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Post Archive
2018 (0)2013 (2)2012 (29)
December (1)November (2)

Give thanks this Thursday—and always
Monday, November 19, 2012

"neuroBLOGical" turns 1!
Sunday, November 4, 2012
October (4)September (1)

Sight without seeing: Balint's syndrome
Sunday, September 16, 2012
August (2)

Catnip fever: why your cat acts high
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paralyze your face, fight depression
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
July (2)June (4)May (3)April (2)March (3)February (2)

Seeing into the future? The neuroscience of déjà vu
Sunday, February 26, 2012

Your love is my drug
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
January (3)
2011 (7)
Blogger Profile

Jordan Gaines
Pennsylvania State University USA

A blog on biology, psychology, cognition, learning, memory, aging, and everything in between. Explaining recent discoveries in neuroscience, translated to language we can all understand!

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Recent Comments

Your blog is perhaps one of the best pieces of science writings I have recently come across! Brilliant work ! I have been meaning to start something am inspired :) By the way- . . .Read More
May 08, 2013, 2:08pm

When you get to smell, I have some burning questions.   What's the scoop on that new car smell, and why does it make you want to buy?  :)   . . .Read More
Jan 28, 2013, 7:14pm

Coolest series ever!  I can't wait for the next one. . . .Read More
Dec 10, 2012, 9:46am
Comment by Brian Krueger, PhD in "neuroBLOGical" turns 1!

I'm starting as the Associate Director of the Genomic Analysis Facility at Duke University in two weeks!  Hopefully once things settle down I'll actually be able to write again and start recruitin. . .Read More
Nov 06, 2012, 7:20am
Comment by Jordan Gaines in "neuroBLOGical" turns 1!

Excellent! What's the new job? . . .Read More
Nov 05, 2012, 5:37pm
Feb 01, 2011, 10:42am
Jan 07, 2011, 2:16pm
Views: 6272 | Comments: 1
Last by jimbot on Jan 28, 2013, 7:14pm
The weekend before Christmas, I was sucked into a giant, enticing vortex of craving and desire, stuck for hours with the inability to leave—my only limitation being my wallet.

In other words, I went to Target.

And—again, in other words—I was like a bull in a China shop.

Back in 2009, Target introduced new gigantic, plastic, Playskool-esque shopping carts. Maneuvering the aisles is like passing a car on a one-lane country road in a Hummer.

Of course they're ridiculously cumbersome, but it's all a trick on the Target executives' part—the bigger your cart, the more you can fit in there. You'll look silly hauling around a couple packages of pens and a box of tissues to the checkout counter, after all. Better head to the appliance section and fill it with a microwave or plasma TV.

In this second installment, we'll explore how stores betray our sense of sight, tricking us to buy stuff we really don't want or need.

Retailers have—quite creepily, actually—studied our every move. In fact, they've found that we like to shop counter-clockwise, and stores with their main entrance to the right side sell more than their counterparts with doors on the left.

They also like to welcome us . . . More
Views: 6501 | Comments: 1
Last by Brian Krueger, PhD on Dec 10, 2012, 9:46am
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

...a bunch of crap I really didn't need.

With just sixteen shopping days until Christmas, it's easy to get roped into buying things we might not actually have on our gift list.

Most times, we're conscious of our impulse purchases—there's a great sale on this! I'll use that later!

But sometimes reasons for our frivolous purchases are not so obvious to us. Don't feel too bad—store chains actually hire researchers to study our shopping patterns and take advantage of our weaknesses.

Our brains are endlessly fascinatingly organs—but sometimes they betray us. The following is the first post in a five-part series on how stores trick our senses into shelling out more money than we may intend.


Did you ever take the Pepsi Challenge?

For those unfamiliar (or living under a rock), the Pepsi Challenge was a campaign started by Pepsi back in the 1970s where Coca-Cola was pitted against Pepsi in a blind taste test by consumers.

When it was revealed that most Americans chose Pepsi over Coca-Cola, sales skyrocketed.

How they tricks us: We consumers like brands, and we're loyal to them.

It make sen . . . More
Views: 2087 | Comments: 0
A couple weekends ago, I came down with coulrophobia. Unfortunately, I have yet to shake the disease.

Because we are Halloween masochists, my friends and I drove out to the Lancaster area for Field of Screams, which can be best described as a horror-movie-set-haunted-house on steroids. Sprinting from room to room offers a completely new, dizzying experience, with different themes and scary people to touch you or chase you down with chainsaws.

But this one room. This one room was unlike any other...

It zigzagged. The walls were tiled with 2x2" black and white checkers. There was a strobe light. I was holding my friend's hand and trying to keep my eyes shut through the flickering.

Out of nowhere, sitting in the corner, tiny and dejected, was this freaking clown. It looked so far away. Then suddenly, not one second later, it was IN MY FACE. The strobe light betrayed my perception of its speed and distance. I cried out. Please, just take me now, and do it quickly...

Hence my newfound coulrophobia, or fear of clowns.

But is coulrophobia a real fear? And, for that matter, what is fear?

Fear: a primer

A woman—known simply in the neuroscience world as S.M.—wa . . . More
Views: 3604 | Comments: 0
Scientific literature is, to say the least, pretty dull.

It's rife with redundant phrases, confusing methodologies, and tiny graphs. Reading page after page of long words in small font is better than any over-the-counter sleep aid out there for getting the job done.

