Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Cybernetics


Subjects spending much time sitting have increased risk of obesity but the mechanism for the antiobesity effect of standing is unknown. We hypothesized that there is a homeostatic regulation of body weight. We demonstrate that increased loading of rodents, achieved using capsules with different weights implanted in the abdomen or s.c. on the back, reversibly decreases the biological body weight via reduced food intake. Importantly, loading relieves diet-induced obesity and improves glucose tolerance. The identified homeostat for body weight regulates body fat mass independently of fat-derived leptin, revealing two independent negative feedback systems for fat mass regulation. It is known that osteocytes can sense changes in bone strain. In this study, the body weight-reducing effect of increased loading was lost in mice depleted of osteocytes. We propose that increased body weight activates a sensor dependent on osteocytes of the weight-bearing bones. This induces an afferent signal, which reduces body weight. These findings demonstrate a leptin-independent body weight homeostat (“gravitostat”) that regulates fat mass.

Concepts: Dieting, Cybernetics, Homeostasis, Feedback, Nutrition, Adipose tissue, Obesity, Negative feedback


We identify robust statistical patterns in the frequency and severity of violent attacks by terrorist organizations as they grow and age. Using group-level static and dynamic analyses of terrorist events worldwide from 1968-2008 and a simulation model of organizational dynamics, we show that the production of violent events tends to accelerate with increasing size and experience. This coupling of frequency, experience and size arises from a fundamental positive feedback loop in which attacks lead to growth which leads to increased production of new attacks. In contrast, event severity is independent of both size and experience. Thus larger, more experienced organizations are more deadly because they attack more frequently, not because their attacks are more deadly, and large events are equally likely to come from large and small organizations. These results hold across political ideologies and time, suggesting that the frequency and severity of terrorism may be constrained by fundamental processes.

Concepts: Albedo, Negative feedback, Cybernetics, Audio feedback, Positive feedback, Feedback, Terrorism, Control theory


Deep learning has led to significant advances in artificial intelligence, in part, by adopting strategies motivated by neurophysiology. However, it is unclear whether deep learning could occur in the real brain. Here, we show that a deep learning algorithm that utilizes multi-compartment neurons might help us to understand how the neocortex optimizes cost functions. Like neocortical pyramidal neurons, neurons in our model receive sensory information and higher-order feedback in electrotonically segregated compartments. Thanks to this segregation, neurons in different layers of the network can coordinate synaptic weight updates. As a result, the network learns to categorize images better than a single layer network. Furthermore, we show that our algorithm takes advantage of multilayer architectures to identify useful higher-order representations-the hallmark of deep learning. This work demonstrates that deep learning can be achieved using segregated dendritic compartments, which may help to explain the morphology of neocortical pyramidal neurons.

Concepts: Intelligence, Artificial intelligence, Psychology, Learning, Cybernetics, Cerebral cortex, Neuron, Machine learning


Our actions often do not match our intentions when there are external disturbances such as turbulence. We derived a novel modeling approach for determining this motor intent from targeted reaching motions that are disturbed by an unexpected force. First, we demonstrated how to mathematically invert both feedforward (predictive) and feedback controls to obtain an intended trajectory. We next examined the model’s sensitivity to a realistic range of parameter uncertainties, and found that the expected inaccuracy due to all possible parameter mis-estimations was less than typical movement-to-movement variations seen when humans reach to similar targets. The largest sensitivity arose mainly from uncertainty in joint stiffnesses. Humans cannot change their intent until they acquire sensory feedback, therefore we tested the hypothesis that a straight-line intent should be evident for at least the first 120 milliseconds following the onset of a disturbance. As expected, the intended trajectory showed no change from undisturbed reaching for more than 150 milliseconds after the disturbance onset. Beyond this point, however, we detected a change in intent in five out of eight subjects, surprisingly even when the hand is already near the target. Knowing such an intent signal is broadly applicable: enhanced human-machine interaction, the study of impaired intent in neural disorders, the real-time determination (and manipulation) of error in training, and complex systems that embody planning such as brain machine interfaces, team sports, crowds, or swarms. In addition, observing intent as it changes might act as a window into the mechanisms of planning, correction, and learning.

Concepts: Error, Interaction, Uncertainty, Feedback, Feed-forward, Cybernetics, Scientific method, Control theory


Physical models typically assume time-independent interactions, whereas neural networks and machine learning incorporate interactions that function as adjustable parameters. Here we demonstrate a new type of abundant cooperative nonlinear dynamics where learning is attributed solely to the nodes, instead of the network links which their number is significantly larger. The nodal, neuronal, fast adaptation follows its relative anisotropic (dendritic) input timings, as indicated experimentally, similarly to the slow learning mechanism currently attributed to the links, synapses. It represents a non-local learning rule, where effectively many incoming links to a node concurrently undergo the same adaptation. The network dynamics is now counterintuitively governed by the weak links, which previously were assumed to be insignificant. This cooperative nonlinear dynamic adaptation presents a self-controlled mechanism to prevent divergence or vanishing of the learning parameters, as opposed to learning by links, and also supports self-oscillations of the effective learning parameters. It hints on a hierarchical computational complexity of nodes, following their number of anisotropic inputs and opens new horizons for advanced deep learning algorithms and artificial intelligence based applications, as well as a new mechanism for enhanced and fast learning by neural networks.

