Topic: Neuroscience

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🔗 Aphantasia

🔗 Medicine 🔗 Psychology 🔗 Disability 🔗 Neuroscience

Aphantasia is a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind's eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery. The phenomenon was first described by Francis Galton in 1880 but has since remained largely unstudied. Interest in the phenomenon renewed after the publication of a study in 2015 conducted by a team led by Professor Adam Zeman of the University of Exeter, which also coined the term aphantasia. Research on the condition is still scarce.

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🔗 Ten Percent of the Brain Myth

🔗 Skepticism 🔗 Psychology 🔗 Neuroscience

The 10 percent of the brain myth asserts that humans generally use only 10 percent (or some other small percentage) of their brains. It has been misattributed to many celebrated people, notably Albert Einstein. By extrapolation, it is suggested that a person may harness this unused potential and increase intelligence.

Changes in grey and white matter following new experiences and learning have been shown, but it has not yet been proven what the changes are. The popular notion that large parts of the brain remain unused, and could subsequently be "activated", rests in folklore and not science. Though specific mechanisms regarding brain function remain to be fully described—e.g. memory, consciousness—the physiology of brain mapping suggests that all areas of the brain have a function and that they are used nearly all the time.

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🔗 Psychedelics in problem-solving experiment

🔗 California 🔗 California/San Francisco Bay Area 🔗 Medicine 🔗 Neuroscience 🔗 Psychoactive and Recreational Drugs

Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving experiment was a study designed to evaluate whether the use of a psychedelic substance with supportive setting can lead to improvement of performance in solving professional problems. The altered performance was measured by subjective reports, questionnaires, the obtained solutions for the professional problems and psychometric data using the Purdue Creativity, the Miller Object Visualization, and the Witkins Embedded Figures tests. This experiment was a pilot that was to be followed by control studies as part of exploratory studies on uses for psychedelic drugs, that were interrupted early in 1966 when the Food and Drug Administration declared a moratorium on research with human subjects, as a strategy in combating illicit use.

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🔗 Gut–Brain Axis

🔗 Skepticism 🔗 Neuroscience 🔗 Physiology

The gut–brain axis is the two-way biochemical signaling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and the central nervous system (CNS). The term "gut–brain axis" is occasionally used to refer to the role of the gut microbiota in the interplay as well. The "microbiota–gut–brain (MGB or BGM) axis" explicitly includes the role of gut microbiota in the biochemical signaling events that take place between the GI tract and the CNS. Broadly defined, the gut–brain axis includes the central nervous system, neuroendocrine system, neuroimmune systems, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis), sympathetic and parasympathetic arms of the autonomic nervous system, the enteric nervous system, vagus nerve, and the gut microbiota.

Chemicals released in the gut by the microbiome can vastly influence the development of the brain, starting from birth. A review from 2015 states that the microbiome influences the central nervous system by “regulating brain chemistry and influencing neuro-endocrine systems associated with stress response, anxiety and memory function”. The gut, sometimes referred to as the “second brain”, functions off of the same type of neural network as the central nervous system, suggesting why it plays a significant role in brain function and mental health.

The bidirectional communication is done by immune, endocrine, humoral and neural connections between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. More research suggests that the gut microorganisms influence the function of the brain by releasing the following chemicals: cytokines, neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, chemokines, endocrine messengers and microbial metabolites such as "short-chain fatty acids, branched chain amino acids, and peptidoglycans”. The intestinal microbiome can then divert these products to the brain via the blood, neuropod cells, nerves, endocrine cells and more to be determined. The products then arrive at important locations in the brain, impacting different metabolic processes. Studies have confirmed communication between the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala (responsible for emotions and motivation), which acts as a key node in the gut-brain behavioral axis.

While IBS is the only disease confirmed to be directly influenced by the gut microbiome, many disorders (such as anxiety, autism, depression and schizophrenia) have been linked to the gut-brain axis as well. The impact of the axis, and the various ways in which one can influence it, remains a promising research field which could result in future treatments for psychiatric, age-related, neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental disorders. For example, according to a study from 2017, “probiotics have the ability to restore normal microbial balance, and therefore have a potential role in the treatment and prevention of anxiety and depression”.

The first of the brain–gut interactions shown, was the cephalic phase of digestion, in the release of gastric and pancreatic secretions in response to sensory signals, such as the smell and sight of food. This was first demonstrated by Pavlov through Nobel prize winning research in 1904.

