The compensating brain

In Mind
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 00:00

Alexander Sack, researcher at the Maastricht Brain Imaging Center (M-BIC) has developed an extraordinary method of brain research: a combination of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and imaging via an fMRI scanner. With TMS, Sack can temporarily stimulate and disturb the brain in specific locations. Using the scanner, he can see exactly what happens. Brain manipulation sounds creepy, but I want to experience being a test subject to see what the effects are for myself. It’s okay: there is no damage from the experiment - other than contamination with the virus of scientific enthusiasm. Carrier of the virus: Alexander Sack.


Self-control. This is where it often falls apart for obese people who struggle to lose weight, and then to maintain their new weight. So help is needed, says Anita Jansen, Professor of Eating disorders at the Department of Experimental Clinical Psychology. And not only in the form of dieticians, but more importantly from cognitive behaviour therapists. Wim Saris, Professor of Human nutrition at the Department of Human Biology, takes a different view. ‘Behavioural therapy could play a role but I don’t think we should put all our eggs into that basket’.


How fast did you learn to read?

In Mind
Thursday, 22 April 2010 09:36

Different languages compared with one another

Unlike for speaking, we do not have an evolutionary aptitude for reading. Until two centuries ago, reading was the preserve of the elite, so we have not been reading for long enough to expect an evolutionary adaptation in the human brain. And so we learn to read by ‘recruiting’ existing networks in our brains that are relevant for certain tasks, such as learning which sounds belong to which letters. Does it depend on the language you are learning as to which skills you use and how quickly you learn to read? Or is this the same for everyone?


A better future for the most vulnerable people

In Mind
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 09:51

Insight into the lives of people with severe intellectual disabilities and mental health problems.

Men and women who have severe or profound intellectual disabilities, and also have mental health problems and challenging behaviour, are among the most vulnerable in society. Many of these people have lived excluded lives in long-stay hospitals since they were children. Very little is known about their individual lives and experiences. For this reason social anthropologist Jane Hubert, of St. George’s, University of London personally followed a group of men and women who made the transition from closed wards into smaller units in the community. A study of many years that tells us poignant stories of lonely, secluded lives and teaches us valuable lessons for the future.


Genes sensitive to stress

In Mind
Thursday, 08 October 2009 11:27

The relationship between sensitivity to stress and symptoms of psychosis

Sensitivity to stress plays a significant role in the development of psychosis. Additionally, stress-sensitivity appears to be genetically determined in part. These are two of the conclusions reached by Tineke Lataster in her thesis entitled ‘On the pathway from stress to psychosis', on the basis of which she is hoping to be awarded a doctorate in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Maastricht University on 14 October.


I spy with my little eye …

In Mind
Tuesday, 14 July 2009 11:32

The processing of sensory stimuli by autistic toddlers

Autism, Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS are the three main forms of ‘autism spectrum disorders’ (ASD). While Asperger can only be diagnosed at a later age, the other types are usually diagnosed in children of around three or four. One of the key symptoms of ASD is that patients have difficulty recognising other people’s emotions, which explains why their reactions to these emotions can sometimes come off as strange. To understand how ASD arises, fundamental brain research is needed. Using EEG techniques to study toddlers, Maastricht University researchers have discovered that the visual brain even in toddlers with ASD responds differently to that of ‘healthy’ test participants.


The smart hearing aid is on its way

In Mind
Thursday, 02 April 2009 09:05

Psychologist Lars Riecke studies how the human brain processes incoming sound

According to Lars Riecke, how our brains process sound and translate it into information is indeed extremely complicated, but at the same time so logical that it can be applied in technologies. The foundations have been laid, he believes, for a new generation of hearing aids: devices that ‘listen’ to what the wearer wants them to, in the same way that our brains determine which sources of sound to prioritise. This would enable hearing-impaired people to go to a party or concert without being too bothered by background noise.

Half a billion people worldwide suffer from mild to severe hearing loss, and another 200 million are likely to join them in the next five years. These figures explain the explosive increase in the number of people wearing hearing aids; such devices can mean the difference between working or not working, between social isolation and a ‘normal’ life.


To boldly go where no man has gone before

In Mind
Thursday, 04 September 2008 00:00

From helicopter platforms to Mancala games

He is ‘European champion’ in the African game of Bao and one of the few aviation psychologists at a Dutch university. He wrote a book about the architecture of helicopter platforms and is now writing a historical work about Albert von Baumhauer, the Dutch helicopter pioneer. He is the founder of the unique international journal of board game studies and hopes to be doing more psychological research soon into the game of draughts. “Contrary to chess, there hasn’t been a great deal of psychological research into draughts.” An interview with an advocate of exploratory research.


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