Imagination is not just something for creative endeavors — it is a real-world tool that can not only shape the way we act in the future, but also affect how we feel right now. Think about the dread you feel the day before a tooth extraction, imagining the pain to come. New research finds that you might be able to lessen those feelings by changing your visual point of view — imagining yourself as an outsider.
Guest Post by Nick Wan, Utah State University
Imagine driving in a simulator while undergoing an fMRI. No, you won’t be lying down — this is not your typical large, chamber-like scanner. An instrument called functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or fNIRS, is using a smaller, more portable design to record brain activity in more real-world settings.
Guest Post by Priya Kalra, Harvard University
Although scientists now understand dyslexia better than ever before, it is still a condition shrouded in myth and misunderstanding. I first came to see our flawed perceptions of dyslexia while tutoring a 4th grader. Despite normal intelligence and effort, he could not read. I saw how the frustration this caused him affected his general behavior and attitude toward school. At the same time, I read a story in Time magazine about the work of Mike Merzenich and Paula Tallal showing that their behavioral intervention seemed to cause measurable differences in brain activity among people with dyslexia. This got me thinking about the possibility of using neuroscience to better understand dyslexia and help students with reading disabilities.
Smells are undeniably powerful, able to transport us to different places and times in our memories. Think of how you feel when you smell cookies baking in the oven. But can they also change how we see things? New research shows that smells can enhance visual processing – but only in women, not men.
“Think of it as a weird massage…”
Journal articles can often feel impersonal to the readers. The participants are nameless subjects, the equipment and the meticulous lab set-up overshadowed by the findings.
But as I learned firsthand, such studies are anything but impersonal.
Ka-Ka-Ka-r-r-r-et-et-et: Carrot. For parents helping their children learn to read, sounding out words like that is a daily occurrence. Letter-by-letter, syllable-by-syllable, kids make the sounds before thinking about the meaning of the words. As they become reading proficient, they can recognize the words without this painstaking process.
Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly why exercise promotes cognitive health, especially in older adults. Some researchers posit that physical activity helps maintain youthful brain structures, but a new study instead suggests exercise changes the way seniors’ brains process information – making the aging brain more adaptable. Understanding how this adaptation occurs can ultimately guide seniors as they work to maintain good mental health.
Q&A with Micah Allen
From the CIA to Ashton Kutcher to CNN, Twitter is the social medium du jour for rapidly communicating ideas. And the scientific community is no exception – a growing community of scientists and science communicators are using Twitter to share ideas and news. Just last month, Science Magazine came out with the “top 50 science stars of Twitter” (which sparked controversy, particularly with regard to gender diversity, and ultimately a revised list).
We’ve all had moments when something just didn’t seem quite right – perhaps a slightly crooked photo hanging or a book that seems out of place on the shelf. For people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these feelings are more frequent and intense. In a new study, researchers have found a new way to test these symptoms. They found that patients with OCD-type symptoms reacted faster to disharmonic sounds than to harmonic ones.
Guest Post by Amitai Shenhav, Princeton University
Tonight, after dinner, I will go out for ice cream at one of my favorite spots in Princeton. I will salivate in anticipation of my visit, delighting in all of the options that await me. I will carry that excitement with me as I enter the shop and examine all of the flavors I have at my disposal. And then, even as I’m thinking all of these good thoughts, I will quite predictably bring on board another feeling: stress over which flavors I should choose.