Most people are familiar with the idea that people who are blind have better hearing than those with normal vision. It was formerly thought that this compensation for lack of vision could only develop in the brains of the very young. However, new research conducted at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University suggests that the brain may be more flexible than previously believed.
In the study, researchers kept one group of healthy mice in total darkness for a week, and exposed the other group to natural light for a week. Then the team used electrodes to measure activity in neurons in the mice’s primary auditory cortex. This is the part of the brain that processes how loud a sound is and its source. By analyzing this data, researchers found that the mice who were exposed to a week of darkness had much better hearing than the control mice.
This suggests that the circuits that process sensory information can be re-wired in the brains of adult mice, even after the early critical period for hearing. These findings seem to contradict the idea that once the critical period for hearing is past, the auditory system doesn’t respond to changes in an individual’s soundscape.
As we grow and discover new artists, we refine the compilation of music in our brains. But do we stop developing taste in music at a certain age? Many researchers believe that by the age of 14 musical preferences are completely developed. Does this mean that your taste in music is set in stone for the rest of your life? Not exactly.
In an article from the New York Times, David Hajdu points out that major music stars such as John Lennon, Paul Simon, and Aretha Franklin, and many other successful artists all turned 14 during the mid-50s, when rock ‘n’ roll was first becoming a major genre. Altough it may just be a strange coincidence, Hajdu believes that this is what influenced them to pursue music as a career “Fourteen is a sort of magic age for the development of musical tastes,” says Daniel J. Levitin, a professor of psychology and the director of the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University. “Pubertal growth hormones make everything we’re experiencing, including music, seem very important. We’re just reaching a point in our cognitive development when we’re developing our own tastes. And musical tastes become a badge of identity.”
"Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons....In fact there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioural research laboratories running round inside wheels and conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on man. The fact that once again man completely misinterpreted this relationship was entirely according to these creatures' plans." - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
As tempting as it may be to believe the science fiction version of the intelligence rankings, real-life science has spoken and suggests (much to my displeasure) that humans may actually be the highest on the intelligence scale.
If you were to ask any reasonable person (or reasonable physicist) how quantum mechanics works, 9 out of 10 times he/she would probably give you the same answer: magic. Yes, the field of quantum physics is known far and wide across academia as being both pretty difficult (lots of math) and pretty confusing (it just seems like it makes stuff up as it goes). However, despite all the tedium and wizardry that surrounds quantum mechanics, if you look hard enough at the many applications that the science has to offer to other fields, you may quickly come to find that it is also pretty dang awesome. Indeed, even the field of neuroscience has experienced some cross over with quantum physics in an attempt to explain many of the mysteries of the mind. But, what specific oddities about the brain are so opaque that they would need something as complex as physics' black magic to explain them?
Most would agree that the most important of our basic senses is sight. Without it, many basic forms of communication fall apart, the vibrance of the world around us dulls, and our understanding and ability to sense the complexity of the physical world diminishes. Without the ability to see, it would logically be impossible to portray our surroundings artistically in a coherent and visually realistic manner...
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As we age, our brains age with us, slowly deteriorating over time. For the fast-paced lives we now lead however, having mediocre cognitive abilities just doesn’t cut it. Famed neuroscientist, brain-plasticity connoisseur, and new businessman Michael Merzenich has engineered a series of “brain fitness” activities that are claimed to help individuals keep their minds in tip-top shape.
Merzenich’s Posit Science program is based on neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to reorganize itself. While cortical reorganization is a remarkable asset of the brain to adapt to change, it may also be detrimental when the brain is not utilized to its full potential. Dr. Merzenich asserts that in order to maintain neurological skill throughout adulthood, individuals must continue to train the various cognitive-sensory facets of the mind.
The clinically supported Posit Science program offers a multi-modal, total brain training package composed of both an auditory skill and a visual skill program. This training includes a series of six computer-based programs specifically designed to improve the brain’s auditory-visual processing and perceptive abilities.
Currently, Posit Science is looking to broaden the applicability of its products by venturing into the world of social networking. The company has recently developed and launched a networking site called “Brain Odyssey,” through which individuals can work together to solve mysteries and virtually explore cities throughout the world, all while collaborating on cognitive training tasks.
In addition to offering a mental fitness program, the company website also features several brain games as well as a few “brain tests” as an informal way of testing one’s cognitive prowess, free of charge.
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A "better brains" collective launches to improve cognition of the masses - Scientific American