How Many Senses Do You Have? A Lot More Than 5, Says Science

How many senses does the average human have? Assuming you equate senses with their receptors, such as the retinas in your eyes and the cochlea in your ears, then the traditional answer to this question is five – seeing, hearing, touch, smell and taste. They’re called the ‘exteroceptive’ senses because they carry information about the external world.

But your body also has receptors for events occurring inside you, such as your beating heart, expanding lungs, gurgling stomach and many other movements that you’re completely unaware of. They’re traditionally grouped together as another sense, called ‘interoception’.

Yet a proper answer to this question is even more complex and interesting. For one thing, your body has receptors to carry other types of information, such as temperature, that we don’t usually consider to be senses.

Also, some of your receptors are used for more than one sense. Your retinas, for example, are portals for the light waves you need for vision, but some retinal cells also inform your brain if it’s daytime or nighttime. This unnamed ‘day/night sense’ is the basis for circadian rhythms that affect your metabolism and your sleep/wake cycle.

Even senses that seem fundamental, such as vision, are intimately entwined with other senses that seem separate. For example, it turns out that what you see, and how you see it, is yoked to your brain’s tracking of your heartbeat, which is part of interoception.

In the moments when your heart contracts and pushes blood out to your arteries, your brain takes in less visual information from the world. Your brain also constructs senses that you don’t have receptors for. Examples are flavour, which the brain constructs from gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) data, and wetness, which is created from touch and temperature.

In fact, your brain constructs everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel using more than just the sense data from your body’s receptors. Light waves, for example, don’t simply enter your eyes, travel to your brain as electrical signals, and then you see.

Your brain actually predicts what you might see before you see it, based on past experience, the state of your body and your current situation. It combines its predictions with the incoming sense data from your retinas to construct your visual experience of the world around you.

Similarly, when you place your fingers on your wrist to feel your pulse, you’re actually feeling a construction based on your brain’s predictions and the actual sense data. You don’t experience sensations with your sense organs. You experience them with your brain.

Barrett_Portrait-crop

 

By

Lisa is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and the author of Seven And A Half Lessons About The Brain (£14.99, Picador)

Source: How many senses do you have? A lot more than 5, says science – BBC Science Focus Magazine

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Five senses refers to the five traditionally recognized methods of perception, or sense: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound.

Five senses or The Five Senses may also refer to:

The Neuroscience of Breaking Out of Negative Thinking (and How to Do It in Under 30 Seconds)

You just got off the phone with one of your most important clients. The game-changing deal you were trying to close is off. They’re not interested. You’ve just pitched 10 potential investors. They all say they’re “interested” but it’s been two weeks. You refresh your inbox hourly, and yet still no word.

How do you react in these situations?

If you’re like most people, your mind floods with negativity. “Maybe our product sucks,” “Why can’t I just get a break?” or “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.”

Neuroscientists have a name for this automatic habit of the brain: “negativity bias.” It’s an adaptive trait of human psychology that served us well when we were hunting with spears on the savanna 120,000 years ago.

In modern times, however, this habit of the brain leaves us reacting to a harsh email or difficult conversation as if our life were in danger. It activates a cascade of stress hormones and leaves us fixated on potential threats, unable to see the bigger picture.

Neuroscientist Rick Hanson has a great analogy for this strange quality of the mind. “Your brain,” he writes in his book Buddha’s Brain, “is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” When you lose a client, when the investors don’t come calling, or when you face the hundreds of other daily disappointments of life, you’re wired to forget all the good things and to instead obsess over the negative.

The Ultra-Efficient Transformation of Notice-Shift-Rewire

How can we reverse this hard-wired habit of the mind?

Three words: Notice-Shift-Rewire. This simple strategy puts into into practice the core insight coming out of the neuroscience revolution of the past 30 years–the insight that, in the words of early neuroscientist Donald Hebb, “neurons that fire together, wire together.” It’s the insight that reminds us the brain isn’t fixed. Its habits aren’t like plaster. They’re more like plastic, strong enough to resist the occasional push but pliable enough to change in response to repeated effort.

