Human-machine superintelligence can solve the world’s most dire problems

human hand and computer keyboardThe combination of human and computer intelligence might be just what we need to solve the “wicked” problems of the world, such as climate change and geopolitical conflict, say researchers from the Human Computation Institute (HCI) and Cornell University.

In an article published in the journal Science, the authors present a new vision of human computation (the science of crowd-powered systems), which pushes beyond traditional limits, and takes on hard problems that until recently have remained out of reach.

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Mind of blue: Emotional expression affects the brain’s creativity network

Jazz musician playing piano keyboard musical instrumentStudy of jazz pianists finds ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ music evoke different neural patterns.

The workings of neural circuits associated with creativity are significantly altered when artists are actively attempting to express emotions, according to a new brain-scanning study of jazz pianists.

Over the past decade, a collection of neuroimaging studies has begun to identify components of a neural circuit that operates across various domains of creativity. But the new research suggests that creativity cannot be fully explained in terms of the activation or deactivation of a fixed network of brain regions. Rather, the researchers said, when creative acts engage brain areas involved in emotional expression, activity in these regions strongly influences which parts of the brain’s creativity network are activated, and to what extent.

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Being anxious could be good for you — in a crisis

AnxietyBrain prioritizes threats, especially in anxious people.

New findings by French researchers show that the brain devotes more processing resources to social situations that signal threat than those that are benign.

The results in the journal eLife may help explain the apparent “sixth sense” we have for danger. This is the first time that specific regions of the brain have been identified to be involved in the phenomenon. The human brain is able to detect social threats in these regions in a fast, automatic fashion, within just 200 milliseconds.

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The Lancet: Happiness and unhappiness have no direct effect on mortality

Happy seniorsA study of a million UK women, published in The Lancet, has shown that happiness itself has no direct effect on mortality, and that the widespread but mistaken belief that unhappiness and stress directly cause ill health came from studies that had simply confused cause and effect.

Life-threatening poor health can cause unhappiness, and for this reason unhappiness is associated with increased mortality. In addition, smokers tend to be unhappier than non-smokers. However, after taking account of previous ill health, smoking, and other lifestyle and socio-economic factors, the investigators found that unhappiness itself was no longer associated with increased mortality.

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To bolster a new year’s resolution, ask, don’t tell

Rising to the ChallengeStudy finds that questioning influences behavior

“Will you exercise this year?” That simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others’ behavior, according to a recent study spanning 40 years of research.

The research is the first comprehensive look at more than 100 studies examining the ‘question-behavior effect,’ a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior influences whether they do it in the future. The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning.

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Midnight munchies mangle memory

Woman in her pajamas goes into the refrigerator

Eating at the wrong time impairs learning and memory

An occasional late-night raid on turkey leftovers might be harmless but new research with mice suggests that making a habit of it could alter brain physiology.

Eating at times normally reserved for sleep causes a deficiency in the type of learning and memory controlled by the hippocampal area of the brain, according to findings in the journaleLife.

Researchers from the Semel Institute in the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) became interested in the cognitive effects of eating at inappropriate hours because it is already known to have an impact on metabolic health, for example leading to a pre-diabetic state.

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