Whether or not they aced it in high school, human beings are physics masters when it comes to understanding and predicting how objects in the world will behave. A Johns Hopkins University cognitive scientist has found the source of that intuition, the brain’s “physics engine.”
Recent news from The Johns Hopkins University
This section contains regularly updated highlights of the news from around The Johns Hopkins University. Links to the complete news reports from the nine schools, the Applied Physics Laboratory and other centers and institutes are to the left, as are links to help news media contact the Johns Hopkins communications offices.
Led by neuroscientist Steve Yantis, a team from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the Krieger School has found that insignificant objects that have come to be associated with a “reward” of some kind inadvertently capture people’s attention. The research, published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may eventually contribute to the development of more effective treatments for addiction, obesity and ADHD.
It’s something we just accept: the fact that the older we get, the more difficulty we seem to have remembering things. We can leave our cars in the same parking lot each morning, but unless we park in the same space each and every day, it’s a challenge eight hours later to recall whether we left the SUV in the second or fifth row. Or, we can be introduced to new colleagues at a meeting and will have forgotten their names before the handshake is over. We shrug and nervously reassure ourselves that our brains’ “hard drives” are just too full to handle the barrage of new information that comes in daily. According to a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, however, the real trouble is that our aging brains are unable to process this information as “new” because the brain pathways leading to the hippocampus-the area of the brain that stores memories-become degraded over time. As a result, our brains cannot accurately “file” new information (like where we left the car that particular morning), and confusion results. A study on the subject appeared in the May 9 Early Online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.