Neuroscience and the thoughts and minds of dogs

A scientist looking at how dogs think and relate to humans has trained about a dozen dogs to lie inside of fMRI machines and receive different stimuli. The result is a look inside the minds of dogs that indicates that their mental processes might mirror our own in more ways than previously imagined.

 

A dog undergoes training, learning how to rest its head on a pad without moving, so that scientists can scan his brain

A dog undergoes training, learning how to rest its head on a pad without moving, so that scientists can scan his brain. Photo by Helen Berns

As part of their first paper published on the work in 2012, they trained dogs to recognize two different hand signals: one that meant the animal would be given a piece of hot dog imminently, and one that meant no hot dog. As they hypothesized, the first signal triggered elevated activity in an area called the caudate nucleus, which is rich in receptors for dopamine (a neurotransmitter involved in the sensation of pleasure). In humans—and in dogs, the research indicated—caudate activity is related to the desire to have something that causes pleasure, and the satisfaction involved in obtaining it.

Subsequent tests showed that sensing familiar humans through sight and scent triggered similar reward receptors in dogs’ brains, possibly indicating the feeling of emotion similar to human emotion.

A dog in an fMRI, receiving one of the hand signals

A dog in an fMRI, receiving one of the hand signals

Why it’s hot

Pet owners already think of their animal friends as more than simply property, and are more likely to consider them members of the family than in previous generations. If studies like these can show that dogs truly feel emotions similar to humans, it might have implications for public policy and cultural sentiment.

Read more at smithsonianmag.com

If you could read my mind, love, what a tale my thoughts could tell…

Using a device which detects patterns in brain activity, patients paralysed by ALS can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – and tell doctors they are ‘happy’ with life.

During the sessions, the patients wore a cap that uses infrared light to spot variations in blood flow in different regions of the brain. As they answered the questions, a computer hooked up to the cap learned to distinguish the blood flow patterns for “yes” and “no” in each patient.

For his next project, Birbaumer wants to build a system that allows patients to communicate more proactively, rather than simply answer questions.

Brain Activity

Why It’s Hot
Bless technology. When it’s used for good it’s so good. But when I read this the first thing I thought about was how companies would try to use the technology for profit – i.e. hijacking customer brainwaves to make them an offer their rationale selves can’t refuse. Just a reminder that we need to keep our values with us as we make choices on behalf of customers.

Can migraines be prevented? Not by pills. Try this wearable.

Offcie space migraine shot HS 6.5.15

15% of the world’s population suffers from migraines. If you happen to be one of those people, you know how awful they are; you feel it coming on, then suddenly you are in a dark cave, hiding until it passes. While there are many medications for migraines, scary enough, a Botox shot to the forehead seems to work better than most. Additionally, many people find they ‘cycle-through’ the many medications because often it is hit-or-miss whether they work. Something new is needed beyond just another pill.

The need is clear. But the answer is surprising; a wearable. Or maybe calling it that is a stretch. It is a headband. Very Wonder Woman tiara looking.

Migraine wearable HS 6.3.15

 Why it is hot? This device crosses a number of relevant and “hot” axis. First, it is FDA-approved. Second, with our society so focused on pills but also holding a almost pathological fear of electro-shock sounding therapies, this shows how desperate people are and how radical an approach is needed. This also shows how neurological disorders are finally being dealt with using our own electric wiring versus creating a chemical (pill) to impact the brains’ pathways. Adoption will be a challenge, even if it is as effective as it claims.

This is the YouTube demo; the device actually has been proven to, over time, reduce the number of migraines. Prevent a migraine? Simply amazing.

The only downside? As a wearable, metal headbands are not in fashion. On a more serious note, the real challenge is not that the device works, it is that American have a visceral fear of anything that sounds like electro-shock therapy — a prejudice deeply lodged in our collective mind since the 1950’s.

Belgium-based Cefaly Technologies already secured FDA approval for its headband-like device that stimulates the trigeminal nerve to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in March 2014. But now it has revealed positron emission tomography (PET) scan data showing that its Cefaly device can aid areas of the brain in returning to their normal metabolic rate in migraine patients.The idea was to better understand the short- and medium-term metabolic changes in the areas of the brain involved in migraine: the orbitofrontal cortex and the rostral cingulate, which are involved in decision-making and emotional behavior. In migraine patients, those areas of the brain tend to be sub-metabolic compared to people without migraines.

“This is a major breakthrough in understanding the mechanism of action of the device on the central nervous system,” said Cefaly CEO Dr. Pierre Rigaux in a statement. “It will help us take developments in this non-invasive, drug-free, technology even further.”

Two things to watch for: where can you buy this for those we know who suffer? And is the device market starting to crowd into the pill market to solve seemingly intractable problems?

Mobile Advertising From Behind The Eyes

shareThe software company Sharethrough recently commissioned a study from Nielsen to determine how consumers visually process mobile ads. The study applied eye tracking and neuroscience, the study of subconscious reactions in the brain, to mobile advertising. Americans are spending an increasing amount of time on their mobile devices (tablet and smartphone), says the report, from 18 hours a month in 2011 to over 34 hours in 2014 (Nielsen, 2014). Sharethrough focused the study on how an advertiser gets its audience to pay attention to their ads on mobile, and how that attention can be measured. Unlike conventional mobile measurement, which evaluates a consumer’s conscious reactions to ads, neuroscience taps into the brain’s subconscious reactions as well. The report says the subconscious is the motivating force behind many of our actions, including which brands we buy.

Why It’s Hot

Nielsen and Sharethrough uncovered the following:
~ Native Ads appear to receive two times more visual focus than banners
~ Banners are processed peripherally – Banner ads receive little-to-no visual focus on the text
~ Native Ads are being read – the majority of explicit visual focus was on the ad’s text rather than the thumbnail.
~ Brand assets impact brand resonance lift – including key brand assets (e.g. logos, keywords, etc.) can facilitate the formation of brand associations
and increase brand lift.

Native ads command focus and attention. They can be an effective method for marketers to share their brand’s stories and narrative to the highly distracted mobile consumer.