Footage of the brain of a fish as it forms a thought. Thunder and lightning, very exciting. Around here you tend to see smoke more than anything else when thought making is in action…
And if you ever want to take a break from thinking, it may one day be possible to outsource the process, if a supercomputer, costing a cool $1.6 billion, that simulates the human brain, ever comes to fruition.
We want to believe that pleasure is simple, that our delight in a fine painting or bottle of wine is due entirely to the thing itself. But that’s not the way reality works. Whenever we experience anything, that experience is shaped by factors and beliefs that are not visible on the canvas or present in the glass. Even the most exquisite works in the world – and what is more exceptional than a Rembrandt portrait? – still require a little mental help. We only see the beauty because we are looking for it.
But, unlike those who are newly in love, the long-in-love brains show no activity among the areas that are commonly associated with anxiety and fear. “Individuals in long-term relationships may experience the excitement, sexual attraction, engagement, and intensity associated with romantic love,” says Acevedo. “But they report pining, anxiety, intrusive thinking far less than individuals newly in love.”
British researchers have found that applying a very mild electrical current – one milliamp (one thousandth of an amp) – to the brain, in a way “overclocking” it – a little like the way overclockers push computer components to perform well beyond their intended capability – boosted the ability of study participants to tackle certain maths problems.
Dr Cohen Kadosh, who led the study, said: “We are not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks, but we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings and are now looking into the underlying brain changes. “We’ve shown before that we can induce dyscalculia, and now it seems we might be able to make someone better at maths, so we really want to see if we can help people with dyscalculia.
While brain cells aren’t being killed as the result of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, the ability for your brain cells to communicate with one another is being inhibited. What’s going on here is that the alcohol ends up damaging dendrites, which are the things at the ends of neurons that conduct electrochemical stimulation from another cell to the cell body in question. Basically, with some of these dendrites damaged, it inhibits the ability of your brain cells to talk to one another.
Individually, the brain regions that make up that network have long been recognized as active when people recall their pasts, project themselves into future scenarios, impute motives and feelings to other people, and weigh their personal values. But when these structures hum in unison – and scientists have found that when we daydream, they do just that – they function as our brain’s “neutral” setting. Understanding that setting may do more than lend respectability to the universal practice of zoning out: It may one day help diagnose and treat psychiatric conditions.
When two people experience a deep connection, they’re informally described as being on the same wavelength. There may be neurological truth to that. Brain scans of a speaker and listener showed their neural activity synchronizing during storytelling. The stronger their reported connection, the closer the coupling.
The first is that music hijacks some very fundamental neural mechanisms. The brain is designed to learn by association: if this, then that. Music works by subtly toying with our expected associations, enticing us to make predictions about what note will come next, and then confronting us with our prediction errors. In other words, every melody manipulates the same essential mechanisms we use to make sense of reality.
The quintessential example of self-organised criticality is a growing sand pile. As grains build up, the pile grows in a predictable way until, suddenly and without warning, it hits a critical point and collapses. These “sand avalanches” occur spontaneously and are almost impossible to predict, so the system is said to be both critical and self-organising. Earthquakes, avalanches and wildfires are also thought to behave like this, with periods of stability followed by catastrophic periods of instability that rearrange the system into a new, temporarily stable state.