There’s something about the blind Mexican cavefish that will make you quite jealous: To survive and thrive, they require just two hours of sleep each night; no more, no less. Imagine everything you could do with those extra six hours.
It’s a known fact that as we age, we sleep less. But the reasoning behind this phenomenon is poorly understood. Do older adults sleep less because they need less sleep, or because they simply can’t get the sleep they need?
It’s often said that the loss of one sense improves the others. New research shows the dramatic extent to which this is true in blind people, and how their brains make new connections to boost hearing, smell, touch—and even cognitive functions such as memory and language.
Squid and their cephalopod brethren have been the inspiration for many a science fiction creature. Their slippery appendages, huge proportions, and inking abilities can be downright shudder-inducing. (See: Arrival.) But you should probably be more concerned by the cephalopod’s huge brain—which not only helps it solve tricky puzzles, but also lets it converse in its own sign language.
In music, you have scales. In Jiu Jitsu, it’s drilling. Most of us just call it practice. Whatever you label it, many believe that greatness, heck even mere competency, requires training a skill well past proficiency. It’s continuing to practice your free throw even after you’ve nailed every shot. It’s playing through that song one more time even though you’ve made no mistakes. Scientists call this training past the point of improvement ‘overlearning.’ And a recent study in Nature Neuroscience suggests that it might improve performance by altering chemicals in the brain that “lock” in training.
For millennia, psychonauts have ingested both natural and man-made substances to see the world in new ways. Now, brain scans and other studies reveal how these buzz-builders work, helping scientists harness their power for good and expose the roots of addiction.
The stereotype of late 1960s authors and musicians is that certain drugs can help to expand the mind and make the user more creative. As someone who has never taken psychedelics, I can’t know this for sure, but a recent study seems to be the first step in displaying scientific evidence in support of that claim.