Archive for the ‘Brain’ Category

Describe Your Desk Doohickey for Fidget Widget!

By June 16th, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Comment

By: Nina Friedman

When I hit a mental roadblock while I’m working, moving always helps. I can’t keep my brain moving unless my body is moving. I might get up from my desk and take a little walk but if I’m in a time crunch I’ll just fidget around in my chair or tap out a fun rhythm. As a growing body of research shows, cognitive functioning increases when we move. In other words, moving helps us think.

While Dr. Michael Karlesky was studying for his PhD at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, he teamed up with his advisor Dr. Katherine Isbister at UC Santa Cruz’s Baskin School of Engineering to pioneer research about fidgeting. They are asking groundbreaking questions about the movements we make while we are sedentary. Read the rest of this entry »

Help accelerate biomedical research from the comfort of your couch

By April 27th, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Comment

No scalpel required!
Learn how to identify images of clogged blood vessels to accelerate Alzheimer’s research or trace 3D images of neurons to shed light on how these structures influence behavior.
SciStarter’s editors hand-picked five, biomedical research projects we think you’ll love. You can do these free projects and contribute to research all from the comfort of home!
Find more projects and events on SciStarter, to do now or bookmark for later.
Bonus: Complete your SciStarter profile this month and we’ll send you a free digital copy of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science.
The SciStarter Team

Speed up Alzheimer’s research simply by clicking on video images that show clogged (or “stalled”) blood vessels. Scientists think stalled blood flow may contribute to Alzheimer’s and they need your help to identify stalls in short videos of (real!) ultrasound images. All ages are welcome to participate. You’ll view a brief tutorial before you get started.
Location: Online

The Biomedical Citizen Science Hub (CitSciBio)
Find and share biomedical citizen science resources through the National Institute of Health-supported CitSciBio. This hub is your source for resources, projects, references, methods and communities about biomedical citizen science research.
Location: Online 

Mozak: Brainbuilder
Humans still outperform computers at identifying complex shapes like neurons. Simply trace 3D images of brain neurons (on your computer) to shed light on how neuron structure influences brain function. Since Mozak launched in November, citizen scientists (like you!) have reconstructed neurons 3.6 times faster than earlier methods!
Location: Online

Mark2CureIf you can read, you can help. With Mark2Cure you are trained to identify scientific concepts and mark, or annotate, those concepts in scientific literature. Help scientists find information they need to solve complex problems.
Location: Online

Citizen Endo
Help improve the medical field’s understanding of endometriosis symptoms on daily life. You can participate (with or without endometriosis) by tracking your daily experiences using the Phendo app.
Location: Online

Celebrate Citizen Science Days through May 20th!
More than 100 events are listed on SciStarter. From BioBlitzes, to trainings, to hack-a-thons, there’s an event near you.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Science Behind WeCureAlz: A Participatory Research Project Tackling Alzheimer’s Disease

By April 22nd, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Comment

Image Credit: Human Computation Institute CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0, Graphic by

Image Credit: Human Computation Institute CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0, Graphic by

by Egle Marija Ramanauskaite

Earlier this year, we introduced you to WeCureALZ – a groundbreaking new project that for the first time is set to use the power of citizen science to conduct Alzheimer’s research. Enabled by the support of the BrightFocus Foundation, the team is already preparing for the alpha testing of our first online activity – a game that will allow everyone to search for stalled capillaries in the brains of Alzheimer’s-affected mice.

With a beta launch planned later this year, we thought it was about time we tell you the key part of the story – the science behind WeCureALZ, and what is it that you – citizen scientists – will be helping researchers do! Read the rest of this entry »

SciStarter’s Top Fourteen Citizen Science Projects of 2014!

By January 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am | Comment

As we ring in the New Year, we’re celebrating the 14 Top Projects of 2014! These are the projects that received the most visits on the SciStarter website. Resolve to do more citizen science in 2015!
We’ll help you with that goal. Happy New Year!

Photo: Mike Hankey
1.  American Meteor Society – Meteor Observing
Report meteors and meteor showers online or with an easy smartphone app and help scientists determine their astronomical origins. Get started!

Read the rest of this entry »

VerbCorner – A Window Into The Brain One Thought At A Time

By January 31st, 2014 at 8:56 am | Comment

VerbCorner invites citizen scientists to answer fun questions about words and their meanings to eventually help train computers to understand language.

