Scientific News

Does being generous make us happier?

Be generous, it will make you happy! This could be the conclusion of a study carried out by an international team of neurobiologists from the universities of Lübeck (Germany), Chicago (United States), and Zurich (Switzerland). Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers discovered a neural link between generosity and happiness. How were they able to isolate this relationship in the brain?

Among the studies seeking to uncover the motives for generous behavior, it’s undoubtedly those in psychology that, since the year 2000, have put forward the most interesting hypothesis: what if altruism and generosity made us happy? While the positive emotion induced by generous ...

Right eye or left eye? Which do you prefer?

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as the saying goes. Who would have thought this old proverb could be so true? Imagine you’re about to gaze upon a famous painting. Which eye would you use? Except for those of us who are ambidextrous, each of us is either right or left-handed. But this form of laterality doesn’t just apply to our hands and feet, it’s also true for the eyes. Why do we have a dominant eye?

Unless you practice archery or another precision sport, or if you’ve ever needed to look through a keyhole, it's unlikely you're aware of which eye is dominant. But if you have a tendency to favor your right hand or right foot in various activities, the same is ...

Can words influence pupil dilation?

We know that our pupils dilate (mydriasis) and contract (mycosis) depending on ambient light and our mood. A recent study conducted by researchers at Aix-Marseille University’s laboratories of Cognitive Psychology, and Speech and Language, along with the University of Groningen (Netherlands) shows that the meaning of a word also influences the size of our pupils. How can a word trigger pupil dilation or contraction?

During the 70s, Eckward Hess, a pioneer in pupillometry (and former head of the psychology department at the University of Chicago) observed that, in general, pupil size increases when a person observes something or someone "stimulating." Ads for cosmetics have ...

Do ravens hold a grudge?

Many studies have already demonstrated the intellectual abilities of corvids, such as crows, magpies, and ravens. A scientific team from the University of Vienna (Austria) and the department of cognitive sciences at Lund University (Sweden) tested the memory capacities of crows. By subjecting them to a rather unusual experiment, the researchers discovered that ravens are rather spiteful creatures…

J.J.A. Müller and colleagues tested the memory of nine ravens in an exchange paradigm with humans (reciprocity). Laggie, Horst, Louise, Nobel, and the other ravens had the opportunity to exchange a low-quality food (bread) for a high-quality food (cheese); experiments have shown ...

Can spider venom protect your brain?

Its name: Hadronyche infensa or the “Darling Downs funnel web spider” (the name of a vast farming area in Australia): a very toxic poisonous spider. But this creature may also have an unexpected virtue: protecting the brain from neural damage caused by a stroke. How did Australian researchers chance upon this discovery? Read on to find out more about this study published in PNAS.

One of the studies main authors, Professor Glenn King from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland (Australia) says, “We believe that we have, for the first time, found a way to minimize the effects of brain damage after a stroke.” These encouraging remarks are ...

Is GPS bad for your brain?

For many people GPS is a beneficial form of technology. But letting yourself be guided vocally (or even just visually) by a GPS could actually be harmful to your brain in the long run. A study published in the review Nature Communication tells us why following the instructions given by a virtual guidance device could impair our brain’s orientation functions, e.g. our internal GPS.

It began in 2014 when a team of researchers (Edvard and May-Britt Moser, and John O’Keefe) shed light on the existence of a tracking and navigation system in the human brain. Their research showed that cells in the hippocampus helped animals to record spatial information in order to orient ...

How to become a memory athlete

You’re undoubtedly already familiar with memory champions that are capable of easily memorizing tens, hundreds, or thousands of pieces of information (word, numbers, faces, etc.) A recent study published in Neuron shows that, from a cerebral point of view, they’re not really so different from the rest of us. And that with training we can also considerably increase our memorization abilities and even compete with these athletes!

In order to better understand the brain features of people with highly developed memorization skills, the research team led by Martin Dresler (of the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands) decided to study the 23 top participants in ...

Can an eye that's disconnected from the brain see?

In regenerative medicine, in cases of transplantation or graft, innervation, or the supply of nerves to a body part, remains a major difficulty. This is particularly true for the sensory organs since they must be connected to the brain in order to communicate auditory, visual, and tactile information. But a recent study, carried out on tadpoles seems to indicate that it's possible to use the eye without it being directly connected to the brain.

In a previous study, D.J. Blackiston, K. Vien and M. Levin succeeded in demonstrating that eyes grafted to the outside of the tadpole’s head were sensitive to light. However, visual tests were disappointing, since innervation failed ...

How does the brain of a believer function?

People who have had a religious experience often describe feelings of joy, warmth and peace. The same feelings are associated with falling in love. However, the brain mechanisms of a believer remain unknown. The current study aimed to improve understanding of the neurobiology underlying spiritual and religious experiences. How does the brain of a believer function?

Hypotheses about the neurobiology of a religious experience are conflicting. Discovering the neuroscience of religious experiences seems vital if we are to understand the motivation for religious behavior. The study undertaken by American researchers from the University of Utah and published in the review ...

Which social media platform is the most dangerous for our mental health?

YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram. The five most popular social media platforms ranked in order from the least to the most harmful for teenage mental health. This classification was made following the results of a British study by The Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Mental Health Movement, published in May 2017. The study was carried out on 1500 young people aged 14 to 24, of whom 91% use the internet for social networking. So, what were the findings?

In the introduction to the study, Shirley Cramer (President of the Royal Society for Public Health) and Becky Inkster (Department of Neuroscience Cambridge University) remind us of the significance ...

Do creative people's brains look different?

