Maturity brings richer memories

MIT neuroscientists exploring how memory formation differs between children and adults have found that although the two groups have much in common, maturity brings richer memories.In the August 5 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience, the MIT team reports that children rival adults in forming basic memories, but adults do better at remembering the rich, contextual details of that information. The MIT study provides new insights into how children learn that are not only theoretically important, but could also inform practical learning in everyday settings. Continue reading “Maturity brings richer memories”

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Brain’s voluntary chain-of-command ruled by not 1 but 2 captains

A probe of the upper echelons of the human brain’s chain-of-command has found strong evidence that there are not one but two complementary commanders in charge of the brain, according to neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

It’s as if Captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard were both on the bridge and in command of the same starship Enterprise.

In reality, these two captains are networks of brain regions that do not consult each other but still work toward a common purpose — control of voluntary, goal-oriented behavior. This includes a vast range of activities from reading a word to searching for a star to singing a song, but likely does not include involuntary behaviors such as control of the pulse rate or digestion. 

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Why we learn from our mistakes

Psychologists from the University of Exeter have identified an ‘early warning signal’ in the brain that helps us avoid repeating previous mistakes. Published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, their research identifies, for the first time, a mechanism in the brain that reacts in just 0.1 seconds to things that have resulted in us making errors in the past.

Previous research has shown that we learn more about things for which we initially make incorrect predictions than for things for which our initial predictions are correct. The element of surprise in discovering we are wrong is conducive to learning, but this research is the first to show how amazingly rapid our brain’s response can be. This discovery was made possible through the use of electrophysiological recordings, which allow researchers to detect processes in the brain at the instant they occur.

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To understand the big picture, give it time — and sleep

Memorizing a series of facts is one thing, understanding the big picture is quite another. Now a new study demonstrates that relational memory — the ability to make logical “big picture” inferences from disparate pieces of information – is dependent on taking a break from studies and learning, and even more important, getting a good night’s sleep.
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Wired for sound: How the brain senses visual illusions

In a study that could help reveal how illusions are produced in the brain’s visual cortex, researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine have found new evidence of rapid integration of auditory and visual sensations in the brain. Their findings, which provide new insight into neural mechanisms by which visual perception can be altered by concurrent auditory events, will be published online in the April 12 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.
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Autistic children can read mental state of others through their eyes

Autistic children are able to interpret the mental state of others by looking at their eyes, contrary to previous research, a new University of Nottingham study has found.

In findings that contradict previous studies, psychologists found that autistic children can ‘read’ a stranger’s mental state based on that person’s eyes. Autistic children have long been thought to be poor at interpreting people’s mental states based on facial expressions, especially expressions around the eyes.
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Consciousness May Be a Sure Bet

Typically, when someone places a bet—be it on a sporting event, obscure trivia or where the ball in a roulette wheel will land—he or she is fully aware of the decision to do so. And now scientists at Oxford University in England have discovered that they can better determine if decisions in general are conscious (or subconscious) by having subjects literally gamble on, well, their decisions. The researchers, reporting in this week’s Nature Neuroscience, found that study participants were reluctant to wager big bucks unless they were confident in their choices, indicating that they knew full well what they were doing.

Read rest of the story at Scientific American.