Scientific News

Why is proper breathing so important to the brain?

Just like our heartrate, breathing is traditionally thought of as an automatic process governed by our ancestral reptilian brain (the brainstem). But by observing what happens in the brains of people that practice breathing techniques, a recent study from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research (New York) has just demonstrated the brain benefits of controlled breathing. How does good breathing influence our mental health?

For a very long time, consciously controlled breathing has been used as part of therapeutic techniques (cognitive-behavioral) whose underlying mechanisms remain largely uninvestigated. This research, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, was designed ...

Dog versus cat: who is the smartest?

Just to be clear from the start: there is no objective measure of intelligence. But an international team of researchers has come up with a method to quantify the number of brain neurons, particularly in the cerebral cortex, in various carnivorous species. Starting from the premise of “the higher the number of neurons, the smarter the animal,” the scientists were able to determine which of the two was smarter: cats or dogs?

Carnivores were chosen as the subjects for this neuroanatomy study for two reasons: the wide range of their brain sizes, and the fact that they come in both wild and domesticated varieties. Indeed, for S. Herculano-Houzel (Vanderbilt University, Nashville) ...

Can meditation slow brain aging?

Meditation has already been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and improve sleep quality. While proof of the positive effects of meditation on brain aging is limited, a recent pilot study, conducted by INSERM researchers, promises to provide just this. The participants in this study included a famous Tibetan Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard. What if meditating could protect our brain from the effects of age?

In 2015, a study from the University of Los Angeles highlighted the benefits of meditative techniques on the functioning and even the structure of the brain, in subjects aged 24 to 77 years. Based on the observation that physiological changes related to aging can be accelerated by ...

Can the mind be located in the brain?

Since Descartes' Error (Odile Jacob, 1995), the world-renowned neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has argued for the primordial role of emotions and feelings in cognitive processes. In an interview with about the release of his latest book The Strange Order of Things (2017), Damasio, who directs the Brain and Creativity Institute (Los Angeles), offers us the keys to his theory on the emergence and functioning of the mind.

Antonio Damasio is convinced that the mind is not purely cerebral, but also bodily, because “it is not only a product of the brain but also of its interaction with the body." Here's a quantifiable example (among others): if you placed all ...

Are dogs trying to communicate through facial expressions?

Imagine that the look of a guilty dog (you know, the one he uses when you scold him) wasn’t just a simple demonstration of emotion, but also represented a desire to communicate? A team of researchers from the University of Portsmouth (United Kingdom) wanted to explore canine facial expressions. Couldn't they be attempts to communicate with humans?

As the authors remind us in the introduction to their study, “it has long been assumed that animal facial expressions, including some human facial expressions, are involuntary and dependent on an individual's emotional state rather than being flexible responses to the audience.” But research has shown that primates (orangutan, ...

Do green spaces promote cognitive development?

While green spaces reduce exposure to urban pollution (atmospheric, visual and sound), we know far less about the positive role they can play in brain development. A recent longitudinal study evaluated the attentional skills of Spanish children ages 4-5 and 7 years who had always lived near green spaces. Does living near greenery improve attention?

Until now, there was limited evidence of the virtues of long-term exposure to green spaces on cognitive development, often due to a failure to integrate prenatal and postnatal exposure into the assessment. To correct this, the present study was part of a longitudinal perspective based on data from two well-established birth cohorts, ...

Does reading aloud improve memorization?

From his prison cell, Flaubert put his writings to the test by reading them aloud. In doing so, he hoped to verify and improve the precision of his prose. In addition to this literary use, reading aloud is often used in the classroom to ensure that students can sound out words correctly and read fluently. A recent study which appeared in the journal Memory has just demonstrated another benefit of reading aloud. What if reading aloud was more effective than silent reading in helping us to memorize words?

Many cognitive psychology experiments have already shown that if we do something ourselves when learning a skill, it strengthens memory encoding of the new information. Taking ...

Is it good to have a wandering mind?

Reading this article will undoubtedly free certain readers of their guilt... There’s no denying it, all of us have caught ourselves daydreaming during a meeting at one time or another, right? Well, that may not necessarily be a bad thing! A study published in Neuropsychologia shows that having a wandering mind may actually be quite productive. What if the greatest daydreamers were also more efficient and creative than the rest of us?

While most of us spend part of our waking moments lost in thought, we accord little importance to this activity. According to J. Singer, a professor of psychology at Yale, we must distinguish two types of daydreaming that we experience at varying ...

Can sheep recognize Barack Obama?

In addition to humans, we often discuss the cognitive capacities of ravens and chimpanzees in our newsletters. Well for this newsletter, we thought it was high time to take a look at sheep! A research team at Cambridge University (England) recently tested sheep’s ability to recognize famous human faces using photographs. Were the sheep able to identify Emma Watson and Barack Obama?

Several studies have shown that, just like rhesus macaques, horses, dogs, and mocking birds, sheep have the ability to recognize both other sheep as well as familiar human faces. Yet we knew very little about their overall ability to recognize faces. To learn more, researchers from the Departments of ...

Can happy music make you more creative?

For years, research in neuroscience and psychology has shown the virtues of music for the brain, particularly in terms of memory, attention, and learning. A recent study, conducted jointly in the Netherlands and Australia looked into the positive effect of happy music on people's creative potential. What if listening to a piece of joyful music could help us find innovative and original solutions?

As Simone Ritter (Radboud University, the Netherlands) and Sam Ferguson (University of Sydney, Australia) point out: “Creativity can be considered one of the key competencies for the twenty-first century.” So it seems important for us to be able to study how to foster and improve it. ...


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