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Enraged Slith

Anyone care to explain the basic Republican philosophy? (USA)

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Originally Posted By: Vicheron
Originally Posted By: Drakefyre
There's about to be an explosion of breakthrough research in the field of neuroeconomics, especially with increased fMRI time available for researchers at many of the big research universities.

I'm sure there will be a lot of early adopters trying to make a buck based on their findings, and then we'll get to see how applicable these studies really are!


It's funny how neuroscience just reeks of legitimacy. People don't even question it when a scientist uses an fMRI to tell them something about the brain. I just wonder what will happen when a person says that he like Coke but an fMRI image of his brain says that he likes Pepsi. Are they going to believe the person or his brain?


That's why the research into using fMRI for lie detection is going to fail. There is too wide a variation in how different people's brains react to be able to make absolute statements.

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Geez, what is this, Oldbie Week?

 

And man that picture brings back memories... I haven't had a buzz cut or worn glasses in years (literally, since just about the time that picture was drawn). It's funny when you see an old picture of yourself and say, wow, did I really look like that?

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Originally Posted By: Vicheron
Originally Posted By: Drakefyre
There's about to be an explosion of breakthrough research in the field of neuroeconomics, especially with increased fMRI time available for researchers at many of the big research universities.

I'm sure there will be a lot of early adopters trying to make a buck based on their findings, and then we'll get to see how applicable these studies really are!


It's funny how neuroscience just reeks of legitimacy. People don't even question it when a scientist uses an fMRI to tell them something about the brain. I just wonder what will happen when a person says that he like Coke but an fMRI image of his brain says that he likes Pepsi. Are they going to believe the person or his brain?

You clearly don't understand how fMRI works.

You would use an MRI to see the rough structure of the brain, for example the relative size of the reward pathways of a subject. You would use an fMRI to see activity in the brain, for example increased firing in the reward pathways of a subject.

I think you've confused MRI and fMRI. But how even an MRI could predict soft drink preference is beyond me. Is there a visible Cola Hypercolumn somewhere in the somatosensory cortex? Half of it activates when tasting Coke, and the other half activates when tasting Pepsi? And perhaps they work by lateral inhibition to encode relative proportions of activity, and which feed into the Cola Comparator? Which in turn, by synaptic plasticity and long-term potentiation, has become preferential for only Coke OR Pepsi, and which has an excitatory effect upon the reward system?

Please understand that the two best methods to collect data on neuron and brain function are to 1) meticulously damage select parts of the brain (physical, chemical, chemical blockage of NTs, freezing) and 2) do scans (MRI, fMRI, EEG, MEG), both of which are expensive. The best way to make neuroscience more "legitimate" is to make test lesions, and it is obviously difficult to find volunteers for such things. And I don't think the cessation of neurological research is really up for consideration, with potentially huge contributions to computer science and medicine, as well as economics, marketing, business, psychology, and pharmacology. So if we cannot STOP doing neuroscience research and we cannot use our best research techniques, we must use sketchy data and simply run more tests.

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Wouldn't an fMRI scan across test conditions be preferable to an MRI scan? (And, for that matter, wouldn't the responses occur in gustatory cortex?)

 

And, what of single-cell recordings and neuropsychology?

 

And, lastly, what does any of this have to do with Republican ideology?

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Originally Posted By: Metatron
...use sketchy data...
This is my guess of what it has to do with Republicans. tongue

Either that or its good old fashioned topic drift.

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Anyone that thinks differently - or is biologically different at all - will have some sort of difference in their brain when compared to someone else.

 

Though the fear bit did make me chuckle.

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Mr. Eld's first sentence is absolutely, 100% vital. This is just another example of the media getting it horribly, horribly wrong.

 

This reminds me of Mr. Drakefire's comment above. Neuroscience, like any scientific field, can be abused for hype or agendas. It is also socially relevant, making it more seductive.

 

As for that stupid, stupid article: There is the error Mr. Eld pointed out. Cognitive neuroscience works on the assumption that mental phenomena can be wholly described by neural phenomena. To treat this as the "point" of the study seems so naive that it is probably a lie told for hype or grant money. This article has many words, but has no information that a lay person can understand, among the information that's not already false; and virtually no information that an informed person wouldn't already know.

