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de System Administrator - miércoles, 24 de septiembre de 2014, 15:22


Written By: Steven Kotler

Big Brother is feeling you—literally.

A few months back, I wrote about Ellie, the world’s first AI-psychologist. Developed by DARPA and researchers at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, Ellie is a diagnostic tool capable of reading 60 non-verbal cues a second—everything from eye-gaze to face tilt to voice tone—in the hopes of identifying the early warning signs of depressions and (part of the long term goal) stemming the rising tide of soldier suicide.

And early reports indicate that Ellie is both good at her job and that soldiers like talking to an AI-psychologist more than they like talking to a human psychologist (AI’s don’t judge).

More importantly, Ellie is part of the bleeding edge of an accelerating trend—what we could call the automation of psychology.

The goal in this story is to examine some surprising aspects of the long term ramifications of this trend, but before we get there a few more examples of exactly what’s been going on are helpful.

Our first example comes from Dartmouth, where computer scientist Andrew Campbelljust announced that he successfully used data gathered by student’s smartphones to predict their states of mind and subsequent behavior.

Campbell’s original question was why some students fail when others succeed. His suspicion was that a myriad of factors like quality of student sleep and number of interpersonal relationships played an important role in success, so he built an app—known as The StudentLife app (built for Android)—that monitored things like sleep duration, number of phone conversations per day, length of those conversations, physical activity, location (meaning are you out in public or hiding in the dorm), etc. This data—combined with some machine learning algorithms—was used to make inferences about student mental health.

48 students ran this app for 10 weeks. The results were surprisingly accurate. For example, students who have more conversations were less likely to be depressed, students who were physically active were less likely to be lonely, and, surprisingly, there is no correlation between class attendance and academic success.

As Campbell told New Scientist: “We found for the first time that passive and automatic sensor data obtained from phones without any action from the user, significantly correlates to student depression level, stress and loneliness, and with academic performance over the term.”

The point here is not that USC’s Ellie or Campbell’s app are the end-all-be-all of psychological diagnosis—but it’s really a matter of time. In the same way that researchers are hard at work at a portable, AI-driven, handheld medical diagnostic device (see the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize), they’re getting down to work on similar breakthroughs in psychology.

Yet, diagnosis is only part of the issue. If we’re really talking about the automation of psychology, there’s still treatment to consider. And that’s where our second set of examples comes in.

Right now, a next wave of cheap, portable, and far more precise neurofeedback devices are hitting the market. One example is the Muse, a device Tim Ferris recently put through it’s paces. The goal of his experiment was stress reduction and, after two weeks of Muse training, Mr. Ferris reported that he a much calmer person.

Of course, the Muse is one product. But dozens more are hitting the market. And in every variety.

A few weeks ago, when I was at USC to meet Ellie, I also got to demo an immersive VR-based protocol for the treatment of PTSD, developed by 

. It’s an impressive piece of tech. With soldiers returning from combat, already Rizzo’s protocol has proven itself more effective than traditional methods.


And since brain science itself is advancing exponentially all of this work is only going to continue to accelerate. In other words, we’re none too far away from a combination platter of automatized psychological diagnosis and automatized treatment protocols—which means that mental health care is currently being digitized and about to become democratized.

So here’s my question, sort of a little thought experiment. Let’s say this works. Let’s say that by 2025, Google or Facebook or someone like that will have succeeded in their mission to bring free wireless to the world. Let’s say that smartphones follow the samegrowth curve they’re currently on and, again by 2025, have then become so cheap that just about anyone who wants one can have one. And let’s say that we manage to automate psychology successfully.

What are the results?

The easiest place to start is with the idea that we might soon live in a much happier world. I don’t mean this in a let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya kind of way, I mean that when psychologists 

 (University of Illinois) and Shigehiro Oishi (UVA) conducted a study of more than 10,000 participants in 48 counties, they found that happiness is not just a global concern, rather is the global concern. In their study, the quest for happiness is more important to folks than making lots of money, living a meaningful life, or, even, going to heaven.

Moreover, while some sizable chunk of happiness appears to be genetic, there’s alsoreally good research showing that 40 percent of our happiness is entirely within our control.

What all this suggests is that once we have available (i.e. democratized) mental health tools, people will use these tools to strive for happiness. And, if early results are anything to go by, they might just find a little more happiness as well.

So, again, what does the world look like when we’re all in better moods?

Recent research shows that happier people tend to make more money and spend less money. So, does this mean that happiness is good for the banking industry (where that extra money might go if it’s not spent) and bad for economic growth (because that money is not being spent)? Truthfully, we don’t know.

When it comes to the economics of happiness, the research usually looks at the impact of money on happiness and not visa-versa. Check out this Atlantic article. The story sums up a lot of recent work, but again, moves from wealth to happiness and not the other way round.

More interesting, perhaps, is the question of unintended consequences. Consider the recent spate of work that has shown that happy people have a bunch of habits that unhappy people don’t. What we don’t yet know is if these habits are things that lead to more happiness or are they the results of being happy, but—it seems safe to assume—some of these habits will turn out to be more the effect (of happiness) than the cause.

Thus, in a happier world, we should see more of these effects. And the results will make for a very different world.

Let’s start with the fact that happy people are more curious and, by extension, more prone to risk-taking (in an attempt to try and satisfy that extra curiosity). So a happier society should be a more innovative society, as the result of all that curiosity and risk-taking.

