Older, fitter adults experience greater brain activity while learning

Older adults who experience good cardiac fitness may be also keeping their brains in good shape as well. In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, older adults who scored high on cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) tests performed better on memory tasks than those who had low CRF. Further, the more fit older adults were, the more active their brain was during learning. These findings appear in the journal Cortex. Difficulty remembering new information represents one of the most common complaints in aging and decreased memory performance is one of the hallmark impairments in Alzheimer’s disease.

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Posted in Aging | Tagged

Journaling inspires altruism through an attitude of gratitude

Gratitude does more than help maintain good health. New research at the University of Oregon finds that regularly noting feelings of gratitude in a journal leads to increased altruism.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, sought to determine whether personal altruistic traits could be increased with a writing intervention.

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Posted in Altruism | Tagged

Dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain

As we grow older we suffer a decline in mental and physical fitness, which can be made worse by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

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Read also: Dance your way to a healthier aging brain

Posted in Aging | Tagged

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?

Posted in Consciousness | Tagged

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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