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.

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New Discovery

Fruit Flies Can Teach Us How We Forget

Have you ever wondered, “why do we forget?” Can you imagine a life where you can remember everything? Although this is interesting, it might not be a good idea after all. Scientists have started to learn that forgetting is very important for the normal function of our brain. If you cannot erase memories that you don’t need, you could have problems learning new things or focus your attention on the things that are important. Using fruit flies to study learning and forgetting, we discovered a protein named Scribble that is very important for the forgetting of odor memories. Yes, as surprising as it may seem, these small flies can learn and forget. This is explained better below.

Authors

Isaac Cervantes-Sandoval / Ronald L. Davis
Reviewed by New York Times Student Journeys
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New Discovery

The Jump-Roping Brain

Different parts of the brain work together to help us solve problems, play, and pay attention in school. Every task we do is broken down into smaller tasks that different parts of your brain are responsible for completing. To successfully accomplish these tasks, the different parts of your brain need to work together to ‘share’ information. We were interested in how information was shared while rats played a memory game, specifically information relating to where things are and what was last seen. We found that two parts of the brain, the medial prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, had to work together for the rats to play the game correctly. When the rats played the game well, these two brain areas were synchronized, but when rats did not play the game well and got the problems wrong, these two areas were out of sync and thus could not ‘share’ their information.

Authors

Kate R. Zha / Jennifer Hyman / James M. Hyman
Reviewed by Jacob
Reviewed by Kalamity
Reviewed by Matthew
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New Discovery

Can Teenagers Feel the Pain of Others? Peeking into the Teenage Brain to Find Empathy

Empathy is important for our lives and for our society. What happens in our brains when we feel empathy to someone else in pain? We presented to teenagers pictures of different people in pain (for example, accidentally hitting the knee) and used a machine that can measure their brain in action. The machine focused on an area in the brain which is responsible for empathy. It showed that teenagers felt empathy towards people in pain who are from the same background as them. But it also showed that there was less empathy to people in pain who are from different background as them. These results are similar to results from research on adults. This means that empathy functioning in the brain is also present in teenagers. This study shows that science can be used to let us peek into the brain of teenagers to find brain activity reflecting empathy in different situations.

Authors

Jonathan Levy / Ruth Feldman
Reviewed by Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum
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Core Concept

Who Is Afraid of Math? What Is Math Anxiety? And What Can You Do about It?

Mathematics is a necessary skill that people use throughout their lives, such as when they travel, use money, or keep track of time. Therefore, mathematics is an important skill to learn at school. Unfortunately, many children and adults feel stressed and anxious when having to do math. People who experience feelings of stress when faced with math related situations are experiencing ‘math anxiety’. Math anxiety affects many people and is related to poor math ability in school and later during adulthood. Researchers have studied how math anxiety first appears, what is happening in the brain when people experience math anxiety, and how to best help people who are suffering with math anxiety.

Authors

H. Moriah Sokolowski / Daniel Ansari
Reviewed by Christina Seix Academy
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Core Concept

Do Teenagers Really Make Bad Decisions?

Scientific research provides evidence to show that a specific area of the human brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, continues to develop much longer than other brain regions. This area is involved in a number of complex functions and actions, including our decision making abilities. As the areas involved in making decisions do not reach full maturity until early adulthood, and undergo major structural changes throughout adolescence, the way in which we make decisions can differ greatly between our teenage years and adulthood.

Authors

Stacey A. Bedwell
Reviewed by Manchester Grammar
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New Discovery

Waves of Perception

We experience the world around us as continuous. But how does our brain achieve that? Here we suggest that the brain samples our environment in discrete snapshots. We demonstrate that brain waves work just like a flipbook, where the rapid stream of related pictures creates the illusion of a continuous movie. We present results from a recent experiment that show how brain waves capture our visual world. These brain waves occur approximately 10 times per second and are called ‘alpha oscillations’. Here we provide an overview how these brain waves were discovered, how they can be measured, what they mean and how they help to create our perception from the world around us.

Authors

Bhargavi Ram / Randolph F. Helfrich
Reviewed by Krishna
Reviewed by Darius
Reviewed by Wyatt
Reviewed by Schuyler
Reviewed by Sybille
Reviewed by Paceyn
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New Discovery

Yawns Are Cool

Although we yawn each and every day, most people have little understanding of why we do it. In fact, the function of yawning has remained elusive for centuries, even among scientists, and this has only changed quite recently. Contrary to conventional wisdom and long-held popular beliefs, it is now well recognized that yawns do not have a respiratory function. Instead, new and growing research has revealed that yawns serve as a brain cooling mechanism. This new perspective on yawning as a response to elevated brain temperature has transformed our understanding of this commonly overlooked, and misinterpreted behavior, and provides numerous practical applications in the fields of medicine and psychology.

Authors

Andrew C. Gallup / Omar Tonsi Eldakar
Reviewed by Amy
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New Discovery

What Is Optogenetics and How Can We Use It to Discover More About the Brain?

How does the brain work? This is a question that scientists have been interested in for hundreds of years. In order to figure this out, scientists have had to do lots of experiments and figure out ways to examine and test the brain. In 2005, a new technique was created called optogenetics. This technique uses a combination of light and genetics to control the cells of the brain. Optogenetics has become very popular and is being used in neuroscience laboratories all over the world. It is helping us to discover many new things about the brain. Here, we explain what makes optogenetics so special for studying the brain.

Authors

Diana H. Lim / Jeffrey LeDue
Reviewed by Pruthvi
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Core Concept

Why Are We Not More Selfish? What the Study of Brain and Behavior Can Tell Us

Even though it might not always seem to make sense from the perspective of personal gain, people often show a tendency towards cooperation. Why this might occur is a question that has long been a topic of fascination in researchers from many different fields. As societies often do better when their citizens cooperate with each other, an answer to this question not only gives us insight into ourselves, but also creates opportunities for improving our society. In this article, we discuss behavioural and brain imaging research which suggests that there may be several different motivations as to why we tend to cooperate instead of behaving selfishly. A tiny hint: wanting to feel good, avoid punishment, and live up to others’ expectations have a lot to do with it!

Authors

Mirre Stallen / Nastasia Griffioen / Alan Gerard Sanfey
Reviewed by Maxwell
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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
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