Chapter 14. Attention and Consciousness

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By Simon Makin Everyone has unwelcome thoughts from time to time. But such intrusions can signal serious psychiatric conditions—from “flashbacks” in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to obsessive negative thinking in depression to hallucinations in schizophrenia. “These are some of the most debilitating symptoms,” says neuroscientist Michael Anderson of the University of Cambridge. New research led by Anderson and neuroscientist Taylor Schmitz, now at McGill University, suggests these symptoms may all stem from a faulty brain mechanism responsible for blocking thoughts. Researchers studying this faculty usually focus on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a control center that directs the activity of other brain regions. But Anderson and his colleagues noticed that conditions featuring intrusive thoughts—such as schizophrenia—often involve increased activity in the hippocampus, an important memory region. The severity of symptoms such as hallucinations also increases with this elevated activity. In the new study, Anderson and his team had healthy participants learn a series of word pairs. The subjects were presented with one word and had to either recall or suppress the associated one. When participants suppressed thoughts, brain scans detected increased activity in part of the PFC and reduced activity in the hippocampus. The findings, which were published last November in Nature Communications, are consistent with a brain circuit in which a “stop” command from the PFC suppresses hippocampus activity. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24864 - Posted: 04.13.2018

By HEATHER MURPHY A battle over pleasure has broken out. On Twitter and in the pages of scientific journals, psychologists, neurologists and neuroscientists are forging alliances over the question of whether pleasure we get from art is somehow different from the pleasure we get from candy, sex or drugs. The debate was ignited by an opinion piece titled “Pleasure Junkies All Around!” published last year in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In it, Julia F. Christensen, a neuroscientist at the The Warburg Institute at the University of London who studies people’s responses to dance choreography, argued that many of us have been turned into “mindless pleasure junkies, handing over our free will for the next dopamine shoot” provided by social media, pornography and sugar. She offered up an unconventional solution: art, which she says engages us in ways these other pleasures do not and can “help overwrite the detrimental effects of dysfunctional urges and craving.” The paper struck a nerve with some of her fellow art and pleasure researchers, who published a rebuttal last month in the same journal. The idea that the way that art engages the brain is somehow special has been around for far too long and it is time to kill it off once and for all, they insist. “Christensen has recently argued that the pleasure induced by art is different to the pleasure induced by food, sex, sports, or drugs. Her argument, however, is contradicted by plenty of evidence showing that the pleasure from art is no different in genesis and function to the pleasure induced by food, drugs, and sex,” wrote Marcos Nadal, a psychologist at the University of the Balearic Islands who studies people’s responses to curvilinear lines in architecture and art, and Martin Skov, a neuroscientist at the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, who studies decision-making. Their comment spurred others to rally to Dr. Christensen’s defense. The arguments over Dr. Christensen’s paper pointed to disputes within the emerging field of neuroaesthetics, or the study of the neural processes underlying our appreciation and the production of beautiful objects and artworks: © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Attention
Link ID: 24853 - Posted: 04.11.2018

Jason Murugesu We all daydream, whether about marrying Rihanna, discovering a sudden ability to sing opera or never having to answer another email again. Yet it is only in the last few decades that the science behind daydreaming, or mind-wandering as it is termed in most academic literature, has transitioned from the realms of pseudoscience to the cutting edge of cognitive neuroscience. At its most basic, daydreaming is your mind wandering from the here and now. Traditionally, daydreaming was considered to be a single psychological state of mind. This, however, caused conflict in academic literature, and the resulting confusion is the reason why you might read that daydreaming is linked to happiness in one paper, but to depression in the next. Different types of mind-wandering have been conflated. Using neuroimaging techniques, a study conducted last year by the University of York found that different types of daydreams – for example, those which are fantastical, autobiographical, future orientated or past oriented – were built up of different neuronal activation patterns, and by virtue could not be considered a single psychological construct. Nevertheless, if we consider all these types of mind-wandering together, you would be surprised about how much of our waking time we spend daydreaming. In 2008, Professor Matthew Killingsworth, then at Harvard University, used an app that contacted a large group of people at random points of the day to find out how often they were daydreaming. The app would ask its users what they were doing, and whether they were thinking about something else entirely. They found that 46.9 per cent of the time, the user was mind-wandering.