SciStarter is shuffling science into the language department. Explore the science of words with these citizen science projects!

SentencediagramVerb. Noun. Pronoun. Adjective. Adverb. Preposition. Conjunction. Interjection… If you’re anything like me, the sight of sentence diagrams and parts of speech trigger nightmares of grade school English class and number 2 pencils. But, how do we understand what a word means? As useful as dictionaries are, they only provide other words in their definitions. How do we know when to use one word in a sentence and not another? How do we explain a complex idea to children?

In July 2013, Lily Bui introduced us to VerbCorner, a citizen science project investigating the structure of language and, ultimately, the structure of thought. According to Dr. Hartshorne, the director of MIT’s Games With Words, “Scientists still haven’t worked out the exact meaning of most words… It is [similarly] hard to understand how children come to learn the meanings of words, when we don’t fully understand those meanings ourselves… I can tell you as a former translator, we translate words into meaning and then back into words.” With an infinite number of words and sentence structures, where should linguists begin to understand their meanings?

In VerbCorner, the mammoth task of understanding how language is structured is broken down into smaller, simple tasks. Through wild stories, each task focuses on one of seven unique aspects of verb meaning to elucidate the fundamental building blocks scientists think make up language such as how a verb is used and its relationship to a change of state. To date, over 1500 citizen scientists have provided more than 117,000 judgments on the initial 641 chosen verbs and six aspects of meaning, supplying Dr. Hartshorne and colleagues enough preliminary data to begin understanding how we understand words.


Are there patterns to how we use verbs? Do we systematically choose words? Or is our word choice completely random and learned in childhood? Regardless of what language you speak, scientists are learning that how we choose words appears to be similar. Scientists have discovered there is a relationship between grammar and meaning which is systematic, and thereby machine learnable. Previous work by Beth Levin lead to the creation of VerbNet, a database where verbs are categorized based on their meaning and usage. Citizen scientists in VerbCorner are helping Dr. Hartshorne’s team verify that verbs with similar descriptions (such as contact or force) are similarly classified and only work in particular grammatical situations.

According to Dr. Hartshorne, “The most interesting things we are learning are about the building blocks of the mind.” In the initial release of VerbCorner, one task tried to understand the building block ‘change of state’ be it physical, mental, or a location. “If ‘change of state’ really was a core component of how we conceptualize the world, it should have been easy to make a task that got at it. We were unable to make such a task. People found it very hard to keep track of all three types of changes.” Dr. Hartshorne explained. Consequently, the initial task was broken down into three new tasks, each focusing on a different aspect of changing state. Suddenly, citizen scientists were able to complete the task. “This suggests that linguists were wrong about ‘change of state’ being a building block of meaning… Rather the building blocks are probably ‘change of physical state’, ‘change of location’, ‘change of mental state’, and possibly more.”

With these results, VerbCorner achieved its first goal – the analysis of the original 641 verbs and six aspects of meaning. But, there is lots of work still to do – another 400 verbs and four additional tasks have recently been added to the project which ultimately plans to cover all the verbs and components of meaning in VerbNet. Linguists, psychologists, and computer scientists plan to use our evolving understand of language and meaning to develop a deeper understanding of human thought as well as fine tune the artificial intelligence programming society is increasingly reliant upon.

Why not flex your mind over language skills at VerbCorner this afternoon?  I’m certain you know more than Siri.

Dr. Melinda T. Hough is a freelance science advocate and communicator. Her previous work has included a Mirzayan Science and Technology Graduate Policy Fellowship at the National Academy of Sciences (2012), co-development of several of the final science policy questions with (2012), consulting on the development of the Seattle Science Festival EXPO day (2012), contributing photographer for JF Derry’s book “Darwin in Scotland” (2010) and outreach projects to numerous to count. Not content to stay stateside, Melinda received a B.S in Microbiology from the University of Washington (2001) before moving to Edinburgh, Scotland where she received a MSc (2002) and PhD (2008) from the University of Edinburgh trying to understand how antibiotics kill bacteria. Naturally curious, it is hard to tear Melinda away from science; but if you can, she might be found exploring, often behind the lens of her Nikon D80, training for two half-marathons, or plotting her next epic adventure.