Mind/Brain (pre 2009)

8 December 2008

The happiness equation

A fascinating new study has established that happiness is not just an individual experience or choice, but is dependent on the happiness of others in an individual's social network. Researchers report that close physical proximity is essential for happiness to spread; such that a person is 42 percent more likely to be happy if a friend who lives less than half a mile away becomes happy but only 22 percent more likely to be happy if the friend is two miles away...

4 December 2008

Striking differences between brains of rich and poor

Measuring the brain activity of kids from a variety of backgrounds using an electroencephalograph revealed that the prefrontal cortex activity in the children from poor families resembled that of a stroke victim...

2 December 2008

Psychiatric disorders common among young adults

In a study of 18-24 year-olds conducted over a 12 month period, an astonishing 47 percent of the individuals assessed met the criteria for substance abuse, personality disorders or another mental health condition, yet only one-quarter of those affected sought treatment...

27 November 2008

Researchers mull possible autism triggers

Cornell University researchers have found evidence for rainfall-related environmental triggers for autism among genetically vulnerable children...

23 October 2008

Selective memory erasure achieved

Working with rodents, scientists have been able to selectively and safely remove both new and old memories by using a protein critical to brain cell communication. "While memories are obviously crucial for survival and adaptation, selectively removing incapacitating memories, such as traumatic war memories or an unwanted fear, could help many people live better lives," says researcher Dr. Joe Z. Tsien...

1 October 2008

Researchers probe brain's communication infrastructure

The brain uses 20 percent of the body's energy, but our waking, goal-oriented behaviors account for only 2 percent. Now, researchers are beginning to understand how the rest of that energy is expended to keep predictive neuronal structures communicating in a constant state of readiness...

15 September 2008

Invariance and computer vision

In work that could vastly improve computer vision systems, MIT neuroscientists have tricked the brain into confusing one visual object with another. The new study shows that even in adulthood, our object recognition system is constantly being retrained by natural experience...

5 August 2008

The High Cost Of Intelligence

The metabolic changes responsible for the evolution of human cognitive abilities indicate that the brain may have been pushed to the limit of its capabilities and that schizophrenia may be one of the costly by-products of this evolutionary leap...

26 June 2008

Brain Wired For Adventure

Scientists have identified a key region of the brain which encourages us to be adventurous. Located in a primitive area of the brain, it is activated when we choose unfamiliar options, suggesting an evolutionary advantage for trying the unknown...

23 June 2008

Grief Linked To Brain Pleasure Centers

University of California scientists say that long-term grief (also known as complicated grief) can activate neurons in the reward centers of the brain in a way more usually associated with addiction...

2 June 2008

When Happiness Is A Disadvantage

Psychologists conducting research into how a child's mood affects their ability to learn have found that where attention to detail is required, happy children may be at a disadvantage...

21 May 2008

Incense Found To Be Psychoactive

Biologists have discovered that burning frankincense activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain that alleviate anxiety and depression, suggesting that an entirely new class of medicinal drugs might be right under our noses...

17 March 2008

Brain's Secondary Depth-Perception Mechanism Uncovered

Neuroscientists have identified a small part of the brain that processes the image from a single eye, the motion of our bodies and the motion of our eyeball, to allow us to perceive depth with only one eye...

28 February 2008

This Is Your Brain On Jazz

Using fMRI, two scientists have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow...

15 January 2008

Aggression As Rewarding As Sex

Researchers have discovered that our brain processes aggression as a reward - much like sex, food and drugs...

17 December 2007

Brain Can Rewire Itself On-The-Fly

Dynamic connectivity in the brain allows neuronal circuits to be rewired on-the-fly, allowing stimuli to be more keenly sensed...

14 December 2007

Immune System Sculpts The Brain

The synapse elimination that occurs during the normal development of a child's brain seems to be directed by the immune system...

7 December 2007

Neuroscientists Map Violent Media's Effects On Brain

Although past studies have shown some correlation between exposure to media violence and real-life violent behavior, there has been little direct neuroscientific support for the theory until now...