That’s the magic of Notice-Shift-Rewire. By taking a moment each day to bring our attention to this practice, we build the habit of shifting out of negativity bias to more useful mind states: remembering our past wins, celebrating our strengths, and seeing life as a series of opportunities rather than a relentless slog through setbacks and heartbreak.

How do you integrate the practice of Notice-Shift-Rewire into the midst of everyday life?

1. Notice your negativity bias.

The first step is to bring awareness to this ordinary habit of the mind. Catch yourself when you slip into self-doubt, rumination, anxiety, and fear. Notice when your mind starts spinning out worst-case scenarios about how it’s all going to come crashing apart.

2. Shift to a moment of gratitude.

Noticing opens the space for carving new neural pathways. Shifting allows you to flood this space with a more productive focus of attention. A few seconds of gratitude is the most efficient way to do this. Think of one thing you’re grateful for right now. Your home. Your job. Your health. Your family. Your talents and strengths. Your drive.

3. Rewire your brain.

Here’s where the real work of begins. Hanson calls this the simple act of savoring. It’s taking 15 seconds to stay with this new mindset — to encode it deep into the fabric of your mind.

This last step is where we transform our ordinary habit of overlooking the positive. It’s where we shift the brain’s response to all the good in life from Teflon to Velcro. We’re flipping our evolved wiring on its head — taking just a few seconds to build stronger memories around all the good things happening in life.

The best thing about this practice is that it’s time efficient, portable, and powerful. It takes less than 30 seconds, you can do it anytime and anywhere, and you will begin to experience an immediate shift in your mindset.

The moment you make this shift, everything changes. You remember your purpose, look forward to new challenges, and face life with renewed optimism.

By: Nate Klemp

Source: The Neuroscience of Breaking Out of Negative Thinking (and How to Do It in Under 30 Seconds)

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Related Contents:

How to silence negative thinking

How to Stop Negative Thinking with 3 Simple Steps

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy

The positive-negative asymmetry: On cognitive consistency and positivity bias

Asymmetrical effects of positive and negative events: The mobilization-minimization hypothesis

Linguistic bases of social perception

Averaging versus adding as a stimulus-combination rule in impression formation

Differential weighting of favorable and unfavorable attributes in impressions of personality

Train Your Brain to Remember Anything You Learn With This Simple, 20-Minute Habit

Not too long ago, a colleague and I were lamenting the process of growing older and the inevitable increasing difficulty of remembering things we want to remember. That becomes particularly annoying when you attend a conference or a learning seminar and find yourself forgetting the entire session just days later.

But then my colleague told me about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, a 100-year-old formula developed by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who pioneered the experimental study of memory. The psychologist’s work has resurfaced and has been making its way around college campuses as a tool to help students remember lecture material. For example, the University of Waterloo explains the curve and how to use it on the Campus Wellness website.

I teach at Indiana University and a student mentioned it to me in class as a study aid he uses. Intrigued, I tried it out too–more on that in a moment. The Forgetting Curve describes how we retain or lose information that we take in, using a one-hour lecture as the basis of the model. The curve is at its highest point (the most information retained) right after the one-hour lecture. One day after the lecture, if you’ve done nothing with the material, you’ll have lost between 50 and 80 percent of it from your memory.

By day seven, that erodes to about 10 percent retained, and by day 30, the information is virtually gone (only 2-3 percent retained). After this, without any intervention, you’ll likely need to relearn the material from scratch. Sounds about right from my experience. But here comes the amazing part–how easily you can train your brain to reverse the curve.


With just 20 minutes of work, you’ll retain almost all of what you learned.

This is possible through the practice of what’s called spaced intervals, where you revisit and reprocess the same material, but in a very specific pattern. Doing so means it takes you less and less time to retrieve the information from your long-term memory when you need it. Here’s where the 20 minutes and very specifically spaced intervals come in.

