The latest news about cognitive psychology, brain development and neuroscience research
In conversation, we often imitate each other’s speech style and may even change our accent to fit that of the person we’re talking to. A recent study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that imitating someone who speaks with a regional or foreign accent may actually help you understand them better.
According to a new study, a brief writing exercise can help women in college physics classes improve their academic performance and reduce some of the well-documented differences between male and female science students. The writing exercise seems particularly beneficial to female students who tend to subscribe to the negative stereotype that males perform better in physics, the researchers say.
Some people always know which way is north and how to get out of a building. Others can live in an apartment for years without knowing which side faces the street. Differences among people that include spatial skills, experience, and preferred strategies for wayfinding are part of what determines whether people get lost in buildings—and psychological scientists could help architects understand where and why people might get lost in their buildings, according to the authors of an article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has solved the structure of one of the receptors that responds to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Although dopamine transmission is essential to normal brain functioning, the biological assembly of the molecules involved in this crucial neuronal interplay had not been known—until now. The work was reported in the November 19, 2010, issue of the journal Science.
Our brain usually combines the two slightly divergent images of our eyes into a single consistent perception. However, if the visual information does not match, only one image is seen at a time. This phenomenon is called binocular rivalry. Researchers around Andreas Bartels at the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neurosciences (CIN) and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany used this phenomenon to decipher a key mechanism of the brain functions that contributes to conscious visual perception.
omen are generally thought to be less willing to take risks than men, so he speculated that the banks could balance out risky men by employing more women. Stereotypes like this about women actually influence how women make financial decisions, making them more wary of risk, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
New research indicates that the integration of senses and functions in the brain is common. About two percent of the population has a condition called synesthesia, in which two different sensations, like color and sound, are experienced at once. Although this condition is rare, the new findings suggest the brain is wired in complex and sometimes overlapping ways to help people interpret and understand their environments.
In this week’s issue of the journal Nature, a research team led by scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has taken an important step toward understanding just how this kickoff occurs by beginning to dissect the neural circuitry of fear. In their paper, these scientists—led by David J. Anderson, the Benzer Professor of Biology at Caltech and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator—describe a microcircuit in the amygdala that controls, or “gates,” the outflow of fear from that region of the brain.
Researchers recently mapped the complete structure of a glutamate receptor, a key communications port in brain cells. Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland pieced together the three-dimensional image of the protein by bombarding it with X-rays, a technology called X-ray crystallography. Knowledge about the receptor’s form is expected to yield insights into its function in the nervous system.
They show that one of those genes in particular has a long evolutionary history, as evidenced by the fact that it plays a role in pain sensing in flies, mice and humans. At least in mice, the newly described gene is also linked to a condition known in humans as synesthesia, in which one sensory experience triggers the perception of another sense.
People spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy. So says a study that used an iPhone web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects’ thoughts, feelings, and actions as they went about their lives.
A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering have found that an early part of the brain’s visual system rewires itself when people are trained to perceive patterns, and have shown for the first time that this neural learning appears to be independent of higher order conscious visual processing.
People aren’t very accurate at predicting how good or bad they’ll feel after an event — such as watching their team lose the big game or getting a flat-screen TV. But afterwards, they “misremember” what they predicted, revising their prognostications after the fact to match how they actually feel, according to new research.
Although bilinguals tend to have smaller vocabularies in each language than do children who know one language, bilinguals may have an advantage when it comes to certain nonverbal cognitive tasks. Bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals on exercises that require blocking out distractions and switching between two or more different tasks.
By applying electrical current to the brain, researchers reporting online on November 4 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have shown that they could enhance a person’s mathematical performance for up to 6 months without influencing their other cognitive functions. The findings may lead to treatments for the estimated 20 percent of the population with moderate to severe numerical disabilities (for example, dyscalculia) and for those who lose their skill with numbers as a result of stroke or degenerative disease, according to the researchers.