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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.

What Triggers Spontaneous Memories of Emotional Events?

Oarabile Mudongo; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Airlington_Memory_Park.jpg

Whether we like it or not, sometimes distant memories of past events pop into our heads for no apparent reason. Study after study has found that memories associated with high emotions are more likely to spontaneously come to the surface than non-emotional ones. But these memories may lack specific details – cued by familiar surroundings and events rather than rooted in specific recollection – according to new research.

Linguistics Sleuths Probe the Mental Health of Agatha Christie

Stephan Brunker; Luestling; de.wikipedia

Agatha Christie was a master storyteller who weaved together seemingly disparate clues to tell a compelling mystery. Now, scientists are trying to sleuth the details of her mental health using linguistics analyses. A new study, which looks at the works of six renowned authors over their decades’ long writing careers, found that Christie likely suffered from some form of dementia, but not Alzheimer’s.

Where’s My Car? Senior Moments are Not Intractable

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P3030027ParkingLot_wb.jpgWe call it a “senior moment” – when we forget where we parked the car or left the keys. These moments of forgetfulness are so called because they tend to become more frequent with age. But all is not lost: New research suggests that senior moments have a lot to do with how we approach remembering something, rather than simply being a function of memory capabilities. That’s good news for aging adults, as it means that memory deficits are not intractable.

Let’s Get Fired Up: Is Seeing Brain Activity the Ultimate Motivator?

credit: Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Wien; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vienna_City_Marathon_20090419_Evans-Kamromboi_Korimuk_KEN.jpgFrom coaches to self-help books, everyone has advice for how to get motivated to accomplish a task. But what if you could simply see how your brain reacts to different motivation strategies and then pick the best one? New research is finding that showing people their brain activity levels could be the key to firing them up.