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24852 - Posted: 04.11.2018

by Meeri Kim On a beautiful autumn afternoon in New York’s Central Park, Carol Berman had the horrifying realization that her husband of 40 years no longer recognized her as his wife. In his eyes, she wasn’t the real Carol but rather some strange woman pretending to be Carol — effectively, an impostor. They were out for a stroll when he started yelling at a woman with a similar hairdo farther up the street: “Carol! Carol, come here!” Shocked, his wife faced him head-on, looked deep into his eyes and reassured him that she was right here. But he refused to acknowledge her as the real Carol. Marty Berman had been a warmhearted, highly intelligent and hard-working patent lawyer for much of his life. But at 74, he began to show signs of dementia. Once proficient in math and engineering, he could no longer subtract simple numbers correctly. A man who had walked the whole of Manhattan couldn’t go a few blocks by himself anymore without getting lost. Perhaps the most painful part for Carol was when her husband’s delusion developed a year or two after his initial symptoms arose. Capgras syndrome is a psychological condition that prompts a person to believe that loved ones have been replaced by identical duplicates of themselves. As a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University, Carol had treated several Capgras patients. But witnessing the delusion in the person she loved the most, whom she was already losing to dementia, was agonizing. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24833 - Posted: 04.07.2018

By Rachel Aviv Before having her tonsils removed, Jahi McMath, a thirteen-year-old African-American girl from Oakland, California, asked her doctor, Frederick Rosen, about his credentials. “How many times have you done this surgery?” Hundreds of times, Rosen said. “Did you get enough sleep last night?” He’d slept fine, he responded. Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, encouraged Jahi to keep asking questions. “It’s your body,” she said. “Feel free to ask that man whatever you want.” Jahi had begged not to get the surgery, but her mother promised that it would give her a better life. Jahi had sleep apnea, which left her increasingly fatigued and unable to focus at school. She snored so loudly that she was too embarrassed to go to slumber parties. Nailah had brought up four children on her own, and Jahi, her second, was her most cautious. When she saw news on television about wars in other countries, she would quietly ask, “Is it going to come here?” Her classmates made fun of her for being “chunky,” and she absorbed the insults without protest. A few times, Nailah went to the school and asked the teachers to control the other students. The operation, at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, took four hours. When Jahi awoke, at around 7 p.m. on December 9, 2013, the nurses gave her a grape Popsicle to soothe her throat. About an hour later, Jahi began spitting up blood. The nurses told her not to worry and gave her a plastic basin to catch it in. A nurse wrote in her medical records that she encouraged Jahi to “relax and not cough if possible.” By nine that night, the bandages packing Jahi’s nose had become bloody, too. Nailah’s husband, Marvin, a truck driver, repeatedly demanded that a doctor help them. A nurse told him that only one family member was allowed in the room at a time. He agreed to leave. © 2018 Condé Nast.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24827 - Posted: 04.06.2018

Laura Y. Cabrera Mr. B loves Johnny Cash, except when he doesn’t. Mr. X has watched his doctors morph into Italian chefs right before his eyes. The link between the two? Both Mr. B and Mr. X received deep brain stimulation (DBS), a procedure involving an implant that sends electric impulses to specific targets in the brain to alter neural activity. While brain implants aim to treat neural dysfunction, cases like these demonstrate that they may influence an individual’s perception of the world and behavior in undesired ways. Mr. B received DBS as treatment for his severe obsessive compulsive disorder. He’d never been a music lover until, under DBS, he developed a distinct and entirely new music preference for Johnny Cash. When the device was turned off, the preference disappeared. Mr. X, an epilepsy patient, received DBS as part of an investigation to locate the origin of his seizures. During DBS, he hallucinated that doctors became chefs with aprons before the stimulation ended and the scene faded. In both of these real-world cases, DBS clearly triggered the changed perception. And that introduces a host of thorny questions. As neurotechnologies like this become more common, the behaviors of people with DBS and other kinds of brain implants might challenge current societal views on responsibility. Lawyers, philosophers and ethicists have labored to define the conditions under which individuals are to be judged legally and morally responsible for their actions. The brain is generally regarded as the center of control, rational thinking and emotion – it orchestrates people’s actions and behaviors. As such, the brain is key to agency, autonomy and responsibility. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24822 - Posted: 04.04.2018

