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Category Archives: Neuroscience
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
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.
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
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
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: http://n.pr/1b0r0Iv
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
To reduce the severity of his seizures, Joe had the bridge between his left and right cerebral hemispheres (the corpus callosum) severed. As a result, his left and right brains no longer communicate through that pathway. Here’s what happens as a result:
Superstitious people do all sorts of puzzling things. But it’s not just the superstitious who knock on wood. From time to time, we all rap our knuckles on a nearby table if we happen to let fate-tempting words slip out. “The cancer is in remission, knock on wood,” we might say. In fact, it’s so common we often don’t think about it. But it’s worth asking: why do people who do not believe that knocking on wood has an effect on … Continue reading
A surge of electrical activity in the brain could be responsible for the vivid experiences described by near-death survivors, scientists report. A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise. US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The lead author of the study, Dr Jimo Borjigin, of the University of Michigan, … Continue reading
Novel microchips imitate the brain’s information processing in real time. Neuroinformatics researchers from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich together with colleagues from the EU and US demonstrate how complex cognitive abilities can be incorporated into electronic systems made with so-called neuromorphic chips: They show how to assemble and configure these electronic systems to function in a way similar to an actual brain. No computer works as efficiently as the human brain — so much so that building an … Continue reading