Archive for the ‘ Ashley ’ Category

Rubber Robot Mouths for the Hearing Impaired

A team of researchers  is attempting to create an apparatus that not only learns how to articulate human speech, but also teaches hearing impaired individuals how to better articulate such speech (see original article) and even sing!

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It does this by using neural networks to adaptively learn how to vocalize using the constructed robot mouth. Then, the hearing impaired can use visual feedback to ascertain whether or not their utterances match the targets, or ideal utterances.

You can actually watch a video of the “creepy” little robot here. Apparently, it took a little bit of mocking in Popular Science to come to the forefront of my attention.

Nevertheless, it promises to be a useful tool for the hearing impaired who desire to not be speech impaired as well.

-Posted by Ashley


The Myth of the Overmedicated Child: An Author’s Failure to Find Confirming Evidence

In the New York Times, a book is reviewed in which the author, Judith Warner, admittedly cannot find the evidence that she sought to support her initial position on the overpresence of overmedicated children (i.e., that children today are overmedicated). Though the author initially only sought confirming evidence that there are many overmedicated children along with parents who are all too willing to drug their children in order to make them “more normal,” the author had much difficulty in finding any of these children or eager parents to interview for her book. As such, the author reinvented the message of her book, concluding that “most no parent takes the issue of psychiatric diagnosis lightly or rushes to ‘drug’ his or her child; and that responsible child psychiatrists don’t, either ” . In a way, the fact that she looked for confirming evidence and couldn’t find it, made her more willing to accept the alternative.

-Posted by Ashley

The Olympics and Sport Psychology

Sport Psychology becomes very important during the Olympics for some athletes, like Magdalena Neuner. Neuner is a German biathlete (skier and rifle shooter) who recognizes that

One has to understand that physical fitness alone isn’t sufficient. My mental training is very complex and it makes me believe in myself…. To control your mind is more difficult than to control your body.

American athletes also use sport psychologists to train themselves mentally for the game. Notably, Lindsey Vonn (skier) and Scott Lago (snowboarder) use sport psychologists to help them overcome their anxieties before a game using techniques like visualization and biofeedback.

Despite the use of sport psychologists by many, however, some mock the use of sport psychology. Specifically, a Swedish reporter says

There are only losers who use sports psychologists. My God, when athletes start to scream for psychologists is when we know that they have already lost.

Also, it has been reported that the Swedes look down on the Norwegians who have

a bit desperately called in an entire army of mumbo-jumbo talk.

(See articles in the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor).

-Posted by Ashley

Texting While Driving Worse Than Talking While Driving- Why?

Obviously it is hazardous to use a cell phone while driving. This is not new.

With the new popularity of texting, however, more studies are coming out on the topic of texting. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society reported that researchers found that people tend to switch attention between texting and driving, while they tend to divide attention while talking on a cell phone and driving. So, while talking, some attention is still reserved for the important task of driving, whereas no attention may be reserved for driving when one is texting.

See original article here (link).

Some other interesting findings: in a report by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash (link) and more than 25% of teens have reported texting and driving (link).

-Posted by Ashley

Cognition found in vegetative patients?

It is reported by the New York Times that a research group in Belgium is able to communicate with people (or at least one person) in a vegetative state using fMRI. For example, when asked personal questions about one’s life, a patient can respond “yes” by thinking about tennis and thereby activating the motor cortex or by responding “no” by thinking about the layout of his or her home, thereby activating cortex implicated in spatial cognition.

Of the 23 patients in a vegetative state studied, only one showed the ability to correctly answer personal questions (5 out of 6) using this method of activating appropriate brain areas.

The article also alludes to the importance of this study in terms of studying consciousness and ramifications for cases such as the Terri Schiavo case that caught the nation’s attention in the late 90s.

-Posted by Ashley