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Since the day you were born, a slimy, three-pound blob has controlled your every thought, memory, movement, and emotion. Use these video clips from Brain Games episodes to learn more about the fascinating human brain.
Watch these videos to learn how cultural and instinctual factors influence decision-making, and how studying animal behavior can reveal insights into our own humanity. Advancing technology is modifying modern human behavior by creating new tools that aide our decision-making. Learn how various traditional societies treat their elderly, and how modern societies can change their behavior to be more like these cultures.
Discover what humans can learn about group decision making by studying cannibalistic swarms locusts and crickets. Comparing behaviors of humans and chimpanzees within their respective societies reveals insights into human decision making and behavior.
Watch the new season of Brain Games on National Geographic Channel beginning Sunday, February 14th. Nat Geo's Emerging Explorer Tan Le is making the field of brain science accessible to everyday citizens. Described as a "Timothy Leary for the viral video age," Jason Silva is a self-proclaimed "wonder junkie" whose series of noncommercial videos exploring inspiration, science, technology, and imaginationóhave been seen more than 2 million times online. You've had your brain inside your head for your entire life, so you might think that by now, you have a pretty good idea of how it works and what it can and can't—do.
But first, since your brain didn't come with an owner's manual, here is some basic background about your mental equipment's specifications. The brain is your body's most complex organ—and it has to be, because it controls all of your actions and generates all of your thoughts and consciousness. The cerebellum, in the back of your head under the cerebral cortex, which coordinates the brain’s instructions for skilled repetitive movements and for maintaining balance and posture.
The brain's various parts are filled with close to 100 billion neurons, which are cells that have something that the other cells of the body don't. Here's a glimpse of some of the really cool, surprising things about your brain, which will be covered in more detail in the companion articles to various episodes of Brain Games. The crew of Brain Games took five days and nights setting up hundreds of cubes to make the show open. In the new season of Brain Games, you're going to learn about some of the amazing abilities built into your brain, and about some of its odd and amusing quirks as well.
While most people can see primary colors, about ten percent of the population have some degree of color blindness. Color exerts a profound influence upon how we see the world around us, and throughout history, various hues have taken on important social and psychological significance. Primates, including humans, have pretty good color vision compared to a lot of other animals, which probably gave us and our hairier cousins an evolutionary advantage in hunting and in finding wild fruit and other plant-based food. Various frequencies of light create colors—blue light, for example, has a wavelength of about 475 nanometers, while at the longer end, red has a wavelength of 650 nanometers.
In recent years, neuroscientists have used brain scans to investigate where and how color is perceived by the brain. Men and women also perceive color slightly differently, according to a study published in 2004 in American Journal of Human Genetics by evolutionary geneticists Brian Verrelli and Sarah Tishkoff.
A study presented in 2010 by University of Houston researcher Bhavin Sheth found that color perception actually drifts slightly in the course of a day, so that gray, for example, may eventually develop a faint greenish tint. All in all, though, we seem to perceive pretty much the same basic color palette, even though the number of color-sensitive cones in the retina can vary by as much as a factor of 40, according to a study published in 2005 by University of Rochester researchers.
As we've learned in previous episodes of Brain Games, your brain continually faces a daunting task in perceiving and making sense of the immense flood of sensory information that you pick up from the world around you. When experimental subjects stare at a dot in the center of a color image on a TV screen, they'll continue to see the hues even after the image morphs into black-and-white. Colors' ability to trigger emotions may be why humans have long imbued them with symbolic meanings. In the retail world, marketing experts carefully contemplate the effect of colors on consumer behavior. Color and how our brains perceive it have a profound impact on our everyday lives, and we usually never even notice.
Play this game along with Professor David Poeppel and discover a surprising link in your brain between music and color! Researchers have discovered a possible link between higher testosterone levels and what color?
In this episode, we learn how the colors that we perceive actually exist in our brains, which take the wavelengths of reflected light that our eyes observe and combine it with information from our past observations of the world. But researchers also have discovered that just as our brains influence color, seeing certain colors can influence our brains in various ways.
Choose the background color for your computer screen, based upon the task you’re performing.
New technologies are shedding light on biology's greatest unsolved mystery: how the brain really works.
Van Wedeen strokes his half-gray beard and leans toward his computer screen, scrolling through a cascade of files.
To read on, instantly download this supplement today after signing up to National Geographic magazineNational Geographic is un-missable reading for anyone who takes an interest in the world around them.
