What your Brain does when it hears a Question

Questions hijack the brain. The moment you hear one, you literally can’t think of anything else. And that can be a powerful tool.

What color is your house?

After reading that question, what were you thinking about? The obvious answer is the color of your house. Though this exercise may seem ordinary, it has profound implications. The question momentarily hijacked your thought process and focused it entirely on your house or apartment. You didn’t consciously tell your brain to think about that; it just did so automatically.

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Creative People Have Better Connected Brains

A new study reports highly creative people appear to have more connections between their brain hemispheres.  Highly creative people have significantly more nerve connections between the right and left hemispheres. Seemingly countless self-help books and seminars tell you to tap into the right side of your brain to stimulate creativity. But forget the “right-brain” myth — a new study suggests it’s how well the two brain hemispheres communicate that sets highly creative people apart.

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The Science of Aging Well

Genetic treatments to reverse aging at the cellular level? Diets and exercises that help your mind and body function better longer? It’s not a sales pitch from a life-extension guru — it’s science.

For civilization, there’s no better time to understand aging. With roughly 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 in the U.S. every day, the “silver tsunami” is predicted to raise the national health care bill to $4 trillion in 2030. Globally, the 65-plus demographic is estimated to triple from 524 million in 2010 to about 1.5 billion by 2050. Most of us hope to live to a vigorous old age. And to help us do that, researchers are exploring ways to manage or overcome some of the most common and vexing age-related ailments. Here you’ll get a look at some of the most groundbreaking developments.

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Music as the Brain’s Universal Language

What are some of the biggest challenges of studying musical creativity from a neuroscience perspective?

It’s not just music—artistic creativity in general is one of the toughest topics to study because it’s an elusive thing. Creativity is made up of a very wide range of human activities that aren’t always so easy to connect together. By their very nature, art and creativity are expansive concepts with no real predictability. That means that it’s not really a natural fit to try to confine them to the constraints of a scientific experiment.

The other issue is that artists and scientists are very different kinds of people. For a scientist to try to design an experiment that feels natural to an artist while still maintaining scientific validity and control—well, that’s a very tenuous balance. It’s hard to design a study just right. You really need to work closely with artists to design something that will work.

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The Neuroscience of Music, Behavior, and Staying Sane in the Age of Twitter

Neuroscientist and author of This Is Your Brain On Music Daniel Levitin talks about information overload.

When it comes to music and the human brain, Daniel Levitin’s expertise is hard to top. The musician, professor, and neuroscientist quite literally wrote the book on the topic when he penned the 2006 bestseller This is Your Brain On Music. His most recent book The Organized Mind furthers his exploration into our brains with a focus on how information overload is affecting cognition and what we can do it about it. Over the last two years, he’s been working with smart speaker maker Sonos on new research into how music affects people’s minds and behavior at home. As part of its new marketing campaign centered around what the company regrettably diagnoses as “the silent home”—the relative dearth of music being played out loud as families stare into their phones or tune into Netflix—Sonos enlisted Levitin to help design a new survey of people’s listening habits at home. We sat down with Levitin at Sonos’s Boston offices last week for a conversation about science, music, the brain, and how to stay sane in the age of Trump and Twitter.

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Read also: This Is Your Brain On Music

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Scientists: There is too much focus on positive results

The scientific community’s focus on publishing positive results leaves a sizeable amount of research that is either incorrect or in some cases dangerous. If you want to form a conclusion based on an experiment, it is a basic rule in science that you include all data—both positive and negative. The same applies to the global collection of scientific knowledge that should include all scientific results, even when the results are unexpected. But this does not always happen, and a number of concerned scientists say that a large portion of research today is incorrect, which is particularly problematic and even dangerous within the health sciences, say the scientists. This problem is arguably part of a crisis within basic research, which has been described in a series of articles here on ScienceNordic. Other articles in the series include pressure on scientists to publish their results and a lack of reproducibility in science.

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The Embodied Mind in Hindsight

At the end of my first post, I said that when I reread The Embodied Mind now, I can’t help but see it as limited by several shortcomings, ones that have become increasingly apparent over the years and that need to be left behind in order to advance the book’s project of enlarging cognitive science to include transformative experiences of the self and world, and enlarging human experience to include insights from cognitive science. To be specific, I no longer accept three of the rhetorical and argumentative strategies we used. The first strategy was our portrayal of Western phenomenology, in the tradition of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, as a failed or broken down philosophical project (see Chapter Two). On the contrary, phenomenology continues to be a vital and important movement of lasting relevance to philosophy and cognitive science, as well as to the arts, medicine, and practical disciplines of human transformation. I’ve tried to show this at length in my book, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind.

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Depressed Children Respond Differently to Rewards than other Kids

According to a new study, clinically depressed children show a blunted response to reward compared to those who were not depressed. Brains react less robustly to success, rewards. For many children, December often is linked to presents and excitement, but when a young child doesn’t seem all that enthused about getting gifts, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Measuring brain waves, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that clinically depressed children don’t respond to rewards the same way as other children do. Previous research from the same group of scientists found that a reduced ability to experience joy is a key sign of clinical depression in young children. The findings in the new study could help explain the biological underpinnings of the earlier discovery. “These findings may show us how the brain processes emotions in young children with depression,” said senior investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, director of Washington University’s

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The Psychology Behind Social Media Interactions

Why is digital communication so often easier than communicating face-to-face? In fact, the creators of virtual war games argue that the virtual experience is better than the real one, because the dangers connected to the real experience are removed. In the same way, interactions via social media make visitors feel connected without the difficulties and complexities involved in face-to-face interactions. Compared to interactions with computers, interactions with human counterparts require more emotional involvement, cognitive effort and brain activation. When we are not in the mood to exercise these resources, we too often choose the easier, virtual option.

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Increasing Confidence and Reducing Fear By Analyzing Brain Waves

Researchers have developed a new technique they believe could help people build confidence and overcome fears. UCLA-led research offers promise for treating anxiety, eating disorders. A new technique of analyzing brain patterns appears to help people overcome fear and build self-confidence. The approach, developed by a UCLA-led team of neuroscientists, is described in two new papers, published in the journals Nature Communications and Nature Human Behaviour. Their method could have implications for treating people with depression, dementia, and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, said Hakwan Lau, a UCLA associate professor of psychology and the senior author of both studies. It could also play a role in improving leadership training for executives and managers. In the Nature Human Behaviour study, the researchers showed that they could reduce the brain’s manifestation of fear using a procedure called decoded neurofeedback, which involves identifying complex patterns of brain activity linked to a specific memory, and then give feedback to the subject — for example, in the form of a reward — based on their brain activity.

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