 

Perhaps most subtly, there is the idea of genetic determinism: While genes are obviously crucial to development, most people do not realize the importance of environment, especially to the brain. I don't know much about genetics, so I can't speak of the effect of environment elsewhere; but, the whole purpose of the brain is to regulate behavior according to complex and changing circumstances, so why should something as abstract and particular as "liberalism" be hard-wired?

 

Well, I suppose I'm just venting: This sort of thing gets me absurdly riled up. But, of course, it could be worse.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11620971

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Originally Posted By: Handyman
Wouldn't an fMRI scan across test conditions be preferable to an MRI scan? (And, for that matter, wouldn't the responses occur in gustatory cortex

Scanning with an fMRI would definitely be better if you administered a dose of Coke and then wanted to see which areas of the brain were activated. But MRI is still useful for somewhat-non-invasive imaging of any part of the body.

You are also correct that Coca Cola and Pepsi tastes are processed by the gustatory cortex.
Code:
"...it is important to note that significant brain activity was evoked by the delivery of Coke or Pepsi in gustatory cortical regions (insular cortex; p < 0.01 for both drinks)..."

But most tastes would activate this area of the brain, and in fact Coke and Pepsi are chemically similar, so they will even evoke similar activity even in the gustatory cortex.

The study demonstrated, though, that tasting a drink that you like will also elevate activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex/VMPFC. The VMPFC was demonstrated in other studies to 1) trigger reward neurotransmitter release in subjects who taste "good"-tasting things 2) play a role in decision-making, as lesions to the VMPFC are seen together with an insensitivity to "good" or "bad" responses as a result of decisions by the subject. So for example, a lesion to the VMPFC might cause one subject to stop caring whether he eats disgustingly sour candy. And for the purposes of this study, increased activity in the VMPFC indicates (and was STRONGLY CORRELATED with) that the person liked that drink more.

But other regions of the brain showed elevated activity: the bilateral hippocampus, parahippocampus, midbrain, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, thalamus, and left visual cortex. The authors actually suggest that, based on the correlations between 1) brand cues and activity in the DLPFC, midbrain, and hippocampus and cultural information (memories of advertisements, good/bad conditions while drinking Cola, etc.) 2) VMPFC and preference for anonymous cola, which presumably means VMPFC preference for good-tasting cola, that the VMPFC biases the brain to respond more amiably to good-tasting Cola, while the DLPFC, midbrain, and hippocampus work together to bias the brain to respond more amiably to the Cola that was better-advertised.

Originally Posted By: Handyman
And, what of single-cell recordings and neuropsychology?

It is immoral to do single-cell recordings on healthy human subjects, because this requires drilling into a subject's head and inserting electrodes (which monitor the cell's polarity, or positive/negative charge) into cells. The cell will eventually leak and die, and so might the subject. But it would be nice to have single-cell recordings for a span of about ten seconds after a subject drank Coke, if only so that neurologists could reaffirm their theories about neural networks. Perfect single-cell recordings could indicate that "Cell A fired, and then cell B fired, and then cell C fired" and neurologists, if their (substantially supported) theories are right, could map this and show that that "Oh, cell A was in the gustatory cortex and cell B was in the VMPFC and cell C was in the VTA and that's exactly the sequence of cell activation that we've been expecting."

"What of neuropsychology?" is kind of a broad question... In neuroscience, generally, the further you get from observable cellular changes, the less certain you become.

There's an xkcd strip that says that one field is just application of the broad generalities of another field. Your theory's accuracy is always dependent upon the work that you built upon to get there. You may be skeptical of the results of some neuropsychology research, but it's very difficult to be certain about such things. I don't think this means that neuroscience or neuropsychology lack "legitimacy" or should stop being fields of academic inquiry, but by all means be skeptical of their work... if it looks like they made some pretty big leaps. But sometimes it's just a fact that damage to a certain part of the brain causes a certain type of amnesia, or a cognitive disorder, or a language disorder, or blindness in one eye.

