Scientific News

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 ...

Can empathy cause pain?

Did you know that the video game Rock Band® can be used as a tool for social bonding? And that empathy causes us to feel pain more strongly? Pretty strange, huh? Both the product of social psychology research, these two findings have allowed researchers to show that empathy cannot be felt in the presence of a stranger.

These results were first found in mice. Mice feel even more pain when confronted with a painful (but nevertheless moderate) stimulus if this stimulus is introduced in the presence of a familiar mouse, such as a cage mate, as compared to an unfamiliar mouse.

Naturally, the researchers wanted to know if the same effect could be observed in ...

Babies only retain the good memories

You spend some quality time with your infant child of only a few months. You speak and play, and the child in return appears to respond to your actions with his or her own movements and smiles. Yet you're convinced that between the two of you, only you will be able to remember this special moment: the infant's brain does not yet allow this memory to be imprinted in his or her mind. But can you really be so sure?

The choice between good and bad memories is an easy one for very young children. While adults struggle to let go of their unpleasant memories, babies can rely on their brains to automatically do the work for them. And if you're wondering if, farther down the line, ...

Want to stop smoking? Stay on top of your cycle!

Are you looking to stop or cut back on smoking during the new year? Sorry guys, this information is for women only. Ladies, these new findings may surprise you. According to a new study, tobacco cravings and menstruation are related. This knowledge could offer help for those of you looking to kick the habit...

One might wonder how it is that a research team came to investigate whether a woman's menstrual cycle has an influence on cigarette cravings. In any case, it was the question asked by Adrianna Mendrek's team from the University of Montreal and its affiliated institute of mental health. And the results indicate there is a correlation: "Our data suggests that the urge to ...

Why do we cry when we're happy?

When something good happens in our lives, many of us can't help but shed "tears of joy". The situations that provoke these tears vary greatly: parents seeing their child graduate from college, a couple reuniting after a long absence, or an athlete winning a contest. But why do we cry when we might expect to smile or laugh? There is a scientific explanation for tears of joy.

According to Oriana Aragon, crying after an experience of intense positive emotion allows us to regain emotional balance. The scientist and her team from Yale University carried out an experiment, the results of which will soon be published in Psychological Science.

In order to verify ...

Speak only one language and have a bilingual brain? It's possible.

You could be bilingual without knowing it, or rather your brain could. During the first years of life, the brain has an amazing learning capacity that leaves an indelible mark. In fact, scientists have discovered that people who only speak one language but were exposed to another language early in life present the same brain activity as bilinguals.

Lara Pierce's team from the University of Washington in Seattle wanted to know if our experiences during the early years of our lives leave long term traces in our brains. In this study, she was particularly interested in the impact of language.

This study involves Chinese-born children between the ages of 9 and ...

The brain's recipe for jokes

During a meal with friends, there is always someone who makes everyone laugh. Someone who has the gift of telling the funniest jokes, someone you listen to because you know you are going to have a good time. Maybe that person is you! But what do we know about the 'brain mechanisms of joking'? Which areas of the brain are required to tell the best jokes? Researchers have looked into the question.

Humor is not the most studied topic in neuroscience. However, this human specificity can teach us a lot about how our brains work, and it's a fun topic to explore. Researchers from the University of Southern California have tried to determine the mechanisms behind jokes. The brains ...

The stages of brain development - 2

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

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

The first area, or ...

Charisma: a dominant or caring voice?

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

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

The stages of brain development - 1

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

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

Media: Multitasking linked to decreased cognitive performance

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

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

Exercise: a natural remedy for depression

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

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

At 24, she discovers she has no cerebellum

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

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

Is it possible to measure intelligence in children?

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

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

Romantic feelings or sexual attraction?

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

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

Does no really mean no?

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

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

You smile at me...nor do I

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

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

Sound-sensitive plants: can they hear us?

Scientists at the University of Missouri have made a surprising discovery: the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, well-known in pharmaceutical laboratories, is actually capable of hearing sounds. Indeed, this plant can detect the acoustic vibrations of caterpillars chewing nearby leaves, and as a result it emits a chemical product that deters the caterpillar. Let’s take a closer look at this discovery.

