Scientific News

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, ...

How do our own voices influence our emotions?

Imagine an application that can modify the emotional tone of your voice to make you feel happier… This device actually already exists! It was designed by researchers from the CNRS (France’s National Scientific Research Council), Japanese, Swedish and French universities. Their study shows that our brain regulates mood according to the tone of our own voice. So how can we purposefully manipulate our voices to change our emotional state?

We are capable of controlling and regulating emotional expression by trying, for example, to appear unaffected by an event. The studies blurred the boundaries between cognitive and emotional processes. Thus, according to J-J. Aucouturier, the ...

Why does our brain look like a giant walnut?

A recent study published in the journal Nature Physics and presented on Harvard’s website reveals the secrets of the brain’s folds and creases, or cerebral convolutions. The researchers examined how exactly our brain takes on this very unique form. How are the human brain’s many folds created? Is it genetics or mechanics?

The specific valleys and peaks of the human brain are only present in a handful of animal species, such as primates, dolphins, elephants, and pigs. On average, skull volume varies between 1,100 and 1,700 cm3. But if we smooth out the brain, it would cover a surface of 1 to 2 m2. Gyrification (the degree of folding) is an important brain characteristic ...

Why are our brains better than computers?

“1 petabyte!” Sound familiar? Believe it or not, that’s our brain’s storage capacity. The number represents a “real bombshell in the field of neuroscience," according to Terry Sejnowski, principal co-author of the study published in eLife. Indeed, the figure is 10 times greater than previous estimates. In practical terms, it's 1,000 times more than most current hard drives. And despite its capacity, our brain requires less energy than a computer. But how is our brain able to function on full power with so little energy?

Measuring the amount of information our brain can store seems like a difficult task. But a team from the Salk Institute in San Diego has managed to do ...

What's the perfect joke?

“So it's the story of an American, a French guy and a Belgian...” Stop! There's an extra character in this joke. According to a recent study by Dunbar and colleagues, researchers in experimental psychology, to be insanely funny, a joke must involve the cognitive abilities that allow us to theorize about a state of mind (the other person’s intentions for example). But to make people laugh, be careful not to overload your audience's brains with a joke involving too many characters. How far can we take a joke? Let's take a look.

As humans, we have the ability to understand what others think; this is what we call “theory of mind.” In ordinary communication, we are engaged ...


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