Will we ever trust crowds again?

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If socializing makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Scientists say the pandemic is re-shaping our senses of fear and disgust, and it’s unclear how long the change will last.

WATCHING A RERUN of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld gave me the first inkling that COVID-19 might be rearranging my mind for the long term. On the screen, the characters sat across the table from each other at Monk’s Café. Kramer flopped into the frame, draping his arm around another occupied chair. As his arm touched another person, I physically recoiled.

By then, my hometown of New Orleans was a few weeks into the pandemic, and I was already stepping off the curb whenever a stranger approached. If someone slipped by my paranoia and caught me unaware on the sidewalk, I held my breath and rolled my eyes as they barged past. Those behaviors felt natural, even though by mid-March, scientists were already pointing out the low risk of coronavirus transmission in the outdoors. All of my friends reported feeling something similar, and one told me that she had to turn off the TV if a subway scene came on. We’re not alone. Even as some states begin to reopen, most Americans—regardless of political affiliation—say that they’re uncomfortable going into crowded situations, indoors and out, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Neuroscientists and psychologists propose that people aren’t cringing around strangers and crowds because of pre-existing senses of fear or disgust. Instead, many in society are simultaneously learning a new emotional experience.

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Scientists have connected the brains of 3 people, enabling them to share thoughts

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Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game. The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.

It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields

The researchers behind the new system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.

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New wearable, high-precision brain scanner allows for patients to move around

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A radical new wearable magneto encephalography (MEG) brain scanner under development at the University of Nottingham allows a patient to move around, instead of having to sit or lie still inside a massive scanner.

Currently, MEG scanners* weigh around 500 kilograms (about 1100 pounds) because they require bulky superconducting sensors refrigerated in a liquid helium dewar at -269°C. Patients must keep still — even a 5mm movement can ruin images of brain activity. That immobility severely limits the range of brain activities and experiences and makes the scanner unsuitable for children and many patients.

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Scientists are close to hacking the brain which will make us smarter and more productive

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We are heading down a path that will allow us to supercharge the brain.

You might be able to enter a flow state that allows you to learn a new skill twice as fast, solve problems that have mystified you for hours, or even win a sharpshooting competition with just a jolt of electricity.

 

 

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Neuroscience of programming: Understanding programmers’ brains

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Programmers use existing language regions of the brain to understand code.

Computer programming is a deeply complex but relatively new human activity. Its young age has lent itself to countless battles and hotly debated topics that despite the many compelling arguments presented, we seemingly have no definitive answers for. All that is about to change: An international team of scientists lead by Dr. Janet Siegmund is using brain imaging with fMRI to understand the programmer’s mind. Understanding the brain offers us the chance to distill these complex issues into fundamental answers.

 

 

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Why neuroscience is ending the Prozac era

The big money has moved from developing psychiatric drugs to manipulating our brain networks.

Has the psychiatric drug age reached its peak? Mind-altering drugs have are being prescribed in record numbers but there are signs of a radically new approach to understanding and treating mental illnesses.  A huge research effort is now devoted to altering the function of specific neural circuits by physical intervention in the brain and the focus is no longer on developing drugs.

 

 

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