And this is merely a single example. Researchers have also found that happy people tend to be less skeptical, less jealous, more grateful, more extroverted, better rested, more future-oriented, more willing to feel (but not dwell upon) negative emotions, dislike small talk, more generous, and, of course, more purpose driven.

By no means is this a complete list. But the point here is that while many of these changes may be causes of happiness, a number of them are bound to end up being its results. And, again, with serious effect.


University of Texas psychologist David Buss has called jealousy “the most destructive emotion housed in the human brain.” In his research, analyzing over a century’s worth of data, jealousy is the leading cause of spousal murder worldwide. So, if it turns out that, less jealousy is a by-product of more happiness (and not just a cause) then are we looking at a future with far fewer domestic homicides? Less spousal abuse as well?

What about a more generous world? Or a less skeptical world? Or a world that dislikes small talk (imagine what happens to reality TV then)?

The point here is that while all might this sound a little hypothetical—admittedly, it is—but the automation of psychology is already happening. All the data suggests that the democratization of mental health care should lead in the direction of a happier world. But what the data also suggests is that a happier world will be a far different world—meaning the impact of a shift in global mood will have some absolutely enormous socio-economic ramifications.

Stay tuned.

[Image credits: eggs in carton courtesy of Shutterstock, Digitalarti/Flickr, Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr]

This entry was posted in AILongevity And Health and tagged brain sciencedarpahappinessmuse,neurofeedback.


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AI: Artificial Imagination? [1120]

de System Administrator - martes, 24 de febrero de 2015, 16:36

AI: Artificial Imagination?

by Margaret Boden

Professor of cognitive science at the University of Sussex, author of Mind As Machine, awarded an OBE in 2001.

Most of us are fascinated by creativity. New ideas in science and art are often hugely exciting – and, paradoxically, sometimes seemingly “obvious” once they’ve arrived. But how can that be? Many people, perhaps most of us, think there’s no hope of an answer. Creativity is deeply mysterious, indeed almost magical. Any suggestion that there might be a scientific theory of creativity strikes such people as absurd. And as for computer models of creativity, those are felt to be utterly impossible.

But they aren’t. Scientific psychology has identified three different ways in which new, surprising, and valuable ideas – that is, creative ideas – can arise in people’s minds. These involve combinational, exploratory, and transformational creativity. The information processes involved can be understood in terms of concepts drawn from Artificial Intelligence (AI). They can even be modelled by computers using AI techniques.

The first type of creativity involves unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas. This is widely recognised. Indeed, it’s usually the only type that’s mentioned, even by people professionally committed to the study of creativity. Examples include puns, poetic imagery, and scientific analogies (the heart as a pump, the atom as a solar system).

The second, exploratory creativity, arises within a culturally accepted style of thinking. This may involve cooking, chemistry, or choreography, and, of course, it may concern either art or science. The notion that creativity is confined to the arts or to the “creative industries” is mistaken.

In exploratory creativity, the rules defining the style are followed, explored, and sometimes also tested in order to generate new structures that fit within that style. An example might be another impressionist painting, or another molecule within a particular area of chemistry. So rules aren’t the antithesis of creativity, as is widely believed. On the contrary, stylistic constraints make exploratory creativity possible.

The third and final form is transformational creativity. This grows out of exploratory creativity, when one or more of the previously accepted rules is altered in some way. It often happens when testing of the previous style shows that it cannot generate certain results which the person concerned wanted to achieve. The alteration makes certain structures possible which were impossible before.

For instance, the “single viewpoint” convention of classical portraiture implies that a face shown in profile must have only one eye. But cubism dropped that convention. Features visible from any viewpoint could be represented simultaneously – hence works such as Picasso’s The Weeping Woman (1937), which depicts its subject with two eyes on the same side of her face.

As that example reminds us, transformational creativity often produces results that aren’t immediately valued, except perhaps by a handful of people. That’s understandable, because one or more of the previously accepted rules has been broken.

All three types of creativity have been modelled by computers (and all have contributed to computer art). That is not to say that the computers are “really” creative. But it does demonstrate that they at least appear to be creative. Their performance would be regarded as creative if it were done by a person.

You might think that, with respect to combinational creativity, this isn’t surprising. After all, nothing could be simpler than to provide a computer with words, images, musical notes etc and get it to combine examples at random. Certainly, many of the results would be novel, and surprising.

Well, yes. But would they be valuable? Most random word combinations, for instance, would be senseless. A practiced poet might be able to use them in a way that showed their relevance – to each other and/or to some other ideas that we find interesting. But the computer itself could not. Unless the programmer had provided clear criteria for judging relevance, the random word combinations couldn’t be pruned to keep only the valuable ones. There are no such criteria, at present – and I’m not holding my breath!

Those few AI models of creativity that do rely on novel combinations generally combine random choice with specific criteria chosen for the task at hand. For example, a joke-generating programme called JAPE churns out riddles like these: 

Q: What do you call a depressed train?

A: A low-comotive


Q: What do you get if you combine a sheep with a kangaroo?

A: A woolly jumper.

JAPE is really doing exploratory creativity. It has structured templates for eight types of joke, and explores the possibilities with fairly acceptable results.

Exploratory creativity in general is easier to model in computers than combinational creativity is. But that’s not to say it’s easy: the style of thinking concerned has to be expressed with the supreme clarity required by a computer programme. In JAPE, the style is the joke template. In other cases, it’s a way of writing music (from a Bach fugue to a Scott Joplin rag), or of drawing Palladian villas or human figures. All these, and more, have been achieved already.

Many people assume that transformational creativity is the most difficult of all for computer modelling – perhaps even impossible. After all, a computer can do only what its programme tells it to do. So how can there be any transformation?

