Understanding Neuroscience
Understanding Neuroscience

Understanding Neuroscience

So much depends on the brain. When scientists want to study how and why living creatures do what they do, the brain is one of the places that they start. The brain plays a key role in how you do the things you do, learn to do new things over time, and why there will be certain things that you will never be able to do no matter how hard you try. This section of Frontiers for Young Minds will not only include articles about the brain itself, but the way the brain changes over time, techniques we use to study the brain, how aspects of the brain relate to behavior and performance, and why the brain developed in the ways that it did. Understanding Neuroscience wants to provide a chance for the next generation to think critically about the organ that makes it possible for them to think in the first place.

No articles found

Core Concept

How Do Little Kids Learn Language?

Different kids grow up in different environments. Imagine Kid A: she gets to play and talk with her parents a lot, she has a yummy dinner every night with her family, she gets to travel on airplanes, and she has lots of books in her bedroom. Now imagine Kid B: his parents are really busy, he does not play or talk with grownups very much, he watches TV a lot, he does not get to eat much healthy food, and he almost always stays in his house. Kid A gets a lot of chances to have fun and learn, and Kid B gets fewer chances. Kid A gets to read about adventures all over the world, and Kid B does not get as much practice with reading. Did you get a lot of chances to play, talk, and learn when you were little? Have you ever thought about how other kids’ lives were different from yours? Have you ever thought about all the complicated stuff you learned, like language? There are lots of scientists who study how babies and little kids learn, and we want to tell you about some important research findings. After you finish reading, we hope you feel excited about how this science could help give every kid a fair chance.

Authors

Casey Lew-Williams / Adriana Weisleder
Reviewed by Nick
Read more

New Discovery

What Happens in Your Mind and Brain When You Are Excluded from a Social Activity?

In school and in everyday life, we sometimes experience being rejected by classmates, or we might see someone being excluded. What do excluded individuals feel? How does the brain process information about being socially excluded? In the past few decades, psychologists and social neuroscientists have investigated the influence of social exclusion, including social rejection, on our mind, brain, and behavior. Social exclusion is a complex and ambiguous phenomenon, and therefore, we process information about it dynamically and often cope with it flexibly. In this article, I have described the dynamic effects of social exclusion on our mind, brain, and behavior by developing a model of intrapersonal and interpersonal processes of social exclusion.

Authors

Taishi Kawamoto
Reviewed by Ayanna
Read more

Core Concept

How to Exercise by Imagining Movements

When you shoot some hoops or kick a ball, areas in your brain responsible for planning, coordinating and executing movements are active, the so-called motor areas. But motor areas are not only involved in movement execution, they are also activated when you imagine performing movements. The fact that movement execution and imagery activate comparable brain areas can be used to improve motor functions such as hand or foot movements. When motor areas of the brain are damaged due to an injury, e.g., when you hurt your head during an accident, your motor functions might be impaired. So, you have to make physiotherapy to train specific movements and let injured brain areas recover. The recovery can be boosted by additionally imagine moving the affected limb. This therapy is called movement imagery. Movement imagery activates injured brain areas and leads to improvements in motor functions. This is how exercising using movement imagery works.

Authors

Silvia Erika Kober / Guilherme Wood
Reviewed by Bailey
Reviewed by Devona
Reviewed by Rosie
Read more

Core Concept

How Your Brain Cells Talk to Each Other—Whispered Secrets and Public Announcements

Imagine that you want to tell your friends something new; you could whisper it into their ears or shout it out loud. This is rather like two forms of communication that occur within your brain. Your brain contains billions of nerve cells, called neurons, which make a very large number of connections with specialized parts of other neurons, called dendrites, to form networks. Neurons have been thought to communicate with each other by passing (‘whispering’) chemical signals directly through these connections, but now we know that they also can spread messages more widely (‘public announcements’) by releasing chemical signals from other parts of the neuron, including the dendrites themselves. If we understand how and what neurons communicate with each other, we will have a chance to correct disturbances in communication that may result in altered behaviors and brain disorders.

Authors

Mike Ludwig
Reviewed by Sarit
Read more

Core Concept

How Do We Feel the Emotions of Others?

When you see your friend disgusted to the point of vomiting, or laugh until it hurts, you immediately experience what your friend feels. Why do we feel the emotions of others around us? Neuroscience research has shown that our brain is equipped with special cells called mirror neurons that directly project information about others’ behavior into our own emotional brain regions. This mechanism shows that others’ emotions are not detected only by the visual part of the brain, but they also activate our own emotional responses, allowing us to understand and automatically transmit the same information to others. This is an incredibly fast and efficient way to communicate!

