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  • Your StarCraft II Potential Peaked At Age 24

    An anonymous reader writes "StarCraft II is popular among competitive gamers for having the depth necessary to reward differences in skill. A new study has found that your ability keep up with the game's frantic pace starts to decline at age 24. This is relevant to more than just StarCraft II players: 'While many high-performance athletes start to show age-related declines at a young age, those are often attributed to physical as opposed to brain aging. ... While previous lab tests have shown faster reaction times for simple individual tasks, it was never clear how much relevance those had to complex, real-world tasks such as driving. Thompson noted that Starcraft is complex and quite similar to real-life tasks such as managing 911 calls at an emergency dispatch centre, so the findings may be directly relevant. However, game performance was much easier to analyze than many real-life situations because the game generates detailed logs of every move. In a way, Thompson said, the study is a good demonstration of what kinds of insights can be gleaned from the "cool data sets" generated by our digital lives.'"

    101 comments | 4 days ago

  • A 2560x1440 VR Headset That's Mobile

    New submitter oldmildog writes: "GameFace Labs may very well be the furthest along in the quest to create a mobile VR headset. It's based on Android, and their latest prototype is the first VR headset (mobile or tethered) to include a 2560x1440 display, with 78% more pixels than 1080p based VR headsets like the Oculus Rift DK2. CEO Ed Mason said, 'The upgrade to 1280 x 1440 per eye is monumental. Individual pixels are hard to detect at first glance, making it a more immersive and comfortable experience in every single game and experience that we've tried. A lot of the ‘presence’ described by devs at the Valve [prototype VR headset] demonstration can be attributed to their use of higher resolution (and lower persistence) panels, which has a noticeable impact in suspending disbelief and tricking the brain."

    135 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Ancient Shrimp-Like Creature Has Oldest Known Circulatory System

    sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A 520-million-year-old shrimp-like creature known as Fuxianhuia protensa has the oldest known cardiovascular system, researchers report. It was both modern and unsophisticated. A simple, tubelike heart was buried in the creature's belly — or thorax — and shot single blood vessels into the 20 or so segments of its primitive body. In contrast, x-ray scans of the specimen revealed profoundly intricate channels in the head and neck. The brain was well supplied with looping blood vessels, which extended branches into the arthropod's alienlike eyestalks and antennae and rivaled the complexity of today's crustaceans. From this Gordian architecture, the researchers can now speculate about the critter's lifestyle. Its brain required abundant oxygen, so it presumably did a fair amount of thinking."

    35 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Online Skim Reading Is Taking Over the Human Brain

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Michael S. Rosenwald reports in the Washington Post that, according to cognitive neuroscientists, humans seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online at the expense of traditional deep reading circuitry... Maryanne Wolf, one of the world's foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse's challenging novel The Glass Bead Game. 'I'm not kidding: I couldn't do it,' says Wolf. 'It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn't force myself to slow down so that I wasn't skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.'

    The brain was not designed for reading and there are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. ... Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. ... Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade our ability to deal with other mediums. 'We're spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scrolling and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,' says Andrew Dillon."

    224 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Elite Violinists Can't Distinguish Between a Stradivarius and a Modern Violin

    sciencehabit (1205606) writes "If you know only one thing about violins, it is probably this: A 300-year-old Stradivarius supposedly possesses mysterious tonal qualities unmatched by modern instruments. However, even elite violinists cannot tell a Stradivarius from a top-quality modern violin, a new double-blind study suggests. Like the sound of coughing during the delicate second movement of Beethoven's violin concerto, the finding seems sure to annoy some people, especially dealers who broker the million-dollar sales of rare old Italian fiddles. But it may come as a relief to the many violinists who cannot afford such prices."

    469 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Sand in the Brain: A Fundamental Theory To Model the Mind

    An anonymous reader writes "In 1999, the Danish physicist Per Bak proclaimed to a group of neuroscientists that it had taken him only 10 minutes to determine where the field had gone wrong. Perhaps the brain was less complicated than they thought, he said. Perhaps, he said, the brain worked on the same fundamental principles as a simple sand pile, in which avalanches of various sizes help keep the entire system stable overall — a process he dubbed 'self-organized criticality.'"