There can be, if the programme can alter its own rules. Such programs exist, and are used not only in some computer art but also in designing engines. They are evolutionary programmes, employing “genetic algorithms” inspired by mutations in biology to make random changes in their rules.

Some evolutionary programmes can also prune the results, selecting those which are closest to what the task requires, and using them to breed the next generation. That’s true of engine-design systems, for instance. Often, however, the selection is done by a human, because the programme can’t define suitable selection criteria to do the job automatically. In short, transformation isn’t the problem. The key problem again is relevance, or value.

So creativity is, after all, scientifically intelligible, as I’ve argued in my books The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms (2004) and Creativity and Art: Three Roads to Surprise (2010). But it’s not scientifically predictable. Human minds are far too rich, far too subtle, and far too idiosyncratic for that.




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Al cerebro le encanta el dinero [1757]

de System Administrator - domingo, 16 de abril de 2017, 23:39


Al cerebro le encanta el dinero


Dos personas, una frente a otra. Una recibe 10 euros que puede repartir como quiera entre las dos, pero hay truco. Si el trato que ofrece el que tiene los 10 euros no convence a su compañero, los dos se quedan sin nada.

Bastaría con una oferta de 1 euro para que la persona que se sienta al otro lado de la mesa la apreciara como rentable: 1 euro es más que 0 euros. Pues bien, la razón tiende a toparse con el egoísmo. La mayoría de los individuos que han pasado por este experimento, repetido en innumerables ocasiones, rechazan cualquier oferta que esté por debajo de los 4 euros. O reciben la mitad o boicotean a su compañero, aunque les cueste dinero.

Esta pequeña y lucrativa para los participantes función teatral se conoce como el juego del ultimátum y sirve para demostrar que muchas veces los individuos se comportan en los mercados de manera irracional. La venganza es tan sólo una de las caras que adopta el egoísmo cuando el dinero aparece en la ecuación.

El dinero da algo que se le parece mucho a la felicidad. Con un buen sueldo se pueden conseguir cosas útiles, experiencias inolvidables y sueños convertidos en realidad. Por eso la obsesión del ser humano desde la llegada del capitalismo ha sido tener más y más, una circunstancia que además sirve para diferenciarse de los vecinos y creerse mejor que ellos.

Desde los colonos españoles en América hasta Donald Trump, los hombres se han caracterizado por su insaciable sed de dinero, por su eterna fiebre del oro. En muchas ocasiones los ricos son ricos por ser gente sin escrúpulos; al fin y al cabo, nadie se hace multimillonario con el sudor de su frente sino mediante engaños, atajos e información privilegiada. De ahí la imagen del Tío Gilito, un avaro excéntrico que goza cuando se zambulle en el dinero custodiado en su cámara acorazada.

Desde que el modelo soviético se derrumbó sólo quedan cuestionables experimentos socialistas en un puñado de países y el capitalismo se ha convertido en la divisa de la humanidad. Ahora sólo importa producir, ganar y gastar. Ese estilo de vida cambia a las personas, que por dinero con capaces de hacer cualquier cosa.

La ciencia ha demostrado en múltiples ocasiones que el dinero genera estragos en nuestro cerebro, cableado para ser egoísta y exigir siempre una cuota justa del pastel económico. Uno de los descubrimientos más relevantes sobre los estímulos que reciben los humanos en situaciones en las que el vil metal está de por medio es el que elaboraron varios científicos de la Universidad de Bonn, que se propusieron estudiar desde el punto de vista neurológico las reacciones a las situaciones de desigualdad.

Los investigadores teutones reunieron a varias cobayas humanas y las pusieron a completar unas sencillas tareas por las que recibían una remuneración. Cuando la segunda persona recibía el mismo sueldo por ejecutar el mismo trabajo todo iba bien, pero cada vez que los responsables del estudio repartían un salario diferente por el mismo esfuerzo había problemas, sobre todo si un individuo recibía menos que otro.

Ni uno solo de los sujetos que obtuvo una paga menor que su compañero quedó satisfecho con el reparto del dinero, como es lógico. Más que egoísmo es sentido de la justicia.

En el caso contrario es donde se vislumbra algo de humanidad, donde se puede atisbar que el dinero no envilece tanto como pensamos. Aunque a la inmensa mayoría (39 de 64) les dio igual cobrar más que sus compañeros, tan sólo 9 quedaron satisfechos con su paga extra. Por su parte, 16 de los sujetos consideraron injusto cobrar más y hubieran preferido un sueldo similar al de sus semejantes.

El egoísmo no está bien visto y, además, no siempre es la actitud más económica. Por mucho que los modelos de mercado siempre partan de la base de que los ciudadanos quieren lo mejor para sí mismos, la «teoría de juegos» ha demostrado en numerosas ocasiones que lo mejor es cooperar, aunque no nos apetezca.

El trabajo del matemático John Forbes Nash, retratado en el filme Una mente maravillosa (2001), sirvió para demostrar que cada uno toma las decisiones que más le convienen sin contar con los demás, como sucede en el dilema del prisionero. Dos reos se enfrentan a un interrogatorio de la policía, que quiere incriminarles; si uno confiesa y el otro niega el crimen, el delator se libra de la cárcel y el compinche acaba 6 años en la trena. Si los dos confiesan se quedan 3 años tras las rejas, mientras que si los dos lo niegan tan sólo se quedan 1 año a la sombra.