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The Telegraph article misrepresents neuroscience. If a neuroscience journal espouses the claim that the anterior cingulate is "... an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life." then I'd have to agree, some neurologists are full of [censored]. Such language is entirely too concrete and certain. But this is not a neuroscience journal, this is The Telegraph. I feel safe in blaming the writer of this article, rather than the researchers.

 

The BBC article is terrible. The writer of the article probably just wants views, and the researcher should be reprimanded as well. You cannot conclude jack [censored] with seven subjects. But at least in the second half of the article article there is a good counter-argument for the supposed science presented in the first half.

Originally Posted By: Handyman
Perhaps most subtly, there is the idea of genetic determinism: While genes are obviously crucial to development, most people do not realize the importance of environment, especially to the brain. I don't know much about genetics, so I can't speak of the effect of environment elsewhere; but, the whole purpose of the brain is to regulate behavior according to complex and changing circumstances, so why should something as abstract and particular as "liberalism" be hard-wired?

 

Well, I suppose I'm just venting: This sort of thing gets me absurdly riled up. But, of course, it could be worse.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11620971

 

There is an essential difference between the brain reshaping to better process its environment (synaptic plasticity), and the environment selecting genes which encode a the scaffolding of a the brain that will go on to determine a person's personality (genetic determinism).

 

The article does not attribute the differently sized brain regions of conservatives and liberals to neural plasticity or genetic determinism. I would agree that genetics cannot encode something like "liberalism," and would not even be able to determine a person's attitude toward taking risks or eating chocolate or having sex while eating chocolate.

 

The current, uncontested (as far as I know), well-supported theory is that the hippocampus encodes memories of locations, and one's relative position within a place. The hippocampus was found to be enlarged in London taxi cab drivers compared to non-taxi cab drivers. Taxi cab drivers who had worked longer also had more enlargement of the hippocampus. I don't believe that the weaker taxi cab drivers got lost and died in the inhospitable English countryside; I believe that their hippocampus became enlarged as a result of the constant activity that such a job as taxi driving requires of this area. Neurologists have discovered that the hippocampus is one of the few regions of the brain where new cells divide. So you don't believe in genetic determinism, and speaking strictly about the hippocampus, neither do neurologists. Neurologists have actually supported your claims, by showing that this area of the brain that handles place memory will develop new cells so that it can better handle place memory, if the environment requires this of the brain.

 

Now let's talk about the somatosensory cortex, which, broadly speaking, creates a representation of the body in the brain. It plays a role in knowing where your limbs are, and what limbs feel what. Pianists are known to have significantly more of their somatosensory cortex dedicated to their fingers. Not because all pianists happened to be people who had big somatosensory cortex finger areas, but because exercise of the fingers triggers your brain to repurpose areas of the somatosensory cortex from tracking, say, your forearm to instead process more information about the precise angle and relative position of your fingers. Also, I am oversimplifying and glossing here. But my point is, the importance of genetics is definitely overshadowed by the role that environment plays, and neurologists agree with you. You seem to think neurologists disagree...

 

While it is impossible to be exact in neuroscience, due to a lack of technology that is capable of collecting and processing so much good data, I think that the vast majority of criticism of "neuroscience" should fall upon article writers and readers who misunderstand neuroscience.

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I am slowly coming to the view that the general public has a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of science. The misunderstanding is not that they do not know the Big Secret of Science. It's that they think there is a secret.

 

A lot of people seem to believe that there is something fundamentally special about science compared to ordinary thinking. Some epistemological magic, some clever but easy trick whereby scientists ascertain the truth about things, without the unimaginable amount of effort that it would obviously take, by any normal means, to find those things out for sure.

 

This produces most bad popular science writing. The truth is just that science involves far more work than most people imagine could ever be worth doing. There's far too much to learn, before you can say anything interesting. So readers want a short book, and writers get frustrated at having to explain too much stuff, and everybody cuts corners by accepting the ridiculous myth that some things can just be determined, mysteriously, by the Power of Science.

 

It's not that it's impossible to summarize science. It's just that it's much, much harder to do so accurately, than anyone wants to believe.

