Weekly Round Up

A part of the human brain that’s involved in emotion gets particularly excited at the sight of animals, a new study has shown. The brain structure in question is the amygdala: that almond-shaped, sub-cortical bundle of nuclei that used to be considered the brain’s fear centre, but which is now known to be involved in many aspects of emotional learning.

Studies have shown that ­meditating regularly can help relieve chronic pain, but the neural mechanisms ­underlying the relief were unclear. Now, ­researchers from MIT, Harvard, and Massachusetts General ­Hospital have found a possible explanation.

Men and women differ in the way they anticipate an unpleasant emotional experience, which influences the effectiveness with which that experience is committed to memory according to new research.

New research has contradicted a 40-year-old theory of how the brain controls impulsive behavior

Head trauma may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, a new study says. The results show people who have suffered from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are 1.6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia compared with those who have not suffered such an injury.

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Beaumont Hospital have conducted a study which has found striking brain similarities in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The brains of older people are not slower but rather wiser than young brains, which allows older adults to achieve an equivalent level of performance, according to research undertaken at the University Geriatrics Institute of Montreal by Dr. Oury Monchi and Dr. Ruben Martins of the University of Montreal.

A new study testing alcohol’s effects on brain activity finds that alcohol dulls the brain “signal” that warns people when they are making a mistake, ultimately reducing self control.

Researchers in the Netherlands have been able to shed more light on how combat experiences change the brains of soldiers.

And finally, new research from MIT suggests that there are parts of our brain dedicated to language and only language, a finding that marks a major advance in the search for brain regions specialized for sophisticated mental functions.  And this week,new research makes the case that language is not a key part of thinking about numbers, but the key part, overriding other influences like cultural ones.

Silencing illusion

Check out this award-winning video, a demonstration of silencing* – an illusion that shows it’s hard to notice when moving objects change.

The illusion, titled “Silencing awareness of change by background motion,” was the recent recipient of Best Illusion of the Year contest. Jordan Suchow, a Harvard University graduate student, and George Alvarez, an assistant professor in Harvard’s psychology department, created the winning entry.

Please read the instructions below

Keep your eyes fixed on the small white mark in the center. At first, the ring is stationary and it’s easy to tell that the dots are changing. A few seconds later, the ring begins to rotate and the dots suddenly appear to stop changing. (Or, more precisely, they appear to change much less than when the dots are motionless.)

But play the movie again, this time looking directly at one of the dots and following it as the ring rotates. You will see that, in fact, the dots had been changing at the same rate the whole time, even during the rotation—you just didn’t notice it. This failure to detect that moving objects are changing is silencing.

References

*Suchow, J.W., & Alvarez, G.A. (2011). Motion silences awareness of visual change Current Biology. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.019