Occasionally, the rare gem will come along just when you least expect it, providing a readable (dare I say—enjoyable) account of the latest research.

So begins a paper published this past week in Neurology:

"It was a quiet Thursday afternoon when 'A.S.', a 68-year-old woman from a suburb of Chicago, awakened from a nap to the realization that something was terribly wrong.

What?! What's wrong! Must...keep...reading...

As the article continues, we learn how A.S. and another patient, J.D., adjust to their lives before and after their diagnoses of Bálint's syndrome.

A.S. couldn't find doors or cabinets in her house. She had difficulty naming familiar household objects, and she was unable to read a book or the numbers on her phone.

Armed with an ophthalmologist's' note declaring 20/20 vision with glasses, the next step was to visit a neurologist.

J.D.'s fir . . . More
Views: 4144 | Comments: 2
Last by jimbot on Apr 27, 2012, 7:07pm
In the sleep research lab where I'm currently completing my rotation, we are bringing back students for a follow-up study. Most of them don't seem to recall the uncomfortable beds or having electrodes pasted to their scalp from their baseline test, which was done back when they were in elementary school. (For our sake in recruiting participants, that's probably for the best.)

Nowadays they're older, wiser, more self-aware, and, as teenagers, a bit more judgmental. The researchers in charge of performing psychometric testing—new college grads and not much older or taller than the participants themselves—recently made an interesting observation: if they wear a white coat when interacting with the participants (and their parents), they receive more respect.

According to a study by Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky of Norwestern University, it's possible that our psych testers not only look more professional, but subconsciously feel more professional. In other words, the clothes may literally make the man (or woman).

The study, published February in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, observed an interesting phe . . . More
Views: 3578 | Comments: 2
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Mar 13, 2012, 9:21am

The concept is quite simple. The device works by recording a person's voice as they speak via the directional mike. When the laser pointer is aimed at the speaker and the trigger pulled, their own voice is played back to them with a delay of 0.2 seconds.

Kurihara and Tsukada's tests have revealed some interesting phenomena. The device is most effective against people reading aloud compared to those engaged in conversational, spontaneous speech. It is not as effective toward nonsense sequences, such as "ahhh" or "arghh" (which unfortunately accompany many of those cell phone conversations that so irk us).

The researchers suggest that the gun could be used to silence noisy speakers in public places (mental image of black-clad librarians darting between the stacks, anybody?), or to facilitate proper group discussion and turn-taking. "There are still many cases in which the negative aspects of speech become a barrier to the peaceful resolution of conflicts," say Kurihara and Tsukada.

Let's get back to the science behind the device. Why is this sound delay so powerful in silencing someone who is speaking?

Have you ever spoken over the phone or video-chatted with someone and you can hear your voice echo on the . . . More
Views: 2377 | Comments: 5
Last by Cynthia McKelvey on Feb 28, 2012, 11:54am
Déja vu is a French term that literally means "already seen" and is reported to occur in 60-70% of people, most commonly between the ages of 15 and 25. The fact that déja vu occurs so randomly and rapidly—and in individuals without a medical condition—makes it difficult to study, and why and how the phenomenon occurs is up to much speculation. Psychoanalysts may attribute it to wishful thinking; some psychiatrists cite mismatching in the brain causing us to mistake the present for the past. Still, parapsychologists may even believe it is related to a past-life experience. So what do we know for certain about what happens during an episode of déja vu?

Some researchers speculate that déja vu occurs when there is a mismatch in the brain during its constant attempt to create whole perceptions of our world with very limited input. Think about your memory: it only takes small bits of sensory information (a familiar smell, for instance) to bring forth a very detailed recollection. Déja vu is suggested to be some sort of "mix-up" between sensory input and memory-recalling output. This vague theory, however, does not explain why the episode we experience is not necessarily from a true past event.

. . . More
Views: 2483 | Comments: 0
But that can't be the case. Close your left eye. You can still see much of your left visual field, and you'd certainly smell any food placed under your nose. And what dog is one to walk away without finishing their food?

In fact, Barley is displaying signs of hemispatial neglect, a strange condition in which brain damage, despite normal vision, results in complete neglect of the left side of one's world. Barley had, in fact, suffered a stroke.

Hemispatial neglect most commonly occurs after injury to the right parietal lobe like, in Barley's case, stroke.

It is not as common with left parietal lobe damage—it is thought that the right hemisphere of the brain is generally more specialized for spatial memory, while the left side is better tuned for language.

The left side of a person's world is ignored, then—damage to the right side of the brain reduces the amount of neural activity that crosses over the left via the large fiber tract connecting the two halves, called the corpus collosum (right).

A number of strange symptoms can arise in a person suffering from hemispatia . . . More
Views: 2197 | Comments: 4
Last by jimbot on Dec 28, 2011, 4:44pm
Gift-giving isn't easy—particularly during the holidays, when there are so many different people for whom to buy. It's overwhelming and stressful, and people cope with the burden in different ways. Some, like myself, begin lists in September, all the while picking up hints from others and taking note, then making my purchases before Thanksgiving. Others rush to the mall the weekend before—or of—Christmas, hoping something will catch their eye or they'll snag a great deal.

At one point or another, we've all been on the receiving end of a poor or ill-fitting gift. How did you react to it? Or, more importantly, what did it mean to you in terms of your relationship with the giver? A study in recent years has explored exactly how men and women react upon receiving good and bad gifts.

. . . More