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Ant Colonies Retain Memories That Outlast the Lifespans of Individuals | Science | Smithsonian

From day to day, the colony’s behavior changes, and what happens on one day affects the next. I conducted a series of perturbation experiments. I put out toothpicks that the workers had to move away, or blocked the trails so that foragers had to work harder, or created a disturbance that the patrollers tried to repel. Each experiment affected only one group of workers directly, but the activity of other groups of workers changed, because workers of one task decide whether to be active depending on their rate of brief encounters with workers of other tasks. After just a few days repeating the experiment, the colonies continued to behave as they did while they were disturbed, even after the perturbations stopped. Ants had switched tasks and positions in the nest, and so the patterns of encounter took a while to shift back to the undisturbed state. No individual ant remembered anything but, in some sense, the colony did.

Quantum science turns social -- ScienceDaily

Why could players without any formal training in experimental physics manage to find surprisingly good solutions? One hint came from an interview with a top-player, a retired Italian microwave systems engineer. He said, that for him participating in the Alice Challenge reminded him a lot of his previous job as an engineer. He never attained a detailed understanding of microwave systems but instead spent years developing an intuition of how to optimize the performance of his "black-box." "We humans may develop general optimization skills in our everyday work life that we can efficiently transfer to new settings. If this is true, any research challenge can in fact be turned into a citizen science game," said Jacob Sherson, head of the ScienceAtHome project at Aarhus University. It still seems incredible that untrained amateurs using an unintuitive game interface outcompete expert experimentalists. One answer may lie in an old Herbert Simon quote: "Solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent."

Faster. Slower. How We Walk Depends on Who We Walk With, and Where We Live. - The New York Times

People in Uganda, it turned out, walked much more quickly than those in Seattle when they were by themselves, their pace averaging about 11 percent swifter than lone walkers in the United States. But they were slower in groups. Both men and women in Mukono strolled at a more leisurely pace when they were with others, especially children. Their pace when accompanied by children was about 16 percent slower than when they were alone, whether they carried the children or walked beside them. The opposite was true in Seattle. There, people sped up when they walked with other people. Men were particularly hurried when walking with other men, but both men and women increased their pace if they had children in tow. Their average walking speed when they carried or accompanied children was about 20 percent speedier than when they walked alone.

Poor sleep triggers viral loneliness and social rejection: Lack of sleep generates social anxiety that infects those around us -- ScienceDaily

Notably, researchers found that brain scans of sleep-deprived people as they viewed video clips of strangers walking toward them showed powerful social repulsion activity in neural networks that are typically activated when humans feel their personal space is being invaded. Sleep loss also blunted activity in brain regions that normally encourage social engagement. "The less sleep you get, the less you want to socially interact. In turn, other people perceive you as more socially repulsive, further increasing the grave social-isolation impact of sleep loss," Walker added. "That vicious cycle may be a significant contributing factor to the public health crisis that is loneliness." National surveys suggest that nearly half of Americans report feeling lonely or left out. Furthermore, loneliness has been found to increase one's risk of mortality by more than 45 percent -- double the mortality risk associated with obesity.

When there's an audience, people's performance improves -- ScienceDaily

When participants knew an audience was watching, a part of the prefrontal cortex associated with social cognition, particularly the thoughts and intentions of others, activated along with another part of the cortex associated with reward. Together these signals triggered activity in the ventral striatum, an area of the brain that motivates action and motor skills. In essence, the presence of an audience, at least a small one, increased people's incentive to perform well, Chib said, and the brain scans validated this by showing the neural mechanism for how it happens. While people were watching, participants were an average of 5 percent better at the video game -- and as much as 20 percent better. Only two participants didn't perform better in front of others.

The brain's GPS has a buddy system -- ScienceDaily

It has been known for some time that the hippocampus maintains a mental map of space -- in fact, the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded precisely for this research. 'Place cells' and 'grid cells' in the hippocampus register the location of the brain's owner in its environment, but until now, little was known about how the movements of others are tracked in the brain. Researchers put this to the test by observing the activity of hippocampal neurons in one rat (the 'self') watching another rat (the 'other') go through a simple T-maze. The self's neurons registered what the other was doing and changed their responses based on the self's location and subsequent actions. This study was published on January 11 in Science, which also contains a report of similar location awareness in the brains of bats.

How singing your heart out could make you happier -- ScienceDaily

Prof Shakespeare said: "We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people's recovery from mental health problems. "The main way that Sing Your Heart Out differs from a choir is that anyone can join in regardless of ability. There's also very little pressure because the participants are not rehearsing towards a performance. It's very inclusive and it's just for fun. "The format is also different to a therapy group because there's no pressure for anyone to discuss their condition. "We heard the participants calling the initiative a 'life saver' and that it 'saved their sanity'. Others said they simply wouldn't be here without it, they wouldn't have managed -- so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having. "All of the participants we spoke to reported positive effects on their mental health as a direct result of taking part in the singing workshops. "For some it represented one component of a wider progamme of support. For others it stood out as key to their recovery or maintenance of health. "But the key thing for everyone was that the Sing Your Heart Out model induced fun and happiness."