Neuroscience NewsFlash

23 January 2013
Posted by Hannah Critchlow.

Force of habit under stress

Schwabe and colleagues at Ruhr University and University Hospital Bergmannsheil have discovered why stress makes people more likely to lapse back into old habits.  The team used drugs to bring about stress in volunteers.  They then examined their brain activity using functional MRI scanning Cakeswhilst asking the stressed volunteers to perform tasks and choose a reward, say, either oranges or chocolate cake.  Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the results show that the interaction of the stress hormones, hydrocortisone and noradrenaline shut down the activity of brain regions for goal-directed behaviour and make people choose their favourite item, say, chocolate cake even if they've already had their full of it.

Schwabe et al., Preventing the Stress-Induced Shift from Goal-Directed to Habit Action with a β-Adrenergic Antagonist. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(47): 17317-17325; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3304-11.2011

Wiring up bats for neuroscience research 

Yovel and colleagues at Tel Aviv University are for the first time, fitting bats with GPS.  Since humans rely on vision, we can't accurately measure when something is perceived.  But, because bats rely on highly tuned and precise eco location, emitting sonar calls that can be recorded and analysed, we have a window into perception and time coding.  Results are coming in which could inspire future developments in robotic sensors and sonar technology, with developments already published in Science and PLoS Biology.

Yovel et al., Active Control of Acoustic Field-of-View in a Biosonar System. PLoS Biol 9(9): e1001150. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001150

The lies have it

No evidence for lie eye movement link.  Since the 1960s, practitioners have been taught that when right-handed people are visualising made-up events in their mind's eye, they tend to look upwards and right.  Recalling a real memory is claimed to be signalled by looking to the upper left.  But this month, University of Hertfordshire researcher Richard Wiseman and colleagues conducted a series of blind experiments which provide considerable grounds to be sceptical of this old notion, and that study was published in PLoS one.

Wiseman et al., The Eyes Don't Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40259. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040259

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