(12/13) EDIT 6: Thanks everyone. I'll be on stream to answer more and keep plugging away at these questions. This has been revelatory to me -- thanks everyone. I'll try to figure out more effective way of dealing with these questions like putting up video links or something. Have a good week.


[https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOOIzDxzKEd8EhF5dTy5Ngw](Youtube Channel with shorter videos)

Hello Reddit,

I'm a physician, biomedical engineer, and cognitive neuroscientist (MD/PhD) here to answer questions about brain performance, neurotechnology, gaming, or whatever else might be of interest.

My focus has been understanding what happens in the brain, how the brain handles complex situations (including games), and how to maximize brain performance in general. I've studied and published on attention, memory, multitasking, learning (and other cognitive processes) while interacting with video games. I've also run independent studies on neuropharmaceuticals and done a fair amount of engineering work on non-invasive neurotechnology.

Cognitive neuroscience -- what is it?

Cognitive neuroscience is a field that studies quantitative psychology using brain-measuring devices on humans (like fMRI or EEG). It really took off in the 1990's with access to fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging).

I've also worked on the non-science side (engineering side) improving brain-measuring devices and on brain-computing interfaces (BCI), programming and doing software development on brain-training applications and brain assessments.

Other possibly interesting stuff:

I've developed games used for laboratory settings (scientifically controlled) to study how the brain works under more complex, immersive and challenging conditions (than typical cognitive tasks).

I've worked with games and mobile apps heading into FDA approval, analyzed game data from small and large video game companies.

I've worked in DARPA-funded labs and for the DoD independently as a contractor.

I've worked on cognitive training programs as well as with companies on mindfulness, creativity, and other less academically-traditional cognitive areas.

I have done a fair amount of machine learning work (in case that interests anyone).

Short bio:

As a kid, I was interested in maxing out the brain. I got into to medical school as a teenager, mostly as a plan-by-default, where I did research projects in neurosurgery and neuroradiology. After residency (in my early twenties), I left medicine and entered a dual PhD in cognitive neuroscience/biomedical engineering at Berkeley and UCSF. Afterwards, I did a postdoc where I worked on using VR environments (and fMRI) to study how memory works, neuroactive drugs, and other topics. After that, I worked in Silicon Valley, for industry, and on some independent projects.

I have no idea if any of this is interesting to anyone but I started thinking recently it might be nice to share, educate, or just converse in general.

Disclaimer #1: Nothing I say is medical advice. See a professional in a professional system with professional liability insurance and professional billing.

Disclaimer #2: My comments don't represent any organizations, companies, or universities I have previously or currently work with.


EDIT 1: I'm not super familiar with the response window/timing of these AMA's but I'll return to these later tonight if I don't get to them right now. The number and variety of questions has been very cool.

EDIT 2: And probably into Saturday as well... so many comments/questions. Very cool -- didn't expect this. Apologies if I'm being a Reddit noob about something.

EDIT 3: I'm planning to answer more this evening and link some more general answers to repeated questions in this thread. I have a twitch I've only used for some close friends but maybe I can just answer live later today/tonight.

EDIT 4: I'm going keep answering the backlog of questions starting around 4:30 PST/7:30 EST. I'll be live on a channel if you prefer to ask in chat as well: https://www.twitch.tv/ramotime

EDIT 5: I'm going keep answering tomorrow evening (12/12/2020) on stream again probably around 6 PM PST/9 PM EST. Thanks for the stream participation and questions today! You guys have been great. Its been super informative for me to hear what people are interested in. https://www.twitch.tv/ramotime

Comments: 756 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

MrsBonsai171441 karma

I am very interested in hearing anything you know about brain imagining and ADHD and Autism. How stark is the difference in imaging while playing video games compared to people without these conditions? Does the brain 'change back" after playing is done or are there gradual more permanent changes?

Also, have you ever heard of the program Mightier? I'd be interested if you have any thoughts on that.

RamoTude132 karma

Re: Mightier. I haven't read any research studies on them. Its an interesting concept.

Re: 'change back'. The short answer is yeah, stopping most cognitive training, as well as drugs and physical training programs, shows regression back towards baseline over time. But this can happen on the order of months or even years (with training, not drugs). Another issue with really longitudinal follow-ups is that any population you study will just, statistically, show decline over time as a result of aging.

