How the Brain Processes Keeping up With the Joneses

Is outdoing your peers the opposite of being outdone, or a different experience entirely? Neuroscientists Michael Lindner and Klaus Fliessbach at the University of Bonn in Germany recently addressed this question.

Long Term Effects of Marijuana on the Brain

The recent legalization of marijuana in two U.S. states means that it’s an increasingly frequent topic of conversation for many people. One key question remains unanswered: does marijuana have long-lasting effects on the brain? Let's explore the evidence.

7 Short-Term Effects of Marijuana on the Brain

In part 1 of what marijuana really does to your brain, we traced the discovery of the cannabinoid receptor. Finding the receptor is the first step in determining how smoking causes a high. The next step is to figure out where cannabinoid receptors are and what they’re doing.

What Does Marijuana Really Do to the Brain?

While perception of marijuana may be in flux, one thing hasn’t changed: its psychoactive effects. With those effects cropping up in conversation more frequently as new laws make headlines, it’s high time I found out what marijuana does to the brain.

Making Learning Fun

June 20th is Summer Learning Day. I marked the occasion by speaking with Sooinn Lee, who recently gave a Ted Talk called, “When learning is painful.” Lee is the founder of LocoMotive Labs, where they have developed an iPad app, “Todo Math,” to help children from kindergarten to second grade hone their math skills.

Have We Discovered a Hidden Danger of Pornography?

Men who have watched more porn have smaller volume in the striatum, a region of the brain’s reward network. The link between striatum size and time watching porn could mean that repeated exposure dulls the reward circuitry’s response to pleasure. Or not.

School Program Dampens Threat Response, Aggression

According to a new study, experiences during childhood affect how you handle angering encounters as an adult. Previous studies have shown that high-quality care can decrease the risk for aggression, but it wasn’t clear why. Justin Carré had a hunch it might have to do with testosterone.

How the Brain Feels Betrayed

Betrayal hurts. A recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences asked why; how does the brain process the possibility of betrayal? In addition to great tragedy, betrayal also makes great science.

How to Build Character

I recently had the chance to speak with filmmaker Tiffany Shlain, whose latest film, The Science of Character, reminds us that we can grow and develop character traits throughout our lives.

The Science of Viral Videos

The last time you sent your friend a link to a video, did you think about why? Philosophers have been grappling with similar questions for millennia. Only in the past few years, however, have we had the chance to glimpse the neural underpinnings that drive us to share. A recent study suggests brain activity offers clues to how popular a song might become.

The Midas Touch

Babies born prematurely who were held for an hour daily for two weeks had better executive function--impulse control, planning and focus--than preemies who were kept in an incubator 24 hours a day. The brain has critical windows for development, and the time soon after birth has disproportional weight. The benefits of quality care extend at least to age 10.

How To Think Like a Psychopath

I recently had the chance to speak with neuroscientist James Fallon, Ph.D. whose book “The Psychopath Inside” came out this month. Psychopathy has been an interest of mine for several years, so it was great to talk with a fellow brain nerd about what causes it, how it manifests, and why it exists at all.

Can Jogging Relieve Depression?

A recent review tested whether exercise decreased depression. When including all 35 potential studies comparing exercise to no treatment, exercise provided a modest benefit. However, when only the 6 studies that made every effort to minimize bias were included, exercise’s benefits were small and statistically insignificant. That's far from a slam dunk.

What’s the Best Meal to Sober up After Drinking?

I just discovered the answer to the age-old after-the-bar question: what should you eat to help sober up? Some friends swear by migas, saying that the protein and fat in the eggs and cheese help you sober up. Others insist on big pancakes—a sugary, carb-heavy meal to absorb the alcohol.

Brain Chemistry and Upbringing Shape How We Make Friends

Having good friends benefits our health, happiness and overall life satisfaction. Despite friendship’s importance, we had little understanding of how we learn to make friends. New evidence from Ruth Feldman at Bar-Ilan University in Israel showed for the first time that early parenting and biology interact to shape how we relate to our friends.

Why Do We Backseat Drive? A Brain Perspective

The grocery store is seven blocks from my house and I know exactly how to get there. But when my wife started driving there she took a wrong turn. An instant after I asked her where the hell she was going, I realized she probably knew what she was doing, but it was too late. The fight was on.

Can We Predict Crime Using Brain Scans?

A study out this past month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that forecasting future criminal behavior could become reality in the near future. The study offers the first evidence that brain scans might be used to predict who will commit a crime.

More Coffee, Less Bang?

According to a new study from the University of Bristol, regular caffeine consumers may not receive any benefit in performance. Worse still, they may depend on their favorite beverage just to function at the baseline level of non-consumers.

Agreeable? You’re More Likely to Benefit From Placebo

The next time you take a pill to relieve a headache, time how long it takes until the pain disappears. If it’s less than 15 minutes, chances are good that you benefited more from a placebo effect than your ibuprofen. According to a recent study, your personality determines how likely you are to experience a placebo effect.

Musical Training Boosts Verbal Memory

Before cutting any more of the arts curriculum from schools, take a look at the results of a study that came out this month in Frontiers in Neuroscience. Kids who took music lessons developed better memories for words than kids who took an extra science class or had no extra lessons.

Are Temper Tantrums a Fight/Flight Response?

Could the fight/flight response be the driving force behind tantrums. If so, can tantrums be short-circuited with breathing exercise and thought training?

Oxytocin Improves Emotion Recognition in Autism

Research from Japan suggests that oxytocin might help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders recognize difficult-to-identify emotions.

To Do a Tough Job, Your Brain Conjures the Reward

Yesterday at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference, Michael Treadway presented research on how we decide to buckle down and complete a tough task. He suggests that the brain needs to activate reward circuitry before taking on a challenge.

The Damaging Impact of Abuse on Brain Development

After you're born, the greatest impact on the brain you'll have as an adult comes from the experiences you have in the first years of your life. Here's the latest research on what can result.

Can Bilingualism Offset the Impact of Poverty?

Support for a bilingual advantage among low-income children has been mixed. Some suggested that it may even be harmful because it confused children with more words and slowed their uptake of the language and integration into culture they lived in. A forthcoming study in Psychological Science set out to settle the matter.

Through An App, A Better Way to Teach Kids About the Brain

I had the chance to speak with Erica Warp, co-creator of Ned the Neuron, an app to teach kids about the brain, and Alesha Bishop who's working to get the word out about this exciting project. Here's what I found out.

The Neuroscience of Racial Bias

if most people do not want to appear racially biased, why does bias persist? Further, how can we get rid of it? Recent neuroscience studies offer answers to both questions.

Ecstasy Improves “Mind-Reading,” But Only for Positive Emotions

Ecstasy is most well known as a party drug that makes you really friendly, but recently it has received attention for the treatment of PTSD. A new study may explain ecstasy’s dual role as a party-catalyst and therapeutic. Ecstasy improves mind-reading—your ability to correctly guess what someone is feeling by reading their facial expression—but only for positive emotions.

Brain Condition Saves Aurora Shooting Victim’s Life: Explained

Amid the tragedy and heartache in Aurora last week, a fascinating story of survival emerged. Petra Anderson was shot in the head, but her brain has had from birth a small "defect" in it that may have save her life. Here's what her brain condition might be.

How Your Brain Decides: It Depends on Who’s Involved

McKell Carter, Scott Huettel and colleagues pinpointed a brain region that predicts upcoming decisions but is specific to people and depends on their relevance to you. Its activation depends on who’s giving you a cue and how important they are.