27 April 2010

Why the good guys always win

Following our article entitled “Eyes in the back of your head” published earlier this month I received a link to an article from one of our readers.

The article was a ‘tong-in-cheek’ item that sought to explain why actors such as Clint Eastwood and John Wayne always won in gun fights. The reason, according to the article, is because they drew their guns second.

The more serious point the article was making is that the brain has two ways of seeing. The first is the cognitive one of passing the information from your eyes to the cerebral part of your brain where you then think about it before making a decision as to what actions you should take as a result. The second way of seeing is where information from your eyes is passed directly into the lower part of your brain, into your limbic system. This part of your brain is the seat of your emotions and instincts. Because there is no cognitive thinking taking place in this part of your brain information is processed much more quickly than in the cerebral part of the brain.

The argument put forward in the article therefore was that the person who draws their gun first is thinking about the situation and making a decision. They must therefore be using their cerebral brain and will therefore be processing information more slowly than the other person who is now reacting instinctively to save their own life and will therefore be processing information using their limbic brain.

There is truth in this theory but if you would like to prove it for yourself I would not recommend using guns. Instead you could try playing the game we used to call “hand-slap” (click here for instructions) and you will find that the speed with which the person reacting can move is often greater than the person attempting to slap the hand.

Click here to read the full article on the MyBrain website.

19 April 2010

How much sleep do you need?

In separate studies at the University of California, researchers have found that the human brain needs a certain amount of sleep every so often to effectively "recharge" itself but that too much sleep or too little sleep seems to be associated with a shortening of your life-expectancy. Click here to read more.

They also found that the brain needs to rest for a minimum amount of time on a regular basis. So going for several days at a time with minimal sleep and then having a lie-in is no solution.

Obviously the amount of sleep different people need varies so it would be interesting to know what your experiences are. For example, what happens to you when you get very tired? How do you feel if you have a big sleep after several short nights? Do you notice a difference in your alertness if you have been dreaming in your sleep?

Click here to read the full article on the MyBrain website.

Please add your comments below.

Intelligent women have better sex

Hats off to researchers at Kings College London. Not only did they manage to find and talk to 2,000 female twins, but they also persuaded them to talk to male scientists about their sex lives!

As a result of their exhaustive research, the scientists discovered that the most important erogenous zone on the female body is in fact the brain. Something that the novelist Isabel Allende alluded to many years ago when she said that the G-spot is located in a woman’s ears.

What they found was that women blessed with greater 'emotional intelligence' - the ability to express their feelings and read those of others - have up to twice as many orgasms as less intelligent women.

Psychologist Andrea Burri, one of the report’s authors said: 'Emotional intelligence seems to have a direct impact on women's sexual functioning by influencing her ability to communicate her sexual expectations and desires to her partner.'

She added that there was also a possible connection with a woman's ability to fantasise during sex or her feeling of control over the act.

Given the plethora of jokes that circulate the internet regarding the emotional sophistication of women and the emotional simplicity of men, it is a shame that the study did not include men for the sake of comparison.

Bullies' brains are different

Some alarming research from the University of Chicago last year found that the brains of bullies – kids who start fights, tell lies and break stuff with glee – may be wired to actually feel pleasure when watching others suffer pain. This is somewhat counter-intuitive as bullies would be expected to possess an emotional cold-ness that enables their behaviour, and therefore show no response when they witnessed pain in someone else.

Previous brain imaging studies had shown that when non-bullies saw others in pain, the same areas of the brain light up as when they experience pain themselves – a sign of empathy. This new research showed that these areas in the bullies’ brains were even more active than in the non-bullies and their empathetic response seemed to be warped in the amygdale and ventral striatum, regions of the brain associated with reward and pleasure. The researchers concluded that the bullies are getting positively reinforced each time they bully and are aggressive to others. The scans also showed that a portion of the brain that helps to regulate emotion is inactive in bullies – so they lack a process to keep themselves in check when something out of the ordinary happens – for instance if someone bumps into them unexpectedly.

Hopefully this on-going brain research is helping in this area, and will give rise to some positive actions to cut down on bullying.

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