Scientific News

Is encouraging small children good for brain development?

“Stop babying him!” “Let him do it himself!” What about encouraging and reassuring young children instead? According to a study carried out at the University of Washington and published in PNAS, very young children who have been supported, praised and coddled by their mother have brains that are better structured for learning and for handling stressful situations later on. To what extent does maternal support, beginning in childhood, influence a child's brain development?

Aside from a few mentions in longitudinal studies, the effects of positive maternal support have not been demonstrated in humans (though it has been shown in animals, particularly rats. Determining ...

Could seafood help maintain your memory?

Summer is here... For those of you who are lucky enough to be on the beach, you might take the opportunity to enjoy some seafood. Well don’t hold yourself back! According to a recent study published in the medical journal Neurology, oysters, whelks, shrimp, and other seafood are beneficial to cognitive health, especially in the elderly. What are the benefits of eating seafood?

In their research, scientists from the medical center at Rush University (United States), and Wageningen University (the Netherlands) monitored 915 volunteers (average age: 81.4 years; 25% men) over the course of 5 years, regularly subjecting them to cognitive tests (19 in all) in order to analyze the ...

How can the "first night effect" be explained?

We may be in the most peaceful room with the most comfortable bedding, but for some reason when we sleep in an unfamiliar place, our sleep is often less than optimal. This phenomenon, known as the “first night effect," is very common. Researchers at the Department of Cognitive Science, Linguistics, and Psychology at Brown University appear to have solved the mystery. What causes us to have fitful sleep during the first night in an unfamiliar environment?

Trouble falling asleep and micro-awakenings, a decrease in REM sleep: we’ve all experienced these characteristics of fragmented sleep the first time we sleep in a new vacation rental or at a friend’s house. Until the ...

Can music help young children speak?

The triple meter of that waltz may be beneficial to your baby. In any case, it’s one of the types of music that a team of researchers from the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington used in order to highlight the positive effects of early music education on speech development in young children. How can music help them acquire language? Let’s take a look at the research!

In their study, T. Christina Zhao and Patricia K. Kuhl wanted to determine whether music games could facilitate speech development in infants. 20 9-month old babies were taught to reproduce musical rhythms and were compared with 19 other babies of the same age who were ...

How did "The Voice" inspire a new unique method for learning neurology?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Charcot Amphitheater, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris. The candidates are waiting backstage, the jury is ready. It’s the final of a somewhat special competition, initiated by neurology professor Emmanuel Flamand-Roze: “We copied part of the scenario from the show “The Voice” and we applied it to learning neurology, particularly neurological semiology." Interviewed that very morning on Europe 1, he explained the premise behind of "The Move," his “reality medicine” contest.

The idea for "The Move” came from two observations. First, students are becoming increasingly weary of typical classroom arrangements (lectures in an amphitheater). ...

Drawing is memorizing!

Did you forget to buy the milk? But you wrote it on a post-it and stuck it on the fridge! If you had drawn a milk carton, maybe it would be sitting in the fridge right now… Indeed, according to a study carried out by Canadian researchers, drawing the thing we want to memorize is more effective than writing its name. Jeffrey D. Wammes, Melissa E. Meade, and Myra A. Fernandes demonstrated that drawn information is better memorized than written information. Why do we retain images better than words?

In order to compare memorization by drawing versus writing, the researchers from the University of Waterloo (Canada) implemented 7 protocols.

In experiments 1 and 2, ...

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 ...

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 ...

Why is criticism easier to give than praise?

We are more inclined to criticize people’s wrongdoings than recognize their good deeds. And this moralistic tendency isn't just cultural. Indeed, a team of neurobiologists from Duke University have located an area of the brain that plays a special role in our judgement skills. Why is it easier to criticize others?

The study conducted by Lawrence Ngo and his team is the first to use neuroscience research tools to try to explain why people judge actions that lead to negative consequences to be more intentional than those that yield positive results. The young man that helps an old lady to cross the street… “Isn’t he doing it in his own self-interest?" This thought ...

Is it possible to forget your mother tongue?