24 August 2007

Leaving The Body Behind

The latest bit of paranormal hokum getting a reality check is the mystical out-of-body experience, or OBE. A collaborative team of scientists and philosophers reports progress toward understanding what happens when someone experiences an OBE and they believe that solving the mystery of OBEs will ultimately reveal where we derive our sense of self...

24 July 2007

Writer's Cramp A Sign Of Brain Abnormalities

Compared to healthy individuals, people with serious cases of writer's cramp have less brain tissue in areas of the brain that connect with the affected hand...

18 July 2007

Mirror Neurons Show Their Xenophobic Side

The brain's mirror neuron network appears to be behind some intriguing brain responses that depend on whether we are looking at someone who shares our culture, or some goddamn crazy foreigner...

13 July 2007

Tourette's Sufferers Enjoy Superior Grammar Skills

Children with Tourette's syndrome are much quicker at certain mental grammar skills than are children without the disorder...

29 June 2007

The Information Insurgency

For good or ill, both the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions were immutable world-changing events, so it would seem that the Information Age has a lot to live up to. But unfortunately, things aren't looking good on that front. Dispatches from intellectuals and researchers in the trenches of the Knowledge Revolution are painting a grim picture of what lies ahead for humanity...

20 June 2007

Tortoise-Hare Executive Functions Of Brain Identified

The human brain's chain-of-command relies on not one, but two quite different, although complementary, command-and-control areas...

8 May 2007

Gene Mutation Responsible For Human Intelligence Tracked Down?

Researchers have identified the gene mutation responsible for producing a protein - found only in humans - that plays a critical role in learning and memory...

13 April 2007

Eye Of The Beholder Redux

New research is not only raising some poignant questions about the nature of art appreciation, but also highlighting how both science and art have the capacity to expose the natural world beyond everyday perception...

28 March 2007

Neuronal Behavior Confounds Expectations

The idea that the electrical signal patterns generated by neurons represent the encoding of different types of cognitive information has not held up to scrutiny...

9 March 2007

The Dummies Guide To Mind Reading

Researchers have recently been able to forecast a subject's intentions. If our minds turn out to be this deterministic at much more complex levels, then the thought police could soon be on their way...

29 November 2006

Déjà Vu Research Is Outta Sight

Working with a blind subject, researchers in the UK have overturned the theory that déjà vu is connected to the optical pathway...

13 November 2006

Chaotic Neurons Enhance Brain's Processing

The brain dramatically enhances its processing power by using seemingly chaotic signals to represent the ambiguities of the real world...

30 August 2006

We Can Forget It For You Wholesale

Researchers from State University New York have described how they erased long-term memories from the brain by inhibiting a particular memory-related enzyme molecule...

14 July 2006

Letting The Brain Out Of The Box

Researchers have managed to hookup neural sensors to the brains of severely paralyzed people and have them control various external mechanical devices by thought alone. Could such technology catalyze a leap in human cognitive powers? Probably not, given what happened with other "breakthroughs" like television and the Internet. It seems that each successive technological breakthrough just delivers more titillation rather than catalyzing any significant leap in human cognition. Let's hope - probably in vain - that this time it's different...

10 July 2006

Face Blindness Caused By Single Gene

Imagine how debilitating and awkward it would be if you could not differentiate faces in a crowd. Now, researchers have found that the condition can be attributed to a single gene...

26 May 2006

Basic Instinct Not So Basic After All

Is there a fundamental difference between instinct and planned behavior? One would hope so, but recent research into tool use among apes has blurred the distinction somewhat. Indeed, it's possible that all organisms - including humans - are just running on automatic, according to a hierarchy of fixed-action-patterns triggered by key stimuli...

13 April 2006

Neurons Mix Digital And Analog Functionality

The longstanding belief that each of the brain's 100 billion neurons communicate strictly by a digital code looks to be incorrect...

6 March 2006

Risky Business Explained

Researchers working in a relatively new area of neuroscience have made progress in understanding why some people are more prone to risk taking than others...

17 February 2006

The Rain In Spain Falls Only In The Human Brain

New research suggests that humans have an innate and universal faculty to form sentences, supporting the idea that we are born with a ready-made language "module" in our brain. If grammar usage and symbol-to-object association are universal in humans, then some long standing controversies in cognitive research may finally be put to rest...

