Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Cognition


Greater fish consumption is associated with improved cognition among children, but the mediating pathways have not been well delineated. Improved sleep could be a candidate mediator of the fish-cognition relationship. This study assesses whether 1) more frequent fish consumption is associated with less sleep disturbances and higher IQ scores in schoolchildren, 2) such relationships are not accounted for by social and economic confounds, and 3) sleep quality mediates the fish-IQ relationship. In this cohort study of 541 Chinese schoolchildren, fish consumption and sleep quality were assessed at age 9-11 years, while IQ was assessed at age 12. Frequent fish consumption was related to both fewer sleep problems and higher IQ scores. A dose-response relationship indicated higher IQ scores in children who always (4.80 points) or sometimes (3.31 points) consumed fish, compared to those who rarely ate fish (all p < 0.05). Sleep quality partially mediated the relationship between fish consumption and verbal, but not performance, IQ. Findings were robust after controlling for multiple sociodemographic covariates. To our knowledge, this is the first study to indicate that frequent fish consumption may help reduce sleep problems (better sleep quality), which may in turn benefit long-term cognitive functioning in children.

Concepts: Sleep, Sleep disorder, Cognition, Mediation, Narcolepsy


Healthy lifestyles based on non-smoking, an acceptable BMI, a high fruit and vegetable intake, regular physical activity, and low/moderate alcohol intake, are associated with reductions in the incidence of certain chronic diseases, but to date there is limited evidence on cognitive function and dementia.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Cognition, Mind


Libertarians are an increasingly prominent ideological group in U.S. politics, yet they have been largely unstudied. Across 16 measures in a large web-based sample that included 11,994 self-identified libertarians, we sought to understand the moral and psychological characteristics of self-described libertarians. Based on an intuitionist view of moral judgment, we focused on the underlying affective and cognitive dispositions that accompany this unique worldview. Compared to self-identified liberals and conservatives, libertarians showed 1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle, and weaker endorsement of all other moral principles; 2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional cognitive style; and 3) lower interdependence and social relatedness. As predicted by intuitionist theories concerning the origins of moral reasoning, libertarian values showed convergent relationships with libertarian emotional dispositions and social preferences. Our findings add to a growing recognition of the role of personality differences in the organization of political attitudes.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Cognition, Morality, Political philosophy, Liberalism, Classical liberalism, Liberty


Noninvasive brain stimulation has shown considerable promise for enhancing cognitive functions by the long-term manipulation of neuroplasticity [1-3]. However, the observation of such improvements has been focused at the behavioral level, and enhancements largely restricted to the performance of basic tasks. Here, we investigate whether transcranial random noise stimulation (TRNS) can improve learning and subsequent performance on complex arithmetic tasks. TRNS of the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a key area in arithmetic [4, 5], was uniquely coupled with near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to measure online hemodynamic responses within the prefrontal cortex. Five consecutive days of TRNS-accompanied cognitive training enhanced the speed of both calculation- and memory-recall-based arithmetic learning. These behavioral improvements were associated with defined hemodynamic responses consistent with more efficient neurovascular coupling within the left DLPFC. Testing 6 months after training revealed long-lasting behavioral and physiological modifications in the stimulated group relative to sham controls for trained and nontrained calculation material. These results demonstrate that, depending on the learning regime, TRNS can induce long-term enhancement of cognitive and brain functions. Such findings have significant implications for basic and translational neuroscience, highlighting TRNS as a viable approach to enhancing learning and high-level cognition by the long-term modulation of neuroplasticity.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Cognition, Cerebrum, Perception, Attention versus memory in prefrontal cortex, Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Brodmann area


What is it like to be invisible? This question has long fascinated man and has been the central theme of many classic literary works. Recent advances in materials science suggest that invisibility cloaking of the human body may be possible in the not-so-distant future. However, it remains unknown how invisibility affects body perception and embodied cognition. To address these questions, we developed a perceptual illusion of having an entire invisible body. Through a series of experiments, we characterized the multisensory rules that govern the elicitation of the illusion and show that the experience of having an invisible body reduces the social anxiety response to standing in front of an audience. This study provides an experimental model of what it is like to be invisible and shows that this experience affects bodily self-perception and social cognition.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognition, Perception, Sense, Mind, Human body, Concept, Illusion


Life skills play a key role in promoting educational and occupational success in early life, but their relevance at older ages is uncertain. Here we measured five life skills-conscientiousness, emotional stability, determination, control, and optimism-in 8,119 men and women aged 52 and older (mean 66.7 y). We show that the number of skills is associated with wealth, income, subjective wellbeing, less depression, low social isolation and loneliness, more close relationships, better self-rated health, fewer chronic diseases and impaired activities of daily living, faster walking speed, and favorable objective biomarkers (concentration of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, vitamin D and C-reactive protein, and less central obesity). Life skills also predicted sustained psychological wellbeing, less loneliness, and a lower incidence of new chronic disease and physical impairment over a 4-y period. These analyses took account of age, sex, parental socioeconomic background, education, and cognitive function. No single life skill was responsible for the associations we observed, nor were they driven by factors such as socioeconomic status or health. Despite the vicissitudes of later life, life skills impact a range of outcomes, and the maintenance of these attributes may benefit the older population.