La mejor solución, en conjunto, es que los dos lo nieguen y estén tan sólo 1 año en la cárcel, pero como cada uno quiere salvar el pellejo lo que hacen es delatar al compañero. Eso les conducirá, sin embargo, a 3 años en el penal.

Este juego es tan sólo un ejemplo práctico de la importancia del egoísmo, un factor que los modelos matemáticos han de tener en cuenta. Como también demuestra el juego del ultimátum, el bien común es una quimera y lo único que importa es el dinero.



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Al cumplir los 80 [834]

de System Administrator - lunes, 13 de octubre de 2014, 16:18

Oliver Sacks reflexiona acerca de la vejez 

Al cumplir los 80

No pienso en la vejez como en una época cada vez más penosa que tenemos que soportar de la mejor manera posible, sino en una época de ocio y libertad, liberados de las urgencias artificiosas de días pasados.

Fuente: El País, Madrid

Anoche soñé con el mercurio: enormes y relucientes glóbulos de azogue que subían y bajaban. El mercurio es el elemento número 80, y mi sueño fue un recordatorio de que muy pronto los años que iba a cumplir también serían 80.

Desde que era un niño, cuando conocí los números atómicos, para mí los elementos de la tabla periódica y los cumpleaños han estado entrelazados. A los 11 años podía decir: “soy sodio” (elemento 11), y cuando tuve 79 años, fui oro. Hace unos años, cuando le di a un amigo una botella de mercurio por su 80º cumpleaños (una botella especial que no podía tener fugas ni romperse) me miró de una forma peculiar, pero más adelante me envió una carta encantadora en la que bromeaba: “tomo un poquito todas las mañanas, por salud”.

¡80 años! Casi no me lo creo

Me siento contento de estar vivo: “¡Me alegro de no estar muerto!”

Muchas veces tengo la sensación de que la vida está a punto de empezar, para en seguida darme cuenta de que casi ha terminado. Mi madre era la decimosexta de 18 niños; yo fui el más joven de sus cuatro hijos, y casi el más joven del vasto número de primos de su lado de su familia. Siempre fui el más joven de mi clase en el instituto. He mantenido esta sensación de ser siempre el más joven, aunque ahora mismo ya soy prácticamente la persona más vieja que conozco.

A los 41 años pensé que me moriría: tuve una mala caída y me rompí una pierna haciendo a solas montañismo. Me entablillé la pierna lo mejor que pude y empecé a descender la montaña torpemente, ayudándome solo de los brazos. En las largas horas que siguieron me asaltaron los recuerdos, tanto los buenos como los malos. La mayoría surgían de la gratitud: gratitud por lo que me habían dado otros, y también gratitud por haber sido capaz de devolver algo (el año anterior se había publicado Despertares).

A los 80 años, con un puñado de problemas médicos y quirúrgicos, aunque ninguno de ellos vaya a incapacitarme. Me siento contento de estar vivo: “¡Me alegro de no estar muerto!”. Es una frase que se me escapa cuando hace un día perfecto. (Esto lo cuento como contraste a una anécdota que me contó un amigo. Paseando por París con Samuel Beckett durante una perfecta mañana de primavera, le dijo: “¿Un día como este no hace que le alegre estar vivo?”. A lo que Beckett respondió: “Yo no diría tanto”).

Me siento agradecido por haber experimentado muchas cosas –algunas maravillosas, otras horribles— y por haber sido capaz de escribir una docena de libros, por haber recibido innumerables cartas de amigos, colegas, y lectores, y por disfrutar de mantener lo que Nathaniel Hawthorne llamaba “relaciones con el mundo”.

Siento haber perdido (y seguir perdiendo) tanto tiempo; siento ser tan angustiosamente tímido a los 80 como lo era a los 20; siento no hablar más idiomas que mi lengua materna, y no haber viajado ni haber experimentado otras culturas más ampliamente.

Siento que debería estar intentado completar mi vida, signifique lo que signifique eso de “completar una vida”. Algunos de mis pacientes, con 90 o 100 años, entonan el nunc dimittis“He tenido una vida plena, y ahora estoy listo para irme”—. Para algunos de ellos, esto significa irse al cielo, y siempre es el cielo y no el infierno, aunque tanto a Samuel Johnson como a Boswell les estremecía la idea de ir al infierno, y se enfurecían con Hume, que no creía en tales cosas. Yo no tengo ninguna fe en (ni deseo de) una existencia posmortem, más allá de la que tendré en los recuerdos de mis amigos, y en la esperanza de que algunos de mis libros sigan “hablando” con la gente después de mi muerte.

Las reacciones se han vuelto más lentas pero, con todo, uno se encuentra lleno de vida

El poeta W. H. Auden decía a menudo que pensaba vivir hasta los 80 y luego “marcharse con viento fresco” (vivió solo hasta los 67). Aunque han pasado 49 años desde su muerte yo sueño a menudo con él, de la misma manera que sueño con Luria, y con mis padres y con antiguos pacientes. Todos se fueron hace ya mucho tiempo, pero los quise y fueron importantes en mi vida.

A los 80 se cierne sobre uno el espectro de la demencia o del infarto. Un tercio de mis contemporáneos están muertos, y muchos más se ven atrapados en existencias trágicas y mínimas, con graves dolencias físicas o mentales. A los 80 las marcas de la decadencia son más que aparentes. Las reacciones se han vuelto más lentas, los nombres se te escapan con más frecuencia y hay que administrar las energías pero, con todo, uno se encuentra muchas veces pletórico y lleno de vida, y nada “viejo”. Tal vez, con suerte, llegue, más o menos intacto, a cumplir algunos años más, y se me conceda la libertad de amar y de trabajar, las dos cosas más importantes de la vida, como insistía Freud.

