Scientists Discover How to Predict Learning Using Brain Analysis

An international team of scientists has developed a way to predict how much a person can learn, based on studies at UC Santa Barbara’s Brain Imaging Center. A study published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) details the findings. Researchers collected brain imaging data from people performing a motor task, … Continue reading

Neurological Basis for Embarrassment Described

Recording people belting out an old Motown tune and then asking them to listen to their own singing without the accompanying music seems like an unusually cruel form of punishment. But for a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley, this exact Karaoke experiment has revealed what … Continue reading

Brain Nerve Stimulation Could Speed Up Learning, Study Suggests

In a breakthrough that may aid treatment of learning impairments, strokes, tinnitus and chronic pain, UT Dallas researchers have found that brain nerve stimulation accelerates learning in laboratory tests. Another major finding of the study, published in the April 14 issue of Neuron, involves the positive changes detected after stimulation and learning were complete. Researchers … Continue reading

Mechanism of Long-Term Memory Identified

Using advanced imaging technology, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified a change in chemical influx into a specific set of neurons in the common fruit fly that is fundamental to long-term memory. The study was published in the April 13, 2011 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers have … Continue reading

Meditators can concentrate the hurt away

Volunteers felt less pain while practicing mindfulness By Daniel Strain JUST BREATHEFor resting individuals, pulses of heat light up the primary somatosensory cortex, a region of the brain that maps ouches and owies to particular regions of the body. When the subjects focused on their breathing using a technique called mindfulness meditation, the brain region … Continue reading

The human brain: turning our minds to the law

Our understanding of the way the brain works could help us create a better legal system, says neuroscientist David Eagleman. Our understanding of the brain will soon change how we treat criminals By David Eagleman A human brain is three pounds of the most complex material in the universe. It is the mission control centre … Continue reading

How Do Neurons in the Retina Encode What We ‘See’?

The moment we open our eyes, we perceive the world with apparent ease. But the question of how neurons in the retina encode what we "see" has been a tricky one. A key obstacle to understanding how our brain functions is that its components — neurons — respond in highly nonlinear ways to complex stimuli, … Continue reading

New brain cell growth restores function

Regeneration helps repair learning and memory after injury By Tina Hesman Saey Enlarge REGROWTH REPAIRS Brain injury can stimulate the birth of new neurons in the brain. More dense tree-like neurons were found in mice that had a brain injury (right) than in mice that did not (left). A new study suggests that the new … Continue reading

Can the Brain Explain Your Mind?

Colin McGinn Is studying the brain a good way to understand the mind? Does psychology stand to brain anatomy as physiology stands to body anatomy? In the case of the body, physiological functions—walking, breathing, digesting, reproducing, and so on—are closely mapped onto discrete bodily organs, and it would be misguided to study such functions independently … Continue reading

Naughty by Nature

What should we think of people whose addled brains are driving them to nymphomania? By Jesse Bering What if Hank Moody had Klüver-Bucy Syndrome?If you are a materialist holding the logical belief that the human brain, with all of its buzzing neural intricacies, its pulpy, electrified, arabesque chambers and labyrinthine coves, has been carved out … Continue reading

The brain engineer: Shining a light on consciousness

by Rowan Hooper Neuroengineer Ed Boyden is best known for his pioneering work on optogenetics, which allows brain cells to be controlled using light. A speaker at the TED2011 conference this week, his vision, he tells Rowan Hooper, is nothing less than to understand the brain, treat neural conditions and figure out the basis of … Continue reading

Why Are Easy Decisions So Hard?

