How Modern Life Is Changing Our IQs and Problem-solving Skills

Synopsis- How Modern Life Is Changing Our IQs and Problem-solving Skills

Our brains have been getting smarter in response to modern life, but a surprising new study suggests the trend may have peaked. So how can you maximise your thinking?

Can you solve this problem? You have a wolf, a goat and a cabbage, and you need to get all three across a river in one piece. You have a boat, but it’s so small that it can fit only you and one of the items, and you can’t leave the wolf and the goat or the goat and the cabbage alone together. How do you get them all across?

This classic logic puzzle is at least a thousand years old. It is attributed to Alcuin of York, a medieval poet and scholar who died in 804, though it probably circulated in oral form before then. There’s another version with a fox, a goose and a bag of beans, and a related tale about three lascivious (but jealous) husbands and their wives who must also be ferried across a river without any hanky-panky on the boat or the shore.

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Synesthesia: Hearing colors and tasting sounds

Synesthesia: Hearing colors and tasting sounds

Can you taste sounds or visualize symphonies of color whenever you hear a song? If your answer to these is “yes,” you may have a wonderful condition known as synesthesia, which you share with many great artists, writers, and musicians.

By his own account, Nabokov saw each letter in different colors, despite the fact that text was printed all-black on white paper.

Interestingly, both his wife and his son shared this fascinating ability, though they each saw different palettes of color for the alphabet.

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Neurons Can Carry More Than One Signal at a Time

Neurons Can Carry More Than One Signal at a Time

Summary: A new study reveals a single neuron is capable of encoding information from two different sounds by switching between signals associated with one sound to that of the other.

Back in the early days of telecommunications, engineers devised a clever way to send multiple telephone calls through a single wire at the same time. Called time-division multiplexing, this technique rapidly switches between sending pieces of each message.

New research from Duke University shows that neurons in the brain may be capable of a similar strategy.

In an experiment examining how monkeys respond to sound, a team of neuroscientists and statisticians found that a single neuron can encode information from two different sounds by switching between the signal associated with one sound and the signal associated with the other sound.

“The question we asked is, how do neurons preserve information about two different stimuli in the world at one time?” said Jennifer Groh, professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience, and in the department of neurobiology at Duke.

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2 Personality Traits That Indicate High Intelligence

2 Personality Traits That Indicate High Intelligence

Introverts who have more stable personalities have higher levels of general knowledge, research finds. These two personality factors, along with being open to experience, predict people’s general knowledge.

General knowledge — or as psychologists call it, crystallised intelligence — is one of two broad aspects of intelligence.

General knowledge is often linked to success in life because innate talent is not enough — application matters. The other type is called ‘fluid intelligence’, and refers to abstract reasoning and the speed at which the brain works.

The conclusions come from a survey of 201 university students in the UK.

All were given tests of the five major aspects of personality: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

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Fundamental Rule of Brain Plasticity Discovered

Fundamental Rule of Brain Plasticity Discovered

Our brains are famously flexible, or “plastic,” because neurons can do new things by forging new or stronger connections with other neurons. But if some connections strengthen, neuroscientists have reasoned, neurons must compensate lest they become overwhelmed with input. In a new study in Science, researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT demonstrate for the first time how this balance is struck: when one connection, called a synapse, strengthens, immediately neighboring synapses weaken based on the action of a crucial protein called Arc.

Senior author Mriganka Sur said he was excited but not surprised that his team discovered a simple, fundamental rule at the core of such a complex system as the brain, where 100 billion neurons each have thousands of ever-changing synapses. He likens it to how a massive school of fish can suddenly change direction, en masse, so long as the lead fish turns and every other fish obeys the simple rule of following the fish right in front of it.

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Waves Move Across the Human Brain to Support Memory

Waves Move Across the Human Brain to Support Memory

Summary: Alpha and theta oscillations move rhythmically across the brain, reflecting neural activity propagating across the cortex to help form working memory, a new study reports.

Source: Columbia University.

The coordination of neural activity across widespread brain networks is essential for human cognition. Researchers have long assumed that oscillations in the brain, commonly measured for research purposes, brain-computer interfacing, and clinical tests, were stationary signals that occurred independently at separate brain regions. Biomedical engineers at Columbia Engineering have discovered a new fundamental feature of brain oscillations: they actually move rhythmically across the brain, reflecting patterns of neuronal activity that propagate across the cortex. The study was published today in Neuron.

“We also found that these traveling waves moved more reliably when subjects performed well while performing a working memory task,” says Joshua Jacobs, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and senior author of the paper. “This indicates that traveling waves are significant for memory and cognition–our findings show that these oscillations are an important mechanism for large-scale coordination in the human brain.”

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Study: Weekend Sleep-Ins May Help You Live Longer

Study: Weekend Sleep-Ins May Help You Live Longer

New research is trying to put to bed the idea that too little sleep during weekdays can’t be counteracted by a longer sleep during weekends.

A study of nearly 40,000 people showed that for people younger than 65, getting an average of 5 hours or less of sleep per night over the weekend increased the odds of death by 52%, compared with getting at least 7 hours of sleep.

Having short sleep on both the weekdays and weekend, as well as having long sleep at both times, also raised the risk in this age group.

But the death rate among people who got less sleep during week and more sleep on the weekends did not differ a whole lot from those who averaged 7 hours per night.

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