Social Neuroscience Advances
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Social Neuroscience Advances
Understanding ourselves and how we interact
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Rescooped by Jocelyn Stoller from Food, Health and Nutrition!

The Secrets of Sleep

We delve into the secrets of sleep and find out why some people are night owls and others early risers.


Sleep is essential for resting our minds and bodies, and it's controlled by a mysterious phenomenon known as our internal body clock. This 'master clock' is located in the hypothalamus of our brains, and is established during the first months of our lives. It controls the timing of our nightly sleeps through the release of the chemical melatonin.

While most people's body clock runs roughly to a 24-hour cycle, melatonin release can peak anywhere from 9pm to 3am, depending on the individual. It's this difference in chemical release timing that sees some people become night owls, and other early risers.

Once we're asleep, our brains will cycle through different levels of consciousness, from deep sleep to rapid eye movement sleep (REM). REM sleep is the period throughout which we dream, and it's thought to be a crucial part of memory storage, and works like a recharger for the brain. Most people have four or five dreams every night, but we usually don't remember them.

Find out why people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to overeat, and what the longest recorded period without sleep is by watching the latest episode of RiAus's A Week in Science above.


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Via Eric Chan Wei Chiang
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, October 22, 2014 8:57 PM

Intelligent and creative people are more likely to have problems sleeping because  when they lie quietly with their eyes closed, to relax, the enter a state of mind called "random episodic silent thought"


Research has shown that our brains can make decisions while we're sleeping


Some tips on how to fall asleep quicker at night have been scooped here:

Rescooped by Jocelyn Stoller from Food, Health and Nutrition!

Junk Food Craving Linked to Brain Lapse

Junk Food Craving Linked to Brain Lapse | Social Neuroscience Advances |
Reduced activity in the area that controls self-restraint can boost high-calorie cravings, study shows


The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex helps people control their own behavior, according to the study. Previous studies have shown that increasing activity in this part of the brain can cut cravings for unhealthy foods, but the new research found that reduced activity has the opposite effect and can lead to overindulgence in junk food.


"It has long been thought that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex helps to keep automatic, or knee-jerk, reactions in check," study senior author Peter Hall, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, explained in a news release. "We discovered that when you temporarily dampen the operation of this particular part of the brain, strongly ingrained and quite universal preferences for high-calorie foods start to hijack people's thought patterns and even their eating patterns."


Using a form of magnetic stimulation of the brain, the researchers temporarily reduced activity in the left dorsolateral cortex of participants' brains. The study, published recently in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, revealed that the lowered activity caused greater food cravings for calorie-dense foods as well as greater intake of junk food.


"This is the first study to demonstrate that taking the prefrontal cortex temporarily offline results in increased snacking," study author Cassandra Lowe, doctoral student in the university's School of Public Health and Health Systems, said in a news release. The researchers concluded their findings suggest brain health should be an integral part of public health campaigns.


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Read the associated research article here:

Via Eric Chan Wei Chiang
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, September 30, 2014 3:06 AM

This study shows the part of the brain controlling food cravings. However, this does not mean that high high-calorie cravings are inevitable. Other study's have shown that it is possible to train our brain to prefer healthier foods; and our food choices can influence brain chemistry and cause depression

Read more scoops on the human brain here:

Rescooped by Jocelyn Stoller from Food, Health and Nutrition!

Our brains have an internal calorie counter, research suggests

Our brains have an internal calorie counter, research suggests | Social Neuroscience Advances |
A new neuroimaging study suggests that our brain evaluates food based on caloric density, even when we're not conscious of how many calories something contains, which is perhaps why many of us prefer junk food.


Researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University in the US, have discovered that our brain subconsciously makes decisions on what food to eat based on the food’s calorie content. The findings which are published in the journal Psychological Science, could explain why many people choose high calorie foods.


"Earlier studies found that children and adults tend to choose high-calorie food" said Alain Dagher, neurologist and lead author of the study, in a press release. "The easy availability and low cost of high-calorie food has been blamed for the rise in obesity. Their consumption is largely governed by the anticipated effects of these foods, which are likely learned through experience.”


The study involved a group of participants who were asked to rate pictures of familiar foods based on which they would like to consume. They were then asked to estimate the calorie content of each food item. Observations showed that the participants preferred high caloric food, even though they were not able to accurately indicate the calorie content.


The team also performed brain scans on the participants while they were evaluating the food images which supported the observations. The scan results showed that activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex - an area of the brain that is involved in decision making - was correlated with the foods’ caloric content. While the participants were rating the foods, there was increased activity in the insular cortex - a part of the brain that is involved in processing the sensory properties of food.

“Our study sought to determine how people's awareness of caloric content influenced the brain areas known to be implicated in evaluating food options. We found that brain activity tracked the true caloric content of foods,” said Dagher. 

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The associated research article can be read here:

Via Eric Chan Wei Chiang
Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, October 22, 2014 12:35 PM

The ability of our brains to evaluate the calorific content of food is tied very closely to hunger. Cutting calories would make us hungry and eat more in the long run Therefore, it is important that we choose foods with a decent calorific content but a low glyceamic index so that our bodies do not metabolize all the carbohydrates at one go ;


Similarly, artificial sweeteners throws off our brain's ability to monitor calories and has been linked to glucose intolerance ;


On the plus side, research has shown that it is possible to train our brains to prefer healthy foods Read more scoops on the human brain here:

Elena Ceciu's curator insight, October 23, 2014 5:10 AM

”Un nou studiu neuroimagistic sugereaza ca creierul nostru evalueaza alimentele in functie de densitatea lor calorica, chiar si atunci cand nu suntem constienti de cate calorii contine ceva, si poate de aceea multi dintre noi preferam junk food.”

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Web addicts 'have brain changes'

Web addicts 'have brain changes' | Social Neuroscience Advances |
Brain scans show changes in the brain of internet addicts similar to those found in drug and alcohol addicts, preliminary research suggests.

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