Browsing: Cognition

The latest news about cognitive psychology, brain development and neuroscience research

Why Henry Higgins could tell his barrow girl from his fair lady

When Professor Henry Higgins instructed Eliza Doolittle that it was “Ay not I, O not Ow, Don’t say ‘Rine,’ say ‘Rain'”, he was drawing on years of experience as a professor of phonetics. But research funded by the Wellcome Trust and the European Commission suggests that Higgins’s ability to differentiate expertly between similar sounds may have stemmed from birth.

Why argue? Helping students see the point

Read the comments on any website and you may despair at Americans’ inability to argue well. Thankfully, educators now name argumentive reasoning as one of the basics students should leave school with.

A glove on your hand can change your mind

Unconsciously, right-handers associate good with the right side of space and bad with the left. But this association can be rapidly changed, according to a study published online March 9, 2011 in Psychological Science.

A-ha! The neural mechanisms of insight

Although it is quite common for a brief, unique experience to become part of our long-term memory, the underlying brain mechanisms associated with this type of learning are not well understood. Now, a new brain-imaging study looks at the neural activity associated with a specific type of rapid learning, insight. The research, published by Cell Press in the March 10 issue of the journal Neuron, reveals specific brain activity that occurs during an A-ha! moment that may help encode the new information in long-term memory.

Web-crawling the brain

Researchers in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Neurobiology have developed a technique for unraveling these masses. Through a combination of microscopy platforms, researchers can crawl through the individual connections composing a neural network, much as Google crawls Web links.

A new look at the adolescent brain: It’s not all emotional chaos

Previous research has pointed to the immature adolescent brain as a major liability, but now, a unique study reveals that some brain changes associated with adolescence may not be driving teens towards risky behavior but may actually reflect a decrease in susceptibility to peer pressure. The findings, published by Cell Press in the March 10 issue of the journal Neuron, provide a more complete perspective of the neural systems associated with adolescent behavior.

Scientists show how flexibly the brain processes images

Scientists at the MPI for Brain Research in Frankfurt/Main could now show that seeing can be trained. Their tests revealed that the brain regions underlying the learning effects on conscious perception are different than the ones underlying the learning effects on the mere processing of stimuli.

Right-handers, but not left-handers, are biased to select their dominant hand

The vast majority of humans – over 90% – prefer to use their right hand for most skilled tasks. For decades, researchers have been trying to understand why this asymmetry exists. Why, with our two cerebral hemispheres and motor cortices, are we not equally skilled with both hands? A study from the University of Aberdeen in the UK, published in the April 2011 issue of Elsevier’s Cortex, suggests that the explanation may stem from actions that require us to use both hands at the same time, which may bias right-handers toward choosing their right hands.

Weak supporting evidence can undermine belief in an outcome

Experiments by Brown University psychologists have produced positive evidence that people often think about positive evidence the wrong way — if it is weak. Defying logic, people given weak evidence can regard predictions supported by that evidence as less likely than if they aren’t given the evidence at all.

Listening to music is biological

Music is listened in all known cultures. Similarities between human and animal song have been detected: both contain a message, an intention that reflects innate emotional state that is interpreted correctly even among different species. In fact, several behavioral features in listening to music are closely related to attachment: lullabies are song to infants to increase their attachment to a parent, and singing or playing music together is based on teamwork and may add group cohesion.

Scientists create illusion of having 3 arms

In a novel paper published in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE they describe how it is possible to create an illusion of owning three arms, under controlled conditions in a laboratory. The experiment involves the participant sitting at a table and having a realistic prosthetic arm placed next to their right arm.

The blind also have a Stripe of Gennari

The Stripe of Gennari develops even in those who are blind from birth and does not degenerate, despite a lack of visual input. This was discovered by Robert Trampel and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences using magnetic resonance imaging.

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