I think a lot of the benefit in many training programs is in the initial exposure, if you've never had exposure to that concept or lesson before. Think about the impact of the first 10 lessons in something (piano, archery, new genre of video game, compound weight lifts). You end up retaining some shreds of it even years later. You get worse at playing as soon as you stop -- and the longer you trained, the more shreds you'll probably retain years later. But there's always an issue of are you training just to train? And how much is the training helping your life?

So if you were really underexposed to a concept (like proper posture for lifting), that can stick with you forever once you were made aware of it. Likewise, I think sometimes these training programs are more like 'one-off' lessons that you might have to repeat more than just once to get it.

In the case of emotional management, you might have to be made aware of your reactions with bio-feedback potentially or people close to you. Then you have to practice catching those emotions and managing them over time. But if you 'stopped training', your brain is aware of the concept now so you haven't lost everything.

Chlemtil324 karma

Thank you so much for doing this.... Can you settle two debates for me? You’re way more educated on these things than I am, so even if it’s something you’re unsure of, I’d love a gut-call at least!!

1) I have a six-year-old. I’ve started letting him play limited video games. I think it will help him practice and develop many cognitive skills (problem solving, creativity, reading, etc). My wife does not. Who’s right and, as a bonus, which do you think is better for a young brain, kids TV programming or video games?

2) I also let my kid read and do artistic things on tablets and my brother-in-law insists that it’s not as valuable as reading a paper book or doing non-digital art projects. From a neurologist’s perspective, are there any differences to reading or doing art in a digital format vs a physical format?

Thanks again!

RamoTude460 karma

Yeah, I actually think about this if I ever have kids.

  1. I agree: video games have lots of benefits. I think there's an societal inertia on understanding the power of the interactivity, responsiveness, and complexity that games can provide that virtually little else can -- especially for a kid.
    1. There are dynamic concepts that many adults don't realize kids can intuitively (and then explicitly) grasp. Think of the civics concepts (zoning, population densities, sunk cost vs increased social capabilities, etc) you get exposed to in SimCity. Think of the economic/environment resource concepts you intuit from strategy games (resource acquisition vs investment, technological progress, conquest vs defense). The value of these being learned intuitively allows them to serve as metaphors in other domains unrelated to gaming.
    2. I was insanely bored as a kid and complex strategy games really gave something for my mind to tackle. On the other hand, I'm super grateful for my ability to sit and read (or work on something) -- that has probably contributed long-term to my quality of life more than anything.
    3. The problem with certain games or habits of gaming is that it can reinforce a bad reward cycle. I think learning delayed gratification (psychologists love referring to the marshmallow test) is important. However, to some extent, psych research simplifies because I think its more about relative choices than raw willpower. My plan was always to let my kids play the best games out there but limit their time on them. For me, if I was a kid, stuck between playing a strategy game or some boring history homework -- its not much of a choice.
  2. Re: digital vs non-digital. I think lots of researchers look for differences in this stuff. We could probably generate a bunch of theories about how kinesthetic touch or handling 3D objects is important vs how learning abstract, and arguably, more relevant and modern tools is important. Variety is ultimately valuable; so is gravitating towards natural talents and inclinations.

Thanks for the questions

MrsBonsai17151 karma

I'm a teacher and I think you were spot on with your answer. Gifted students in particular can greatly benefit from the games and concepts you described.

RamoTude31 karma


Throwinuprainbows2 karma

have you studied this in relation to learning and memory. I swear I remember where every turn, pick up, story, entire conversations ive only heard once...

why can I remeber things so easy in video games but not in real life? Any idea as to the mechanics behind this phenomenon?

RamoTude33 karma

Yes. One of the things that might help you remember better in games, especially in RPGs, is that in a game like Elder Scrolls, you're travelling across a lot of spatial landscape that you become familiar with. We are weirdly good at depositing information onto a physical landscape. One memory technique by memory champions is the so-called "method of loci" or memory palaces. You imagine a boardwalk or a street that you're super familiar with, that includes lots of detail.

