Scientific News

Can wasps make deductions?

Michael is shorter than Daniel and Daniel is shorter than Jennifer, so Michael is shorter than Jennifer. From 4-5 years of age, children are able to reach this conclusion through something known as transitive inference. This logical reasoning has also been demonstrated in vertebrate animals (monkeys, rats, birds, and fish). For the first time, a study has shed light on this capacity for deduction in an invertebrate: the paper wasp. Here’s how...

As the authors of this research point out, animal species that show complex social behavior seem to be the most likely to develop transitive inference. In invertebrates, the skill has already been studied unsuccessfully in honeybees. ...

Can synthesized speech be generated from brain activity?

You're undoubtedly familiar with the late astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking. While his condition left him unable to speak, he could communicate through a device, using eye and facial movements to compose each word, letter by letter. New research is allowing faster speech synthesis technology to be developed that more closely simulates the natural flow of speech. So how does this “brain decoder” work?

Though we’re largely unaware of it, speaking requires very precise, multidimensional coordination and control of the vocal tract’s articulatory muscles, which extend from the glottis to lips. The process of speaking is based on a set of complex, simultaneous, and fluid movements ...

Does the brain have a Pokémon area?

A scientific study on Pokémon? You're not the only one to be skeptical of the idea. Project initiator Jesse Gomez also had trouble convincing his colleagues. According to the neuroanatomist, there may be an area of the brain specifically designed to recognize hundreds of Pokémon characters. See how this unusual research can teach us more about the way our visual cortex works.

Pokémon video games have known unwavering success since the late 90s, and they’re still very popular today. The study’s lead author, Jesse Gomez, is himself a big fan: “I played it nonstop starting around age 6 or 7. I kept playing throughout my childhood. What was unique about Pokémon is that ...

Can doing crosswords and sudoku help optimize our cognitive health?

Some of you readers undoubtedly love crosswords or sudoku, or even both! A recent study, the largest to date, has revealed the possible beneficial effects of these reflective activities on cognitive function in seniors. The research has led to the publication of two articles in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. So, is it time for everyone else to start puzzling over letter and number grids?

More than 19,000! That's the (rather impressive) number of participants enrolled in the study presented here. All of these over-50-year-old subjects registered with Protect, an online platform managed by the University of Exeter and King’s College in London. Each ...

Do our brains make us naturally selfish?

During a party, as you're chatting away with other guests, you suddenly turn around at the sound of your name. This is an all-to- familiar way of capturing your attention. Indeed, we are primarily interested in stimuli that relate to us personally, something known as the "self-referential bias." Based on this observation, researchers wanted to test if a similar phenomenon could be seen in the brain. It was a chance to discover whether our brain makes us naturally self-centered…

Tobias Egner, an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Duke University (United States) and one of the study’s co-authors, says that we tend to prefer external stimuli that are ...

Do we have an internal compass?

We all know that migratory birds and sea turtles have a geomagnetic sense that supports their sense of direction. This sensory modality has been studied in vertebrates and even in certain invertebrates (like bees and lobsters). It has long been believed that humans also possess a form of magnetoreception, but the ability has never been demonstrated scientifically. A recent study has just revealed that our brain may come with an internal compass...

For migratory animals, magnetoreception (their ability to detect Earth’s magnetic field) allows them to build a sort of “map” that helps them navigate. In the 1980s, researchers attempted to demonstrate this ability in humans. For ...

Can team sports combat depression?

Many of our posts have praised the virtues of regular physical activity on our cognitive health. This new research carried out at Washington University in Saint Louis highlights a potential link between participation in team sports and reducing symptoms of depression in young boys. But why would team sports have a positive impact on boys’ moods?

If you take a look at co-author Lisa Gorham’s web page (on Washington University's website), you’ll see that she’s a sports addict and captain of the cross-country and track teams. The learnings she's gathered from this experience clearly inspired her to conduct this research on adolescent mental health. Inspired by her coach’s ...

Is forgetting easier than remembering?

All of us have at least a few memories we’d like to erase. But deleting them from isn’t always easy. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, forgetting something may require more mental effort than trying to remember it. How did they make this discovery?

Our memories are not static; they are dynamic constructs of the brain that are regularly updated and reorganized according to our life experiences. We are constantly remembering and forgetting information, most often while we sleep. Previous studies have shown that forgetting plays a vital role in preserving memories and eliminating unwanted information. Traditionally, intentional ...

Animal seduction: does intelligence beat looks?

Until recently, few studies on birds have looked at how intelligent behaviors in males can be used to attract females. But this is exactly what Dutch and Chinese researchers examined in their research to determine whether intelligence could win out over appearance when it comes to finding a mate. Here are the findings of this Darwin-inspired research.

The Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) lives in all arid and semi-arid areas of Australia, where finding food is sometimes difficult. An individual’s ability to find food may thus be of great value… A team of researchers from the University of Beijing (China) and Leiden (the Netherlands) decided to specifically study how ...

Does regular aerobic exercise improve cognitive abilities?

