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Why the lights don't dim when we blink: Blinking prompts eye muscles to keep our vision in line -- ScienceDaily

"Our eye muscles are quite sluggish and imprecise, so the brain needs to constantly adapt its motor signals to make sure our eyes are pointing where they're supposed to," Maus said. "Our findings suggest that the brain gauges the difference in what we see before and after a blink, and commands the eye muscles to make the needed corrections." From a big-picture perspective, if we didn't possess this powerful oculomotor mechanism, particularly when blinking, our surroundings would appear shadowy, erratic and jittery, researchers said. "We perceive coherence and not transient blindness because the brain connects the dots for us," said study co-author David Whitney, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley. "Our brains do a lot of prediction to compensate for how we move around in the world," said co-author Patrick Cavanagh, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College. "It's like a steadicam of the mind." A dozen healthy young adults participated in what Maus jokingly called "the most boring experiment ever." Study participants sat in a dark room for long periods staring at a dot on a screen while infrared cameras tracked their eye movements and eye blinks in real time. Every time they blinked, the dot was moved one centimeter to the right. While participants failed to notice the subtle shift, the brain's oculomotor system registered the movement and learned to reposition the line of vision squarely on the dot. After 30 or so blink-synchronized dot movements, participants' eyes adjusted during each blink and shifted automatically to the spot where they predicted the dot to be. "Even though participants did not consciously register that the dot had moved, their brains did, and adjusted with the corrective eye movement," Maus said. "These findings add to our understanding of how the brain constantly adapts to changes, commanding our muscles to correct for errors in our bodies' own hardware."

Birds of a Feather Do Flock Together. - PubMed - NCBI

We argue that the lack of evidence for personality similarity stems from the tendency of individuals to make personality judgments relative to a salient comparison group, rather than in absolute terms (i.e., the reference-group effect), when responding to the self-report and peer-report questionnaires commonly used in personality research. We employed two behavior-based personality measures to circumvent the reference-group effect. The results based on large samples provide evidence for personality similarity between romantic partners ( n = 1,101; rs = .20-.47) and between friends ( n = 46,483; rs = .12-.31). We discuss the practical and methodological implications of the findings.

Adhd and Temporality: A Desynchronized Way of Being in the World. - PubMed - NCBI

ADHD is, I argue, an impairment in sense of time and a matter of difference in rhythm; it can be understood as a certain being in the world, or more specifically, as a disruption in the experience of time and a state of desynchronization and arrhythmia. Through excerpts of interviews with adults diagnosed with ADHD and observations, I illustrate how impairment in time is manifested in an embodied experience of being out of sync. I suggest that the experience of ADHD is characterized as 1) an inner restlessness and bodily arrhythmia; 2) an intersubjective desynchronization between the individual and its surroundings; and 3) a feeling of lagging behind socially due to difficulties in social skills. In closing, I argue that an increasingly accelerating society is augmenting the experience of being out of sync rather than eliminating it.

Details of information processing in the brain revealed: New research shows that, when focused, we process information continuously, rather in waves as previously thought -- ScienceDaily

Our brains oscillate at many different frequencies, explains Mathewson, and each frequency has a different role. "This study examined 12 hertz alpha oscillations, a mechanisms used to inhibit, or ignore, a certain stimulus thereby allowing us to focus on a particular time or space that we are experiencing, while ignoring others," says Mathewson. For example, if there is a repetitive stimulus in the world, such as the sound of someone's voice in a lecture theatre, the alpha waves lock onto the timing of that stimulus, and the brain becomes better at processing things that occur in time with that stimulus. The new findings show, surprisingly, that this happens more in places we are ignoring. "We are bombarded with so much information and stimulation that we can't possibly process it all at once. Whether it be commuting, engaging in our work, studying for a class, or working out, our brains select the useful information and ignore the rest, so that we can focus on a single or a few items in order to make appropriate responses in the world. This research helps explain how," says Mathewson.

breath in through your nose

"One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation," said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system."

