Category Archives: neuroscience

Game Theory of Mind

by Yunkyu Sohn

Traditional game theory assumes that the level of recursive belief inference is infinite when people choose their strategy as a result of guessing the others’ strategies. For example, in Keynesian beauty contest where all participants are asked to pick a number between 0 and 100 and win if one is the closest to 2/3 of population average, Nash equilibrium predicts all players should chose 0 since recursive inference about others’ preference will decrease the value of your choice, and eventually reach the minimum possible value. However studies in behavioral economics have found that the degree of recursion is bounded to smaller values.

By running a 2 dimensional stag-hunt game, recent fMRI experimental study done by Yoshida et al. demonstrates that people vary their level of inference depending on their partner’s past strategic profiles. Imaging result shows that prefrontal cortex region is subdivided by its roles for encoding uncertainty of inference of partner’s strategy and inferring the degree of recursive inference.


The Cognitive Science of Consciousness

By Patrick Rogers

The current issue of Cognitive Neuroscience is a special issue on the neuroscience of consciousness. Of particular interest is the article by Victor A.F. Lamme, “How neuroscience will change our view consciousness“. From the abstract:

…the study of consciousness is dominated by what we know from introspection and behavior. This has fooled us into thinking that we know what we are conscious of. …in fact we don’t know what we are conscious of. …The exercise is an example of how neuroscience will move us away from psychological intuitions about consciousness, and hence depict a notion of consciousness that may go against our deepest conviction: “My consciousness is mine, and mine alone.” It’s not.

The rest of the issue is behind a paywall (UCSD has institutional access), but this article freely available to everyone.

Evolutionary Psychology and Literature

by Robert Bond

The New York Times has an article on how Literature professors are looking into how evolutionary psychology may be related to how we understand and enjoy literature. Fascinating stuff!

Recent Abstracts

By Darren Schreiber

A number of interesting pieces in this set of articles. As ever, the default mode network continues to be garnering attention with a new article looking at the influence of heredity on the functional connectivity of the network (1). We also learn that this network can be robustly reproduced (17). Given how important this network appears to be for social cognition, future extensions of this line of research will be of great use to political science. And, we have a couple of other pieces using functional connectivity analysis of subcortical regions (15, 16). We also get a fascinating view of an entire network of cells in the brain that had usually been thought of as acting individually (12). On the topic of networks, the piece showing that an amoeba can effectively design a rail system is pretty fascinating (10, 11).

Ernst Fehr’s new paper on the role of testosterone shows how misconstrued it has been in common understanding and how it can play a prosocial role (7, 8). And, a bit more evidence on the antisocial role that amphetamines can play (2).

The most interesting “big idea” in the set is Karl Friston’s attempt to develop a unified theory of the brain based upon the minimization of free-energy (20-23). One of my concerns about how the neuroscience literature develops is that usually researchers are focused on leaves and not trees or forests. It is great to see a luminary like Friston attempting a big picture view.

Finally, let me draw your attention to a review of some of the work on race and the brain (24).

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Blue Brain Documentary

By Patrick Rogers

We’re all familiar with the Blue Brain Project, which is attempting to computationally replicate a mammalian brain, at this point they’ve already succeeded in building the first cellular-level neocortical column based entirely on biological data.

There’s now a documentary short covering the project called “BLUEBRAIN – Year One”. It’s a little over 16 minutes, and pretty cool.

Bluebrain | Year One from Couple 3 Films on Vimeo.

Recent Abstracts

By Darren Schreiber

In this set of abstracts, we get some interesting evidence on why high sensation seekers might be drawn to scary movies (1) and a series of methodological innovations that demonstrate how new advances are going to improve our ability to get useful insights from MRI data (2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 114). We also have some new work illuminating the role of stereotyped racial judgments (which rely on the amgydala) and individuate judgments which use a broad network of regions connected with mentalizing (3). Another article shows that there is variation in the deactivations of some regions of the default mode network in particular types tasks (4). We also learn that the default mode network contains the most heavily functionally connected brain regions, with the posterior cingulate being particular well connected to the rest of the brain (10).

Another article melds structural and functional connectivity data to provide an exciting methodological innovation (11). I have long hoped that brain imaging statistical analysis would start to do better at accounting for our priors about how the brain is organized, specifically that techniques would be developed to take advantage of our knowledge of structure while we try to understand function. This paper is a great step in this direction and I know that the developers of the FSL package are also making strides towards this goal.

On the topic of connectivity, we have a study that used a structural connectivity technique to demonstrate that the amgydala appears to have at least three distinct subregions (5). The amgydala is also shown to vary in size in non-medicated bi-polar patients, controls, and medicated bipolar patients (6).

Rounding out the remainder, we have a nice paper that provides a possible explanation for why the anterior cingulate appears to be active in reward activity in non-human primates, but seems to be mostly involved in error prediction in humans (12). Another paper demonstrates an important lesson for economists about the distinction between monetary and social rewards (13). While we may anticipate them using the same region (striatum), consumption of those rewards implicates distinct regions. We also have some insight into mental fatigue that confirms the importance of rest and perhaps provides a way of understanding why we feel so depleted after a hard day of academic brain busting (14). The next to last paper tries to synthesize two literatures suggesting alternative functions for the anterior temporal lobe, suggesting that perhaps it is our attempt to integrate conceptual understanding of our social tasks that is activating the region (15). And finally, we’ve got a paper looking at a potential genetic role for face recognition and a demonstration that it is independent of general intelligence (16).

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Recent Abstracts (Part 1 of 2)

By Darren Schreiber

There have been so many interesting things published since my last update that I decided to split the list into two emails. In this collections, we’ve got the gamut from genes to neurotransmitters to brain to behavior. Crisan (1), Long (7), and Zak (13) show that neurochemistry (with serotonin and testosterone) alter economic decision making and Gan (20) provides evidence of the role for dopamine in encoding rewards. Decision-making is further illuminated with work on the nucleus accumbens (2), the temporo-parietal junction (12), and the orbitofrontal cortex (15). The insula and its roles in both internal (18) and social (3) perceptual process are also explored. Other highlights include discussions of the neural architecture of social reasoning (9), pain (10), attention (17), and Bayesian inference (19). I also think that the implications of new work on psychopaths (8) is fascinating as we try to synthesize our intuitions about legal and moral responsibility with work on the neuropathology that underpins this disease.

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