neuroscience

Guess what girls? Men are from Venus too!

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Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Forget the theory that men are from Mars and women from Venus – our brains are the same, an expert insists. Neuroscientist Professor Gina Rippon says the sexes are not ‘hardwired’ in different ways and there is no evidence that men are innately better at reading maps or that women are better at multi-tasking.

Men-Mars-Women-Venus-Cover

Any difference is due to society’s idea of gender, not to biology, and is deterring a generation of women from becoming scientists, she warns.  Professor Rippon, of Aston University, Birmingham, said differences in the brain are formed in childhood by divisions in the games girls and boys play and stereotypes they conform to. The scientist said the human brain is much more malleable than we think.

She highlighted recent research which showed that women given a Tetris console game to play for three months displayed fundamental changes in their brain structure.

The Californian study found that women who…

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Can scientists really change your memories?

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stick_figure_thinking_cap_500_wht_10194Short of brain-washing people it sounds almost like a sci-fi fantasy. However scientists have succeeded in manipulating the brains of mice, turning fearful recollections into happy ones.

Whatever you think about the prospect of wiping out any memories – you could argue that we are shaped by our experiences and our memories of them, good or bad – it may be that for some people it’s the only way for them to live a normal life. But they said the same thing about ECT which seems barbaric now (although still used).

Steve Ramirez, a neuroscientist at MIT said “ We can now go in and study these memory centres and tinker with them to change the content. Our memories feel like a tape recorder of the past but in reality it’s a construction that is constantly being warped with some emotions fading and new ones coming in.

The authors of the recent study, published in Nature, believe that eventually it will be of clinical use in helping humans. But “tinkering” with our brains?

The leader of the study, Susumu Tonegawa, said “We have no intention of using this technology to alter normal healthy people’s minds or cognitions. If there is any application of this, it is for pathological conditions to reduce the suffering of people with psychiatric conditions”.

The study demonstrates that the factual content of our memories are stored in a different brain centre (the hippocampus) from the emotional content (in the amygdala) of those memories and can be altered using a technique called optogenetics.

This entails a light-sensitive protein being introduced into active brain cells so the neurons can be switched on and off by shining a laser at the head.

lab_rat_with_pen_clipboard_1600_wht_14929In the experiment scientists introduced the protein into the mice’s brains at the same time as they gave them an electric shock. They taught the mice to associate the shock with a small square in their cage and hit them with laser pulses every time they stepped on it until they began to avoid it.

Then they put them in a cage with female mice which the experimenters say evokes positive emotions! The memory of the electric shock was reactivated using the laser pulses (which they now associated with positive emotions) so that when they were returned to their original cages they actively sought out they small square they had previously associated with the electric shock.

If this technique works in humans it opens up a whole debate about the ethics of using it. Who decides what normal behaviour is? What’s to stop government agencies using the technique for their own ends.

Remember the film Total Recall based on the short story by Philip K Dick “We can remember it for you wholesale” about memories and reality (the 1990 version is the best one but here’s the trailer for the 2012 re-make)?

How Improvising Can Change Your Brain……………

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Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

 

Fascinating stuff, this. Above, Gabriela Montero improvises on the Goldberg Variations theme. I’ve always listened to her (and many others) and wondered “How does she do that?” Now Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, has released some information about what improvising can do for the brain, and vice-versa…
To Change Your Brain: Improvise, Improvise, and Improvise Some More
With practice, specific brain circuits are strengthen and music flows
Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, suggest a new study presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Researchers also found that more experienced improvisers show higher connectivity between three major regions of the brain’s frontal lobe while improvising. This suggests that the generation of meaningful music during improvisation can become highly automated —performed with…

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Personality Neuroscience: Unlocking The Mystery of The Brain in Order to Understand The Whole Person

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Brought to my attention via Dr Mark’s Business Psychology blog

Fresh Perspectives on Psychometrics & Psychology

Brain painting

This month, President Obama unveiled plans to fund a $100 million project to discover how different regions of the brain connect and result in the many complex functions that we as human beings are capable of. The BRAIN initiative, similar in its audacious attempt to push the boundaries of human knowledge as the Human Genome project, will endeavour to discover more about the most complex structure in the universe.

So, I was inspired to reconnect with my neuroscience roots myself and through a recommendation of our very own Psyche Editor; Mr Starkey, came across the intriguing field of ‘Personality Neuroscience’. The aim of this field, is “to understand both the biological systems that are responsible for the states associated with [personality] traits and the parameters of those systems that cause them to function differently in different individuals” (DeYoung, 2010).  A leading figure within Personality Neuroscience is Dr Colin DeYoung, who…

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