I’ve written before about the importance of oxytocin in relationships, so I was interested in this recent study about oxytocin and social proficiency. At first glance, the results seem to indicate that oxytocin only increases “empathic accuracy” for those who weren’t good at it to begin with.
However, I’m curious about other factors which may have played a role. For example, there’ve been some reports that testosterone decreases the effectiveness of oxytocin (and that increased oxytocin levels seem to correlate with lower testosterone). The study subjects here — all men — were apparently not checked for their baseline testosterone levels. (I was able to read the original article in Psychological Science. Unfortunately, it is available only by subscription.) An alternate explanation for the results, then, might be that men with different testosterone levels respond to oxytocin differently. Now THAT’s an intriguing question.
Article from ScienceDaily
Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that the naturally-occurring hormone oxytocin selectively improves social cognitive abilities for less socially proficient individuals, but has little effect on those who are more socially proficient. The study was published September 21 in Psychological Science.
Researchers at the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Columbia University wanted to determine if oxytocin, popularly dubbed the “hormone of love,” could have widespread benefit in making us more understanding of others. They conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over challenge, giving 27 healthy adult men oxytocin or a placebo delivered nasally. Participants then performed an empathic accuracy task in which they watched videos of people discussing emotional events from their life and rated how they thought the people in the videos were feeling. [click to continue…]
Musical training from a young age can help train the brain for future learning. In light of such important data, schools should be adding more music classes, not cutting them back, and in the case of very many school systems today, cutting them altogether.
My other career choice would have been to be a professional musician… I’m always keen to see what music does for well-being, brain development, and the like.
Article from Scientific American
Nearly 20 years ago a small study advanced the notion that listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major could boost mental functioning. It was not long before trademarked “Mozart effect” products appealed to neurotic parents aiming to put toddlers on the fast track to the Ivy League. Georgia’s governor even proposed giving every newborn there a classical CD or cassette.
The evidence for Mozart therapy turned out to be flimsy, perhaps nonexistent, although the original study never claimed anything more than a temporary and limited effect. In recent years, however, neuroscientists have examined the benefits of a concerted effort to study and practice music, as opposed to playing a Mozart CD or a computer-based “brain fitness” game once in a while. Advanced monitoring techniques have enabled scientists to see what happens inside your head when you listen to your mother and actually practice the violin for an hour every afternoon. And they have found that music lessons can produce profound and lasting changes that enhance the general ability to learn. These results should disabuse public officials of the idea that music classes are a mere frill, ripe for discarding in the budget crises that constantly beset public schools. [click to continue…]
Cognitive Brain: An interesting look on how our brain groups information together to be able to process patterns and familiar situations. But this might also lead to difficulties with introducing new material into a familiar situation.
Article from WIRED of chess, expertise, and brain change.
Author Credit Jonah Lehrer
In the 1940s, the Dutch psychologist Adrian de Groot performed a landmark study of chess experts. Although de Groot was an avid chess amateur – he belonged to several clubs - he grew increasingly frustrated by his inability to compete with more talented players. De Groot wanted to understand his defeats, to identify the mental skills that he was missing. His initial hypothesis was that the chess expert were blessed with a photographic memory, allowing them to remember obscure moves and exploit the minor mistakes of their opponents. De Groot’s first experiment seemed to confirm this theory: He placed twenty different pieces on a chess board, imitating the layout of a possible game. Then, de Groot asked a variety of chess players, from inexperienced amateurs to chess grandmasters, to quickly glance at the board and try to memorize the location of each piece. As the scientists expected, the amateurs drew mostly blanks. The grandmasters, however, easily reproduced the exact layout of the game. The equation seemed simple: memory equals talent.
But then de Groot performed a second experiment that changed everything. Instead of setting the pieces in patterns taken from an actual chess game, he randomly scattered the pawns and bishops and knights on the board. If the best chess players had enhanced memories, then the location shouldn’t matter: a pawn was still a pawn. To de Groot’s surprise, however, the grandmaster edge now disappeared. They could no longer remember where the pieces had been placed.
For de Groot, this failure was a revelation, since it suggested that talent wasn’t about memory – it was about perception. The grandmasters didn’t remember the board better than amateurs. Rather, they saw the board better, instantly translating the thirty-two chess pieces into a set of meaningful patterns. They didn’t focus on the white bishop or the black pawn, but instead grouped the board into larger strategies and structures, such as the French Defense or the Reti Opening. [click to continue…]
Until recently, when psychologists talked about “unconscious memories” from childhood influencing later behavior, the science behind it was, well, kinda fuzzy. As I’ve written previously, there is increasing evidence that early memories of attachment are stored in parts of the brain to which we don’t have conscious access, and yet which influence our relationship patterns in adulthood.
Your brain may remember something, even when you can’t.
When it comes to memories, it seems the old adage is reversed: They’re forgotten, but not gone. Even when a memory can’t be accessed — that is, when it’s forgotten — new research suggests it may persist in the brain.
In a study published September 10 in Neuron, researchers found that when college students couldn’t remember the specifics of an event, they still showed patterns of brain activation corresponding to the forgotten information.
“Even though the subject couldn’t tell us any details they remembered, we could still pick those details out in the brain activity,” said cognitive neuroscientist Jeff Johnson of the University of California, Irvine, the study’s lead author.
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