science stuff from the wise mammoth

Where science and occasional humor meet.

nubbsgalore:

during the autumn rutting season, red deer stag find themselves with elaborate bracken crowns from having rubbed their heads against the ground, which they do to strengthen their neck muscles so as to help them in battle with those competing for the affections of the does. photos by (click pic) mark smith, toby melville, luke millward and greg morgan in london’s richmond park. (see also: more autumn rut in richmond park)

neurosciencestuff:

Brain’s Compass Relies on Geometric Relationships

The brain has a complex system for keeping track of which direction you are facing as you move about; remembering how to get from one place to another would otherwise be impossible. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have now shown how the brain anchors this mental compass.

Their findings provide a neurological basis for something that psychologists have long observed about navigational behavior: people use geometrical relationships to orient themselves.

The research, which is related to the work that won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, adds new dimensions to our understanding of spatial memory and how it helps us to build memories of events.           

The study was led by Russell Epstein, a professor of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences, and Steven Marchette, a postdoctoral fellow in Epstein’s lab. Also contributing to the study were lab members Lindsay Vass, a graduate student, and Jack Ryan, a research specialist.

It was published in Nature Neuroscience.  

Read more

mindblowingscience:

Action video games bolster sensorimotor skills, study finds

University of Toronto study finds that action video games bolster sensorimotor skills


A study led by University of Toronto psychology researchers has found that people who play action video games such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed seem to learn a new sensorimotor skill more quickly than non-gamers do.
A new sensorimotor skill, such as learning to ride a bike or typing, often requires a new pattern of coordination between vision and motor movement. With such skills, an individual generally moves from novice performance, characterized by a low degree of coordination, to expert performance, marked by a high degree of coordination. As a result of successful sensorimotor learning, one comes to perform these tasks efficiently and perhaps even without consciously thinking about them.
"We wanted to understand if chronic video game playing has an effect on sensorimotor control, that is, the coordinated function of vision and hand movement," said graduate student Davood Gozli, who led the study with supervisor Jay Pratt.
To find out, they set up two experiments. In the first, 18 gamers (those who played a first-person shooter game at least three times per week for at least two hours each time in the previous six months) and 18 non-gamers (who had little or no video game use in the past two years) performed a manual tracking task. Using a computer mouse, they were instructed to keep a small green square cursor at the centre of a white square moving target which moved in a very complicated pattern that repeated itself. The task probes sensorimotor control, because participants see the target movement and try to coordinate their hand movements with what they see.
In the early stages of doing the tasks, the gamers’ performance was not significantly better than non-gamers. “This suggests that while chronically playing action video games requires constant motor control, playing these games does not give gamers a reliable initial advantage in new and unfamiliar sensorimotor tasks,” said Gozli.
By the end of the experiment, all participants performed better as they learned the complex pattern of the target. The gamers, however, were significantly more accurate in following the repetitive motion than the non-gamers. “This is likely due to the gamers’ superior ability in learning a novel sensorimotor pattern, that is, their gaming experience enabled them to learn better than the non-gamers.”
In the next experiment, the researchers wanted to test whether the superior performance of the gamers was indeed a result of learning rather than simply having better sensorimotor control. To eliminate the learning component of the experiment, they required participants to again track a moving dot, but in this case the patterns of motion changed throughout the experiment. The result this time: neither the gamers nor the non-gamers improved as time went by, confirming that learning was playing a key role and the gamers were learning better.
One of the benefits of playing action games may be an enhanced ability to precisely learn the dynamics of new sensorimotor tasks. Such skills are key, for example, in laparoscopic surgery which involves high precision manual control of remote surgery tools through a computer interface.
The research was done in collaboration with Daphne Bavelier who has appointments with both the University of Geneva and the University of Rochester.
Their study is published in the journal Human Movement Science.
Journal Reference:
Jay Pratt et al. The effect of action video game playing on sensorimotor learning: Evidence from a movement tracking task. Human Movement Science, October 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.humov.2014.09.004

mindblowingscience:

Action video games bolster sensorimotor skills, study finds

University of Toronto study finds that action video games bolster sensorimotor skills

A study led by University of Toronto psychology researchers has found that people who play action video games such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed seem to learn a new sensorimotor skill more quickly than non-gamers do.

A new sensorimotor skill, such as learning to ride a bike or typing, often requires a new pattern of coordination between vision and motor movement. With such skills, an individual generally moves from novice performance, characterized by a low degree of coordination, to expert performance, marked by a high degree of coordination. As a result of successful sensorimotor learning, one comes to perform these tasks efficiently and perhaps even without consciously thinking about them.

"We wanted to understand if chronic video game playing has an effect on sensorimotor control, that is, the coordinated function of vision and hand movement," said graduate student Davood Gozli, who led the study with supervisor Jay Pratt.

