What does it mean to be intelligent? For years, researchers believed that intelligence was based on how well a person scored on an IQ (or “Intelligence Quotient”) test.
Eventually, researchers realized that IQ is not everything! It was found that those who scored top marks on IQ tests were generally quite good at solving puzzles. However, they were not necessarily very strong in other tasks of creativity or even common sense!
Since then, other ways of measuring intelligence have been used. One key method is to look at "emotional intelligence". It measures how well people understand how other people are feeling. To date, no one theory of intelligence has been able to truly tell what it means to be intelligent. But in a way, that makes sense.
What is probably the most exciting thing about intelligence research is that it has taught us that we are all intelligent in our own ways.
By learning how to work with our strengths and weaknesses, we can all learn to appreciate one another for who we are.
So, after a long year at school, please know that no matter what, you are very intelligent!
BrainReach thanks you all for spending this time with us! We wish you, your families, and your teachers a very happy Summer!
If you’ve heard a saying like “All Canadians Are Nice”, then you’ve experienced a "stereotype".
A stereotype is a way humans think about others based on groupings of information. While stereotypes can sometimes be useful, they can also be very harmful.
How's that? Well, stereotypes are often wrong. Stereotypes can hurt someone’s feelings. Worse yet, stereotypes can prevent people from doing activities that they enjoy or are very good at.
For example, a study asked several female Asian students to perform a math test. When asked to focus on their ethnic background before taking the test, they did well. This is due to the stereotype of "Asians being good in math". But, if the students were asked to focus on their gender before taking the test, they did worse! This is due to the influence of the stereotype that "girls are bad at math".
Can we stop all stereotypes before they start? Unfortunately, research suggests that is not possible. This is because humans naturally like to group things. But what we can do is to break down these stereotypes. This involves showing exceptions until stereotypes are no longer accepted.
No one should have to carry the weight of harmful and false rules of thumb. By countering stereotypes, we can try to make sure that everyone can follow their dreams.
Humans are not the greatest at smelling. Compared to animals like rats, our smell systems are very small. Nevertheless, we're still decent at smelling!
In one experiment, human participants were blindfolded. They were then asked to smell their way across a scented field. It turned out that the participants did this task quite well!
Our sense of smell probably developed for different reasons than rats. For example, we use smell to detect differences rather than to mark territory.
So, while all brains come in different shapes and sizes, it’s important not to judge a brain region by its size.
A very cool aspect of the brain is that it has two halves or ‘hemispheres’. Why?
For one thing, each hemisphere is important for understanding the world on the opposite side of the body. For example, the right hemisphere moves the left side of the body. Interestingly, each hemisphere has an important role in language. The left hemisphere is crucial for communicating messages. The right hemisphere provides information about the quality of language (e.g., emotion).
Certain people even live with their hemispheres separated from one another. People with this condition can show some interesting behavior. For example, imagine that a person is presented with two different objects to their left and right. A person may say that they see the object present on the right side. But they’ll draw the object present on their left-hand side with their right hand!
So, all together, this shows that our hemispheres are important and complex!
It’s February again and love is in the air! BUT! Is there a love center in the brain?
For now, the verdict appears to be ‘no’. With that said, there are brain chemicals that affect emotional connection. One of these (please see the previous article ‘Why does cuddling with a pet feel nice’) is oxytocin. In fact, researchers think that oxytocin is the brain’s main ‘bonding’ chemical. This can be between friends, family members, and yes, members of a romantic couple.
Nevertheless, how oxytocin works to produce the emotion of love remains an ongoing question. Neuroscientists think that it may affect a brain area called the ventro-medial prefrontal cortex. But there are most likely other brain regions that also play a part.
What we can be certain of is that love in any form makes us feel good inside and is complicated!
Now that it’s winter, you may be feeling a bit sadder than normal, have low energy, or even trouble concentrating. If you feel this way and it’s recent, know that you are not alone! You might be experiencing the common and very well named “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (S.A.D).