Cuando me llegue la hora, espero poder morir en plena acción, como Francis Crick. Cuando le dijeron, a los 85 años, que tenía un cáncer mortal, hizo una breve pausa, miró al techo, y pronunció: “Todo lo que tiene un principio tiene que tener un final”, y procedió a seguir pensando en lo que le tenía ocupado antes. Cuando murió, a los 88, seguía completamente entregado a su trabajo más creativo.

Mi padre, que vivió hasta los 94, dijo muchas veces que sus 80 años habían sido una de las décadas en las que más había disfrutado en su vida. Sentía, como estoy empezando a sentir yo ahora, no un encogimiento, sino una ampliación de la vida y de la perspectiva mental. Uno tiene una larga experiencia de la vida, y no solo de la propia, sino también de la de los demás.

Hemos visto triunfos y tragedias, ascensos y declives, revoluciones y guerras, grandes logros y también profundas ambigüedades. Hemos visto el surgimiento de grandes teorías, para luego ver cómo los hechos obstinados las derribaban. Uno es más consciente de que todo es pasajero, y también, posiblemente, más consciente de la belleza.

A los 80 años uno puede tener una mirada amplia, y una sensación vívida, vivida, de la historia que no era posible tener con menos edad. Yo soy capaz de imaginar, de sentir en los huesos, lo que supone un siglo, cosa que no podía hacer cuando tenía 40 años, o 60. No pienso en la vejez como en una época cada vez más penosa que tenemos que soportar de la mejor manera posible, sino en una época de ocio y libertad, liberados de las urgencias artificiosas de días pasados, libres para explorar lo que deseemos, y para unir los pensamientos y las emociones de toda una vida. Tengo ganas de tener 80 años.


Cuando me llegue la hora, espero poder morir en plena acción, como Francis Crick

Oliver Sacks es neurólogo y escritor. Entre sus obras destacan Los ojos de la mente, Despertares y El hombre que confundió a su mujer con un sombrero. Su último libro, Alucinaciones, lo publicará próximamente Anagrama.

© Oliver Sacks, 2013 | Traducción de Eva Cruz 


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All the Brain-Boosting Goodness of Exercise…in a Pill? [1685]

de System Administrator - domingo, 21 de febrero de 2016, 22:17

All the Brain-Boosting Goodness of Exercise…in a Pill?


Lets face it: Love it or hate it, exercise is good for our brains.

Feeling stressed? Hit the trails: running boosts the fight-or-flight brain chemical norepinephrine andenhances our body’s ability to respond to stress. Got the winter blues? Working out just 30 minutes a day, a few times a week immediately ups overall mood and may combat depression. Can’t think straight? 20 minutes of lifting enhances long-term memory by about 10% in healthy young adults. Getting forgetful? Distance running increases brain volume, augments the birth of new neurons and slows age-related brain deterioration, even in old age.


The evidence is overwhelming: regular exercise may be as close to a brain-boosting elixir as we can get (plus it’s free!).

There’s just one problem: many of us don’t like to exercise. Some people — due to chronic illnesses such as cancer or other conditions — physically can’t. Yet these people often stand to gain the most from the mental benefits of working out.

The solution seems obvious. What if there’s a way to distill the positive effects of exercise, put it into a glorious pill and let everyone reap its mental benefits?

Muscle power

Yes, an “exercise pill” sounds like old news — but in truth, the quest is just getting started.

Late last year, a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the University of Copenhagen collected muscle tissue from four men who biked intensely for 10 minutes, and found over 1,000 different molecular changes.

“We’ve created an exercise blueprint that lays the foundation for future treatments, and the end goal is to mimic the effects of exercise,” said Dr. Nolan Hoffman, one of the authors of the study.

There’s more in the works. Recently the National Institute of Health organized a huge multi-center clinical study to try to map out, in unprecedented detail, how exercise changes our genes, protein turnover, metabolism and epigenetics — that is, how genes are expressed — in muscles and fatty tissue.


“Identification of the mechanisms that underlie the link between physical activity and improved health holds extraordinary promise for discovery of novel therapeutic targets and development of personalized exercise medicine,” wrote the participating researchers in a reportin Cell Metabolism.

With the help of bioinformatics and big data, the search has been fruitful: a team from Harvard announced a drugthat converts your stubborn white fat to the metabolically active brown fat, transforming fat-storing cells into thermogenic fuel-torching engines; a molecule dubbed “compound 14” tricks your body into thinking it’s low on energy, thereby pushing the cells’ energy factories into overdrive in an attempt to make more.

When we look at benefiting the brain, however, our cornucopia of potential exercise pills rapidly dwindles. None of the candidates discovered so far can make us sleep, feel and think better in the way that exercise can.

Scientists are just starting to bridge the gap. One crucial question stands in the way: exercise directly acts on the body’s skeletal muscle and cardiovascular system. So how does the brain know that the body just worked out?

The mythical messenger

What are the molecules that signal from the body to the brain after exercise?

It’s a question that’s already spurred one startupcaught the eye of leading venture capitalists and is potentially worth tens of millions of dollars.

It’s also one mired in controversy since the get-go.

In 2012, Dr. Bruce Spiegelman at Harvard Medical School announced the discovery of irisin, the bombshell “exercise mimetic” that thrilled the world. Named after the Greek messenger goddess Iris, irisin is a protein released by skeletal muscle after moderate running.