Arabidopsis thaliana is, in the world of laboratory science, the botanical equivalent of a rat. Researchers came to realize that the plant could perceive the acoustic signals produced by caterpillars chewing its leaves. These vibrations reverberate at the heart of the plant via stems ...

Master Yoda, are you really so wise?

Everyone knows “Star Wars,” the space-age saga originally produced by George Lucas. And there’s hardly any need to introduce Master Yoda, the small green guru who teaches Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi Knight. In each opus of the saga, Yoda wisely gives his philosophy of life including his theory on emotions and self-control. But how true are these theories? Dr. Nakia Gordon, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, has analyzed selected clips from the films.

“Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless.”
Humans are made to “search.” Our nervous system incites our need to explore, and exploration ...

Eating with your eyes

From the earliest age, young children are naturally drawn to things that they find attractive, and food is no exception. Indeed, we often choose a dessert or a meal which is well presented or has appealing colors, but does this have an impact on the taste? Research has found the answer.

The study took place at Oxford University and was carried out by Charles Michel, a French-Columbian chef and trainee experimental psychologist and Charles Spence, a professor in experimental psychology. A sample group of 30 men and 30 women were given one of three different types of salad. All of the salads had the same ingredients but they were presented differently: the first was inspired by ...

What are the origins of human language?

Human language builds on birdsong and the language of primates. This is the hypothesis of a new academic study, according to which man learned the melody of birdsongs as well as the more pragmatic, content-carrying primate language. Roughly 100,000 years ago, these capacities fused into the form of human language we know today.

On the island of Java, the silvery gibbon is a unique example of a primate that sings: 14 different note types, which allow it to mark its territory and communicate with others in its group. This unusual animal could help us understand how language evolved. It’s clearly difficult to say how human language emerged. But we can nevertheless draw analogies ...

Does the moon really have an impact on our sleep?

There are many popular beliefs about the moon and its influence on us. You’ve probably heard that more babies are born during a full moon or that our hair grows faster. Many people also report having trouble sleeping when the moon is full. A team of researchers has focused on this phenomenon in an attempt to determine if the moon really does affect our sleep.

Until recently, studies in this field had only used a small group of approximately ten volunteers, which meant that the findings were difficult to confirm. In this new study, scientists from the Max Planck Institute analyzed the sleep patterns of 1,265 volunteers for over 2,097 nights, making it more likely to yield ...

The group effect: are you capable of evil?

According to a new study, being part of a group modifies the moral expectations and beliefs of each of the group’s members. Groups can initiate significant social changes that a single individual could never implement alone. But such alliances also have their downsides: belonging to a group can potentially make members more aggressive when faced with those who are viewed as outsiders.

While mankind generally shows strong preferences for fairness and morality and condemns violence under most circumstances, individual priorities may change depending on whether or not the individual belongs to a group. It’s a question of “us” vs. “them.” This is the essential message ...

Watch out! How does the brain stay focused?

While you are concentrating on your book, totally engrossed in the story, so much so that you could almost see the setting and the characters with your own eyes, somebody suddenly brings you back to reality: your children are fighting in the next room; your partner speaks to you and your telephones starts to vibrate in your pocket. You know what it is to be distracted, don't you?

And yet, your brain appears to have its own "anti-distraction" system as observed by John McDonald and John Gaspard, professor and doctoral student in psychology at the University of Vancouver. While previous studies showed that the ability not to be distracted by disturbances depended on the level of ...

The beats of your heart improve your sight!

Place your index finger and middle finger on your neck over the carotid artery and relax. Can you feel your pulse? Next time you have difficulty seeing something, because it's dark, because it's far away or for any other reason, take your pulse and concentrate on what you're looking at with every heart beat. Do you see the connection? Sight and heartbeats appear to be connected…

Since the brain receives signals from all the body's organs and in particular those signals from the heart, researchers at INSERM had the idea of testing the hypothesis that some signals may influence our sensory, cognitive or behavioral abilities. To be more precise, they measured the visual acuity of ...

Why don't we have any memories before the age of three?

When you think about it, it is true that recalling our first steps, the first candle we blew out, or our first teeth coming through is impossible. Our family is there to remind us about these important events from our childhood, but despite that, whatever we do we can't remember these events. This known phenomenon, called infantile amnesia, may be explained by a recent study.