Ebbinghaus’s formula calls for you to spend 10 minutes reviewing the material within 24 hours of having received it (that will raise the curve back up to almost 100 percent retained again). Seven days later, spend five minutes to “reactivate” the same material and raise the curve up again. By day 30, your brain needs only two to four minutes to completely “reactivate” the same material, again raising the curve back up.

Thus, a total of 20 minutes invested in review at specific intervals and, voila, a month later you have fantastic retention of that interesting seminar. After that, monthly brush-ups of just a few minutes will help you keep the material fresh.


Here’s what happened when I tried it.

I put the specific formula to the test. I keynoted at a conference and was also able to take in two other one-hour keynotes at the conference. For one of the keynotes, I took no notes, and sure enough, just shy of a month later I can barely remember any of it.

For the second keynote, I took copious notes and followed the spaced interval formula. A month later, by golly, I remember virtually all of the material. And in case if you’re wondering, both talks were equally interesting to me–the difference was the reversal of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

So the bottom line here is if you want to remember what you learned from an interesting seminar or session, don’t take a “cram for the exam” approach when you want to use the info. That might have worked in college (although Waterloo University specifically advises against cramming, encouraging students to follow the aforementioned approach). Instead, invest the 20 minutes (in spaced-out intervals), so that a month later it’s all still there in the old noggin. Now that approach is really using your head.

Science has proven that reading can enhance your cognitive function, develop your language skills, and increase your attention span. Plus, not only does the act of reading train your brain for success, but you’ll also learn new things! The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, said, “Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

By: Scott Mautz

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

Dr. John N. Morris is the director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute for Aging Research. He believes there are three main guidelines you should follow when training your mind:

  1. Do Something Challenging: Whatever you do to train your brain, it should be challenging and take you beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Choose Complex Activities: Good brain training exercises should require you to practice complex thought processes, such as creative thinking and problem-solving.
  3. Practice Consistently: You know the saying: practice makes perfect! Dr. Morris says, “You can’t improve memory if you don’t work at it. The more time you devote to engaging your brain, the more it benefits.”
  4. If you’re looking for reading material, check out our guides covering 40 must-read books and the best books for entrepreneurs.
  5. Practice self-awareness. Whenever you feel low, check-in with yourself and try to identify the negative thought-loop at play. Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “who cares,” “I’ll never get this right,” “this won’t work,” or “what’s the point?” 
  6. Science has shown that mindfulness meditation helps engage new neural pathways in the brain. These pathways can improve self-observational skills and mental flexibility – two attributes that are crucial for success. What’s more, another study found that “brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators.”
  7. Brain Age Concentration Training is a brain training and mental fitness system for the Nintendo 3DS system.
  8. Queendom has thousands of personality tests and surveys. It also has an extensive collection of “brain tools”—including logic, verbal, spatial, and math puzzles; trivia quizzes; and aptitude tests
  9. Claiming to have the world’s largest collection of brain teasers, Braingle’s free website provides more than 15,000 puzzles, games, and other brain teasers as well as an online community of enthusiasts.

 

Neuroscience and a Dose of Emotional Intelligence Reveal a Simple Trick to Learn More With Less Effort

Neuroscience and a Dose of Emotional Intelligence Reveal a Simple Trick to Learn More With Less Effort

A producer for a television business show called and asked if I was available. He described the theme of the segment and asked if I had any ideas. I offered some possibilities.

“That sounds great,” he said. “We’re live in 30 minutes. And I need you to say exactly what you just said.”

“Ugh,” I thought. I’m not great at repeating exactly what I just said. So I started rehearsing.

Ten minutes later, he called to talk about a series he was developing. I almost asked him if we could postpone that conversation so I could use the time to keep rehearsing, but I figured since I had already run through what I would say two times, I would be fine.

Unfortunately, I was right. I was fine. Not outstanding. Not exceptional. Just … fine. My transitions were weak. My conclusion was more like a whimper than a mic drop. And I totally forgot one of the major points I wanted to make.