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I think a lot of the problem is just the narrative. In practice, scientists have a question, then perform a couple of experiments, one of which kind of works and one of which fails entirely due to errors or incorrect equipment or sheer difficulty. Then the scientists are at an impasse and don't know how to do something, so they call a bunch of colleagues and fumble around with some more experiments that are largely irrelevant in the meantime. Some of those give interesting but unhelpful results; others plant the seeds of future work. Colleagues call back and propose an elegant experiment that the first scientists don't have the equipment to perform, but they approximate it with something similar but not quite right. At this point, the grants are running out, so they publish what they have.

 

That's a really messy story to tell. It's not even an acceptable paragraph! Thus, science writers explain that scientists had a question, performed experiments, and got a result. Open and shut.

 

—Alorael, who likes the retrospective neat and somewhat incorrect version. It's much more encouraging than real science. And the research is never abandoned due to budget cuts.

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Originally Posted By: Withering Ice
I think a lot of the problem is just the narrative. In practice, scientists have a question, then perform a couple of experiments, one of which kind of works and one of which fails entirely due to errors or incorrect equipment or sheer difficulty. Then the scientists are at an impasse and don't know how to do something, so they call a bunch of colleagues and fumble around with some more experiments that are largely irrelevant in the meantime. Some of those give interesting but unhelpful results; others plant the seeds of future work. Colleagues call back and propose an elegant experiment that the first scientists don't have the equipment to perform, but they approximate it with something similar but not quite right. At this point, the grants are running out, so they publish what they have.

That's a really messy story to tell. It's not even an acceptable paragraph! Thus, science writers explain that scientists had a question, performed experiments, and got a result. Open and shut.

—Alorael, who likes the retrospective neat and somewhat incorrect version. It's much more encouraging than real science. And the research is never abandoned due to budget cuts.




You don't get funded unless you propose something that is possible, and is worth doing. Scientist that are just fumbling around certainly aren't getting funded, or at least they shouldn't be.

But there are a lot of file-cabinet studies that never get published even though the "failed" experiments themselves are important pieces of information. I think this gives the impression that scientists just do one experiment and everything is revealed from it.

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Research funding is easier to obtain for continuing an existing line of research, than it is for starting a new line no matter how promising the results can be. Funding agencies are more willing to fund an improvement than take a chance on getting a failure.

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While I exaggerated for comedic effect, scientists do a lot of fumbling around. It's not useless or aimless, but it's still going off in many directions and hoping something pans out. It's not unusual to know what you need to learn but not know how to learn it. So you perform a number of experiments, and some end up in that filing cabinet. And sometimes you know what will work, but it's expensive and difficult, so you try easier experiments in the hopes that they'll pay off, and they don't. All that is fumbling.

 

Funding is easier for existing work, but if you haven't published anything for years and years the grant evaluation committees and foundations tend to get antsy.

 

And those grants? They expect some fumbling. All science is fumbling. You putter and fumble and experiment and accept that you will fail a lot until you succeed and publish and patent.

 

—Alorael, who isn't using fumbling in a useless or even aimless sense. He's considering every experiment that doesn't get published a fumble. Sometimes you have to make mistakes to hammer out a working protocol; sometimes, for one reason or another, a protocol that you think will work gives you no useful data. You don't know until you try, but it's still groping blindly through the process of science. It's blind because the answer isn't known, and if it were known there would be no point. (It's also blind because the data are better that way, and the statisticians tend to be happier.)

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Originally Posted By: Parasaurolophus
Based on the results of the Pepsi Challenge, you should always put your money on Coke.
According to my tastebuds, all colas are identical (although I can tell the difference between regular & diet). I guess that's what happens when you grow up drinking whatever brand is cheapest (usually a local brand called Towne Club).

Then again, remember the Cola Wars?

Quote:
Dikiyoba doesn't get people's obsession with the Coke brand. It's not Dr. Pepper, so what's the point? tongue
Coca-Cola has long since mastered of promoting itself and its brands on a global scale, and has an annual advertising budget well in the billions. Therefore, when just about everyone knows who you are, well, yeah....

For the record, I drink Dr. Pepper too.

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Originally Posted By: The Mystic
For the record, I drink Dr. Pepper too.
<3

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Originally Posted By: Metatron
There's an xkcd strip that says that one field is just application of the broad generalities of another field.


