How the Brain Categorizes Objects
The human brain is adept at recognizing similar items and placing them into categories. In a new study, M.I.T. neuroscientists have identified the brain activity that seems to control this skill.
What's the Latest Development?
A study published in the July 27 issue of the journal Neuron summarizes research performed on monkeys trained to assign patterns of dots into one of two categories. As the monkeys began to pick up on general traits belonging to each category, "brain activity shifted from the striatum, a more primitive brain region, to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for high-level functions such as planning and decision making." In other words, the striatum quickly learns the individual puzzle pieces, and the prefrontal cortex puts them together.
What's the Big Idea?
Professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Gregory Ashby says the new study represents the "clearest picture yet" of the striatum's involvement in category learning. "We've known for quite a while that the striatum plays an important role in category learning, but it was not at all clear exactly what that role was," he says. The results of the study suggest a potential explanation for why autistic children focus intently on details, but often seem unable to group things into broad categories.
Scientists have developed new ways of understanding how the biological forces of death drive important life processes.
- Researchers have found new ways on how decomposing plants and animals contribute to the life cycle.
- After a freak mass herd death of 300 reindeer, scientists were able to study a wide range of the decomposition processes.
- Promoting the necrobiome research will open up new areas of inquiry and even commerce.
What do we see from watching birds move across the country?
- A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
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- Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
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