Scientific News

Can babies understand numbers before they learn to count?

Mathematical intuition has already been demonstrated in very young infants. For example, just hours after birth, newborns have an early predisposition that allows them to associate an auditory number with a corresponding visual number (Izard et al. 2009). In this study, researchers tested babies’ understanding of digit names. Can babies associate “one,” “two,” and “three” with quantities even though they don’t know how to count?

Lisa Feigenson, a specialist in child number development, and Jenny Wang, both from Johns Hopkins University, observed 14 to 18-month old babies in a simple experiment. They showed the babies toys (small cars or dog figurines), which they ...

How quickly can our brain recognize a familiar song?

Are you particularly good in a blind test? Are you one of those people who can recognize a song from hearing just the first few notes? Researchers decided to precisely quantify this ability. Using electroencephalography and pupillometry, the scientists wanted to understand how quickly the brain could identify excerpts from a familiar and well-liked song from a selection of unknown excerpts, as well as identify the “neural signatures” of this recognition.

As a preamble to their research, the scientists from the Ear Institute (University College London) point out that research has shown that the concept of musical familiarity is based largely on traces of long-term memory ...

Can garlic save your memory?

Too bad for your breath! A recent study has highlighted the possible benefits of garlic on memory. Researchers from the University of Louisville carried out an experiment on the positive effects of this plant on intestinal flora as well as its impact on cognitive health, including memory. For the moment, the experiments have only been conducted on mice, but scientists are already suggesting that garlic could be effective in fighting memory aging in humans.

Neuroscience in conjunction with microbiology has shown that there is indeed permanent communication between our gut and our brain. There are 200 million neurons in our large intestine connected to our brain through the vagus ...

Is optimism one of the keys to longevity?

If you tend to see the glass half empty, this article may convince you to change your philosophy. Using data collected from over 70,000 people, a team of researchers, mostly from the Boston University School of Medicine, have highlighted the role that optimism may play in life expectancy.

Work on exceptional longevity has so far often focused on biomedical factors while the positive influence of psychosocial factors on healthy aging remains much less clear. This is what motivated Lewina O Lee and her colleagues to study the possible effects of optimism on longevity. They hypothesized that (very) optimistic people would live longer. To test this, they relied on data from two ...

Do brief but intense physical efforts improve brain function?

Most studies on the benefits of physical activity for the brain have focused on sustained and regular exercise. Recent research from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland took a look at shorter, more intense exercise to see if it could also have positive effects. What if even brief physical effort could improve our cognitive health?

Various scientific publications have reported the benefits of physical exercise on neuronal activity, including improved learning and memory, through short and long-term changes in synaptic plasticity. Indeed, the dentate gyrus is particularly important as an entry step for coding contextual and spatial information from several brain areas. ...

Do monkeys show greater cognitive flexibility than humans?

“We are a unique species and have various ways in which we are exceptionally different from every other creature on the planet […] But we're also sometimes really dumb.” What made Julia Watzek, the main author of the study described here, say this? Published in Scientific Reports, her research shows that, unlike apes, humans do not always consider alternative solutions to effectively solve problems. Let’s find out why.

In a predictable environment, we apply strategies (developed through past experiences) that save us from intense cognitive exertion and help us solve everyday problems. But we live in a changing environment, and alternative solutions are sometimes ...

Who wants to play hide and seek with rats?

“There are all these YouTube videos from pet owners that say their animals love to do this.” That’s how neuroscientist Michael Brecht of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of Humboldt in Berlin got the idea of teaching rats to play hide and seek. See how this both absurd and fascinating study managed to shed light on rats’ cognitive abilities.

To accomplish their goal of studying the behavior of these rodents while at play, the research team transformed their laboratory into a playground. In the first case, a member of the team placed a rat in a closed box and hid. The scientist then opened the box using a remote control… and ...

Are laugh tracks really effective?

Why did the smartphone need glasses? Because it lost all of its contacts! [laughter…?]. This is one of 40 jokes of its kind used in a study on the effectiveness of canned laughter. You may not have found the joke made earlier very funny, but you might have laughed at it anyway had it been followed by recorded laughter. Read on for the results of this more-serious-than-it-seems research on humor sensitivity, particularly in autistics.

As the study’s authors point out, recorded laughter (live or pre-recorded) was introduced to remind listeners and viewers that they were watching humorous programming and to make them feel like they were part of the audience. Are you ...

Is tea good for the brain?

Tea or coffee? According to this article, we should probably be switching to tea… The present study conducted by Chinese and British researchers uses brain imaging data for the first time to explore the effects of tea on the brain, particularly on the connections between brain regions. Is drinking tea regularly beneficial for cognition?

As the authors point out in the preamble of their article (published in the journal Aging), previous studies have already highlighted the fact that tea consumption could be beneficial for health, including improving mood, preventing cardiovascular disease, and reducing the risks of cognitive decline. The virtues of tea stem primarily from its ...

Will students soon be graded using a neural test?

Traditionally, student knowledge has been evaluated using written or oral exams. But imagine if teachers could use another measure to determine to what extent a student understands the concept they’re teaching. How might that be possible? By observing students’ brain activity, and giving them a “neural score,” the study we’re about to explore promises to revolutionize the way we teach.

Researchers at Dartmouth College and Harvard University started from a simple assumption: when an individual acquires new knowledge, it has to be represented somewhere in the brain. If this is the case, these representations should be illustrated through new patterns of brain activity. The ...

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