Scientific News

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 ...

Why is it sometimes difficult to look someone else in the eye?

Have you ever noticed that when you are trying to find the right formulation or have a word at the tip of your tongue during a conversation, you often look away from the other person, as if it were to help you concentrate? Based on this observation, two researchers from the Cognitive Psychology Department at the University of Kyoto conducted a study to try to explain why we need to break eye contact in order to focus on what we’re trying to say. According to them, there’s a good scientific reason for this.

As noted by the authors, Shogo Kajimura and Michio Nomura: “Although eye contact and verbal processing appear independent, people frequently avert their eyes from ...

The threat of stereotyping: are girls better readers than boys?

Do you think boys are better than girls at math? And that girls outperform boys when it comes to reading? Well it turns out that as a result of hearing these “beliefs,” both boys and girls start behaving as the stereotypes predict. This is what research conducted by Pascal Pansu and colleagues has come to show; “the threat of stereotype” contributes to gender differences favoring girls when it comes to reading.

While the threat of stereotype in creating gender differences has already been demonstrated in mathematics (in favor of boys), it has never been demonstrated for reading. P. Pansu, from the University of Grenoble and his colleagues at the Universities of Aix ...

Who enjoys getting songs stuck in their heads?

Imagine you spend the whole day with Old MacDonald stuck in your head. While it might not have been with this song in particular, we’ve all had the experience of having a song looping in our head that we can’t seem to get rid of. Researchers at Goldsmiths University studied the neuronal bases of this phenomenon, often called “earworm.” How does a melody become “sticky?”

More formally known as “Involuntary Musical Imagery” (INMI), earworm happens spontaneously and without our conscious control. This cognitive phenomenon is very widespread and is generally triggered by recent exposure to the song in question, but can also be influenced by our mood. For some, INMI ...

Does the human brain change in space?

Is French astronaut Thomas Pesquet’s brain the same on earth as it is aboard the international space station (ISS)? Though humans are subjected to significant sensorimotor changes during space flights, until now no studies had ever examined the effects of space travel on the structure of the human brain. But this is changing thanks to researchers at the University of Michigan who have recently published a first report on the structural brain changes in humans due to space travel. How does the human brain change in space?

For their study, a team led by V. Koppelmans used data from 27 astronauts, 13 of whom had spent 2 weeks in space (inside a shuttle) and 14 others who had ...

What if running could repair your brain?

Physical activity is clearly beneficial to our cardiovascular and brain health; it can even improve motor and cognitive function in certain forms of neurodegenerative diseases. Still, the underlying mechanisms by which exercise prevents or protects against neurodegeneration remain poorly understood. But researchers at the Department of cellular and molecular medicine (University of Ottawa, Canada) were able to find out more, at least in mice. Does running promote brain repair?

Among these many benefits, we know that physical exercise promotes neurogenesis (the production of new neurons). In addition, although their role in delaying neurodegeneration is not yet clear, nerve ...

Why do we speak "baby" to dogs?

Have you ever noticed that when we speak to dogs, we often use a register very close to “baby talk?” While the reasons behind this “analogy” haven't been clearly determined, a study led by the ENES team (Sensorial Neuro-Ethology Team) provide some preliminary answers to the question: why do we use 'baby talk' with dogs?

When adults speak to infants, they generally change intonation (a higher pitch), slow their speech, and articulate vowels. These characteristics of “baby talk” have the positive effect of maintaining the infant’s engagement and attention. Moreover, speaking to babies in this register has been shown to increase their brain activity. For thousands ...

How does the brain react to being tickled?

Despite being the subject of research for the last fifteen years, tickling is still largely misunderstood and there is a certain mystery attached to this form of social contact. That’s why S .Ishiyama and M. Brecht, researchers at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience, Humboldt University Berlin, wanted to try to understand what happens in the brains of animals and humans when they are tickled. And to uncover part of the mystery of these cerebral mechanisms they started by… tickling rats!

Previous studies had shown that when rats are tickled they produce ultrasonic vocalization; in other words, they ‘laugh.’ These little cries of joy, inaudible to the human ear, ...

How long should a nap last?

The benefits of napping are well known, however a new study led by Chinese researchers at the Sleep Center at John Hopkins University, Baltimore (USA), has re-established these benefits while providing further details on the ideal length of time for a nap. To really experience the cognitive benefits of napping, nap time should be neither too long nor too short. So, what is the ideal length of time?

In this study, a team of researchers, led by Professor Junxin Li, questioned 2,974 Chinese people aged 65 years and over. Each person was asked (amongst other things) if they were used to taking an afternoon nap, and if so the average length of time. Then according to napping ...

How can our brains make us dishonest?

Once a thief always a thief. Could this proverb be true from a neuroscientific perspective? According to a team of researchers in the Experimental Psychology Department at University College London, a neuronal mechanism could be the cause for the progressive learning of dishonesty. Their study shows that, through a snowball effect, small acts of cheating could result in more significant acts of dishonesty. How does our brain learn to be dishonest?

Starting from the observation that many fraudulent acts begin as minor transgressions, Neil Garrett and colleagues attempted to empirically demonstrate this phenomenon of escalating dishonesty and explore the underlying neurological ...

Do dogs have personal memories?

Human beings have the ability to remember events they’ve experienced (date, place, emotional state), a function fulfilled by episodic memory. A group of scientists of the Department of Ethology at the University Eötvös Loránd (Budapest, Hungry) wanted to know if dogs also shared this form of memory. But how can you prove that animals have personal memories without being able to "ask" them? The researchers found the solution: Do as I do.

It may seem surprising that scientists thought it useful to prove that dogs can travel mentally in time and recall a specific event. Indeed, their behavior alone would seem to suggest that they possess this ability: for example a dog won't ...

