Tuesday November 21, 2017
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Mind Wandering While Driving is Very Usual, Says New Research

A new George Mason University research reveals that mind wandering while driving is a very common phenomenon.

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Mind Wandering while driving a very common phenomenon
Mind wandering may be an unavoidable part of the human brain. But how safe is mind-wandering while driving? Pixabay.
  • Mind wandering while driving is a very common phenomenon
  • According to a new research, one’s mind wanders almost 70% of the time while driving
  • Self-driven cars can help reduce chances of road accidents due to mind-wandering

Washington D.C., USA, September 2, 2017: Have you ever experienced mind wandering while you are driving? Imagine driving on a smooth road with minimum traffic density when suddenly some distraction happens and you lose control of your vehicle and your brain for few seconds.

Why does this happen? Have you ever realized that one reason could be that at the same time when one is physically driving, their mind is also riding in some different world?

A recent research by George Mason University revealed that an average person’s mind wanders 70% of the time while driving, says Carl Baldwin, a researcher involved in this research.

Of course, the research was not conducted during real-time driving on the road. The researchers used driving simulators and electro-physiological monitoring system to measure electrical activity in the brain.

In the five days long research, the volunteers were asked to complete a 20-minute driving simulation along a monotonous straight highway at a constant speed during which they were also hooked up to the electro-physiological monitor.

It was done to mimic a real-life scenario in an attempt to make the volunteers feel as if they were traveling to and from the work place. In between, they were asked to write down a written test, so as to include the mentally draining effect of the day’s work in the experiment.

The volunteers heard a buzzer at random intervals throughout the experiment. Every time the buzzer sounded, the tablet computer would indicate if participant’s mind had been wandering right before they heard the buzzer and if so, were they explicitly aware of this or not.

Scientists detected that human mind wanders during driving from the volunteer’s brain activity. As a result, it was found that while on the simulated drive, people’s mind wandered 70% of the time. Interestingly, the study found that the volunteer’s minds wandered more during the second drive of the simulation i.e. when they drove back home from office. And, on an average, they were aware of their wandering mind only 65% of the time, says Carl Baldwin, a researcher involved in this research.

“We were able to detect periods of mind wandering through distinctive electro-physiological brain patterns, some of which indicated that the drivers were likely less receptive to external stimuli,” says Baldwin.

Beware! Mind wandering during driving can lead to dangerous road accidents.

One option that can improve safety on road in future is an autonomous transport system. A self-driving car is an example of it. These cars would allow one to do mind wandering when it is safe to do so but would re-engage one back in driving when one needs to pay attention.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter handle: @cshivani31

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Playing video games can help boost memory, says research

During the test of gamers and non-gamers, the gamers performed significantly better and showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant to learning

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Video games help boost memory
Video games help boost memory. Pixabay
  • Researchers have found that playing video games can help boost memory in the young as well as in the elderly
  • The gamers performed significantly better during the test of gamers and non-gamers
  • The gamers also showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant to learning

London, October 2, 2017: Tired of watching your child play video games? Instead, join them, as researchers have found that playing video games can help boost memory in the young as well as in the elderly.

“Our study shows that gamers are better in analysing a situation quickly, to generate new knowledge, and to categorise facts — especially in situations with high uncertainties,” said lead author Sabrina Schenk from Ruhr-Universität, Bochum, Germany.

During the test of gamers and non-gamers, the gamers performed significantly better and showed an increased brain activity in the brain areas relevant to learning.

This kind of learning is linked to an increased activity in the hippocampus — a brain region that plays a key role in learning and memory.

“We think that playing video games trains certain brain regions like the hippocampus. That is not only important for young people, but also for older people; this is because changes in the hippocampus can lead to a decrease in memory performance. Maybe, we can treat that with video games in the future,” Schenk added.

Both teams did the so-called weather prediction task, a well-established test to investigate the learning of probabilities. The researchers simultaneously recorded the brain activity of the participants via magnetic resonance imaging.

Also read: ‘Games of Change’ Festival at New York Gives Gamers a Reality Check by Introducing Video Games based on Social and Civic Issues

The participants were shown a combination of three cue cards with different symbols. They should estimate whether the card combination predicted sun or rain and got a feedback if their choice was right or wrong.

They gradually learned, on the basis of the feedback, which card combination stands for which weather prediction.

The combinations were thereby linked to higher or lower probabilities for sun and rain.

After completing the task, the study participants filled out a questionnaire to sample their acquired knowledge about the cue card combinations.

Also, the gamers were notably better in combining the cue cards with the weather predictions than the control group. (IANS)

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Decoded: What Happens to your Brain when it is affected by Hypnosis?

