Decoding the Hidden Language of Your Eyeball

Previously, we’ve talked about how enlarged pupils can signify attention or arousal. If someone’s pupils dilate when you talk to them, conventional wisdom went, that means they’re very interested in what you have to say. It’s been speculated that this is why restaurants go in for mood lighting: the low light helps create the illusion that your dining companion is riveted, and thus increases the odds you’ll stay long enough to linger over that slice of cheesecake or extra glass of wine. However, it’s not so simple as looking into your date’s eyeball and reading their mind. In a 2017 study, researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf found t

How Your Brain is Like a Snowflake

No two human brains are exactly alike. Or at least, that’s what neuroscientists have generally assumed. After all, consider the highly specific combination of genetic intermixing that makes up your DNA. Consider neuroplasticity—how easily the brain can wire itself based on past experiences. Learning how to navigate a complicated city, mastering the violin, even keeping your arm in a cast for two weeks all leave an indelible mark on your gray matter. Now consider the tremendous variation in experiences, even among siblings of approximately the same age, growing up in the same family. However, short of scanning every single brain out there, how can we reasonably conclude that brains truly foll

Bird Brains: The Secret of Parrot Intelligence

Parrots: at times, they seem almost suspiciously smart. It’s not just about the talking and the mimicry; the Harvard Gazette reports that an adult parrot can routinely outperform a human four-year-old in a variety of cognition tests, including judging the relative volume of liquids. (Pour equal amounts of juice into a tall thin cup and a short stout one and your average preschooler will opt for the taller cup, while your average parrot won’t be fooled.) How can a creature with a brain so noticeably different than our own seem to think so clearly? And why is parrot or crow intelligence (or, for that matter, octopus intelligence) so unsettling, compared to say, chimpanzee intelligence? What is

Why Testosterone May Be the Real "Luxury Drug"

“You are what you buy,” our consumer culture seems to tell us. But how fixed and immutable are our buying preferences? How subject are they to chemical manipulation? This may sound like the premise for a paranoid and on-the-nose thriller about capitalism but it’s also the question raised by a recent collaboration between Caltech, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Western Ontario, and ZRT Laboratory. And the results of that study suggest the answer is: very. Researchers assembled 243 men between the ages of 18 and 55. Half were randomly dosed with testosterone, while the other half were given a placebo. 4 hours later, when the testosterone in their blood had

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