The study also showed that the habenula responds more the worse an experience is predicted to be. For example, researchers said the habenula responds much more strongly when an electric shock is certain than when it is unlikely to happen. This means that your brain can tell how bad an event will be before it occurs
If anyone ever tells you you’re a Debbie Downer, just tell them you have a healthy habenula.
I wonder if there are any disorders that could later be associated with this part of the brain, and if so what implications would it have on people’s sense of danger.
Going over the article a second time and this stood out a lot especially after some the replies from you guys:
The habenula has been linked to depression, and this study shows how it could play a part in symptoms such low motivation, focusing on negative experiences and pessimism in general. Researchers said that understanding the habenula could potentially help them develop new ways of treating depression.
Interesting, so maybe this isn’t news to other people, and I had an idea that things like positivity and being negative are results of the way our brains are hardwired but I had no idea that this hardwiring was so crucial that it requires it own section in the brain.
What does this kind of research and info say about people who tend to be negative and pessimistic? That they want to be that way or that’s how their habenula is? and are there ways to mold this part of the brain to some how regulate our positivity and negativity towards events?
Is it healthy for one person to insist another person simply think their way out of their negativity when there’s a whole part of brain that may be pushing you towards these negative states that lead to depression or maybe suicidal tendencies if left untreated? Idk but I think this kind of data shows how careful we need to be when treating people with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression or even how we approach our own friends who are shrouded by pessimism.
This month, a Senate committee held a hearing on whether to halt the growing number of state laws reducing access to abortion services in the name of protecting women’s health. The “expert” testimony revealed just how much these laws rely on fringe science and discredited research.
It is a striking idea that one of the keys to good health may turn out to involve managing our internal fermentation. Having recently learned to manage several external fermentations — of bread and kimchi and beer — I know a little about the vagaries of that process. You depend on the microbes, and you do your best to align their interests with yours, mainly by feeding them the kinds of things they like to eat — good “substrate.” But absolute control of the process is too much to hope for. It’s a lot more like gardening than governing.
The successful gardener has always known you don’t need to master the science of the soil, which is yet another hotbed of microbial fermentation, in order to nourish and nurture it. You just need to know what it likes to eat — basically, organic matter — and how, in a general way, to align your interests with the interests of the microbes and the plants. The gardener also discovers that, when pathogens or pests appear, chemical interventions “work,” that is, solve the immediate problem, but at a cost to the long-term health of the soil and the whole garden. The drive for absolute control leads to unanticipated forms of disorder.
This, it seems to me, is pretty much where we stand today with respect to our microbiomes — our teeming, quasi-wilderness. We don’t know a lot, but we probably know enough to begin taking better care of it. We have a pretty good idea of what it likes to eat, and what strong chemicals do to it. We know all we need to know, in other words, to begin, with modesty, to tend the unruly garden within.
NPR Science: Sorry, Lucy: The Myth Of The Misused Brain Is 100 Percent False
ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:
If you went to the movie theater this weekend, you might've caught the latest Scarlett Johansson action movie called "Lucy." It's about a woman who develops superpowers by harnessing the full potential of her brain.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LUCY")
SCARLETT JOHANSSON:I'm able to do things I've never done before. I feel everything and I can control the elements around me.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN:That's amazing.
WESTERVELT:You've probably heard this idea before. Most people only use 10% of their brains. The other 90% of the basically dormant. Well, in the movie "Lucy," Morgan Freeman gives us this what-if scenario?
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LUCY")
MORGAN FREEMAN:What if there was a way of accessing 100% of our brain? What might we be capable of?
DAVID EAGLEMAN:We would be capable of exactly what we're doing now, which is to say, we do use a hundred percent of our brain.
WESTERVELT:That is David Eagleman.
EAGLEMAN:I'm a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine.
WESTERVELT:And he says, basically, all of us are like Lucy. We use all of our brains, all of time.
EAGLEMAN:Even when you're just sitting around doing nothing your brain is screaming with activity all the time, around the clock; even when you're asleep it's screaming with activity.
WESTERVELT:In other words, this is a total myth. Very wrong, but still very popular. Take this clip from an Ellen DeGeneres stand-up special.
(SOUNDBITE OF STAND-UP SPECIAL)
ELLEN DEGENERES:It's true, they say we use ten percent of our brain. Ten percent of our brain. And I think, imagine what we could accomplish if we used the other 60 percent? Do you know what I'm saying?
