Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Inflow of money for biomedical research

The 'stimulus package' has been signed into law, and NIH has decided how to dole out the money. Information can be found here:

In short, those research grants already in line have a much better chance at actually being funded than they would have just a few weeks ago. Existing grants seem to be in even better shape -- they will have the opportunity to be expanded in scope. Both of these mechanisms allow NIH to get the money out fast.

There is also a mechanism being put into place called "Challenge Grants". Currently the main NIH page for info on these grants states "Information Coming Soon" ( I guess we'll have to wait and see what those are about.

From my perspective, this stimulus package bodes very well for investigators already funded or on the verge of being funded. Anyone not already in the mix isn't likely to benefit.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Eight Problems for the Mirror Neuron Theory of Action Understanding in Monkeys and Humans

A critical review of the mirror neuron theory of action understanding is now available in the early access section of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience website. The basic conclusion is that there is little or no evidence to support the mirror neuron=action understanding hypothesis and instead there is substantial evidence against it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More $$ for science?

The science community is abuzz with reports on the upcoming "stimulus package" (isn't that a dirty word?) providing a shot in the arm for NIH, NSF and other scientific agencies. Everyone is excited.. except, apparently, Nature. There's an article out this week warning scientists against the dangers of too much money, too soon, and without more to back it up.

Worthy concerns, but is it enough to turn down $10 billion dollars? I don't think so.

See the nay-sayer's article here:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lip reading involves two cortical mechanisms

It is well known that visual speech (lip reading) affects auditory perception of speech. But how? There seem to be two ideas. One idea, dominant among sensory neuroscientists, is that visual speech accesses auditory speech systems via cross sensory integration. The STS is a favorite location in this respect. The other, dominant among speech scientists, particularly those with a motor theory bent, is that visual speech accesses motor representations of the perceived gestures which then influences perception.

A hot-off-the-press (well actually still in press) paper in Neuroscience Letters by Kai Okada and yours truly proposes that both ideas are correct. Specifically, that there are two routes by which visual speech can influence auditory speech, a "direct" and dominant cross sensory route involving the STS, and an "indirect" and less dominant sensory-motor route involving sensory-motor circuits. The goal of our paper was to outline existing evidence in favor of a two mechanism model, and to test one prediction of the model, namely that perceiving visual speech should activate speech related sensory-motor networks, including our favorite area, Spt.

Short version of our findings: as predicted, viewing speech gestures (baseline = non-speech gestures) activates speech-related sensory-motor areas including Spt as defined by a typical sensory-motor task (listen and reproduce speech). We interpret this as evidence for a sensory-motor route through which visual speech can influence heard speech, possibly via some sort of motor-to-sensory prediction mechanism. Viewing speech also activated a much broader set of regions along the STS, which may reflect the more direct cross sensory route.

Have a look and let me know what you think!

K OKADA, G HICKOK (2009). Two cortical mechanisms support the integration of visual and auditory speech: A hypothesis and preliminary data Neuroscience Letters DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.01.060