Which, according to Hermann Ebbinghaus, the pioneer of quantitative memory research, should have come as no surprise.

Ebbinghaus is best known for two major findings: the forgetting curve and the learning curve.

The forgetting curve describes how new information fades away. Once you’ve “learned” something new, the fastest drop occurs in just 20 minutes; after a day, the curve levels off.

Wikimedia Commons inline image

Wikimedia Commons

Yep: Within minutes, nearly half of what you’ve “learned” has disappeared.

Or not.

According to Benedict Carey, author of How We Learn, what we learn doesn’t necessarily fade; it just becomes less accessible. In my case, I hadn’t forgotten a key point; otherwise I wouldn’t have realized, minutes after, that I left it out. I just didn’t access that information when I needed it.

Ebbinghaus would have agreed with Carey: He determined that even when we think we’ve forgotten something, some portion of what we learned is still filed away.

Which makes the process of relearning a lot more efficient.

Suppose that the poem is again learned by heart. It then becomes evident that, although to all appearances totally forgotten, it still in a certain sense exists and in a way to be effective. The second learning requires noticeably less time or a noticeably smaller number of repetitions than the first. It also requires less time or repetitions than would now be necessary to learn a similar poem of the same length.

That, in a nutshell, is the power of spaced repetition.

Courtesy curiosity.com inline image

Courtesy curiosity.com

The premise is simple. Learn something new, and within a short period of time you’ll forget much of it. Repeat a learning session a day later, and you’ll remember more.

Repeat a session two days after that, and you’ll remember even more. The key is to steadily increase the time intervals between relearning sessions.

And — and this is important — to make your emotions work for you, not against you, forgive yourself for forgetting. To accept that forgetting — to accept that feeling like you aren’t making much progress — is actually a key to the process.

Why?

  • Forgetting is an integral part of learning. Relearning reinforces earlier memories. Relearning creates different context and connections. According to Carey, “Some ‘breakdown’ must occur for us to strengthen learning when we revisit the material. Without a little forgetting, you get no benefit from further study. It is what allows learning to build, like an exercised muscle.”
  • The process of retrieving a memory — especially when you fail — reinforces access. That’s why the best way to study isn’t to reread; the best way to study is to quiz yourself. If you test yourself and answer incorrectly, not only are you more likely to remember the right answer after you look it up, you’ll also remember that you didn’t remember. (Getting something wrong is a great way to remember it the next time, especially if you tend to be hard on yourself.)
  • Forgetting, and therefore repeating information, makes your brain assign that information greater importance. Hey: Your brain isn’t stupid.

So what should I have done?

While I didn’t have days to prepare, still. I could have run through my remarks once, taken a five-minute break, and then done it again.

Even after five minutes, I would have forgotten some of what I planned to say. Forgetting and relearning would have reinforced my memory since, in effect, I would have quizzed myself.

Then I could have taken another five-minute break, repeated the process, and then reviewed my notes briefly before we went live.

And I should have asserted myself and asked the producer if we could talk about the series he was developing later.

Because where learning is concerned, time is everything. Not large blocks of time, though. Not hours-long study sessions. Not sitting for hours, endlessly reading and rereading or practicing and repracticing.

Nope: time to forget and then relearn. Time to lose, and then reinforce, access. Time to let memories and connections decay and become disorganized and then tidy them back up again. Because information is only power if it’s useful. And we can’t use what we don’t remember.

Source: Neuroscience and a Dose of Emotional Intelligence Reveal a Simple Trick to Learn More With Less Effort | Inc.com

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Critics:

Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals, and some machines; there is also evidence for some kind of learning in certain plants. Some learning is immediate, induced by a single event (e.g. being burned by a hot stove), but much skill and knowledge accumulate from repeated experiences. The changes induced by learning often last a lifetime, and it is hard to distinguish learned material that seems to be “lost” from that which cannot be retrieved.

