Scientific News

How did a quadriplegic man regain control of his hand?

Six years after a diving accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down, Ian Burkhart, a young American man, can now perform complex movements with his right hand using a microchip implanted in his brain. In this study published in Nature, the researchers explain that he is now able to grasp objects and even stir his coffee. But how could this promising first success be possible?

Ian Burkhart was a 19 year-old student when he broke his neck diving in shallow water, leaving him quadriplegic. When Chad E. Bouton's team at the Feinstein Institute for medical research asked him to participate in a study aiming to restore his lost motor functions, Ian seized the opportunity. ...

What does the brain tell us about our generosity?

Our generosity may be motivated in two ways: we can give out of empathy (to someone who has deeply touched us, for example) or out of reciprocity (to someone who has done us a favor). A team of psychologists and neuroscientists led by Grit Hein and Ernst Fehr at the University of Zurich has managed to distinguish these two types of motivation for giving by using brain imaging. How are compassion and gratitude seen in the brain?

In psychology, motivation is considered to be independent from human behavior. These mental constructions cannot be directly observed. As a result, they are generally deduced from individual behavior. But different motives can lead to an identical ...

Could stimulating the senses help comatose patients recover?

Under the leadership of Dr. Karine Diserens, a unique facility has been created within the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (Switzerland): the Acute Neurorehabilitation Unit, which is dedicated to the stimulation of patients awakening from a coma. Since its inauguration in 2011, the center has used sensorineural therapy in its treatment. Indeed, certain coma patients can show signs of life when presented with water, smells and other elements. So how does the unconventional neurologist Karin Diserens and her team do it?

It was during the summer of 2014 that the Acute Neurorehabilitation Unit was given an opportunity to see its work in the limelight. It was at this ...

Are blonde jokes a thing of the past?

Blonde jokes may very well disappear after this study. As crazy and perhaps unnecessary as it may seem, this study demonstrates that blonde women aren’t any less intelligent than brunettes and redheads. The study carried out by Jay L. Jagorsky at the University of Ohio, developed in order to fight discrimination, has demonstrated that blondes may actually have higher IQs than others. Let’s take a closer look…

The research published in Economics Bulletin was initiated to address the problem of discrimination based on appearance and its significant economic consequences. Blonde women are often the victim of negative stereotypes (stupidity, naiveté, incompetence). These ...

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 ...

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