Neuroscience

Can a computer make you cry? Revisiting the age-old question through the uncanny valley

Video games are more popular and more profitable than ever before.  Having come a long way since the arcade hits of decades past like Pong and Pac-Man, modern video games often have incredible photorealistic 3D graphics as well as complex narratives and engaging storylines that have helped them outperform even cinema in terms of profit and share of the entertainment industry. Video game players get to become part of the narrative by virtually embodying characters through gameplay, which often runs for over 20 hours or more, rather than just observing the story from the outside for 1-2 hours of film. As a result, people often report that video games can to some extent elicit far stronger emotional responses than movies, making it somewhat unsurprising that many games end up with cult-like followings of devoted fans waiting anxiously for the next release.

The Art of Imaging: Science meets beauty

While art and science are often presented as opposing forces in today’s world, the aim of the two disciplines has always been fundamentally the same: to provide a representation of the real world. This intricate link between art and science becomes more obvious as we look to past discoveries that were made before the invention of modern scientific technologies that help us capture reality, in a time when it was in many ways necessary for scientists to be artists as well.

Reflecting the light of this year’s QBIN Rising Star: Dr. Bratislav Misic

The second annual Rising Star in Bio-imaging in Quebec was awarded to Dr. Bratislav Misic, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. Dr. Misic leads the Network Neuroscience lab at the Montreal Neurological Institute, where he and his team investigate how brain networks — the interactions between brain regions — support complex behaviour. We sat down with Dr. Misic for a chat to learn more about him and his research trajectory, and were struck by his humility and positivity. It was a breath of fresh air during these trying times. We hope our interview with Dr. Misic serves as a source of inspiration and wisdom for you, as much as it did for us.

This is your brain on COVID: Is the pandemic changing human nature?

With the COVID-19 pandemic persisting for close to a year now, our daily routines and habits have changed dramatically. Those of us working from home have only a short commute from our beds to our desks, which may be convenient, but also reduces our exposure to different environments and blurs boundaries between work and leisure. Those who have lost their jobs or are shouldering childcare responsibilities on top of their work are facing numerous other challenges and changes to their lives, all of which may have lasting consequences. Most obviously, the change in routine due to public health restrictions has resulted in the visible dwindling of our social interactions. Could it be that the pandemic-related shift in our normal routines is also fundamentally changing the way we think and behave as human beings? It might be too early to tell but it’s definitely an interesting question to speculate about.

Gender differences in memory: Does brain function tell a different story?

Aging is often associated with memory loss for personal events and their rich contextual detail (known as episodic memory). Episodic memory is the type of memory that allows you to remember where you parked your car in a mall parking lot, or whether or not you took your medication earlier in the day. It is also intricately involved with your personal identity, enables you to learn from past experiences, and helps you plan for your future.

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