Experts fear lab-grown brains will become sentient, which is upsetting

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Well, we don’t want that … or do we?

The idea of sentient, lab-created “organoids” raises ethical questions that ripple through science.

Tests could include physical scans, mathematical models, and more.

Scientists say there are reasons it could be necessary to create consciousness … and destroy it.

A thought-provoking new article poses some hugely important scientific questions: Could brain cells initiated and grown in a lab become sentient? What would that look like, and how could scientists test for it? And would a sentient, lab-grown brain “organoid” have some kind of rights?

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IQ rates are dropping in many developed countries and that doesn’t bode well for humanity

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 IQ rates are dropping and we’re too stupid to figure out why.

 An intelligence crisis could undermine our problem-solving capacities and dim the prospects of the global economy.

IQ rates are falling across Western Europe, and experts are scratching their heads as to why.May 22, 2019, 2:31 AM MDT

People are getting dumber. That’s not a judgment; it’s a global fact. In a host of leading nations, IQ scores have started to decline.

Though there are legitimate questions about the relationship between IQ and intelligence, and broad recognition that success depends as much on other virtues like grit, IQ tests in use throughout the world today really do seem to capture something meaningful and durable. Decades of research have shown that individual IQ scores predict things such as educational achievement and longevity. More broadly, the average IQ score of a country is linked to economic growth and scientific innovation.

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Dunbar’s number: Why we can only maintain 150 relationships

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The theory of Dunbar’s number holds that we can only really maintain about 150 connections at once. But is the rule true in today’s world of social media?

If you’ve ever been romantically rejected by someone who just wanted to be friends, you may have delivered a version of this line: “I’ve got enough friends already.” Your implication, of course, being that people only have enough emotional bandwidth for a certain number of buddies.

It turns out that’s not just an excuse. There are well-defined limits to the number of friends and acquaintances the average person can retain. But the question about whether these limits are the same in today’s digital world – one in which it’s common to have social media profiles, or online forums, with thousands of followers – is more complicated.

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Mini-brains grown in a lab have human-like brain activity

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A new study promises new paths to research mental illness, but raises questions about whether so-called organoids could develop consciousness

Alysson Muotri was dumbfounded when the pea-sized blobs of human brain cells that he was growing in the lab started emitting electrical pulses. He initially thought the electrodes he was using were malfunctioning.

Muotri was wrong. What the cells were emitting were brain waves — rhythmic patterns of neural activity. “That was a big surprise,” he says.

The 3D blobs of brain cells, known as organoids, are commonly used in disease and drug research to replicate organs. But no “mini-brain” had ever shown signs of brain waves before.

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Cambridge scientists reverse ageing process in rat brain stem cells

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Aged rat brain stem cells grown on a soft surface (right) show more healthy, vigorous growth than similar aged brain stem cells grown on a stiff surface (left)

New research reveals how increasing brain stiffness as we age causes brain stem cell dysfunction, and demonstrates new ways to reverse older stem cells to a younger, healthier state.

…when the old brain cells were grown on the soft material, they began to function like young cells – in other words, they were rejuvenated

The results, published today in Nature, have far-reaching implications for how we understand the ageing process, and how we might develop much-needed treatments for age-related brain diseases.

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A map of the brain could help to guess what you’re reading

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A 3D map of how the brain responds to words could unlock new ways to understand and treat dyslexia and speech disorders.

Map-making: Researchers at UC Berkeley used functional MRI to measure nine volunteers’ brain activity (using blood flow as a proxy) as they listened to, and then read, stories from “The Moth Radio Hour,” a storytelling podcast which airs on 500 radio stations around the world. The researchers collected volunteers’ brain activity data for reading (one word at a time, to help separate the data) and listening to recordings of the same text, then matched both sets of data against time-stamped transcriptions of the stories.

Language links: The results were then fed into a computer program, which mapped out thousands of words according to their relationship to each other, using natural-language processing. For example, the “social” category includes words like “husband,” “father,” and “sister.” Different categories sparked activity in different parts of the brain: these “social” words were found on the right side, behind the ear. This area also responded most strongly to words that describe people or dramatic events, as well as words that describe time.

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Neuroscientists decode brain speech signals into written text

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Study funded by Facebook aims to improve communication with paralysed patients

The study recording brain signals sent to trigger organ movement is considered a breakthrough.

When Stephen Hawking wanted to speak, he chose letters and words from a synthesiser screen controlled by twitches of a muscle in his cheek.

But the painstaking process the cosmologist used might soon be bound for the dustbin. With a radical new approach, doctors have found a way to extract a person’s speech directly from their brain.

The breakthrough is the first to demonstrate how a person’s intention to say specific words can be gleaned from brain signals and turned into text fast enough to keep pace with natural conversation.

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Chinese scientists have put human brain genes in monkeys—and yes, they may be smarter

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A quest to understand how human intelligence evolved raises some ethical questions.

Human intelligence is one of evolution’s most consequential inventions. It is the result of a sprint that started millions of years ago, leading to ever bigger brains and new abilities. Eventually, humans stood upright, took up the plow, and created civilization, while our primate cousins stayed in the trees.

Now scientists in southern China report that they’ve tried to narrow the evolutionary gap, creating several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence.

“This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model,” says Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort.

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Brains of 3 people have been successfully connected, enabling them to share thoughts

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Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people to share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game.

The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.

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Can tiny doses of magic mushrooms unlock creativity?

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Preliminary study suggests that ‘microdoses’ of psychedelics may enhance a person’s creative problem solving abilities

The use of minute doses of magic mushrooms and truffles containing psychedelic substances could induce a state of unconstrained thought that may produce more new, creative ideas. ‘Microdosing’ in this way may allow people to experience the creative benefits of psychedelic drugs without the risk of the so-called ‘bad trips’ that often come with high doses of such substances.

The use of minute doses of magic mushrooms and truffles containing psychedelic substances could induce a state of unconstrained thought that may produce more new, creative ideas. “Microdosing” in this way may allow people to experience the creative benefits of psychedelic drugs without the risk of the so-called “bad trips” that often come with high doses of such substances. This is according to a new study in the Springer-branded journal Psychopharmacology which is the official journal of the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (EBPS). The research was led by Luisa Prochazkova of Leiden University in The Netherlands and is the first study of its kind to experimentally investigate the cognitive-enhancing effects of microdosing on a person’s brain function within a natural setting.

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Scientists have connected the brains of 3 people, enabling them to share thoughts

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Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game. The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.

It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields

The researchers behind the new system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.

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We’re starting to learn some incredible things about hypnosis

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About 15% of the population is way more hypnotisable than everybody else.

There is increasing scientific evidence to say that hypnosis is an important psychological tool with some exciting applications, from curing anxiety to reducing pain, and potentially fighting addiction.

So why do we still tend to think of hypnosis as a sideshow performance?

And what’s the science behind it?

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