Concepts: Cholesterol, Psychology, Osteoporosis, Medicine, Nutrition, Asthma, Chronic, Cognition


Periodontitis is common in the elderly and may become more common in Alzheimer’s disease because of a reduced ability to take care of oral hygiene as the disease progresses. Elevated antibodies to periodontal bacteria are associated with an increased systemic pro-inflammatory state. Elsewhere raised serum pro-inflammatory cytokines have been associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. We hypothesized that periodontitis would be associated with increased dementia severity and a more rapid cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. We aimed to determine if periodontitis in Alzheimer’s disease is associated with both increased dementia severity and cognitive decline, and an increased systemic pro inflammatory state. In a six month observational cohort study 60 community dwelling participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease were cognitively assessed and a blood sample taken for systemic inflammatory markers. Dental health was assessed by a dental hygienist, blind to cognitive outcomes. All assessments were repeated at six months. The presence of periodontitis at baseline was not related to baseline cognitive state but was associated with a six fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline as assessed by the ADAS-cog over a six month follow up period. Periodontitis at baseline was associated with a relative increase in the pro-inflammatory state over the six month follow up period. Our data showed that periodontitis is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s Disease, independent to baseline cognitive state, which may be mediated through effects on systemic inflammation.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Inflammation, Cohort study, Cognition, Gingiva, Periodontitis, Periodontal disease, Dental hygienist


The ability to perceive the number of objects has been known to exist in vertebrates for a few decades, but recent behavioral investigations have demonstrated that several invertebrate species can also be placed on the continuum of numerical abilities shared with birds, mammals, and reptiles. In this review article, we present the main experimental studies that have examined the ability of insects to use numerical information. These studies have made use of a wide range of methodologies, and for this reason it is striking that a common finding is the inability of the tested animals to discriminate numerical quantities greater than four. Furthermore, the finding that bees can not only transfer learnt numerical discrimination to novel objects, but also to novel numerosities, is strongly suggestive of a true, albeit limited, ability to count. Later in the review, we evaluate the available evidence to narrow down the possible mechanisms that the animals might be using to solve the number-based experimental tasks presented to them. We conclude by suggesting avenues of further research that take into account variables such as the animals' age and experience, as well as complementary cognitive systems such as attention and the time sense.

Concepts: Psychology, Insect, Animal, Cognition, Perception, Sense, Chordate, Invertebrate



Upon his death in 1955, Albert Einstein’s brain was removed, fixed and photographed from multiple angles. It was then sectioned into 240 blocks, and histological slides were prepared. At the time, a roadmap was drawn that illustrates the location within the brain of each block and its associated slides. Here we describe the external gross neuroanatomy of Einstein’s entire cerebral cortex from 14 recently discovered photographs, most of which were taken from unconventional angles. Two of the photographs reveal sulcal patterns of the medial surfaces of the hemispheres, and another shows the neuroanatomy of the right (exposed) insula. Most of Einstein’s sulci are identified, and sulcal patterns in various parts of the brain are compared with those of 85 human brains that have been described in the literature. To the extent currently possible, unusual features of Einstein’s brain are tentatively interpreted in light of what is known about the evolution of higher cognitive processes in humans. As an aid to future investigators, these (and other) features are correlated with blocks on the roadmap (and therefore histological slides). Einstein’s brain has an extraordinary prefrontal cortex, which may have contributed to the neurological substrates for some of his remarkable cognitive abilities. The primary somatosensory and motor cortices near the regions that typically represent face and tongue are greatly expanded in the left hemisphere. Einstein’s parietal lobes are also unusual and may have provided some of the neurological underpinnings for his visuospatial and mathematical skills, as others have hypothesized. Einstein’s brain has typical frontal and occipital shape asymmetries (petalias) and grossly asymmetrical inferior and superior parietal lobules. Contrary to the literature, Einstein’s brain is not spherical, does not lack parietal opercula and has non-confluent Sylvian and inferior postcentral sulci.

Concepts: Brain, Human brain, Cognition, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Frontal lobe, Premotor cortex, Albert Einstein