Secret of brain control: Practice makes perfect

Illustration: Henry Wong

It turns out we learn to move a robotic arm or computer cursor with the same neurons we use to learn to ride a bicycle or catch a ball. On a neurobiological level, that deceptively simple truth could have profound effect on how future devices could help those who have suffered a stroke or paralysis.

Sunday, 16 June, 2013, 4:07am

Japanese scientists can read dreams in breakthrough with MRI scans

Scientists in Japan say they can use MRI scanners to unlock some of the secrets of the unconscious mind.

Forget Freud and psychotherapy. You want to read dreams, get an MRI and a pattern recognition program for your computer. Researchers have managed what they said was "the world's first decoding" of nighttime visions.

7 Apr 2013 - 9:55am

Mapping human brain may unravel mystery of the mind

Mapping human brain may unravel mystery of the mind

Although humans have explored the earth and gained insights into far flung reaches of the universe, our brains remain mysterious. Indeed, the human brain has been described as the most complex structure known to mankind.

17 Mar 2013 - 2:20am

Brain uses tiny moment of shut-eye to rest, scientists find

Why do we spend 10 per cent of our waking hours with our eyes closed - blinking far more often than is necessary to keep our eyeballs lubricated?

Scientists have pried open the answer to this mystery, finding that the brain uses that tiny moment of shut-eye to power down.

29 Dec 2012 - 6:03am

Parasites thrive on mind control as zombie hosts seal their own doom

A green tree ant locks its jaws into a leaf after being taken over by a parasitic fungus, which then kills it with chemicals. Photo: NYT

In the rainforests of Costa Rica lives a species of spider that sometimes displays a strange and ghoulish habit.

From time to time, the Anelosimus octavius abandon their own webs and build radically different ones - a home not for the spider but for a parasitic wasp that has been living inside it.

16 Dec 2012 - 3:51am

Cooking gave humans larger brains than primates, researchers say

Though gorillas typically spend up to eight hours feeding, supporting big bodies and big brains would be almost impossible on a raw food diet. Photo: AFP

If human beings had not invented cooking as a way of increasing the number of calories they consumed, they could only have evolved the 86 billion neurons in our big brains by spending an impossible nine hours or more each day eating raw food, according to a scientific paper.

24 Oct 2012 - 4:31am

Childhood stimulation key to brain development, says study

Early childhood stimulation is the key to a better brain.

An early childhood surrounded by books and educational toys will leave positive fingerprints on a person's brain well into their late teens, a 20-year research study has shown.

16 Oct 2012 - 4:19am

Scientist finds nirvana in brain's bright spots

Some seek enlightenment in temples and monasteries; others turn to ancient writings or find answers in religion. But American social scientist Dr Jeffery Martin has a different approach: probing the brain.

Martin is on a quest to find out how enlightened minds work and whether a certain 'button' in the brain can be pressed that would unlock inner peace.

29 Jan 2012 - 12:00am

Chance to let the mind speak for itself

Language sculpts the brain - physically. On this premise, a revolution in linguistics and neuroscience has been taking place right under our noses.

14 Jan 2012 - 12:00am

Calm your brainwaves, and stress ebbs away

Silva Relaxation Free Rating 9/10

Listening to what sounds like a demented woodpecker for 15 minutes for relaxation does seem unlikely, but with this app, it works.

29 Nov 2011 - 12:00am

Cognitive benefits of lessons may be music to pitch-perfect ears

Why study Putonghua, besides the fact that China is taking over the world? Actually, it might make you smarter. Well, not just Putonghua but any tonal language. It's been known for several years that such languages imbue pitch sensitivity by enhancing the ability of some native speakers to name a musical note just by listening to it.

24 Jul 2010 - 12:00am

Damned lies or statistics? Use your brain

Mark Twain single-handedly helped discredit an entire mathematical discipline in the popular mind by saying: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.' There is little doubt that data is frequently manipulated by politicians, lobbyists and commercial interests for their own ends; and the media often accepts their claims uncritically.

5 Feb 2009 - 12:00am

The Brain that Changes Itself

The Brain that Changes Itself

by Norman Doidge

Penguin, HK$136

28 Sep 2008 - 12:00am

Addiction doesn't just happen; it's learned

Most scientific research ends up as unread papers published in arcane journals with boring titles. Now and then, for better or worse, some of their findings make it into public discourse and popular culture. The latest findings on the biochemistry of drug addiction by Wei Liping of Peking University, and her team, cry out for the public attention they deserve.

21 Feb 2008 - 12:00am

Mental exercise

Children in many schools in Britain and the US start the day with exercises, but not the usual kind. They might, for example, practise balancing and co-ordination manoeuvres or the 'cross crawl' - moving with their left hands on their right knees. And if they roll their heads and yawn theatrically, it has nothing to do with being tired. Welcome to 'Brain Gym'.

15 Dec 2007 - 12:00am