Katherine Akers, from the Toronto hospital for sick children, carried out this study on mice and guinea pigs with the aim of studying how neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons, might affect our memories. To do this, the team of researchers trained mice to fear a particular environment with little ...

Marijuana: Harmful Effects even in Small Doses

"I'm not at risk; I only smoke once a week!" Many people who use marijuana react this way to reassure themselves, their friends and family. Until now, we knew about the harmful effects of using marijuana on a regular basis, but recently researchers have studied the effects of occasional consumption of this substance and the results are not reassuring.

The study recently published in the Journal of Science was carried out by researchers from the North-western University (United States), based on forty volunteers, of whom twenty smoke marijuana, and twenty who don't, all aged between 18 and 25.
The smokers were asked about their consumption over the past three months, then ...

A world first in medical imaging

2015 will be an important year for research and in the long term for human beings. An unusual MRI machine is to be commissioned at the CEA (French Atomic Energy Commissariat) in Saclay in France. Its level of effectiveness will be exceptional, and should solve a number of mysteries about our brain.

The "Iseult" project consists in making a very powerful magnet and was launched by a request for proposal fifteen years ago by Pierre Védrine, an engineer at the CEA. Thanks to a partnership in 2005 between France and Germany, this project was able to come to fruition, involving the CEA and the company Guerbet alongside the University of Freiburg and Siemens.

From a ...

How can you tell whether someone is lying to you?

Knowing whether or not someone is telling the truth is a recurring problem. Usually, we pay attention to details such as the facial expression or the attitude to try to recognize a lie, but it’s still difficult. Yet, a new study confirms that the lie-detector is actually you.

To come to this conclusion, the scientific team of Leanne ten Brinke (University of California) included 72 participants in the following protocol. Each participant watched simulations of suspects being interrogated. Some of them had stolen money, while others were innocent. All the suspects, whether guilty or not, had to say during the interrogation that they hadn’t stolen the money.
Then, the ...

Researchers that can mind read

“What are you thinking about?” Mind reading like science fiction characters is fascinating, but is just make-believe. In everyday life, when we are facing somebody, we can't know what that person is thinking or who that person is thinking about without asking. But what if researchers told you the opposite was true?

Alan S. Cowen (University of California Berkeley), Marvin M. Chun (Yale) and Brice A. Khul (New York University), all three of whom are researchers, carried out a study recently on the reconstruction of images from brain activity, therefore of thoughts. This is a huge first in the research field!

The volunteers for this project were shown 300 faces ...

Education is the brain's ally, even years later!

Studying is of course excellent for the brain, but for how long? Researchers have studied this question, and have revealed evidence of the positive long-term effect of education. Several decades after leaving the benches of learning, older people were still benefiting from an improvement in their cognitive functions.

The team of Nicole Schneeweis, a researcher at the University of Linz (Austria), studied the brain capacities of a group of seniors of the same age but with differing levels of education.

The data used came from the SHARE survey (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe). The information used was related to individuals of around 60 years of age ...

What if your dog could understand your emotions?

When your dog hears the sound of your voice, he recognizes you. There’s no doubt about that. Occasionally, you may speak to your dog, though you are aware that he doesn’t understand what you’re saying. This is now partly contested. It would seem that dogs are able to recognize the type of emotion conveyed by the voice. The expression “Dogs are Man’s best friend” makes total sense.

The study carried out in Hungary by the researcher Attila Andics was not easy. The first stage was to train the 11 dogs taking part in the study to remain still in the MRI machine while wearing headphones. The aim was to study the areas of their brain sensitive to the human voice. To do ...

"It goes in one ear and out the other!"

We all know this because despite our best efforts, we can't remember everything that is said to us. But remember this: this well-known expression now has a scientific basis. It would seem that auditory memory has its limits. But there’s nothing to worry about: we just have to combine it with our visual and tactile memory.

At the University of Iowa (United States), researchers wanted to compare three of our senses, namely hearing, touch and sight, in order to make conclusions on the ability of each of these senses to aid memorization.

To do this, the study conducted by Amy Poremba (professor of psychology and neuroscience) used around one hundred student ...