The implications of the “two-brain” theory (right hemisphere/left hemisphere) have already been explored; particularly their use in branding people’s strengths and flaws. Various research has highlighted the importance of connections between the two hemispheres and has demonstrated that our personality can't be explained by our use of one or the other. A new study supports this point of view by showing that creative people have better brain connections.

The research conducted by two statisticians is supported by a study on neuroanatomy and creativity previously carried out by R. Jung and colleagues at the University of New Mexico. Using a special MRI technique, the team ...

Using subliminal images to overcome phobias?

What if arachnophobia could be overcome without the sufferer even realizing it? According to a study conducted by American researchers, ending one of our population’s most common phobias, a fear of spiders, could be achieved simply by exposing arachnophobes to subliminal images. Rather than putting them face-to-face with a tarantula, a subconscious exposure to photos might prove to be quite effective. How did the scientists make this surprising discovery?

Directed by Bradley S. Petersen (director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at Children's Hospital Los Angeles) and Paul Siegel (associate professor of psychology at NYU’s Purchase College), the team of researchers ...

Can we train bumblebees to score goals?

For a many years, the capacity to manipulate objects with a specific goal in mind was ascribed to humans alone. However, research has shown that this type of behavior is also displayed by primates, marine mammals (dolphins), and birds (crows). Even more surprisingly, a team of scientists recently discovered that invertebrates, specifically bumblebees, also show this capacity. Discover how the bumblebee’s learning abilities have been tested.

The research was led by the department of biological science and experimental psychology at the Queen Mary University of London. It aimed to show that bumblebees could resolve a cognitive task which wasn’t part of their normal ...

Is the bilingual brain more efficient?

Whether it happens early or late in life, the acquisition of two or more languages has been linked to improved cognitive flexibility. A team of researchers from Quebec chose to study the way in which bilingual and monolingual brains function while doing the Simon task, an exercise which involves neutralizing irrelevant secondary information to concentrate on the relevant information. How can bilingualism increase our capacity for multitasking?

Numerous studies have shown the advantages of being bilingual or multilingual, particularly in improving the functional efficiency of older people as well as reducing interferences from irrelevant stimuli in daily life. The Simon task ...

Ever heard of Disney therapy?

In addition to the triumph of La La Land at this year's Oscars (even if it didn't make the final cut for "Best Film"), another film nominated in the "Best Documentary" category deserves some attention. The film tells the true story of Owen, a young boy suddenly struck by autism at the age of 3 who gradually regains normal functioning thanks to Walt Disney cartoons. It offers both a moving story and a message of hope.

Life, Animated is a documentary directed by Roger Ross Williams, adapted from the novel by Ron Suskind, Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism. The author, a well-known American journalist and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, tells the story of how he ...

What effects do seasonal allergies have on the brain?

Runny nose, watery eyes, itching: these are the most common symptoms of seasonal allergies. A recent study conducted jointly by the University and the Institute of Molecular Regenerative Medicine in Salzburg, Austria suggests they may cause more than just rhinitis and conjunctivitis; allergies may have a long-term effect on the brain, and particularly memory. For example, how can pollen affect the brain?

Currently, few findings suggest that allergic reactions can affect cognitive function in humans, though some studies have indicated that people suffering from seasonal allergic rhinitis perform less well on cognitive tests and have a greater tendency to exhibit signs of ...

The man who saw twisted mouths

Imagine you lived in a world where the faces of everyone you met had a "deformed" mouth. One man actually began experiencing this disturbing vision rather suddenly. This incredible clinical case was reported by ophthalmologists in eNeurologicalSci, a review published by the World Federation of Neurology. So what exactly was the patient suffering from?

The 62-year-old man visits his doctor with an unusual complaint: faces look deformed to him. More specifically, while the nose and eyes appear normal, another part of the face always looks twisted and enlarged: the mouth. He isn’t suffering from prosopagnosia (an inability to identify faces) and he can correctly identify ...

Does music make us more responsive?

What if playing the guitar, piano or bass could improve your multisensory capacities and responsiveness? A study conducted by Simon P. Landry and François Champoux of the School of Speech Therapy and Audiology at the University of Montreal shows just this. These Canadian researchers studied the reactions of musicians and non-musicians in response to various types of sensory stimuli. Does playing an instrument improve sensory processing?

Numerous studies have suggested that musical training may improve the way in which our senses interact. In the present study, the scientists wanted to verify if, over the long run, this training could improve multisensory processes at the ...

Is machismo harmful to mental health... in men?

What if the macho behavior of certain gentlemen actually affected their mental health? While the study led by Dr Y. Joel Wong from the University of Indiana at Bloomington may seem exaggerated, it does present some interesting findings. Indeed, using a meta-analysis of a number of studies on the topic, it establishes a link between male chauvinists and their state of mental health. So is being macho dangerous to psychological well-being?

To answer the question, the authors of the study, which appeared in Journal of Counseling Psychology, conducted a meta-analysis (78 studies were reviewed) examining research on 19,453 subjects. In order to better evaluate the influence of ...

Does our brain enjoy poetry?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? What if these verses by Shakespeare could unconsciously communicate with the human spirit? A team of researchers has recently demonstrated that people with no knowledge of Welsh poetry are implicitly capable of discerning whether a sentence follows certain poetic rules. Even before considering its literal meaning, are we instinctively capable of enjoying the musical properties of poetry?

As an introduction to their work, Guillaume Thierry and his colleagues at the University of Bangor (United Kingdom) remind us that even in 1932, the poet T.S. Eliot maintained that “genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” This ...

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