Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are developing SimSensei, a Kinect-driven avatar system capable of tracking and analyzing telltale signs of psychological distress. The avatar psychologist uses facial recognition technology and a depth-sensing camera to read a person’s facial movements, body movements, posture, linguistic patterns and acoustics to screen for depression.

A new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique may provide neurosurgeons with a non-invasive tool to help in mapping critical areas of the brain before surgery, reports a study in the April issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

For the first time, scientists have been able to predict how much pain people are feeling by looking at images of their brains, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.The findings, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, may lead to the development of reliable methods doctors can use to objectively quantify a patient’s pain

New research has shown that the way our minds react to and process emotions such as fear can vary according to what is happening in other parts of our bodies.

UCLA researchers have used a brain-imaging tool and stroke risk assessment to identify signs of cognitive decline early on in individuals who don’t yet show symptoms of dementia.

People with mental illnesses are more than seven times more likely to use cannabis weekly compared to people without a mental illness, according to researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) who studied U.S. data.

What is the secret to a great game?

Image Source: Gamfication and Gamevertising

TEDxMaastricht starts today with the theme ‘The Future of Health’ and browsing through this list of abstracts of  health game nominees for the Future of Health award (the winner to be announced today), I was particularly struck by the concept of Daydream by Jan Jonk

I am very interested in and have lectured on the gaming brain. The key properties of a successful game are that it must (i) impart independence to the player – allow their own style to shine through, (ii) be interesting and complex and (iii) have a relationship between effort and reward.

Games and brains 

In the game Daydream players with locked-in syndrome or other similar paralysing brain dysfunctions such as stroke, wear a plug-and-play neuroheadset that measures their mental states to alter a rich visual world in which the world’s ecosystem can be influenced by changing the climate through their brainwaves – for instance – by concentrating, relaxing and thinking creatively.

Shining a light in dark corners 

By reaching those brain areas which would be otherwise inaccessible, Daydream has the potential to emotionally empower these patients by drawing them out of their social confinement and giving them a manner of social independency and act as a powerful antidote to depression. In addition, the game may allow doctors, psychologists, family members and pets to enter the patient’s world as avatars – as seen in James Cameron’s movie Avatar – where the wheelchair bound Sully whose avatar becomes a warrior leader in an alternative world.  

All patients are different 

As with inter-individual preferences in the general population the game may need to be tweaked to motivate each patient to engage.  Balancing the world’s ecosystem by influencing the climate may work for some patients while building a motorbike from scratch or designing and maintaining a garden may be of more interest to others.

 Related Post:  

Inside the gaming brain