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Hallucinations: how they emerge

Credit: Cardiff University

Take a look at the image above. It probably looks like a meaningless pattern of black and white blotches.

But now take a look at the image below and then return to the picture: it’s likely that you can now make sense of the black and white image.

It is this ability that scientists at Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge believe could help explain why some people are prone to hallucinations.

Credit: Cardiff University

Researchers are exploring the idea that hallucinations come from our normal tendency to interpret the world around us by making use of predictions.

Our brains fill in any missing information by using past experiences.

A bewildering and often very frightening experience in some mental illnesses is psychosis – a loss of contact with external reality. Hallucinations can accompany psychosis.

Researchers showed black and white images to individuals showing the very early signs of psychosis along with healthy volunteers.

They were asked whether or not the image contained a person.

They were then shown a series of full colour original images, including those from which the black and white images had been derived.

The researchers reasoned that, since hallucinations may come from a greater tendency to superimpose one’s predictions on the world, people who were prone to hallucinations would be better at using this information.

They found a larger performance improvement in people with very early signs of psychosis in comparison to the healthy control group.

Cybercrime 'poses huge challenge'

Credit: Boris Roessler/DPA/PA Images

A report by Cardiff University is highlighting the scale of cybercrime.

It says 106,681 fraud-related incidents were reported by individuals and businesses in the last three months of last year. A third related to banking and credit industry fraud.

Losses totalled £217.4m in 2014

The introduction of sophisticated technology has brought about a step-change in the way economic crime is committed – enabling frauds to be perpetrated at scale, at great speed, and at a distance, with no physical contact necessary between criminal and victim.

This type of crime challenges conventional policing models which are focused on detection and investigation because it represents a paradigm shift in the way such crimes can be committed. Policing – both in the UK and around the world – therefore faces many challenges in adapting and responding to these evolving patterns of crime.

– Dr Mike Levi, Professor of Criminology at Cardiff University


Award for satellite project team

The Herschel infrared space observatory. Credit: A9999 DB ESA/ AOES Medialab/DPA/PA Images

The Herschel and Plank project teams have been given this year's American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space Systems Award.

Cardiff University's Astronomy Instrumentation Group was involved in the design of Herschel's SPIRE instrument. Members of the School of Physics and Astronomy are analysing data from the equipment.

Herschel, which operated from May 2009 until April 2013, carried the largest telescope ever built for a space observatory. Its 3.5 m-diameter primary mirror collected long-wavelength radiation from some of the coldest and most distant objects in the Universe, which was analysed with a payload of three scientific instruments.

The Planck satellite was designed to probe the remnants of the radiation that filled the Universe immediately after the Big Bang. It did this with a payload of two instruments that required innovative cooling technology to maintain them at a fraction of a degree above absolute zero.

Cardiff researchers in project to make cities 'greener'

Cardiff has extensive parkland in the city centre Credit: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire

Cardiff University has been awarded one of 14 research grants to develop 'green infrastructure' in urban areas around the world.

Urban forestry is one example in which woodland is planted in cities to manage storm water and reduce city temperatures.

Another example is ‘green roofing’, whereby roofs are partially or completely covered in vegetation to absorb rainwater, increase insulation and, again, reduce the temperature in cities to combat the so called ‘heat island effect’.

By taking advantage of the multiple benefits of green infrastructure, we hope to provide substantial economic, social and environmental gains not only for the US and Europe, but also developing countries around the world. To do this, we will need to develop approaches that are sensitive to local culture, knowledge and expertise

– Dr Andrea Frank, Cardiff University

'Shaken baby syndrome' test developed in Cardiff

Experts at Cardiff University have developed a test to help doctors diagnose so-called shaken baby syndrome.

Credit: PA Images

Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) is the leading cause of death amongst abused children. The method employs a simple checklist of 6 signs to look for.

It is estimated that as many as 34 in every 100,000 infants less than one year of age are victims of AHT, though the true figure is unknown because many cases of AHT are missed and others may not come to the attention of clinicians.

It is vitally important that abusive head trauma is diagnosed accurately so that the team looking after the child can ensure that they receive appropriate support and are protected from further harm.

"Arriving at these decisions can be extremely difficult, especially for doctors who do not see many cases of severe child abuse. This study offers a prediction tool to help doctors make these extremely important decisions, where the life or death of a child often hangs in the balance."

– Professor Alison Kemp, Cardiff University’s School of Medicine


Electronics 'centre of excellence' for Cardiff

Credit: Michael Rosenfeld/DPA/Press Association Images

A 'global hub' for research into semiconductors and their materials is to be set up in the capital.

Cardiff University has signed a deal with semiconductor wafer company IQE.

It says it will drive the testing and development of technology that lies behind global ‘megatrends’ including smart phones and tablets.

It says sectors including healthcare, biotechnology and mass communications could benefit.

Coupling IQE’s infrastructure with Cardiff’s existing strengths in expanding areas of semiconductor devices and materials will create cutting-edge opportunities that will put us ahead of our competitors.

– Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor

Evidence unearthed of 'pre-historic feasting' in South Wales

70,000 bone fragments were analysed. Credit: Cardiff University

Researchers at Cardiff University say they have unearthed evidence of feasting in South Wales during pre-historic times.

The study is published in the journal Antiquity

Archeologists have spent 10 years analysing bone fragments in a ‘midden’ or rubbish heap at a prehistoric feasting site at Llanmaes in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Over three quarters turned out to be from pigs at a time (during the Bronze Age) when sheep and cattle were the main food animals.

Credit: Cardiff University

Scientist say, significantly, the majority of the pig bones were from just one quarter of the animal - the right forequarter – suggesting a feasting pattern.

Biomolecular analysis of teeth and bones has also demonstrated that many of the pigs were not locally-raised and may have been brought to the site from a substantial distance away.

Researchers says that is a monumental feat in prehistoric Britain.

This selective pattern of feasting principally on just one quarter of one species is genuinely globally unparalleled and particularly startling as it continued over a period of centuries during the Iron Age.

The Early Iron Age communities of South Wales and beyond would have been small and dispersed, but these feasts would have represented a time of solidarity, when people came together to feast on pig right forequarters, just as their fathers and their fathers’ fathers had done.

– Dr Richard Madgwick, Cardiff University
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