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Coordinating Movement, Language, and Thoughts? An Expanded Role for the Cerebellum

Purkinje neuron in the cerebellum; credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3_recon_512x512.jpg

Anytime we are using our coordination – whether taking a shot in golf or just reaching for a coffee mug – the cerebellum is at play. The small structure at the base of the brain is well-known to be critical in coordinating our movements, their precision and timing. But according to a growing body of research, the same predictive abilities the cerebellum brings to motor control also influence language and learning, and may even bring insight into thought disorders associated with schizophrenia.

Running that Red Light? The Complex Drivers of Teenage Risk

credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boy_driving.jpg

You’ve been stuck in traffic forever and are waiting in a long lineup at a red light. The light finally turns green and you start slowly moving, only to find that the light turns yellow as soon as you approach the intersection. Do you go for it and run the yellow (or maybe red!), or stop and wait again? And how does that decision change if a colleague or friend is in the car?

Stop Interrupting Me! Distractions Kill Writing Quality

credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tapping_pencil.jpg

Guest Post by Cyrus Foroughi, George Mason University

The day before I began writing this post, I decided to run a small-scale case study on myself. I wanted to count the number of times I was interrupted during the day. I did not silence my phone nor did I disable any notifications (e.g., email, Facebook) so I could get an accurate estimate of the number of times I was interrupted throughout the day. The study only lasted about two hours because I was getting so distracted I wasn’t getting any work done.

Is Imagination Just Another Form of Remembering?

credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zorbing.jpg

Now that we’re in the dog days of summer, I find myself imagining the perfect summer vacation – long trips to Greece, or maybe Fiji… somewhere I have never been. My imagined trips would not be complete without my memories from past trips – the feel of the breeze from the shore, happy times spent with family. But do my imagined scenarios and memories come from the same place? New research finds that while imagining and remembering draw on shared regions of the brain, the two processes activate those regions in different ways.

Social Priorities: We Rapidly Process Communicative Cues

credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikimedians_in_discussion_1,_2011-01-07.jpg

A smile, a wave, a head nod – seemingly small communicative gestures are of vital importance even for babies. And new research finds that the brain processes these social cues faster than previously thought, as quickly as 70 milliseconds. The finding gives insight into the brain’s priorities that may further understanding of both typical and atypical social interaction.

Why It’s So Tough for People in Power to Truly Feel Your Pain

Bush_and_Clinton

I feel your pain.

These words are famously associated with Bill Clinton, who as a politician seemed to ooze empathy. A skeptic might wonder, though, whether such a powerful figure really was personally distressed by the suffering of average Americans. Can people in high positions of power — be they presidents, bosses, celebrities and so on — easily empathize with those beneath them?

How Loss of Hearing Leads to Improved Vision in the Deaf

credit: Jonas Bergsten

We have all heard the amazing things the brain can do when deprived of one of the senses – stories about blind people with incredible hearing or deaf people with amazing visual skills. That is because the part of the brain responsible for hearing reorganizes itself in the deaf to take in visual information (and vice versa in the blind). A new study of deaf people explores how that reorganization occurs and how it is affected by use of hearing aids.

Drawing Draws on Complex Cognitive Processes

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sketchbook_AC_2006.jpg

Drawing objects seems like a simple task – most of us, from young to old, can copy simple pictures even if we lack artistic talent. An inability to draw simple pictures is often a symptom of a cognitive disorder or brain damage. New research looking at stroke patients has found that drawing depends on several complex cognitive processes that operate via specific neuronal networks.

Unleashing the Power of the Bilingual Mind

Bilingual sign in Wales

Guest post by Anna M. Beres, Bangor University

Writing or talking about my research in English is relatively easy. I do it everyday, even though my native language is Polish and I work in Wales, where I am constantly switching between English and Welsh. But whenever I try to explain my work to my family in Polish, it requires a lot more effort. It’s not that I do not know the right words; it is that I need to understand the material at a much deeper level if I am to be accurate. Even though I find it more difficult initially, the explanations seem to last much longer in my memory, and my understanding of the subject grows.

Rethinking Time for Independence in Children’s Daily Lives

credit: Lisa M.P. Munoz

If your July 4th plans are anything like my family’s, it’s fully loaded with lots of planned activities: parade at 10am, pool at 2pm, BBQ at 4pm, fireworks at 9pm, etc. Little time is left unstructured for the kids to, well, be independent. New research gives me pause to think, though, about whether for July 4th or otherwise I should leave some more breathing room in our schedule: Researchers found that less-structured time in children’s daily lives predicts how well they will be able to self-direct to achieve goals.