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Scientists Can Identify Emotions Through Brain Activity

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Scientists can’t yet read your mind, but they might be able to identify when you’re in emotional pain. In a new study published in PLOS Biology, psychology researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Pittsburgh report being able to identify the intensity of a negative emotional reaction via the patterns of brain activity with 93 percent accuracy.

More than 180 participants of various ages looked at images designed to elicit negative emotional reactions in the lab (images of injuries, car wrecks, piles of poop, etc.). Another 30 participants received pain stimulation from heat in order to differentiate the brain’s response to physical and emotional pain. The researchers then used a portion of the fMRI scans of these subjects’ brains to create an algorithm that could predict the intensity of the participants’ pain by identifying a distinct pattern of neuron activation.

In tests, this algorithm was able to predict the intensity of the participants’ emotions with a 93 percent accuracy compared to a self-reported survey of their emotional state (a simple numbered scale where 1 indicated neutral feelings and 5 indicated strong negative feelings). The algorithm could also distinguish between physical and emotional pain with 92 percent accuracy.

While less than 200 people is not quite enough to create a definitive neurological illustration of emotional pain, it can provide important data about how the brain processes emotions. “Emotions are central to our daily lives and emotional dysregulation is at the heart of many brain- and body-related disorders, but we don't have a clear understanding of how emotions are processed in the brain,” says lead author Luke Chang, previously a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Colorado and now an assistant professor at Dartmouth. “Thus, understanding the neurobiological mechanisms that generate and reduce negative emotional experiences is paramount.”

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The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
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Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Narcissists Are More Likely to Be Compulsive Facebook Users
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Updating your Facebook status throughout the day is probably a sign you need a different hobby, but according to a new study, the habit can also indicate something else. As PsyPost reports, people with Facebook addiction are also likely to be narcissists.

For their recent study published in the journal PLOS One, scientists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany followed the Facebook activity of 179 German students over the course of a year. They were looking for cases of so-called Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) based on the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, a system developed by University of Bergen researchers that measures factors like mood modification, withdrawal, and relapse in relation to Facebook use.

They wanted to find out whether FAD was linked to other mental health problems. In addition to gauging Facebook compulsion, they also surveyed subjects on their depression and anxiety levels, social support systems, physical health, narcissism, and general satisfaction with life. The results showed a strong correlation between FAD and narcissism. Rather than Facebook making its users more narcissistic, the researchers state that people with narcissistic personalities are at a greater risk of developing the social media addiction.

"Facebook use holds a particular meaning for narcissistic people," they write in the paper. "On Facebook, they can quickly initiate many superficial relationships with new Facebook-friends and get a large audience for their well-planned self-presentation. The more Facebook-friends they have, the higher is the possibility that they attain the popularity and admiration they are seeking; whereas in the offline world they might not be as popular since their interaction partners can quickly perceive their low agreeableness and exaggerated sense of self-importance."

The researchers also found a connection between Facebook addiction and higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.

Studies investigating Facebook Addiction Disorder have been conducted in the past, but there’s still not enough research to classify it as an official behavioral addiction. The researchers hope their work will lead to similar studies pinning down a link between FAD and mental health consequences.

[h/t PsyPost]

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