Monday, 6 October 2014
Poverty Imposes a Cognitive Burden on the Brain
Neuroscience is providing growing evidence that poverty can have serious consequences not only for the health of people who are “struggling to make both ends meet” (something that has been known for a long time), but also on their cognitive abilities. The most recent of these studies looking specifically at this aspect of poverty was published in the journal Science in August 2013 by economist Anandi Mani and her colleagues.
Using two different approaches, this research team reached the same conclusion: for people at the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum, everyday life requires so much calculation and effort just to meet basic material needs (food, shelter, etc.) that it exhausts their mental capacities. (more…)
Monday, 15 September 2014
The Intelligence in Our Hands
The first crisp days of autumn are great for outdoor chores like chopping firewood, installing storm windows, and raking leaves. Distracted by the blazing fall foliage, you may sometimes find yourself performing complex tasks with your hands while your mind is clearly off somewhere else. It’s as if your hands had “a mind of their own.”
But this mental aspect of manual work is not just a passing impression you may have; it’s also one of the hottest topics in cognitive science today. MIT Press has just published The Hand, an Organ of the Mind: What the Manual Tells the Mental. This collection of essays, edited by philosophy professor Zdravko Radman, examines the intimate connection between the hands and the mind not only from the neurophysiological and evolutionary angle, but from the philosophical, cultural and esthetic perspectives as well. (more…)
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Nervous and Immune Systems Closely Tied
By the late 20th century, cognitive neuroscientists had recognized that they would never truly understand how the brain functions unless they also considered the body in which it does so. This concept of “embodied” cognition implies that the brain constantly maintains a dynamic relationship with the rest of the body, which in turn is totally immersed in its physical and social environment. This model contrasts sharply with others that compare the brain to a computer or treat it as a disembodied organ that simply manipulates symbolic representations of inputs to provide appropriate outputs. (more…)
Monday, 18 August 2014
The myth of left-brained and right-brained personalities
One often reads that certain functions of the human brain are lateralized—for example, that the left hemisphere is more involved in language and the right in the processing of visuospatial information. One also often hears it said that some people are left-brained (meaning that they are analytical, logical, and focused on details) while others are right-brained (more subjective and creative, with more of a tendency to see things as a whole).
But according to a study published on August 14, 2013 in the online journal PLOS ONE, although there is abundant evidence for the lateralization of certain brain functions, the idea of left-brained and right-brained personalities is simply a myth. (more…)
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Daniel Wegner: An Unforgettable Scientific Contribution
For many people, the name of pioneering social psychologist Daniel Wegner will always be associated with a polar bear, because he famously used an image of this animal to demonstrate how hard it is to suppress a thought if someone simply asks you not to think about it.
Wegner died on July 5, 2013 at the age of 65 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease characterized by degeneration of the motor neurons of the spinal cord. Acknowledging his passing, the scientific community saluted him as one of the most original thinkers in his field. His friend and fellow psychologist Daniel Gilbert recalled the many paradigm shifts that Wegner brought about in his discipline: “He opened doors in walls that we didnâ€™t know had doors in them.” (more…)