We know that the pace of learning is fastest during the first years of life. It is at this time that brain neuroplasticity is highest, predisposing the brain to collecting and storing the basic elements of language (particularly sounds). A Canadian research team wanted to know if first language acquisition could have an impact on the processing of another language system. How is the “presence” of this first language manifested even when it's no longer practiced?

For their study, published in Nature Communications, researchers from McGill University in Montreal looked at a cohort of 43 French-speaking children and adolescents from ages 10 to 17, some of whom had been exposed ...

The smell of chocolate: What goes on in kids' brains?

A Mexican team of researchers has found that obesity may be partially linked to a neurological disorder. The smell of food stimulates different areas of the brain in obese children as compared to their normal weight counterparts. How do their brains react to the smell of chocolate and onions? Read on to discover the results of this study and its implications for public health.

In most developed countries, obesity is a public health concern. In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 18% of children were obese in 2012. Mexico, where the study was carried out, has the highest rate of child obesity worldwide, ahead of the United States. Indeed, ...

Why does a poor night's sleep put us in a bad mood?

Being in a bad mood can be good for your health (a recent study has shown), but out of respect for others, wouldn’t it be nice to know what puts us in a bad mood? All of us have had the opportunity to see what lack of sleep does to our mood the next day. But we know less about the adverse effects of being unexpectedly awoken during the night. A recent study published in the journal Sleep answers just this question: why does interrupted sleep put us in a bad mood?

Earlier studies have already highlighted that sleep interruptions, even short ones, can disturb sleep quality, leading to a sleepless night, with the usual effects on mood (not to mention fatigue and trouble focusing ...

Keep it moving for better memory!

The benefits of exercise on physical health are well established. But to date, few studies have taken an objective look at the effects of physical exercise on cognitive health. Recently, a team of researchers from Boston University established a link between physical health and memory in seniors. Can physical activity boost memory? Does it have an overall positive impact on cognitive aging?

To test the possible link between physical activity and cognitive health, Scott Hayes and his team compared a group of 29 young adults (ages 18 to 31) with a group of 31 seniors (ages 55 to 82). Each participant was equipped with an accelerometer to measure exercise (walking) intensity and ...

Cleaning out your brain while you sleep?

In 2012-2013, preliminary research demonstrated the existence of a specific brain-cleaning system that is most active during sleep. New studies have tried to determine the ideal body posture for promoting this brain waste disposal system. On your back, stomach, side… what position is best for cleaning out your brain? Does brain health depend on the position we choose to sleep in? Let’s first take a look at what happens in rats!

Back to the cleaning system… Research begun in 2012 by a team of scientists at the University of Rochester uncovered the existence of a glymphatic system, which is responsible for brain clearance. The waste produced by neurons is evacuated into ...

Why should we talk to ourselves?

Inner speech is part of our daily life: "I have to remember to get the car inspected," “Don’t forget to pick the kids up from school at 5pm.” All of these things we say to ourselves, whether out loud or internally, are actually quite useful because they improve our performance. In his article, F. Jabr sheds some light on the question: how can speaking to oneself be both natural and beneficial?

Self-talk begins in childhood with what Piaget referred to as “egocentric speech,” and which was the subject of much debate with Vygotsky. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky insisted that this "egocentric” language does not regress over the years, but qualitatively progresses. He ...

When odor brings back memories…

Every one of us has certainly had the intense experience of diving headlong into a memory triggered by a smell. Generally, it’s an enjoyable moment that brings back the place where we first smelled the odor, and particularly the emotions we were experiencing at that time. Neurologists have identified the brain mechanisms that bring about this flood of memories induced by odor. So how exactly are smell and memory linked in the brain?

The studies (along with Proust‘s apt description of the episode of the Madeleine from Remembrance of Things Past) have already shown that smell and taste are more evocative of memory than the other senses. Led by neurologist Kei M. Igarashi and ...

Can happiness be seen in the brain?

