Scientific News

The stages of brain development - 2

In the previous newsletter, we explained the early stages of brain development when the embryo is only a few millimeters long. Do you remember? The neural tube extends along the entire length of the embryo and it is this structure that will later become the brain and spinal cord. Now let’s take a look at how the major areas of the nervous system develop.

At about 33 days after conception, the embryo is slightly larger at about 5 millimeters long. The cells that make up the neural tube differentiate into five major regions at the rostral end (head): the telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon, metencephalon, and myelencephalon.

The first area, or ...

Charisma: a dominant or caring voice?

Charisma has the ability to make you credible, respected, and even admired when you speak. Charisma is based largely on a series of movements and stances; we often say that a charismatic person has a commanding presence. But charisma can also be manifested through speaking style, and it appears that certain innate predispositions may also be quite influential.

After suffering from a stroke, the Italian politician Umberto Bossi saw a real difference in the way audiences perceived his speeches. The authoritarian persona perceived prior to the stroke was replaced by a more caring perception. Rosario Signorello, a postdoc at the University of California, Los Angeles began ...

The stages of brain development - 1

Did you know that the brain is formed from the same embryological layer as the skin? And that it's shaped like a cylinder during the first stages of life? Like all other organs and tissue, the most complex organ in our body and source of our thoughts and emotions, comes from a single cell formed by the fertilization of an ovum by a sperm cell. Let's take a closer look at brain development for the sheer sake of satisfying our curiosity about this mysterious organ.

At the beginning, the embryo is little more than an elongated mass of cells. But even at this early stage, through successive multiplications and differentiations, these three layers of cells will one day become ...

Media: Multitasking linked to decreased cognitive performance

Watching television while playing solitaire on your tablet. Looking for a pot roast recipe while talking to a friend on the phone. Do you multitask by juggling your various digital devices, computer, television, smartphone and tablet?

Multitaskers are often positively described for their ability to do several things all at once. But it appears that using several forms of media simultaneously can actually be harmful to the brain. Prior research had already shown a correlation between engagement in multitasking and a decline in cognitive control, along with decreased academic performance and increased depression and anxiety. Researchers wanted to determine if biological ...

Exercise: a natural remedy for depression

The benefits of exercise continue to multiply. Staying slim, losing unwanted pounds, and sculpting your abs are often cited as motivations. And more recently, it seems that the brain too can be a target for exercise thanks to several studies demonstrating its beneficial effects on cognitive performance. A new study has shown that exercise has a positive impact on depression. But how? What exactly is the relationship between exercise and mental illness?

In the brain, neurons communicate with each other via specific molecules known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are released by one neuron, the sender, and act on an adjacent neuron, the receiver. Neurotransmitters ...

At 24, she discovers she has no cerebellum

After complaining of nausea and dizziness, a young Chinese woman underwent medical examinations only to discover a strange cavity inside the skull where her cerebellum should have been. Until now, only 8 other such cases had been reported worldwide. This surprising story is an excellent illustration of the brain’s capacity for adaptation.

The cerebellum is the portion of the brain located at the back of the skull, just below the brain. Because of its shape and structure, it is often called the little brain. But don’t let its small size fool you! It contains a significant number of neurons and plays an essential role in motor control. The cerebellum is critical in ...

Is it possible to measure intelligence in children?

Your child’s current abilities don’t predict future performance. New research led by Professor Richard Cowan has found that a child’s current abilities in mathematics, English or any other subject has no bearing on success or difficulties during adolescence or adulthood.

The development of intellectual abilities in children is complex and can advance rapidly. For example, the intellectual differences between a five and 10-year-old are much greater than the differences between a 10 and 15-year-old. For these reasons, Professor Cowan compares testing a child’s intellectual ability to having your car inspected. Unlike testing a child’s blood type, which remains ...

Romantic feelings or sexual attraction?

When someone looks at you, it can be difficult to tell whether their attraction to you is based on love or lust. But now these intentions can be identified through body language, and more specifically by studying the person’s gaze. In the first case, the person will focus on the face, whereas in the second, they will focus on the body. This all takes place in less than half a second, so you’ll need to pay close attention!

To uncover the difference between these two types of desire, researchers from the universities of Chicago and Geneva studied the eye patterns of students during two experiments. The volunteers were first presented with a series of photos each ...

Does no really mean no?

You ask someone to do you a favor and they decline; what do you do next?
According to two experiments carried out by Boster and other researchers, most people ask “why not?” and then try to deal with the objections (Boster et al., 2009). The trick is to transform the “no” of the refusal into an obstacle which can be overcome. By dealing with with this obstacle, your request is more likely to be granted.

Boster and his researchers tested this approach in comparison with three other methods which are known to improve the chances of obtaining a request. -Door-in-the-face: this involves making a significant request initially, which has a good chance of being refused. ...

You smile at me...nor do I

One might say smiling is unique to humans. And though smiling is most often a manifestation of our humanity and our sincerity, some smiles are decidedly "fake." Why? Probably because, as American and European scientific teams have demonstrated, we can now make miniature replicates of a person’s smile. Invisibly tiny muscle contractions in our face attest to the authenticity of our smile.

During a discussion, we are often compelled to smile or to acknowledge the smile of our interlocutor. Our smiles may reveal sincerity, betray boredom, or in the worst case, may even convey ridicule. A smile can thus relate a wide range of different expressions. Researchers at the University of ...

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