Science Daily reports on interesting research from a team at Darmouth:
It’s conventional wisdom that practice makes perfect. But if practicing only consists of watching, rather than doing, does that advance proficiency? Yes, according to a study by Dartmouth researchers. They determined that people can acquire motor skills through the “seeing” as well as the “doing” form of learning.
“It’s been established in previous research that there are correlations in behavioral performance between active and passive learning, but in this study we were surprised by the remarkable similarity in brain activation when our research participants observed dance sequences that were actively or passively experienced,” says Emily Cross, the principal investigator and PhD student at Dartmouth.
Newsweek reports on imaging research which suggest not all forms of grief are alike:
In a paper in the journal Neuroimage, [Mary-Frances] O’Connor and her colleagues [at UCLA] describe using an fMRI machine to probe the neurological basis for complicated grief among a small sample of women who had lost a close relative to breast cancer. Ordinary grief is apparent on a brain scan: show a bereaved daughter a picture of her mother, and areas of the brain that process emotional pain are activated. The women with complicated grief showed that pattern, but something else as well: activity in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region associated with pleasure, rewards and addiction. “When the women came out of the scanner, the complicated-grief group rated themselves as feeling more negative than the others,” O’Connor said. “But they also said things like, ‘Oh, it was so nice to see my mom again.’ These are the ones who pore over picture albums, talk about the person all the time, almost as if she was still here.” The women in that situation were unconsciously prolonging their grief, she concluded, because memories of the person they missed gave them pleasure—as well as pain.
A lengthy but interesting NY Times article examines the debate over the impact of new media such as the Web on literacy. The cognitive implications of increased Web surfing and ‘non-linear’ reading on the Web also is discussed:
Critics of reading on the Internet say they see no evidence that increased Web activity improves reading achievement. “What we are losing in this country and presumably around the world is the sustained, focused, linear attention developed by reading,” said Mr. Gioia of the N.E.A. “I would believe people who tell me that the Internet develops reading if I did not see such a universal decline in reading ability and reading comprehension on virtually all tests.”
Nicholas Carr sounded a similar note in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the current issue of the Atlantic magazine. Warning that the Web was changing the way he — and others — think, he suggested that the effects of Internet reading extended beyond the falling test scores of adolescence. “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” he wrote, confessing that he now found it difficult to read long books.
Literacy specialists are just beginning to investigate how reading on the Internet affects reading skills. A recent study of more than 700 low-income, mostly Hispanic and black sixth through 10th graders in Detroit found that those students read more on the Web than in any other medium, though they also read books. The only kind of reading that related to higher academic performance was frequent novel reading, which predicted better grades in English class and higher overall grade point averages.
Science Daily reports on new research by Mark Changizi of Rensselaer:
Since the idea of using DNA to create faster, smaller, and more powerful computers originated in 1994, scientists have been scrambling to develop successful ways to use genetic code for computation. Now, new research from a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute suggests that if we want to carry out artificial computations, all we have to do is literally look around.
Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science Mark Changizi has begun to develop a technique to turn our eyes and visual system into a programmable computer. His findings are reported in the latest issue of the journal Perception.
A pre-print PDF version of this study is available from Changizi’s Web site here.