Weight expectations: Context and distraction skew what we predict and remember

Context can alter something as basic as our ability to estimate the weights of simple objects. As we learn to manipulate those objects, context can even tease out the interplay of two memory systems and shows how distraction can affect multitasking.

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Is soda bad for your brain? (And is diet soda worse?)

Excess sugar — especially the fructose in sugary drinks — might damage your brain, new research suggests. Researchers found that people who drink sugary beverages frequently are more likely to have poorer memory, smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus. A follow-up study found that people who drank diet soda daily were almost three times as likely to develop stroke and dementia when compared to those who did not.

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Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system

New research overturns a long-standing paradigm about how axons grow during embryonic development. The findings of the study could help scientists replicate or control the way axons grow, which may be applicable for diseases that affect the nervous system, such as diabetes, as well as injuries that sever nerves.

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Discovering the basics of ‘active touch’

Working with genetically engineered mice — and especially their whiskers — researchers report they have identified a group of nerve cells in the skin responsible for what they call ‘active touch,’ a combination of motion and sensory feeling needed to navigate the external world. The discovery of this basic sensory mechanism advances the search for better ‘smart’ prosthetics for people, ones that provide more natural sensory feedback to the brain during use.

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Recognizing foreign accents helps brains process accented speech

Our brains process foreign-accented speech with better real-time accuracy if we can identify the accent we hear, according to a team of neurolinguists.

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Antibody helps detect protein implicated in Alzheimer’s, other diseases

Damaging tangles of the protein tau dot the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and boxer’s dementia. Now, a team of scientists has found a way to measure tau levels in the blood that accurately reflects levels of tau in the brain. The study, in mice and a small group of people, could be the first step towards a non-invasive test for tau.

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Why children struggle to cross busy streets safely

Children up to early teenagers lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to safely cross a busy road consistently, new research concludes. Children placed in realistic, simulated environments were tested for their road-crossing abilities. Those from 6 to 12 years of age had trouble crossing the street, with accident rates as high as 8 percent with 6-year-olds.

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Closer look at brain circuits reveals important role of genetics

New clues to the wiring of the brain have now been uncovered by a team of researchers. They found that neurons in brain regions that store memory can form networks in the absence of synaptic activity.

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