by Ishaan Kumbkarni, staff writer
Here are 10 recent neuroscience and psychology researches that’ll transform the way you look at and perceive the world.
- Is your thought process really a private phenomenon?
Scientists in Germany used pattern recognition software to predict, from functional magnetic resonance imaging of people’s brains, whether each person had secretly decided to add or subtract two numbers he was looking at. The computer correctly predicted the decision more often than not. What’s stopping a super computer from surveilling our brain?
- Our brain is capable of beautiful things
Some people have been brought up in hate and are taught to despise the world (see: terrorists and xenophobes) but a new study, from the University of Zurich, reports that having just a few positive exchanges with a person from an outside group can trigger neuronal changes in the brain that cause someone to become more empathetic towards strangers from an outside group.
- You can train your brain to change the quality of your life
Neuroscientists at Oxford University recently discovered a neurobiological mechanism that might explain how one can overcome apathy and stay active and motivated. They hypothesize that anyone who is healthy can change the functional connectivity of his or her brain by consciously changing habits of behavior and patterns of thinking. Because the brain is plastic—your mindset, explanatory styles, and predisposition to be motivated or apathetic are never fixed.
- The brain has a separate, small beating heart, all for itself
A team led by Prof. Ed Wu at the University of Hong Kong revealed that low frequency (1Hz) oscillations in the hippocampus help to synchronize activity in the brain. They used optogenetics and resting-state fMRI to explore the role of the slow hippocampal-cortical oscillatory activity in controlling and connecting different areas of the brain.
- Stress can actually change the structure of your brain; and not for the better
Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that chronic stress triggers long-term changes in brain structure and function. Their findings might explain why young people who are exposed to chronic stress early in life are prone to mental problems such as anxiety and mood disorders later in life, as well as learning difficulties.
- There was a marked increase in the number of suicides following Robin William’s suicide
A new study revealed that there was a 10 percent increase in suicides in the months following Robin Williams’ death. Researchers report, significantly, there was a 32 percent increase in suffocation suicides in the 5 months following Williams’ death by the same method. This is a known psychological phenomenon with the rates of suicides in general population increasing after most high-profile suicides.
- People who daydream may be intellectually advanced
People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering. Eric Schumacher and his team at Georgia Tech found that people who report frequent daydreaming score higher on creative and intellectual ability and have measurably more effective brains than those who don’t. Apparently, the smarter you are, the more you daydream. Dream on!
- Emotions can alter your ability to learn and perceive
Educational situations where students feel stressed, shamed, or just uncomfortable can actually make it more difficult for them to learn, increasing negative emotions and sparking a vicious cycle that may leave some children reluctant to attend class. Research is revealing why, as the emotional part of the brain, the limbic system has the ability to open up or shut off access to learning and memory. When under stress or anxiety, the brain blocks access to higher processing and stops forming new connections, making it difficult or impossible to learn.
- Dopamine is a magic liquid running inside us and it becomes active when we experience new things
Researchers have found that novelty in the world around us causes the dopamine system in the brain to become activated, sending the chemical throughout the brain. Dopamine is often regarded as the “feel good” chemical, scientists have now shown that it actually plays a much bigger role, encouraging feelings of motivation and prompting the brain to appreciate and learn about new and novel stimuli in the surroundings. Really, they should be selling this stuff on amazon.
- Cognitive Offloading: How the Internet is Increasingly Taking Over Human Memory
Researchers from UC Santa Cruz and the University of Illinois report that our ever-increasing reliance on the internet and our ease of access to new information is affecting our ability to learn and recall facts from memory, as well as impeding our ability to solve problems. Basically, the internet is making us dumber.