    105 comments | about two weeks ago

  • A Rock Paper Scissors Brainteaser

    New submitter arsheive (609065) writes with a link to this interesting RPS brainteaser: "How do you play against an opponent who _must_ throw Rock 50% of the time, and how much would you be willing to pay to play against them?"

    167 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Start-Up Founders On Dealing With Depression

    v3rgEz (125380) writes "Founders at a number of Boston startups shared their stories of building and growing a company while battling depression. One founder didn't even realize he was depressed until glucose and blood tests came back normal, while another said it was worse than her life struggles growing up in the projects. All shared different coping mechanisms. Any advice for dealing with the same?"

    257 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Continued Rise In Autism Diagnoses Puzzles Researchers, Galvanizes Advocates

    sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised eyebrows, and concern among current and prospective parents, with a new report documenting that the rate of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in the United States jumped 30% between 2008 and 2010, from one in 88 to one in 68 children. CDC officials don't know, however, whether the startling increase is due to skyrocketing rates of the disorder or more sensitive screening, or a combination of both."

    558 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Why Darmok Is a Good Star Trek: TNG Episode

    An anonymous reader writes: "Last week, the Ars Technica ran an article listing their staff's least favorite Star Trek: the Next Generation episodes. They hit a few of the predictable ones, like Angel One — wherein Riker's chest hair takes center stage — and Up the Long Ladder — featuring space-Irish. But a surprising suggestion came from Peter Bright, who denounced Darmok, a fan favorite. (You remember: 'Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra.') Now, Ars's Lee Hutchinson has (jokingly) taken Bright to task, showing how IMDB ratings mark Darmok (5x02) as one of the best episodes of season 5, and among the strongest in the series. He also points out a trend in some of the bad episodes they didn't pick: 'According to the data, the worst episode of TNG by a significant margin is the season 2 finale Shades of Gray, a clipshow episode famously hobbled by the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. We also managed to not pick season 6's Man of the People (the one where Troi falls in love with a brain vampire and gets really old) or season 4's The Loss (the one where Troi loses her empathic abilities and gets really whiny) or season 2's The Child (the one where Troi has dream sex with a space anomaly and gets really pregnant).' What are your picks for best and worst TNG episode?"

    512 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Electric 'Thinking Cap' Controls Learning Speed

    An anonymous reader writes "Vanderbilt researchers say they've shown it's possible to selectively manipulate our ability to learn by applying a mild electrical current to the brain. Using an elastic headband that secured two electrodes conducted by saline-soaked sponges to the cheek and the crown of the head, the researchers applied 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to each subject. Depending on the direction of the current, subjects either learned more quickly, slower, or in the case of a sham current, with no change at all. The [paywalled] study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience."

    112 comments | about a month ago

  • Computer Spots Fakers Better Than People Do

    Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Using sophisticated pattern matching software, researchers have had substantially better success with a computer, than was obtained with human subjects, in spotting faked facial expressions of pain. [Original, paywalled article in Current Biology] From the Reuters piece: '... human subjects did no better than chance — about 50 percent ...', 'The computer was right 85 percent of the time.'"

    62 comments | about a month ago

  • Spacecraft Returns Seven Particles From Birth of the Solar System

    sciencehabit writes "After a massive, years-long search, researchers have recovered seven interstellar dust particles returned to Earth by the Stardust spacecraft. The whole sample weighs just a few trillionths of a gram, but it's the first time scientists have laid their hands on primordial material unaltered by the violent birth of the solar system. Once the sample panel was back on Earth, the problem quickly became finding any collected particles embedded in the aerogel. Out of desperation, Stardust team members called on 30,714 members of the general public. The 'dusters' of the Stardust@home project volunteered to examine microscopic images taken down through the aerogel. They used the world's best pattern-recognition system — the human eye and brain — to pick out the telltale tracks left by speeding particles."

    48 comments | about a month ago

  • Research Suggests Pulling All-Nighters Can Cause Permanent Damage

    First time accepted submitter nani popoki writes "Skipping a good night's sleep can cause brain damage according to a new study. From the article: 'Are you a truck driver or shift worker planning to catch up on some sleep this weekend? Cramming in extra hours of shut-eye may not make up for those lost pulling all-nighters, new research indicates. The damage may already be done — brain damage, that is, said neuroscientist Sigrid Veasey from the University of Pennsylvania. The widely held idea that you can pay back a sizeable "sleep debt" with long naps later on seems to be a myth, she said in a study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience. Long-term sleep deprivation saps the brain of power even after days of recovery sleep, Veasey said. And that could be a sign of lasting brain injury.'"

