Brain's Idea

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I post about science, the brain and the mind. Find me on twitter: @brainsidea

Richard Kunert
27 posts

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  • August 18, 2014
  • 05:14 PM
  • 65 views

The 10,000-Hour rule is nonsense

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Have you heard of Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule? The key to success in any field is practice, and not just a little. A new publication in the journal Psychological Science had a good look at all the evidence and concludes that this rule is nonsense. No Einstein in you, I am afraid. The authors of […]... Read more »

  • August 5, 2014
  • 05:29 AM
  • 227 views

Play music and you’ll see more

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

  Check out the video. It is a short demonstration of the so-called attentional blink. Whenever you try to spot the two letters in the rapid sequence you’ll miss the second one. This effect is so robust that generations of Psychology undergraduates learned about it. And then came music and changed everything. Test your own […]... Read more »

  • July 16, 2014
  • 06:15 AM
  • 128 views

Everything you always wanted to know about language but were too afraid to ask

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

The Max Planck Institute in Nijmegen has started a great initiative which tries nothing less than answer all your questions about language. How does it work? 1) Go to this website: http://www.mpi.nl/q-a/questions-and-answers 2) See whether your question has already been answered 3) If not, scroll to the bottom and ask a question yourself. The answers […]... Read more »

  • July 29, 2013
  • 04:31 PM
  • 626 views

How blind people see

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Blind people have revolutionised our view on vision. Biology text books still teach us that vision functions roughly as light hitting the eyes where special cells – rods and cones – turn it into neural signals. These travel to the back of the head, the visual cortex, for brain processing leading to something we experience […]... Read more »

Czeisler CA, Shanahan TL, Klerman EB, Martens H, Brotman DJ, Emens JS, Klein T, & Rizzo JF 3rd. (1995) Suppression of melatonin secretion in some blind patients by exposure to bright light. The New England journal of medicine, 332(1), 6-11. PMID: 7990870  

Trevethan CT, Sahraie A, & Weiskrantz L. (2007) Can blindsight be superior to 'sighted-sight'?. Cognition, 103(3), 491-501. PMID: 16764848  

Vandewalle G, Collignon O, Hull JT, Daneault V, Albouy G, Lepore F, Phillips C, Doyon J, Czeisler CA, Dumont M.... (2013) Blue Light Stimulates Cognitive Brain Activity in Visually Blind Individuals. Journal of cognitive neuroscience. PMID: 23859643  

Weiskrantz L, Warrington EK, Sanders MD, & Marshall J. (1974) Visual capacity in the hemianopic field following a restricted occipital ablation. Brain : a journal of neurology, 97(4), 709-28. PMID: 4434190  

  • July 1, 2013
  • 04:22 AM
  • 382 views

Music training boosts IQ

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

There are more and more brain training companies popping up which promise the same deal: improved intelligence. While there are doubts about their results, another sort of brain training has existed since the beginning of humanity: music. The evidence for its effectiveness is surprisingly strong. . . Over the years, researchers have noticed that people […]... Read more »

Bialystok E, & Depape AM. (2009) Musical expertise, bilingualism, and executive functioning. Journal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance, 35(2), 565-74. PMID: 19331508  

Corrigall KA, Schellenberg EG, & Misura NM. (2013) Music training, cognition, and personality. Frontiers in psychology, 222. PMID: 23641225  

Schellenberg EG. (2004) Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological science, 15(8), 511-4. PMID: 15270994  

  • June 6, 2013
  • 07:16 AM
  • 409 views

Did genes shape my mother tongue?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Intuitively, one is inclined to answer with a resounding ‘no’. Of course not, had I been adopted by Thai parents, I would speak Thai. But I was not. My parents and my mother tongue are German. Still, there is a growing opinion that genes do nonetheless play a role. Before looking at this opinion, it […]... Read more »

  • May 28, 2013
  • 02:53 AM
  • 287 views

Feeling someone else’s sensation of touch – the neural background, the examples, and you

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Touch is the only sensation which we cannot share with another person. The immediacy of touch differentiates it from the distant impressions which sight and audition can give us. However, modern neuroscience is currently revising this picture: you can touch at a distance. One just doesn’t notice it. Can we find people who do? A […]... Read more »

  • April 24, 2013
  • 12:39 PM
  • 362 views

Are some languages easier than others?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

‘Long time no see’ is something I heard repeatedly in Britain even though it totally violates all the English grammar I learned at school. Clearly, Brits should correct this expression originating from Chinese Pidgin English rather than adopt it. The reason it entered common usage anyway is at the heart of why you might find [...]... Read more »

