It is often said that people who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. John P. O'Doherty, professor of psychology and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center, discusses our current understanding of how we learn from experience.
Some people feel compelled to pet every furry animal they see on the street, while others jump at the mere sight of a shark or snake on the television screen. No matter what your response is to animals, it may be thanks to a specific part of your brain that is hardwired to rapidly detect creatures of the nonhuman kind. In fact, researchers from Caltech and UCLA report that neurons throughout the amygdala—a center in the brain known for processing emotional reactions—respond preferentially to images of animals.
Choosing what to have for dinner, it turns out, is a complex neurological exercise. But, according to researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), it's one that can be influenced by a simple shifting of attention toward the healthy side of life. And that shift may provide strategies to help us all make healthier choices—not just in terms of the foods we eat, but in other areas, like whether or not we pick up a cigarette.
Where does violence live in the brain? And where, precisely, does it lay down its biological roots? With the help of a new genetic tool that uses light to turn nerve cells on and off, a team led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has tracked down the specific location of the neurons that elicit attack behaviors in mice, and defined the relationship of those cells to the brain circuits that play a key role in mating behaviors.
We've all heard the predictions: e-commerce is going to be the death of traditional commerce; online shopping spells the end of the neighborhood brick-and-mortar store. While it's true that online commerce has had an impact on all types of retail stores, it's not time to bring out the wrecking ball quite yet, says a team of researchers from Caltech.
The process of learning requires the sophisticated ability to constantly update our expectations of future rewards so we may make accurate predictions about those rewards in the face of a changing environment. Although exactly how the brain orchestrates this process remains unclear, a new study by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) suggests that a combination of two distinct learning strategies guides our behavior.
Parents pursuing adoption within the United States have strong preferences regarding the types of babies they will apply for, tending to choose non-African-American girls, and favoring babies who are close to being born as opposed to those who have already been born or who are early in gestation. These preferences are significant and can be quantified in terms of the amount of money the potential adoptive parents are willing to pay in finalizing their adoption.
The human brain is a big believer in equality—and a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, has become the first to gather the images to prove it. Specifically, the team found that the reward centers in the human brain respond more strongly when a poor person receives a financial reward than when a rich person does.
A collaborative team of neuroscientists at Caltech, the University of Iowa, the University of Southern California, and the Autonomous University of Madrid have mapped the brain structures that affect general intelligence. The study, published the week of February 22 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds new insight to a highly controversial question: What is intelligence, and how can we measure it?
Caltech neuroscientists and their colleagues have tied the human aversion to losing money to a specific structure in the brain—the amygdala. The finding, described in the latest online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers insight into economic behavior, and also into the role of the amygdala, which registers rapid emotional reactions and is implicated in depression, anxiety, and autism.
Economists and neuroscientists from Caltech have shown that they can use information obtained through fMRI measurements of whole-brain activity to create feasible, efficient, and fair solutions to one of the stickiest dilemmas in economics, the public goods free-rider problem—long thought to be unsolvable. This is one of the first-ever applications of neurotechnology to real-life economic problems, the researchers note.