Brain

What is the very best way to learn a complex task? Is it practice, practice, practice, or is watching and thinking enough to let you imitate a physical activity, such as skiing or ballet? A new study from Brandeis University published this week in the Journal of Vision unravels some of the mysteries surrounding how we learn to do things like tie our shoes, feed ourselves, or perform dazzling dance steps.

Psychologists have taken the "media priming" effects of popular video console and PC-based games on the road, finding that virtual racing seems to lead to aggressive driving and a propensity for risk taking. Extending prior findings on how aggressive virtual-shooter games increase aggression-related thoughts, feelings and behaviors, researchers at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University and the Allianz Center for Technology found that of 198 men and women, those who play more virtual car-racing games were more likely to report that they drive aggressively and get in accidents.

Humans acquire fears using similar neural processes whether they’ve personally experienced an aversive event or only witnessed it, according to a study by researchers at New York University’s Departments of Psychology. This is the first study examining the brain basis of fears acquired indirectly, through the observation of others. The study shows that the amygdala, which is known to be critical to the acquisition and expression of fears from personal experience, is also involved during the acquisition and expression of fears obtained indirectly through social observation.

According to a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored higher than their non-playing peers.

Neurobiologists have discovered a mechanism by which the constantly changing brain retains memories—from that dog bite to that first kiss. They have found that the brain co-opts the same machinery by which cells stably alter their genes to specialize during embryonic development.

Courtney Miller and David Sweatt reported their findings in the March 15, 2007 issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

Using advanced brain imaging techniques, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have watched how humans use both lower and higher brain processes to learn novel tasks, an advance they say may help speed up the teaching of new skills as well as offer strategies to retrain people with perceptual deficits due to autism.

Employers would be better at keeping workers if they focused on why their employees want to stay rather than what kinds of things make them quit, according to researchers from the University of Washington and Truman State University.

Until recently, most research focused on why people leave jobs rather than why they choose to stay. In a review of the past 15 years of research on employee job satisfaction and voluntary turnover, the researchers examined not only why people quit but what makes workers stay in their current positions.

A team from Centre de recherche Université Laval Robert-Giffard (CRULRG) has made significant progress toward finding a way to determine whether a child is likely to one day suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The findings of the research team supervised by Dr. Michel Maziade, director of CRULRG, professor in Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine, and Canada Research Chair in the Genetics of Neuropsychiatric Disorders, will be presented at the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research on March 31 in Colorado Springs.

In order to differentiate and specialize, stem cells require very specific environmental cues in a very specific order, and scientists have so far been unable to prod them to go through each of the necessary steps. But now, for the first time, a study in mice by Rockefeller University scientists shows that embryonic stem cells implanted in the brain appear to develop into fully differentiated granule neurons, the most plentiful neuron in the cerebellum. The findings were reported Feb.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that adolescence is a time of remodeling in the prefrontal cortex, a brain structure dedicated to higher functions such as planning and social behaviors.