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3 Open-Source Games to Investigate Attention Schema

Reaction Time - Attention Schema Game
Game #1 and results: Reaction Time

— Written by Summer Eunhyung Ann —

When we think about science and technology, we often think about something intricate and sophisticated to comprehend, such as genetic engineering or aerospace astrophysical technology.

However, science and technology are a pivotal part of our mundane life.  From us turning off the lights and going to bed at night to curing cancers or genetic disorders, they are all science and technology. We achieved a convenience that might appear to be trivial, and also something that used to deem as a miracle from numerous works and questions of scientists and engineers.

My ceaseless passion for science came from my ignorance of underlying principles; how my body functions, how we get diseases, how we cure them, how we optimize human efficiency, and how we increase the accuracy of data collection. And that is how my endless love for biology and computer science started. My project started from a similar question about the rudimentary concept: attention schema theory, which is elusive and intangible. (See my introductory note here.)

Since the brain is an information-processing device, it has a limitation in processing multiple sources of information. In this project, we investigated attention (visual, primarily) and awareness. 

The significance of understanding human consciousness can be also expanded to treatment research and AI research (its consciousness).  Linked internal models, cognitive machinery, and the self having a mental possession of the outside objects would be a critical component of awareness. Is it hard to understand? Don’t worry. There are games for it.

Webgazer Attention Schema Game
Game #2: WebGazer

The Slime Mold Chronicles: Cracking the (Intelligent?) Behavior of the Brainless

y maze for slime molds
Our Y-maze with food on one side and nothing on the other. Guess where they went!

— Written by Amanda Putti & Milica Milosevic —

Well we made it! We’re at the final week of the BYB Fellowship! We faced many challenges throughout this project and had to pivot in order to get results, but we are happy where it ended.

To give updates on our progress, let’s first start where we left off 3 weeks ago. Using a blue light, we took one picture of the slime mold every minute over 24 hours. This allowed us to string the pictures together and make some great time lapse videos! After this, we were able to analyze the videos using a program in Python and create a special kind of video which converts yellow slime branches into lines of directed growth – skeletonized growth video. This was really helpful for understanding how the slime mold grows, explores new areas, and creates a network. But we also think that there’s more to it, and that behavioral analysis opens a lot of questions in the field of biophysics and is a project for itself.

We were very excited to get this imaging. However, we then made the decision to keep the rest of our experiments in the dark and in that manner reduce the amount of imaging done. Slime mold prefers to grow in the dark, and we wanted to make sure light wasn’t inhibiting growth in our experiments.

This means we were more focused on quantifying decision making rather than behavior. We set up a series of three types of experiments and ran many, many tests. (The order of explaining them isn’t coordinated with the chronological order of our work, but makes more sense this way!)

1. Solving Mazes

We wanted to test the ability of slime molds to choose a path that leads them to food, so we set up the easiest of mazes – a Y maze where there was food on one side of the Y and nothing on the other side of the Y (see photo above). Slime molds showed us that they have no intentions of staying hungry and that they’re doing just fine when it comes to finding the food source.

Then we wanted to make things more complicated for them, so we constructed a specific T maze – one side of the letter T was longer and had a food source, and the other was a lot shorter and had an object as a mechanical stimulus (we’ll get more into the mechanical stimulation in a bit). The idea was to check if they can see the difference between the food and something that isn’t food and if they are gonna choose the shorter path towards the no-food region. So, we tried to confuse them, but failed at it –  they knew where the food was and grew in that direction almost every time!


Back to the Fun-gi: What Mushroom Action Potentials Have Taught Us

— Written by Luka Caric, Elsa Fedrigolli & Tom DesRosiers

Prepare yourselves for another round of mushroom-tastic journey as we delve into the captivating world of electrical potentials in mushrooms. Join us as we unfold the shocking truths, sprinkle in some mushroom humor, and discover the electrifying mysteries hidden within these fantastic fungi!

In our quest for mushroom marvels (as recounted in our introductory blog post), our team, “The Fungi Fanatics,” welcomed a “shocking” new member – Luka, an electrical engineer from the University of Belgrade. With his vast knowledge and electrifying chess skills (pun intended!), Luka was the perfect addition to tackle our electrical challenges and amplify our experiments to the next level!

Our first hurdle came in the form of a pesky amplifier problem. But fear not, for Luka was here to save the day with an ingenious solution. With each spark of brilliance, he conjured up new ways to amplify those elusive electrical signals from our mushroom friends, making us wonder if he had a secret stash of “electric mushrooms” up his sleeve!

Luka’s creativity knew no bounds! He cooked up a “mushroom square wave” that slowly charged and discharged through a capacitor, mimicking the mystical behavior of real mushrooms’ electrical potentials. It was a fungi-tastic idea that became our electrifying benchmark – our guiding light through the mushroom labyrinth.

Oh, the wonders of mushrooms – magical, but as fleeting as a lightning bolt! No matter how much we coaxed or begged, these fungi had their own schedule. Just like the fleeting sparks of an electrical storm, their fruiting bodies lasted for a mere 2-3 days. They left us yearning for more recordings, teasing us like elusive little lightning bugs!

In our pursuit of electrifying knowledge, we couldn’t resist an encounter with slime mold – the “mushroom-protist hybrid”, which also created a crossover between our project and the slime mold project of the fellowship! However, whenever we placed electrodes into the slime and into the mold – the mold would just move away from our electrode. How rude of them!