Bentz C, & Winter B. (2013) Languages with more second language learners tend to lose case. Language Dynamics and Change. info:/

  • March 28, 2013
  • 05:36 PM
  • 401 views

The biological basis of orchestra seating

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Many cultural conventions appear like the result of historical accidents. The QUERTY – keyboard is a typical example: the technical requirements of early typewriters still determine the computer keyboard that I write this text on, even though by now technical advances would allow for a far more efficient design. Some culturally accepted oddities, however, appear [...]... Read more »

Deutsch, D. (1999) Grouping Mechanisms in Music. The Psychology of Music, Second Edition, 299-348. DOI: 10.1016/B978-012213564-4/50010-X  

  • January 22, 2013
  • 02:32 AM
  • 321 views

What lies behind the mystery of being born with a phantom penis?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Like a magician our mind tricks us into believing what we see and feel. We only notice that something strange is going on when our expectations are betrayed during the prestige – when the white rabbit is drawn out of the empty hat. Psychology sometimes works in much the same way. After the mind has made us believe in the ordinary, it creates strange cases which point to something bigger going on behind the scenes. One of the most extraordinary illusions is the one of our body. At the final pre........ Read more »

Brugger P, Kollias SS, Müri RM, Crelier G, Hepp-Reymond MC, & Regard M. (2000) Beyond re-membering: phantom sensations of congenitally absent limbs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(11), 6167-72. PMID: 10801982  

Mitchell, W. (1871) Phantom limbs. Lippinscott's Magazine, 563-569. info:/

  • January 7, 2013
  • 02:19 AM
  • 366 views

delaying dementia without pills

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

‘What’s this? A potato?’ asked my friend’s grandfather during lunch. As always, he used his charming grin and characteristically loud voice. Even though the entire conversation was in Argentine Spanish – which I had learned only a short while before – I understood the oddity of the situation at once. Instead of a potato, the [...]... Read more »

Akbaraly, T., Portet, F., Fustinoni, S., Dartigues, J., Artero, S., Rouaud, O., Touchon, J., Ritchie, K., & Berr, C. (2009) Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly: Results from the Three-City Study. Neurology, 73(11), 854-861. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181b7849b  

Bickel H, & Kurz A. (2009) Education, occupation, and dementia: the Bavarian school sisters study. Dementia and geriatric cognitive disorders, 27(6), 548-56. PMID: 19590201  

Rentz DM, Locascio JJ, Becker JA, Moran EK, Eng E, Buckner RL, Sperling RA, & Johnson KA. (2010) Cognition, reserve, and amyloid deposition in normal aging. Annals of neurology, 67(3), 353-64. PMID: 20373347  

Scarmeas, N., Albert, S.M., Manly, J.J., & Stern, Y. (2005) Education and rates of cognitive decline in incident Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery , 77(3), 308-316. DOI: 10.1136/jnnp.2005.072306  

  • December 18, 2012
  • 07:02 AM
  • 451 views

How Long Should a Scientific Publication be?

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

In one word: short. In two words: it depends. A neuroscience expert faces the challenge of 100 new neuroscience articles being published on a daily basis. S/he will never be able to read all that. So, what can be done to get your own publication known to the community? . 1) Know the reader and [...]... Read more »

  • December 9, 2012
  • 07:27 AM
  • 345 views

When to switch on background music

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Some things of our daily lives have become so common, we hardly notice them anymore. Background music is one such thing. Whether you are in a supermarket, a gym or a molecular biology laboratory, you can constantly hear it. More than that, even in quiet environments like the office or the library people get out their mp3-players and play background music. Is this a form of boosting one’s productivity or are people enjoying music at the cost of getting things done? Research on the effect of bac........ Read more »

  • October 25, 2012
  • 05:10 AM
  • 472 views

Obama should pray for sun – Psycho-meteorological effects on government approval

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Romney should pray for rain because rain improves a conservative’s chances of getting elected. Having covered this ‘Republican rain advantage’ in my last post, I will turn to a second reason why the presidential candidates should monitor the election day weather in this post. It turns out that the weather influences how well the government is perceived. Could this be exploited by the candidates?... Read more »

Mutz, M., & Kämpfer, S. (2011) …und nun zum Wetter: Beeinflusst die Wetterlage die Einschätzung von politischen und wirtschaftlichen Sachverhalten?. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 40(4), 208-226. info:/

