You probably have noticed that after the intake of certain types of food and drinks, you experience a change in your mood or even a boost in your mental activity. Food intake is not only a basic human need but a reward for most people. When we eat, our brain responds instantly to the taste and smell of food as well as other sensory properties like visual appearance. Although our food choices mainly depend on homeostatic factors, there are other internal states referred to as psychological “drivers”, also playing an important role in many of our daily eating decisions. Such motivational drivers are expressed when your brain triggers goal-directed actions to consume food even without feeling hunger. While it is true that feeling hungry is not a voluntary decision, whether and how to satisfy or not hunger it is indeed voluntary. In that process, the brain handles multiple aspects of food stimuli even those that you are not aware of.Continue reading “Food Preferences: How the Brain Drives our Eating Behavior”
Have you noticed that some of our actions or behaviors are not carried out consciously?
The truth is that we are not fully aware of everything that happens inside our brain like all the connections triggered when an emotion or thought suddenly appears in our mind.
Instead, we know that the major brain activity is highly driven by both, internal biological signals linked to the autonomous system and external cues coming from the environment. Apparently, all these brain activity generators are beyond our conscious control. But is this really the case?
Today, advance “brain-reading” technology makes increasingly possible to access an individual’s mental activiy. Although it may sound a bit scary, the reality is that scientists from different fields are already working with sophisticated technologies to “decipher” the bases human thoughts in real-time. Control a computer, move an artificial arm, or obtain knowledge of individuals´ mood and thoughts are just few examples of the advances of neurotechnology. Very recently last summer, Tesla founder Elon Musk, presented to the big public an implantable brain device capable of reading users’ minds.
One interesting question is why “mind-reading” technology could be necessary for our lives? Leaving aside ethical issues, should we worry if modern neurotechnology can figure out what we are thinking? Continue reading “Neurotechnology: where we are and where we are going?”
The wide world pandemic COVID-19 has generated an unprecedented social situation considerably affecting the scientific work. With a large number of ideas to implement, experiments to run, data to analyze and outcomes to share with society, researchers have left the labs adapting their scientific activity to current social distancing measures. But, how are they actually approaching research from home?
Leaving the lab temporarily
Following the advice of authorities, hundreds of brain research labs and neuroscience institutes all over the world have closed their facilities and no single experiment or laboratory activity is being carried out. Despite the apparent extra time in the comfort of home, it’s clear that this current model of socially distant science is not desirable for the future. For every lab, it’s extremely disruptive and costly.
The good news is that researchers are finding ways to make progress, nonetheless. Even with labs closed and separated from each other, we are still coming together to advance in our respective everyday research activities. Thanks to remote technology and online platforms, research is possible from home. Are you wondering how are we managing? Continue reading “Investigating the brain from home: how can it possibly be?”
Visual information is a key aspect of human perception that facilitates successful interaction with the environment. When moving, we experience the perception of self-motion adapting our velocity and body posture to space. In part, this is possible because of the close link between two brain systems: the visual cortex and the vestibular cortex. The main assumption is that both systems contribute to distinguishing between self-motion and motion of the environment. However, sometimes these two systems are in conflict like when we experience self-motion when actually is the scene that moves and not us as happens in a simulator or virtual reality settings. This phenomenon of illusory self-motion is called “vection” and has been well investigated during the last decades.
An illusion for you but a conflict in your brain
Have you ever been seating on a stationary train before departing when the train on the neighboring track begins to move? You will probably feel like the train you are sitting in is starting to move instead of the train on the next track. This is a real-life situation that perfectly illustrates the experience of illusory self-motion perception. The good news is that there is a scientific explanation.
Processing speed is an important skill of the cognitive system that allows the execution of various mental operations, ranging from seemingly simple perceptual abilities to highly complex problem-solving. Although some individuals perform faster than others, it has nothing to do with intelligence. It just reflects how fast a person can manage and effectively use information. Surely, we all would like to overcome our current processing speed and excel in our cognitive performance at work, studies or sports. The good news is that, far from having to repeat a task hundreds of times, there are new ways to get the brain to process faster and more efficiently. Today, the brain optimization phenomenon is not a question of imagination because scientifically it is already possible. But before considering increasing your processing speed, you may want to know how this technology really works in the brain and how realistic it can be.
What makes the brain perform fast or slow?
One of the most interesting topics in the field of emotional development research relates to infants´ capacity to express and experience different emotional states. A general question refers to when emotions first emerge in humans life. Approach and withdrawal are two important concepts in the definition of human´s emotions. Both constructs have not typically been viewed as features of infant emotional behavior until late in the first year. However, when looking directly into infants´ brain, researchers have found a different story suggesting that infants experience positive and negative emotions from birth but in a very basic way and not as adults do.
Infants´ emotions are not equivalent to adults emotions
The phenomenon of bilingualism is an important research topic in cognitive neuroscience. If you are bilingual you probably have felt the need to count or perform simple arithmetic – such as additions and multiplications- using one particular language, even when communicating more frequently with your other language. You may wonder if your brain works differently compared to monolinguals or why you find more difficult to perform mental calculations when you are not using your preferred language for math. But for the brain, what it means to be bilingual?
Bilingual advantage yes or no?
Humans have the ability to learn and interact with the world being aware of their own experience. This knowledge about one´s awareness is called “metacognition” and it is one of the major characteristics that differentiate humans from other species. But, what are the brain mechanisms underlying consciousness? How does the brain create different consciousness states? Modern Neuroscience has investigated these questions for centuries, but yet we have no idea how consciousness arises in the brain. Although brain technology has hugely progressed in the last decades, for researchers is very difficult to study conscious experiences because they are entirely subjective and cannot be accessed by others. Thus, measuring consciousness in experimental conditions it is almost impracticable without getting contaminated by subjective biases.