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TOMMY BOY")
DAVID SPADE:Let's say the average person uses ten percent of their brain.
WESTERVELT:It's even in the movie "Tommy Boy."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TOMMY BOY")
SPADE:How much do you use? One and a half percent. The rest is clogged with malted hops and bong residue.
WESTERVELT:Ariana Anderson is a researcher at UCLA. She looks at brain scans all day long. And she says, if someone were actually using just ten percent of their brain capacity...
ARIANA ANDERSON:Well, they would probably be declared brain-dead.
WESTERVELT:Sorry, "Tommy Boy." No one knows exactly where this myth came from but it's been around since at least the early 1900's. So why is this wrong idea still so popular?
ANDERSON:Probably gives us some sort of hope that if we are doing things we shouldn't do, such as watching too much TV, alcohol abuse, well, it might be damaging our brain but it's probably damaging the 90 percent that we don't use. And that's not true. Whenever you're doing something that damages your brain, it's damaging something that's being used, and it's going to leave some sort of deficit behind.
EAGLEMAN:For a long time I've wondered, why is this such a sticky myth?
WESTERVELT:Again, David Eagleman.
EAGLEMAN:And I think it's because it gives us a sense that there's something there to be unlocked, that we could be so much better than we could. And really, this has the same appeal as any fairytale or superhero story. I mean, it's the neural equivalent to Peter Parker becoming Spiderman.
WESTERVELT:In other words, it's an idea that belongs in Hollywood.
Most of what we know — or think we know — about how kids learn comes from classroom practice and behavioral psychology. Now, neuroscientists are adding to and qualifying that store of knowledge by studying the brain itself. The latest example: new research in the journal suggests a famous phenomenon known as the “fourth-grade shift” isn’t so clear-cut.
"The theory of the fourth-grade shift had been based on behavioral data," says the lead author of the study, Donna Coch. She heads the Reading Brains Lab at Dartmouth College.
The assumption teachers make: “In a nutshell,” Coch says, “by fourth grade you stop learning to read and start reading to learn. We’re done teaching the basic skills in third grade, and you go use them starting in the fourth.”
But, Coch’s team found, that assumption may not be true. The study involved 96 participants, divided among third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders as well as college students. All average readers, the subjects wore noninvasive electrode caps that could swiftly pick up electrical activity in the brain.
They were shown strings of letters/symbols that fell into four different categories: words (“bed”); pseudo-words (“bem”); strings of letters (“mbe”) and finally, strings of meaningless symbols (@#*). The researchers then observed the subjects’ brains as they reacted, within milliseconds, to each kind of stimulus.
The children in the study handled the first three categories roughly as well as the college students, meaning their brains responded at a speed that suggested their word processing was automatic. The difference came with the fourth category, meaningless symbols. As late as fifth grade, children needed to use their conscious minds to decide whether the symbols were a word.
The study suggests there is nothing so neat as a fourth-grade shift. It found that third-graders exhibit some signs of automatic word processing while fifth-graders are still processing words differently from adults.
Why is this important? “From my perspective, this concept of automaticity is key to learning to read,” says Coch. “If you’re not automatic, you’re using a lot of effort to decode and understand individual words, meaning you have fewer resources for comprehension.”
Coch’s team also administered a written test, covering the same set of real words, fake words, and symbol strings. This task was designed to test the participants’ conscious word processing, a much slower procedure.
Interestingly, most of the 96 participants got a nearly perfect score on the written test, showing that their conscious brains knew the difference between words and non-words. Future research will no doubt try to pinpoint when that process becomes automatic … research that could change the way we teach reading in the higher grades.
“The human family - originating in one small locale in East Africa a few million years ago - wandered, separated, diversified, and became strangers to one another…”—Carl Sagan,Billions and Billions (via whats-out-there)
“The interplay between these new theoretical ideas and new high‐quality observational data has catapulted cosmology from the purely theoretical domain and into the field of rigorous experimental science. This process began at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the work of Albert Einstein.”—Free chapter from Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction on the history of cosmology and how it extends from myth to science. This chapter is free until 25 September on Very Short Introductions Online. (via oupacademic)
“Discrimination isn’t a thunderbolt, it isn’t an abrupt slap in the face. It’s the slow drumbeat of being underappreciated, feeling uncomfortable and encountering roadblocks along the path to success.”—Astrophysicist Meg Urry, quoted in "Girls Love Science. We Tell Them Not To." (via almost-a-class-act)