Happiness is the ultimate goal for many. While subjective, psychologists have shown that it can be measured. However, the mechanisms behind emotion remain poorly understood. By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a scientific team was able to locate an area of the brain involved in the experience of happiness. How were researchers able to find happiness in the brain? Read on as we reveal the secret…

The team of Dr. Waturu Sato from the University of Kyoto wanted to know where happiness comes from and identify the brain structures involved in feelings of happiness. They created an experiment, the principles and results of which were published in November 2015 in ...

Can we really do two things at once?

We are becoming multitasking creatures: we work on computers while listening to music and waiting for that next text message to arrive. A recent study has uncovered new findings on our ability to select relevant information from multiple sources. What mechanism is responsible for filtering several sources of perceptual information? How does our brain choose the right information? Mice have shed new light on the topic...

Depending on the context, we are constantly choosing where to focus our attention. Though scientists were generally in agreement about the role of the prefrontal cortex and the thalamus in focusing attention, it had until now never been proven. But now a team ...

Why do we get up at night to snack?

“It’s not my fault, it’s my brain!” may soon constitute a justified scientific argument to be used the next time your husband or your wife finds you with your head in the refrigerator in search of a little snack. According to the results of a recent study, feelings of fullness linked to food were less pronounced during the night than in the daytime. This may encourage us to overeat in an attempt to satisfy our needs. Why would night time snacking be ‘guided’ by our brains? Read on for the explanation.

The study was led by a team of researchers at Brigham Young University, and published by the scientific review Brain Imaging and Behavior, in March 2015. It ...

Some unusual advice to help you lie….

Planning to tell your boss how much you appreciate him and how lucky you are to work for him? Try drinking lots of water one hour before your meeting, and don’t go to the bathroom. Chances are, he’ll find you more credible! Everyone knows that when you desperately need to urinate it can be complicated to focus on anything else. A recent study by American psychologists showed an interesting secondary effect: waiting to urinate can make us better liars. How can the art of lying be linked to our bladders? Why do we become more convincing when our bladders are full? The following explanation is of public interest.

Life in our society depends on our capacity to resist our ...

The artificial neuron: A promising technological feat

Imagine a few years from now: a microscopic artificial brain implant capable of releasing substances that can support a diseased brain just like biological nerve cells. Research carried out at the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center, part of the famous Karolinska Institute, may well turn this fantasy into reality. The scientists designed a micro-device that perfectly mimics the function of human neurons. How were they able to achieve this technological feat that could revolutionize the treatment of Parkinson's and other neurological disorders? What would this near-human neuron look like?

Our brains function thanks to the hundred billion neurons that communicate with one another ...

How is brain palpation possible without touching the brain?

Inspired by seismology, researchers from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) have developed an MRI method to virtually palpate the brain, a crucial step in diagnosis. The approach is a major step forward for brain diseases. But what’s the link between tectonic plates and our brains? How can we palpate the brain without opening the skull?

Physical palpation is often used by doctors during medical examinations to detect structural tissue changes, particularly in regards to elasticity. For example, cancerous tumors often take on the form of nodules that are much harder than the surrounding tissues. This palpation can be replaced by wave propagation ...

Don't stop fidgeting!

A study conducted by a British research team could lead us to change the way we see people that are constantly fidgeting in their chairs. Often associated with rudeness or a lack of concentration, this activity may soon be seen as a survival reflex! From kindergarten, we are expected to stay quietly seated in our chairs. But what if fidgeting were good for your health?

At the outset, G. Hagger-Johnson and his colleagues tried to determine if there was a possible link between time spent sitting and mortality rate among nearly 13,000 English, Scottish, and Welsh women. They tried to determine whether or not fidgeting in one's chair had an influence on this link.

...

Two human brains connected : when science fiction becomes reality

This isn't science fiction, but rather science non-fiction. Imagine: two people are sitting in different rooms and must cooperate to save a city from enemy rockets solely through the use of an interface linking the two brains. How did scientists from the University of Washington manage to connect two human brains and allow them to communicate effectively?

The brain-to-brain interface (BBI) combines electroencephalography (EEG), which records brain signals, with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which delivers the information to the other brain. To illustrate the method, the researchers use a visual-motor task in which two people must communicate through an interface. ...

