Yes, I’ll have some dessert

It’s a special occasion. You get dressed up and go to a fancy restaurant.

The lights are dim, there are candles on the tables, bold sculptures and beautiful artwork are on the walls, and lush green plants and trees are tastefully placed around the intimate restaurant.
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Posted in by Leanne Boucher, Diet and Exercise, Senses and Perception
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Prefrontal brain areas track subjective confidence.

People act and decide with varying confidence levels.

As they explore novel environments, people try options before fully committing to them; testing if that wooden bridge is solid enough, inspecting the tires of a car or trying a limited version of a product before buying it. Tracking and improving the confidence that we have on what surrounds us allows us to explore and exploit features of the environment successfully. Confidence is likely a major determinant of the economical decisions that we make, but the brain mechanisms involved remain poorly understood. Continue reading

Posted in Authors, Awareness and Attention, Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Learning and Memory, Neuroanatomy, Senses and Perception, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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The Subconscious Mind and Extrasensory Perception

A reader called me to say how much he enjoyed my book, The Other Brain, and then confided the true reason for his call:  he wanted to share with me an extraordinary change in his brain and ask for my neurobiological insight.   “After having a stroke I found that I could read other people’s minds,” he said.

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Posted in About Neuroscience, by Douglas Fields, Injury, Mood, Neural Network Function, Neuroanatomy, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving, Stress and Anxiety
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The Superb Fairywren

Birds use passwords too.

Passwords are private pieces of information that protect important aspects of our lives. They lose their main function when known by others, and they need to be complex enough not to be guessed too easily. A fascinating study published in Current Biology suggests that a species of birds has developed a system of communication between parents and offspring that resembles passwords. Families of Superb Fairywren use this system to recognize each other as a defense against an intruding parasite species. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Basics, Brain Development, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Evolution, Language, Learning and Memory, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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A brain region sensitive to social rank.

Our social environment is hierarchical and we can all guess roughly where we and others lie in this hierarchy. It rarely needs to be stated explicitly – a boss does not need to remind his employee that he’s the boss every day. Yet hierarchy acts in the background, like an invisible hand, modifying almost each of our interactions. It makes us more or less polite, familiar, or audacious with those people for whom each attitude is more or less appropriate. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Basics, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, Evolution, In Society, Language, Neuroanatomy, Neuroeconomics, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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The prefrontal cortex: caching past outcomes or inferring future ones?

Like many animals, we thrive to repeat the behaviors that have paid off in the past and avoid those that did not. This principle is at the heart of most learning theories. It is also one of the most important functions of the brain: to adjust behaviors according to our experiences. Continue reading

Posted in Brain Basics, Brain Development, by Jean-Francois Gariepy, In Society, Learning and Memory, Neuroanatomy, Neuroeconomics, Sensing, Thinking & Behaving
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