Human learning starts at birth (it might even start before) and continues until death as a consequence of ongoing interactions between people and their environment. The nature and processes involved in learning are studied in many fields, including educational psychology, neuropsychology, experimental psychology, and pedagogy. Research in such fields has led to the identification of various sorts of learning.

For example, learning may occur as a result of habituation, or classical conditioning, operant conditioning or as a result of more complex activities such as play, seen only in relatively intelligent animals. Learning may occur consciously or without conscious awareness. Learning that an aversive event can’t be avoided nor escaped may result in a condition called learned helplessness.

There is evidence for human behavioral learning prenatally, in which habituation has been observed as early as 32 weeks into gestation, indicating that the central nervous system is sufficiently developed and primed for learning and memory to occur very early on in development.

References

Hey, There’s a Second Brain In Your Gut

Scientists have known for years that there’s a “second brain” of autonomous neurons in your long, winding human digestive tract—but that’s about where their knowledge of the so-called abdominal brain ends.

Now, research published in 2020 shows that scientists have catalogued 12 different kinds of neurons in the enteric nervous system (ENS) of mice. This “fundamental knowledge” unlocks a huge number of paths to new experiments and findings.

The gut brain greatly affects on how you body works. Your digestive system has a daily job to do as part of your metabolism, but it’s also subject to fluctuations in functionality, and otherwise related to your emotions.

More: Getting the Inside Dope on Ketamine’s Mysterious Ability to Rapidly Relieve Depression

Digestive symptoms and anxiety can be comorbid, and your gut is heavily affected by stress. So scientists believe having a better understanding of what happens in your ENS could lead to better medicines and treatments for a variety of conditions, as well as improved knowledge of the connection between the ENS and central nervous system.

The research appears in Nature Neuroscience. In a related commentary, scientist Julia Ganz explains what the researchers found and why it’s so important:

“Using single-cell RNA-sequencing to profile the developing and juvenile ENS, the authors discovered a conceptually new model of neuronal diversification in the ENS and establish a new molecular taxonomy of enteric neurons based on a plethora of molecular markers.”

Neuronal diversification happens in, well, all the organisms that have neurons. Similar to stem cells, neurons develop first as more generic “blanks” and then into functional specialties. The human brain has types like sensory and motor neurons, each of which has subtypes. There are so many subtypes, in fact, that scientists aren’t sure how to even fully catalog them yet.

More: Here’s How Long Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage Persists After Drinking

Neurons of the same superficial type are different in the brain versus the brain stem—let alone in the digestive tract. So researchers had to start at the very beginning and trace how these neurons develop. They tracked RNA, which determines how DNA is expressed in the cells made by your body, to follow how neurons formed both before and after birth. Some specialties emerge in utero, and some split and form afterward.

To find this new information, the scientists developed a finer way to separate and identify cells. Ganz explains:

“Using extensive co-staining with established markers, they were able to relate the twelve neuron classes to previously discovered molecular characteristics of functional enteric neuron types, thus classifying the ENCs into excitatory and inhibitory motor neurons, interneurons, and intrinsic primary afferent neurons.”

With a sharper protocol and new information, the researchers were able to confirm and expand on the existing body of ENS neuron knowledge. And now they can work on finding out what each of the 12 ENS neuron types is responsible for, they say.

By isolating different kinds and “switching” them on or off using genetic information, scientists can try to identify what’s missing from the function of the mouse ENS. And studying these genes could lead to new treatments that use stem cells or RNA to control the expression of harmful genes.

The Mind-Gut Connection is something that people have intuitively known for a long time but science has only I would say in the last few years gotten a grasp and acceptance of this concept. It essentially means that your brain has intimate connections with the gut and another entity in our gut, the second brain, which is about 100 million nerve cells that are sandwiched in between the layers of the gut.

