Neuroscience Around the Web – Issue 25

Here are six interesting new neuroscience studies I came across recently:

Listening to white noise can help you focus

Listening to white noise at 45 dB can improve "sustained attention, accuracy, and speed of performance, as well as enhance creativity and lower stress levels." White noise at 65 dB can lead to "improved working memory but higher stress levels." "White noise contains equal amounts of all the sound frequencies that we can hear."

Childhood music lessons confer lifelong cognitive benefits

"People who had more musical instrument experience tended to show greater gains in general cognitive ability by age 70." "Musical training in childhood acts as an immediate extra boost to cognitive abilities, and also protects against later declines."

Are there brain differences between men and women?

"Asking whether there are sex differences in the human brain is a bit like asking whether coffee is good for you – scientists can’t seem to make up their minds about the answer." "There is very little evidence linking any sex difference in the human brain directly to a particular function or behavioral outcome."

Online search algorithms perpetuate gender bias

Try entering "CEO" in a Google image search and you will be shown, far more men than women. In fact, "biased image searches can actually shape people’s beliefs about the number of men and women who hold particular occupations."

Our decisions and actions are made unconsciously
We tend to believe that we make our decisions consciously. But, according to a new theory of consciousness, "our decisions and actions are actually made unconsciously, although we fool ourselves into believing that we consciously made them." Conscious decision-making is slow, yet we make fast split-second decisions in sports, music, and other activities requiring quick responses, for example, all the time.

Using positive memories to override disturbing memories
Our memories are malleable: When we recall a memory, we're actually re-constructing it. Researchers have successfully changed negative memories in rodents by activating a positive memory during the negative recall. "It could be possible to override the impacts of a negative memory, one that has affected a person's mental state, by having a person recall the bad memory, and correctly timing a vivid recall of a positive one."
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