Scientific News

Can stimulating the brain alleviate chronic pain?

A great number of people suffer from lower back pain. The pain can begin at any age with peak onset occurring during adolescence or around age 45. A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina recently published a study that could prove promising in the treatment of this form of chronic pain without the need for drugs. What if targeted brain stimulation could relieve chronic back pain?

Several studies have shown that chronic pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. According to the authors of the present study, by focusing on the peripheral causes of pain, most of these studies have overlooked the role played by brain activity in the disease. F. Fröhlich, ...

Can breathing influence memory?

We usually breathe through the nose, but switch to mouth breathing when we have a cold or during intense exercise. Swedish and Dutch scientists explored these two ways of breathing in order to determine which one was more beneficial to memory formation. Specifically, the research focused on olfactory memory consolidation.

Three main steps are involved in memory: encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. Encoding involves the ability to acquire new information from our senses. Consolidation allows us to maintain memories over time. Finally, through retrieval, we can extract and recall previously learned and stored information. Many studies have already highlighted the role of ...

Do dogs understand our words?

Many dog owners think that their dogs know what some words mean, but there really isn’t much scientific evidence to support that,” says Ashley Prichard, co-author of the study that will be discussed in this article. How can we be sure that when a dog gets excited upon hearing "rabbit," he’s really imagining the animal and understands the meaning of the word? This research conducted at Emory University in Atlanta unravels this mystery...

To the extent that canines are able to obey verbal commands, they have the ability to process certain aspects of human language. But associating a word with an action (“fetch!)” doesn’t necessarily mean the animal understands ...

Is our sense of direction related to our sense of smell?

Recent research suggests that the main purpose of olfaction may be to help us navigate. According to this “olfactory spatial hypothesis,” our sense of smell may have evolved to help us locate ourselves in space. With this in mind, a Canadian study sought to explore the link between our ability to identify odors and our spatial memory. It was an opportunity to find out whether having a highly developed sense of smell could help us find our bearings...

While not all animals are able to see and hear, most use smells to orient themselves, find food, and avoid predators. In addition, scientists have already found that in mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish, the size of the olfactory ...

Ever heard of "cute aggression?"

“Oh, what a cute baby!” Have you noticed that some people (perhaps you yourself?) can't help pinching the cheeks of an infant they find really adorable? This phenomenon, known as “cute aggression,” is defined as a need to pinch, squeeze or even bite cute beings, without any desire to harm. Two researchers from the University of California at Riverside wanted to better understand this behavior by studying the underlying neural basis.

The "cute aggression” phenomenon was initially highlighted in a study by Aragón et al. (2015) that involved individual self-evaluations using images of baby humans and animals. The behavior was discussed as being the dimorphic ...

Is the smell of lavender relaxing?

Aside from those with allergies, most people enjoy the smell of lavender. Found on terraces, in gardens, in cosmetic products and detergents, this plant may soon be found in hospitals as well. Before beginning any tests in humans, Japanese researchers studied its anxiolytic properties in mice in order to determine whether the smell of lavender could be effective in treating anxiety.

As the authors remind us in the introduction of their article published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, along with pharmaceutical anxiolytic drugs, aromatic oils derived from plant extracts are already used in traditional medicine to treat anxiety. These extracts include linalool, a ...

Do cats understand physics ?

In our newsletters, we sometimes report on dogs, crows, or even sea snails, but we rarely mention cats. Let’s rectify this oversight by looking at some Japanese research published in Animal Cognition, which highlights their ability to (humbly) understand some basic laws of physics, first documented by the likes of Newton and Einstein.

In their previous work, S. Takagi and her colleagues from the department of psychology at the University of Kyoto (Japan) showed that, using their hearing, cats could predict the presence of an invisible object. This ability to understand the principle of cause (sound) and effect (material presence) can be attributed to their sharp hearing. ...

How many faces can one person recognize?

You've probably never asked yourself this question, but no matter, science is here to answer it anyway! Indeed, our facial recognition abilities allow us to identify a great number of people. But just how many? Research published in Acts of the Royal Society B looked into the question and proposed a method for putting forth the following estimate: 5000. Let’s take a closer look.

As a prelude to their study, the authors remind us that for most of history, humans have lived in small, scattered groups. But over the last few centuries, the worldwide population has increased dramatically, and this has consequences on our facial recognition capacities. In addition to all the ...

Using crows for litter clean-up

You may know the story of the crow and the pitcher… but in this study the crows are carrying cigarette butts instead of pebbles! Through this article, we’ll revisit this ancient fable with a modern twist. In previous newsletters, we’ve had a chance to highlight the crow’s intelligence, particularly its ability to plan ahead. But believe it or not, since August 13, 2018, six of these birds have been collecting cigarette butts and other trash at the Puy de Fou amusement park in France. How is this possible?

Former research on crows has shown that they are capable of making and using tools to obtain food. They are also capable of holding a grudge and can remember when a human ...

Can electric current make us good at math?

What if instead of giving schoolchildren hours of seemingly irrelevant math problems to solve, we equipped them with an electrode helmet that delivers (for a good cause) small electric shocks? Rest assured, this isn’t about to happen yet! But this experiment did take place, and it appears to be effective. Let’s take a look at this research that’s come back onto the scientific scene several years after its initial publication.

Until now, the benefits of non-invasive brain stimulation on cognitive function have often been deduced from behavioral observations and by carrying out basic tasks. In the present study, the team of researchers from Oxford University (UK) used ...

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