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Scientific American

Scientific American reporter Dana G. Smith spotlights how Prof. Rebecca Saxe and her colleagues have found evidence that regions of the visual infant cortex show preferences for faces, bodies and scenes. “The big surprise of these results is that specialized area for seeing faces that some people speculated took years to develop: we see it in these babies who are, on average, five or six months old,” Saxe tells Smith. 

Popular Science

Popular Science reporter Charlotte Hu writes that MIT researchers have simulated an environment in which socially-aware robots are able to choose whether they want to help or hinder one another, as part of an effort to help improve human-robot interactions. “If you look at the vast majority of what someone says during their day, it has to do with what other [people] want, what they think, getting what that person wants out of another [person],” explains research scientist Andrei Barbu. “And if you want to get to the point where you have a robot inside someone’s home, understanding social interactions is incredibly important.”

TechCrunch

MIT researchers have developed a new machine learning system that can help robots learn to perform certain social interactions, reports Brian Heater for TechCrunch. “Researchers conducted tests in a simulated environment, to develop what they deemed ‘realistic and predictable’ interactions between robots,” writes Heater. “In the simulation, one robot watches another perform a task, attempts to determine the goal and then either attempts to help or hamper it in that task.”

Axios

Axios reporter Alison Snyder writes that a new study by MIT researchers demonstrates how AI algorithms could provide insight into the human brain’s processing abilities. The researchers found “Predicting the next word someone might say — like AI algorithms now do when you search the internet or text a friend — may be a key part of the human brain's ability to process language,” writes Snyder.

New Scientist

In an interview with Clare Wilson of New Scientist, Prof. Ed Boyden, one of the co-inventors of the field of optogenetics, discusses how the technique was used to help partially restore vision for a blind patient. “It’s exciting to see the first publication on human optogenetics,” says Boyden.

NIH

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, spotlights Prof. Ed Boyden’s work developing a new technology that “enables researchers for the first time to study an intact tissue sample and track genetic activity on the spot within a cell’s tiniest recesses, or microenvironments—areas that have been largely out of reach until now.”

Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian reporter Theresa Machemer writes that a new study by MIT researchers shows that C. elegans are able to sense and avoid the color blue.

New York Times

A new study by MIT researchers investigates how roundworms are able to sense the color blue to avoid dangerous bacteria that secrete toxins, reports Veronique Greenwood for The New York Times. Greenwood found that “some roundworms respond clearly to that distinctive pigment, perceiving it — and fleeing from it — without the benefit of any known visual system.”

Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian reporter Rasha Aridi writes that MIT researchers have found that longing for social interaction elicits a similar neurological response to a hungry person craving food. The researchers found that “after a day of fasting, they noted that they were uncomfortable and had intense food cravings. After social isolation, they felt lonely and unhappy and yearned for interactions.”

Fortune

A new study by MIT researchers finds that lack of social contact can lead many people to crave interactions in a similar manner as they do when experiencing hunger, reports Katherine Dunn for Fortune. The researchers found that “10 hours without any social contact, for many people, led to a kind of psychological and physical craving that's on the same level of intensity as 10 waking hours without food.”

Inverse

MIT researchers have uncovered evidence that humans crave social contact in the same way they crave food, reports Ali Pattillo for Inverse. The study, “provides empirical support for the idea that loneliness acts as a signal – just like hunger – that signals to an individual that something is lacking and that it needs to take action to repair that," explains former MIT postdoc Livia Tomova.

The Wall Street Journal

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence has awarded Prof. Regina Barzilay a $1 million prize for her work advancing the use of AI in medicine, reports John McCormick for The Wall Street Journal. "Regina is brilliant, has very high standards, and is committed to helping others,” says Prof. James Collins. “And I think her experience with—her personal experience with cancer—has motivated her to apply her intellectual talents to using AI to advance health care.”

Associated Press

The AP highlights how Prof. Regina Barzilay has been named the inaugural winner of a new award given by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence for her work “using computer science to detect cancer and discover new drugs has won a new $1 million award for artificial intelligence.”

Stat

Prof. Regina Barzilay has been named the inaugural recipient of the Squirrel AI Award for Artificial Intelligence to Benefit Humanity for her work developing new AI techniques to help improve health care, reports Rebecca Robbins for STAT. Robbins writes that Barzilay is focused on turning the “abundance of research on AI in health care into tools that can improve care.”

Forbes

A new center established at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research is aimed at accelerating the development of novel therapies and technologies, writes Katie Jennings for Forbes. The hope is that “we can identify common pathways, either a common molecular pathway that's a chokepoint for a therapy or a common group of neurons or neural systems,” says Prof. Robert DeSimone, director of the McGovern Institute.