Why Athletes Are Geniuses
Neuroscientists have found several ways in which the brains of top-notch athletes seem to function better than those of regular folks.
by Carl Zimmer
From the April 2010 issue; published online April 16, 2010
The qualities that set a great athlete apart from the rest of us lie not just in the muscles and the lungs but also between the ears. That’s because athletes need to make complicated decisions in a flash. One of the most spectacular examples of the athletic brain operating at top speed came in 2001, when the Yankees were in an American League playoff game with the Oakland Athletics. Shortstop Derek Jeter managed to grab an errant throw coming in from right field and then gently tossed the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, who tagged the base runner at home plate. Jeter’s quick decision saved the game—and the series—for the Yankees. To make the play, Jeter had to master both conscious decisions, such as whether to intercept the throw, and unconscious ones. These are the kinds of unthinking thoughts he must make in every second of every game: how much weight to put on a foot, how fast to rotate his wrist as he releases a ball, and so on.
In recent years neuroscientists have begun to catalog some fascinating differences between average brains and the brains of great athletes. By understanding what goes on in athletic heads, researchers hope to understand more about the workings of all brains—those of sports legends and couch potatoes alike.
Posted in Amazing, body, Books & Articles
Tagged basketball, battery enhancement, brain, cheating, cricket, derek jeter, discover magazine, genius, Krakauer and Celnik’s study, neuroscience, problem soving, science, smart athletes, sports
The God Chemical: Brain Chemistry And Mysticism
by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
May 18, 2009
For much of the 20th century, mainstream science shied away from studying spirituality.
Sigmund Freud declared God to be a delusion, and others maintained that God, if there is such a thing, is beyond the tools of science to measure.
But now, some researchers are using new technologies to try to understand spiritual experience. They’re peering into our brains and studying our bodies to look for circumstantial evidence of a spiritual world. The search is in its infancy, and scientists doubt they will ever be able to prove — or disprove — the existence of God.
Posted in Amazing, body, Books & Articles, What we listen to
Tagged god, god chemical, npr, peyote, psychedelics, radio, science, spiritual experiences, spirituality
October 1, 2009
The big news from the journal Science today is the discovery of the oldest human skeleton—a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female of the species Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed “Ardi.” She lived in what is now Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago, which makes her over a million years older than the famous Lucy fossil, found in the same region 35 years ago.
(Full story: “Oldest ‘Human’ Skeleton Found—Disproves ‘Missing Link.'”)
Buried among the slew of papers about the new find is one about the creature’s sex life. It makes fascinating reading, especially if you like learning why human females don’t know when they are ovulating, and men lack the clacker-sized testicles and bristly penises sported by chimpanzees.
Apparently, it just takes practice. Go figure. Researchers are training monkeys to move stuff with their minds alone…
Researchers Train Minds to Move Matter
“The research, which was carried out in monkeys but is expected to apply to humans, involves a fundamental redesign of brain-machine experiments.” read more
Though studies have shown ingrained habits can’t be completely unlearned, training the mind to control ingrained behavior is within our reach.
Maybe you chew your fingernails when you’re nervous. Or scarf down chocolate when you’re sad. Or take home a stray kitty whenever you see one, until the SPCA has to come rescue them all and have you arrested for being a hoarder.
Chances are, you have a few habits you wish you didn’t have, and quite possibly you’ve tried (and tried and tried) to break them. Scientists are learning why you may have failed (and failed and failed). In fact, they now know that once you have a habit, you can never really unlearn it. more
posted by ebeans
From the latimes.com
Science of time: What makes our internal clock tick
Neuroscientists are exploring how brain and body make sense of our most ephemeral resource.
By Melissa Healy, March 9, 2009
In warp-speed modern America, time has become one of our most precious resources. We manage it, and we expend it carefully.
Ironic, then, that a resource as precious as seconds, minutes and hours is so poorly understood and so routinely misestimated by modern humans — by 15% to 25% in either direction, depending on the individual and the acuity of his or her time perception. But understanding our ability to perceive time — and to use time to make sense of our world — is one of the newest and most sweeping frontiers of neuroscience. more