Welcome to my Brainy or Bogus blog! As a cognitive neuroscientist, I am often asked lots of questions about the brain. People are inherently fascinated by the brain. And there is a lot of information out there in the world about the brain. However, don't believe everything you read or hear! Here I will explore common beliefs and ideas about the brain and together we will discover whether they are "BRAINY" or "BOGUS"...

Are individuals in a vegetative state aware?

February 21, 2017

Individuals in a vegetative state typically show no sign of awareness. In other words, they show no evidence of purposeful behavior in response to external stimuli. However, researchers have found that when instructed to “imagine playing tennis” during a brain scan, up to 20% of patients in a vegetative state demonstrated brain activity that is consistent with them imagining playing tennis. Even more exciting is that they were then able to use this method to ask these patients simple yes/no questions, like “Are you in any pain?”. Therefore, this brain idea is BRAINY!

Do people learn better in a preferred style?

January 16, 2017

Have you ever heard someone proclaim, “I am a visual learner”? The answer is most likely, yes! A lot of people seem to have an inclination about how they learn new information best. This is referred to as a preferred learning style. The typical styles that are discussed are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (VAK). But, do people really learn better when taught in their preferred style?

 

Our brains have distinct regions that process visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information. However, these regions are highly interlinked, which allows for transfer of information between sensory modalities. There is extensive research showing that presenting information in one’s preferred modality does not improve their learning, which makes this brain idea BOGUS!

Can first-person shooter video games be good for you?

October 17, 2016

Violent video games, like Call of Duty or Halo, are extremely popular today. However, these games are often thought to have negative effects, such as increasing aggression, decreasing prosocial behavior, or encouraging a sedentary life-style. But are these games all bad? Or can these fast-paced, first-person perspective games be good for your brain?

 

In the past decade, a large amount of research has come out showing the positive effects of first-person shooter games. For example, playing these types of games is associated with better visual perception, attention, and short-term memory ability. These critical skills are used in many real-world tasks making this idea BRAINY!

Are we more right-brained or left-brained?

September 18, 2016

We have all seen and (maybe taken) those quizzes on Facebook: “Answer 10 questions to find out if you are left-brained or right-brained”. But is there any scientific evidence behind this idea of our personalities and strengths being the result of an unbalanced brain? While the quizzes might be fun, it ends there: this brain idea is BOGUS!

 

Interestingly, the myth originated from some groundbreaking work on “split-brain” patients or patients who had their left and right hemispheres (sides) disconnected from one another. This work was the first to show that some brain functions are more “lateralized” or mostly controlled by brain regions on one side of the brain. For example, language areas of the brain tend to be on the left, whereas attention areas tend to be on the right. Upon closer inspection, this does not mean that individuals have stronger sides of their brain that relate to their personality or preferences.

Do we only use 10% of our brain?

August 16, 2016

It has been widely stated since the late 1800's that we do not use all of our brain "power" and that in fact we only use about 10% of it's capacity. This is simply BOGUS

 

Several pieces of evidence point to us using much more than 10% of our brains. For example, even a simple task like making a pot of coffee requires many parts of our brain to be active at the same time. And our brain accounts for ~20% of our body's metabolism despite being only 2% of it's weight.

This blog was a part of my dissemination project for my Distinguished Science of Learning Institute Fellowship at Johns Hopkins University. Click here to learn more about the Johns Hopkins Science of Learning Institute