Concepts: Synapse, Cybernetics, Algorithm, Neuron, Neural network, Machine learning, Artificial neural network, Artificial intelligence


Hand loss is a highly disabling event that markedly affects the quality of life. To achieve a close to natural replacement for the lost hand, the user should be provided with the rich sensations that we naturally perceive when grasping or manipulating an object. Ideal bidirectional hand prostheses should involve both a reliable decoding of the user’s intentions and the delivery of nearly “natural” sensory feedback through remnant afferent pathways, simultaneously and in real time. However, current hand prostheses fail to achieve these requirements, particularly because they lack any sensory feedback. We show that by stimulating the median and ulnar nerve fascicles using transversal multichannel intrafascicular electrodes, according to the information provided by the artificial sensors from a hand prosthesis, physiologically appropriate (near-natural) sensory information can be provided to an amputee during the real-time decoding of different grasping tasks to control a dexterous hand prosthesis. This feedback enabled the participant to effectively modulate the grasping force of the prosthesis with no visual or auditory feedback. Three different force levels were distinguished and consistently used by the subject. The results also demonstrate that a high complexity of perception can be obtained, allowing the subject to identify the stiffness and shape of three different objects by exploiting different characteristics of the elicited sensations. This approach could improve the efficacy and “life-like” quality of hand prostheses, resulting in a keystone strategy for the near-natural replacement of missing hands.

Concepts: Cybernetics, Information, Object, Control system, Feedback, Control theory, Ulnar nerve, Hand


Poverty remains one of the most pressing problems facing the world; the mechanisms through which poverty arises and perpetuates itself, however, are not well understood. Here, we examine the evidence for the hypothesis that poverty may have particular psychological consequences that can lead to economic behaviors that make it difficult to escape poverty. The evidence indicates that poverty causes stress and negative affective states which in turn may lead to short-sighted and risk-averse decision-making, possibly by limiting attention and favoring habitual behaviors at the expense of goal-directed ones. Together, these relationships may constitute a feedback loop that contributes to the perpetuation of poverty. We conclude by pointing toward specific gaps in our knowledge and outlining poverty alleviation programs that this mechanism suggests.

Concepts: Behavior, Cybernetics, Negative feedback, Metaphysics, Feedback, Control theory, Cognition, Psychology


The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is one of the body’s neuroendocrine networks that responds to psychological stress (PS). In the skin, there exists a peripheral HPA axis similar to the central axis. Glucocorticoids (GCs) are key effector molecules of the HPA axis and are essential for cutaneous homeostasis. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a condition typically characterized by a chronic relapsing course that often results in PS. HPA dysfunction is present in AD patients by the decreased response of GCs elevation to stress as compared to those unaffected by AD. Nevertheless, in skin, acute PS activates several metabolic responses that are of immediate benefit to the host. During the acute phase of PS, increased endogenous GCs have been shown to provide benefit rather than by aggravating cutaneous inflammatory dermatoses. However, a chronic T helper cell type 2 (Th2) predominant cytokine profile acts as a negative feedback loop to blunt the HPA axis response in AD. In this article, we reviewed the role of CRF, pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC)-derived peptides, GCs of the HPA, and 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11β-HSD1) in AD, with a discussion of the pathogenetic mechanisms of inflammation and skin barrier functions, including antimicrobial defense, and their association with PS.

Concepts: Cybernetics, Apoptosis, Allergy, T helper cell, Feedback, Negative feedback, Immune system, Asthma


Cyborg intelligence is an emerging kind of intelligence paradigm. It aims to deeply integrate machine intelligence with biological intelligence by connecting machines and living beings via neural interfaces, enhancing strength by combining the biological cognition capability with the machine computational capability. Cyborg intelligence is considered to be a new way to augment living beings with machine intelligence. In this paper, we build rat cyborgs to demonstrate how they can expedite the maze escape task with integration of machine intelligence. We compare the performance of maze solving by computer, by individual rats, and by computer-aided rats (i.e. rat cyborgs). They were asked to find their way from a constant entrance to a constant exit in fourteen diverse mazes. Performance of maze solving was measured by steps, coverage rates, and time spent. The experimental results with six rats and their intelligence-augmented rat cyborgs show that rat cyborgs have the best performance in escaping from mazes. These results provide a proof-of-principle demonstration for cyborg intelligence. In addition, our novel cyborg intelligent system (rat cyborg) has great potential in various applications, such as search and rescue in complex terrains.

Concepts: Species, Machine, Kevin Warwick, Problem solving, Maze generation algorithm, Computer, Mazes, Cybernetics


Robotics is continuously being integrated in animal behaviour studies to create customizable, controllable, and repeatable stimuli. However, few systems have capitalized on recent breakthroughs in computer vision and real-time control to enable a two-way interaction between the animal and the robot. Here, we present a “closed-loop control” system to investigate the behaviour of zebrafish, a popular animal model in preclinical studies. The system allows for actuating a biologically-inspired 3D-printed replica in a 3D workspace, in response to the behaviour of a zebrafish. We demonstrate the role of closed-loop control in modulating the response of zebrafish, across a range of behavioural and information-theoretic measures. Our results suggest that closed-loop control could enhance the degree of biomimicry of the replica, by increasing the attraction of live subjects and their interaction with the stimulus. Interactive experiments hold promise to advance our understanding of zebrafish, offering new means for high throughput behavioural phenotyping.

Concepts: Cybernetics, Psychology, Feedback, Model organism, Robot, Artificial intelligence, Robotics, Control theory