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Biotech Medicine

First Images of Memories Being Made 71

Posted by timothy
from the from-the-brain-side-that-is dept.
TheSync writes Eurekalert reports that researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill and UCLA have captured the first image of protein translation that underlies long-term memory formation. A fluorescent protein showed the increased local protein synthesis during memory formation, which requires cooperation between the pre and post-synaptic compartments of the two neurons that meet at the synapse."
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First Images of Memories Being Made

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  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:29PM (#28380977) Homepage
    0ur understanding of how brains and memory function is rapidly improving. This follows on the heals of for example the engineering of smart mice a few years back http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/99/q3/0902-smart.htm [princeton.edu]. We are likely not very far from the point where we will have a good enough understanding of such abilities to be able to safely incorporate them into human embryos. Ethical questions that a few years ago that were being primarily addressed by pot heads need to be seriously examined. I, for one, see nothing wrong with genetically improving the human population, especially my own children when I eventually have them, but these discussions need to occur. Also, work like this is interesting for another reason: It is yet another nail in the coffin of mind-body dualism. At this point, I'm surprised the coffin can handle the weight given how many nails are in it, yet most humans seem to still be strong dualists.
  • Re:One Step Closer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:38PM (#28381149) Homepage
    Certainly analyzing memories would be a necessary part of downloading your personality into a computer, a mainstay of science fiction (take Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars [amazon.com] as an example where it is used to great effect) and the loony but inspiring outlook of Ray "the singularity is near!" Kurzweil. I wonder if consciousness can be separated from a body of memories. If a copy of me does not have certain memories, is it still me?
  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:51PM (#28381303) Homepage

    But is already a problem with education and nutrition. Better education and better nutrition give the children of the well-off massive advantages. We don't try to solve that by forcing people to give their kids a mediocre education.

    Moreover, if we do engage in serious genetic engineering many of the alleles will be alleles already in the human population. So the ability for people to claim that one is better than another simply by genetics will be a danger purely from letting our research into genetics continue even if we don't allow genetic engineering.

  • Some day... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 18, 2009 @05:55PM (#28381363)

    If we ever get to the point of being able to directly record what we hear and see in our minds, the production of media is going to change forever. As a musician there have been times I've "heard" an absolutely wonderful piece of music in my mind but I have no idea where to begin in reproducing the quality or timber or transcribing the technicality behind some of the instruments. It can be discouraging because as quickly as it comes it goes, being both the first and last time one listens to such a thing.

  • Re:One Step Closer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @06:47PM (#28382101)

    If a copy of me does not have certain memories, is it still me?

    I don't think so. If it's a copy of you then (to me at least) it's not you by definition.

    It's really tricky to think of a solid explanation of what 'I' am. I think if I were going to have a stab at a partial definition I'd define a person as some sort of extremely complex shape in space-time: if you take a three-dimensional cross section of a person at a specific point in time, you'd see what we know from out of every day experience - a really complexly ordered collection of matter. If you then look at a cross-section at neighbouring point of time, the order of the collection will have changed, and some new matter is included in it, and some matter has been discarded from it. If we imagine some mind boggling complex array of rules governing what changes to the collection are permitted between one point in time and another in order for that collection to still be considered a person at the other point in time, then we can consider conception and death as the two points in time where the collection changes in a way not permitted by those rules.

    So, you have a segment of time made up of a myriad of discrete points, and at each a unique collection of matter in a particular order. If you examine the deltas between this collection from point-to-point in time, you will find them to obey specific rules (of course, without defining those rules a person can really be anything so this little diversion gets us nowhere - still if you've managed to read all the way down to here you're probably just as high as I am, or at least wish you were).

  • by narcc (412956) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @09:22PM (#28384029) Journal

    If you are going to make that sort of claim, you are going to need to define what you mean by dualism, since bears little resemblance to the classical meaning of the term.

    This is why I think you need to learn a bit more about the problem. Dualism in it's many forms (as they apply to philosophy of mind) are well defined. It isn't necessary that I redefine dualism for you, only that you learn a bit more about it.

    As for Penrose -- Again, I think you may want to actually read his books instead of just about them on some blog. You should also re-read my last post -- where you realize that I was only interested in his arguments against the mind being a product of a classical system. (The arguments he makes are not his own, but they're well written and in support of John Searle.) Yes, I agree that his quantum brain ideas are rubbish, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the present discussion.

    While I'm on the subject of Penrose, you claim that "but much of his work has serious problems" You don't know much about Penrose! He's the worlds most respected (living) mathematician and the worlds top mathematical physicist. He's also not the first well-respected scientist to drop the ball (and suffer serious criticism) when discussing consciousness. (Francis Crick, for embarrassed himself with the mess that was "The astonishing hypothesis")

    There is much still to learn.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @10:02PM (#28384395) Homepage

    This is why I think you need to learn a bit more about the problem. Dualism in it's many forms (as they apply to philosophy of mind) are well defined. It isn't necessary that I redefine dualism for you, only that you learn a bit more about it.

    We both agree the term has many different meanings. So you need to tell me which definition you are using if this is going to go anywhere (that is aside from the primary issue that we both seem to agree that naive dualism fails pretty badly which was the point being made).

    As for Penrose -- Again, I think you may want to actually read his books instead of just about them on some blog. You should also re-read my last post -- where you realize that I was only interested in his arguments against the mind being a product of a classical system. (The arguments he makes are not his own, but they're well written and in support of John Searle.) Yes, I agree that his quantum brain ideas are rubbish, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the present discussion.

    Yes, you are right that the quantum issue has little to do with the matter at hand. I haven't read about Penrose on blogs. I picked up one of his books on consciousness a few years back, I think it was "The Emperor's New Mind" and my general response to most of it was either "bullshit!" or "True. So what?" Penrose has the problem that many successful people seem to have late in life where they think that their field can provide overarching explanations in other fields or that their very good idea can be generalize a lot. If there's a particular item by him you think I should read please recommend it and I'll take a look.

    While I'm on the subject of Penrose, you claim that "but much of his work has serious problems" You don't know much about Penrose! He's the worlds most respected (living) mathematician and the worlds top mathematical physicist.

    I was talking about his work with consciousness which should have been clear from context. If someone said something stupid and there's a simple other interpretation that's probably what the person meant. He is clearly very accomplished although since you bring the matter up, you vastly overstate his credentials. To say that he is the most respected living mathematician is simply false. He might be the most respected mathematician outside of the mathematical community, but that doesn't say much. And even then, I'm pretty sure that's false. Terrence Tao, Andrew Wiles, John Conway and Grigori Perelman are all more respected within the mathematical community by any reasonable metric, and I suspect that by most simple metrics one comes up with one will find that they are more respected in the general populace as well. Claiming he's the top mathematical physicist is a little more reasonable, but also very arguable. I don't however, feel completely confident in discussing that claim given that I know much less about physics than I know about math.

    He's also not the first well-respected scientist to drop the ball (and suffer serious criticism) when discussing consciousness. (Francis Crick, for embarrassed himself with the mess that was "The astonishing hypothesis")

    This doesn't just occur with consciousness. There's a general pattern of very good researchers breaking themselves against very hard problems late in life. It is very hard to tell what the underlying cause of this pattern is. But this general pattern has little to do with Penrose's work regarding consciousness. No one is claiming that his other work should be dismissed just because he's had a few wacky ideas any more than anyone would claim that PCR isn't impressive because Kary Mullis has a lot of strange ideas floating around in his head.

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