||Last Updated: Nov 17th, 2006 - 22:35:04
Making the connection between a sound and a reward changes behavioral response
If you’ve ever wondered how you recognize your mother’s voice without seeing her face or how you discern your cell phone’s ring in a crowded room, researchers may have another piece of the answer.
Oct 20, 2006, 23:34
Irrational decisions driven by emotions
Irrational behaviour arises as a consequence of emotional reactions evoked when faced with difficult decisions, according to new research at UCL (University College London), funded by the Wellcome Trust. The UCL study suggests that rational behaviour may stem from an ability to override automatic emotional responses, rather than an absence of emotion per se.
Aug 4, 2006, 20:16
Mice learn set shifting tasks to help treat human psychiatric disorders
Mice that couldn't be dissuaded from the object of their attention by a piece of sweet, crunchy cereal may help researchers find new treatments and cures for human disorders like autism and Parkinson's disease. For the first time, a psychiatric test for monitoring many human mental abnormalities has been adapted for use in mice, according to researchers at Purdue University, University of California-Davis and Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. The test involves the ability to switch attention from one task to another, a skill often impaired in people with autism and similar illnesses.
Aug 2, 2006, 11:48
How behaviors can be changed or created
UC Riverside researchers have made a major leap forward in understanding how the brain programs innate behavior. The discovery could have future applications in engineering new behaviors in animals and intelligent robots. Innate or "instinctive" behaviors are inborn and do not require learning or prior experience to be performed. Examples include courtship and sexual behaviors, escape and defensive maneuvers, and aggression. Using the common fruit fly as a model organism, the researchers found through laboratory experiments that the innate behavior is initiated by a "command" hormone that orchestrates activities in discrete groups of peptide neurons in the brain. Peptide neurons are brain cells that release small proteins to communicate with other brain cells and the body.
Jul 30, 2006, 03:06
People more likely to help others they think are 'like them'
Feelings of empathy lead to actions of helping – but only between members of the same group – according to a recent study. The research, led by Stefan Stürmer of the University of Kiel, is presented in the article "Empathy-Motivated Helping: The Moderating Role of Group Membership." The article discusses two different studies, one using a real-world, intercultural scenario and the other using a mixture of people with no obvious differences besides gender. Researchers concluded that, while all the people felt empathy for someone in distress, they only tended to assist if the needy person was viewed as a member of their own "in-group."
Jul 10, 2006, 07:48
Avoiding Punishment Is Its Own Reward
For my now-departed, wonderful old cat named Bear, life didn't get any better than raw shrimp. Seeing the little white package emerge from the fridge always caught his attention, but what set him into high-shriek mode was the sound of shrimp being peeled under running water—he knew culinary bliss was at hand. Bear's behavior was perfectly in keeping with the theory of reinforcement learning: through instrumental conditioning, animals learn to choose responses associated with producing favorable outcomes and avoiding unpleasant ones—typically by learning to associate two normally unrelated stimuli. The shrimp reward reinforced associations between stimulus (the sound of peeling and washing, rather than the sight of shrimp) and response (expectant wailing).
Jul 5, 2006, 14:50
Does psychological treatment for adult sex offenders work?
Psychological treatment for adult sex offenders can reduce reoffending rates but does not provide a cure, say experts in an editorial in this week's BMJ. Sexual offending is a public health issue and a social problem. Psychological treatment is widely used and is often mandated in the sentencing decision for sexual offenders. But just how effective are psychological treatment programmes? Are they too readily accepted uncritically? Specialists in psychology and criminology review the evidence from published studies. In an analysis of randomised controlled trials on behavioural treatments, they found that most studies were too small to be informative, although statistically significant improvements were recorded across some groups of offenders.
Jul 1, 2006, 17:43
How people behave differently when they are being watched
A team from Newcastle University found people put nearly three times as much money into an 'honesty box' when they were being watched by a pair of eyes on a poster, compared with a poster that featured an image of flowers.