By Jonah Lehrer One of the problems with writing a book on decision-making is that people assume I’m not terrible at making decisions. As a result, they act surprised when it takes me 10 minutes to pick a sandwich or when I confess that I still get mild panic attacks when choosing floss at the … Continue reading

Recreational Drug Creates Out-of-Body Illusions

By Bruce Bower, Science News A popular “club drug” promises to open a scientific window on the strange world of out-of-body experiences, researchers say. Recreational users of a substance called ketamine often report having felt like they left their bodies or underwent other bizarre physical transformations, according to an online survey conducted by psychologist Todd … Continue reading

The ethics of neuroscience and criminality

By Jonathan M. Gitlin | Last updated about an hour ago One of the most thought-provoking sessions I attended at AAAS was "Nature, Nurture, and Antisocial Behavior: Biological and Biosocial Research on Crime." The three talks encompassed neurocognition, psychobiology, and a range of ethical issues that would make your brain spin if you thought about … Continue reading

Does the comfort of conformity ease thoughts of death?

by Jessica Hamzelou AS THE light at the end of the tunnel approaches, the need to belong to a group and be near loved ones may be among your final thoughts. So say Markus Quirin and his colleagues at the University of Osnabrück in Germany. The team prompted thoughts of death in 17 young men … Continue reading

Conventional Wisdom of How Neurons Operate Challenged: Axons Can Work in Reverse

Neurons are complicated, but the basic functional concept is that synapses transmit electrical signals to the dendrites and cell body (input), and axons carry signals away (output). In one of many surprise findings, Northwestern University scientists have discovered that axons can operate in reverse: they can send signals to the cell body, too. It also … Continue reading

Chinks in the Brain Circuitry Make Some More Vulnerable to Anxiety

Why do some people fret over the most trivial matters while others remain calm in the face of calamity? Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified two different chinks in our brain circuitry that explain why some of us are more prone to anxiety. Their findings, published Feb. 10 in the journal Neuron … Continue reading

Sex and violence linked in the brain

Cells lurking deep in the mouse hypothalamus help determine whether it fights or mates. By Ewen Callaway Sex and violence are intertwined in mice. A tiny patch of cells buried deep within a male’s brain determines whether it fights or mates, and there is good reason to believe humans possess a similar circuit. The study, … Continue reading

Electric Thinking Cap?

Flash of Fresh Insight by Electrical Brain Stimulation. Are we on the verge of being able to stimulate the brain to see the world anew — an electric thinking cap? Research by Richard Chi and Allan Snyder from the Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney suggests that this could be the case. … Continue reading

Learn More Quickly by Transcranial Magnetic Brain Stimulation, Study in Rats Suggests

What sounds like science fiction is actually possible: thanks to magnetic stimulation, the activity of certain brain nerve cells can be deliberately influenced. What happens in the brain in this context has been unclear up to now. Medical experts from Bochum under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Klaus Funke (Department of Neurophysiology) have now shown … Continue reading

Transsexual differences caught on brain scan

by Jessica Hamzelou  Differences in the brain’s white matter that clash with a person’s genetic sex may hold the key to identifying transsexual people before puberty. Doctors could use this information to make a case for delaying puberty to improve the success of a sex change later. Medics are keen to find concrete physical evidence … Continue reading

Sleeping Protects Memories From Corruption

By Tina Hesman Saey, Science News “You must remember this,” Sam the piano player crooned to Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. The couple might have recalled even more about their days in Paris if they’d been napping when Sam played the tune again. Replaying memories while people are awake leaves their memories subject … Continue reading

Mindfulness Meditation Training Changes Brain Structure in Eight Weeks

Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the … Continue reading

Turns out that music really is intoxicating, after all

By Matthew Lasar An "outburst of the soul," the composer Frederick Delius called music. The sounds associated with the form produce "a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without," observed Confucius. It is the art "which is most nigh to tears and memory," noted the writer Oscar Wilde. It turns out that these … Continue reading

Tinnitus Is the Result of the Brain Trying, but Failing, to Repair Itself

Tinnitus appears to be produced by an unfortunate confluence of structural and functional changes in the brain, say neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC). The phantom ringing sounds heard by about 40 million people in the U.S. today are caused by brains that try, but fail to protect their human hosts against overwhelming auditory … Continue reading

Neuroscientists Explain ‘Proustian Effect’ of Small Details Attached to Big Memories

Neuroscientists at MIT’s Picower Institute of Learning and Memory have uncovered why relatively minor details of an episode are sometimes inexplicably linked to long-term memories. The work is slated to appear in the Jan. 13 issue of Neuron. "Our finding explains, at least partially, why seemingly irrelevant information like the color of the shirt of … Continue reading

