BRAIN FOR BUSINESS: HOW NEUROSCIENCE CAN FUEL A START-UP

Human brain - midsagittal cut

Human brain – midsagittal cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BRAIN FOR BUSINESS: HOW NEUROSCIENCE CAN FUEL A START-UP

Thursday, January 15, 2015 – 18:00 to 19:15
€5 – PRE-BOOKING ESSENTIAL
Paccar Theatre

The human brain is the most complex structure in the known universe. Brain For Business is a new series of events at Science Gallery, that explores the latest findings from neuroscience and psychology and applies them to the world of business and entrepreneurship. Hosted by Jess Kelly from Newstalk, the series will feature neuroscientist Shane O’Mara in conversation with some of Ireland’s leading business experts.

For the first installment, we’ll be joined by Stephen McIntyre. Stephen is the Managing Director of Twitter Ireland, and has also worked at leading tech companies like Google and Nokia. Drawing from Stephen’s experience in companies with innovative approaches to fostering creative and entrepreneurial thinking, he and Shane will explore the science behind successful business.

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The most intelligent groups aren’t just a bunch of smart people

Originally posted on Quartz:

It’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to think about themselves not just in terms of their productivity and efficiency, but also their intelligence. But how do you measure an organization’s intelligence? And with so many groups working remotely, can you measure an online group’s intelligence? It turns out that you can measure and predict group intelligence, and that the same factors affect both face-to-face and online groups.

In a prior study, my colleagues and I took the same statistics techniques used to measure individual intelligence and applied them to measure the intelligence of groups. As far as we know, nobody had ever before asked if groups had an “intelligence factor,” just as individuals do.

We found that there is indeed a single statistical factor for group intelligence that predicts how well the group will perform on a wide variety of tasks. We called this factor “collective intelligence,” and it is…

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We’re ruining our kids with Minecraft: The case for unstructured play

Originally posted on Quartz:

We are in the process of making a giant mistake on behalf of our children. With all the right intentions, American parents are depriving their kids of the time and space to develop their imaginations, and the ability to make something out of nothing—the very heart of innovation and competitiveness. A new study by Radio Flyer and ReD Associates shows the alarming consequences of over-parenting. With the holiday season upon us, parents face a familiar dilemma: which toys will capture our kids’ imaginations, stoke their interests, and keep them endlessly entertained? Think twice before you put that box of wooden blocks in your shopping cart.

Imagination is derived from what child psychologists call “unstructured play”: the kind of play that has no supporting technology, no defined script, and no end goal other than inventing worlds and coming up with ideas. The study of kids across the US reveals that most…

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Image of the Week: Prof John O’Keefe receives his Nobel Prize

Originally posted on Wellcome Trust Blog:

John O'Keefe

The image of the week is Professor John O’Keefe, being awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, which he shares with Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser. The Wellcome Trust has supported O’Keefe’s work for over ten years and he is Director of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour.

The Nobel Laureates discovered a positioning system, the ‘inner GPS’ in the brain, which makes it possible for us to orient ourselves in space. In 1971, John O’Keefe discovered the first component of the positioning system, called ‘place cells’.

He found that a type of nerve cell in an area of the brain called the hippocampus was always activated when a rat was at a certain place in a room. Other nerve cells were activated when the rat was at other places. O´Keefe concluded that these place cells formed a map of the room, laying the foundation…

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Torturing the brain (because this is what torture results in: broken brains, minds and bodies)

Given the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence study on the use of torture by the CIA, I thought it would be useful to gather together previous pieces on this blog on torture, including reblogs from other places.

The following point can’t be emphasised enough: torture is a useless technique for extracting information from long-term memory, because imposing severe neuropsychiatric distress substantially impedes the functioning of the brain systems and subsystems concerned with storage and recall of memory (among many other consequences). There is no good reason to expect from cognitive neuroscience that the imposition of substantial sustained stressor states will have a positive effect on the brain systems supporting memory; quite the contrary is what should be expected.  An honest appraisal of the evidence on torture will emphasise what Senator John McCain (who was tortured in Vietnam for five years) said:

“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence,” he said. “I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering.”

Some readings:

Special issue of Zeitschrift für Psychologie on Torture, edited by Roland Weierstall, Thomas Elbert and Andreas Maercker. Twelve papers running from ethics to the treatment and assessment of torture survivors.

Papers (click on titles for the papers):

On the Imposition of Torture, an Extreme Stressor State, to Extract Information From Memory,  S O’Mara, Zeitschrift für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 219, 2011, 159-166, DOI 10.1027/2151-2604/a000063

ABSTRACT: There is a widespread and popularly-held belief that the imposition of extreme stressor states (torture) is efficacious at facilitating the release of intentionally-withheld information from (human) memory. Here, I explore why this belief is so widespread. I examine the folk model of the brain and behavior that underpins this belief, and show that this folk model is utterly inconsistent with what we currently know about the effects of extreme stressor states on the brain systems that support memory and executive function. Scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests that subjecting individuals to such states is unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of what is intended by coercive or “enhanced” interrogation. Coercive interrogations involving imposition of extreme stressor states are unlikely to facilitate the release of veridical information from long-term memory, given our current cognitive neurobiological knowledge. On the contrary, these techniques cause severe, repeated, and prolonged stress, which compromises brain tissue supporting memory and executive function. The fact that the detrimental effects of these techniques on the brain are not visible to the naked eye makes them no less real.

