Category Archives: Neuroscience

Know the brain, and its axons, by the clothes they wear

It is widely know that the grey matter of the brain is grey because it is dense with cell bodies and capillaries. The white matter is almost entirely composed of lipid-based myelin, but there is also a little room in the grey matter for a few select axons to be at least partially myelinated. A group of well known researchers, mostly from Harvard and MIT, decided to look for possible patterns in the myelin found in cortical grey matter. Their … Continue reading

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Crows Are As Smart As A Seven-Year-Old Child

Crows are as smart as an average five to seven-year-old human child, according to a new study. The research shows that the crow behavior described in a popular Aesop’s fable is real and that crows actually understand water displacement. Science has known for a long time that crows and other members of the corvid family are intelligent. Now, researchers at the University of Auckland found that New Caledonian crows, Corvus moneduloides, can solve the pitcher puzzle in Aesop’s fable with reasoning abilities … Continue reading

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The unconscious mind can detect a liar—even when the conscious mind fails

When it comes to detecting deceit, your automatic associations may be more accurate than conscious thought in pegging truth-tellers and liars, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings suggest that conscious awareness may hinder our ability to detect whether someone is lying, perhaps because we tend to seek out behaviors that are supposedly stereotypical of liars, like averted eyes or fidgeting. But those behaviors may not be all that indicative of … Continue reading

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Music doesn’t ring everyone’s bell

While some people can’t live without the sound of music, for others Midnight Oil is just something you burn and Cold Chisel is an uncomfortable tool, new research suggests. A study published in today’s issue of Current Biology shows that some people may not find any pleasure in music at all. To pinpoint whether the condition — called musical anhedonia — exists, researchers analysed the reactions of three different groups of people to both a music task and a monetary reward task. The … Continue reading

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Dreams, déjà vu and delusions caused by faulty ‘reality testing’

New research from the University of Adelaide has delved into the reasons why some people are unable to break free of their delusions, despite overwhelming evidence explaining the delusion isn’t real. In a new paper published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, University of Adelaide philosopher Professor Philip Gerrans says dreams and delusions have a common link – they are associated with faulty “reality testing” in the brain’s higher order cognitive systems. “Normally this ‘reality testing’ in the brain monitors … Continue reading

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How many Neurons and Synapses are there in a Brain?

Neurons communicate with one another via synapses, where the axon terminal of one cell impinges upon another neuron’s dendrite. The human brain has a huge number of synapses. Each of the one hundred billion neurons has on average 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons. It has been estimated that the brain of a three-year-old child has about 1 quadrillion synapses. This number declines with age, stabilizing by adulthood. Estimates vary for an adult, ranging from 100 to 500 trillion synapses.

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Scientists identify gene linking brain structure to intelligence

For the first time, scientists at King’s College London have identified a gene linking the thickness of the grey matter in the brain to intelligence. The study is published today in Molecular Psychiatry and may help scientists understand biological mechanisms behind some forms of intellectual impairment. The researchers looked at the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the human brain. It is known as ‘grey matter’ and plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language and consciousness. … Continue reading

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What makes us human? Unique brain area linked to higher cognitive powers

Oxford University researchers have identified an area of the human brain that appears unlike anything in the brains of some of our closest relatives. The brain area pinpointed is known to be intimately involved in some of the most advanced planning and decision-making processes that we think of as being especially human. ‘We tend to think that being able to plan into the future, be flexible in our approach and learn from others are things that are particularly impressive about humans. … Continue reading

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Are you a lefty or a righty?

