Scientific News

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 ...

Why don’t soccer fans see the same match?

You’ll likely agree that criticizing the calls made by the referee is quite common among soccer fans. Team A’s fans think that the guy in black hasn’t called enough fouls against the players of the opposing team, and the same goes for Team B’s fans! British researchers have taken a closer look into this phenomenon. Using brain imaging, they tried to explain how fans can have such widely diverging opinions on the same match.

The study carried out by Timothy J. Andrews and his colleagues at the University of York’s Department of Psychology wanted to explore the neural basis of these group differences under natural conditions. The aim was to determine whether these ...

How does our brain suppress the desire for revenge?

Who wants to play the “Inequality game?” The winner is whoever succeeds in causing a feeling of injustice (and therefore anger) in his or her opponents. Several participants tested out this rather original “game” as part of a Swiss study. The experiment aimed to better understand the cerebral mechanisms that underlie anger and the desire to punish those responsible for putting us in this state. Discover how our brain manages to control its desire for revenge…

Few studies have investigated the neuronal functions involved in disassociating angry feelings from the regulation of aggressive reactions (responses or punitive behaviors). As specified by the study’s authors, ...

Why does the brain become more efficient during adolescence?

Adolescence… we’ve all lived through this period characterized by profound physical, emotional, and cognitive changes… a period that’s also marked by a great potential for neuroplasticity. To shine greater light on brain development during this period, researchers at the University of Oslo (Norway) studied fMRI data from more than 700 people. Read on to discover the changes that take place in a teenager’s brain.

To characterize age-related differences in functional connectivity in the adolescent brain, Norwegian researchers studied fMRI data recorded during a state of rest and during a cognitive task designed to solicit working memory. The data came from a previous ...

Can a poorly knotted tie be dangerous to your health?

Has the tie become a dangerous gift to give to a man? We’re not talking about whether it’s his style, but indeed whether it poses a real danger to his health. Neurologists at the Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital in Germany conducted a study to evaluate the effects of this clothing accessory on the brain. Can wearing a tie really be dangerous?

“The knot is to the tie as the brain is to the man,” said François de La Rochefoucauld. But you still have to know how to tie it! The Windsor knot (the most common) was chosen for the study reported here. The German researchers recruited 30 young men and divided them into two groups: “necktie” and “no necktie.” ...

Can infants distinguish a good leader from a bully?

“Bed time!” Imagine 21-month-old babies watching a short cartoon where characters interact with someone who asks them to go to bed. This protagonist may be depicted either as a good leader or as a despot. From this experiment, the researchers tried to determine if infants are capable of distinguishing between a good leader and a bully.

The study, carried out by researchers from the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science at the University of Trento (Italy) and from the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois (USA) focused on the distinction between these two major types of social power. One is based on authority, the other on intimidation. Previous studies ...

Learning music: a good way to develop executive function?

While at the beginning it may be painful to the ears of those around us, learning to play a musical instrument can not only offer personal fulfillment, it may also be beneficial to our brains. A new study published in the review Plos One has shown that early musical training could even optimize the development of executive function in children. Let’s take a look at the research.

Executive functions are complex cognitive functions that help us manage voluntary and organizational behaviors. They come into play when we are facing a novel or non-routine situation and involve three processes: inhibition (to prevent or stop us from producing a response), flexibility (to change from one ...

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