San Luis Obispo, California

What I am reading today:

“Exactly why this happens is unclear. But new research led by neuroscientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine may have literally shined a light on the answer, one that could lead to the discovery of new mental health therapies. A report of the study appears March 22 in the journal Neuron.”

“This result when watching such a formal dance as ballet is striking in comparison to the similar enhanced response the authors found in empathic observers when watching an Indian dance rich in hand gestures. This is important because it shows that motor expertise in the movements observed is not required to have enhanced neural motor responses when just watching dance performances.

The authors suggest that spectators covertly simulate the dance movements for styles that they regularly watch, causing the increased corticospinal excitability.”

“There are no acknowledged biomarkers for autism today. Researchers at Berzelii Centre and the Science for Life Laboratory in Uppsala who, in collaboration with colleagues at Linnaeus University in Sweden and the Faculty of Medicine in Tehran, Iran, who have discovered some promising biomarkers.”

“In the 1930s, the psychologist B. F. Skinner devised the operant conditioning chamber, or “Skinner box,” in which a lever press by an animal triggered either a reinforcing stimulus, such as delivery of food or water, or a punishing stimulus, such as a painful foot shock. Rats placed in a Skinner box will rapidly learn to press a lever for a food reward and to avoid pressing a lever that delivers the shock. “



Amir Tadros · April 2, 2012 at 9:47 am

“The Neuroscience of Pleasure”
I was familiar with Milner’s experiment and how the rats had responded to direct brain stimulation. I was very surprised, however, to learn that humans can become just as addicted to electrically stimulating their brains as the rats. I had assumed that a human has a higher brain function than a rat and therefore would be able to better resist these pleasure urges.
I was also surprised by the lack of ethics involved in some of these experiments. I understand that the 70s were a different time and what constitutes as fine then isn’t necessarily acceptable today. However, I feel that trying to “fix” someone’s sexual orientation and using a prostitute in that process is unacceptable in the scientific community, even by the standards used in the 70s.

montalban · April 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

“The Neuroscience of Pleasure”
I have always heard about these types of experiments but it’s crazy to think that these rats became almost like machines. They didn’t seek anything else but the pleasure stimulus, even when they were on the brink of starvation. Because the results of these experiments on rats it shocked me that scientists would even attempt to mess with the human brain in such an unethical manner but the results that they found are even crazier. However, I do have a few issues with these studies; because their studies were only on a few individuals, the results cannot be generalized to the population because there could be many other factors at play. In addition, I believe the B-19 subject’s heterosexual actions were manipulated too much as to conclude anything. I think the subject began to associate heterosexual tendencies with the pleasure he felt (obviously), but I think it wasn’t because he was turning heterosexual but just because he was driven by the pleasure. If the pleasure were to stop, his actions would have probably stopped as well. In other words, if the man’s receptors for pleasure were stimulated when he was given donuts, he may react in a similar manner. His new favorite food would probably be donuts because he associates them with the pleasurable feeling, not because he actually likes donuts. But once the pleasure stops when he is given donuts, his liking for donuts would probably decrease.
It is also crazy to think that our brains are wired in a way in which we find certain experiences more pleasurable than others. I learned in my English class last year that many advertisement companies know how our brains are wired and take advantage of that. They find ways to get us to like certain things without us realizing that we are being manipulated. It’s kind of scary that something as small as pleasure can drive our every action and that when scientists find the root of how our brain works, the media and other companies may try to take advantage of that.

montalban · April 4, 2012 at 4:43 pm

“Study shines light on brain mechanism that controls reward enjoyment”
This article is really interesting but it scares me what the public could do with this information. Although this may seem far-fetched, drugs users may better be able to create combinations of drugs that inhibit our actions with this information. In addition, I’m kind of curious on why dogs were chosen for this experiment and if the type of reward has an effect. For instance, what if food was used instead of sugar water or what is a rat was used instead of a dog; would the results be different? It, however, is super interesting how instantaneous their results of optical stimulation were apparent in the tested animals.

slboman · April 7, 2012 at 4:51 pm

I find Skinner boxes very interesting. The bar pressing of the rats can almost be compared to drug addiction. Addict keep using drugs because the pleasure is addicting and will do what is necessary (bar press) to get a fix. Similarly, it seems as if patient B-19 was also responding to pleasure stimulus as an addict. I am doubtful that the experiment was successful in “turning him heterosexual.” He may have responded to the images of heterosexuality, yet if the simulation that the rats feel is to the same degree patient B-19 felt I think his arousal would stop along with the stimulation.

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