Then when someone gives them a sequence of information, they imagine walking along it and deposit imagined objects at specific locations. I don't personally have experience using this but I studied it using VR and fMRI scanners. When you dump someone in a new virtual room, and have them memorize arbitrary objects -- the strongest memory feature is the room itself.

Evolutionary explanations would argue it was super important for us to navigate, scout, and hunt, across complex landscapes so that's why we're good at it. So instead of rooms, imagine creeks, trees, and whatever other imagined cave-people landmarks. Might be a little oversimplified of an explanation but could explain why games are more memorable.

It could be in real life, you're doing things in the same room/same environment -- and the location doesn't really cue anything specific.

MissPurpleblaze89 karma

My 13 year old son loves games, but has an issue with his anger. I’ve had to take him off and he is begging for me to let him play again. I’m concerned he is putting his brain under unnecessary stress while in his formative years. He is a very intelligent child and with COVID home school, being stuck inside, not seeing friends, learning high school algebra at home, is enough stress on him. Is there any truth to my thinking ?

RamoTude140 karma

Yeah, thats rough. My best guess is to find other things to engage. (Jobs, hands on work with a project or hobby, community work, some kind of independent creative project). I understand his anger because he knows he has at least one thing he likes, and its being arbitrarily taken away from him.

As a former angry student myself (at that age), I didn't like many things. The social world at that point wasn't great for me, school was painfully boring (but I wasn't doing that well at it), I was taking high school math, too. So other options kind of sucked for me.

I know COVID probably means no sports, but I would consider other activities like the ones above. Maybe programming -- I started learning at 15. I would also suggest that giving him better awareness of how much time is okay and sticking with that might seem more equitable and less arbitrary.

Agamemnon32325 karma

Not the OP, but have you considered whether it's all games that cause the anger issues or only certain ones? Multiplayer games where I rely on teammates make me pretty angry when my teammates don't do as well as I think they should. Single player games don't make me angry.

MissPurpleblaze7 karma

He won’t try anything else but rocket league, fortnight, and sea of thieves.

FlowMotionFL14 karma

I played professional Call of Duty over 10 years ago, and honestly tons of kids can get pretty angry at that age if they are competitive. My competitive nature never went away as I was/am an athlete as well. The anger from video games does subside though as they get older, but never completely goes away, it mostly comes down to maturity. Video games can also be a great way to relieve stress at that age as well, which is why many kids let loose in competitive games. The main problem is when that anger transfers over to real life, and starts having an effect on his day to day operations in school and other activities. All in all, I wouldn't be looking at his gaming habits as a bad thing, as i've learned as a high school athletic coach. The competitive nature is what sets many people apart from their peers, allowing them to succeed and become better everyday, in school, and later in life as a functioning member of society.

RamoTude12 karma

From a personal point of view, I would agree with this 100%. Sometimes I need to re-evaluate projects because they start off as relaxing hobbies but then I turn them competitive. Anger/competitive nature are two sides of the same coin.

mandown230867 karma

  1. In the book Mastery by Robert Greene, Greene cites Howard Gardner's book Frames of Mind and says each individual has a primal inclination towards one type of intelligence more than others. Some have visual, some auditory, etc. Do you think this is true?
  2. Do you think everybody's gonna "wear" Neuralink in the future?

RamoTude91 karma

[1] Yeah, I read his Strategies, and the Power books a long time ago, but don't think I've read Mastery.

Intelligence typing is a bit of a urban myth. On one hand, we have fairly dedicated areas of the brain processing visual information, that is distinct from auditory, kinesthetic, etc -- but when people say 'intelligence', they mean a wide range of things that go far beyond sensory processing.

In general, any sort of psychometric classification of intelligence types have been difficult. Intelligence itself is already an abstract construct trying to generalize a bunch of different cognitive skills, with a modest degree of psychological validation. But I haven't seen any successful attempts to generalize intelligence further, or re-break it back down into different abstracted constructs. Interestingly, some of the creativity tests we have now borne out of an attempt to get a more broad definition of intelligence.

In general, yeah, there are definitely individual differences on the ability to process different kinds of sensory information, our ability to imagine these different type of sensations, and the type of metaphors we use when we think or imagine (whether they be spatial/visual, temporal patterns, etc).

