Smarter People Have Better Connected Brains

A new study reports that certain brain regions interact more closely, while others are less engaged, in people with higher intelligence.

Differences in intelligence have so far mostly been attributed to differences in specific brain regions. However, are smart people’s brains also wired differently to those of less intelligent persons? A new study published by researchers from Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany) supports this assumption. In intelligent persons, certain brain regions are more strongly involved in the flow of information between brain regions, while other brain regions are less engaged.

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Read also: Whole Brain Map of Electrical Connections Key to Forming Memories

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A cognitive account of belief

Over the past decades, delusions have become the subject of growing and productive research spanning clinical and cognitive neurosciences. Despite this, the nature of belief, which underpins the construct of delusions, has received little formal investigation. No account of delusions, however, would be complete without a cognitive level analysis of belief per se. One reason for this neglect is the assumption that, unlike more established and accessible modular psychological process (e.g., vision, audition, face-recognition, language-processing, and motor-control systems), beliefs comprise more distributed and therefore less accessible central cognitive processes. In this paper, we suggest some defining characteristics and functions of beliefs. Working back from cognitive accounts of delusions, we consider potential candidate cognitive processes that may be involved in normal belief formation. Finally, we advance a multistage account of the belief process that could provide the basis for a more comprehensive model of belief.

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Posted in Belief, Cognition | Tagged ,

The Non-conscious Nature of Being

Despite the compelling subjective experience of executive self-control, we argue that “consciousness” contains no top-down control processes and that “consciousness” involves no executive, causal, or controlling relationship with any of the familiar psychological processes conventionally attributed to it. In our view, psychological processing and psychological products are not under the control of consciousness. In particular, we argue that all “contents of consciousness” are generated by and within non-conscious brain systems in the form of a continuous self-referential personal narrative that is not directed or influenced in any way by the “experience of consciousness.” This continuously updated personal narrative arises from selective “internal broadcasting” of outputs from non-conscious executive systems that have access to all forms of cognitive processing, sensory information, and motor control. The personal narrative provides information for storage in autobiographical memory and is underpinned by constructs of self and agency, also created in non-conscious systems. The experience of consciousness is a passive accompaniment to the non-conscious processes of internal broadcasting and the creation of the personal narrative. In this sense, personal awareness is analogous to the rainbow which accompanies physical processes in the atmosphere but exerts no influence over them. Though it is an end-product created by non-conscious executive systems, the personal narrative serves the powerful evolutionary function of enabling individuals to communicate (externally broadcast) the contents of internal broadcasting. This in turn allows recipients to generate potentially adaptive strategies, such as predicting the behavior of others and underlies the development of social and cultural structures, that promote species survival. Consequently, it is the capacity to communicate to others the contents of the personal narrative that confers an evolutionary advantage—not the experience of consciousness (personal awareness) itself.

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Read also: What if Consciousness is not what Drives the Human Mind?

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Theory: Flexibility is at the heart of human intelligence

Centuries of study have yielded many theories about how the brain gives rise to human intelligence. Some think it arises from a single region or neural network. Others argue that metabolism is key. A new article makes the case that the brain’s dynamic properties — how it is wired but also how that wiring shifts in response to changing intellectual demands — are the best predictors of intelligence in the human brain.

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Posted in Human intelligence, Intelligence | Tagged ,

The genetic basis of parental care evolution

Parental care is essential for the survival of mammals, yet the mechanisms underlying its evolution remain largely unknown. Here we show that two sister species of mice, Peromyscus polionotus and Peromyscus maniculatus, have large and heritable differences in parental behavior. Using quantitative genetics, we identify 12 genomic regions that affect parental care, 8 of which have sex-specific effects, suggesting that parental care can evolve independently in males and females. Furthermore, some regions affect parental care broadly, whereas others affect specific behaviors, such as nest building. Of the genes linked to differences in nest-building behavior, vasopressin is differentially expressed in the hypothalamus of the two species, with increased levels associated with less nest building. Using pharmacology in Peromyscus and chemogenetics in Mus, we show that vasopressin inhibits nest building but not other parental behaviors. Together, our results indicate that variation in an ancient neuropeptide contributes to interspecific differences in parental care.

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The Neural Mechanisms Behind Social Decision Making, Cooperation and Aggression

Researchers will present findings about the neural mechanisms behind some social behaviors, ranging from aggression to social decision making.

Humans, primates, and many other animals are innately social, spending much of their lifetimes in the presence of other individuals, but little is known about the neural mechanisms that generate social behaviors. Recent advances offer insight into neural circuits and mechanisms that underlie social decision-making, cooperation, and aggression. The studies are being presented at Neuroscience 2017, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

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Posted in Neural mechanisms, Social behavior, Social decision-making | Tagged , ,

Exercise Increases Brain Size

Exercise increases the size of the left region of the hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for memory, a new study reveals.

In a first of its kind international collaboration, researchers from Australia’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University and the Division of Psychology and Mental Health at the University of Manchester in the UK examined the effects of aerobic exercise on a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is critical for memory and other brain functions.

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Read also: Effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume in humans

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How neurons use crowdsourcing to make decisions

How do we make decisions? Or rather, how do our neurons make decisions for us? Do individual neurons have a strong say or are the voice in the neural collective?

One way to think about this question is to ask how many of my neurons you would have to observe to read my mind. If you can predict I am about to say the word “grandma” by watching one of my neurons then we could say our decisions can be attributed to single, perhaps “very vocal,” neurons. In neuroscience, such neurons are called “grandmother” neurons after it was proposed in the 1960’s that there may be single neurons that uniquely respond to complex and important percepts like a grandmother’s face.

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Read also: Collective Computation in Neural Decision-Making

Posted in Brains, Decision-making, Neural network | Tagged , ,

How to Have a Healthy Brain and Keep It

“It’s increasingly clear that exercise is as good for the brain as it is for the body, The Globe and Mail reported. “You’ll score better on cognitive tests immediately after a moderate workout, and the gains accumulate over weeks of regular exercise. The mechanism is thought to involve a rise in growth-promoting brain chemicals and neurotransmitters, but it’s not clear how much or what type of exercise is most effective.

“To investigate the optimal brain-boosting exercise dose, a University of Kansas study assigned older adults to walk for between zero and 225 minutes a week for 26 weeks. As little as 75 minutes a week was enough to improve scores on a battery of cognitive tests, and there were further gains all the way up to 225 minutes. The overall pattern was that those who made biggest improvements in aerobic fitness also saw the biggest boosts in cognitive scores. Get your body fit, in other words, and the brain will follow.”

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Read also: For Your Brain’s Sake, Keep Moving

Posted in Brain health, Brains, Exercise | Tagged , ,

Innovation – an emerging focus from cells to societies

Innovations are generally unexpected, often spectacular changes in phenotypes
and ecological functions. The contributions to this theme issue are the latest conceptual, theoretical and experimental developments, addressing how ecology, environment, ontogeny, and evolution are central to understanding the complexity of the processes underlying innovations. Here, we set the stage by introducing and defining key terms relating to innovation and discuss their relevance to biological, cultural and technological change. Discovering how the generation and transmission of novel biological information, environmental interactions, and selective evolutionary processes contribute to innovation as an ecosystem will shed light on how the dominant features across life come to be, generalize to social, cultural and technological evolution, and have applications in the health sciences and sustainability.

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Read also: Innovation, from cells to societies

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