Concept: Problem solving
Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system. However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.
Problem solving and innovation are key components of intelligence. We compare wild-caught individuals from two species that are close relatives of Darwin’s finches, the innovativeLoxigilla barbadensis, and its most closely related species in Barbados, the conservativeTiaris bicolor. We found an all-or-none difference in the problem-solving capacity of the two species. Brain RNA sequencing analyses revealed interspecific differences in genes related to neuronal and synaptic plasticity in the intrapallial neural populations (mesopallium and nidopallium), especially in the nidopallium caudolaterale, a structure functionally analogous to the mammalian prefrontal cortex. At a finer scale, we discovered robust differences in glutamate receptor expression between the species. In particular, the GRIN2B/GRIN2A ratio, known to correlate with synaptic plasticity, was higher in the innovativeL. barbadensis. These findings suggest that divergence in avian intelligence is associated with similar neuronal mechanisms to that of mammals, including humans.
To investigate cognitive operations underlying sequential problem solving, we confronted ten Goffin’s cockatoos with a baited box locked by five different inter-locking devices. Subjects were either naïve or had watched a conspecific demonstration, and either faced all devices at once or incrementally. One naïve subject solved the problem without demonstration and with all locks present within the first five sessions (each consisting of one trial of up to 20 minutes), while five others did so after social demonstrations or incremental experience. Performance was aided by species-specific traits including neophilia, a haptic modality and persistence. Most birds showed a ratchet-like progress, rarely failing to solve a stage once they had done it once. In most transfer tests subjects reacted flexibly and sensitively to alterations of the locks' sequencing and functionality, as expected from the presence of predictive inferences about mechanical interactions between the locks.
We present, to our knowledge, the first demonstration that a non-invasive brain-to-brain interface (BBI) can be used to allow one human to guess what is on the mind of another human through an interactive question-and-answering paradigm similar to the “20 Questions” game. As in previous non-invasive BBI studies in humans, our interface uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect specific patterns of brain activity from one participant (the “respondent”), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to deliver functionally-relevant information to the brain of a second participant (the “inquirer”). Our results extend previous BBI research by (1) using stimulation of the visual cortex to convey visual stimuli that are privately experienced and consciously perceived by the inquirer; (2) exploiting real-time rather than off-line communication of information from one brain to another; and (3) employing an interactive task, in which the inquirer and respondent must exchange information bi-directionally to collaboratively solve the task. The results demonstrate that using the BBI, ten participants (five inquirer-respondent pairs) can successfully identify a “mystery item” using a true/false question-answering protocol similar to the “20 Questions” game, with high levels of accuracy that are significantly greater than a control condition in which participants were connected through a sham BBI.
So far, conservation scientists have paid little attention to synthetic biology; this is unfortunate as the technology is likely to transform the operating space within which conservation functions, and therefore the prospects for maintaining biodiversity into the future.
Creativity can be considered one of the key competencies for the twenty-first century. It provides us with the capacity to deal with the opportunities and challenges that are part of our complex and fast-changing world. The question as to what facilitates creative cognition-the ability to come up with creative ideas, problem solutions and products-is as old as the human sciences, and various means to enhance creative cognition have been studied. Despite earlier scientific studies demonstrating a beneficial effect of music on cognition, the effect of music listening on creative cognition has remained largely unexplored. The current study experimentally tests whether listening to specific types of music (four classical music excerpts systematically varying on valance and arousal), as compared to a silence control condition, facilitates divergent and convergent creativity. Creativity was higher for participants who listened to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music high on arousal and positive mood) while performing the divergent creativity task, than for participants who performed the task in silence. No effect of music was found for convergent creativity. In addition to the scientific contribution, the current findings may have important practical implications. Music listening can be easily integrated into daily life and may provide an innovative means to facilitate creative cognition in an efficient way in various scientific, educational and organizational settings when creative thinking is needed.
Chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment, known also as ‘chemobrain’, is a medical complication of cancer treatment that is characterized by a general decline in cognition affecting visual and verbal memory, attention, complex problem solving skills, and motor function. It is estimated that one-third of patients who undergo chemotherapy treatment will experience cognitive impairment. Alterations in the release and uptake of dopamine and serotonin, central nervous system neurotransmitters that play important roles in cognition, could potentially contribute to impaired intellectual performance in those impacted by chemobrain. To investigate how chemotherapy treatment affects these systems, fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) at carbon-fiber microelectrodes was used to measure dopamine and serotonin release and uptake in coronal brain slices containing the striatum and dorsal raphe nucleus, respectively. Measurements were taken from rats treated weekly with selected doses of carboplatin and from control rats treated with saline. Modeling the stimulated dopamine release plots revealed an impairment of dopamine release per stimulus pulse (80% of saline control at 5 mg/kg and 58% at 20 mg/kg) after four weeks of carboplatin treatment. Moreover, Vmax, the maximum uptake rate of dopamine, was also decreased (55% of saline control at 5 mg/kg and 57% at 20 mg/kg). Nevertheless, overall dopamine content, measured in striatal brain lysates by high performance liquid chromatography, and reserve pool dopamine, measured by FSCV after pharmacological manipulation, did not significantly change, suggesting that chemotherapy treatment selectively impairs the dopamine release and uptake processes. Similarly, serotonin release upon electrical stimulation was impaired (45% of saline control at 20 mg/kg). Measurements of spatial learning discrimination were taken throughout the treatment period and carboplatin was found to alter cognition. These studies support the need for additional neurochemical and behavioral analyses to identify the underlying mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced cognitive disorders.
As the volume, complexity and diversity of the information that scientists work with on a daily basis continues to rise, so too does the requirement for new analytic software. The analytic software must solve the dichotomy that exists between the need to allow for a high level of scientific reasoning, and the requirement to have an intuitive and easy to use tool which does not require specialist, and often arduous, training to use. Information visualization provides a solution to this problem, as it allows for direct manipulation and interaction with diverse and complex data. The challenge addressing bioinformatics researches is how to apply this knowledge to data sets that are continually growing in a field that is rapidly changing.
The maximum clique enumeration (MCE) problem asks that we identify all maximum cliques in a finite, simple graph. MCE is closely related to two other well-known and widely-studied problems: the maximum clique optimization problem, which asks us to determine the size of a largest clique, and the maximal clique enumeration problem, which asks that we compile a listing of all maximal cliques. Naturally, these three problems are NP-hard, given that they subsume the classic version of the NP-complete clique decision problem. MCE can be solved in principle with standard enumeration methods due to Bron, Kerbosch, Kose and others. Unfortunately, these techniques are ill-suited to graphs encountered in our applications. We must solve MCE on instances deeply seeded in data mining and computational biology, where high-throughput data capture often creates graphs of extreme size and density. MCE can also be solved in principle using more modern algorithms based in part on vertex cover and the theory of fixed-parameter tractability (FPT). While FPT is an improvement, these algorithms too can fail to scale sufficiently well as the sizes and densities of our datasets grow.
The KIPPPI (Brief Instrument Psychological and Pedagogical Problem Inventory) is a Dutch questionnaire that measures psychosocial and pedagogical problems in 2-year olds and consists of a KIPPPI Total score, Wellbeing scale, Competence scale, and Autonomy scale. This study examined the reliability, validity, screening accuracy and clinical application of the KIPPPI.