Research Findings

How to tell if someone is REALLY listening to you: Researchers discover pupil dilation patterns synch up 'when two minds connect' ('Daily Mail')

The Daily Mail features a new study by Dartmouth College associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, Thalia Wheatley and colleagues which has found that using eye-tracking technology to monitor pupil dilation, it is possible to determine when two minds 'connect'.

In this study, researchers used eye-tracking technology to track pupillary dilation between speakers and listeners when telling an autobiographical story. 

"Here we show that the eyes not only reveal the inner workings of one mind, but reveal when two minds connect," Wheatley told the Daily Mail.

Read the full story here, published 4/11/2017 by the Daily Mail.


What Makes You Crave Sex and Chocolate? ('Daily Mail')

The Daily Mail features a new study by a Dartmouth post-doctoral fellow,  Stephen Chang, and colleagues that traces cravings to a particular region in the brain. 

Chang tells the Daily Mail, "Although we have a sense of what brain circuits mediate reward, less is known about the neural circuitry underlying the transfer of value to cues associated with rewards".

The aim of this line of research is to provide insight into, and potential solutions toward combating habitual behaviors, such as overeating.

Read the full story here, published 11/11/15 by the Daily Mail.

Brain Imaging Breakthrough: 'Brain Signature' Can Predict Emotions With 90% Certainty (Medical Daily)

In a story about the quest to shed light on how people experience emotions, Medical Daily turns for comment to Dartmouth's Luke Chang.

Chang, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, and colleagues, were able to "...identify a neural signature of negative emotion - a single neural activation pattern, active across the entire brain - that could accurately predict how negatively a person feels toward unpleasant images, " the magazine writes, by using brain imaging and other techniques.

Chang tells Medical Daily that, "This has enormous implications for improving our understanding of how emotions are generated and regulated, which have been notoriously difficult to define and measure.

Read the full story here, published 8/11/15 by Medical Daily.

How Junk Food Commercials Seduce The Brain And Aggravate Obesity (Forbes)

Forbes features a new study by Dartmouth's Kristina Rapuano, Jeremy Huckins, James Sargent, Todd Heatherton, and Bill Kelley which suggests a link between fast food advertisement exposure and obesity.

Adolescents were placed in the fMRI scanner and watched "The Big Bang Theory", interspersed with food and non-related commercials. According to Forbes, "During the food ads only, the kids reacted roughly as if food had been placed in front of them: brain structures associated with attention and evaluation, and with craving, pleasure, and gratification, all responded strongly".

Todd Heatherton is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Human Relations, Kristina Rapuano is a graduate student, Jeremy Huckins is a postdoctoral fellow, and Bill Kelley is a professor, all in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. James Sargent is professor of pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine.

The Part of Your Brain That Made You Eat That Doughnut (TIME Magazine)

TIME features a new study by Dartmouth’s Todd Heatherton and Richard Lopez that focuses on the constant push and pull between two regions of the brain and how that battle impacts a person’s self control and will power.

“The problem, it turns out, is not with your brain as a whole, but with a battle for dominance between two parts of it: the nucleus accumbens (where the good times roll) and the inferior frontal gyrus (where the bouncer lives),” the article notes.

According to TIME, the researchers found that, “Overall, the people who had had the greatest reaction in the nucleus accumbens indulged significantly more than the people whose inferior frontal gyrus did a better job of maintaining control.”

Heatherton is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Human Relations and Lopez is a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Read the full story here, published 5/1/14 by TIME.

Familiar Faces (ScienceNews)

In a story about “super recognizers” — people who have an exceptional ability to remember faces — ScienceNews turns for comment to Dartmouth’s Bradley Duchaine.

Duchaine, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences, and colleagues in England are studying super recognizers to understand how some people are able to recognize nearly everyone they’ve ever seen, the magazine writes. Knowledge gained from such studies may aid in police work and other fields that rely on identifying people by how they look, notes the magazine.

“By identifying strategies used by super recognizers, we may find ways to train others who have problems with face recognition, or help people who are in the normal range but have professional demands in which superior face recognition would be beneficial,” Duchaine tells ScienceNews.

Read the full story here, published 8/23/13 by ScienceNews.

Why Rational People Buy Into Conspiracy Theories (The New York Times)

In a story about why people believe in conspiracy theories, The New York Times points to research by Dartmouth’s Paul Whalen and Brendan Nyhan.

Events such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks result in “powerlessness and uncertainty,” the Times writes, triggering a part of the brain called the amygdala, which Whalen, a professor of psychological and brain sciences, studies. Whalen says that while the amygdala does not do anything on its own, it does prompt the rest of the brain to over analyze, according to the Times.

The article also makes reference to what Nyhan, an assistant professor of government, and a colleague have identified as the “backfire effect.” According to the Times, the political scientists “showed that efforts to debunk inaccurate political information can leave people more convinced that false information is true than they would have been otherwise.”