Beyond Boundaries - Fall 2014

01/23/14 | by Training Games | Categories: Play
In this talk Dr. Miguel Nicolelis describes how state-of-the-art research on brain-machine interfaces make it possible for the brains of primates to interact directly and in a bi-directional way with mechanical, computational and virtual devices without any interference of the body muscles or sensory organs.

Join Dr. Nicolelis (Beyond Boundaries: The New Neuroscience of Connecting Brains with Machines---and How It Will Change Our Lives, Times Books, 2011) as he reviews a series of recent experiments using real-time computational models to investigate how ensembles of neurons encode motor information. These experiments have revealed that brain-machine interfaces can be used not only to study fundamental aspects of neural ensemble physiology, but they can also serve as an experimental paradigm aimed at testing the design of novel neuroprosthetic devices.

He will also describe evidence indicating that continuous operation of a closed-loop brain machine interface, which utilizes a robotic arm as its main actuator, can induce significant changes in the physiological properties of neural circuits in multiple motor and sensory cortical areas. This research raises the hypothesis that the properties of a robot arm, or other neurally controlled tools, can be assimilated by brain representations as if they were extensions of the subject's own body.

Dr. Nicolelis is Professor, Neurobiology Biomedical Engineering and Psychological and Brain Sciences,Co-Director, Center for Neuroengineering, at Duke University. He received his medical degree from the University of Sao Paulo Medical School, and was awarded a Ph.D. from the Institute of Biomedical Science, University of Sao Paulo.

Who Was Phineas Gage?

01/23/14 | by Training Games | Categories: Play
Phineas Gage is often referred to as one of the most famous patients in neuroscience. He suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron rod was driven through his entire skull, destroying much of his frontal lobe. Gage miraculously survived the accident, but was so changed as a result that many of his friends described him as an almost different man entirely.

The Accident

On September 13, 1848, the then 25-year-old Gage was working as the foreman of a crew preparing a railroad bed near Cavendish, Vermont. He was using an iron tamping rod to pack explosive powder into a hole. Unfortunately, the powder detonated, sending the 43 inch long and 1.25 inch diameter rod hurtling upward. The rod penetrated Gage's left cheek, tore through his brain, and exited his skull before reportedly landing some 80 feet away.

Shockingly, Gage not only survived the initial injury but was able to speak and walk to a nearby cart so he could be taken into town to be seen by a doctor. Dr. Edward H. Williams, the first physician to respond later described what he found:

"I first noticed the wound upon the head before I alighted from my carriage, the pulsations of the brain being very distinct. Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders. I did not believe Mr. Gage's statement at that time, but thought he was deceived. Mr. Gage persisted in saying that the bar went through his head… Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor."

Soon after, Dr. John Martyn Harlow, took over the case. It is through Harlow's observations of the injury and his later descriptions of Gage's mental changes that provide much of the primary information that we now know about the case. Harlow described the initial aftermath of the accident as "literally one gore of blood."

Later in a published description of the case, Harlow wrote that Gage was still conscious later that evening and was able to recount the names of his co-workers. Gage even suggested that he didn't wish to see his friends, since he would be back to work in "a day or two" anyways.

After developing an infection, Gage then spent September 23 to October 3 in a semi-comatose state. On October 7, he took his first steps out of bed and by October 11 his intellectual functioning began to improve. Harlow noted that Gage knew how much time had passed since the accident and remembered clearly how the accident occurred, but had difficulty estimating size and amounts of money. Within a month, Gage was even venturing out of the house and into the street.

The Aftermath

In the months that followed, Gage returned to his parent's home in New Hampshire to recuperate. When Harlow saw Gage again the following year, the doctor noted that while Gage had lost vision in his eye and was left with obvious scars from the accident, he was in good physical health and appeared recovered.

Unable to return to his railroad job, Gage held a series of jobs including work in a livery stable, a stagecoach driver in Chile and farm work in California. Popular reports of Gage often depict him as a hardworking, pleasant man prior to the accident. Post-accident, these reports describe him as a changed man, suggesting that the injury had transformed him into a surly, aggressive drunkard who was unable to hold down a job.

The myths surround the effects of Gage's injury seem to have grown after his death, and many of these claims are not supported by any direct evidence from primary sources. Neither Harlow nor any others who had actual contact with Gage reported any of these behaviors. "Phineas' story is worth remembering because it illustrates how easily a small stock of facts becomes transformed into popular and scientific myth," explains psychologist Malcolm Macmillan, author of An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage.

So was Gage's personality as changed as some of the reports after his death have claimed? Recently, Macmillian has suggested that the most marked changes in Gage may have been limited to the period of time immediately after the accident. Evidence suggests that many of the supposed effects of the accident were exaggerated and that he was actually far more functional than previously reported.

Practical Tips for your 2014 Goals

01/23/14 | by Training Games | Categories: Play
By Melanie Tannenbaum | January 3, 2014

It's the 3rd day of 2014. Have you gotten started on your resolutions yet?

We've already discussed how to set good resolutions, and why telling Facebook about them might not be wise (unless you are thinking of this act in a very specific kind of way). But what about the actual process of trying to accomplish those resolutions? Are there any ways that you can make it feel easier to actually pursue your new, lofty goals?

