The brain has distinct areas for all manner of ideas, research suggests

Researchers have deciphered the abstract concepts people are thinking about - for example justice, truth and forgiveness - merely by analysing their brain scans. Until now, this type of "thought decoding" has been largely confined to concrete concepts such as apple and hammer. The new findings, however, suggest slippery ideas that are not of the physical world also inhabit distinct parts of the brain. The study is the work of psychologist Marcel Just and graduate student Robert Vargas from Carnegie Mellon University in the US. It makes intuitive sense, they say, that physical or "concrete" objects, such as hammers and apples, will be represented in the brain similarly between people. Trade tools and fruit are, by nature, unambiguous. It's a contention born out in the science of neural decoding, where patterns of activity on brain scans are used to work...

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Thinking about death: High neural activity is linked to shorter lifespans

If there's one thing that humans can't stop thinking about, it's death. But new research published in the journal Nature suggests that all that thinking might be the very thing that brings death on. More precisely, researchers discovered that higher neural activity has a negative effect on longevity. Neural activity refers to the constant flow of electricity and signals throughout the brain, and excessive activity could be expressed in many ways; a sudden change in mood, a facial twitch, and so on. "An exciting future area of research will be to determine how these findings relate to such higher-order human brain functions," said professor of genetics and study co-author Bruce Yankner. While it's probably not the case that thinking a thought reduces your lifespan in the same way smoking a cigarette does, the study didn't determine whether actual thinking had...

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