by Amy Ellis Nutt In the first comprehensive imaging study of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in preschoolers, researchers have found evidence that structural changes in the brain are already recognizable at the age of 4. “One of our big questions was thinking about an early-onset disorder and linking it to early-onset brain anomalies,” said Lisa Jacobson, one of the researchers involved in the study, which appeared Monday in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. The results “tell us that this is not just a behavioral disorder. It is a neurological disorder.” The study found widespread reductions in the volume of gray matter in the brains of children with ADHD. And the more severe their behavior, the more their brains differed from those of children who were not diagnosed with ADHD, according to Jacobson, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Johns Hopkins University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins and the site of the research. The most significant differences in brain volume were seen in the temporal and prefrontal lobes, including areas associated with activity, attention and motor control. The results seen in the preschoolers mirror those of earlier research in school-age children and adolescents. “When they designed the study, even [lead author] Mark Mahone did not think he would find these differences,” said James Griffin of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research. Griffin is the deputy chief of NIH’s Child Development and Behavior branch. “They were surprised at how early these differences were already evident in the brain.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: ADHD; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24787 - Posted: 03.27.2018

By Simon Makin Everyone has unwelcome thoughts from time to time. But such intrusions can signal serious psychiatric conditions—from “flashbacks” in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to obsessive negative thinking in depression to hallucinations in schizophrenia. “These are some of the most debilitating symptoms,” says neuroscientist Michael Anderson of the University of Cambridge. New research led by Anderson and neuroscientist Taylor Schmitz, now at McGill University, suggests these symptoms may all stem from a faulty brain mechanism responsible for blocking thoughts. Researchers studying this faculty usually focus on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a control center that directs the activity of other brain regions. But Anderson and his colleagues noticed that conditions featuring intrusive thoughts—such as schizophrenia—often involve increased activity in the hippocampus, an important memory region. The severity of symptoms such as hallucinations also increases with this elevated activity. In the new study, Anderson and his team had healthy participants learn a series of word pairs. The subjects were presented with one word and had to either recall or suppress the associated one. When participants suppressed thoughts, brain scans detected increased activity in part of the PFC and reduced activity in the hippocampus. The findings, which were published last November in Nature Communications, are consistent with a brain circuit in which a “stop” command from the PFC suppresses hippocampus activity. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Attention; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 24775 - Posted: 03.21.2018

By LEONARD MLODINOW Ten years ago, when my son Nicolai was 11, his doctor wanted to put him on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “It would make him less wild,” I explained to my mother, who was then 85. “It would slow him down a bit.” My mother grumbled. “Look around you,” she said in Yiddish. “Look how fast the world is changing. He doesn’t need to slow down. You need to speed up.” It was a surprising recommendation from someone who had never learned to use a microwave. But recent research suggests she had a point: Some people with A.D.H.D. may be naturally suited to our turbocharged world. Today the word “hyperactive” doesn’t just describe certain individuals; it also is a quality of our society. We are bombarded each day by four times the number of words we encountered daily when my mother was raising me. Even vacations are complicated — people today use, on average, 26 websites to plan one. Attitudes and habits are changing so fast that you can identify “generational” differences in people just a few years apart: Simply by analyzing daily cellphone communication patterns, researchers have been able to guess the age of someone under 60 to within about five years either way with 80 percent accuracy. To thrive in this frenetic world, certain cognitive tendencies are useful: to embrace novelty, to absorb a wide variety of information, to generate new ideas. The possibility that such characteristics might be associated with A.D.H.D. was first examined in the 1990s. The educational psychologist Bonnie Cramond, for example, tested a group of children in Louisiana who had been determined to have A.D.H.D. and found that an astonishingly high number — 32 percent — did well enough to qualify for an elite creative scholars program in the Louisiana schools. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 24766 - Posted: 03.19.2018

By Abby Olena Diagnosing neurobiological disorders, such as the autism spectrum disorders, focuses on complex clinical evaluations. But a study published last week (March 6) in eLife shows that an objective measure—how the pupil varies in size while viewing an optical illusion—reveals differences in perceptual styles and correlates with a self-reported score of autistic traits. The findings suggest that tracking fluctuations in pupil size, which is called pupillometry, could be used alongside clinical assessments to help researchers and clinicians understand autism. “We used to think that the pupil was a simple light reflex or that it just indexed arousal,” says Stefan Van der Stigchel, an attention and perception researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who did not participate in the work. This study shows “how the pupil can be informative of, in this situation, perceptual styles.” Previous research has shown that people with autism spectrum disorders allocate their attention differently—and therefore may perceive things differently—than people in the general population. For instance, rather than perceiving an image as a forest, they might focus on the individual trees, says coauthor David Burr of the University of Florence. It’s possible to measure what people pay attention to by having them look at images with both bright and dark areas. Their pupils are slightly larger when they attend to the dark parts and slightly smaller when they attend to the light parts. Burr, Paola Binda of the University of Pisa in Italy, and Marco Turi, a postdoc at the University of Pisa, decided to take advantage of this phenomenon and study how attention, via pupil size, tracks with autistic traits. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Autism; Attention
Link ID: 24755 - Posted: 03.15.2018