MrsBonsai17121 karma

I hate the term 'intelligences' that Gardener used. In practice they are more like motivators. Different students prefer different things and will be more motivated to learn and apply if they are allowed to receive and express it in that preference.

RamoTude4 karma

Interesting -- I didn't read Gardener, but that makes more sense to me.

RamoTude69 karma

[2] Re Neuralink: No. I'm such a huge skeptic on this approach. There is a phrase neurosurgeon's use "when the air hits your brain" for a reason. This is also why I've dedicated a significant amount of effort on non-invasive advances.

In terms of hybrid approaches, I do love the cleverness of what Thomas Oxley is trying to do (basically implant sensors through the vascular system, near the brain, so that in theory, we could use endoscopic intravascular approaches without cracking open the skull and dura matter). I've never met him -- I just think it's cool and makes more sense.

I'm also a fan of improving non-invasive systems. The simplified counter-argument to my position is that we'll never get strong enough signal through the skull.

Finally, without rambling too much, the entirety of them problem still lies in interpreting the neural signals. Even if we could shove an individual intra-neuronal sensor into a million neurons directly, we don't really know what to do with this information. We can search for correlations and try to develop more methods as we get more access, but there isn't any agreed upon approach that works that well for the consumer-level I/O that's being sold/hyped about right now.

amiliusone51 karma

Has there been any studies done on how/if drugs such as Adderall impact gaming performance? I've read that many gamers use such drugs in competitive tournaments.

eriqable21 karma

Some years ago Cloud9(I think) used it during a CS GO tournament. They only used it once since it didn't actually improve their results in the tournament or their performance. This is just from memory, so anybody is free to correct me.

RamoTude52 karma

I don't know specifically of the effect of stimulants on the overall performance of a game, but it does decrease mean reaction time (faster speed) and decreases reaction time variability (meaning you're less likely to space out and miss something).

However, from a clinical and research experience, these drugs are pretty inconsistent on an individual level.

It's interesting to note that in recreationally active populations (not ADHD diagnosed individuals), some studies have shown that people on these drugs perform slower than people off the drugs.

Hernalic32 karma

I don't know dude. I'm going to err on the side of needing more proof. If you attended medical school in the US and for your PhD, the timeline seems whack.

New Reddit account, new Twitter account, and a dude holding a paper up that doesn't look as old as the amount of stuff he's claiming to have done. I can't find a real name anywhere and he hasn't posted any publications under his name that would match this biography. Diplomas check out, but that's the easy part.

Leaving residency for PhD work for bioengineering at two universities? And gaining acceptance at the one of the top medical schools in the country (UCSF) alongside Berkeley? I would love to be proven wrong with more proof showcasing how much of a prodigy this guy was as a teen attending medical school and then earning a dual PhD after leaving medical residency (for what specialization and what program) in his 20s.

This timeline is completely feasible should everything align right, but at the same time proof shouldn't be this hard to come by if this guy was legitimate. Please provide more proof.

RamoTude12 karma

Haha, this is flattering. Maybe you could explain how cool I am to my mother.

I don't know how to prove it more without just IDing myself.

I really appreciate the compliments, though. Made my day.

Draxyr29 karma

Hi RamoTude. I'm a semi-professional coach working near the highest level of play in League of Legends. One of the most prevalent topics currently is the optimized age for professional players, what age of players that professional organizations should be interested in, and whether it's even true that players ~25+ are less valuable than the classic 17-19 year olds, especially considering the lack of physical train of Esports compared to physical sports. As a neuroscientist, can you weigh in on this concept: what age of player would be optimal for a professional player, and how long would it make sense for their career to last cognitively in terms of keeping up at the highest level of play?

RamoTude72 karma

Hi Draxyr,

I love this question.

I used to watch the Starcraft [1] scene and I remember thinking how brutally players dropped off in their twenties. Partly because of the Korean dominance and their requirement for military service around their early twenties but there was definitely a cognitive or motor-action ability cause for it.

I initially wanted to take pro-players in my grad school project and scan them in fMRI while doing reaction time tasks but no one else was up for that at my school. #1 Department of Neurology in the world, but a little conservative.