And they can do a lot of things on their own in terms of regulating our digestive processes. But there’s a very intimate conversation between that little brain, the second brain in the gut and our main brain. They use the same neurotransmitters. They’re connected by nerve pathways. And so we have really an integrated system from our brain to the little brain in the gut and it goes in both directions.

The little brain, or the second brain, in the gut you’re not able to see it because as I said it’s spread out through the entire length of the gut from your esophagus to the end of your large intestine, several layers of nerve cells interconnected. And what they do is even if you – and you can do this in animal experiments if you completely disconnect this little brain in the gut from your main brain this little brain can completely take care of all the digestive processes, the contractions, peristaltic reflex, regulation of blood flow in the intestine.

And it has many sensors so it knows exactly what’s going on inside the gut, what goes on in the wall of the gut, any distention, any chemicals. All of this is being picked up by these sensory nerves, fed into the interior nervous system, the second brain. And then the second brain generates these stereotypic responses. So when you vomit, when you have diarrhea, when you have normal digestion, all of this is encoded in programs in your second brain.

What the second brain can’t do it cannot generate any conscious perceptions or gut feelings. That really is the only ability that allows us to do this and perceive all the stuff that goes on inside of us is really the big brain and the specific areas and circuits within the brain that process information that comes up from the gut. Still most of that information is not really consciously perceived. So 95 percent of all this massive amount of information coming from the gut is processed, integrated with other inputs that the brain gets from the outside, from smell, visual stimuli.

And only a very small portion is then actually made conscious. So when you feel good after a meal or when you ate the wrong thing and you’re nauseated those are the few occasions where actually we realize and become aware of our gut feelings. Even though a lot of other stuff is going on in this brain-gut access all the time.

When we talk about the connection between depression and the gut there’s some very intriguing observations both clinically but also now more recently scientifically that make it highly plausible that there is an integrate connection between serotonin in the gut, serotonin in our food, depression and gut function.

By: Caroline Delbert

Caroline Delbert is a writer, book editor, researcher, and avid reader. She’s also an enthusiast of just about everything.

Source: Pocket

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Critics:

The enteric nervous system (ENS) or intrinsic nervous system is one of the main divisions of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and consists of a mesh-like system of neurons that governs the function of the gastrointestinal tract. It is capable of acting independently of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, although it may be influenced by them. The ENS is also called the second brain. It is derived from neural crest cells.

The enteric nervous system is capable of operating independently of the brain and spinal cord,but does rely on innervation from the autonomic nervous system via the vagus nerve and prevertebral ganglia in healthy subjects. However, studies have shown that the system is operable with a severed vagus nerve.

The neurons of the enteric nervous system control the motor functions of the system, in addition to the secretion of gastrointestinal enzymes. These neurons communicate through many neurotransmitters similar to the CNS, including acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin. The large presence of serotonin and dopamine in the gut are key areas of research for neurogastroenterologists.

Neurogastroenterology societies

See also

How Does The Brain Interpret Computer Languages

In the US, a 2016 Gallup poll found that the majority of schools want to start teaching code, with 66 percent of K-12 school principals thinking that computer science learning should be incorporated into other subjects. Most countries in Europe have added coding classes and computer science to their school curricula, with France and Spain introducing theirs in 2015. This new generation of coders is expected to boost the worldwide developer population from 23.9 million in 2019 to 28.7 million in 2024.

Despite all this effort, there’s still some confusion on how to teach coding. Is it more like a language, or more like math? Some new research may have settled this question by watching the brain’s activity while subjects read Python code.

Two schools on schooling

Right now, there are two schools of thought. The prevailing one is that coding is a type of language, with its own grammar rules and syntax that must be followed. After all, they’re called coding languages for a reason, right? This idea even has its own snazzy acronym: Coding as Another Language, or CAL. Others think that it’s a bit like learning the logic found in math; formulas and algorithms to create output from input. There’s even a free online course to teach you both coding and math at the same time.