Sue Blackmore Are you longing for your brain and all its memories to be preserved for ever? That once fanciful idea seems creepily closer now that a complete pig’s brain has been successfully treated, frozen, rewarmed and found to have its neural connections still intact. This achievement, by the cryobiology research company 21st Century Medicine (21CM), has just won the final phase of the Brain Preservation Foundation’s prize – a prize that demanded all of a brain’s synaptic connections be preserved in a way that allowed for centuries-long storage of the entire information content of a whole large mammal’s brain. They used a pig’s brain, which was perfused with lethal glutaraldehyde before being frozen at –135C, a method called aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation (ASC). This process kills any chance of the brain being brought to life again, but they won because when the treated brain was warmed up again its connectome – the brain’s wiring diagram – was amazingly well preserved. In fact it was so well preserved that even the fine ultrastructural details of dendritic spine synapses could still be seen with a 3D electron microscope. This means potentially 150 trillion connections, all of which may be implicated in storing memory. A human brain treated this way could never be brought back to life. Yet all its preserved information could potentially be uploaded into an artificial or virtual body indistinguishable from the previously living one – like “uploading a person’s mind” after a long wait. Would this then be “you”? © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24753 - Posted: 03.15.2018

Laura Sanders We can’t see it, but brains hum with electrical activity. Brain waves created by the coordinated firing of huge collections of nerve cells pinball around the brain. The waves can ricochet from the front of the brain to the back, or from deep structures all the way to the scalp and then back again. Called neuronal oscillations, these signals are known to accompany certain mental states. Quiet alpha waves ripple soothingly across the brains of meditating monks. Beta waves rise and fall during intense conversational turns. Fast gamma waves accompany sharp insights. Sluggish delta rhythms lull deep sleepers, while dreamers shift into slightly quicker theta rhythms. Researchers have long argued over whether these waves have purpose, and what those purposes might be. Some scientists see waves as inevitable but useless by-products of the signals that really matter — messages sent by individual nerve cells. Waves are simply a consequence of collective neural behavior, and nothing more, that view holds. But a growing body of evidence suggests just the opposite: Instead of by-products of important signals, brain waves are key to how the brain operates, routing information among far-flung brain regions that need to work together. MIT’s Earl Miller is among the neuro­scientists amassing evidence that waves are an essential part of how the brain operates. Brain oscillations deftly route information in a way that allows the brain to choose which signals in the world to pay attention to and which to ignore, his recent studies suggest. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24750 - Posted: 03.14.2018

Shankar Vedantam Economic theory rests on a simple notion about humans: people are rational. They seek out the best information. They measure costs and benefits, and maximize pleasure and profit. This idea of the rational economic actor has been around for centuries. But about 50 years ago, two psychologists shattered these assumptions. They showed that people routinely walk away from good money. And they explained why, once we get in a hole, we often keep digging. Think Fast with Daniel Kahneman The methods of these psychologists were as unusual as their insights. Instead of writing complex theorems, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky spent hours together...talking. They came up with playful thought experiments. They laughed a lot. "We found our mistakes very funny," recalls Kahneman. "What was fun was finding yourself about to say something really stupid." The insights that Kahneman developed with Tversky, who passed away in 1996, transformed the way we understand the mind. That transformation also had philosophical implications. "The stories about the past are so good that they create an illusion that life is understandable, and they create an illusion that you can predict the future," Kahneman says. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel prize in 2002, and over the past 99 episodes of Hidden Brain, we've drawn extensively on research inspired by his work. This week, we celebrate our 100th episode by interviewing Kahneman about judgment, memory, and the mind itself. He spoke with us before a live audience at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Emotions
Link ID: 24744 - Posted: 03.13.2018