We’ve all heard about the right brain-left brain theory, which we owe to Nobel Prize winner Roger W. Sperry. The theory suggests that ‘left-brained’ people are more logical and analytic than ‘right-brained’ people, who are more creative and have a holistic approach to life, but is it true? Despite its popularity, researchers say that most people learn to be both logical and creative and that lateralised patterns of brain activity change as we age. Read more:

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H.M’s brain cut into 2,400 slices and uploaded to the cloud

Henry Molaison had one of the most unique brains known to neuroscience. Now, six years after “H.M.’s” death, his brain has been sliced, digitized, uploaded, and made available to scientists for further study. Back in 1953, surgeons performed an operation on Molaison in an effort to alleviate his terrible seizures. A team led by William Beecher Scoville removed pieces of the temporal lobes above his ears — and, regrettably, critical portions of the hippocampus. The seizures settled down, but it … Continue reading

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Brain interactions differ between religious and non-religious subjects

An Auburn University researcher teamed up with the National Institutes of Health to study how brain networks shape an individual’s religious belief, finding that brain interactions were different between religious and non-religious subjects. Gopikrishna Deshpande, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and the NIH researchers recently published their results in the journal Brain Connectivity. The group found differences in brain interactions that involved the theory of mind, or ToM, … Continue reading

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I’m not forgetful, I’m just a bit slow!

What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? If your think our brains go into a steady decline, research reported this week in the Journal Topics in Cognitive Science may make you think again. The work, headed by Dr. Michael Ramscar of Tübingen University, takes a critical look at the measures usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures, which date back … Continue reading

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Neuroscientists find the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds

Imagine seeing a dozen pictures flash by in a fraction of a second. You might think it would be impossible to identify any images you see for such a short time. However, a team of neuroscientists from MIT has found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds—the first evidence of such rapid processing speed. That speed is far faster than the 100 milliseconds suggested by previous studies. In the … Continue reading

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Supercomputer takes 40 mins to calculate a single second of human brain activity

One of the world’s largest supercomputers has accurately mapped one second’s worth of activity in a human brain, in what researchers claim is the most accurate simulation to date. Scientists in Japan simulated one per cent of the neuronal network in the brain using the K computer, the fourth most powerful supercomputer in the world. With 705,024 processor cores and 1.4 million GB of RAM at its disposal, the K computer took 40 minutes to model the data in a project designed … Continue reading

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People worldwide may feel mind-body connections in same way

Many phrases reflect how emotions affect the body: Loss makes you feel “heartbroken,” you suffer from “butterflies” in the stomach when nervous, and disgusting things make you “sick to your stomach.” Now, a new study from Finland suggests connections between emotions and body parts may be standard across cultures. The researchers coaxed Finnish, Swedish and Taiwanese participants into feeling various emotions and then asked them to link their feelings to body parts. They connected anger to the head, chest, arms and … Continue reading

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In the Human Brain, Size Really Isn’t Everything

There are many things that make humans a unique species, but a couple stand out. One is our mind, the other our brain. The human mind can carry out cognitive tasks that other animals cannot, like using language, envisioning the distant future and inferring what other people are thinking. The human brain is exceptional, too. At three pounds, it is gigantic relative to our body size. Our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, have brains that are only a third as big. Scientists have … Continue reading

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Men and women’s brains are ‘wired differently’

Men and women’s brains are wired in completely different ways which may explain why the sexes excel at certain tasks, brain scans reveal. US researchers at the University of Pennsylvania scanned the brains of nearly 1,000 men, women, boys and girls and found striking differences. Male brains are wired front to back, with few connections bridging the two hemispheres. In females, the connections criss-cross between left and right. These differences might explain why men, in general, tend to be better at learning and … Continue reading

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Proprioception – our sixth sense

Close your eyes and touch your nose. If everything is working properly, this should be easy because your brain can sense your body, as well as its position and movement through space. This is called proprioception. But how does this “sixth sense” work — and what happens when it clashes with other senses? We’re all familiar with the five standard senses, which include vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The idea that there are only five of them has been … Continue reading

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Is Punishment or Reward More Effective?

Is punishment or reward more effective for helping people learn. A lot of people would say different incentives motivate different people, or in different circumstances, but in psychology there is a sizable body of evidence that in order to learn skills, positive feedback is more effective. This fining has been verified not just with humans, but also with other species. It was strange then that after Daniel Kahneman discussed this research with Israeli fighter pilot instructors that he was met … Continue reading

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Is Technology Killing Your Memory?

We’re all living in the age of Google. What are search engines and technology doing to our memory?

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