How well do you visualize things you remember or imagine? Try to imagine this: You have climbed to the top of a hill. You scramble to the top of some rocks. Ahead of you, past some more hills with trees on them, is a mountain range rising above the hills. The sky is mostly blue with a few fluffy clouds, and a plane going by leaving a contrail.
How well did you visualize that? Could you see it in your mind’s eye? Or was it just a description without an image?
If you couldn’t visualize it, then you may have aphantasia, a condition that 2-5 percent of people may have. This can affect how well we can recall things, to how we can imagine the future, and even dream.
While they’re mollusks, there’re not brainless. In fact, most of their brain is spread throughout their 8 arms. They like puzzles, make friends, and remember people. Sadly, they have short lives and can’t pass on their knowledge to their offspring because they die soon after reproducing.
Not actual cars, but small vehicles in a lab. They can control left, right, and forward. The rats learned to drive to get food. And scientists found that learning to drive seemed to reduce stress.
The ability of rats to drive these cars demonstrates the “neuroplasticity” of their brains, says Lambert. This refers to their ability to respond flexibly to novel challenges. “I do believe that rats are smarter than most people perceive them to be, and that most animals are smarter in unique ways than we think,” she says.
And there are neat videos of rats driving their “cars”.
Here’s another article that includes information on the two groups of rats involved, including that they seemed to enjoy just driving their cars even if there were no treats involved, but only if they lived with many other rats in an enriching environment.
Other than humans, there is only one animal that we know about that talks about events that have already happened (the past): Orangutans. Orangutans make a certain sound to signal that there is a predator nearby. Scientists have observed orangutans seeing a predator, quietly climbing to safety while carrying her infant, and waiting until it was safe to give the warning.
This delayed warning makes it safer for the infant, and indicates a greater intelligence than only communicating about events that are currently happening.
Have you ever had a thought that just keeps on coming up even though you wish it would just stop? This is very common with people who have PTSD, depression, anxiety, and more.
Research done at the University of Cambridge has found that one particular neurotransmitter, GABA, may be the key to help avoid these thoughts in the future. Research using FMRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy have found that the presence of GABA can inhibit the activity of connected memory neurons. It may be that increasing the amount of GABA could help reduce the amount of persistent unwanted thoughts.
Do you get carsick when you try to read in the car? It’s very annoying for someone who really likes to bury their nose in a book. There’s this time in the car going somewhere—maybe a couple of hours. Why waste that time just staring out the window, when you could be reading? But once you start reading, your stomach tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you’re going to be sick soon.
Well, it has to do with how your body interprets mixed messages. Your vestibular system in the ears is constantly telling your brain that you’re moving. At the same time, your eyes are looking at a book that isn’t moving. These mixed messages tell your brain that something’s wrong. And the only thing that leads to this kind of mixed messages—at least the only thing for many millions of years of evolution—is that you’ve been poisoned. The body’s reaction to thinking that it has swallowed something really nasty is to un-swallow it. You know, throwing up.
This doesn’t affect everyone to the same degree, which is just individual variation. Maybe you have genes that don’t get as upset about this. That’s good if you like reading in the car. But it doesn’t bode well if you inadvertently swallow some poison.
While I teach general science, my schools Gifted and Talented teacher goes into more advanced work with some of the students. Today she brought in a biology expert to do sheep brain dissection in my classroom.
Researchers at the Salk Institute have found where nerve signals are preprocessed to help the brain maintain balance on slippery surfaces. They think a group of nerves in the spinal cord called RORα serve as a link between the brain and the feet. Studies with mice showed that mice without the RORα nerves had trouble maintaining balance.
“We think these neurons are responsible for combining all of this information to tell the feet how to move,” says Steeve Bourane, a postdoctoral researcher in Goulding’s lab and first author on the new paper. “If you stand on a slippery surface for a long time, you’ll notice your calf muscles get stiff, but you may not have noticed you were using them. Your body is on autopilot, constantly making subtle corrections while freeing you to attend to other higher-level tasks.”
This one is old, but since I just wrote one post on neuroplasticity, I thought I’d write another.
Back in 2009, scientists made a special digital camera for the blind. This camera sent its picture to a small array of electrodes. These electrodes were on a small “lollipop” that the blind person put in his/her mouth. The small electric signals were picked up by the tongue. They said it felt like pop-rocks, or champagne bubbles.
It took only about 15 minutes for the blind user’s brain to start interpreting the input as vision.
Seiple works with four patients who train with the BrainPort once a week and notes that his patients have learned how to quickly find doorways and elevator buttons, read letters and numbers, and pick out cups and forks at the dinner table without having to fumble around. “At first, I was amazed at what the device could do,” he said. “One guy started to cry when he saw his first letter.”
While the sensor can only work in black and white, and is fairly low resolution, it is amazing that the brain can rewire itself so quickly to take input from the tongue and interpret it as vision.
Our work has shown that two types of first-order tactile neurons that supply the sensitive skin at our fingertips not only signal information about when and how intensely an object is touched, but also information about the touched object’s shape
In particular, they found that the neurons in the skin perform the same type of calculations that the cerebral cortex does.