September 2009 Blog Posts (11)

Bye bye modular, hello cognit!

Termed by Fuster in 2006, the construct was created to solve the problematic yet popular view that the human brain is made up of discrete cortical domains dedicated exclusively to visual discrimination, language, spatial attention, face recognition, motor programming, memory retrieval, and working memory.

Although the modular modeling of the brain has utterly failed due to a lack of conclusive evidence, many neuroscientists continue to maintain this antiquated view... but… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 30, 2009 at 2:42pm — No Comments

Why primates prefer the color black

A recent study by Yeh, Xing, and Shapley over at The Center for Neural Science, New York University made a fascinating discovery about the primary visual cortex of the macaque monkey and it's preference for black over white stimuli similar to that of humans. Here's a snippet from their abstract.

From recordings of single-cell activity in the macaque monkey's primary visual cortex (V1), we found that black-dominant neurons substantially outnumbered white-dominant neurons… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 28, 2009 at 4:30pm — No Comments

Why middle-agers shouldn't join the army

Enlisting in the army is a significant life-changing decision, especially for someone who's middle-aged. Apparently there's an age cap of 42 for active duty. The reasoning behind this seemingly arbitrary number is that it allow for a 20-year military career before retirement. However, perhaps they should look toward a younger cutoff point in light of a recent study investigating the effects of sleep deprivation on arousal levels of middle-aged rats. But before we continue with this… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 25, 2009 at 10:00pm — No Comments

Observation of tool use activates specific brain area only in humans

How'd those Frosted Flakes manage to get so high up in that cabinet? Can't...reach. Aha! Stool! Argh...still no dice. Darn these short arms. Oh oh! Broom! Almost got it...almost...almost...::crash:: NOOO!!! Game Over.

The discovery that a species other than human has the ability to use tools has, quite frankly, lost its novelty. Just look at the New Caledonian crow. If trained properly, it can utilize up… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 20, 2009 at 6:30pm — No Comments

How your emotional state affects how you hear speech

I found an interesting study by Wang et. al investigating how the current emotional state that we find ourselves in modulates the auditory response of speech early in the sensory processing stream at the cortical level. Here's their abstract.

In order to understand how emotional state influences the listener's physiological response to speech, subjects looked at emotion-evoking pictures while 32-channel EEG evoked responses (ERPs) to an… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 17, 2009 at 2:00pm — No Comments

Coffee on the brain, spatial memory impairment, and how the immune system may help

I'm constantly on the lookout for new research findings further substantiating sleep's significant effects on memory...perhaps in an attempt to finally convince myself that continuously misplacing my keys is NOT a normal part of young adulthood...and that 5 hours of shut-eye just isn't cutting it anymore (note to self: resist late night treks to Starbucks).

Coffee-drinking women on the other hand have an 18% lower chance of having visual and spatial memory declines… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 15, 2009 at 1:00am — No Comments

Destabilizing old memories with new information

What if one day we could disrupt unwanted consolidated memories like those of old traumatic experiences or even unforgettable heartbreaks and replace them with novel and more pleasant ones? Sounds like a tagline from the 2004 Oscar-winning film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind doesn't it?

Published in this month's issue of Learning & Memory, a study by Winters, Tucci, and DaCosta-Furtado over at the University of Guelph, Canada has managed to bring us one step… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 12, 2009 at 7:00pm — No Comments

The neural correlates of lucid dreaming

I've always had a deep fascination for lucid dreaming and only a handful of times have I been fortunate enough to experience such a wondrous and relatively rare state of consciousness. In one instance I decided to meditate and that blissful experience has no doubt left an indelible memory. So what's really going on in the brain during a lucid dream?

In a recent study Voss and colleagues over at Bonn University in collaboration with Hobson at Harvard Medical School decided to… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 10, 2009 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Erasing phobias early in life

The model of fear extinction originated from the Pavlovian classical conditioning paradigm in the early 1900s. Defined as a reduction in a conditioned fear response following a non reinforced exposure to a feared conditioned stimulus, fear extinction is known to involve the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). It's also a frequently striven-for goal in cognitive behavioral therapy during the treatment of various phobias including arachibutyrophobia; the fear of peanut butter… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 10, 2009 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Is inhibition a measure of free will?

Reading Alwyn Scott's "Stairway to the Mind" I came across an interesting tidbit of information pointing out that human's have a greater percentage of inhibitory neurons compared to other animals (human 75% rabbit 31%). For some unknown reason this made me think about the tricky construct of free will and the question of whether free will could be better measured not by what we chose to do, but by what we chose not to do. In other words, could free will be measured by a capacity to… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 9, 2009 at 10:00pm — No Comments

Bullying boss disturbing your sleep?

It's not uncommon that we're forced to work/put up with a disgruntled boss at one point or another. Not surprisingly, the relationship between an employee and their boss is the best predictor for job satisfaction according to a 2006 survey conducted by Accountemps, a Menlo Park, California-based specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance, and bookkeeping professionals. Moreover, the… Continue

Added by William Lu on September 8, 2009 at 4:30pm — No Comments

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