Does today's youth have a different brain?

In an interview with AFT (Agence France Presse), Olivier Houdé, a psychologist and specialist in child development, explains what's different about the brains of children who were born and have grown up in the digital age (ages 12-24). What do the brain capacities of this “generation Z" look like? Have they improved or worsened due to contact with computers, tablets and smartphones?

The director of the Laboratory for the Psychology of Child Development and Education at CNRS-La Sorbonne explains that digital “natives” have developed cognitive abilities in terms of speed and automation to the detriment of critical reasoning and self-control. This “struggle” between ...

Why does falling asleep feel like falling?

Have you ever gone to bed for a good night’s rest only to close your eyes and suddenly jerk awake because you feel as if you're falling into the void? These rather unpleasant feelings can disrupt sleep. What happens in our body and mind at that precise moment? How can this phenomenon be explained? Let’s take a closer look...

This phenomenon known as “hypnic jerk” physically results in an increase in muscle activity that varies in intensity based on the individual. Dr. Carl Bazil, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Colombia University in New York, explains: “One of the things that happens as you fall asleep is your muscles relax, but the awake part may still be ...

Why do we mix up the days of the week?

It’s easy to remember when it’s Monday or Friday: one is depressing, the other exciting! These two days of the week are clearly identified, and we rarely confuse them with other days. But what about the middle of the week? It’s a bit hazy. We’re often lost. Especially when we’re on vacation! How many times have you said to yourself: “What day is it anyway?" Researchers have recently examined the question.

Mixing up the days of the week is a common phenomenon of daily life that occurs more frequently on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. During these three days, it isn't unusual to have the feeling we’re experiencing a particular day of the week when in reality ...

Controlling your mind to sharpen your senses

We may dream of having an owl's hearing or a cat's vision. But if certain senses are more highly developed in animals, it's largely thanks to their anatomy. However, we do know that it's possible to sharpen our senses, as is the case for the visually impaired, whose senses of hearing and touch are well above the norm. What if it were possible to sharpen our senses using only the power of the mind?

German researchers at Ruhr-Unviersity Bochum and Ludwig-Maximilians-University München used a group of meditators to study the impact of mental concentration on the sense of touch. The goal was to determine whether it would be possible to improve tactile perception through targeted ...

Playing Legos stifles creativity

If you watch a child building something with Legos, you can probably imagine what’s going through his or her mind: the frustration of the challenges encountered, the joy of placing that last piece, or the puzzlement of not knowing where to put a particular block. And you would probably guess that it's a beneficial activity that stimulates the brain and develops cognitive abilities. For the child, this is probably true, but it may not be equally true for you...

While children learn the basics of construction (and demolition) using Legos, the activity may actually put adults at a disadvantage. These are the findings of a study published in The Journal of Marketing Research. ...

Climbing trees improves memory

If someone asked you to touch your nose with your eyes closed, you would succeed without difficulty. This is possible thanks to a special ability, proprioception, which allows us to perceive the position of different body parts in space. And proprioception has an influence on our cognitive abilities, particularly working memory. This is one of the conclusions of a recent study demonstrating a drastic increase in memory following specific types of exercise.

Whether you are conscious of it or not, your brain is perpetually aware of the position of every part of your body. It’s much like a sixth sense, only unlike the other five, this sense involves the internal rather than ...

Got a tune stuck in your head?

Hearing just a few seconds of a song on the radio is enough for it to become stuck in your head for several hours. We’ve all experienced it at some point: that tune that keeps repeating in your mind, creating a rather unpleasant sensation for yourself and for your neighbors who can no longer stand you whistling the same tune over and over again. But where does this phenomenon come from? An imaging study reveals we don't all show the same patterns in response to this phenomenon.

At Goldsmiths, University of London, Dr. Nicolas Farrugia and his colleagues at the Music, Mind and Brain group study the cognitive and neural bases of listening to and playing music. They are ...

Why is screaming so easily detectable?