Disruption of the body's internal clock causes disruption of metabolic processes: Researchers study carbon monoxide metabolism -- ScienceDaily

the body's carbon monoxide metabolism is closely linked to the body's circadian (internal) clock. Carbon monoxide, a toxic gas found in exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke, is also an endogenous by-product of the degradation of heme, the hemoglobin cofactor responsible for giving red blood cells their color. The production of carbon monoxide is regulated by the body's internal clock, and this clock, in turn, is regulated by carbon monoxide

Portions of the brain fall asleep and wake back up all the time, Stanford researchers find | EurekAlert! Science News

The team used what amounts to sets of very sensitive pins that can record activity from a column of neurons in the brain. In the past, people had known that individual neurons go through phases of being more or less active, but with this probe they saw for the first time that all the neurons in a given column cycled together between firing very rapidly then firing at a much slower rate, similar to coordinated cycles in sleep. "During an on state the neurons all start firing rapidly," said Kwabena Boahen, a professor of bioengineering and electrical engineering at Stanford and a senior author on the paper. "Then all of a sudden they just switch to a low firing rate. This on and off switching is happening all the time, as if the neurons are flipping a coin to decide if they are going to be on or off." Those cycles, which occur on the order of seconds or fractions of seconds, weren't as visible when awake because the wave doesn't propagate much beyond that column, unlike in sleep when the wave spreads across almost the entire brain and is easy to detect.

Bad timing is depressing: Disrupting the brain's internal clock causes depressive-like behavior in mice -- ScienceDaily

Inherent circadian clocks help us function throughout the day, by telling us when to sleep, wake and eat, as well as by synchronizing our bodily processes. "It is perhaps not surprising that disruptions of our natural synchronization can have heavy impacts on our physical and mental health," Dr. Landgraf added. However, until now researchers did not know if disturbed circadian rhythms were a cause or consequence of mood disorders. In the new study, a team led by David K. Welsh has shown for the first time a causal relationship between functioning circadian clocks and mood regulation.

Did you miss that musical beat? Your pupils didn’t | Science | AAAS

Even if you don’t have rhythm, your pupils do. In a new study, neuroscientists played drumming patterns from Western music, including beats typical in pop and rock, while asking volunteers to focus on computer screens for an unrelated fast-paced task that involved pressing the space bar as quickly as possible in response to a signal on the screen. Unbeknownst to the participants, the music omitted strong and weak beats at random times. (You can listen below for an example of a music clip they used. If you listen carefully, you can hear bass and hi-hat beats omitted throughout.) Eye scanners tracked the dilations of the subjects’ pupils as the music played. Their pupils enlarged when the rhythms dropped certain beats, even though the participants weren’t paying attention to the music. The biggest dilations matched the omissions of the beats in the most prominent locations in the music, usually the important first beat in a repeated set of notes. The results suggest that we may have an automatic sense of “hierarchical meter”—a pattern of strong and weak beats—that governs our expectations of music, the researchers write in the February 2017 issue of Brain and Cognition. Perhaps, the authors say, our eyes reveal clues into the importance that music and rhythm plays in our lives.

How internal circadian clocks in neurons encode external daily rhythms of excitability -- ScienceDaily

Molecular clocks in cells throughout the body control many physiologic changes in a 24-hour day/night circadian rhythm -- among them the timing of sleep and wakefulness. The master pacesetter for those clocks resides in a tiny part of the human brain, where about 42,000 nerve cells spontaneously and independently maintain a 24-hour cycle through rhythmic internal surges and falls of biochemical signals. But nerve cells communicate to each other via external electrical impulses. So how do those internal biochemical clock signals get turned into changes in external electrical firing activity, the activity that spreads the pacesetter timing in those 42,000 cells throughout the brain and the rest of the body? Researchers led by Karen Gamble, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, have identified a key mechanism linking the two in a paper published today in Nature Communications. It involves the activity of a kinase enzyme called GSK3 that changes the excitability -- a technical term for the likelihood of a nerve cell to fire an electrical impulse -- of those neurons. Identification of this role for GSK3 raises clinical interest because GSK3 is the target of lithium and other mood-stabilizing drugs used to treat bipolar disorder. Also, the sodium channels that were found to be regulated by GSK3 are the target of riluzole, a drug used to treat amyotropic lateral sclerosis, known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, as well as anxiety disorders and depression.