Musical Thrills Are Explained as a Rush of Dopamine to the Brain

by Eliza Strickland  Those delicious chills you get as your favorite piece of music reaches its climax? They’re the result of a glorious spike of dopamine in your brain–that’s the same neurotransmitter that’s involved in reward, motivation, and addiction. In a nifty series of experiments published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers determined that music provokes floods … Continue reading

Chess grandmasters use twice the brain

by Nora Schultz  It may take years of hard work to become a chess grandmaster, but it gives a real boost to the brain – for working out chess problems, at least. It seems expert chess players use both sides of their brain to process chess tasks, rather than just one. Merim Bilalic at the … Continue reading

How the brain shops

Research locates neurons associated with valuing objects By Laura Sanders  Individual human brain cells can be savvy shoppers, tuning their behavior to precisely reflect the worth of a candy bar, finds a study published January 5 in The Journal of Neuroscience. Understanding how these bean-counting neurons operate may help scientists get a better idea of … Continue reading

Good Listeners Get Inside Your Head

by Amy Barth What is it like to get inside another person’s head? You already know the answer, according to Princeton neuroscientist Lauren Silbert. She placed herself in an fMRI brain scanner and noted her neural response when she spoke about a vivid memory (two boys fighting over her at her high school prom). Later … Continue reading

Science Explains Why Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

by Valerie Ross Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, knows all about love. She has observed the brain regions associated with romantic love light up as a man gazes at his inamorata, both in new relationships and in decades-long marriages. Fisher seems to have become a bit jaded … Continue reading

The Love Neuroscientist

Believe it or not, says psychologist Stephanie Ortigue, lust makes heavy intellectual demands involving complex thought. (Care to come upstairs and see my diplomas?) by Eliza Strickland; photograph by Ben Gest This article is a sample from DISCOVER’s special Brain issue, available only on newsstands through December 28. Love is celebrated as a many-splendored thing, … Continue reading

Heavy Facebook users may have weighty amygdalas

By Yun Xie The size of your amygdala might indicate how large and complex your social network is. Amygdala volume has been connected to social network and behavior in past research, as scientists have found that nonhuman primate species with larger social groups tend to have greater amygdala volumes. Kevin Bickart and his coauthors took … Continue reading

Rare Brain Disorder Prevents All Fear

By Laura Sanders, Science News A middle-aged woman known as SM blithely reaches for poisonous snakes, giggles in haunted houses and once, upon escaping the clutches of a knife-wielding man, didn’t run but calmly walked away. A rare kind of brain damage precludes her from experiencing fear of any sort, finds a study published online … Continue reading

Novel Memory-Enhancing Mechanism in Brain

UC Irvine researchers have identified a novel mechanism in the brain that boosts memory. In collaboration with scientists at Germany’s University of Munster, the UCI team found that a small protein called neuropeptide S can strengthen and prolong memories of everything from negative events to simple objects. According to study leader Rainer Reinscheid, UCI associate … Continue reading

Our Brains Are Wired So We Can Better Hear Ourselves Speak

Activity in the auditory cortex when we speak and listen is amplified in some regions of the brain and muted in others. In this image, the black line represents muting activity when we speak. (Credit: Courtesy of Adeen Flinker) Like the mute button on the TV remote control, our brains filter out unwanted noise so … Continue reading

This is your brain undergoing cognitive dissonance

By John Timmer Cognitive dissonance has entered the vernacular as shorthand for what people experience when they hold two contradictory opinions at once. But, within psychology, it describes a somewhat distinct process, where people are forced to reject an item they actually like. Given this bit of awkwardness, people are prone to dealing with it … Continue reading

Brain’s Architecture Makes Our View of the World Unique

Wellcome Trust scientists have shown for the first time that exactly how we see our environment depends on the size of the visual part of our brain. The Ebbinghaus illusion. Most people will see the first circle as smaller than the second one Researchers found a strong link between the surface area of the primary … Continue reading

Scientists learn about fear by scaring rats with Lego "Robogator"

Kate Shaw Animals’ lives are essentially all about food, sex, and fear. If you can escape predators long enough to eat and reproduce, your genes will live to see another generation. That’s why fear is so important: it’s a warning sign that something is wrong and, if you don’t address the threat, you might not … Continue reading