Irisin travels through the blood into the brain, where it stimulates brain cells to produce a nurturing protein called BDNF. BDNF is like mother’s milk for the brain: it coaxes the hippocampus — a brain region crucially involved in memory — to give birth to new neurons and adds to the brain’s computational powers. It also rebuilds worn-down structures within a neuron, and makes the brain more resilient to stressors that would usually cause cell death.

BDNF makes the brain bloom, and Irisin seems to be the harbinger.

Spiegelman’s work was almost immediately scrutinized by the scientific community. Anonymous comments flooded PubPeer, a popular forum where scientists discuss published papers, questioning the validity of the data and even the existence of the protein.

Three years later, Spiegelman and his team shot back at the naysayers with a new study that quantified the levels of irisin in the bloodstream of human volunteers — confirming that it’s real — and showed that it is, in fact, released after exercise.

Irisin’s rollercoaster to fame (or notoriety) isn’t just a nerd fight.

For one, it shows how tough it is to pinpoint messengers that bridge the blood and brain. For another, “exercise pill” has somewhat of the same negative connotations as “anti-aging pills.” Many scientists believethat exercise acts on the body and brain in too many ways, making the quest for a single pill nothing more than a fool’s errand. Others think “magical fat loss pills” have no place in respectable research.

But the potential impact of a true brain-boosting exercise pill is too strong to ignore. Amidst all the controversy, several pioneering teams are chipping away at the question.

One of the hottest new candidates is kynurenic acid, a muscle metabolite that protects the brain from stress-induced changes associated with depression, at least in mice.

Another is AICAR. Initially developed to protect the heart from injuries during surgery, AICAR boosts the expression of genes involved in oxygen metabolism and running endurance in mice. When used in old mice, it made them smarter and more agile.

Other examples include experimental drugs with somewhat unimaginative names, such as GW1516. These act locally on muscles but also affect the mind: mice taking GW1516 for a week performed much better on tests for learning and memory. When scientists peeked into their brains, they found abundant new neurons scattered all across the hippocampus.

Pills for treadmills?

Most of the research so far was done in mice. But the results are likely to work in humans as well — if you’re willing to bear side effects such as gout, heart valve defects and reduced blood flow to the brain and heart.

The side effects of most of these drug candidates are still unclear, but the temptation of a better body and brain is strong. Since 2013, a few drug candidates have made the (underground) leap into humans — specifically, endurance athletes. Cases of professional cyclists doping GW1516 were so frequent that it prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency to issue a warning against the drug.


For the rest of us, a safe and effective exercise pill is still a ways off. At the moment, scientists are still trying to figure out what kind of exercise — distance running, high-intensity interval training or weight training — benefits the brain the most (spoiler: running gets the gold).

"We are at the early stages of this exciting new field," said Dr. Ismail Laher. a scientist at the University of British Columbia who recently published a think piece on the future of exercise pills.

“These medications have life-changing potential for some people,” agreed bioethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan at the NYU School of Medicine. But he warns against unintended consequences.

“If you install seat belts and airbags in cars people drive faster,” he said. “I just think (exercise pills) should be introduced gradually so that populations who really can’t exercise might see the benefits while harm to the general population can be minimized.”

It’s a field that’s rapidly moving forward, and well worth keeping tabs on. And maybe someday we’ll have an exercise-mimicking pill that, in terms of health, transforms couch potatoes into elite athletes.

But until then, for a natural body and brain-boost, hit the treadmill.


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Alopecia [946]

de System Administrator - sábado, 18 de octubre de 2014, 20:35

Tricología: Soluciones contra la alopecia desde las diferentes especialidades

Los problemas de caída del cabello son una de las principales preocupaciones estéticas de la población, sobre todo masculina. En este monográfico analizamos las diferentes soluciones que se proponen desde la variedad de disciplinas que componen la medicina para la belleza: Los doctores Sergio Vañó (Dermatología); Jesús A. F. Tresguerres (Endocrinología y Nutrición); Inma González (Medicina Estética) y Mauricio Verbauvede (Cirugía Plástica) aportan lo más novedoso en tratamientos de restauración capilar

Los problemas de caída del cabello son una de las principales preocupaciones estéticas de la población, sobre todo masculina. En este monográfico analizamos las diferentes soluciones que se proponen desde la variedad de disciplinas que componen la medicina para la belleza: Los doctores Sergio Vañó (Dermatología); Jesús A. F. Tresguerres (Endocrinología y Nutrición); Inma González (Medicina Estética) y Mauricio Verbauvede (Cirugía Plástica) aportan lo más novedoso en tratamientos de restauración capilar

Por favor lea el whitepaper adjunto.

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Am I going to die? [890]

de System Administrator - jueves, 25 de septiembre de 2014, 16:07

Matthew O'Reilly: “Am I dying?” The honest answer. 



Matthew O’Reilly is a veteran emergency medical technician on Long Island, New York. In this talk, O’Reilly describes what happens next when a gravely hurt patient asks him: “Am I going to die?” 

0:11 - I've been a critical care EMT for the past seven years in Suffolk County, New York. I've been a first responder in a number of incidents ranging from car accidents to Hurricane Sandy.

0:20 - If you are like most people, death might be one of your greatest fears. Some of us will see it coming.Some of us won't. There is a little-known documented medical term called impending doom. It's almost a symptom. As a medical provider, I'm trained to respond to this symptom like any other, so when a patient having a heart attack looks at me and says, "I'm going to die today," we are trained to reevaluate the patient's condition.