Authors

Giacomo Rizzolatti / Fausto Caruana
Reviewed by Champions of Science, Chabot Space and Science Center
Read more

Core Concept

Taste: Links in the Chain from Tongue to Brain

Taste sensitivity brings us some of the finest things in life: the sweetness of candy, the saltiness of chips, and the sourness of lemonade. We all know it starts on our tongue, but how does it really work? Scientists have discovered that taste perception comes from a chain reaction that starts with sensitive proteins on your tongue, races through taste buds, enters your nerves, and ends in your brain. One of the most amazing findings is that taste sensitivity varies from person to person. Each of us lives in a unique taste world, making everyone different in food loves and hates.

Authors

Lucy A. Vera / Stephen P. Wooding
Reviewed by Smith Middle School
Read more

New Discovery

Why Time Slows Down during an Accident

After an accident people often report that its duration had been subjectively longer than it could have been in real time. Time seems to have slowed down. We tried to conduct a safe experiment in our laboratory that nevertheless comes a bit close to a dangerous situation. We had participants look at a screen in which circles either virtually moved on a collision course towards the viewer or where the circles moved away from the observer. At the same time we recorded brain activation with a brain scanner. When the circle moved towards the participant, the duration of that event was judged to last longer than when it moved away. This is the effect we wanted to produce: in a situation of "threat" duration seems to last longer. Recorded brain activation showed that an area in the mid-line part of the brain was especially activated, a region which has shown to be active when events have something personal to do with the viewer. In our case, a threatening stimulus approaching is the event that is related to the viewer. This is the first study to show which regions of the brain are associated with a subjective lengthening of time during a threatening situation.

Authors

Marc Wittmann / Virginie van Wassenhove
Reviewed by Trafalgar School for Girls
Read more

Core Concept

The Wandering Mind: How the Brain Allows Us to Mentally Wander Off to Another Time and Place

A unique human characteristic is our ability to mind wander – a period of time when our attention drifts away from the task-at-hand to focus on thoughts that are unrelated to the task. These thoughts are sometimes associated with beneficial outcomes, such as creativity; other times, they are linked to negative outcomes, such as errors in our task performance. Interestingly, we spend up to half of our waking hours mind wandering. How does our brain help us accomplish that? Research suggests that when we mind wander, our response to information from the external world around us is disrupted. In other words, our brain’s resources are shifted away from processing information from the external environment and redirected to our internal world, which allows us to mentally wander off to another time and place. Although many external processes are disrupted during mind wandering, our ability to detect unexpected events in our surrounding environment is preserved. This suggests that we are quite clever about what we ignore or pay attention to in the external environment even when we mind wander.

Authors

Julia W. Y. Kam
Reviewed by Krishna
Reviewed by Darius
Reviewed by Wyatt
Reviewed by Schuyler
Reviewed by Sybille
Reviewed by Paceyn
Read more

Core Concept

Humans and Caffeine—A Very Long Relationship

Methylxanthines such as caffeine did not appear in Evolution to fulfill any primordial need of Homo sapiens. However, as soon as they were discovered they were likely selected by humans to attend non-primordial needs. Methylxanthine consumption continues today under very different forms. The taste of cola-drinks, coffee, tea, hierba mate or guaraná is very diverse and the only known similarity between these drinks is the presence of methylxanthines. Fire discovery was a must for humans but one its consequences, the possibility to extract organic compounds from plants, led to select caffeine and theophylline as drugs to help humans to be in better moods and to be the most successful specie in Evolution.

Authors

Edgar Angelats / Eva Martínez-Pinilla / Ainhoa Oñatibia-Astibia / Nuria Franco / Gemma Navarro / Rafael Franco
Reviewed by Jesus
Reviewed by Ximena
Reviewed by Gerardo
Read more

New Discovery

Precommitment: A Way around Temptation

Impulsivity means we want things that make us feel good now, and we want to postpone things that take effort. This means that our preferences change - today we want to do the effortful thing tomorrow, but tomorrow, we will want to take the easy option. One potential solution to impulsivity is precommitment, where we set things up today to remove the easy option tomorrow. It turns out that precommitment depends on the fact that your brain contains lots of different opinions - like a group of friends deciding what to do. Learning how to help yourself precommit can help you do avoid temptation.

Authors

Zeb Kurth-Nelson / A. David Redish
Reviewed by Gabi
Read more