Jun 29, 2006, 04:39
Broca's area also organizes behavioral hierarchies
Researchers have discovered that Broca's area in the brain--best known as the region that evolved to manage speech production--is a major "executive" center in the brain for organizing hierarchies of behaviors. Such planning ability, from cooking a meal to organizing a space mission, is considered one of the hallmarks of human intelligence. The researchers found that Broca's area--which lies on the left side of the brain about in the temple region--and its counterpart on the right side activate when people are asked to organize plans of action. They said their finding of the general executive function of Broca's area could explain its key role in language production. Importantly, the researchers found that this executive function of these cortical regions was distinct from the organization of temporal sequences of actions.
Jun 15, 2006, 12:03
Erotic images elicit strong response from brain
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis measured brainwave activity of 264 women as they viewed a series of 55 color slides that contained various scenes from water skiers to snarling dogs to partially-clad couples in sensual poses.
Jun 15, 2006, 11:36
Men infer sexual interest before women do
In the latest issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly, researchers find that men rate themselves and the women they just interacted with higher on sexual traits, such as flirtatiousness, than women rate men. The authors find that after a five-minute conversation with a stranger of the opposite gender, men were more likely to interpret ambiguous or friendly behavior as indicating sexual interest. "The findings suggest that men generally think in more sexual terms than women," the authors explain.
Jun 9, 2006, 13:53
What do football and alcohol have to do with being a man?
Men across the world will be getting the pints in and staring at the big screen this month as the World Cup kicks off in Germany. But what do football and alcohol have to do with being a man? A recent psychological study by the University of Sussex reveals that the roaring crowds may be drinking their way through the game in an effort to compensate for not being man enough to play in it.
Jun 5, 2006, 17:01
Prosopagnosia may affect 2 percent of population
Researchers at Harvard University and University College London have developed diagnostic tests for prosopagnosia, a socially disabling inability to recognize or distinguish faces. They've already used the new test and a related web site (www.faceblind.org) to identify hundreds of "face-blind" individuals, far more than scientists had identified previously.
Jun 1, 2006, 12:47
Nerve cells in brain decide between apples and oranges
When you are in the supermarket pondering over whether to buy apples or oranges a special group of nerve cells in the brain is at work categorising the fruit according to their value, a study conducted at the Harvard Medical School in Boston showed.
May 11, 2006, 13:37
How Visual Stimulation Turns Up Bdnf Genes to Shape the Brain
Scientists have long known that brains need neural activity to mature and that sensory input is most important during a specific window of time called the "critical period" when the brain is primed for aggressive learning. Vision, hearing and touch all develop during such critical periods, while other senses, such as the olfactory system, maintain lifelong plasticity.
May 7, 2006, 15:37
Humans perceive more than they think they do
Faces tell the stories in UC Riverside Professor Larry Rosenblum's ecological listening lab, as volunteer test subjects show that they can "read" unheard speech -- not just from lips, but from the simple movements of dots placed on lips, teeth and tongue. They can also recognize people's voices just from seeing their faces, and vice versa, and seem to be able to distinguish among a variety of rooms on campus just from their echoes.
Apr 15, 2006, 18:22
Specific Mechanisms May Not Exist For Facial Recognition
Although the human brain is skilled at facial recognition and discrimination, new research from Georgetown University Medical Center suggests that the brain may not have developed a specific ability for “understanding faces” but instead uses the same kind of pattern recognition techniques to distinguish between people as it uses to search for differences between other groups of objects, such as plants, animals and cars.
Apr 7, 2006, 03:59
Scent of fear impacts cognitive performance
The chemical warning signals produced by fear improve cognitive performance, according to a study at Rice University in Houston.
Apr 3, 2006, 06:50
Older people with stronger cognitive skills walk at a safer pace
Psychologists wanting to help old people safely cross the street and otherwise ambulate around this busy world have found that from age 70 and up, safe walking may require solid "executive control" (which includes attention) and memory skills. For the old, slow gait is a significant risk factor for falls, many of which result in disabling fractures, loss of independence or even death. The finding may help explain why cognitive problems in old age, including dementia, are associated with falls. Cognitive tests could help doctors assess risk for falls; conversely, slow gait could alert them to check for cognitive impairment. The findings are in the March issue of Neuropsychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Mar 27, 2006, 16:39
Switch for brain's pleasure pathway found
Amid reports that a drug used to treat Parkinson's disease has caused some patients to become addicted to gambling and sex, University of Pittsburgh researchers have published a study that sheds light on what may have gone wrong.