0:44 - Throughout my career, I have responded to a number of incidents where the patient had minutes left to live and there was nothing I could do for them. With this, I was faced with a dilemma: Do I tell the dying that they are about to face death, or do I lie to them to comfort them? Early in my career, I faced this dilemma by simply lying. I was afraid. I was afraid if I told them the truth, that they would die in terror, in fear, just grasping for those last moments of life.

1:17 - That all changed with one incident. Five years ago, I responded to a motorcycle accident. The rider had suffered critical, critical injuries. As I assessed him, I realized that there was nothing that could be done for him, and like so many other cases, he looked me in the eye and asked that question: "Am I going to die?" In that moment, I decided to do something different. I decided to tell him the truth. I decided to tell him that he was going to die and that there was nothing I could do for him. His reaction shocked me to this day. He simply laid back and had a look of acceptance on his face. He was not met with that terror or fear that I thought he would be. He simply laid there, and as I looked into his eyes, I saw inner peace and acceptance. From that moment forward, I decided it was not my place to comfort the dying with my lies.Having responded to many cases since then where patients were in their last moments and there was nothing I could do for them, in almost every case, they have all had the same reaction to the truth, of inner peace and acceptance. In fact, there are three patterns I have observed in all these cases.

2:36 - The first pattern always kind of shocked me. Regardless of religious belief or cultural background, there's a need for forgiveness. Whether they call it sin or they simply say they have a regret, their guilt is universal. I had once cared for an elderly gentleman who was having a massive heart attack. As I prepared myself and my equipment for his imminent cardiac arrest, I began to tell the patient of his imminent demise. He already knew by my tone of voice and body language. As I placed the defibrillator pads on his chest, prepping for what was going to happen, he looked me in the eye and said, "I wish I had spent more time with my children and grandchildren instead of being selfish with my time." Faced with imminent death, all he wanted was forgiveness.

3:27 - The second pattern I observe is the need for remembrance. Whether it was to be remembered in my thoughts or their loved ones', they needed to feel that they would be living on. There's a need for immortality within the hearts and thoughts of their loved ones, myself, my crew, or anyone around.Countless times, I have had a patient look me in the eyes and say, "Will you remember me?"

3:53 - The final pattern I observe always touched me the deepest, to the soul. The dying need to know that their life had meaning. They need to know that they did not waste their life on meaningless tasks.

4:08 - This came to me very, very early in my career. I had responded to a call. There was a female in her late 50s severely pinned within a vehicle. She had been t-boned at a high rate of speed, critical, critical condition. As the fire department worked to remove her from the car, I climbed in to begin to render care.As we talked, she had said to me, "There was so much more I wanted to do with my life." She had felt she had not left her mark on this Earth. As we talked further, it would turn out that she was a mother of two adopted children who were both on their way to medical school. Because of her, two children had a chance they never would have had otherwise and would go on to save lives in the medical field as medical doctors. It would end up taking 45 minutes to free her from the vehicle. However, she perished prior to freeing her.

5:03 - I believed what you saw in the movies: when you're in those last moments that it's strictly terror, fear. I have come to realize, regardless of the circumstance, it's generally met with peace and acceptance, that it's the littlest things, the littlest moments, the littlest things you brought into the world that give you peace in those final moments.

5:25 - Thank you.

5:27 - (Applause)


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Amor e Inteligencia [845]

de System Administrator - domingo, 7 de septiembre de 2014, 20:26

Cuándo lo que nos enamora es la inteligencia

Por Daniel Viñoles Zunino

¿Qué es lo que nos atrae particularmente del otro sexo? De hecho, la química entre las personas juega un papel primordial en nuestras relaciones, pero también hay ciertas características de la personalidad que nos acercan particularmente a determinadas personas.

Los factores que juegan en la atracción evidentemente son variados, la mayoría de las personas se sienten atraídas por la apariencia física, por la personalidad, por el carisma, simpatía, etc. Pero hay quienes encuentran en la inteligencia la característica (podríamos decir excluyente) más sexualmente atractiva en el sexo opuesto. Son los sapiosexuales, obviamente la palabra tiene su origen en 'sapiens' que significa sabio.

Aunque esta atracción no siempre está conectada con la sexualidad, en la mayoría de los casos sí, ya que es la propia sinergia intelectual lo que dispara la relación. Esto se ve a menudo en los lugares de trabajo y también puede ser como otro aspecto del sapiosexual, es decir, el deseo de estar conectado con intelectuales, aunque el resultado no siempre sea el encuentro íntimo.

Los sapiosexuales se sienten mucho más atraídos por la inteligencia de una persona que por su apariencia física, estatus social o económico.

En numerosos ámbitos, entre ellos la sexualidad, mucho de lo que somos tiene sus raíces en nuestra infancia y adolescencia. Lo que vivimos durante esta etapa de la vida actúa como base de lo que seremos de adultos, en especial, mucho depende de tres factores: la relación con nuestro progenitor del sexo opuesto, nuestra primera experiencia de amor y nuestro primer encuentro íntimo.

Por ejemplo, las mujeres que de niñas fueron muy mimadas por sus padres, esperan y exigen lo mismo de sus compañeros, en el otro extremo, no es raro que mujeres que tuvieron padres golpeadores, tengan como parejas a hombres golpeadores. Por otro lado, si un niño tuvo una madre narcisista, no es extraño que de adulto, la mayoría de sus parejas lo sean. 

