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Brain Brake Roundup

May 11, 2007

Can dirt make you happy? Can your brain save your life?


How your brain bites your tongue. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Let’s say you’re late for a meeting and you start to run across the street. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a speeding car and in a flash, your brain puts on the brakes and you stop in your tracks. Using brain imaging, researchers have now identified white, high-speed bundles of nerves in the brain responsible for this life-saving response. They say the same system is what makes us bite our tongues just before we say something awkward, and even stops us from engaging in enticing but destructive behaviors.

In other brain news, British researchers have found that being infected with a type of bacterium found in soil could make us happier. The bacteria actovate brain cells that secrete the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin. The team plans to further study the microbe, and the brain cells it affects.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.