Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

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Attention is not a resource but a way of being alive to the world

Our attention is more than just a resource. It is an experience.

'We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.' Those were the words of the American biologist E O Wilson at the turn of the century. Fastforward to the smartphone era, and it's easy to believe that our mental lives are now more fragmentary and scattered than ever. The 'attention economy' is a phrase that's often used to make sense of what's going on: it puts our attention as a limited resource at the centre of the informational ecosystem, with our various alerts and notifications locked in a constant battle to capture it.

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Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth

Upload your mind? Here's a reality check on the Singularity.

  • Though computer engineers claim to know what human consciousness is, many neuroscientists say that we're nowhere close to understanding what it is, or its source.
  • Scientists are currently trying to upload human minds to silicon chips, or re-create consciousness with algorithms, but this may be hubristic because we still know so little about what it means to be human.
  • Is transhumanism a journey forward or an escape from reality?
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To remember something, draw it

It works better than other memorization techniques.

(Sticker Mule/Unsplash)
  • Drawing something that you want to remember is more effective than using other memory techniques
  • For older people with dementia or Alzheimer's, drawing stores memories in still-intact regions of the brain
  • Even if you're terrible at drawing, it's the neurological underpinnings that make it worth a try
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Scientists are still fascinated by Phineas Gage. Here's why.

A blank canvas for generations of science.

  • Phineas Gage is considered to be Patient Zero for traumatic brain injury.
  • The story of Gage at the time was that his damaged brain rendered him a different, monstrous person. This wasn't true.
  • Recent studies demonstrate that an injured brain can see an increase in connection in areas associated with touch and learning.
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