PBS_Braincraft

Forcing Yourself To Smile Can Probably Make You Happier2m20s

Forcing Yourself To Smile Can Probably Make You Happier

They say people can always tell if you are faking a smile because your eyes are not mirroring your mouth. In reality, when you are tired or stressed, a fake facade is sometimes the only thing you can muster. But according to this explanation, even a fake smile can sometimes be better than none at all. In the mid 19th century, a French scientist by the name of Guillaume Duchenne studied emotional responses in humans by stimulating different areas on his subject’s faces with - you guessed it - good old electricity. This helped him isolate the muscles that we use to express fear, sadness and joy. But it also helped him distinguish which muscles on our faces create a fake smile, and which create a genuine smile. There are two muscles: one just under our eyes called orbicularis oculi, and another on the sides of our cheeks called zygomaticus major, that work together to give our expressions that real smile. It is also called a Duchenne smile. Charles Darwin was inspired by Duchenne and conducted his own research. In it, he suggests that our facial expressions actively influence our mood, calling it the facial feedback hypothesis. In a more recent study, subjects were given Botox shots for the corrugator muscles in their brows so they could not express sad or distressed emotions on their face. They reported that their positive mood was higher than the other participant who received different medications. The conclusion is pretty simple, although a bit controversial. If you bear through your periods of sadness and stress with a fake smile, the happiness you present will eventually catch up with you. You can always watch this dog smiling on cue, it always works for us.

Watch This Video And Discover Why We Feel Good When Learning New Things 3m19s

Watch This Video And Discover Why We Feel Good When Learning New Things

In Iceland if somebody is very wise you say that person is “vitur”. It means they have a lot of “vit” or “sense”. And the opposite of that, when someone is not wise at all they are “vitleysingur”. It means that person does not have any “vit”, essentially they are “witless”. A recent study showed that learning new words activates the same region that is active when you do pleasurable activities like eating cake or seeing your favorite band perform. We hope you find “vitleysingur” mind-blowing. In the study researchers gave participants two tasks: one was learning new words and the other was a gambling task. FMRI scan showed that the ventral stratum, the kay area involved in reward and motivation was active in both tasks. It sorts of makes sense because communicating with people gives us pleasure. Research shows that through human evolution we were motivated to acquire linguistic skills and learn new language because it is tied to this reward system. We describe things as mind-blowing all the time, but what does it actually mean? The emotional aspect to learning new languages is extremely important because we need emotion to engage our learning cycle. Research shows that we are learning best when we are in a state of relaxed awareness, not too aroused or totally disengaged. Learning comes best when you are in this mood and you experience awe and curiosity. When we learn new cool bits of information we activate that same reward region of our brain as when we learn new words. You feel good because you have learned something cool and you want to learn more. Curiosity is contagious and it is sort of addictive as well. Learning new words activates the reward area of our brain and, perhaps, learning surprising new bits, or “vits” of information does too.

The Amazing Truth Behind The Tricks Of The Optical Illusions2m23s

The Amazing Truth Behind The Tricks Of The Optical Illusions

Can you see what I see? We all experience things subjectively, including how we perceive optical illusions. Back in the 1800’s, American psychologist Joseph Jastrow illustrated an animal. Some of them saw a duck, and some a rabbit- but not both at once. The image itself allows for both interpretations and switching between them involves some mental effort. And when you see the duck, do you see the same duck we see? Researchers suggest the differences in our subjective experiences are tied to the different sizes of a certain area in our brain. It’s difficult to say why exactly the size of one brain area leads to people being more easily tricked by optical illusions. It could have to do with the concentration of chemical messengers inside the visual cortex. Other studies have found that the magnitude of optical illusions differs in people with autism or in people from different cultures. Things can be constructed in many different ways. When children were shown the duck-rabbit illusion on Easter Sunday (rabbit season) more children saw the rabbit, where on other Sundays they were more likely to see the duck (duck season). Sure, what you see is what you get, but remember that things may be preserved through different lenses. Optical illusions don't “trick the eye” nor “fool the brain”, nor reveal that “our brain is not working”, but they are fascinating! They also teach us about our visual perception and its limitations.

The Captivating Musical Disorder Called Amusia 3m26s

The Captivating Musical Disorder Called Amusia

Amusia is an intriguing word, but what does it mean? Amusia is a musical disorder that appears mainly as a defect in processing pitch but also encompasses musical memory and recognition. Amusia may be present from birth or may develop as the result of an injury. Can you imagine life without music? We know we can’t. Take a look at these interesting facts and stories about some people who can't hear the music. Mrs. L was a young-looking sixty-seven-year-old woman. She was intelligent, but she didn’t know what “singing” meant. She also didn’t hear music like most of us do. In Oliver Saks’ book Musicophilia, Mrs. L described music to sound like pots and pans being thrown around the kitchen. This condition isn’t unique to Mrs. L. About 4% of the population is born with “amusia”. In some worse amusia, some people can’t even recognize musical information at all. A recent study looked at why beat deaf individuals are unable to keep a beat or tap along with music. We are not entirely certain about what’s going on inside the brains of those who suffer from amsuia; a number of regions are involved in processing music. We do know that the ability to move along to a beat isn’t unique to the human brain. Other species with local learning abilities are able to keep a beat-think dolphins, seals, parrots and even cockatoos like Snowball, the dancing sensation.