3 February 2006

Normalizing The Paranormal

"Imagination is more important than knowledge," said Einstein. But just how far should this concept be taken? Does this mean that any idea can be imbued with an air of legitimacy just because it is being investigated scientifically? Specifically, can - and indeed should - paranormal and other unexplained phenomena be explored on a scientific basis?

21 December 2005

Gamblers' Brains Wired For Failure

Researchers say that gamblers make the same two cognitive errors again and again when they gamble, much to the delight of casinos...

30 November 2005

Scan A Brain And Predict The Future

Scanning the brains of volunteers while they played a game has allowed neuroscientists to predict whether the volunteers will succeed or fail at the game...

21 October 2005

Delusions And Mental Illness

What does the concept of belief really mean? Does a delusion have to be false? Psychologists and neuroscientists are teaming up with philosophers to answer these questions and better understand human delusions and the belief systems we build around them...

4 October 2005

Liar, Liar, Your Prefrontal Cortex Is On Fire

Scientists have found evidence of structural brain abnormalities in pathological liars who habitually lie and cheat...

16 September 2005

Savoring The Flavoring

Are wine-buffs coaxed into buying their particular brand of poison just because that's what current trends dictate? Is an appreciation of haute cuisine no more than a learned social behavior? These are just two of the conclusions you could draw from recent research into taste perception. According to the researchers, one person's taste is unique from the next, with taste and odor perception being dramatically more complicated than our other sense perceptions. To understand why this is so, scientists have had to study taste at the genetic levelů

2 September 2005

Can The 10,000-Year Clock Save Humanity?

Religious differences, resource plundering and war can bring an end to even the most advanced civilizations. And while it might seem that we're headed down the same path, an organization called the Long Now Foundation wants us to start taking a more long-term view of our planet, so that we become responsible custodians for the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. How long-term? How about 10,000 years...

5 August 2005

Is Subconscious Perception the Root of All Evil?

Not all of the brain's data acquisition occurs consciously. Research has shown that much of the visual data that we are exposed to slips past us without being consciously registered, but still manages to continue on to the brain's processing network. In light of this, does it follow that the incessant unchecked stream of data entering our brain's neural pathways can have the effect of significantly influencing our behavior? Do television, cinema and video games actually have a subliminal effect on viewers?

28 July 2005

Autism, Asperger's and Evolution

What is the difference between a genetic abnormality and genetic evolution? Is the human body's adaptability responsible for many of the conditions that we call mental disorders? Researchers concede that the science world is still in the dark about the causes of autism and asperger's disorder, but do believe that autism and asperger's are most likely genetically oriented. Is it possible that in disorders such as autism and Asperger's we are witnessing evolution at work?

8 July 2005

A Penny for Your Qualia

The word qualia accounts for the subjective sensation experienced by a person when they see a color or eat an ice cream. But are qualia quantifiable brain states or are they merely a matter of semantics? As an area of research, the study of qualia has predominantly been relegated to the domain of philosophy, but philosophers had better make up their minds fast, because current research on subjective cognition in the field of neuroscience seems determined to drag the concept of qualia out from the shadows of philosophy into the harsh light of physical science...

8 July 2005

Retina Adapts By Suppressing The Commonplace

The retina of the eye actively seeks novel features in the visual environment, adjusting its processing on-the-fly in order to seek unusual visual elements, while ignoring the commonplace...

29 June 2005

Brain Thrives On Constant, Chaotic Communication

The brain is like a Swiss Army knife, made up of a whole bunch of sub-modules that continuously chatter away to each other in a chaotic fashion...

23 June 2005

A Computer In A Single Neuron

Far from being a simple on-off switch or relay, single neurons in the human brain appear to be able to store complex data, such as the image of a person or landmark...

16 March 2005

Complex Behaviors Hard-Wired Into Primate Brains

Putting a piece of food into your mouth, smiling at a passerby, grimacing in anger, and other complex movements and reactions may be hard-wired into your brain...

23 August 2004

Linguistic Resources Shape Reality

An obscure Amazon tribe whose language contains words for only three numbers is helping researchers understand how language affects perception...

Animal Kingdom