A new study is shedding light on the benefits of physical exercise on our cognitive health. Published in the medical journal Neurology in January 2019, the research indicates that activities such as walking or cycling have a positive effect on executive function. How were the scientists able to pinpoint the link between aerobic exercise and our thinking skills?

Our body produces energy both aerobically and anaerobically. The two types of metabolism are distinguished by whether or not they use oxygen produced by breathing. By drawing from a reserve that mobilizes different substrates (mainly carbohydrates and lipids), aerobic metabolism releases energy relatively slowly but ...

Rocking isn’t just for babies

The days when our parents rocked us in their arms are far behind us… This soothing swinging motion helped us fall asleep. But Swiss scientists wondered if this rocking motion could be beneficial even after these tender years. For their study, they invited adults to be rocked in their laboratory. What effects did it have on their sleep and memory?

As early as 2011, Laurence Bayer and her colleagues demonstrated the possible benefits of a slight rocking motion on falling asleep for a nap. This new research, led by L. Bayer and S. Schwartz, involved consolidating these results by studying whether the positive effects could be generalized to longer periods of ...

Are women’s brains younger than men’s?

On a morphological level, research has already shown that men's and women’s brains are different. A recent study from Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis has shed light on metabolic differences between the two. Indeed, sex appears to have an influence on brain aging...

In humans, normal aging is associated with a decrease in brain metabolism. We know that the brain metabolizes glucose, but the way it’s used changes as we age. As babies and children, our brain draws on this "fuel” to develop and mature. This process is called aerobic glycolysis. The remaining sugar is burned to fuel the daily tasks of thinking and acting. As adolescents and adults, a ...

Are crows feathered MacGyvers?

Crows are certainly fascinating creatures. In previous articles, we had the chance to highlight their impressive cognitive abilities. This new study by the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology and the Oxford University offer new evidence of these abilities by demonstrating that these birds possess a skill previously observed only in humans and great apes: the creation of compound tools. Are crows indeed as clever as MacGyver?

Previous studies have already shown that crows’ planning skills are sophisticated enough to allow them to solve puzzles in several stages and to use a tool (a stick) to obtain food. The current study investigated whether the birds could build an object ...

Why does our brain stay attentive even when we’re asleep?

We generally consider sleep as a loss of consciousness during which we stop interacting with our environment. But perhaps you’ve had the experience of falling asleep on a train or bus only to wake up just as your station is being announced. Researchers at the CNRS and ENS Paris, in collaboration with Monash University (Australia), recently showed that our brains remain attentive even during sleep. Read on to find out why.

It may not seem like we're able to perceive surrounding noises as we sleep. But previous experiments have shown that we are still able to discriminate certain sounds during sleep. For example, we’re more likely to wake up if someone says our own name rather ...

Do bees know how to add and subtract?

Bees have some new surprises in store for us! Having already proven that bees understand the concept of “zero,” the same team of scientists, from the Royal Institute of Technology at the University of Melbourne (Australia) and the CNRS Laboratory at the University of Toulouse III (France), recently showed that bees can also add and subtract. How were the researchers able to demonstrate the arithmetic skills of these insects?

A number of animals have been shown to have some understanding of numbers at a basic level. The scientific community makes a distinction between species that can discriminate quantities and those that use numerical (precise, symbolic) cognition. Numerical ...

Does believing you’re a multi-tasker improve performance?

While the “myth of multitasking” is still going strong, research has shown that we can't actually do several things at once. Our brain isn’t capable of performing various tasks in a truly simultaneous manner. Nevertheless, a study recently published in Psychological Science suggests that simply believing that we’re good at multitasking could make us more efficient. Could this “myth” have positive effects?

Whether at work or at home, we are regularly required to perform several tasks at the same time. Living in the digital age only reinforces our impression of being able to manage this “simultaneity.” For example, we can reply to an email while talking on the phone. ...

The woman who could no longer hear male voices

Imagine waking up one morning to find that you could no longer hear your partner's voice, while still perceiving all the other sounds in the house. Some people might see this as a relief and adjust easily, but for most of us, it would be quite baffling upsetting. How can hearing loss only apply to male voices? The answer can be found through this surprising clinical case.

That morning in Xiamen, a city located on the southeast coast of China, Mrs. Chen, a young woman, woke up and realized she couldn’t hear what her boyfriend was telling her. Listening to surrounding sounds, she discovered that only part of her hearing has been affected, and apparently it was her boyfriend that ...

Are fruit, veggies and orange juice good for memory?

Science regularly praises the health benefits or warns us of the dangers of consuming various foods. The same food or beverage may even be both lauded and vilified from one year to the next, and from one study to another (coffee, for example). But the results of the current study are based on data collected from a population of nearly 28,000 men over a period of 20 years. Here’s a summary of the research recently published in Neurology.

Changzheng Yuan and her colleagues at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health wanted to assess the potential link between long term fruit and vegetable consumption and subjective cognitive function (SCF). They followed 27,842 men (all ...

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 ...

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