Torturing the brain: on the folk psychology and folk neurobiology motivating ‘enhanced and coercive interrogation techniques’. S O’Mara, Trends Cogn Sci. 2009 Dec;13(12):497-500. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2009.09.001. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

ABSTRACT: On 16 April 2009, the US Department of Justice released legal memos detailing coercive interrogation techniques used with terrorism suspects during the Bush administration (http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/olc_memos.html). The release of these documents has fuelled international controversy over the use of so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (including torture) to extract information from terrorist suspects, despite strong ethical and legal objections. The use of such techniques appears motivated by a folk psychology that is demonstrably incorrect. Solid scientific evidence of how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions (such as planning or forming intentions) suggests that these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or ‘enhanced’ interrogation.

Posts:

Snake oil salesmen selling torture

Originally posted on Mind Hacks:
The US Government has just released its report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, aptly branded the “torture report”, which is available online as a pdf. It makes for appalling reading but sheds light…

Read the report on US torture after 9/11

The US Senate Intelligence Committee has released the first documents from its multiyear investigation of the CIA’s controversial “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on al-Qaeda terrorism suspects after the attacks of September 11, 2001. According to a press…

Reflections on the representations and implications of torture from medieval Siena (the Museo della Tortura) and London (the London Dungeon)

La Balzana, beautiful Siena, the extravagant, the eccentric, sitting atop a hill in Tuscany, is another world. Once a medieval town of wealth and consequence; later marooned, isolated and preserved by the Black Death and the shifting alliances of the … Continue reading

Some thoughts on the origins of the lay psychology of torture, PTSD, communication and memory provoked by ‘America Is Likely to Torture Again’ – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic

Face It: America Is Likely to Torture Again – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic (Above: a demonstration of the ‘water torture‘ in the Museo della Tortura, Siena, Italy; pic by author) Face It: America Is Likely to Torture Again – … Continue reading

Marathon Man: Hoffman, Olivier, Paranoia and Tortured Information Extraction

Marathon Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Sir Laurence Olivier, is a classic of the paranoid thriller genre that was so popular during the 1970’s. It is also renowned for an extended and graphic torture sequence. Dustin Hoffman plays Thomas “Babe” … Continue reading

How Doctors Became Torturers

Originally posted on The Dish:
A new report on CIA and Pentagon abuse of prisoners cites damning evidence that medical professionals were fully complicit in the war crimes committed under Bush and Cheney. “Do harm” was their effective ethical mantra…

Sleep deprivation as the torture of choice in Koestler’s ‘Darkness at Noon’

Orwell, in a 1944 essay on Koestler’s great novel of the show trials, “Darkness at Noon”, observes that the main protagonist, Rubashov “confesses because he cannot find in his own mind any reason for not doing so….In the end, though he … Continue reading

Electroconvulsive shock and transcranial stimulation as torture methods in George Orwell’s 1984

I first read George Orwell’s 1984 while in hospital for a minor operation in my early teens. It horrified me at the time, and it continues to exert a powerful hold on my imagination. It is justly celebrated as possibly … Continue reading

Torture methods employed for perceptual, personality and behavioural modification in Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Koestler’s ‘Darkness at Noon’

George Orwell and Arthur Koestler  were perhaps the most important and celebrated political novelists of the mid-20th century. They were very different individuals, having lived very different lives. Koestler was a restless Hungarian émigré who spent time under sentence of death while in … Continue reading

Terrorism, Torture and Memory: Royal Irish Academy | About | Science Series

Royal Irish Academy | About | Science Series via Royal Irish Academy | About | Science Series. This links to a podcast of an unusual interdisciplinary evening, featuring a neuroscientist (me), a political scientist (Richard English) and a Supreme Court …Continue reading

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Snake oil salesmen selling torture

Originally posted on Mind Hacks:

The US Government has just released its report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, aptly branded the “torture report”, which is available online as a pdf.

It makes for appalling reading but sheds light on the role of two psychologists in the creation and running of what turned out to be genuinely counter-productive ‘enhanced interrogations’ that were used in preference to already productive non-abusive interrogations.

In the report the psychologists are given the codenames Grayson SWIGERT and Hammond DUNBAR but these refer to James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen who have been widely identified byothersources in the preceding years.

Mitchell and Jessen were both contractors, who, according to the new report, arrived at detention centres to direct CIA interrogations, despite having no interrogation experience, and in face of sometimes severe reservations of regular CIA staff.

Later, Mitchell and Jessen formed a company, Mitchell Jessen and Associates –…

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Read the report on US torture after 9/11

Originally posted on Quartz:

The US Senate Intelligence Committee has released the first documents from its multiyear investigation of the CIA’s controversial “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on al-Qaeda terrorism suspects after the attacks of September 11, 2001. According to a press release by Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, those interrogation techniques included sleep deprivation of up to 180 hours, dragging naked detainees up and down corridors while slapping and punching them, waterboarding that turned into a “series of near drownings,” and “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” of detainees.

While the 6,000-page full report remains confidential, the 525-page executive summary was released to the public today, and is embedded below.

Photo via Donald Lee Pardue.

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