By Katarina Zimmer Many of life’s trickier decisions share a common denominator: the options all have both pros and cons. This is what psychologists call a “cost-benefit conflict,” and it’s something that rats and mice in Ann Graybiel’s neuroscience laboratory at MIT face on a regular basis. Graybiel aims to understand how brains evaluate costs and benefits, and why the capacity to do so is sometimes impaired in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Huntington’s disease, anxiety, and depression. Graybiel and her colleagues have pinpointed the specific brain circuit—consisting of prefrontal cortical neurons, neurons in structures known as striosomes, and inhibitory interneurons that suppress the activity of striosomes—that appears to control this type of decision making. In a study published last November, the researchers reported that chronic stress caused rats and mice to make riskier decisions than they normally would, and that the rodents’ motivations returned to normal with manipulation of this circuit. Graybiel has long been fascinated by the striatum, located in the basal ganglia in the deep forebrain. It was assumed to be primitive, “and not mixed up in any kind of terribly interesting behavior,” she explains. But that view has since changed. The brain region has many projections into the prefrontal cortex, is innervated by midbrain dopaminergic circuits, and is thought to act as a “relay station” between cognitive tasks and motor-related tasks. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Stress; Movement Disorders
Link ID: 24743 - Posted: 03.13.2018

by Amy B Wang The 84-year-old man arrived in the emergency room with complaints that weren't uncommon for a patient his age. He had reported feeling unsteady over the past several months, culminating in repeated falls in recent weeks. In the three days leading up to his hospital visit, his left arm and leg had noticeably weakened. Still, there were no red flags in the man's medical history. He didn't smoke. He rarely drank. A blood test detected nothing abnormal. “There was no confusion, facial weakness, visual or speech disturbance,” doctors stated in a summary of the man's case published Feb. 27 in the medical journal BMJ Case Reports. “He was otherwise fit and well, independent with physical activities of daily living ... and lived at home with his wife and two sons.” In other words, doctors thought, there was nothing apparent that would have suggested a clear reason for his symptoms. In a way, they wouldn't be wrong. It was only after CT and MRI scans that the patient's medical team made an alarming discovery: Where much of the man's right frontal lobe of his brain should have been, there was simply a large blank space. Finlay Brown, a physician who was working in the emergency department at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, at the time, remembers reviewing the brain-imaging scans with the rest of the staff. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24742 - Posted: 03.13.2018

By Dina Fine Maron After Richard Hodges pleaded guilty to cocaine possession and residential burglary, he appeared somewhat dazed and kept asking questions that had nothing to do with the plea process. That’s when the judge ordered that Hodges undergo a neuropsychological examination and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing. Yet no irregularities turned up. Hodges, experts concluded, was faking it. His guilty plea would stand. But experts looking back at the 2007 case now say Hodges was part of a burgeoning trend: Criminal defense strategies are increasingly relying on neurological evidence—psychological evaluations, behavioral tests or brain scans—to potentially mitigate punishment. Defendants may cite earlier head traumas or brain disorders as underlying reasons for their behavior, hoping this will be factored into a court’s decisions. Such defenses have been employed for decades, mostly in death penalty cases. But as science has evolved in recent years, the practice has become more common in criminal cases ranging from drug offenses to robberies. Advertisement “The number of cases in which people try to introduce neurotechnological evidence in the trial or sentencing phase has gone up by leaps and bounds,” says Joshua Sanes, director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University. But such attempts may be outpacing the scientific evidence behind the technology, he adds. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24720 - Posted: 03.05.2018

Lauren Smith As a shark biologist, I enjoy nothing more than going scuba diving with sharks in the wild. However, I realise it’s an immense privilege to do this as part of my work – and that for the vast majority of people experiencing the underwater world in such a way is simply not possible. Nevertheless, even without the aid of an air tank humans interact with fish on many levels and in greater numbers than they do with mammals and birds. A review published by the journal Animal Cognition in 2014 by Culum Brown, an associate professor at Macquarie University, Sydney, explains that fish are one of the vertebrate taxa most highly utilised by humans. But despite the fact that they are harvested from wild stocks as part of global fishing industries, grown under intensive aquaculture conditions, are the most common pet and are widely used for scientific research, fish are seldom afforded the same level of compassion or welfare as warm-blooded vertebrates. As Brown highlights in his review, part of the problem is the large gap between people’s perception of fish intelligence and the scientific reality. This is an important issue because public perception guides government policy. The perception of an animal’s intelligence often drives our decision on whether or not to include them in our moral circle. From a welfare perspective, most researchers would suggest that if an animal is sentient, then it can most likely suffer and should therefore be offered some form of formal protection.

