Scientific News

Can the gift for math be found in the brain?

Are Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, Cédric Villani and other brilliant mathematicians’ brains different from ours? The answer appears to be no. The difference lies in how they use their brains. According to a recent study, math experts use particular areas of their brains that remain inactive in “novices." So how do the brains of great mathematicians work?

The origins of the human brain's capacity for mathematics are still being debated even today. Certain theories suggest that the basis lies in ancient brain circuits (initially involved in space and numbers); others hypothesize that it is related to language processing. In order to determine the origin of superior ...

Why kiss with your eyes closed?

We all know that sensory multitasking has its limits. For example, it’s tricky to focus on a visual task and an auditory task at the same time. The possibility of observing similar effects for touch has been largely unexplored by research until now. With this study, discover why kissing with your eyes closed is more pleasurable.

Sense of touch is sometimes considered to be more “primitive” than vision or hearing (tactile information is sensed directly, while visual and auditory stimuli involve an identification process), meaning that touch should be less prone to errors of inattention than the other senses.

Psychologists from Royal Holloway (University of ...

What's the best season for brain performance?

We all know that people's moods tend to vary with the seasons (you may have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which comes with the beginning of winter). But few studies have looked at physiological fluctuations in the brain based on the time of year. A recent study carried out by a team at the University of Liège in Belgium shows that brain activity can vary according to the rhythm of the seasons. During what part of year are we most efficient?

To study the possible effect of the seasons on our brain activity, C. Meyer and her colleagues asked 28 subjects (14 men and 14 women; average age = 21 years) to remain in an environment devoid of any seasonal cues (such as ...

Is the love of risk contagious?

“All in!” Maybe you wouldn’t have dared to make such a bold decision at the poker table had you not been surrounded by players with a taste for risk? Indeed, it appears that the love of risk may be “transmissible,” even to more cautious individuals, due to brain mechanisms that stimulate this “behavioral contagion” effect. Why do we tend to take more risks when we are in contact with those more reckless than ourselves?

To study the potentially contagious effect of risk-taking, researchers from Caltech developed a betting simulation experiment to study the behavior of 24 participants. Three types of processes were developed. The first was an "observation" process, ...

Do very young children know that they don't know?

Up until now, metacognition (the ability to reflect on one's own thoughts and actions) was considered to be almost non-existent in children under the age of 6 or 7. But a recent study has revealed that, beginning at 20 months, babies are capable of (non-verbally) expressing their own uncertainties. How did researchers manage to overcome the poor language abilities of young children in order to demonstrate this reflective ability in very young children?

Metacognition allows us to optimally acquire new information by adapting our learning strategies according to our current knowledge state. Because of this, metacognition has proven to be a reliable predictor of learning. In ...

How do dogs perceive human faces?

We all know that in humans, specific areas of the brain are used for face processing. Until now, it was difficult to tell how face perception worked in dogs. Mexican researchers recently analyzed the specific brain areas in dogs that allow them to perceive human faces: an opportunity to test whether the saying “dogs are a man's best friend,” is actually true.

The study conducted by Laura V. Cuaya, Raùl Hernandez-Perez and Luis Concha, published in Plos One, focuses on describing the brain correlates in dog of perceiving human faces using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Before the study began, the 7 dogs (4 males and 3 females, from 15 to the 30 months old: 5 ...

How can thirty little neurons reduce pain?

Several studies have demonstrated the role of oxytocin, a molecule involved in sexual reproduction, in pain relief. Approximately 50,000 neurons located at the center of the hypothalamus secret a neuropeptide with multiple effects. An international team analyzed the oxytocinergic center in rats and managed to isolate the “pain-relief center,” consisting of thirty neurons. How can inflammatory pain be reduced by so few neurons?

For several years, hypotheses have been formulated suggesting the existence of small neuron subpopulations with very specific roles in the oxytocinergic center, but until now the idea had never been confirmed. Recently, a team of international ...

Can video game addiction be seen in the brain?

Playing online games too often or for too long can have multiple and complex effects on the brain, both positive and negative. The results of a recent study published online in Addiction Biology on December 21, 2015 prove that the brains of adolescents that are dependent on internet gaming undergo certain changes. What happens in the brains of these internet game “addicts”?

Until now, there was no consensus as to the main effects of video games on brain development and psychiatric comorbidity, in other words associated disorders. For this study (in collaboration with the University of Utah School of Medicine and Chung-Ang University in South Korea), the researchers performed ...

Are big brains better?

We already know that when it comes to brains, it’s not the size that counts. Having a big brain isn’t necessarily a sign of intelligence. The study by Eric Abelson, a researcher in Stanford’s biology department, believes that having a large brain might actually be a handicap. Animal species with the largest brains (in relationship to their bodies) may be at greater risk for extinction. How did he come to this conclusion?

Using data collected from 88 studies, Jacob Pietschnig and his team created an overview (which appeared in Neuroscience and Biobehavorial Reviews in October 2015) examining the relationship between brain size and intelligence, and were able to conclude ...

Are our neurons threatened by television?

While we know a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to health, few studies have actually examined the effects. Research carried out over 25 years by California's Institute for Research and Education has recently shown the dangers of television for our neurons, even in those who exercise regularly. According to T. D. Hoang and his team, regular television watching causes a decline in cognitive ability. How did the scientists come to this alarming conclusion?

In this study, the exercise and TV-watching habits of 3,247 adults (54.5% women) between the ages of 18 and 30 (average age: 25.1) were collected and analyzed over the course of 25 years (from March 25, 1985 through August, ...

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