I personally collected age-related data on different cognitive abilities ranging from 10 to 80+ year olds. I literally have an answer for you regarding multitasking ability (which my thesis focused on): 24 years old was the average peak ability.

Multitasking is a more complex skill than raw reaction time (which peaks even earlier). There are easily even more complex skills than multitasking/task-switching which could peak later.

For League and your coaching:

1) There are other skills that are involved in League (I stopped playing probably 6 years ago -- started ARAMing recently though). Those skills have different age peaks that are less characterized by research. 2) We're only looking at correlations/big data so individual differences can always mean a lot with coaching.

I think its interesting that peak physical strength supposedly caps at 25 years old, but training, experience, and other factors are probably what's responsible for the heavyweight division in the UFC being dominated by late 30-year olds.

I would say, the more strategically complex the game is, the better longevity for players. So, for instance, Starcraft 2 is perceived as a dominantly strategic game by spectators but, really, its just a brutal multitasking cognitive task. This is apparent if you watch pros or if you followed the DeepMind AI project at all. Historically, we know this is true because the greatest generals in history managed to outwit at older ages.

I would also say League is extra good for longevity because it has a social cohesion/coordination aspect. I will end this post because its getting long but this is another interesting area.

vhu964422 karma

Hey, a current MD/PhD student in my grad phase. I had some questions about your path (of course with the caveat that we’re all quite different)

What motivated you to go into industry over clinic? What got you to leave medicine entirely?

I’m currently doing my research in comp bio/synthetic bio. Any guiding principles for what makes a biological problem amenable to a engineering/math focused take?

Anything you wish you knew in your first years of graduate training?

Can I read any papers you’ve authored? Do you have a google scholar?

RamoTude22 karma

Yeah, I get this one a lot.

[1] Why industry > clinic?

You'll see when you hit your clinical year how you feel about it (in your 7th year I suppose (-: ) but my journey was trying everything I could and not liking anything. I did every surgical subspecialty I could, fertility medicine, and did every away-rotation I could working in towns as small as 4,000 people, VA, Level 1 centers, etc.

[2] What makes biological problems (synthetic bio) amenable to eng/math?

I had a lot of PhD friends do heavy bio or synthetic bio specifically. I'm channeling a friend who works as a science director at a start-up at a large synthetic bio company who I went to PhD school with -- it sounded like it that the path forward was focusing on methodological improvement and figuring out how to automate process. I remember hearing about these abstracted ways they were going to plug-and-play genes, like Legos, but I watched him basically do messy trial-and-error for 6+ years in his PhD and hit a wall.

I don't think that's specific to syn bio, but applies to my field as well. Its partly why I focused a postdoc on machine learning, and then later tried to improve the instrumentation. It even applies to data operations at companies.

I think what can happen is people overshoot the problem with excitement and hype, but the problem is way more closer to our face and boring than it is (like improving the efficiency or reliability of a step in a process). This clashes with the publication and grant drive to constantly declare giant steps forward towards a sci-fi future, so its just something you have deal with.

[3] Things I wish I knew 1st year of grad school?

Hm, I just remember being really behind because I had no in-depth statistics at the time, no real sense of how papers go through (which I didn't get until probably year 3 or 4).

[4] Not right now -- still trying to keep my name off Reddit. We'll see how successful I manage to be.

wuzzzat18 karma

Is there any hope for having a completely tech-induced psychedelic experience in my (31m) lifetime?

RamoTude22 karma

I think I know what you're saying and I'm going to say no.

But, its a matter of defining how much you are willing to put into driving your own mental state to a certain destination. Self-hypnosis, meditation, lucid dreaming exists already -- without tech. So there's definitely little ways tech could help in that.

This isn't really psychedelic but everything subjective so maybe someone will find it so:

[!see optical illusion](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVgOLWVYytM&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=ScienceForum)

octochan12 karma

I'd love more info on the types of games you have developed and work with.

I heard that kids who grew up in the "Pokemon boom" have a region of their brains dedicated to Pokemon calls/shapes/typing/names etc even as adults. Does this kind of brain space allococarion hold true for other games, such as mobile games/in browser games? Are there genres that are better for long term cognitive performance than others? For long term cognitive health?