  • October 21, 2012
  • 11:57 AM
  • 471 views

Romney should pray for rain – psycho-meteorological effects on GOP vote share

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

I would not be surprised if Mitt Romney was going through the weather forecast for November 6th, the date of the next US presidential election. As the Republican candidate, he will know that his chances of being elected are higher if people are faced with pouring rain upon leaving for the ballot box. Research supports this opinion but the underlying reasons could give the Obama campaign a strategy to undo this Republican rain advantage.... Read more »

Carlson M, Charlin V, & Miller N. (1988) Positive mood and helping behavior: a test of six hypotheses. Journal of personality and social psychology, 55(2), 211-29. PMID: 3050025  

Keller MC, Fredrickson BL, Ybarra O, Côté S, Johnson K, Mikels J, Conway A, & Wager T. (2005) A warm heart and a clear head. The contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition. Psychological science, 16(9), 724-31. PMID: 16137259  

  • October 16, 2012
  • 05:47 PM
  • 606 views

The mysterious appeal of too loud music

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

At 39km above planet earth, would you have made Felix Baumgartner’s step off the platform? It was very dangerous, no doubt. But is this the reason why you wouldn’t have? People engage in many dangerous things. And I am not talking about skydiving. I mean the ordinary, every day kind of danger. Surely, some dangers can hardly be avoided, say road traffic (which is the leading cause of death for people in my age group). For others there is no obvious non-dangerous equivalent. But what if there........ Read more »

  • October 2, 2012
  • 01:07 PM
  • 606 views

Is ADHD different around the globe? The role of research cultures

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

An illness is an illness wherever you are. Perhaps this is true for organic diseases but the cultural background can play a tremendous role in the progression and even diagnosis of mental disorders. However, what has been neglected is an appreciation of how culture affects the research underlying the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders. As a consequence, our view on the disorder can change.... Read more »

Hodgkins P, Arnold LE, Shaw M, Caci H, Kahle J, Woods AG, & Young S. (2011) A systematic review of global publication trends regarding long-term outcomes of ADHD. Frontiers in psychiatry / Frontiers Research Foundation, 84. PMID: 22279437  

Polanczyk G, de Lima MS, Horta BL, Biederman J, & Rohde LA. (2007) The worldwide prevalence of ADHD: a systematic review and metaregression analysis. The American journal of psychiatry, 164(6), 942-8. PMID: 17541055  

  • September 26, 2012
  • 07:13 PM
  • 481 views

canine confirmation confound – lessons from poorly performing drug detection dogs

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Intuitively, the use of police dogs as drug detectors makes sense. Dogs are known to have a better sense of smell than their human handlers. Furthermore, they cooperate easily. Still, compared to the generally good picture sniffer dogs have in the public eye, their performance as drug detectors in real life is terrible. The reason why scent dogs get used anyway holds important lessons for behavioural researchers working with animals or humans.... Read more »

Doyen S, Klein O, Pichon CL, & Cleeremans A. (2012) Behavioral priming: it's all in the mind, but whose mind?. PloS one, 7(1). PMID: 22279526  

Hickey S, McIlwraith F, Bruno R, Matthews A, & Alati R. (2012) Drug detection dogs in Australia: More bark than bite?. Drug and alcohol review, 31(6), 778-83. PMID: 22404555  

Lit L, Schweitzer JB, & Oberbauer AM. (2011) Handler beliefs affect scent detection dog outcomes. Animal cognition, 14(3), 387-94. PMID: 21225441  

NSW Ombudsman. (2006) Review of the Police Powers (Drug Detection Dogs) Act 2001. Sydney: Office of the New SouthWales Ombudsman. info:other/

  • September 16, 2012
  • 01:23 PM
  • 556 views

Risk vs. Opportunity across the life-span: Risky choices decline with age

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Risk taking is somewhat enigmatic. On the one hand, risky choices in every day life – like drug abuse or drink driving – peak in adolescence. Never again in life is the threat to die from easily preventable causes as great. On the other hand, in laboratory experiments this risky choice peak in adolescence is absent. Instead, the readiness to take a gamble simply goes down the older you are. How can we explain this paradox? Perhaps, we should look at a tribe in the Amazon rain forest for answ........ Read more »

Everett, D. (2008) Don't sleep, there are snakes. London: Profile Books. info:/

  • September 9, 2012
  • 09:27 AM
  • 398 views

Improving Eye-Witness testimony by undoing false memories

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Do you remember August 31st, 15 years ago? Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris along with her partner Dodi Fayed and others. Do you remember seeing the video of the crash? If so, you share that memory with 44% of the participants James Ost and colleagues recruited in 2002 in Britain.

This memory is false.

[...]... Read more »

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