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2008

Caltech-Led Researchers Find Negative Cues from Appearance Alone Matter for Real Elections Brain-imaging studies reveal that voting decisions are more associated with the brain's response to negative aspects of a politician's appearance than to positive ones. "While these findings are certainly very provocative, it is important to note their limitations," says study senior author Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology at Caltech, and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center. Read more... 10-29-2008

Scientists Find Our Eyes Evolved for 'X-Ray' Vision
Research by Mark Changizi and Professor Shinsuke Shimojo on binocular vision has revealed a type of x-ray vision that "sees through" objects. Says Changizi, "As long as the separation between our eyes is wider than the width of the objects causing clutter, we can generally see through it." Read more... 09-4-2008

Caltech-Led Researchers Find Negative Cues from Appearance Alone Matter for Real Elections Brain-imaging studies reveal that voting decisions are more associated with the brain's response to negative aspects of a politician's appearance than to positive ones. "While these findings are certainly very provocative, it is important to note their limitations," says study senior author Ralph Adolphs, Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology at Caltech, and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center. Read more... 10-29-2008

Scientists Find Our Eyes Evolved for 'X-Ray' Vision
Research by Mark Changizi and Professor Shinsuke Shimojo on binocular vision has revealed a type of x-ray vision that "sees through" objects. Says Changizi, "As long as the separation between our eyes is wider than the width of the objects causing clutter, we can generally see through it." Read more... 09-4-2008

Caltech Scientists Create DNA Tubes with Programmable Sizes for Nanoscale Manufacturing
Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a simple process for mass producing molecular tubes of identical—and precisely programmable—circumferences. The technological feat may allow the use of the molecular tubes in a number of nanotechnology applications. Learn more about the work of Dr. Peng Yin and Dr. Erik Winfree. Read the press release... 08-29-2008

Caltech Researchers Awarded $10 Million for Molecular Programming Project Collaborative project may lead to revolutionary changes. "Our project is a response to the fact that the molecular systems people are building today are now so complex, and their behavior so intricate, that future progress hinges on developing the intellectual and practical tools for mastering that complexity, the kinds of tools that computer science has already developed for silicon computers," says Erik Winfree, associate professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering at Caltech. Other members of the collaboration include Jehoshua (Shuki) Bruck, the Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering at Caltech; Niles A. Pierce, associate professor of applied and computational mathematics and bioengineering at Caltech; Paul W. Rothemund, senior research associate in bioengineering, computer science, and computation and neural systems at Caltech; and Eric Klavins, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. Read More... 08-18-2008

Caltech Neurobiologists Discover Individuals Who "Hear" Movement Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered a type of synesthesia in which individuals hear sounds. Psychologists previously reported visual, tactile, and taste synesthesias, but auditory synesthesia had never been identified. Caltech lecturer in computation and neural systems Melissa Saenz discovered the phenomenon quite by accident. Saenz, who, along with Christof Koch, the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology at Caltech and professor of computation and neural systems, reports the finding in the August 5 issue of the journal Current Biology. Read More... 08-06-2008

Caltech and UNC Research Finds Further Evidence for Genetic Contribution to Autism Some parents of children with autism evaluate facial expressions differently than the rest of us--and in a way that is strikingly similar to autistic patients themselves, according to new research by neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs of the California Institute of Technology and psychiatrist Joe Piven at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Read More... 07-15-2008

Caltech Scientists Decipher the Neurological Basis of Timely Movement Work by Dr. Richard A. Andersen, the James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience at Caltech, and his colleagues Grant Mulliken of MIT and Sam Musallam of McGill University, offers the first neural evidence that voluntary limb movements are guided by our brain's prediction of what will happen an instant into the future. Read More... 06-09-2008

Caltech Researchers Reveal the Neuronal Computations Governing Strategic Social Interactions in the Human Brain In a strategic game, the success of any player depends not just on his or her own actions, but on the behavior of every other player in the game. To be successful, players must not only pay attention to what other players do, but also how they are thinking. Understanding how the brain functions during this strategizing is at "the core of studies of adaptive social intelligence," says John P. O'Doherty of the California Institute of Technology and the subject of a recent series of brain studies by O'Doherty and his colleagues that offer new insight into how the brain works in social situations. Read more... 05-19-2008

Sight Recovery After Blindness Offers New Insights on Brain Reorganization Studies of the brains of blind persons whose sight was partially restored later in life have produced a compelling example of the brain's ability to adapt to new circumstances and rewire and reconfigure itself. The research, conducted by postdoctoral researcher Melissa Saenz of the California Institute of Technology along with Christof Koch, the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and professor of computation and neural systems, and their colleagues, shows that the part of the brain that processes visual information in normal individuals can be co-opted to respond to both visual and auditory information. That brain reorganization persists even if the blind subjects later regain their vision—for example, through technologies such as corneal stem-cell transplants, retinal prosthetics, and gene therapy. Read more... 05-15-2008

How Fairness Is Wired in the Brain Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered that reason struggles with emotion to find equitable solutions, and have pinpointed the region of the brain where this takes place. The concept of fairness, they found, is processed in the insular cortex, or insula, which is also the seat of emotional reactions. "The fact that the brain has such a robust response to unfairness suggests that sensing unfairness is a basic evolved capacity," notes Steven Quartz, an associate professor of philosophy at Caltech and author of the study, voicing a sentiment that anyone who has seen children fight over a treat can relate to. Read more... 05-08-2008

Two Faculty Members Join American Academy of Arts and Sciences Caltech professors Michael Dickinson and Thomas Palfrey are among the 190 new fellows elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year. They join an assembly that was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholars to provide practical solutions to pressing issues. Read more... 04-30-2008

Locating a "Free Choice" Brain Circuit Your brain gets a better workout when you change your routine. Richard Andersen, Bijan Pesaran, a former Caltech postdoc, and Matthew Nelson, a Caltech graduate student in CNS, pinpointed one particular circuit that activates your ability to execute a decision. Read more... 04-16-2008

Athanassios Siapas, Assistant Professor of Computation and Neural Systems, and his postdoctoral researcher Evgueniy Lubenov are revealing the mechanism by which the brain spontaneously tips itself toward a state balanced between order and chaos. The driving factor in the brain's self-regulation, they say, is the timing of neural pulses. Read more... 04-14-2008

Using a flight simulator, Michael Dickinson, the Zarem Professor of Bioengineering, and postdoctoral students Gaby Maimon and Andrew Straw, have come closer to understanding what guides the decision making of the common fruit fly as it zips through space. Their experiments were conducted on both free-flying flies and on flies tethered within a virtual-reality flight simulator. In the flight simulator, flies could steer toward or away from images displayed on an electronic panorama. "We can present the fly with different scenes and the fly reacts to them, like a 12-year-old boy playing a video game," says Dickinson. Read more... 03-25-08

Christof Koch, the Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and Professor of Computation and Neural Systems, and his colleagues, have found that changes in pupil diameter correspond to the moment when a simple decision is made. The pupil, which is about 2 mm wide in bright light, dilated by as much as 1 mm at that moment—a change that, in theory, could be noticeable to a casual observer. Read more... 02-12-2008

Wine Study Shows Price Influences Perception Antonio Rangel, Associate Professor of Economics, and colleagues found that changes in the stated price of a sampled wine influenced not only how good volunteers thought it tasted, but the activity of a brain region that is involved in our experience of pleasure. View press release... 01-14-2008

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