Mar 23, 2006, 18:04
'Executive' monkeys influenced by other executives, not subordinates
When high-ranking monkeys are shown images of other monkeys glancing one way or the other, they more readily follow the gaze of other high-ranking monkeys, Duke University Medical Center neurobiologists have discovered. By contrast, they tend to ignore glance cues from low-status monkeys; while low-status monkeys assiduously follow the gaze of all other monkeys.
Mar 23, 2006, 17:47
Manipulating Cell Receptor Alters Animal Behavior
Researchers at the University at Buffalo and the University of Pennsylvania were the first to demonstrate that two intracellular events, both stimulated by the same cell receptor, can provoke different behaviors in mammals.
Mar 22, 2006, 08:16
Morphine addiction and the tendency to explore linked
A team of researchers from the UAB has found experimental evidence in rats showing a link between addiction to morphine and the tendency to explore perseveringly. This is the first time a direct relationship has been found without other psychological characteristics, such as anxiousness, that might affect results. Published in Behavioural Brain Research, the results of this study are useful for planning preventative strategies in the risk population.
Feb 22, 2006, 01:13
New study shows how self-prophecies may help
By now, most of us have probably forgotten about our New Year's resolutions. But there's still hope: New research from the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research shows that when people predict that they will do a socially good deed (such as recycling), the chances of them actually doing the good deed increases.
Feb 12, 2006, 18:51
Guilt and fear motivate better than hope
In the first empirical work to examine both stated intentions and actual behavior, researchers argue that this sort of negative message â€“ evoking both fear and guilt â€“ is a far more effective deterrent to potentially harmful behavior than positive hopeful or feel-good messages.
Feb 12, 2006, 18:46
How the brain makes a whole out of parts
When a human looks at a number, letter or other shape, neurons in various areas of the brain's visual center respond to different components of that shape, almost instantaneously fitting them together like a puzzle to create an image that the individual then "sees" and understands, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University report.
Jan 19, 2006, 17:57
Link in brain between sight and sound perception
Just imagine listening to someone talk and also hearing the buzz of the overhead lights, the hum of your computer and the muffled conversation down the hallway. To focus on the person speaking to you, your brain clearly can't give equal weight to all incoming sensory information. It has to attend to what is important and ignore the rest.
Jan 19, 2006, 15:57
The cognitive cost of being a twin
Social and economic circumstances do not explain why twins have significantly lower IQ in childhood than single-born children, according to a study in this week's BMJ.
Nov 21, 2005, 20:15
Researchers Identified Fear Factor Protein
Researchers have identified a fear factor - a protein the brain uses to generate one of the most powerful emotions in humans and animals. The molecule is essential for triggering both the innate fears that animals are born with - such as the shadow of an approaching predator - as well as fears that arise later in life due to individual experiences. Eliminating the gene that encodes this factor makes a fearful mouse courageous. The finding, the researchers say, suggests new approaches for drugs designed to treat conditions such as phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety.
Nov 19, 2005, 15:13
Loneliness might be Explained by Genes
Heredity helps determine why some adults are persistently lonely, research co-authored by psychologists at the University of Chicago shows. Working with colleagues in The Netherlands, the scholars found about 50 percent of identical twins and 25 percent of fraternal twins shared similar characteristics of loneliness. Research on twins is a powerful method to study the impact of heredity because twins raised together share many of the same environmental influences as well as similar genes, thus making it easier to determine the role of genetics in development. "An interesting implication of this research is that feelings of loneliness may reflect an innate emotional response to stimulus conditions over which an individual may have little or no control," the research team writes in the article, "Genetic and Environmental Contributors to Loneliness in Adults: The Netherlands Twin Register Study" published in the current issue of the journal Behavior Genetics. Psychologists had previously thought loneliness was primarily caused by shyness, poor social skills, or inability to form strong attachments with other people. Scholars are becoming increasingly interested in the role loneliness plays in health. Other work by John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago and a member of the research team, shows that loneliness is a risk factor for heart disease. Loneliness is also at the base of a number of emotional conditions, such as self-esteem, mood, anxiety, anger and sociability.
Nov 11, 2005, 19:29