Brain Food – January 22, 2017

Brain Food – January 22, 2017



This week’s selection of stories on brains, bias, and wearable technology


Quirks & Quarks On Meditation & Mindfulness


The benefits of meditation and mindfulness have been in the news a lot in recent years. And public interest in the space has led to the development of an array of modern tech that promises to help you get better at meditation. You may have heard of apps like Headspace, or you may have seen Toronto-based Interaxon’s Muse headband at your local Best Buy. But does any of this actually work?

CBC’s Bob McDonald recently put this question to the test on a recent episode of Quirks & Quarks. Check out the results, with videos and access to the full here.


Pregnancy & The Brain

New fMRI-based research is showing that pregnancy actually causes the mother’s brain to undergo permanent changes. “Brain changes may sound somewhat intimidating, but our findings suggest that there may be an evolutionary purpose to these changes that may serve you in some way when you become a mother,” says research co-author Elseline Hoekzema.

The region of the brain where the changes were observed are linked to the ability to empathize and put oneself in another’s shoes. As you might imagine, this is a necessary skill for new mother’s who need to be able to quickly figure out their child’s needs.

Full story from The Guardian here.


What Baby Brains Can Tell Us About Our Own

Another interesting new study from MIT set out to answer the following question: Do baby brains operate like miniature versions of our own, or are they completely different? Using fMRI and EEG methodologies, the research reveals that infant brains function much more like our own than we previously realized, and provide clues as to how our own adult brains develop over time.

For example, by the time they are 6 months old, baby brains begin processing faces much the same way our own brains do. While there is still much to be learned in this field, the findings are certainly interesting.

Check out the full story here.


Overdosing On “Alternative Facts”

 This week, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of The United States of America. While Trump has proven to be highly unpredictable at times, one thing he does with amazing consistency and frequency is lie. According to PolitFact, 70% of what he said during his campaign was false.

While other Presidents of the past have said things that were not true, Trump is different from many of them in that lying almost seems to be a deeply ingrained habit for him. But what do all of those lies mean for us? What does it do to our brains?

Unfortunately, to determine whether or not something is a lie, our brains first need to accept the idea as true – then either accepting that truth or rejecting it as false. Doing this here and there is no big deal, but this process is very cognitively demanding for brain. And for someone like Trump, who has demonstrated a propensity for bombarding the public with false statements, this creates an unusual problem: “When we are overwhelmed with false, or potentially false, statements, our brains pretty quickly become so overworked that we stop trying to sift through everything.”

Full story here.


Pulling Our Heads Out Of The Sand

Bias affects us all, and the election of Donald Trump has many worrying about how that bias may serve to further divide us all. In the early days of the internet, free access to information was the cornerstone to a dream of eliminating bias and bringing the world together. But the personalized echo chambers that we often create for ourselves have done the opposite for many.

“If we’re going to get out of this mess, we have to break the grip of segregation. Online, and especially off, we need to come together and make our own judgments about one another.” In a compelling piece, Dave Pell writes about his vision for how we must overcome our own biases toward each other to forge a better world.

Read the full piece here.

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