Oh, I get it, it's about science. Thank you! :-)

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One of my favorite game quotes applies here.

 

"There are two kinds of scientific progress: the methodical experimentation and categorization which gradually extend the boundaries of knowledge, and the revolutionary leap of genius which redefines and transcends those boundaries. Acknowledging our debt to the former, we yearn nonetheless for the latter.

 

--Provost Zahkarov

"Address to the Faculty"

 

In other words, as Alroel said, science does a lot wandering semi-aimlessly, with a lot of fumbling around, usually heading towards a definite goal but trying literally whatever seems like it MIGHT get them there (since if they already knew how to get there they wouldn't need to perform the experiments). Then someone accidentally contaminates an experiment and we get antibiotics that save millions of lives.

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While cases like antibiotics get a lot of press, they are very few and far between. There's almost no semi-aimless wandering, because that's a waste of time and money. All the wandering is quite aimed. Still, if scientists knew which experiments to perform and how to perform them to get the results they wanted, the experiment would have been done already. Thus, scientists spend a fair amount of time doing what they think will get them there, and then it doesn't.

 

The more common kind of scientific serendipity isn't the mistake that turns into insight, but little "that's funny" moments. There will be a small inconsistency in old results, or occasional odd readings, or experiments that are given up because they seem not to work and nobody knows why. Them someone thinks, "I know why!" and, if they're right, can get a publication, a grant or two, and, if they're lucky, some prestigious prizes and nice faculty positions.

 

—Alorael, who admits that everyone does want those leaps of genius. But since there's no way to get them, everyone plods along with pedestrian science until inspiration strikes.

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Science needs to waste time and money on fumbling. There does also need to be some tendency to support demonstrated excellence at the expense of demonstrated mediocrity. But too much excellence would be terrible; science has to be kept safe for mediocrity.

 

The reason is that excellence is always easy to recognize. Whoever is better than everyone else is clearly excellent. Of course, people can only be compared to their peers. So excellence means being better than your peers. And who are your peers? Why, the people doing just what you're doing, of course — only a bit more slowly.

 

So the unintended consequence of rewarding that kind of excellence too much is that we pay a superstar premium to people who do something a little faster, even though there might be a dozen others who would have done the same thing soon, anyway. Humanity's brightest minds end up working hard to bring us tomorrow's breakthroughs late tonight.

 

Returns diminish. We'd be better off waiting till morning for tomorrow's breakthrough, and letting some of those bright minds fumble and plod towards things that might, just possibly, lead toward the breakthroughs of the next century.

 

But it can take a while to notice that this kind of return has diminished. You have to compare the last decade to the one three decades ago. As it happens, several professors in my department are among those randomly selected to nominate candidates for next year's Nobel prize in physics. I'm one. I'm having a really hard time thinking of anyone. The last person on my list of physicists who really deserved the prize got it a few years ago now.

 

(I'm not supposed to discuss it with anyone, or listen to anyone else's advice — they want suggestions from the sample they selected. So if anyone wants to propose candidates, please use a spoiler tag, and I'll ignore it until after the deadline. Which may already have passed, now I think of it.)

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
Science needs to waste time and money on fumbling. There does also need to be some tendency to support demonstrated excellence at the expense of demonstrated mediocrity. But too much excellence would be terrible; science has to be kept safe for mediocrity.

The reason is that excellence is always easy to recognize. Whoever is better than everyone else is clearly excellent. Of course, people can only be compared to their peers. So excellence means being better than your peers. And who are your peers? Why, the people doing just what you're doing, of course — only a bit more slowly.


I'm reminded of Jack Welch, the former General Electric CEO who fired 10% of the company's workforce every year, just to keep the rest on their toes. Eventually you run out of employees.

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
I'm reminded of Jack Welch, the former General Electric CEO who fired 10% of the company's workforce every year, just to keep the rest on their toes. Eventually you run out of employees.
Bet he was popular at the office party.

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Apparently, in his early days at GE, he once planned to leave the company. He was persuaded not to, but told them not to cancel his party, because he might as well accept the presents people had bought him.

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