Interestingly, researchers have discovered that the reason behind Seasonal Affective Disorder is because of the lack of the amount of sunlight. In fact, a really great way to treat the condition is by getting sunlight!
So, this winter, be sure to try to go outside for a walk whenever you can while the sun is still shining to help avoid or deal with S.A.D!
Around the winter holidays, many families gather around the dining table to enjoy a nice turkey meal. A common belief is that turkey meat can make people feel tired. But is this true?
While turkey meat does contain serotonin (a brain chemical involved with sleep), the amount is very small! This means that even if you ate a lot of turkey meat, this cannot cause sleepiness. So why might you feel tired?
Well, that might be because of the amount of food you’re eating. As we eat more, our stomachs expand and release molecules that tell our brains to stop. Researchers have found that one side effect of this is the feeling of fatigue.
So, next time you feel tired at dinner, please know that it’s not the turkey’s fault!
Why does cuddling a pet feel nice?
Have you ever had a bad day? Like if someone was mean at school or you didn’t do well on a test? It can be nice to return home to a pet and be able to tell them all about your day. In some schools, there are even special animal therapy programs where students can pet an animal, with the goal of feeling better!
But why do pets make us feel better? It turns out that our bodies release a special chemical called oxytocin. When oxytocin reaches the brain, it causes our bodies to feel more relaxed, which can help decrease our stress levels.
Interestingly, when you pet, cuddle, or even talk to your pet, this makes your friend feel better too!
Just another great reason to spend some quality time with your pets!
How to overcome halloween jitters
From its association with witches, werewolves, and vampires to scary movies like Frankenstein, Halloween has developed a reputation for being the ‘scary’ holiday.
When all mammals (including people) get scared, a small area of the brain, called the “amygdala”, kicks into action. The amygdala sets off a “fight or flight” reaction. Here, our bodies’ go into high alert to either react aggressively or run away from a potential threat.
In nature, this works well. For example, it’s good for a zebra to know that a lion is nearby so that it can react quickly. If it didn't, it’s possible that the zebra could become lunch!
But humans are special. It turns out that our amygdala also reacts when we imagine threats. This includes when we think of scary things. This can be from noises in the dark, a scary movie, or even if we take an ordinary object or animal that by itself is not necessarily scary (like a doll, a clown, a bird) and develop a story that turns it into something very scary.
So why would we put ourselves through this? Some people like scary things because they think critically about them, making them less scary. For example: “That movie was really scary, but it’s nice to know that the ‘blood’ is actually ketchup.” Others like scary things because they like being afraid with friends and family. For example: “Wow, that was terrifying! But I sure am glad that I’m here with my friends; I can’t wait to watch our next scary movie!”
So, if you’re feeling a little afraid on Halloween, a good trick to remind yourself of is that all the costumes, lights, and illusions of a Halloween night are made for the purpose of working with your natural feelings of fear.
Importantly, know that being afraid of something is healthy! Not only does it teach us what we don’t like, but it can also give us the courage to face our fears. Most of all, the scary things we imagine don’t always need to be so scary. You can lessen your fears over time by looking at them in different, less scary, ways.
On this note, we wish you all a very Happy Halloween!
While many people tend to think that the brain is the main ‘decider’ for our bodies, it turns out that it's not always true!
One of the coolest examples involved our kidneys! When our bodies sense that we need more water, our kidneys kick into action. They create and release a special molecule called “vasopressin”. Vasopressin travels along the bloodstream until it reaches the brain and the kidneys.
In our kidneys, vasopressin works by increasing the number of water channels (called “aquaporins”). This allows water to flow back into our bodies helping us to stay hydrated.
BUT vasopressin also tells the brain that we need to drink water! Interestingly, this is a sensation that we aren’t even aware of.
So, whenever you feel the urge to have a glass of water, you can rest assured that your kidneys are working hard behind the scenes. They help you ‘know’ that you need to have a drink!