Pervasive, persistent optimism is one of those uniquely human traits/flaws — we tend to believe things are better than they really are, or that negative consequences won’t befall us, even if they befall others. It stands to reason that people would adjust their expectations when confronted with harsh reality, yet they don’t. Our brains are to blame, according to a new study — we’re wired to have a positive outlook.
By Gregory MonePosted 12.17.2007 at 10:51 am 0 Comments
Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have discovered how the brain essentially re-wires itself to quickly process new stimuli.
Connections between neurons change rapidly, based on the input to the brain. So, when your nose picks up an odor, a whole bunch of neurons start to fire, but then a process called lateral inhibition kicks in. With lateral inhibition, certain neurons tell their neighbors to shut up and thereby reduce the noise, allowing the brain to focus on identifying the smell.
In this work, the group identified a process that enhances lateral inhibition, so the brain can quickly and clearly identify a stimulus. Read the full paper in Nature Neuroscience.—Gregory Mone