RamoTude28 karma

Yeah, this is an interesting topic.

Interestingly, Call of Duty is one of the more successful games to show 'transfer' to cognitive tasks that measure performance on different skills. However, this doesn't mean FPS games are better -- but for the cog skills we can measure, it does.

One reason is that its a high-paced, 3D environment meaning that engagement and reinforcement is high (which maximizes learning), and visuomotor skills increase. Visuospatial skills like your ability to track things in a 3D environment, and your ability to perceive/recognize objects quickly ("useful field of view") improve with this game -- making it, essentially, a cognitive trainer.

Keep in mind, you're learning to jump around and shoot bad guys -- not philosophy or anything.

Many other games (especially the ones with lower reaction time requirements) tend to show less improvement on the battery of tests we typically look at. However, the battery of tests we look at our heavily skewed by what we can measure simply and how we think about the brain. In other words, social skills, complex language capabilities, emotional management are skills that are 'cognitive' but aren't really assessed by the research very well.

The best answer is probably something that is (1) engaging, (2) dynamic, and (3) something that you will stick with. So if your grandmother does the crossword puzzle, that's probably better than watching TV.

RamoTude16 karma

Re: the Pokemon study.


I had to look this up because I didn't know what exact methods they used. In general, you have to be skeptical with fMRI studies because there's been a problem with poor reproducibility, poorly controlled task design, etc.

I'm trying to keep this AMA going so I didn't comb the paper but the paper looks fine. However, the main thing to keep in mind is that they are really doing comparisons with other images (cartoons, faces, cars, corridors).

So we do reproducibly see areas of the brain generate consistently different responses (if that makes sense) to places vs faces. In this case, they are sorta extending the concept to pokemon images (that are familiar) vs other cartoons.

I think some reasons for this could include: different emotional memory responses, different abstraction levels of visual features (think of a circle vs a cartoon face vs a photographic face), or simple familiarity vs novelty which they failed to control for.

Apologies if someone in the forum worked hard on this study and I misrepresented it, but those are my thoughts to it.

To answer the questioner: Yeah, I would assume it would hold true for other games, mobile games, company logos, television jingles, and anything else.

Also, I have to stress that this is super far away from mind-reading even if you reproduced this study 100 times across 100 different categories. Statistical differences in these categories are seen because they are collapsing across dozens/hundreds of pictures, and across many people.

third-time-charmed11 karma

Have you encountered anything in your research that surprised you or challenged your assumptions? Or that would surprise the general public?

Do you want to do more research in the future? What about? Or what projects seem promising in the private sector?

Also, how are you today? :)

RamoTude19 karma

I was surprised that nicotine is a cognitive enhancer. Made sense after I learned about it, but never learned about it in medical school. Its probably a big reason why 90%+ schizophrenics (who have disordered brain activity) smoke. They're basically self-treating with a cognitive enhancer.

Re projects in the private sector: I'm interested to see how good the signal is on the new Kernel device. Its a non-invasive fNIRs (uses infared light to bounce off brain matter to see oxygenation levels, and therefore, brain activity). They basically built a mobile, more accurate fNIR device than the ones in clinical.

I'm good! This is more engaging that I thought it would be. Thanks for the questions.

skippermcdipper7 karma

How were you accepted into medical school as a teenager? Assuming you're from the US, don't you need to finish undergrad first?

RamoTude15 karma

I planned it out as a sophomore in high school. Completed a bunch of community college and AP classes as a high schooler. Graduated early from high school, started college early. I graduated with a biochem and a biophysics degree with honors in less than 2 years.

I had a good MCAT, reasonable enough GPA, some EMT experience. Funny enough, when I applied though, I only had 2 semesters of actual college transcripts.

I am from the US.

Construction_Man13 karma

What do you think of the cyberpunk 2077 epilepsy situation?

RamoTude6 karma

Oh wow, I didn't know Cyberpunk 2077 has an epilepsy situation. Haha.

Yeah, this stuff is always hard. You deploy a drug (or a flashing light in this case) to hundreds of thousands of people (or millions) and its hard to know if a few reports were caused by something else, or whether safety measures ended up being warranted and those people were the early warning signs.