Different parts of your brain engage in various tasks, ranging from processing visual information to responding to danger. It's the part of the brain where your thoughts take place, where you understand speech and come up with things to say. It coordinates for a lot of critical basic functions, such as heart rate, breathing, eating and sleeping. It includes the amygdala, which is where the fight-or-flight response is triggered, and the hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory formation. It contains the thalamus, which is involved in sensory perception and regulating movement and the hypothalamus, which regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the release of hormones throughout the body.
They include complex structures called dendrites and axons, which form a communications system that transmits electrical and chemical messages in and out of the cell. In order to cope with all the tasks that your brain has to perform, it utilizes a lot of ingenious shortcuts. In these companion articles, you'll get more of the scientific background about your brain, and also some tips on how to put your new knowledge to use to develop abilities and improve your everyday life.
Studies have found that people most often associate blue with trustworthiness, competence, and masculinity.
Then they showed pictures of abstract rings in the same colors as the bananas and other items, for comparison.
But whether we're looking at blueberries or at a painting from Pablo Picasso's "Blue Period" in a museum, what we actually perceive is electromagnetic energy, emitted by a source such as the Sun or an electric light fixture, and then reflected off other objects in the environment. All of these frequencies are mixed together in sunlight, so that if we just saw the blend, everything would look white. In the retina, a layer in the back of our eye, we have tiny structures called rods and cones.

A study published in 2010 in The Open Neuroimaging Journal suggests that it may be a pretty complex process that takes place in several areas, including a region of the visual cortex known as the fusiform gyrus, or V4. While most of us can perceive about a million different gradations of color, there are rare individuals with cone deficiencies who see the world in black, white and variations of gray, and others who can't tell the difference between red and green, though they can perceive blue and yellow just fine.
They found that women often have a genetic variation that enables them to discriminate between colors in the red-orange section of the visible spectrum more precisely than men. After a good night's sleep, though, your brain apparently resets its color-perception equipment, and you see gray as gray again. A study published in PLOS One in 2013 by University of Liverpool perception researcher Sophie Wuerger found that the human ability to see colors remains constant over a lifetime, even as the cones lose sensitivity. To avoid overload, your grey matter has developed ingenious tricks and shortcuts—essentially, educated guesses based upon previous knowledge about the world that you've amassed in your life. But even after our ancestors stopped being hunter-gatherers and developed complex civilizations, color continued to play an important role in everyday existence. A study published in 2012 in the journal Animal Behavior found that changing the color of light actually had a bigger impact upon the day-night behavior of fish than the intensity of the light. In ancient Egypt, red and black were associated with death, while green signified life and yellow represented eternity. A controversial study by English anthropologists, published in Nature in 2005, reported that in Olympic combative sports such as taekwondo and wrestling, athletes who wore red uniforms had a higher probability of winning the matches, suggesting the color may project a message of dominance that influences competitors. A study published in 2013 by University of Virginia associate professor of marketing Rajesh Bagchi, for example, revealed that in transactions with fixed prices, consumers were more likely to buy products when a store had blue décor than they were if the background was red. A study by University of Rochester researchers, published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that women viewed men who wore red clothing as more attractive than those who wore blue. A study published in 2009 by University of British Columbia researchers found that when subjects used a red background, they did better at tasks such as proofreading or solving anagrams, which requires attention to details. Our special features come to life with unrivalled, compelling journalism and superb photography. You will benefit from this wealth of knowledge every month – and as a special bonus National Geographic are offering instant access to the feature above when you place your order. Robert Clark’s previous story, on sugar, was in the August 2013 issue.For more on the mind, tune in to the third season of Brain Games, premiering in January on the National Geographic Channel. In the brand new season, the series explores visual perception, memory, skill learning, decision making, and much more. Host Jason Silva gets inside your head and show you whatís going on in there, with an intricate series of interactive experiments designed to mess with your mind and reveal the inner-workings of your brain. Host and wonder junkie Jason Silva gets inside your head and show you what's going on in there, with an intricate series of interactive experiments designed to mess with your mind and reveal the inner-workings of your brain. As the new season of Brain Games will convince you, there's a lot that you don't know about the miraculous biological machine between your ears and how both its abilities and flaws influence your everyday life. That transmitting system allows neurons to communicate with a lot of other neurons at super-high speed. Young brains do work better than older ones in some important ways—they're better at doing several tasks in close succession and retrieving items from memory, for example. The parts of the brain that evaluate trustworthiness tend to make split-second decisions based heavily upon superficial visual information. Because of differences in the brains of men and women, men tend to be better at visualizing the positions of objects and locations in space, and drawing mental maps for themselves.