    144 comments | about 1 month ago

  • Lego Robot Solves Rubik's Cube Puzzle In 3.253 Seconds

    SternisheFan sends this news from CTV: "The Cubestormer 3 took 18 months to build but only needed 3.253 seconds to solve [a Rubik's cube], breaking the existing record. Unveiled at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, U.K., the Cubestormer 3 is constructed from the modular children's building-block toy but uses a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with a special ARM chip addition as its brain. It analyzes the muddled-up Rubik's Cube and powers each of the robot's four 'hands,' which spin the cube until all sides are in order. Created by ARM engineer David Gilday and Securi-Plex security systems engineer Mike Dobson, Cubestormer 3's new record shaves just over two seconds off the existing record, set by Cubestormer 2, which the pair also built."

    60 comments | about a month ago

  • Famous Breast Cancer Gene Could Affect Brain Growth

    sciencehabit writes "The cancer gene BRCA1, which keeps tumors in the breast and ovaries at bay by producing proteins that repair damaged DNA, may also regulate brain size. Mice carrying a mutated copy of the gene have 10-fold fewer neurons and had other brain abnormalities, a new study (abstract) suggests. Such dramatic effects on brain size and function are unlikely in human carriers of BRCA1 mutations, the authors of the study note, but they propose the findings could shed light on the gene's role in brain evolution."

    31 comments | about a month ago

  • Is DIY Brainhacking Safe?

    An anonymous reader writes "My colleague at IEEE Spectrum, Eliza Strickland, looked at the home transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) movement. People looking to boost creativity, or cure depression, are attaching electrodes to their heads using either DIT equipment or rigs from vendors like Foc.us. Advocates believe experimenting with the tech is safe, but a neuroscientist worries about removing the tech from lab safeguards..."

    183 comments | about a month ago

  • Religion Is Good For Your Brain

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Sheila M. Elred writes in Discovery Magazine that a recent study has found that people at risk of depression were much less vulnerable if they identified as religious. Brain MRIs revealed that religious participants had thicker brain cortices than those who weren't as religious. 'One of the worst killers of brain cells is stress,' says Dr. Majid Fotuhi. 'Stress causes high levels of cortisol, and cortisol is toxic to the hippocampus. One way to reduce stress is through prayer. When you're praying and in the zone you feel a peace of mind and tranquility.' The reports concluded that a thicker cortex associated with a high importance of religion or spirituality may confer resilience to the development of depressive illness in individuals at high familial risk for major depression. The social element of attending religious services has also been linked to healthy brains. 'There's something magical about socializing,' says Fotuhi. 'It releases endorphins in the brain. It's hard to know whether it's through religion or a gathering of friends, but it improves brain health in the long term.'" (Read more, below.)

    529 comments | about a month ago

  • How the NSA Plans To Infect 'Millions' of Computers With Malware

    Advocatus Diaboli sends news from The Intercept about leaked documents which show that the NSA is significantly expanding its efforts to build an automated system to compromise computers remotely. From the article: "The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system – codenamed TURBINE – is designed to 'allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.' In a top-secret presentation, dated August 2009, the NSA describes a pre-programmed part of the covert infrastructure called the 'Expert System,' which is designed to operate 'like the brain.' The system manages the applications and functions of the implants and 'decides' what tools they need to best extract data from infected machines."

    234 comments | about a month ago

  • Study: Elephants Have Learned To Tell Certain Languages Apart

    sciencehabit writes "Whether we realize it, African elephants are listening to us. The pachyderms can tell certain human languages apart and even determine our gender, relative age, and whether we're a threat, according to a new study. The work illustrates how elephants can sometimes protect themselves from human actions. The work may be helpful in preventing 'human-elephant conflicts where the species co-exist,' says Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University, Kanchanaburi, in Thailand. For instance, elephants might be deterred from entering farmland or encouraged to stick to the corridors designed for their use. 'The trouble is elephants are too smart to be fooled by us for long.'"

    62 comments | about a month ago

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