I only see a single report right now -- so my statistical mind would be inclined to disregard it and my cynical mind would assume its just something for the journal to report on because Cyberpunk 2077 is such a trending topic right now.

Speaking of which, I really need to get Cyberpunk 2077.

EnormousChord3 karma

Lots of great questions here, mine's feeling a little weak by comparison. But...

What's been your favourite game of the last couple years? I spend enough time reading game reviews from barely literate couch surfers with zero qualifications... it'd be great to hear what someone like you has been playing in all that free time you must have between doctorates and DARPA. :)

RamoTude5 karma

Thanks =)

Haven't played but I want to play Cyberpunk 2077 soon. This whole AMA makes me want to livestream it so I can just keep answering chat questions while I play.

Last couple years been busy so I've stuck to Hearthstone Battlegrounds, League ARAM, MTG online for a while. Once in a while I love playing Elite Dangerous with permanent Flight Assist Off (six axis's of spatial movement).

bickid2 karma

Very interesting, here's some questions I'm curious about:

1.) How far along is science when it comes to controlling external "things" by using our brains wirelessly? I know of one company making a control-device you put on top of your head and it kinda works. Then there's also those Japanese cat ears that are a very basic form of the prior I guess. What is the biggest hurdle in having reliable "brain wave controllers"? Is brain function not well explored enough or is there an inherent impossibility?

2.) People with an agenda keep attacking video games, saying "they make you more violent!" or "they make you sexist!", yet no study ever proved that, reliable studies rather concluding that while there might a short-term, temporary agitation of sorts, video games don't cause anyone to commit crimes or be assholes, that's on other societal factors. Can you chime in here and maybe explain why it's unlikely that video games cause anyone to got out and murder or rape someone? Thx

3.) Have you experimented with advanced game A.I.s? If so, did anything astounding/shocking/creepy even occur? In modern video games, A.I. advancement for in-game opponents has kinda come to a halt, because while A.I. *could* be better, it would probably frustrate most gamers if the A.I. outsmarted them. But I wonder, what if appealing to gamers isn't *the* goal and instead you let an A.I. "loose", do its thing ...

4.) Do you see VR as a chance or as a danger for the future of mankind? Also, can VR-games be "too" realistic? To this day I refuse to play Resident Evil 7 VR, because the demo alone was too scary for me.

Thx for your time and keep up the good work!

RamoTude3 karma

w far along is science when it comes to controlling external "things" by using our brains wirelessly? I know of one company making a control-device you put on top of your head and it kinda works. Then there's also those Japanese cat ears that are a very basic form of the prior I guess. What is the biggest hurdle in having reliable "brain wave controllers"? Is brain function not well explored enough or is there an inherent impossibility?

2.) People with an agenda keep attacking video games, saying "they make you more violent!" or "they make you sexist!", yet no study ever proved that, reliable studies rather concluding that while there might a short-term, temporary agitation of sorts, video games don't cause anyone to commit crimes or be assholes, that's on other societal factors. Can you chime in here and maybe explain why it's unlikely that video games cause anyone to got out and murder or rape someone? Thx

3.) Have you experimented with advanced game A.I.s? If so, did anything astoundi

1] Great question. This was a great source of frustration to me because even in the scientific community, they err away from building anything useful (and lean into studying mechanisms and theory) so they tend to have an inflated view of this as well. But the truth is, unless you use a very user-unfriendly SSVEP (which is a screen with horrible unsynchronized flashing you have to stare at for many seconds to select something) -- most things are pretty binary, low accuracy, require a lot of training, and is just generally bad.

A lot of the consumer devices are picking up on aggregate muscle activity in the muscles that are in your face and around your skull and neck.

2] Hmmm...yeah. Wading into a societal/political debate that probably has preconceptions on either side that I'm unaware of -- haha, I'll pass. But, in general, yeah, I think people going to be people.

3] I did make some GANs that I trained on a bunch of Magic The Gathering artwork but honestly, I think like game AI, anything cool I saw it do was my dramatic interpretation of it rather than it having some ascendant ability. My artist friend thought it 'understood' composition but I think that's just because my friends brain and eyeballs are trained that way.

As a side-note, I really enjoyed the unexpected behavior of my avatar in Black & White's AI (old game from 20 years ago) but that was probably just good game design combined with my low expectations.