Researchers have found that it's possible to alter subjects' memories and even implant false recollections of events that never occurred. Neuroscientists have discovered that itching is triggered by a specialized neuron that detects extremely faint stimuli. Scientists have discovered that humans, along with a few other species, have a trait called deictic gaze, which means that when you notice another person’s eyes looking at something, your brain automatically tells your eyes to do the same thing. But first, here are some basic introductory tips on how to keep your brain optimally healthy and ready for all the tricks that we're about to teach you. University of Wisconsin researchers have discovered that sleep turns on genes that trigger production of myelin, a material that's the equivalent of insulation around electrical wire, helping make sure that your neurons are able to transmit impulses among one another. Certain nutrients are important to healthy brain function, and you can get them with the right food choices.
One possible explanation is that we’re taught to trust and respect the blue uniform worn by police officers. Every color you see is your brain’s interpretation of reflected light, not the object’s true color! Some people live with achromatopsia, a condition which prevents them from seeing any colors at all! As it turned out, the black-and-white pictures of the bananas elicited the same patterns of neural activity which occurred when the subjects were viewing the yellow-colored ring. But recent scientific discoveries shed new light upon the mysteries of color perception, and help explain why color plays such an important role in our lives. Instead, though, light is filtered through the atmosphere, and then encounters objects, which allow the light to pass through, reflect it, or absorb it—or some combination of these effects. Eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration can also interfere with color perception. That ability may have come in handy in prehistoric times, when scientists believe that men hunted animals and women, who had to stay closer to the camp with the children, searched for berries and other plant foods. All that suggests that our perception of color is controlled much more by our brains than by our eyes.
Scientists have discovered that different colors cause a variety of emotional responses—the short-wavelength color of blue, for example, has a calming effect, while longer wavelengths such as yellow, orange and red tend to make us more alert. It may be that the atmospheric filtering that creates more yellow light in the morning has something to do with why we wake up then.
In Elizabethan England, the color of one's clothing was an indication of social class—only earls could wear purple silk or gold embroidery, while blue and crimson velvet were reserved for barons. Another study by University of British Columbia researchers, published in 2009 in the journal Science, found that the colors on computer screens seemed to influence subjects' ability to perform various tasks.
But at auctions, in contrast, bidders were more willing to pay after being exposed to a red background. Andrews in Scotland, for example, found that subjects used the color of another person's skin as an indicator of that person's health. That said, individuals with broad features were considered trustworthy regardless of eye color.
Additionally, women viewed red-clad men as higher in status, more likely to make money, and more likely to climb the social ladder. But a blue background seemed to produce better performance at creative tasks and intelligence tests, which require imaginative thinking instead of accuracy.
In this article, we'll give you a peek at some of the mind-boggling stuff that you'll be learning about your brain. The connections between neurons are called synapses, and the typical neuron probably has tens of thousands of them.
Older brains are not only surprisingly resilient, but can actually do some things better as the years wear on. It's a trait that probably was useful to our ancient ancestors, who had to decide instantly whether to trust a stranger or not.

But instead, researchers have found that when your brain’s stress response kicks in, you tend to discount negative information and focus upon positive information with an upbeat spin. Women, whose brains tend to be better at using language, usually rely instead upon more detail such as landmarks when giving directions. Some research has found that whether you're an athlete or a fan, if you’re on the winning side, your brain releases a flood of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that leads to a powerful pleasure sensation. In one experiment, for example, a psychologist convinced some subjects that they'd met Warner Brothers character Bugs Bunny at Disneyland when they were young.
But the system is so sensitive that it easily can be triggered simply by thinking about a bug crawling on your leg, even if there isn't a bug there.
Some researchers suggest this may have helped ancient human hunters point out prey to other members of their group without calling attention to themselves.
A study published in Science in 2013 also found that your brain uses sleep time to flush out toxic waste that cells produce during daily use. Studies show that blueberries, for example, contain nutrients that help protect the brain from oxidative stress, and may even help reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Research has shown, for example, that workouts cultivated the growth of new neurons in mice, and that formerly sedentary humans who did cardio work for six months showed improved performance in cognitive drills that require them to switch between different tasks without making mistakes.