This Is What Dogs Really Miss When Owners Leave The House4m07s

This Is What Dogs Really Miss When Owners Leave The House

Every time this dog owner prepares to leave the house, her pet Luna tries to come with her. It is like she experiences FOMO, the fear of missing out! We would like to believe that our pets actually miss us, rather than missing out on what’s outside. Our dogs really miss us when we are gone? Watch this video to find out! First of all we need to think about relationships. Humans miss other humans because we have an emotional connection to each them. We have the capacity to bond and love, and so do dogs. It is just little too hard to figure out how dogs love us. One scientist trained dogs to willingly go into an MRI machine and stay there, so he cans study their brain and behavior. Can dogs have FOMO? In one of his studies, he gave the dogs 5 scents, their own scent, the scent of a familiar and a strange human, and the scent of a familiar and a strange dog. What they found was that a certain brain region involved in positive expectations and reward was activated by the scent of the familiar human. The dogs had positive association with that person. However, it is difficult to say whether dogs miss their owners when they leave or if they just miss familiar company. Another study looked at how dogs’ behavior changed around people with different degrees of familiarity, their owner, another familiar person and an unfamiliar person. They found that dogs preferred their owner. In one of the tests dogs would wait behind the door that their owner went through and not the other people. However, owners often wonder whether their pet knows how long they have been gone, i.e. whether they have a perception of time. Watch this video to find out!

This Lady Explains The Benefits Of Chocolate 2m29s

This Lady Explains The Benefits Of Chocolate

Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and a vast number of foodstuffs involving chocolate have been created, particularly desserts including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate, and bars of solid chocolate and candy bars coated in chocolate are eaten as snacks. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain Western holidays, such as Easter, Valentine's Day , and Hanukkah. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao. In this video however, we have an interesting research on countries with highest award winning achievements depending on the chocolate intake per capita. This lady explains the in and outs of how chocolate can modify and even enrich your capability of being able to remember information more significantly. She has also done some research on how chocolate plays a significant factor on scholars and their career achievements. She mentions a couple of them and explains the hows and whys on the part that chocolate plays in their lives. There is also significant data showing that chocolate plays a part on elderly people and the enhancing factor that chocolate plays on their memory capabilities. So, does our favorite sweet actually help boost our intelligence?

Time Dilation Happens In Our Minds And Not Just In Physics2m38s

Time Dilation Happens In Our Minds And Not Just In Physics

Some people are notoriously bad at setting deadlines and estimating time. The comforting fact is that it's largely not our fault. Many factors play a part in our distorted perception of time, and most are difficult or impossible to modify. Time itself is not something we can change either, despite all our dreams of time machines. Why does life seem to speed up as we get older? Why does the clock in your head move at a different speed from the one on the wall? Why is it almost impossible to go a whole day without checking your watch? Is it possible to retrain our brains and improve our relationship with it? Why time slows down when we’re afraid, speeds up as we age, and gets warped when we’re on vacation? We construct the experience of time in our minds, so it follows that we are able to change the elements we find troubling - whether it’s trying to stop the years racing past, or speeding up time when we’re stuck in a queue, trying to live more in the present, or working out how long ago we last saw our old friends. Time can be a friend, but it can also be an enemy. The trick is to harness it, whether at home, at work, or even in social policy, and to work in line with our conception of time. Time is not only at the heart of the way we organize life, but the way we experience it. What can we do? To fix our broken perception of time, we can reevaluate our relationship with it, become more aware of how we spend our days, and understand how our perception of time influences productivity. We can also seek time-management methods that will make us feel more in control of our time and less like its victims.

How to Beat Jet Lag3m14s

How to Beat Jet Lag

I chat with researcher & app developer Olivia Walch from University of Michigan. You can download Entrain from the AppStore. The app was developed in collaboration with Danny Forger from University of Michigan and Kirill Serkh from Yale.

This Is What Happens To Our Bodies When We Are Sleep-Deprived3m43s

This Is What Happens To Our Bodies When We Are Sleep-Deprived

A 24-year-old guy known as Z decided he had enough sleeping in this lifetime so one day in 1930, he approached a couple of researchers and ask them if they could help him stop sleeping. He was convinced that sleep is a habit and that with proper procedures the habit could be broken. On several occasions, he would have gone without sleep for four or five days. There are many experiments like this in the past and in this one, the guy Z thought if he could be stimulated by tasks and other people to stay awake more than a week he would never need to sleep again. He would break the habit. So, the researchers gave him a typewriter and ask him to type for thirty minutes a day marking each minute of typing. They would compare his typing speed and accuracy as one measure to find out the effects of sleeplessness. Throughout the ten days of not sleeping, his pulse, his blood pressure and the chemicals in his pee all stayed the same. He did a bunch of intelligence tests every day and his marks belly changed. But his typing speed declined and after day four he couldn’t type any more. He couldn’t fixate on letters and numbers and he said his eyes were sore. Still, Z stayed up and didn’t complained of mental or physical fatigue. He didn’t become easily irritated. He started reporting hallucinations. On the last day of the experiment he wrote a nice poem and when the experiment ended, he slept. The researchers concluded that it was possible to go with practically no sleep for ten days without any known physiological effects or damage to mental functions. Similar studies found no damage from sleeplessness. Now after 50 more years research we know that sleep deprivation leads to depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain and heart diseases. A good night sleep is kind of a big deal. We need 7-9 hours at night for our memory to function. If we don’t sleep, we will never learn. Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. So, don’t forget to sleep.