The findings showed that the hypnosis influences specific regions of the brain while it receives a visual stimulus and greatly impairs the brain’s deeper processing operations, such as counting

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Hypnosis, brain
When the brain is affected by hypnosis — a trance-like state with focussed attention and reduced peripheral awareness. Pixabay
  • The team looked more closely at the processing of visual stimuli and asked participants to look at a screen which had various symbols
  • The hypnosis influences specific regions of the brain while it receives a visual stimulus and greatly impairs the brain’s deeper processing operations, such as counting

London, July 8, 2017: When the brain is affected by hypnosis — a trance-like state with focussed attention and reduced peripheral awareness — it faces an extreme reduction in its activities, although simple perception still takes place, according to a new study.

The findings showed that the hypnosis influences specific regions of the brain while it receives a visual stimulus and greatly impairs the brain’s deeper processing operations, such as counting.

“In our study, we are looking at how the brain makes hypnotic states possible,” said Wolfgang Miltner, Professor at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany.

For the study, detailed in the journal Scientific Reports, the team looked more closely at the processing of visual stimuli and asked participants to look at a screen which had various symbols, such as a circle or a triangle. They were then given the task of counting a particular symbol.

At the same time, they were also told to imagine that there was a wooden board in front of their eyes. As a result of the suggested obstruction, the number of counting errors rose significantly, the researchers said.

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“When we look at the neural processes that take place in the brain while processing the symbols, we see that around 400 milliseconds after the presentation of the to-be-counted symbol, there is an extreme reduction in brain activity, although it should normally be very high,” explained Barbara Schmidt, from the Friedrich Schiller University.

“However, a short time before this — up to 200 milliseconds after presentation of the stimulus — there are no differences to be seen,” Schmidt added.

This suggests that although simple perception still takes place, deeper processing operations, such as counting, are greatly impaired, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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Undergrads at George Mason University in US Build Prosthetic Arm for 10-year-old Violinist Isabella Nicola

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Isabella Nicola Cabrera, 10, plays her violin with her new prosthetic at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2017. VOA

The pressure was on for Abdul Gouda and his classmates at George Mason University: not only did their graduation depend on the success of their project, but so did the hopes of impossibly cute 10-year-old girl.

Fifth-grader Isabella Nicola wanted to play the violin, but she was born with no left hand and a severely abbreviated forearm. Her music teacher at Island Creek Elementary in Fairfax County had built her a prosthetic allowing her to move the bow with her left arm and finger the strings with her right — the opposite of how violin is usually taught. But the prosthetic was heavy and he thought there might be a better option. He reached out to Mason, his alma mater.

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As it happened, Gouda and his four teammates in the bioengineering department were in the market for a project — students are required to take on a capstone project their senior year, and their initial idea had fallen through.

Still, Gouda admitted some hesitation at the outset.

“It’s sort of a lot of pressure,” he said. “You’ve got this young girl whose counting on you and you’re expected to deliver.”

The team — Gouda, Mona Elkholy, Ella Novoselsky, Racha Salha and Yasser Alhindi — developed multiple prototypes throughout the year. There was a fair amount of literature on similar projects that helped them get a good start, but Isabella’s case is unique to her, and the project included plenty of trial and error.

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Isabella communicated easily with the group and provided feedback, especially about the weight. The first came in at 13 ounces; the final version shaved an ounce or two off of that after feedback from Isabella.

The team enlisted a music professor at Mason, Elizabeth Adams, who provided feedback on what Isabella would need to play the violin with some finesse.

A new prosthetic hand awaits Isabella Nicola Cabrera, 10, at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2017.

A new prosthetic hand awaits Isabella Nicola Cabrera, 10, at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2017.

On Thursday, Isabella received her final prosthetic, built from a 3-D printer, and hot pink (at her request) with “Isabella’s attachment” emblazoned on the forearm.

She played some scales as she adjusted the fit, and even a few bars of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

“Oh my gosh, that’s so much better,” Isabella said as she tried out the new prosthetic.

And the team had a surprise for her, a plug-in attachment designed to let her grip a handlebar and ride a bicycle.

“I feel very blessed that I have this amazing group of people,” Isabella said.

Isabella had her heart set on playing music when the school began offering strings lessons in fourth grade.

“I’ve never told her no. I told her we would try. There was no guarantee the school would be able to do an adaptation,” said her mother, Andrea Cabrera. “Through these little miracles, it kept going forward.”

Isabella never had any doubt it would come together.

“I felt right away that I’d be able to play,” she said. “I’ve always had perseverance.” (VOA)