New research has shown that reducing peoples’ noradrenaline levels boosts their metacognitive insight. Propranolol, a noradrenaline antagonist, increases peoples’ estimation of the accuracy of their decisions, without affecting the actual of accuracy of decision making.
There are potential applications in the treatment of OCD and schizophrenia.
New Scientist No. 3129, 10th June 2017, p.12.
The Rorschach test is often regarded as an example of the unscientific and subjective research methodology of the Psychodynamic school. In fact it was an early attempt at objectivity.
One research group gave the Rorschach test to Nazi prisoners in 1945, and rejected their own results because they couldn’t believe them. Those results are now being reappraised.
New Scientist No. 3120, 8th April 2017. p.42-43.
Lucid dreams are the experience of being conscious while dreaming. Most of us can only remember our dreams when we wake up. Many people achieve lucidity for a moment or two before waking up. But some people regularly have lucid dreams, in which the world around them seems tangible and real, and they are “awake”, and aware that they are dreaming.
Ursula Voss at the Goethe University Frankfurt has discovered a way to use electrical brain stimulation to induce lucid dreams. Kristoffer Appel at Osnasbrück University is now able to communicate with lucid dreamers inside their dreams. This might one day lead to new therapies for anxiety disorders.
One participant looked around his dream for something that might convey signals from outside. He was in a bus terminal, and spotted a ticket machine. Soon, it began to beep.
The article also contains instructions on how to achieve lucid dreams yourself.
New Scientist No. 3113, 18th February 2017, p. 32 – 35.
We know from Loftus that it is possible to insert memories into people’s minds. But is it possible to erase memories, or to remove traumatic associations from memories of adverse experiences?
Neuroscientists are investigating a process called “reconsolidation.” It seems that every time a memory is recalled, it is just as if a new memory is being laid down. This process can be manipulated with drugs, ECT, or even by playing Tetris during reconsolidation.
“We can reverse-engineer the brain’s time machine, hijack it or jump-start it.”
New Scientist No. 3111, 4th February 2017, p.36-39.
Pregnancy causes loss of grey matter in specific regions of the brain, including the hippocampus. This is probably due to synaptic pruning. If you show new mothers pictures of their babies, the modified areas of the brain become highly active.
This pioneering work by Elseline Hoekzema, a neuroscientist at Leiden University the Netherlands who is also the pregnant mother of a 2-year-old, is the first to demonstrate widespread anatomical changes in the pregnant human brain.
It also shows that the changes last for at least 2 years. “It opens the door to the possibility that it might cause changes in parenting that might have implications in decision-making and behaviour later in life,” says Mel Rutherford, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
Pregnancy resculpts women’s brains for at least 2 years.
Pregnancy Causes Lasting Changes in a Woman’s Brain.
“Our reality is merely a controlled hallucination reined in by our senses.”
If this is so, what happens if we loosen the reins?
You may have seen the basketball/gorilla video which shows us that we can only concentrate on a small portion of our visual field at once, and that our brains fill in the gaps. This article explains that in fact, most of our perception consists of our brains filling in the gaps.
The article proposes that most of our perception is in fact a form of externally guided hallucination. It also contains instructions for how to experience hallucinations at home – safely and legally!
“Far from being flights of fancy, hallucinations reveal the true nature of our reality.”
New Scientist no.3098, 5th November 2016, p.28-32.
One in six of us will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some time of our lives. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health problem in the Western World. It is worse for young people, and the focus of our anxieties tends to change over the course of a lifetime.
This article asks if it is getting worse, what are the causes of anxiety, whether there is such a thing as an anxious personality, and what are the best strategies to combat anxiety (physical exercise is quite a good one).
“The amygdala is linked to parts of the prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex that process social information and help us make decisions. During bouts of everyday anxiety, this brain circuit switches off then on again – but Oliver Robinson at University College London and his colleagues have shown that in people with anxiety disorders it seems to get stuck in the on position.”
New Scientist No. 3094, 8th October 2016, p.32-35.