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Showing posts with the label Brain

An ant colony has memories that its individual members don’t have

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Like a brain, an ant colony operates without central control. Each is a set of interacting individuals, either neurons or ants, using simple chemical interactions that in the aggregate generate their behaviour. People use their brains to remember. Can ant colonies do that? This question leads to another question: what is memory? For people, memory is the capacity to recall something that happened in the past. We also ask computers to reproduce past actions – the blending of the idea of the computer as brain and brain as computer has led us to take ‘memory’ to mean something like the information stored on a hard drive. We know that our memory relies on changes in how much a set of linked neurons stimulate each other; that it is reinforced somehow during sleep; and that recent and long-term memory involve different circuits of connected neurons. But there is much we still don’t know about how those neural events come together, whether there are stored representations that we use to tal…

Your brain is plastic! [Coffee-byte]

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We all, have our days when our brain just stops responding to anything we say or want it to do. There are times when it fails you in simple arithmetic like 6 + 9 = ? (did you get that right?) or the change the shop keeper owes you. Sometimes, this happens early in the mornings or sometimes its late in the night, after a hard day's work but at the bottom of it all, we are sure that as
we are getting old, our brain is finding it hard to keep up.
And this is the greatest lie that we tell ourselves!
In reality, the brain is up and running and its ready to learn new things everyday. What you need to ask yourself is whether you are challenging it enough.
Researchers Ping Li and his colleagues at the Center for Language Sciences at Penn State University set out to test this and enrolled a group of 39 native English speakers for their study. Over a period of six weeks, half of the participants in the study were assigned to learn Chinese vocabulary while the others did not. Both the groups…

Leptin can help you lose weight?

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Leptin is a small hormone produced by the adipose tissues (fat cells) in our body and functions as a signal for the amount of fat present in the body. Depending on the 'Leptin' signal received, the brain can instruct our stomach to stop demanding food or our mouth to stop eating, thereby reducing food intake. So, in theory, more the amount of leptin in your body, lesser will you eat and it would be a a breeze to keep your weight in control. Of course, there is a catch.
The effect of Leptin was discovered in 1994 in a study involving voraciously eating obese mice. When these mice were given leptin injections, their craving for food dropped and they returned to normal body weight. So, scientists attempted to cure obesity in humans with the help of leptin injections. But, during trials, large amounts and frequent doses of leptin had to be injected to gain significant weight loss in highly obese patients. Also, large doses resulted in redness of skin at the site of injection for c…

How quickly can you spot a leader?

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We all have our 'I-told-you-so' moments with our friends and most of predictions come true. But, how good are our predictions when it comes to guessing about strangers? How quickly can we gauge people and draw conclusions about them?
Less than two minutes is all it takes for us to pass judgments about people and identify them from a crowd. A study conducted by University of British Columbia, revealed that it takes lesser than 120 seconds for people to recognize a leader from a bunch of strangers. So, on what basis do we identify these individuals from the rest? Well, according to the study, there are only two factors that we take into consideration. One, the skills of the person and second, his/her dominance. So, we are likely to see an aggressive person as our leader.
Very likely, your next question is How did they find this? 
An initial group of 200 participants was first asked carry our certain activities in groups. After the activity, the participants were asked to rate the d…

No more monkeying!

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Optogenetics is a method of probing neural circuits with the help of a combination of genetics and optics. In this method light-sensitive genes from microbial organisms are used along with light in order to receive a response from neurons. This is a very amusing method which is proving to be very helpful and a recent study has added a whole new dimension to this method of altering neural activities.
The study used optogenetics and showed that the behaviour of monkeys can be altered using pulses of blue light which is known to activate specific brain cells. This result has provided the inspiration to develop a similar therapy for human beings. Previously this type of study was done on rodents and invertebrates but the result derived from the reaction in the brain of monkeys proved more helpful. The validation of the result was done with the use of an MRI and tests focussing on neurons responsible for specific eye movements. Both brain activity and subtle alteration in the eye movements …

Music and the Brain

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Children at N.Y. Zoo (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
If you thought music was just a means of entertainment, you are in for a surprise. Recent studies show that there is in fact a lot to music than what meets the “ear”.
In recent years many acoustic experts and researchers have carried out experiments to show a correlation between brain function, cognition and music. One such experiment studied and compared the brain responses and sound recognition of pre-school children who were being trained in music to those who were not. It was observed that children who received musical training not only had better sound recognition but their auditory cortex appeared modified in comparison to the other group. The children also demonstrated enhancement in memory and attention level in comparison to the non-musical group.
Musical training is also observed to have a remarkable impact on children suffering from dyslexia. Training in music is believed to act …