Mind & Brain, News, Nutrition

Obese teens are much more susceptible to junk food commercials, brain scans reveal

About a quarter of commercial television advertisements are for food.

It’s no secret that TV food commercials stimulate pleasure and reward centers in the brain, after all advertisers wouldn’t pay big money for them to air if they didn’t entice people to order more. In fact, food advertising has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. Teenagers are exposed on average to 13 food commercials on any given day. At the same time, childhood and adolescent obesity in the US has been on the rise fast and worrisome, so we can’t help but notice the connection. Now, researchers at Dartmouth found overweight teens are disproportionately affected by TV food commercials, as key brain regions that control pleasure, taste and – most surprisingly – the mouth are all much more stimulated than those teens with less body fat. The findings are important since they suggest overweight teens exposed to this kind of environment will experience further difficulties when they try to lose weight. A further insight is that dietary plans should also target subsequent thinking concerning eating food, not just the temptation.

Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain, News

Some foods taste better (or less atrocious) while flying


The loud noise that usually airline passengers have to deal with in mid-flight can significantly alter how food tastes. According to researchers at Cornell University sweet flavors are inhibited, while savory flavors are enhanced. This might serve to explain why, for instance, tomato juice is such a popular beverage served on flights. German airline, Lufthansa, reports its passengers consumed 1.8 million liters of tomato juice in a single year or just as much as beer. Quite a lot, considering few people actually buy tomato juice back on land.

Mind & Brain, News

Researchers home in on speech center in the brain

brain and speech center

Researchers have long theorized that the superior temporal sulcus (STS) is involved in processing speech rhythms, but it’s only recently that this has been confirmed by a team at Duke University. Their findings show that the STS is sensitive to the timing of speech, a crucial element of spoken language. This could help further our understanding of how some speech-impairing conditions arise in the brain, or aid tutors design next-generation, computer assisted foreign language courses.

Mind & Brain, News, Technology

Making computers ‘tick’ like the human brain: a breakthrough moment

An artificial synaptic circuit. Image: Sonia Fernandez

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara made a simple neural circuit comprised of 100 artificial synapses, which they used to classify three letters by their images, despite font changes and noise introduced into the image. The researchers claim the rudimentary, yet effective circuit processes the text much in the same way as the human brain does. In other words, like you’re currently interpreting the text in this article. Even if you change the font, printscreen this article and splash it with an airbrush in MS Paint, you’ll still be able to read at least portions of it, because the human brain is so great at scaling patterns and abstracting symbols. This kind of research will hopefully usher in a new age of more refined, energy efficient computing.

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There may not be such a thing as autism epidemic – the explanation might lie in the diagnosis

autism prevalence

Over the last couple of years, cases of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increased by 30%, according to a reported issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, the CDC estimates that one in 150 8-year-olds in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. There’s a whole debate surrounding this topic – where does this slew of new cases come from? Are we dealing with an epidemic-like event? It used to be vaccines that took the hit, but this was long debunked. There’s another, maybe more plausible explanation: it’s all a statistical mishap as far as diagnosis goes. In effect, if this is true, ASDs prevalence is stable, it’s in the way we count the cases that the problem might lie.

Mind & Brain, News, Science

Free choice and monkeys: researchers record the moment a mind is changed

complex decission

Free will is considered the domain of philosophers, but this long lasting question might actually be put to rest by neuroscience. In a most intriguing research, a team at Stanford analyzed the key brain motor patterns in monkeys as they made specific decisions, and eventually recorded the moment-by-moment patterns that lead to change of mind. Apart from its philosophical implications, which really might never be settled, the findings prove extremely useful for brain-computer interfaces and the likes. Controlling robotic arms with your thoughts, or just about anything really, is no longer a provision of science fiction. Still, this basic neuroscience discovery could be used to improve brain-computer algorithms and thus refine control of thought controlled prostheses such that a robotic arm or leg might be moved only when the user is certain of its decisions, thereby avoiding premature or inopportune moments.

Mind & Brain, News

Scans reveal what happens in your brain during an out-of-body experience


Neuroscientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have created an out-of-body illusion in participants placed inside a brain scanner to see what happens in the brain during this time.

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Childhood bullying has worse effects than adult maltreatment

Image via The Telegraph.

Childhood bullying seems to be almost ubiquitous to some extent, and yet researchers have time and time again underlined the negative effects it can have. Now, a new study has concluded that kids who were bullied by their peers suffer worse in the long term than those who were maltreated by adults. The research was led by Professor Dieter Wolke from

Mind & Brain, Videos

Watch: This woman controls a man’s arm with her brain


Greg Gage is on a mission to make brain science accessible to all, and he does a great job of showcasing what he can do in this extremely exciting and a bit creepy TED video: What’s really awesome is that he made all this with an inexpensive kit that you can almost DIY at home. A bit of background on

Mind & Brain, News

Gamers have more grey matter and better brain connectivity, new research suggests


All those hours of leveling up your character have finally paid off – a new study conducted by Australian and Chinese researchers suggests that playing computer games not only increases the amount of grey matter in your brain, but also promotes better connectivity between different areas of the brain.