Scientific interest in the field had already led to review in the second half of the 20th century. It was promoted further by a 2004 primary research study showing that germ-free (GF) mice showed an exaggerated HPA axis response to stress compared to non-GF laboratory mice.

As of October 2016, most of the work done on the role of gut microbiota in the gut–brain axis had been conducted in animals, or on characterizing the various neuroactive compounds that gut microbiota can produce. Studies with humans – measuring variations in gut microbiota between people with various psychiatric and neurological conditions or when stressed, or measuring effects of various probiotics (dubbed "psychobiotics" in this context) – had generally been small and were just beginning to be generalized. Whether changes to the gut microbiota are a result of disease, a cause of disease, or both in any number of possible feedback loops in the gut–brain axis, remained unclear.

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🔗 Gunslinger Effect

🔗 Neuroscience 🔗 Physiology

The gunslinger effect, also sometimes called Bohr's law or the gunfighter's dilemma, is a psychophysical theory which says that an intentional or willed movement is slower than an automatic or reaction movement. The concept is named after physicist Niels Bohr, who first deduced that the person who draws second in a gunfight will actually win the shoot-out.

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🔗 Weber–Fechner law

🔗 Psychology 🔗 Neuroscience

The Weber–Fechner law refers to two related hypotheses in the field of psychophysics, known as Weber's law and Fechner's law. Both laws relate to human perception, more specifically the relation between the actual change in a physical stimulus and the perceived change. This includes stimuli to all senses: vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.

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🔗 Yakovlevian Torque

🔗 Neuroscience 🔗 Anatomy 🔗 Anatomy/Neuroanatomy

Yakovlevian torque (also known as occipital bending (OB) or counterclockwise brain torque) is the tendency of the right side of the human brain to be warped slightly forward relative to the left and the left side of the human brain to be warped slightly backward relative to the right. This is responsible for certain asymmetries, such as how the lateral sulcus of the human brain is often longer and less curved on the left side of the brain relative to the right. Stated in another way, Yakovlevian Torque can be defined by the existence of right-frontal and left-occipital petalias, which are protrusions of the surface of one hemisphere relative to the other. It is named for Paul Ivan Yakovlev (1894–1983), a Russian-American neuroanatomist from Harvard Medical School.

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🔗 Free energy principle

🔗 Biology 🔗 Cognitive science 🔗 Neuroscience

The free energy principle tries to explain how (biological) systems maintain their order (non-equilibrium steady-state) by restricting themselves to a limited number of states. It says that biological systems minimise a free energy function of their internal states, which entail beliefs about hidden states in their environment. The implicit minimisation of variational free energy is formally related to variational Bayesian methods and was originally introduced by Karl Friston as an explanation for embodied perception in neuroscience, where it is also known as active inference.

The free energy principle is that systems—those that are defined by their enclosure in a Markov blanket—try to minimize the difference between their model of the world and their sense and associated perception. This difference can be described as "surprise" and is minimized by continuous correction of the world model of the system. As such, the principle is based on the Bayesian idea of the brain as an “inference engine”. Friston added a second route to minimization: action. By actively changing the world into the expected state, systems can also minimize the free energy of the system. Friston assumes this to be the principle of all biological reaction.. Friston also believes his principle applies to mental disorders as well as to artificial intelligence. AI implementations based on the active inference principle have shown advantages over other methods.

The free energy principle has been criticized for being very difficult to understand, even for experts. Discussions of the principle have also been criticized as invoking metaphysical assumptions far removed from a testable scientific prediction, making the principle unfalsifiable. In a 2018 interview, Friston acknowledged that the free energy principle is not properly falsifiable: "the free energy principle is what it is — a principle. Like Hamilton’s Principle of Stationary Action, it cannot be falsified. It cannot be disproven. In fact, there’s not much you can do with it, unless you ask whether measurable systems conform to the principle."

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🔗 Amygdala hijack

🔗 Psychology 🔗 Neuroscience 🔗 Physiology 🔗 Physiology/neuro

An amygdala hijack refers to a personal, emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat. The term was coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

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🔗 Bicameralism (Psychology)

🔗 Philosophy 🔗 Skepticism 🔗 Psychology 🔗 Philosophy/Contemporary philosophy 🔗 Philosophy/Philosophy of mind 🔗 Alternative Views 🔗 Neuroscience

Bicameralism (the condition of being divided into "two-chambers") is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once operated in a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be "speaking", and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3,000 years ago, near the end of the Mediterranean bronze age.

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