Coffee stimulates not only your mind, but your memory too

“What I've taken from this is that I should keep drinking my coffee”, states the neuroscientist Michael Yassa who carried out a study on coffee. The ability to tell the difference between different objects, patterns or situations may be crucial in everyday life, and coffee could turn out to be a significant ally in this task.

The team of Michael Yassa at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore described how people who had drunk coffee after looking at images turned out to be better than others in identifying these same images from similar images on the following day.
The study included 44 volunteers who were not big coffee-drinkers. They were asked to not drink any ...

Can we trust our memory?

We often recall memories in our everyday life, and yet our memory could be playing tricks on us. According to recent results, the same zone of the brain is activated, regardless of whether the memory being recalled is right or wrong. What is even more surprising is that our memory travels through time in its own way.

Donna J. Bridge, a neuroscientist at the Northwestern University, carried out a study on how our memory can be consolidated or even changed. Seventeen subjects were asked to memorize the location of dozens of objects that were briefly shown to them on a standard computer screen.
First, they had to find the original locations, using their computer mouse to drag ...

First step towards language comprehension

When we listen to somebody speaking, our brain receives a large amount of different sounds that it can process instantaneously, turning them into words and sentences with meaning. Recently, neuroscientists have put their finger on what could be the first stage of this complex process that is language comprehension.

With a real-time brain study, a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and linguists led by the neurosurgeon Dr Edward Chang has extended the knowledge on the interpretation of human voices.

To do this, 6 subjects were invited to listen to 500 sentences in their native tongue (English) recorded by 400 different speakers. ...

Why do we sometimes resist temptation?

Hesitating between a piece of fruit and a cake – who has never been faced with this kind of situation? However, we don’t all react in the same way; some of us resist immediate gratification, while others tend to give in more easily. A team of researchers explains why.

Economic theory states that we attribute a value to each of the options that are presented to us in order to choose one of those options. In neuroscience, studies suggest that the regions of the brain involved in forming memories, such as the hippocampus, are involved in thinking up new situations. The team of Mathias Pessiglione (Brain and Spinal Cord Institute, France - ICM) started out with the following ...

Classical music: what if we were to improvise?

It’s a fact: improvisation is not a common practice in classical music concerts. And yet, according to a British study, musicians could find it useful in order to better engage the public. Researchers studied the electrical activity of the brain of a chamber music trio and their public (only two people) while listening to a composition with or without improvisation.

The electrical signals were recorded using electrodes on the participants' scalp. The public also filled in a questionnaire.

The results clearly demonstrated that there was a difference in activity between the concert with improvisation and the prepared one. In the musicians, the scientists ...

The side-effects of television

Television has a hypnotic effect, doesn’t it? We often find ourselves sprawled out on the settee, too captivated by the program we are watching to bother to tend to our natural needs. The very colorful images and constant movement keep us enthralled, and this applies to both adults and children. But what is the effect of these hours spent in front of the television screen during our childhood?

While many studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of television on the development of some cognitive capacities, in particular verbal, a Japanese team looked into the effects on the structure of the developing brain.

The researchers measured the volume of grey ...

Brain training is effective. Did you doubt it?

We are convinced that brain training as a method works; especially since our own statistical analyses confirm it: exercising your brain using a varied and regular program helps to maintain, even improve your cognitive capacities. However, we understand that some of our users still have doubts, especially given the contradictory information that can be found here and there.

So, it is very interesting when researchers (independent of HAPPYneuron) carry out studies on the subject. In this case, it’s an experiment, published in January in the scientific journal “Journal of the American Geriatrics Society”, carried out by G. Rebok, a doctoral student specializing in the ...

Reading novels stimulates the brain more than you think

Imagine this scene: in the evening, on getting home after a day at work, you settle down comfortably on your couch and forget all the problems of the day by starting a new novel. Straight away, you get lost in the story; you imagine the scenes and situations, and while you are reading, you become somebody else, the narrator of the story.

The expression “put yourself in somebody else’s boots”, frequently used when reading a novel, could be more real than you might think. Indeed, according to a study carried out by Prof. Berns, the brain activity observed while the person is reading a novel continues for several days afterwards, even when that person is no longer ...

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