Consciousness is tied to 'entropy', say researchers -

Key to this has been the study of synchronization – how the electrical activity of one set of neurons can oscillate in phase with that of another set. Synchronization in turn implies that those sets of neurons are physically tied to one another, just as oscillating physical systems, such as pendulums, become synchronized when they are connected together. The latest work stems from the observation that consciousness, or at least the proper functioning of brains, is associated not with high or even low degrees of synchronicity between neurons but by middling amounts. Jose Luis Perez Velazquez, a biochemist at the University of Toronto, and colleagues hypothesized that what is maximized during consciousness is not connectivity itself but the number of different ways that a certain degree of connectivity can be achieved.

Life begins and ends with music

He took some informal guitar lessons in his twenties from a Spaniard he met next to a local tennis court. After a few weeks, he picked up a flamenco chord progression. When the man failed to appear for their fourth lesson, Cohen called his landlady and learned that the man had killed himself. In a speech many years later, in Asturias, Cohen said, “I knew nothing about the man, why he came to Montreal . . . why he appeared at that tennis court, why he took his life. . . . It was those six chords, it was that guitar pattern, that has been the basis of all my songs, and all my music.”

The mathematics of music history: Patriotism in music is expressed through use of speech rhythms from the composer's native language -- ScienceDaily

Together with colleagues from London and Amsterdam, MIB postdoc Niels Chr. Hansen, analysed thousands of musical themes composed by French, Italian, and Austro-German composers living in 1600-1950. During these years, rhythmic variability in French music was initially low -- just like in Italian music and language. Later on, it increased towards the natural equilibrium for Austro-German music and language before the rhythms of French music finally diverged into two separate stylistic schools of composition.

Waves on waves

They found that they could closely replicate the shape of the beta waves in the model by delivering two kinds of excitatory synaptic stimulation to distinct layers in the cortical columns of cells: one that was weak and broad in duration to the lower layers, contacting spiny dendrites on the pyramidal neurons close to the cell body; and another that was stronger and briefer, lasting 50 milliseconds (i.e., one beta period), to the upper layers, contacting dendrites farther away from the cell body. The strong distal drive created the valley in the waveform that determined the beta frequency.

The Right Food Can Promote Trust And Closeness Between People - PsyBlog

The new study found people reached agreements twice as quickly and were more generous with their money after eating the same foods together.

Microsoft Research wants to pit you against virtual swimmers

Redmond's research division is working with a team of researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) to develop SwimTrain. It's a system consisting of an app, a waterproof case for your smartphone and a pair of underwater headphones that provides sensory/auditory feedback. SwimTrain puts you in a team of three swimmers -- if you're competing, it tells you how you're doing against your two virtual opponents. If you're in the same team, it helps you maintain your strokes so you can keep up with your virtual teammates.

Why Dancing Leads to Bonding

Studies show that dancing at parties and in groups encourages social bonding, whether it is a traditional stomp, a tango or even the hokeypokey. Many researchers have argued that people experience a blurring of the self into their groups thanks to the synchronization that occurs while dancing. Yet it is also possible that the exertion inherent to dancing releases hormones—like any other form of physical exercise—and these molecules are behind the bonding effect. A new study suggests both views may be correct.

Humanoid robotics and computer avatars could help treat social disorders -- ScienceDaily

Initially the avatar is like an alter ego, created to look and move like the patient to enhance his or her feelings of attachment. Over time the avatar is slowly altered to become less similar, therefore helping with social rehabilitation. The results show that players sharing similar movement features, or motor signature, interact and co-ordinate better. This can be used for rehabilitation of patients with serious social disorders as an avatar can be created to act like an alter ego, programmed to look and move like the patient to enhance his or her feelings of attachment.

A neural link between affective understanding and interpersonal attraction

At the neural level, changes in interpersonal attraction were predicted by activity in the reward system of the observer’s brain. Importantly, these effects were specific to individual observer–target pairs and could not be explained by a target’s general attractiveness or expressivity. Furthermore, using multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA), we found that neural activity in the reward system of the observer’s brain varied as a function of how well the target’s affective behavior matched the observer’s neural representation of the underlying affective state: The greater the match, the larger the brain’s intrinsic reward signal. Taken together, these findings provide evidence that reward-related neural activity during social encounters signals how well an individual’s “neural vocabulary” is suited to infer another person’s affective state, and that this intrinsic reward might be a source of changes in interpersonal attraction.