Color associations vary, but companies tend to rely on color psychology when designing products and advertising. This episode of Brain Games puts your brain to the ultimate test with a series of interactive games and fascinating experiments that will reveal a shocking truth—color is just an illusion created by your brain.
And not only did the subjects see colors that weren't there, but the perception occurred in the visual cortex, the region of the brain where information from sight first arrives. Visible light amounts to only a narrow swath in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum—frequencies between 400 and 700 nanometers. For example, a plant leaf may absorb long and short frequencies of light and reflect the light at middle wavelengths or around 510 nanometers, which is why it appears green to us. The cones, which are less sensitive and require stronger light to work, are what enable us to see colors. That suggests that your brain utilizes colors to help recognize objects and pinpoint where they are located.
Then when the image flips back to black and white, those tired cells can't pull their weight and it's the cells for the complimentary colors that are more active.
In contemporary American politics, we divide the landscape into blue (Democratic) and red (Republican) states, with swing states denoted as purple.
Groups with red backgrounds did better on tests of recall and attention to detail, such as remembering words or checking spelling and punctuation. A light-skinned person with a reddish flush to his or her cheeks was perceived as being fit and vigorous, while subjects judged a pale-looking person as being ill.
A study published in 2008 by one of the same researchers found that men feel more sexual attraction to women dressed in red as well. The first time, a few weeks ago, I offered myself as a neuroscientific guinea pig to Wedeen and his colleagues.
All those connections enable your neurons to work with other nearby neurons, but also to form pathways with distant neurons to carry brain signals. Researchers have found that experimental subjects who were shown black-and-white pictures of bananas, for example, activated parts of the brain that normally fire when your eyes perceive yellow.
Researchers have found, for example, that we tend to put more faith in individuals with comparatively broader chins, wider mouths with upward-pointing corners, bigger eyes and eyebrows that are higher on the face. In the episode "Laws of Attraction," we'll explore the mystery of why we feel drawn to some people but not others. In the episode "What's Going On?" we’ll look at how we manage to figure out where we're going, and what is around us.
In the episode "Brain Reboot," we'll look at how you can manipulate your brain's own hidden processes to improve your abilities. In the episode "Let's Get Physical," we'll look at how the body can fool the brain, and vice-versa. In the episode "Follow the Leader," we'll look at the neuroscience and psychology behind how we influence one another.
Amazingly, your cells actually shrink a little in size, to make it easier to clean in the spaces between them. Deep-water fish such as salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain function. A German study published in 2010 found that subjects who swam, rode bikes or even worked in the garden a few times a week were only half as likely to show cognitive impairment as they aged, compared to those who rarely worked up a sweat. We'll show you how some colors can make you fly, reveal ghostly colors that don't actually exist, and if you play along you’ll see how color helps keep you alive. There's actually something to this, because people who are physically fit, or else have high levels of sex hormones, tend to have more blood vessels in the skin, and thus become flush more easily. In a scanning room I lay down on a slab, the back of my head resting in an open plastic box.
Those complex interconnections help you to do the enormous array of complex activities that are part of your everyday existence. A study published in 2012 also shows that as you age, your brain increases the number of connections related to emotions, so that older people are better at solving problems in personal relationships than younger ones. In the episode "Trust Me," we'll analyze the brain's system for judging others' truthfulness and the how reliable it actually is.
The National Institutes of Health says that most adults need about 7-8 hours a day, though some can get by on as little as 5 hours, and others need as much as 10. It doesn't take a lot of exercise to benefit your brain—three 20-minute sessions a week should do it.
Those are the colors that each type of cone is most sensitive to, but each type actually can perceive a wider range of frequencies. In the episode "Battle of the Ages," we'll tell you more about the differences between younger and older brains. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow to your brain.
The neural messages generated by those cones overlap and are stitched together by your brain, which enables you to see different gradations of color. I looked up at him through two eyeholes as he screwed the helmet tight, so that the 96 miniature antennas it contained would be close enough to my brain to pick up the radio waves it was about to emit. As the slab glided into the cylindrical maw of the scanner, I thought of The Man in the Iron Mask.The magnets that now surrounded me began to rumble and beep.
To squeeze as much resolution as possible out of the scanner, Wedeen and his colleagues had designed the device with barely enough room for a person of my build to fit inside.

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