The human scream is highly specific. Not even the sound of a plane taking off can stop you from perceiving and recognizing nearby screaming. Screaming is an innate communication signal, shared by everyone, that has the ability to immediately draw attention. It's thanks to this feature that babies can instantly attract attention from parents. How are screams unique and how are they processed by the brain? A new study seeks to answer these questions.

In terms of auditory communication, several characteristics distinguish us as humans: in particular, distinguishing between male and female voices, differentiating human sounds from animal noises, and discriminating between vowels ...

Video games: virtual reality creates real fear

Are video games as scary as horror movies? Apparently yes… and we can't get enough of it! Frequently the subject of investigations into their violent nature, video games are now being scientifically examined based on their ability to arouse emotion. Fear, anxiety, enthusiasm, pleasure… what emotions are involved in increasingly realistic video games? And are these emotions more intense than those aroused by watching television?

Nicole Martin, assistant professor, and Teresa Lynch, a PhD student at the University of Indiana Media School conducted a survey on students about their experience with popular video games such as “Resident Evil,” “Call of Duty,” and ...

Cognitive function is sensitive to sugar and fat

Sorry if we've whetted your appetite. This enticing photo was chosen to illustrate the potential adverse effects of sugar and fat through their impact on intestinal bacteria. Everything is connected in the human body, and it's a well-known fact that these foods aren't recommended as part of a healthy diet. Less well known, is their effect on the brain. Why and through what mechanisms are they harmful? Kathy Magnusson, a professor of veterinary medicine tells us.

Obviously, it's no fun having to constantly monitor one's eating habits. So many foods are declared as being harmful to health that many of us no longer even pay attention. But this study is worth noting because it ...

Do you really know what you look like?

Who knows your face better than you do? The big nose, the too-thin lips, or those deep dimples: you know them all by heart. And yet, while these characteristics are an integral part of you, strangers that have seen you for barely a minute are actually better at recognizing you in photos. These results were published in The British Journal of Psychology thanks to the work of Dr. David White.

It turns out the many hours you spent gazing at yourself in the mirror have all been for nothing. You think you know every square inch of your face, but this simple study proves otherwise. In Australia, a team of researchers under the supervision of Dr. White carried out a fun experiment ...

Cat videos: proven to make us happier

Who hasn't at some point watched a cat video on the net? A cat surprised by its reflection in the mirror, another sleeping in an unusual position, or sliding down the side of a cabinet; cats apparently make us humans laugh and melt our hearts. There are thousands of videos on the web, and fans have compiled them to offer us the best clips. Why has this phenomenon taken on such proportions? According to scientists, these videos actually stimulate our positive emotions: a few explanations.

Two million cat videos on Youtube in 2014. Not a negligible number. And as soon as we start watching a few, it is inevitably difficult to stop, requiring a significant mental effort, even ...

Emotion or Reason: which brain do you have?

Does the rational mind prevail over the emotional mind, or it is just the opposite? It's a timeless debate. We can imagine those who, superior and arrogant, will say that reason counts above all and that only reason should be used to make important decisions. On the other side, others will tragically and sweetly invoke the emotional character of the situation. The two will perhaps never be reconciled. And what if this opposition had a neurological basis?

The brains of "rational" thinkers might be "manufactured" differently from the brains of "emotional" thinkers. It's a bit simplistic, but these are the overall results of work done by an Australian team from brain ...

Imagination improves our performance

To improve our performance, particularly in sport, we often follow the old adage ‘practice makes perfect.’ It's known that frequently repeating the same actions can help us to become quicker and more efficient. However, according to certain scientists, mental visualization could be a better technique. For example, a goal keeper who imagines all of the different ways that the ball could arrive is more likely to respond appropriately when the time comes.

"The idea that we can train our brains to work better is all the rage across society, but our research suggests that the human brain may benefit as much, or even more, from imagining performing a task, than the brain does ...

An optical illusion explained

If you click on the photo you will discover a dress that was the object of much attention this winter. What colors do you see? This dress caused a stir on social networks this winter by creating two opposing groups: those who saw blue and black stripes and those who observed white and gold stripes. The debate caused so much controversy that researchers decided to try and find an explanation.