Which approach is more effective? The debate has been around since coding was first taught in schools, but it looks like the language argument is now winning. Laws in Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia allow high school students to take computer science to fulfill their foreign language credits (the 2013 Texas law says this applies if the student has already taken a foreign language class and appears unlikely to advance).

The debate holds a special interest for neuroscientists; since computer programming has only been around for a few decades, the brain has not evolved any special region to handle it. It must be repurposing a region of the brain normally used for something else.

So late last year, neuroscientists in MIT tried to see what parts of the brain people use when dealing with computer programming. “The ability to interpret computer code is a remarkable cognitive skill that bears parallels to diverse cognitive domains, including general executive functions, math, logic, and language,” they wrote.

Since coding can be learned as an adult, they figured it must rely on some pre-existing cognitive system in our brains. Two brain systems seemed like likely candidates: either the brain’s language system, or the system that tackles complex cognitive tasks such as solving math problems or a crossword. The latter is known as the “multiple demand network.”

Coding on the brain

In their experiment, researchers asked participants already proficient at coding to lie in an fMRI machine to measure their brain activity. They were then asked to read a coding problem and asked to predict the output.The two coding languages used in the study are known for their “readability”—Python and ScratchJr. The latter was specifically developed for children and is symbol-based so that children who have not yet learned to read can still use it.

The main task involved giving participants a person’s height and weight and asking them to calculate a person’s BMI. This problem was either presented as Python-style code or as a normal sentence. The same method was done for ScratchJr, but participants were asked to track the position of a kitten as it walked and jumped.

Control tasks involved memorizing a sequence of squares on a grid (to activate participants’ multiple demand system) and reading one normal and one nonsense sentence (to activate their language system). Their results showed that the language part of the brain responded weakly when reading code (the paper’s authors think this might be because there was no speaking/listening involved). Instead, these tasks were mostly handled by the multiple demand network.

The multiple demand network is spread across the frontal and parietal (top) lobes of our brain, and it’s responsible for intense mental tasks—the parts of our lives that make us think hard. The network can be roughly split between the left part (responsible for logic) and the right (more suited to abstract thinking). The MIT researchers found that reading Python code appears to activate both the left and right sides of the multiple demand network, and ScratchJr activated the right side slightly more than the left.

“We found that the language system does not respond consistently during code comprehension in spite of numerous similarities between code and natural languages,” they write.Interestingly, code-solving activated parts of the multiple-demand network that are not activated when solving math problems. So the brain doesn’t tackle it as language or logic—it appears to be its own thing.

The distinct process involved in interpreting computer code was backed up by an experiment done by Japanese neuroscientists last year. This work showed snippets of code to novice, experienced, and expert programmers while they lay in an fMRI. The participants were asked to categorize them into one of four types of algorithms. As expected, the programmers with higher skills were better at categorizing the snippets. But the researchers also found that activity in brain regions associated with natural language processing, episodic memory retrieval, and attention control also strengthened with the skill level of the programmer.

So while coding may not be as similar to languages as we had thought, it looks like both benefit from starting young.

By: Fintan Burke

Fintan is a freelance science journalist based in Hamburg, Germany. He has also written for The Irish Times, Horizon Magazine, and SciDev.net and covers European science policy, biology, health and bioethics.

Source: https://arstechnica.com

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What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Compassion – Carolyn Gregoire

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Mounting evidence of the impact of contemplative practices like meditation (which we now know can, quite literally, rewire the brain) are finally bringing modern science up to speed with ancient wisdom. Mindfulness and compassion — the practices of cultivating a focused awareness on the present moment, and extending a loving awareness to others — are part of every religion and wisdom tradition, and we’re at last beginning to understand the profound impact that they have on the brain, says psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dr. Dan Siegel………..

Read more: http://sco.lt/9FLw5R

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Riddles That Will Test Your Brain Power – Bright Side

These 7 puzzles will trick your brain.  Take this fun test to check the sharpness and productivity of your brain. Try to answer these questions as quickly as possible and see the results!  Our brain is a mysterious thing. We know more about stars than about the things inside our heads! But what we do know about the brain is that it gets less sharp and productive with age.