How can we be moved by a work of art?

Has a painting ever given you a wave of emotion? Have you ever had chills from listening to a piece of music? Jean-Pierre Changeux tries to explain why we answer yes to these questions in his book La Beauté dans le cerveau (The Beauty in the Brain, Odile Jacob). Interviewed in L'Obs, the neurobiologist reviews research in the field of “art neurosciences” on understanding aesthetic emotion. So what happens in our brains when we're presented with a work of art?

The work of J.P. Changeux, an honorary professor at the Collège de France, is presented as a summary of twenty years of research, particularly on the neural mechanisms involved in aesthetic perception. When ...

Aversion to cheese: is the brain to blame?

Cheese or dessert? For most of the French population, it's not an easy choice! But while France may be the country of cheese (boasting nearly 1,600 varieties), some of its inhabitants are disgusted by it. Researchers at the Neuroscience Research Center in Lyon and the Paris-Seine Neurosciences Laboratory wanted to understand this aversion. What they found is surprising… It appears that the brains of people disgusted by cheese work differently.

So why would researchers choose cheese in order to study the phenomenon of aversion? Intuitively, the researchers figured that a fair number of people hate cheese. So they carried out a study on a sample of 332 subjects (145 men ages ...

Why do young children prefer flawless heroes?

Young children love Manichaean worlds where the lives of archetypal characters (real good and real evil) unfold and where doubts, temptations and cracks are forbidden. In stories, good guys should only do good and bad guys should only do evil. In a study published in Psychological Science, the authors explain the reasons behind this preference for perfect heroes; and much of the explanation comes from understanding brain development in children. To what extend does the brain play a role in how children perceive a character?

Christina Starmans and Paul Bloom, researchers in the Department of Psychology at Yale wanted to study how children perceived inner moral conflicts. To do ...

Can a pinch of cinnamon stimulate your brain?

Prized for its delicious scent, cinnamon holds a prominent place amongst spices with known health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, it is also known for its antispasmodic (also supports digestion), antiviral and antiseptic properties. After a recent American study, this natural spice can also boast positive effects on memory and brain plasticity among its many benefits. How did researchers reveal cinnamon's ability to boost memory capacity, promote learning, and limit cognitive decline?

To study the potential impact of cinnamon on the brain, researchers from Rush University and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago tested rats by placing food at the exit to a maze. This ...

What can yawning tell us about the brain?

Seven seconds: the average length of a human yawn. While you've probably never had the urge to time the ‘activity’ yourself, after reading this article, you may change your mind... Indeed, researchers from the psychology department at the New York State University at Oneonta had the absurd idea of comparing the length of yawns in different mammals. And they discovered a surprising connection to the brain… so what does yawning tell us?

A powerful opening of the jaw, inhalation, a brief period of intense muscular contraction and a passive closing of the jaw with a short exhalation. That’s the definition of a yawn. Although the purpose of yawning has never been clearly ...

Can primates help us better understand OCD?

Check to make sure the front door is locked, look to see if your cell phone is in your purse, make sure the keys to the car are in your pocket, recheck the front door... We pay little attention to these daily micro-tasks, but some French researchers at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) wanted to understand them better by studying primate brains. What are the brain mechanisms used in these micro-checks?

For the purposes of the study published in the journal Nature Communications, a group of researchers from the Stem Cell and Brain Institute (SBRI) attached electrodes to monkeys in order to record their brain activity. More precisely, Emmanuel Procyk ...

Is late retirement the secret to long life?

While there’s much debate about retirement age, research conducted by Chenkai Wu, a doctoral student in public health at the University of Oregon has shown that pushing back retirement age could increase life expectancy. The researcher explained his work during an interview with Nicole Torres for the Harvard Business Review (HBR) in October 2016. Why would ‘late’ retirement have an impact on longevity?

Working with professors Robert Stawski and Michelle Odden (University of Oregon), along with Gwenith Fisher (University of Colorado), C. Wu based his research on a longitudinal study (carried out between 1992 and 2010) on health and retirement. The study evaluated 2,956 ...

How does hypnosis affect the brain?

You are getting sleepy, very sleepy… Besides these ‘entertaining,' spectacular, and often funny (but equally frightening) aspects, hypnosis is also a real medical approach used to reduce pain or as a cure for phobias. But hypnosis remains an enigma. A study published in the British review Cerebral Cortex is helping to uncover part of the mystery. So what happens in the brain during hypnosis?

For their study, researchers from Stanford first gave a test to 545 students and then selected 57 for further experimentation. Among them, 36 were considered to be easily hypnotizable, while the others (n=21) were considered to be insensitive to hypnosis. According to psychologist and ...

A new map of the brain unveiled

Until today, 83 brain areas had been identified. You can now double this number because we’ve just discovered 97 others! It goes to show that the brain hasn’t finished revealing all of its mysteries. Scientists have taken yet another step toward understanding its complexity. The new map of the brain has just been published in Nature. How did researchers come upon this major neurobiological discovery?

To develop this new brain map, the research team of neurologists, engineers and computer scientists used data from the Human Connectome Project, a huge program in which highly sophisticated scanners recorded the brain activity of 1200 participants. With this partnership, the ...

How do you explain a false scare?

You’re calmly walking along in the forest and all of the sudden you jump and scream at the sight of a snake... that is actually only a stick. It’s this type of split-second reaction that an international team of scientists wanted to study, under the hypothesis that the fear response could be activated in our brains even before we’re aware of what triggered it. What happens in our heads? Let’s find out.

To explain the “false scare,” neurobiologist Constantino Méndez-Bértolo and colleagues from the universities of Madrid and Geneva (the study was directed by researchers at the Campus de Excelencia Internaciol Moncloa) hypothesized (on the basis of a previous study ...

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