Never See a Bat the Same Way Again

As Halloween approaches, let’s pause for a moment to consider a common piece of creepy iconography in Western culture: the bat. Associated as they are with darkness, caves, leathery skin stretched over bony wing bones—and yes, in the case of the vampire bat, blood-sucking—it’s no wonder they’ve become a symbol of all things spooky. Yet, there’s more to these humble non-rodents than thrills and chills. Scientists hope their brains might hold the key to a human mystery: just how do we track the relative position of people around us? Luckily, "A bat's hippocampus is very similar to a human's,” Professor Nachum Ulanovsky of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel told “The hippocam

Fighting Loneliness with "Likes"

Studies show that senior citizens are more connected to the web than ever before. According to the Pew Research Group, smartphone ownership among those 65 and older has increased by 24 percentage points since just 2013, and more than a third of this group use social media. And that’s potentially a good thing, says a new study from the University of Michigan. By now, we’re all familiar with the complaints against social media. It shortens attention spans. It decreases face-to-face social skills. We don’t notice the world around us when all we do is stare at our phones all day. We are becoming a nation of screen-obsessed zombies. However, there’s a flip side to that Facebook habit. As Western

In The War on Truth, a New Weapon

“Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it,” wrote Jonathan Swift in 1710. Variations of the saying, including the punchier "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” have been (likely incorrectly) attributed to everyone from Winston Churchill to Mark Twain, but the timeless truth remains: it’s amazing how catchy an outright falsehood can be. Since at least the days of the newspaper wars between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, on some level less-than-scrupulous media outlets have understood that our faster, more reactive brain systems bias us towards internalizing more emotional, good-vs-evil stories—especially when the “

The Fun Frontier

If you’re not, say, a recent time traveler from the Middle Ages, by now you’ve probably heard that exercise is good for you. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you likely also know that exercise benefits the brain in a seemingly ever-expanding list of ways. Regular aerobic activity has been found to increase memory, boost cognitive skills, fight depression, and slow the effects of age-related mental fog, among other things. There’s just one problem: it’s not necessarily a good time. For the less athletic among us, mention of exercise can conjure flashbacks of high school gym class, of dodgeball injuries and rope-climbing humiliations. And while the ability to make a mad dash for it has

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