This is your brain on marshmellows

Researchers conducting studies into the motor cortex of your brain have reported that eating too many marshmellows (or bananas?) could end up making you look like this:

Seriously, though, I am fascinated by this article.  First researchers taught monkeys to feed themselves marshmallows using a joystick.  Been awhile since I’ve seen one of those.  Then they put the monkeys in restraints, put a ‘brain wave interface’ into their motor cortexes which allowed the monkeys to manipulate the arm by brain power alone, and eventually tested the monkey’s ability to operate the arm around obstacles.  Different monkeys tested differently, but there was a 78% rate over 13 days of tests with the best monkey.

The whole thing raises possibilities for the future of prosthetics and even automated production lines.  After all, what couldn’t you do if you can hook your brain up to a machine or robot?  Of course, the researchers caution that these ‘brain-machine interfaces’ have only ever been tested in specific virtual reality settings.  I’d like to know where and when myself – the idea of sticking metal things in my head and possibly being mind controlled does not appeal.  But even if I’m excited about the possibilities on the whole, I do have additional questions.  Why marshmallows and not bananas?  Why joystick training initially?  What constitutes success in the experiment?  Is marshmallow in the eye a failure?  What about when the monkey can’t eat another marshmallow without ralphing?  Is that a failure?  How often each day to they run these tests?

I guess for now the world will have to wait for the combination of peanut butter and chocolate.  No wait, we’re post-Reese’s.  For the combination of brain and machine.


The Banana Monkey.

Some people like bananas.  Some people like monkeys.  I personally happen to like cards and cheese, but that’s another story for another time.  Finally, Some monkeys like bananas.  It is this group that gives rise to the Holy Grail of monkeydom, the Banana Monkey. He’s a fearful creature, with cheeks poodged out in banana revelry, spending his days munch munching away and playing Scrabulous with me.

As some of you may know, I am a big fan of Scrabulous. A big, big fan. In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have mentioned the game in this blog. Some enterprising young person could do a search and perhaps count them, but that will not be me.  I need to put away such youthful games in my struggle to be a crazy old lady.  I am moving every closer – not many days ago, in a stroke of rare senility, I lost a game to the Banana Monkey.

Now, some of you may say, ‘how can this be? You’re so much smarter than a monkey!’  I know, I know.  Yet while it is evidence of progress towards my only life goal, I myself was initially flabbergasted.  My intelligence, of course,  is superior to monkeys, even an imposing figure such as the Banana Monkey.  But then I remembered the monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare theories of randomness.  The answer was simple:  I’ve been playing too much Scrabulous.  With an infinite amount of time, eventually I must get such crap letters that the Banana Monkey must triumph.  Perhaps (gasp!) even more than once.  It’s a simple fact of the nature of chaos.

The Way Aztec Subtly Impacts Your Life

I was watching one of my last class videos, when I discovered the root of the name for Ozomatli. OzomatliIt’s one of the Aztec day signs meaning ‘monkey’. Now, some of you may be familiar with the band and wonder what a multi ethnic, activist band that plays music ranging from salsa to funk is doing with a name that means ‘monkey’. Personally, I was wondering myself. Evidently the monkey was also the god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music, which makes sense for a band name. Especially one that’s so integrally a ‘dance band’ that thrives on getting audience participation and involvement. I’m not sure if one of the group members is a Nahuatl speaker (one of the languages Aztec is ‘written in’), but it may be a bow to someone’s origins as well.

I decided to see if any other day signs had slipped into more mainstream use in America. Here’s my findings:

1 – Coatl (snake) – Also a band name, in this case of the metal/gothic/rock variety

2 – Tochtli (rabbit) – A two-player board game that combines aspects of Connect Four and Chinese Checkers

3 – Ollin (‘movement’, or as is more commonly accepted now, ‘earthquake’) – A digital design studio

4 – Ocelotl – the word ‘ocelot’ comes from this. How much more mainstream can you get?

5 – Xochitl (flower) – A restaurant/lounge in Philadelphia. Also an arts studio

Who knew?