Trust and Temperature

Jonah Lehrer If I were a con artist, I’d get in the habit of buying people warm drinks. If that didn’t work, I’d start conducting my con in warm rooms, or maybe move to a tropical region. Why? Because fleeting feelings of heat increase our willingness to trust strangers. That, at least, is the conclusion … Continue reading

Same Face May Look Male or Female, Depending on Where It Appears in a Person’s Field of View

Subjects in the study were shown computer-generated faces that ranged along a spectrum from very male to very female. (Credit: Image courtesy of Arash Afraz) Neuroscientists at MIT and Harvard have made the surprising discovery that the brain sees some faces as male when they appear in one area of a person’s field of view, … Continue reading

How People Perceive Sour Flavors: Proton Current Drives Action Potentials in Taste Cells

The research of USC College professor Emily Liman, left, and neuroscience Ph.D. student Rui B. Chang was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (Credit: Photo by Dietmar Quistorf) when the tartness of cranberry sauce smacks your tongue, consider the power of sour. Neurobiology researchers at the University of Southern California … Continue reading

Do ‘Traffic Lights’ in the Brain Direct Our Actions? Delayed Inhibition Between Neurons Identified as Possible Basis for Decision Making

The timing of exciting (red curve) and inhibiting (blue curve) signals could be a way to control the "traffic flow" of activity in the brain. (Illustration: Bernstein Center Freiburg) (Credit: Illustration courtesy of Bernstein Center Freiburg) In every waking minute, we have to make decisions — sometimes within a split second. Neuroscientists at the Bernstein … Continue reading

Older but Not Wiser? The Psychology Behind Seniors’ Susceptibility to Scams

New studies help explain why, despite having more experience, senior citizens often make unprofitable financial choices Valerie Ross SENIOR MOMENT: When deciding how to handle their money, older people often make less profitable decisions. Image: partie traumatic, courtesy Flickr The invitations come in the mail, covered in large print: "Investment Workshop—Free Gourmet Lunch!" "Avoid the … Continue reading

Stunning Details of Brain Connections Revealed

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, applying a state-of-the-art imaging system to brain-tissue samples from mice, have been able to quickly and accurately locate and count the myriad connections between nerve cells in unprecedented detail, as well as to capture and catalog those connections’ surprising variety. Visual reconstruction (from array-tomography data) of synapses … Continue reading

Tarantulas in an MRI: how the brain responds to creepy crawlies

Kate Shaw NPS Giant spiders aren’t exactly the kind of cute, cuddly creatures that most people crave contact with. So, it’s no surprise that when a group of study participants thought they were enclosed in an MRI machine with a live tarantula, their fear networks went on high alert. What was particularly interesting about this … Continue reading

Jet Lag May Cause Stupidity

Laura Sanders, Science News SAN DIEGO — In addition to making you groggy and dazed, jet lag may make you stupid. A study presented November 15 at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting finds that hamsters suffering extreme, chronic jet lag had about half the normal rate of new neuron birth in a part of … Continue reading

Freeze or Run? Not That Simple: Scientists Discover Neural Switch That Controls Fear

Fear can make you run, it can make you fight, and it can glue you to the spot. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, Italy and GlaxoSmithKline in Verona, Italy, have identified not only the part of the brain but the specific type of neurons that determine how mice react to … Continue reading

Delicate Balance in the Brain Controls Fear

The eerie music in the movie theater swells; the roller coaster crests and begins its descent; something goes bump in the night. Suddenly, you’re scared: your heart thumps, your stomach clenches, your throat tightens, your muscles freeze you in place. But fear doesn’t come from your heart, your stomach, your throat, or your muscles. Fear … Continue reading

Why Tofu Burgers Taste Better than You’d Expect

The brain recognizes food-based illusions on multiple levels By Susana Martinez-Conde and Stephen L. Macknik Are you impressed with meals that look like one food but are actually made of something else? Tofu burgers and artificial crabmeat, for example, are not what they appear to be, yet the masquerade half-convinces our taste buds all the … Continue reading