In social psychology, we often talk about the shockingly profound importance of channel factors — tiny, seemingly-insignificant details about the environment that can have remarkably huge effects on actual behavior. One of the most well-known demonstrations of channel factors occurred back in the 1960s, when Howard Leventhal and colleagues wanted to encourage Yale students to go to the student health center and get vaccinated against tetanus. Although most of the students responded favorably to the scare tactics used by the researchers and indicated interest in receiving the vaccines while they were in the lab for the study, only 3% of the students actually ended up going to the health center and getting the shot. However, one simple change managed to increase participation by a factor of nine, raising the participation rate to just over 25%. That change? Providing the students with a map of the campus (on which the health center was circled) and asking them to check their schedules and find a time when they would hypothetically be available to get the shot. Keep in mind that these were all college seniors; they presumably already knew where the health center was by that point in their college careers. They also all presumably knew how to check their schedules before the researchers told them to do so. That wasn’t the point. The point was that all it took to translate good intentions into healthy actions was the simple channel factor of making the action seem convenient and manageable. Once the students saw, very plainly, that there was an easy route to the health center and an open gap in their schedules, they became much more likely to actually make their way to the health center and get the vaccine.

Similarly, research on implementation intentions has demonstrated the utility of forming "If — Then" statements for goal-directed behavior. Intentions that specify the how, what, when, and where of enacting goals are much more successful at motivating actual behavior than simply setting the more general goal to do something. So, for example, I've previously suggested that around election time, encouraging potential voters to form an "If — Then" implementation intention for Election Day (e.g. "If it's my lunch hour, then I'll head over to my polling place and cast my vote") could help boost voter turnout, along with things like asking potential voters to figure out where their polling places are and identify a free gap of time in their schedules well before Election Day.

With this research on channel factors and implementation intentions in mind, it's easy to see some useful parallels for how you can help yourself pursue your new goals!

If you engage in that same sort of thought process with your goals for the new year, you might be amazed at how much easier it becomes to actually start new, good habits. Happy 2014!

Why Interactive Games are Great for Team Building

01/08/14 | by Training Games | Categories: Play
Team building is used to develop teamwork among its participants during actual tasks. And this is done through interactive training games. A lot of individuals think these are just to de-stress employees and create camaraderie. But these are not the only reasons. Interactive training games are called "training games" for a reason and today you will learn more about why team building needs these games. These are the proven justifications on using games to train people on how to work each other.

Cognitive Learning
It has been proven several times through experience and scientific research that a person learns effectively when playing games especially when playing cooperative ones. These include new skills and knowledge and even significant improvements on how to handle situations. This is because of the combination of good forms of stress and anxiety with strategy development and creativity that causes an individual work better on teams the more he or she plays in one.

Alternative Intelligence
Several studies conducted recently have shown that traditional measurements of human intelligence such as an IQ test is not the only method of measurement. For example, there are individuals who do not do well academically but are amazing when it comes to games. Even academically inclined individuals have an untapped intelligence that can only be tapped through games and group activities. This is currently called alternative intelligence.

Emotional Quotient
Most of us think that learning involves intelligence and nothing more. But as any of as can attest, when we love the things that we learn we are more likely to master it throughout our lives. This emotional quotient can be tapped through the emotions of fun and enjoyment through interactive games that involve cooperation. And the emotions involved during the learning experience will make these individuals remember the lessons longer which will be helpful during actual work.

How Adults Learn
Adults have a lot of experience to offer in any situation. Through interactive games adults can derive common effective methods through the influx of experience from other adults. This makes reaching to an agreement faster since a team of adults come up with a general solution faster. The result is faster actions and more cooperation among the team members.

Repetition and Feedback
Games allow an individual to repeat several effective decisions and actions before and see if these works again. When they do not it forces the individual to reevaluate the new situation and adjust accordingly. When done through cooperative efforts these feedbacks are faster since they will come from peers allowing all the participants to coordinate adjustments to achieve specific goals and win the game.

As you can see, each of this reasons explain why interactive training games are essential for team buildings. Science and observable reality back these reasons up giving no room for argument against the effectiveness of games to help individuals learn how to be better at work and how to work with other people to complete several tasks without any conflict and lessens the roadblocks.

Exercise has physical, mental benefits—even in those over 90

01/08/14 | by Training Games | Categories: Play
October 4, 2013 by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor

The weight room isn’t just for younger or rehabilitating residents. New research shows that those over the age of 90 can benefit from strength training, too.

Dr. Mikel Izquierdo-Redín of the Public University of Navarre in Spain and colleagues found that increased strength, power and muscle mass after 12 weeks of exercise translated to increased walking speed, improved ability to rise out of a chair, better balance, fewer falls and a noticeable difference in power and mass in lower limb muscles of elderly study participants. Their findings are published in the American Aging Association’s journal, Age.

The study involved 24 participants aged 91 to 96 years; 11 were in an experimental group and 13 in a control group. Exercisers performed strength training and balance-improvement workouts for two days a week for 12 weeks.

"From a practical point of view," Izquierdo says, "the results of the study point to the importance of implementing exercise programs in patients of this type—exercises to develop muscle power, balance and walking." Such training could help lessen the effects of aging and improve overall well-being, he adds.

Other research published in the same journal issue found that when elderly study participants performed aerobic, strength and stretching exercises three times a week for four weeks, their executive functions, episodic memory and processing speed improved. That study, conducted in Japan, included 64 healthy older adults randomly assigned to an exercise group or a control group.

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