Algo similar puede ocurrir con la inteligencia, niños o niñas en cuya infancia la exigencia excluyente de los padres era resaltar esa cualidad, pueden de mayores, evaluar esa característica en su pareja, mucho más que las otras.

En definitiva, quizás lo que buscamos en una pareja es lo que siempre quisimos en nosotros mismos (o lo que nos inculcaron ser) o tal vez, podría ser también un catalizador de nuestro ser más profundo.

Para terminar...

Aunque no sea la única, es indudable que la inteligencia de una persona es una característica muy importante para su atractivo sexual. 

En la narración de Platón "El Banquete" escrita aproximadamente hacia el año 390 A.C. el personaje principal de la obra, Sócrates, no era una persona bella ni rica, sin embargo seducía y cautivaba con su inteligencia. Esto es una prueba de que la naturaleza de las relaciones no ha cambiado con el tiempo y que los sapiosexuales no son un fenómeno moderno, ya que podemos asumir que la excitación que causa la inteligencia en el sexo opuesto se remonta a por lo menos 2500 años.


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An Emerging Science of Clickbait [1176]

de System Administrator - domingo, 29 de marzo de 2015, 18:17

An Emerging Science of Clickbait

Researchers are teasing apart the complex set of links between the virality of a Web story and the emotions it generates.

In the world of Internet marketing and clickbait, the secret of virality is analogous to the elixir of life or the alchemy that turns lead into gold. It exists as a kind of Holy Grail that many search for and few, if any, find.

The key question is this: what is the difference between stories that become viral and those that don’t?

One idea is that the answer lies in the emotions stories generate for the people that read them. But what quality of emotion causes somebody to comment on a story or share it on social media?

Today, we can get an insight into this question thanks to the work of Marco Guerini at Trento Rise in Italy and Jacopo Staiano at Sorbonne Université in Paris. These guys have studied the data from two websites that allow readers to rate news stories according to the emotion each generates. That opens a fascinating window into the relationship between virality and emotion for the first time.

Psychologists have long categorized emotion using a three-dimensional scale known as the Valence-Arousal-Dominance model. The idea is that each emotion has a valence, whether positive or negative and a level of arousal, which is high for emotions such as anger and low for emotions like sadness.

Dominance is the level of control a person has over the emotion. At one end of this spectrum are overwhelming emotions like fear and at the other, emotions that people can choose to experience, such as feeling inspired.

Every emotion occupies a point in this Valence-Arousal-Dominance parameter space.

Guerini and Staiano’s idea is that it is not an emotion itself that determines virality but its position in this parameter space.

It turns out that two news-based websites have recently begun to collect data that throws light on exactly this problem. is a social news site that allows each user to rate the emotional value of each story using a “mood meter.” The Italian newspaper site offers a similar function.

Together, these sites have some 65,000 stories rated by emotional quality. That’s a significant database to explore the link between emotion and virality, which they measure by counting the number of comments each story generates as well as the number of votes it gets on social media sites such as Facebook and Google Plus.

Finally, they mine the data looking for patterns of emotion associated with the most viral content.

The results make for interesting reading. Guerini and Staiano argue there is a clear link between virality and particular configurations of valence, arousal and dominance. “These configurations indicate a clear connection with distinct phenomena underlying persuasive communication,” they say.

But there is a curious difference between the emotions that drive commenting behavior compared to voting behavior. Guerini and Staiano say that posts generate more comments when they are associated with emotions of high arousal, such as happiness and anger, and with emotions where people feel less in control, such as fear and sadness.

By contrast, posts generate more social votes when associated with emotions people feel more in control of, such as inspiration.

Curiously, the valence of an emotion does not influence virality at all. In other words, people are just as likely to comment or vote on a post regardless of whether it triggers a positive or negative emotion.

Of course, this is by no means a recipe for online success. But it should provide some food for thought for Internet marketers, bloggers and journalists alike.

Anybody who has spent some time trawling the Internet will have come across headlines designed to manipulate emotion in a pretty crude way. But that may only be the beginning.

Guerini and Staiano’s work provides some much more detailed insights into the fundamental emotional drivers of virality and, as such, could be thought of as laying the foundations for an emerging science of clickbait.


  • Deep Feelings: A Massive Cross-Lingual Study on the Relation between Emotions and Virality - 



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Análisis del WISC-IV en una muestra de alumnos con Capacidad Intelectual Límite [1144]

de System Administrator - martes, 10 de marzo de 2015, 23:23

Análisis del WISC-IV en una muestra de alumnos con Capacidad Intelectual Límite

por Diego Jesús Luque, Eduardo Elósegui y Dolores Casquero

Universidad de Málaga, España

En los niños y niñas con Capacidad Intelectual Límite (CIL), el análisis de sus funciones cognitivas a través de escalas de inteligencia es siempre complejo, más aún cuando pueden aportar aspectos explicativos de sus dificultades de aprendizaje. La Escala de Wechsler, a través de las funciones y pruebas que se agrupan en la Memoria de Trabajo (MT) y en la Velocidad de Procesamiento (VP), proporciona información relevante sobre la estructura y funcionamiento cognitivo, con respecto a una posible disfunción psiconeurológica, en la base explicativa de las dificultades específicas de aprendizaje. En este trabajo se estudia el perfil del WISC-IV de 39 alumnos y alumnas con CIL, en particular, los índices de MT y de VP, en su asociación con las dificultades de aprendizaje que presentan. Se concluye que esos índices son una importante base explicativa de sus dificultades, a la vez que una referencia para los aspectos relacionados con su intervención psicopedagógica.


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