How the brain produces consciousness in 'time slices' of .4 seconds

The new model proposes a two-stage processing of information. First comes the unconscious stage: The brain processes specific features of objects, e.g. color or shape, and analyzes them quasi-continuously and unconsciously with a very high time-resolution. However, the model suggests that there is no perception of time during this unconscious processing. Even time features, such as duration or color change, are not perceived during this period. Instead, the brain represents its duration as a kind of "number", just as it does for color and shape. Then comes the conscious stage: Unconscious processing is completed, and the brain simultaneously renders all the features conscious. This produces the final "picture", which the brain finally presents to our consciousness, making us aware of the stimulus. The whole process, from stimulus to conscious perception, can last up to 400 milliseconds, which is a considerable delay from a physiological point of view. "The reason is that the brain wants to give you the best, clearest information it can, and this demands a substantial amount of time," explains Michael Herzog. "There is no advantage in making you aware of its unconscious processing, because that would be immensely confusing." This model focuses on visual perception, but the time delay might be different for other sensory information, e.g. auditory or olfactory.

Study sheds light on patterns behind brain, heart systems; circadian rhythms: Using chemical oscillation to better understand patterns in brain and heart systems -- ScienceDaily

"We've come up with a unified, systematic theory that will work on any nonlinear oscillating system," Li said. "Mathematically, it works for any number, be it 20 or 2,000 or more."

Why We Get Running Injuries (and How to Prevent Them) - The New York Times

The never-injured runners, as a group, landed far more lightly than those who had been seriously hurt, the scientists found, even when the researchers controlled for running mileage, body weight and other variables.

German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too

trees in the forest are social beings. They can count, learn and remember; nurse sick neighbors; warn each other of danger by sending electrical signals across a fungal network known as the “Wood Wide Web”; and, for reasons unknown, keep the ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for centuries by feeding them a sugar solution through their roots.

Hit of dopamine twelve hours after event is crucial for memory formation

The FMI scientists found that dopamine, through the D1/5 dopamine receptor on basket cells, helps maintain the changes induced in basket cells during learning. Interestingly, this is particularly important 12-14 hours after the learning experience, when enhanced network activity is thought to consolidate circuitry changes that encode long-term memories. Without the dopamine signal after 12 hours, basket cell plasticity is rapidly lost and no long-term memory is formed. "This time window at 12-14 hours is independent of the day-night cycle, and specifically associated to each memory. It is as if each new learning process starts a clock that will ultimately result in consolidation of memories 12-14 hours later. So, why 12-14 hours? We do not know," commented Caroni. "It might be that the processes occurring between acquisition and this critical 12-14 hours time window ensure that what is learned is validated through subsequent experience, and that what is consolidated into long-term memory is also compared and integrated with previous learning."

Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression

Half of people who have a first depressive episode will go on to have another within two years," says Scott Langenecker, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at UIC and corresponding author on the study. Disruptions in the network of areas of the brain that are simultaneously active during problem-solving and emotional processing have been implicated in several mental illnesses, including depression. But in addition, "hyperconnectivity," or too much connection, within the "resting network," or areas active during rest and self-reflection, has also been linked to depression. "If we can identify different network connectivity patterns that are associated with depression, then we may be able to determine which are risk factors for poorer outcomes down the line, such as having multiple episodes, and we can keep those patients on preventive or maintenance medication," Langenecker explained. "We can also start to see what medications work best for people with different connectivity patterns, to develop more personalized treatment plans."

Sensing Loneliness: How Making Eye Contact Connects Us - Yahoo News

"There's something special about joint attention," says Elliot Berkman, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon in Eugene, of his takeaway from the Japanese study. "Joint attention is just looking at something together -- two people looking at the same thing at the same time." In addition to studying mutual gaze, or participants looking into each other's eyes, researchers looked at the effect of people's joint attention. The latter -- as with teachers and students being on the same page -- appeared to play a role in brains syncing. "Merely just looking into people's eyes didn't cause this ... synchronization of eye blink. It was really only after you had that joint attention first. So there I think it tells a very functionalist story." But compared with prior research findings, the researchers found that synchronization wasn't attributed to merely doing the same activity, either, but to mutual gaze.