Browsing: Cognition

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

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.

The brain as a ‘task machine’

The portion of the brain responsible for visual reading doesn’t require vision at all, according to a new study published online on February 17 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. Brain imaging studies of blind people as they read words in Braille show activity in precisely the same part of the brain that lights up when sighted readers read. The findings challenge the textbook notion that the brain is divided up into regions that are specialized for processing information coming in via one sense or another, the researchers say.

Human sentence processing unconcerned by sentence structure

The hierarchical structure of sentences appears to be less important in human sentence processing than hitherto assumed. Readers seem to pay attention to simple word sequences above all. These are the conclusions of research conducted by Dr. Stefan Frank and Prof. Rens Bod from the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Their findings, which run counter to the prevailing view, will soon be published in the renowned scientific journal Psychological Science.

Gene important for daily rhythms of the sleep-wake cycle

Northwestern University scientists have discovered a new mechanism in the core gears of the circadian clock. They found the loss of a certain gene, dubbed “twenty-four,” messes up the rhythm of the common fruit fly’s sleep-wake cycle, making it harder for the flies to awaken.

Drivers engaging in secondary task may pay more attention to road

Although many human factors/ergonomics studies conducted over the past few years indicate that drivers who talk on the phone fail to attend to the road and increase the likelihood of an accident, the monotony of driving may also pose an accident risk. New research by HF/E researchers at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, published in Human Factors, suggests that drivers who lose focus on the road because of boredom may actually increase their attention by engaging in a secondary task, particularly during the last leg of their journey.

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