If you are looking for a particular object, such as a yellow pencil on a cluttered desk, how does your brain work to visually locate it?
Researchers have identified how different parts of the brain communicate to determine what to visually pay attention to and what to ignore.
“We have demonstrated that attention is a process in which there is one-to-one mapping between the first place visual information comes from the eyes into the brain and beyond to other parts of the brain,” says Adam S. Greenberg, postdoctoral fellow of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, used various brain imaging techniques to show exactly how the visual cortex and parietal cortex send direct information to each other through white matter connections in order to specifically pick out the information that you want to see.
Children are the greatest learning machines in the universe. University of California, Berkeley researchers are tapping the cognitive smarts of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to program computers to think more like humans.
“Young children are capable of solving problems that still pose a challenge for computers, such as learning languages and figuring out causal relationships,” says Tom Griffiths, director of UC Berkeley’s Computational Cognitive Science Lab. “We are hoping to make computers smarter by making them a little more like children.”
As part of cognitive behavioral therapy, receiving text messages can make people feel less isolated. Research by Adrian Aguilera, a social welfare professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has found an upside to texting, especially for people who feel stressed out, isolated, and alone.
“When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved,” reported one Spanish-speaking patient in Aguilera’s cognitive behavior therapy group at San Francisco General Hospital.
The project began in 2010 when Aguilera developed a customized “Short Message Service (SMS)” intervention program in which his patients were sent automated text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.
Confronted with new things, the brain effortlessly moves from an initial “What’s that?” to “Oh, that old thing” after a few casual encounters.
New research published online in the journal Neuron sheds light on the malleability of this recognition process, and shows how neuroscientists have teased apart the potentially different roles the two distinct cell types may play.
Researchers had yet to figure out the steps required to move from novelty to familiarity, a process they refer to as “plasticity.”
“We know little about that because of the level at which this plasticity is taking place,” says senior author David Sheinberg, professor of neuroscience and a member of the Institute for Brain Science at Brown University. “The inner workings made up of individual neurons make it very hard to actually track what’s going on at that level.”
MRI evidence: Children who struggle with reading may benefit from being taught new words in isolation, rather than in the context of a sentence.
Published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, “While the benefit of explicit instruction over implicit instruction may seem obvious, it was surprising to find such differences in brain function between groups of a very narrow range of reading skill,” says Laurie Cutting, associate professor of special education, psychology, radiology, and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University.
Cutting created a tool to mimic learning in order to identify the differences in neurological response to two types of teaching methods: implicit teaching—which uses words in a sentence, and explicit teaching—which teaches the words in isolation..
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