, and AIDS. All of these have improved their survival rate greatly from their peak from 1965-1995. Then was the rate of suicide since it’s peak, it has not gone done at all. 35,000 people die a year from suicide. He then spoke about how these were diseases of the brain, they are very common and described them as not exactly behavorial disorders. They are behavior related when you see the outcome of what is going on in the brain. His goal to reduce the suicide rate is to diagnose early and start treatment immediately, rather than waiting for the behavior part of the disorder to develop and beginning treatment then. The most interesting part of the talk was when he spoke about the brain and how it is so intricate that we have really only just begun to understand it. There are over 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses. I found Thomas Insel very trustworthy. He mentioned that he worked for the federal government and his job was working on reducing the rate of suicide. That is why he is so informed about the brain and it’s functions and how mental illness affects it. For the topic, mental illness and specifically suicide, I would research the events that happened directly before a person committed suicide. I would study and speak to people who have survived suicide attempts and talk to them about the events right before. Studying the events prior to a suicide attempt could help in preventing them. I could find out if those events were preventable and we could develop more signs of mental illness. If they were preventable, why didn’t the person take themselves out of the situation or was it something happening all in their brain.