To find out, they set up two experiments. In the first, 18 gamers (those who played a first-person shooter game at least three times per week for at least two hours each time in the previous six months) and 18 non-gamers (who had little or no video game use in the past two years) performed a manual tracking task. Using a computer mouse, they were instructed to keep a small green square cursor at the centre of a white square moving target which moved in a very complicated pattern that repeated itself. The task probes sensorimotor control, because participants see the target movement and try to coordinate their hand movements with what they see.

In the early stages of doing the tasks, the gamers’ performance was not significantly better than non-gamers. “This suggests that while chronically playing action video games requires constant motor control, playing these games does not give gamers a reliable initial advantage in new and unfamiliar sensorimotor tasks,” said Gozli.

By the end of the experiment, all participants performed better as they learned the complex pattern of the target. The gamers, however, were significantly more accurate in following the repetitive motion than the non-gamers. “This is likely due to the gamers’ superior ability in learning a novel sensorimotor pattern, that is, their gaming experience enabled them to learn better than the non-gamers.”

In the next experiment, the researchers wanted to test whether the superior performance of the gamers was indeed a result of learning rather than simply having better sensorimotor control. To eliminate the learning component of the experiment, they required participants to again track a moving dot, but in this case the patterns of motion changed throughout the experiment. The result this time: neither the gamers nor the non-gamers improved as time went by, confirming that learning was playing a key role and the gamers were learning better.

One of the benefits of playing action games may be an enhanced ability to precisely learn the dynamics of new sensorimotor tasks. Such skills are key, for example, in laparoscopic surgery which involves high precision manual control of remote surgery tools through a computer interface.

The research was done in collaboration with Daphne Bavelier who has appointments with both the University of Geneva and the University of Rochester.

Their study is published in the journal Human Movement Science.

Journal Reference:

Jay Pratt et al. The effect of action video game playing on sensorimotor learning: Evidence from a movement tracking taskHuman Movement Science, October 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.humov.2014.09.004

science-junkie:


The Strange and Radical New World of 3-D Printed Body Parts
A few years ago, if a horrific infection ate your jawbone, doctors had to build makeshift mandibles from your fibula, a process that left you sliced open as surgeons painstakingly whittled away at replacement bone. Yech.
Today they can just hit Control-P: Based on MRI and CT scans of your busted-up body parts, hyperspecialized 3-D printers produce custom replacements, no sculpture skills required. 
Read more (via WIRED)

science-junkie:

The Strange and Radical New World of 3-D Printed Body Parts

A few years ago, if a horrific infection ate your jawbone, doctors had to build makeshift mandibles from your fibula, a process that left you sliced open as surgeons painstakingly whittled away at replacement bone. Yech.

Today they can just hit Control-P: Based on MRI and CT scans of your busted-up body parts, hyperspecialized 3-D printers produce custom replacements, no sculpture skills required. 

Read more (via WIRED)

“The past six months have been the hottest such stretch on Earth since recording began in 1880.”

In case you doubted climate change, NASA has some scary new facts for you. (via micdotcom)

On a very related note: NASA is still the most underfunded agency, restrained from what it’s become evolved to do…monitor the biosphere of Earth for the survival of well, everything. Just in case anyone needed reminded of this.

Not to mention…

#WhatIsNASAFor

(via sagansense)

futurescope:

KLIPPA: mountain-goat inspired prosthetic leg for rock climbers

Core77 has an excellent feature about a mountain-goat inspired prosthetic leg for rock climbers, developed and designed by Kai Lin.

Lin was fascinated by the exceptional climbing abilities from mountain goats, so he wondered if the same anatomy that allowed the goats to so swiftly and accurately scale the vertical surface could be applied to humans.

This was the beginning of KLIPPA—the name is Swedish for “cliff”—a prosthetic leg designed specifically for amputee rock climbers. With the seedling of the idea in mind, Lin dug deeper into the anatomy of mountain goats, learning that their hooves have small cupped surfaces that create suction, coupled with a hard outer shell that allows the goats to stabilize their bodies on even the steepest surfaces. Looking for design opportunities, the student stumbled upon the documentary High Ground, which tells the story of 11 veterans who heal mental and emotional trauma during a 20,000-foot Himalayan ascent. Lin also discovered that rock climbing was the first choice of physically demanding sports for veteran amputees looking to maintain an active lifestyle after returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. “I realized from the demographic of amputee patients that quite a few of them are wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them suffer from physical and psychological trauma,” Lin says. “That just gave me more reason to design something meaningful—not only for day-to-day patients but for someone who might use my rock-climbing prosthetic legs to help with their recovery process.”

Be sure to check Lin’s portfolio. Alltough, the design is unfortunately still a concept in progress, but it’s neatly illustrated and offers a lot of thoughts about biomimicry and use cases.

[Kai Lin] [read more on core77] [all pictures by Kai Lin]