The team of Bevil Conway, a research professor at the ...

Does walking make us more creative?

A blank page... The worst fear of a writer or a student is when they can't find the ideas or the inspiration needed to start their work, and staring at a blank page does nothing to improve the situation. On the contrary, a blank page is likely to frustrate and provoke them even further (in this type of stand-off, the blank page always wins). However, a five minute stroll could be the answer to the dreaded writer's block.

After hearing about the advantages of sports and exercise for our intellectual capacity, walking has now come into the spotlight in particular for its creative benefits. And it's not even necessary to walk energetically, a leisurely stroll or aimless ...

What we wear influences how we think

Every morning it's the same old routine: breakfast, get dressed, get ready, and go. We do these things without thinking because we can't imagine that our clothes could have an influence on our thoughts. However, psychologists have confirmed that the way we dress not only has an impact on the way that we are perceived by others, but also on how we perceive ourselves. The clothes don't make the man….or do they?

Numerous factors have an influence on us, including the opinions of friends, teachers and even strangers. Advertising, films and books also have an impact. But who would have thought that our clothes change the way we think! These are the results of an American study ...

Sweating makes people around you happy

After reading this article, you may go easy on the deodorant... But before talking about smells, let's take a quick look at vision. It's a well-known fact that smiling and laughing are contagious. When someone smiles, you smile back. Vision thus comes into play in triggering a brain process: emotion. What if odors also had this same effect?

Because they realized that negative emotions such as fear or disgust could be transmitted from one individual to another through the smell of sweat, Gün Semin and his team at Utrecht University in the Netherlands examined the transmission of positive emotions through this same mechanism.

The experiment took place in two ...

You are probably more of an extrovert than you think you are

Do you think that your friends are more popular than you? Then you're not alone. Social psychology has found statistical evidence to support this view. Strangely, we often think that our friends have more friends than we do. This is a well-known phenomenon known as the friendship paradox.

Daniel C. Feiler and Adam M. Kleinbaum, both members of Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College, USA, conducted their research on a class of MBA students at the start of the academic year. The first study focused on the formation of social networks, while the second analyzed behavior, in particular the way that biased samples can affect decision making. Both researchers wanted to ...

Is being a mom a question of hormones?

In neuroscience, studying the impact of a molecule on behavior usually involves either adding or taking away the required molecule and observing the results. In this study, the role of oxytocin on maternal behavior was observed. Can a single hormone be responsible for the complex and varied reactions that we associate with motherhood?

When we speak about maternal behavior we automatically think of the protection and care that a mother gives her infant, behavior which is essential for many species for the survival of offspring. In this case, neuroscientists from NYU's Langone Medical Center studied the role of oxytocin on maternal behavior. Oxytocin is a hormone produced in ...

When the five senses collide

Didn't you know? It's possible to see and feel the texture of sound. It's even possible to taste a color or to hear the sound of a smell. Seems strange? For 99% of the population these statements are false. However, what happens in the brain of the other 1%? Synesthetes really experience these situations, and it's not caused by an overactive imagination.

Synesthesia is a neurological condition affecting approximately 1 in every 100 people, characterized by stronger connections between the senses. The majority of synesthetes automatically associate a letter or numbers with a color, but a wide variety of different associations are possible. This is an involuntary reaction ...

Predicting choice based on eye movement

Would you push one man off a cliff to save five others? It's an odd question… and it's actually one of the questions in the trolley problem, a famous moral dilemma in which we are forced to make a decision that inevitably leads to someone's death. Would you believe it if we told you that your response depends in part on what you’re viewing at the moment you make the decision?

Moral dilemmas and moral choice are largely used in psychology to study the criteria that influence decision-making. The response to these types of questions depends on many factors, such as cultural and individual values and the amount of time given to respond. It's less clear what influence ...

Laughter, the secret to making new friends

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” It's often easy to break the tension in an embarrassing situation or establish a connection with someone we like. Except that sometimes it doesn’t work. Is laughter really a factor in bringing people together? And to what extent?

