Cerebral Hemispheres 2
NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED

NEUROSCIENCE MADE SIMPLER

This Study Sponsored by Krispy Kreme


The brain’s motivational processes always provide an interesting area for research, as they underlie all of our “voluntary” behavior. Much progress has been made in understanding motivational areas of the brain since the advent of sophisticated neuroimaging techniques. Recently, a group of researchers using fMRI attempted to identify specific activity in the brain that takes place when a person shifts their attention to a relevant object in their environment (the first step in developing motivation to obtain the object).

The group focused on hunger, testing subjects at two separate occasions: once after eating as many Krispy Kreme donuts as they could (eight was the record), and another after fasting for eight hours. In each experimental condition, the subjects were then shown pictures, some of tools and others of donuts, while being scanned with fMRI.

As you might expect, the subjects who had just gorged themselves on donuts didn’t show increased activity in response to the donut pictures. But in those who fasted, images of donuts caused rapid activity throughout the limbic lobe—an area of the brain thought to be involved in identifying salient objects in one’s environment. Immediately after the donut was recognized, attentional mechanisms in the brain, involving the posterior parietal cortex, were also stimulated, demonstrating that the subject’s attention had been turned to the relevant object. These mechanisms seemed to work in conjunction with those that were used to gauge the importance of the object. Thus, the authors of the study suggest the posterior parietal and limbic lobe play an interactive role in identifying salient stimuli and immediately focusing one's attention on them.

This experiment provides further evidence for the concept that our brains are inherently organized to recognize aspects of our environment that are beneficial to us. Many believe the significance of certain types of stimuli is evolutionarily ingrained, meaning that our brains evolved to place importance on those that promote survival, such as food, water, or sex (which leads to dissemination of genetic information). This study goes a bit further to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the distribution of attention among salient and non-salient stimuli. If a hungry brain sees food, it will activate those attentional mechanisms to focus itself on that food, providing motivation to obtain it.

I suppose the greater task in our corpulent society right now, however, is to learn how to get people to avoid those Krispy Kreme donuts instead of to understand exactly how our brain focuses attention on them.

YOUR BRAIN, EXPLAINED

Sleep. Memory. Pleasure. Fear. Language. We experience these things every day, but how do our brains create them? Your Brain, Explained is a personal tour around your gray matter. Building on neuroscientist Marc Dingman’s popular YouTube series, 2-Minute Neuroscience, this is a friendly, engaging introduction to the human brain and its quirks using real-life examples and Dingman’s own, hand-drawn illustrations.

  • An informative, accessible and engaging book for anyone who has even the slightest interest in how the brain works, but doesn’t know where to begin. - Dean Burnett, PhD, author, Happy Brain and Idiot Brain

  • ...a highly readable and accessible introduction to the operation of the brain and current issues in neuroscience... a wonderful introduction to the field. - Frank Amthor, PhD, Professor of Psychology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, author, Neuroscience for Dummies

  • Reading like a collection of detective stories, Your Brain, Explained combines classic cases in the history of neurology with findings stemming from the latest techniques used to probe the brain’s secrets. - Stanley Finger, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Washington University (St. Louis), author, Origins of Neuroscience

  • Dingman weaves classic studies with modern research into easily digestible sections, to provide an excellent primer on the rapidly advancing field of neuroscience. - Moheb Costandi, author, Neuroplasticity and 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know

BIZARRE

This book shows a whole other side of how brains work by examining the most unusual behavior to emerge from the human brain. In it, you'll meet a woman who is afraid to take a shower because she fears her body will slip down the drain, a man who is convinced he is a cat, a woman who compulsively snacks on cigarette ashes, and many other unusual cases. As uncommon as they are, each of these cases has something important to teach us about everyday brain function.

  • Bizarre is a collection of stories of how the brain can create zombies, cult members, extra limbs, instant musicians, and overnight accents, to name a few of the mind-scratching cases. After reading this book, you will walk away with a greater appreciation for this bizarre organ. If you are a fan of Oliver Sacks' books, you're certain to be a fan of Dingman's Bizarre. - Allison M. Wilck, PhD, Researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Eastern Mennonite University

  • Dingman brings the history of neuroscience back to life and weaves in contemporary ideas seamlessly. Readers will come along for the ride of a really interesting read and accidentally learn some neuroscience along the way. - Erin Kirschmann, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology & Counseling, Immaculata University

  • Through case studies of both exceptional people as well as those with disorders, Bizarre takes us on a fascinating journey in which we learn more about what is going on in our skull. - William J. Ray, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, author, Abnormal Psychology

  • A unique combination of storytelling and scientific explanation that appeals to the brain novice, the trained neuroscientist, and everyone in between. Dingman explores some of the most fascinating and mysterious expressions of human behavior in a style that is case study, dramatic novel, and introductory textbook all rolled into one. - Alison Kreisler, PhD, Neuroscience Instructor, California State University, San Marcos