You have a maximum of 20 seconds for each task, but try to answer the questions as fast as possible. TIMESTAMPS What is the mistake two photos have in common? 0:45 How many holes does the T-shirt have? 1:53 How would you name this tree? 2:40 Can you solve this riddle one in 5 seconds? 3:21 Do you see a hidden baby? 4:26 Which line is longer? 5:12 Can you spot Mike Wazowski? 6:30 SUMMARY If it took you more than 20 seconds to answer each question, or you didn’t manage all the tasks, it means that you have the brain of a mature person.

It ‘s hard for you to make your mind see beyond the obvious and you can’t handle change easily. If took you less than 20 seconds, your brain is quite young, and you can approach tasks from different angles. If you answered each question correctly in less than 5 seconds, your brain is very young and flexible! You can notice the tiniest details right away and adapt to new situations easily! What is your result? Tell us in the comment section below!

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How the Mirror Neuron System Regulates Empathy – Angela Nino

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How do we understand others when we haven’t experienced what they’re going through? How are we able to share in the joy and sadness of those around us? Why do some people seem so adept at suspending personal judgment, seeing through the masks we wear to the authentic self?

Science believes they’ve discovered the part of our brains that makes this important human connection possible. Let’s take a look at what they’ve discovered.

What Is the Mirror Neuron System?

Scientists have found that each of us has a highly specialized group of brain cells called mirror neurons. Their role in the body is to learn about things by mimicking them. It’s how we each learned to speak, eat or do anything.

In terms of empathy, we learn how someone is feeling by reflecting the emotions that we see in others.

Sometimes this mirroring even takes on a physical shape. You may have noticed how a very empathic person tends to turn toward the person they’re connecting with. They put their devices down, giving their full attention.

They may even mimic body movements like facial expressions, crossed legs, posture or hand gestures without being consciously aware they’re doing it.

How the Mirror Neuron System Regulates Empathy

When someone with a very active mirror neuron system sees someone who’s grieving or nervous (fearful), for example, they can actually feel it too through this reflection process. They respond by trying to comfort the person feeling these uncomfortable emotions. In doing so, the person being comforted often begins to feel a little better.

As the subject of the empathy feels better, the empathic person feels better as well.

How the Mirror Neuron System Becomes Disrupted

At a very basic level, the brain works on an internal reward system. When we do things that our brain considers good for us like exercise, the brain releases endorphins (happiness hormones) into the body.

Research shows that when we use the mirror neuron system to show compassion, our brain releases these hormones. Not only does the empathic person feel better because the person they’re connecting with feels better, they feel good because their brain released endorphins into the body.

This system may become disrupted if in the past their compassion was met with distrust, fear or even negative consequences. This may have happened in their family home. It may have occurred during a long-term, abusive relationship. Or they may have worked in an unempathic work environment.

A person can learn to deactivate this part of their brain because of the negative external consequences for using it.

A person with a less active mirror neuron system might be referred to as emotionally “numb”. This “numbness” may even be encouraged in a company.

A manager may consciously or subconsciously reward people who appear “thick-skinned” and “unaffected” in respect to their work environment. They perceive this person as more productive. However, Research shows the opposite is true.

How the Mirror Neuron System Is Strengthened

It’s a nature versus nurture argument question. Studies show that around 50% of empathy is neurological while the other 50% is cultivated through the environment.

A person in a healthy, empathic work environment can strengthen this dormant part of the brain. Consistent positive re-enforcement is needed. Creating a safe place where people can express themselves is essential. An organization must demonstrate empathy throughout the leadership ranks to cultivate it.

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Robotic Exoskeleton Helps People With Neurological Disorders – TECHNOLOGY IN BUSINESS

This robotic exoskeleton helps people get their mobility back. Harmony, the robotic exoskeleton, can assist individuals who have had strokes or spinal injuries.

 

 

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