A uniquely human faculty, laughter is an important component in our society, demonstrated not only by numerous quotes, but also through the development of laughter therapies. It puts us in a good mood by reducing pain and stress, and improves health by stimulating the immune system. It not only contributes to individual well-being, but also strengthens social ties between friends... and ...

Brain science: the powers of napping

We underestimate the powers of napping. We've all heard that napping has beneficial effects. Maybe, but between work, picking up the kids, and making dinner, who really has the time? What if we could prove that a short lunchtime nap can be amazingly powerful? Would you change your habits?

Many sites specializing in health and well-being advocate napping during the day, often for only twenty or thirty minutes. It's good for the brain, and especially for memory. Well it turns out they may be right. As proof, Sara Studte and her colleagues at the University of Saarland in Germany found that dozing off for 45 to 60 minutes can multiply your ability to memorize by 5.
...

Brain activity in lovers

Ah love! Timeless and true, that thing we desperately seek or have already found, that can make us so happy or hurt us so deeply. We've all known love like this, right? But often we have a hard time understanding it. Understanding is the work of scientists who observe the brain of you, the lovers, to finally understand the biology of love. What are the characteristics of a brain in love? Scientists have begun to answer the question…

If you're in love, you feel energetic, motivated, and remarkably confident. And you feel this unique energy even in ordinary situations, even when you're not in the company of your lover. It's as if you've been transformed. You could perhaps ...

Can meditation keep you young?

Escaping from daily stress, finding yourself in religion, achieving enlightenment: these are all reasons people may practice meditation, a widespread tradition in Eastern cultures. Meditation is also a very interesting subject for scientists who see it as a highly effective way of developing the brain, and more recently as a way to fight the effects of aging. Stay young through meditation? Why not?

A team from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) studied the impact of meditation on the brain using an MRI and two groups of volunteers who either did or did not engage in the practice. In the first group, the participants had been practicing meditation for several ...

Your dog recognizes that smile on your face

You walk by many different dogs and cats in an animal shelter, some look healthy, lively, and energetic. You see a dog in the corner of its pen looking sad and lonely. All this goes to show that you have the ability to distinguish emotions in another species. But does your animal share this ability? Do you know whether it's able to recognize when you're sad, happy, or angry? Recent science shows that it may indeed be possible...

Some people would say yes without hesitation, particularly longtime dog owners. It's difficult to put into words, but dogs know when we're sad or happy, and it's what makes human/dog relationships so special. Others might say just the opposite ...

Want to foster learning? Shake that body!

According to the popular stereotype, Italians are unable to speak without gesticulating. If this is true, this cultural particularity could be a real advantage in improving their ability to memorize. Movement, along with sight, smell, and touch appear to facilitate learning. Are we on a new track to better learning?

At school, nothing is more boring than learning a long list of words and their translations by heart, simply by repeating them again and again... and again. Not only is this method terribly dull, but it most likely won't provide the desired results. To improve things, we've since added a few pictures next to the words as illustrations, because involving the ...

What palm reading can tell us about fidelity

Put your hand at the center of your field of vision, fingers locked and together, and observe. Amongst the latest scientific findings, there are a large number of studies whose degree of relevance may be called into question. And you may wonder how this particular study could possibly represent a major advancement. As it turns out, this research is both surprising and perhaps disturbing. And it's for just this reason that we'd like you to take a moment to discover whether your morphology reveals a tendency for cheating...

Take a look at your hand. Do you see a significant difference between the length of your ring and index fingers? Why does it matter? Because this ...

Are you a lucid dreamer?

Lucid dreaming. It's like being transported into a parallel life, a life you choose, a life where the laws of physics and social norms no longer exist, or better yet are under your control. Very few people have the capacity to stay conscious while sleeping. So what are the prerequisites for being a lucid dreamer?

While you'll find all sorts of tips on experiencing lucid dreaming online, German researchers have discovered that the ability is related to our capacity for introspection.

But let's start with a few definitions. Lucid dreaming is above all an ability to perceive one is dreaming and even influence one's dream. It means dreaming while knowing you ...

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