Keyword: Consciousness; Evolution
Link ID: 24702 - Posted: 02.27.2018

By Ricki Rusting, Every morning, Avigael Wodinsky sets a timer to keep her 12-year-old son, Naftali, on track while he gets dressed for school. “Otherwise,” she says, “he’ll find 57 other things to do on the way to the bathroom.” Wodinsky says she knew something was different about Naftali from the time he was born, long before his autism diagnosis at 15 months. He lagged behind his twin sister in hitting developmental milestones, and he seemed distant. “When he was an infant and he was feeding, he wouldn’t cry if you took the bottle away from him,” she says. He often sat facing the corner, turning the pages of a picture book over and over again. Although he has above-average intelligence, he did not speak much until he was 4, and even then his speech was often ‘scripted:’ He would repeat phrases and sentences he had heard on television. Naftali’s trouble with maintaining focus became apparent in preschool—and problematic in kindergarten. He would stare out the window or wander around the classroom. “He was doing everything except what he was supposed to be doing,” Wodinsky recalls. At first, his psychiatrist credited these behaviors to his autism and recommended he drink coffee for its mild stimulant effect. The psychiatrist also suggested anxiety drugs. Neither treatment helped. A doctor then prescribed a series of drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), even though Naftali’s hyperactivity was still considered a part of his autism; those medications also failed or caused intolerable side effects. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: ADHD; Autism
Link ID: 24662 - Posted: 02.15.2018

/ By Dinsa Sachan When reporting a rape to police or testifying during a trial, it’s not uncommon for women to face a barrage of intrusive questions: What were you wearing at the time of the assault? Were you intoxicated? Why were you walking home alone at night? For decades, social psychologists have documented links between the ways society perceives women and their bodies — ones that often lead to this line of questioning — and attitudes towards gender violence. But only recently have neuroscientists begun to investigate what sexual objectification actually looks like in the brain. In a study published in the journal Cortex in December, European researchers explored the relationship between empathy — the ability to feel others’ emotions — and sexual objectification. Their findings, based on measuring brain activity in response to viewing a woman being left out of a social activity, suggest that people feel less empathy for women dressed in revealing clothing compared to those dressed more conservatively. To conduct the research, Giorgia Silani, a neuroscientist at the University of Vienna, Austria, along with her colleagues, asked 36 participants — both men and women — to participate in and watch videos of others playing a digital ball-tossing game. The videos featured a model who either wore long pants, a plain top, and light makeup, or a short dress, high heels, and heavy makeup. At different points in the videos, the model was included or excluded from the game. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Emotions; Brain imaging
Link ID: 24661 - Posted: 02.15.2018

Dean Burnett The internet is a weird place. Part of this is due to how things linger rather than disappear, as they tended to do with more “traditional” media. Nowadays, people’s jobs can (rightly or wrongly) be endangered for tweets they wrote years ago. The adage about “today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip papers” seems no longer to apply. This is particularly true when a headline or story from years ago can be found by a group or community on a social network that missed it previously, so they share it widely and it ends up in your feeds long after it’s been “forgotten”. It can be a bit confusing for those of us who grew up solely with televised news. It’s like watching the weekend football roundup when it’s suddenly interrupted by a report that the Berlin Wall has come down. Case in point: yesterday I saw several examples of a story from 2015 about how scientists have discovered that cheese triggers the same part of the brain as hard drugs. A lot of people seem to be sharing this again (even me, thinking it was new). You’d assume someone well-versed in neuroscience like myself would easily recognise an old story like this. So why didn’t I? Stories like this are hardly uncommon. You can barely go a month without some study or report describing something supposedly innocuous as having the same effect on the brain, or activating the same brain regions, as drugs of abuse, be it sugar, pornography, religion, sex, Facebook, music, or, apparently, cheese. Give it a week, something else will be cited as stimulating our brains just like the most powerful narcotics. Maybe walking on crunchy leaves or taking your bra off after a long day will be described as the equivalent of inhaling a bin-bag full of cocaine? © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Attention
Link ID: 24658 - Posted: 02.14.2018