Thursday, April 6, 2023

Non-Invasive Behavior Modification

Can someone say "mind-control deodorant"?

Once we learn to activate olfactory receptors through the eyes with lasers, you'll be "tuned" before you enter large gathering spaces to be more socially compatible with the other occupants.
Researchers identify neurons that 'learn' to smell a threat
Jan 2023,

Researchers found that "inhibitory" neurons (nerve cells that act by silencing their synaptic partners) in an area of the brain responsible for interpreting social smells become highly active and change their function when males repeatedly meet and increase their territorial aggression. By disrupting the neurons associated with neuroplasticity—learning—in the accessory olfactory bulb, researchers revealed that territorial aggression decreased, linking changes to cellular function in the pheromone-sensing circuity of the brain to changes in behavioral responses to social threats.

"It abolished the ramping aggression that is typically exhibited," said Zuk. "It indicates that this early sensory inhibitory neuron population plays a critical role in regulating the behavioral response to social smells."

via University of Rochester Medical Center: Kelsey E. Zuk et al, Arc-Expressing Accessory Olfactory Bulb Interneurons Support Chemosensory Social Behavioral Plasticity, The Journal of Neuroscience (2023). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0847-22.2022

Totally unrelated image credit: I'm endlessly fascinated with psychoanalyzing the artificial mind, in this case, one which cannot understand what fingers are: AI Art - A Person Who Conceals Their Face with their Hands AKA Damn Fingers - 2023

Scientists show that odors from other people's sweat can help treat social anxiety
Mar 2023,

Social anxiety was reduced when patients underwent mindfulness therapy while exposed to human 'chemo-signals', or what we commonly refer to as body odor, obtained from underarm sweat from volunteers.

Combining these chemo-signals with mindfulness therapy seem to produce better results in treating social anxiety than can be achieved by mindfulness therapy alone".

via the Karolinska Institute and The European Congress of Psychiatry taking place 25-28 March 2023, in Paris.

*This work is part of the EU-funded Horizon2020 project POTION ("Promoting Social Interaction through Emotional Body Odors") 4. 

Promoting social interaction through emotional body odours
The way chemistry influences human communication is one of the most intriguing and debated topics. More specifically, the nature of chemosignals and their sphere of influence on social interaction is a very important key to understanding human behaviour. POTION proposes a novel technological paradigm to delve deeper into understanding meaningful social interaction, combining new knowledge about the chemical composition of human social chemosignals together with a novel olfactory-based technology designed to drive social behaviour. A first challenging analysis on human chemosignals to delineate the chemical underpinnings of the emotions of happiness and fear will be carried out since they are the representative emotions that drive approach and avoidance behaviour, i.e. the fundamental building blocks of social interaction between individuals of the same species. Results of this analysis will be used to artificially synthetize the chemosignals of these two emotions, which will provide the basis of an innovative computer-controlled odour delivery system able to drive the approach-avoidance social strategy. This breakthrough device will be controlled in a closed loop by the social-emotional state of the subjects evaluated through a novel computational neural model. The POTION system will be applied and tested in both social and clinical scenarios. In the social scenarios, we venture to reveal how olfaction clues work in managing the feelings of trust, presence and inclusion, in both virtual, real, and social media contexts. In the clinical scenario, POTION will propose a new human chemosignal-based diagnosis and treatment for social anxiety, phobias and depression, which are known to all share impaired social functioning. POTION will provide further insight to the fundamental underpinnings of human behaviour with the goal to help establish healthy social relationships through trust, leading to an overall improvement in wellbeing.

Ancient Computers

Cerebral cortexes are cool and all, but the "dumber" parts of the brain have a lot of good secrets in there too.

Lost fish find their way, thanks to their 'ancient brain'
Dec 2022,

They put tiny translucent zebrafish, barely half a centimeter in length, in a virtual reality environment that simulates water currents.

The researchers expected to see activation in the forebrain -- where the hippocampus, which contains a "cognitive map" of an animal's environment, is located. To their surprise, they saw activation in several regions of the medulla, where information about the animal's location was being transmitted from a newly identified circuit via a hindbrain structure called the inferior olive to the motor circuits in the cerebellum that enable the fish to move. When these pathways were blocked, the fish was unable to navigate back to its original location.

These findings suggest that areas of the brainstem remember a zebrafish's original location and generate an error signal based on its current and past locations. This information is relayed to the cerebellum, allowing the fish to swim back to its starting point. This research reveals a new function for the inferior olive and the cerebellum, which were known to be involved in actions like reaching and locomotion, but not this type of navigation.

via Howard Hughes Medical Institute: Misha B. Ahrens, A brainstem integrator for self-location memory and positional homeostasis in zebrafish, Cell (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.11.022

Image credit: Homotopical Topology by Fomenko and Fuchs