Encephalon 16

Welcome to the 16th edition of the psychology and neuroscience writing carnival Encephalon hosted this time on Mind Hacks.

We’ve had a flood of articles submitted, covering everything from time perception to sexuality in dreaming, so continue reading for these and more!

Death, sex, dreams and sleep

Alison Tuck covered an article that examines the sensitive topic of terminal illness and preparing for death and discusses the idea that the majority of people who are at the end of their life will be able to judge when they will die over the next day or two, perhaps even to the nearest hour.

Moving from death to dreams about ‘la petite mort’ as Blog Around the Clock looks at a striking study on the possible biological influences on sexual themes in dreaming. Notably, this research was originally published in Serbian, but as a fluent speaker, Bora has made it accessible to the English speaking world.

Sleep has occupied the thoughts of Sebastian Schaffer over at the PharmacoNutrition blog, who discusses how sleep hormone melatonin might actually protect brain cells from dying.

Taking the line of thought one step further, Chris Patil has been wondering about whether melatonin could be used as an anti-ageing treatment to maintain brain function as we age.

Enhancement: lifestyle, training and electronic implants

Cognitive enhancement is now a popular area, especially for older people, and Sharp Brains looks at what could be a key concept – the idea of cognitive reserves and how lifestyle may impact on them.

Sharp Brains also carries an interview with Professor Bradley Gibson who has done research showing that training may improve working memory and help with the symptoms of ADHD.

If your idea of enhancement is a hardware expansion, Futurologic has a review of recent advances neuroprosthetics – the science of interfacing electronic devices directly to the brain.

Time in mind

How we understand and perceive time is one of the more vexing questions of modern neuroscience although research is starting to uncover some areas and networks in the brain that seem to be crucial for making sense of the passage of time.

The Neurocritic discusses research on ‘mental time travel’ in three interesting articles on our ability to recall past events and imagine the future.

Pure Pedantry has an alternate view of this research, giving an excellent introduction to the hippocampus as a starting point for discussing its role in supporting imagination of future scenarios.

In contrast, Blog Around the Clock looks at two very different aspects of time perception: one on judging the time between two events, known as interval timing and another on how we respond to time of day. We know about the changes in light cycles, but it seems that some animals respond to changes in temperature as well.

Decisions, decisions

We all have biases when weighing probabilities and making decisions and Developing Intelligence examines recent research looking at the neuroscience of our reasoning biases.

Paul Baxter examines the particular source of bias, namely emotion, and discusses Bachara’s and the Damasios’ ‘somatic marker’ model of decision making.

The wayward mind: disorders and disturbance

Deborah Serani looks at research suggesting that an area of the brain called the insula might be crucial in addiction – something that has been a hot topic during the past week or two.

Taking a cognitive perspective on depression and mania, The Mouse Trap analyses the possible cognitive biases that might contribute to distressing or disabling states of mind in these disorders.

Child and adolescent mental illness has occupied the thoughts of both Alison Tuck and Shauna of the Do you Mind? blog.

Alison looks into a promising programme for teenagers with anxiety disorders and Shauna takes a detailed look at a recent study suggesting that problems in coping with stress may be a significant factor in childhood antisocial behaviour.

Eccentricities, music and miscellany

Atomic Airship has a neat post on an informal request for people to note their personal eccentricities.

When we talk about music ‘speaking to us’, we are often talking metaphorically. Cognitive Daily looks at research which tries to determine how much language-like meaning music can convey.

Continuing the auditory theme, Retrospectacle looks at the hearing at the microscopic level, particularly focusing on cutting-edge research on the structure of the hair-like cells that convert sound into neural impulses.

Retrospectacle also looks at the neuroscience of obesity and the crucial role of neural protein SH2B1 in weight regulation.

If you thought numbers only existed as notional concepts then the wonderfully named Phineas Gage Fan Club looks at fascinating research showing that our mental representation of numbers includes a position in space. Most people will imagine a horizontal line with 1 on the left, and an orderly progression to 9 on the right.

Finally, The Neurophilosopher tackles aspects of cellular neuroscience by discussing how neurons connect to the correct areas when the brain is developing, as well as discussing how prion diseases take hold but might be reversible.

Anyway, that’s all for this edition. The next will be hosted by Jake at Pure Pedantry on February 26th. Enjoy!

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