“Contact Lens” by Haruka Kojin

“I was on an express bus, looking at the pavement which passed my eyes at a high speed accelerated by the car engine. Looking still for some time, my vision automatically focused into a grainy surface of the pavement – appearing enlarged in my eyes.  I do not entirely rely on my visionary sense because my eyes are spheres having limited sensitivities. What if my eyes have rectangular pupils? Another world-view will then be my reality. Imagine how insects with facet-eye like flies or birds view the world? The birds can capture an ultraviolet ray invisible to human, so they must have their own version of reality unique to their visionary sense.” - Haruka Kojin


“The only thing we can perceive are our perceptions. In other words, consciousness is the matrix upon which the cosmos is apprehended. Color, sound, temperature, and the like exist only as perceptions in our head, not as absolute essences. In the broadest sense, we cannot be sure of an outside universe at all.”

Manipulating brain activity to boost confidence

Self-confidence is an essential quality to succeed in the world, such as in business environments, politics or many other aspects of our everyday life. Furthermore, confidence is an important aspect in mental illnesses such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease, where the condition is often further complicated by patients thinking negatively of their own capacities. Recent advances in neuroscience have highlighted the plasticity of the brain, indicating it is malleable even later in life.

The international team developed a state-of-the-art method to read and then amplify a high confidence state using a new technique called ‘Decoded Neurofeedback’. This technique used brain scanning to monitor and detect the occurrence of specific complex patterns of activity corresponding to high confidence states, while participants performed a simple perceptual task. In the training sessions, whenever the pattern of high confidence was detected, participants received a small monetary reward. This experiment allowed researchers to directly boost one’s own confidence unconsciously, i.e. participants were unaware that such manipulation took place. Importantly, the effect could be reversed, as confidence could also be decreased.

Dr. Mitsuo Kawato, Director of the Computational Neuroscience Laboratories at ATR, Kyoto, and one of the authors on the study, has pioneered this state-of-the-art technology. He explained the process:

“How is confidence represented in the brain? Although this is a very complex question, we used approaches drawn from artificial intelligence (AI) to find specific patterns in the brain that could reliably tell us when a participant was in a high or low confidence state. The core challenge was then to use this information in real-time, to make the occurrence of a confident state more likely to happen in the future”.

Dr. Aurelio Cortese, of the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Kyoto, led the research:

“Surprisingly, by continuously pairing the occurrence of the highly confident state with a reward - a small amount of money - in real-time, we were able to do just that: when participants had to rate their confidence in the perceptual task at the end of the training, their were consistently more confident”.

Dr. Hakwan Lau, Associate Professor in the UCLA Psychology Department, was the senior author on the study and an expert in confidence and metacognition:

“Crucially, in this study confidence was measured quantitatively via rigorous psychophysics, making sure the effects were not just a change of mood or simple reporting strategy. Such changes in confidence took place even though the participants performed the relevant task at the same performance level”.

The sample size was relatively small (17 people), but is in line with basic science investigations of similar kinds. The team is currently working on the development of potential new clinical treatment for patients with various psychiatric conditions.

Humans Are Blind

Ok, I have been reading a tonne of Humans Are Weird/Space Australia stories and I’ve decided to throw myself onto the pile :)

I’ve seen a couple of posts about how aliens might have different senses to us and how human vision is a compleat sci-fi asspull, but it got me thinking.  Even within the senses humans have, there is a huge amount of variation.  Our hearing range only extends down to 20hz and the section of the electromagnetic spectrum we can see doesn’t even match up with other earth species!

Alien-1: Human-Steve welcome to the crew!  We hope you enjoy… Human-Steve are you listening to me?

Human: …

Alien-1: Human-Steve!  Please pay attention when I am talking to you!

Alien-2: Xpprop, I have read about this!  I believe the human cannot hear you because you are not within its audible spectrum, let me try.

Alien-2: (Does best Batman impression)

Human: Oh, gidday!

Alien-1: …I don’t believe this.

Or what about ultraviolet light?

Human: Hey Marpivox! have a look at these flowers!

Alien: Yes!  They are very pretty Human-Alex, especially their concentric patterns!

Human: ???