Why Do Our Brains Sometimes Fail?

Have you ever made a mistake while trying to execute the most rudimentary of tasks? Scientists have begun to understand why the brain sometimes loses its concentration for no good reason. 

What's the Latest Development?


When researchers in Norway examined the brain activity of people doing repetitive tasks, they found that momentary lapses of concentration begin in the body's physiology some 30 seconds before a person actually loses concentration. "So what's causing the brain to wig out? As far as the researchers could tell, the test subjects' brains weren't getting tired, and they certainly weren't falling asleep. 'Autopilot would be a better metaphor,' explains Dr. Stefan Debener, who collaborated on the study."

What's the Big Idea?

Because there are physiological indicators of an approaching loss of concentration, scientists hope technology can be used to keep people from losing focus, especially in crucial fields such air traffic control. "Imagine, for example, a feedback device that could warn air traffic controllers when their attention waned too close a dangerously low threshold, or help keep you alert on the highway. With such a device in every human's pocket, brain farts could one day become a thing of the past."

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Afghanistan is the most depressed country on earth

No, depression is not just a type of 'affluenza' – poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
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Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
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Is there an optimal time of day to exercise?

Two new studies say yes. Unfortunately, each claims a different time.

Bronx, N.Y.: NYPD officer Julissa Camacho works out at the 44th precinct gym in the Bronx, New York on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday via Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • Research at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences declares evening to be the best time for an exercise session.
  • Not so fast, says a new study at UC Irvine, which replies that late morning is the optimal workout time.
  • Both studies involved mice on treadmills and measured different markers to produce their results.
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