Mind Reading and the Evolution of Vision

This image (when viewed in full size, 1000 pix...

A fascinating insight from an interview with theoretical neurobiologist Mark Changizi, who thinks about vision:

‘I was intrigued by the “mind reading” aspects of vision. In a nutshell, how does this work, and how do humans benefit from this ability?’

‘Our color vision fundamentally relies upon the cones in our retina, and I argue in my research that color vision evolved in us primates for the purpose of sensing the emotions and states of those around us. We primates have an unusual kind of color vision – our cones sample the visible spectrum in a peculiar fashion – and I have shown that one needs that kind of peculiar color sense in order to pick up the color modulations that occur on our skin when we blush, blanch, redden with anger, and so on. Our funny primate variety of color vision turns out to be optimized for seeing the physiological modulations in the blood in the skin that underlies our primate color signals.

So, we evolved special mechanisms designed for sensing the emotions and states of others around us. That sounds a lot like the evolution of a “mind-reading” mechanism, which is why I (only half in jest) describe it that way.’ (N e u r o n a r r a t i v e)

Neurodiversity and Science Fiction Fandom

Frankenstein (1931) film poster

“School is starting up soon… It has brought up a whole childhood can of worms regarding my less-than-lovely educational experience, and makes me reflect on issues of social acceptance for neurologically atypical people overall. That leads me to fandom. I can’t help but think neurodiveristy is an area in which science fiction and fantasy fans are a long, long ways ahead of society in general.

A few years ago I attended a panel at Norwescon that was supposed to be about the future of psychology but quickly became a discussion of the neurological make-up of fandom. The lively and engaged discussion covered dyslexia, Asperger’s, ADHD, autism, sensory integration dysfunction, and related topics. The general consensus was that among convention-goers, the percentage of people with such atypical neurology ranged around 60 to 70 percent. Almost all the audience members who spoke identified with one or more of the above, or mentioned a close relative that did.” (Tor.com)

Hold Your Head Up. A Blush Just Shows You Care


“We are this hypersocial species that settles conflicts and misunderstandings face to face, and we need a way to repair daily betrayals and transgressions quickly…”

In a series of recent studies, psychologists have found that reddening cheeks soften others’ judgments of bad or clumsy behavior, and help to strengthen social bonds rather that strain them. If nothing else, the new findings should take some of the personal sting out of the facial fire shower when it inevitably hits.’ (New York Times )


Déjà vu again

deja vù

“Surprisingly, not only is déjà vu proving an interesting window on the peculiar ways that our memory works, it is also providing a few clues about how we tell the difference between what is real, imagined, dreamed and remembered – one of the true mysteries of consciousness.” via New Scientist

The takeaway message is that deja vu is composed of distinct but related elements — recognition, the sense of familiarity, the sense of the weirdness or bizarreness of the experience, and the recognition of its impossibility — each of which has its own circuitry and neurocognitive machinery.

Study suggests salt might be ‘nature’s antidepressant’

Halite (sodium chloride) - a single, large crystal

“Most people consume far too much salt, and a University of Iowa researcher has discovered one potential reason we crave it: it might put us in a better mood.

UI psychologist Kim Johnson and colleagues found in their research that when rats are deficient in sodium chloride, common table salt, they shy away from activities they normally enjoy, like drinking a sugary substance or pressing a bar that stimulates a pleasant sensation in their brains.

“Things that normally would be pleasurable for rats didn’t elicit the same degree of relish, which leads us to believe that a salt deficit and the craving associated with it can induce one of the key symptoms associated with depression,” Johnson said.

The UI researchers can’t say it is full-blown depression because several criteria factor into such a diagnosis, but a loss of pleasure in normally pleasing activities is one of the most important features of psychological depression. And, the idea that salt is a natural mood-elevating substance could help explain why we’re so tempted to over-ingest it, even though it’s known to contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.” via physorg.com.

Poor Children’s Brain Activity Resembles That Of Stroke Victims, EEG Shows

‘Previous studies have shown a possible link between frontal lobe function and behavioral differences in children from low and high socioeconomic levels, but according to cognitive psychologist Mark Kishiyama, first author of the new paper, “those studies were only indirect measures of brain function and could not disentangle the effects of intelligence, language proficiency and other factors that tend to be associated with low socioeconomic status. Our study is the first with direct measure of brain activity where there is no issue of task complexity.”

Co-author W. Thomas Boyce, UC Berkeley professor emeritus of public health who currently is the British Columbia Leadership Chair of Child Development at the University of British Columbia (UBC), is not surprised by the results. “We know kids growing up in resource-poor environments have more trouble with the kinds of behavioral control that the prefrontal cortex is involved in regulating. But the fact that we see functional differences in prefrontal cortex response in lower socioeconomic status kids is definitive.”

Boyce, a pediatrician and developmental psychobiologist, heads a joint UC Berkeley/UBC research program called WINKS – Wellness in Kids – that looks at how the disadvantages of growing up in low socioeconomic circumstances change children's basic neural development over the first several years of life.

“This is a wake-up call,” Knight said. “It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums.” ‘

via Science Daily.