Decision-Making in the Female Brain

Female brains differ from male brains in many ways, including hormone levels. Hormone levels change throughout the ovarian cycle and these fluctuations correlate with changes in behavior and mood. When deciding between rewards available immediately or later in time, females' preference for delayed, larger, rewards peaked with hormone levels and with fertility.

An Addicted Brain Is a Diseased, Not Flawed, Brain

Drug addiction is devastating and costly. It is not a character flaw; it is a chronic disease. Drugs physically and chemically alter the brain, sometimes permanently. The disease is heritable, but identification of relevant genes is still a work in progress. Addiction is also most likely to start during adolescence, which is when most people experiment with drugs.

Disrupting Consciousness

A recent case study about a patient with a brain tumor suggests a mechanism contributing to human conscious experience. Before surgeons removed the tumor, they functionally mapped surrounding brain areas. Electrical stimulation of posterior cingulate white matter tracts reproducibly altered the patient's conscious experience.

Distracted Decisions

Distractions are known to affect how we act. Multi-tasking decreases cognitive abilities; texting and driving is dangerous. But even even seemingly insignificant distractions can worsen our decision-making capabilities. A study looking choices made between multiple alternatives found the brain struggled to choose optimally when distracted.

Male Brain, Female Brain

Males and females are different; that is not in dispute. Are male and female brains different? The answer to that question is also not in dispute. Yes, male and female brains are different. How brains differ with biological sex is an active area of neuroscience research, but a more important question is why male and female brains differ at all.

So Many Brain Cells, So Many Ways to Control Body Weight

When minds such as da Vinci and Descartes studied the brain, they focused almost entirely on the ventricular system. Assigning such importance was forward-thinking as the ventricular system does much more than protect, support, and nourish the brain and spine. Cells in ventricle walls are diverse; some are stem cells involved in controlling body weight.

New Year's Resolutions: Neural Tug-of-Wars

How often do you make a decision about something truly necessary for life? The answer is all the time! We have to eat to live. We do not have to buy flattering jeans to live. We don't even have be kind to others to live. Weight loss by eating healthy is an ever-popular New Year’s resolution, and its success requires a tug-of-war among the brain’s decision-making system

What if the Grinch Really Did Steal all Christmas Presents?

Gift giving is an important part of Christmas. Dr. Seuss' Grinch tried to stop Christmas by stealing gifts. He did not succeed, of course. The Grinch did not need to return the gifts in order for the holiday to be happy. Research suggests that lasting happiness does not come from consumable items usually given as holiday gifts.

Personal Training for Your Brain

Activity monitors—such as Nike Fuel or Jawbone Up—are devices worn on the body that track physical movement and sometimes sleep. Marketed to improve overall health, activity monitors are a booming industry and popular for holiday gifts. But why and how do they work? Understanding how the brain forms habits provides one possible answer.

Bacteria and Your Brain

Gut flora, known to be important to digestive health, also plays a role in brain function. Recently published work in animals links the composition of gut flora to behavioral hallmarks of autism while suggesting possible treatments of other neurological disorders with probiotics.

Death Is a Synesthete (In The Book Thief by Mark Zusak)

Mark Zusak's novel, The Book Thief, is narrated by Death, a synesthete who tastes colors. Synesthesia is a benign neurological condition where the physical senses overlap. Sensory systems are well-studied in neuroscience, and investigating how synesthesia arises could lead to therapies for other brain diseases that are also characterized by atypical connection patterns.

This Is Your Brain on Oreos, Or Is It?

A neuroscientist at Connecticut College has data showing greater neuronal response to cookies over addictive drugs like morphine and cocaine. Yet, not being published did not stop a press release from being written and disseminated widely through the media.

The Brain is an Orchestra

Neurons in the brain work together, much like instruments of an orchestra combine to play a symphony. Advances in technology allow neuroscience to study the brain as it functions, as ensemble activity arising from populations of neurons.

Insights from Chemistry into how ‘Nudges’ Impact Decisions

Every single choice we make is influenced by something -- your surroundings, what your friend just said to you, what you just read. These choice influences, also called nudges, are literally inescapable in life. So, it's a good idea to really understand what they are and how they affect your decisions.

Drunk Monkey, Sober Monkey

Just like humans, some vervet monkeys become addicted to alcohol, while others avoid the drug. Individual differences in the brain's reward system may help to explain these preferences in both humans and vervet monkeys.

This is Your Brain on Yoga

Yoga helps keep your brain calm the same way that alcohol and anti-anxiety drugs do—with GABA!

A Surprising Stowaway in Semen

A hormone abundant in the seminal fluid of mammals appears to cause ovulation upon entering the female's system. What are the implications for the science of fertility and evolutionary biology if this mechanism operates in humans the way it does in other mammals?

The Adolescent Brain: (Awkward) Window of Opportunity

Recent developments in cognitive neuroscience are changing how we think about the developing adolescent brain.

What Language Do You Use for Multiplication?

"Read the following list aloud: 4 8 5 3 9 7 6. Now close your eyes and try to memorize the numbers for 20 seconds before reciting them again. If your native language is English, you have about a 50% chance of failure. If you are Chinese, however, success is almost guaranteed" —Stanislas Dehaene The Number Sense

What Do Your Dreams Say About Who You Are?

Dreaming, Personality, and Neurobiology

Your Gut, Your Brain, and Economics

The gut and the brain are closely connected via the communication of the autonomous nervous system. This connection has implications for research in emotion, cognition and intuitive decision making.

The Other Oxytocin

The Neurotransmitter oxytocin is often described, and even marketed, as a "love hormone". Of course the science is a little more nuanced...

What You See is What You Hear

It is not quite synesthesia, but the McGurk illusion is an incidence in which our senses get a little mixed up, and we start hearing things with our eyes...

Unselfishly Unpopular

Nobody likes selfish free riders, but a recent study shows that people are not too fond of those who unselfishly provide for others either...

What's in a Name?

Are the names we use to describe objects really the result of random convention, or is there a more fundamental relation between how a word sounds and the properties of the object it describes?To say it in Shakespear's words: "What is in a name?"

Copying Others When Choosing A Mate

Mate choice copying has often been reported for non-human animals.A recent study looks at mate choice copying for human attractivness ratings and willingness to engage in romantic relationships.

Eye Color and Perceived Dominance

A new study links eye color to perceived dominance (in men). But there is more to it than initially meets the eye...

Confidently Wrong?

False memories, like false knowledge, are often maintained even in the light of correcting information. A study shows when false memories are more likely to be discarded. 

Sex Differences in Cooperative Behavior? Depends on Who's Watching

The willingness to cooperate in a prisoner's dilemma has long been thought the same for men and women. Adding an audience to the classic prisoner's dilemma experiment, however, paints a far more nuanced picture...

Does a Price Tag Have a Taste?

Experienced wine tasters can supposedly tell the difference between a cheap wine and a more expensive one. But research shows that a measurable portion of the actually perceived taste difference is solely due to a neurological response to the wine's price tag. So I have to ask: How do $90 taste different from $15?...

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