4] I don't think we're close to VR that gives you Matrix-level uncertainty to whether you're in a simulation, but its just my opinion.

I do think VR is going to be very cool for applications for kids in the future like allowing them to navigate higher dimensional space. I think it would be cool if the next generation of people had intuition for high dimensional physics via VR as kids.

OtterAutisticBadger2 karma

How do brain go brrrrrrr?

RamoTude6 karma

By later going aaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyn

itchman2 karma

are there significant brain differences between genders?

RamoTude7 karma

Yes, behaviorial expression; no, neurofunctionally.

Yes, because one of the strongest differences found in psychology or many cognitive datasets is between gender. So based on behaviorial data, we can see a statistical difference depending on what we're looking at.

In terms of anatomical brain scans, brain activity -- usually not (once you account for the statistical difference in brain sizes due to body sizes). Which probably means our methods are still not great, because we should see some kind of behaviorial-neural correlation.

itchman3 karma

Thank you. And by behaviorally do you mean the behavior of the brain or the outward expression of behavior?

RamoTude3 karma

outward expression

lees-tea2 karma

How did you know you wanted to leave medicine and pursue a dual PhD instead? As an 18 year old that's interested in cognitive neuroscience but unsure of whether I want to go to medical school or do something else, I would be very interested to hear your perspective on why you feel that the path you took was right for you. Thank you!

RamoTude14 karma

Definitely do some observing/interning at a clinic or hospital and see if it interests you. Do the same with research labs.

Make sure you aren't defaulting to medicine because people think its the best combination of Jesus and capitalism.

Selite2 karma

Is there a significant difference in cognitive development between tasks done physically compared to a (non-VR) video game?

Video games have a clear advantage in what they can present but is anything lost by interacting through a controller?

RamoTude3 karma

RE: VR vs non-VR:

Yes. VR recruits more spatial ability which our brains have significant dedication to. The idea they always use to explain this is that early humans were evolutionarily guided by a lot of scouting, hunting, migrating through a savannah.

The thing we observe in human neuroscience is a huge dedication to 3D spatial ability and tracking from the visual cortex to the parietal regions. (2) An inextricable link between memory, calculation, and navigational tracking, in the hippocampus. Could be that our methods still suck but this comes up a lot.

Unfortunately for me, VR (or even bad 3D on a monitor) makes me nauseated.

Serafim911 karma

A little off topic but I noticed you like strategy games.

  1. What's your top 3 games?
  2. Are there any you're waiting for?

Thanks for a really cool ama.

RamoTude2 karma

I really do like strategy games. But I haven't played them in a while.

I actually liked NWN2 (I know people think it was horrible compared to NWN1) but I liked the class system/character customization. I'm hoping Cyberpunk will be similar in complexity.

When I was a kid, I played Cyberstorm (an old turn-based game). I won an online tournament -- one of the things I'm easily the most proud of.

Supreme Commander. I'm not that good, but there's still a community kicking that maintains a community mod (FAF).

Thanks :)

TriggerEatsTheWolf0 karma

Joe Rogan might be channeling me right now, but what's your thoughts on the stoned ape theory? Specifically, the idea that repeated psilocybin ingestion could have been a major factor in fostering neuronal growth, leading to our advances in complex thinking?


It seems I always have had poor memory, even if I consider an experience to be unique or pivotal in my life. Any thoughts on why that might be or how it could be mitigated? It would be nice to be able to retain more of my memories and things I've learned. Thanks for your time :)

RamoTude1 karma

I like Rogan and I like alternative evolutionary theories but I can't convince myself of this one.

I could be missing the good argument, but if we were eating something repeatedly over evolutionary time, current evolutionary theories would suggest that we would just get good at metabolizing it, rather than become dependent on it as a growth factor. Growth factors are just signaling molecules, rather than some newly efficient energy source or something else that would support brain growth.

It seems more likely to me that we would accidentally create the promoting genes for the signaling molecule or an analogue one, if more neuronal growth was superior. On top of which, I don't know how the theory accounts for what happens when we didn't have access to it for a generation.

Maybe if they had some kind of epi-genetic argument, I don't know...