How Alonzo Clemons Overcame A Brain Injury To Become A World-Class Sculptor

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How Alonzo Clemons Overcame A Brain Injury To Become A World-Class Sculptor

You've probably dabbled with Play-Doh as a kid. Most people's sculpting experience ends around there, but that wasn't the case for Alonzo Clemons. Severely disabled as a young child, Clemons could barely speak, nor could he feed himself or tie his own shoes. But his disability brought on one important gift—acquired savant syndrome, a condition where high-level, often prodigious skills appear after a brain injury. This gave Clemons an uncanny ability to create hyper-accurate sculptures of animals that started from a young age and only sharpened as he grew up. Today, he can simply glance at a horse on TV and, in just 20 minutes, sculpt a clay figure of that horse that is anatomically correct down to every muscle. Despite his still very limited vocabulary, Clemons has shown his work throughout the world. Hear Clemons speak about his work in the video below.

The Man Who Had Déjà Vu For Eight Years

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The Man Who Had Déjà Vu For Eight Years

In a 2014 issue of the Journal of Medical Case Reports, physicians described a person with a very strange ailment: a 23-year-old man complained of persistent déjà vu. By the time doctors saw him in 2010, the British college student had already been experiencing a constant, debilitating feeling of having seen and experienced everything before for a full three years. At first, many of these experiences lasted for only a few minutes, but they got longer and more intense over time. For example, he told doctors about one time when he went on vacation to a place he had been before and had the terrifying sensation that he had become "trapped in a time loop." Eventually, he swore off watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading newspapers and magazines, since it all felt like information he had already encountered.

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Key Facts to Know

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    About two-thirds of the population have experienced déjà vu at least once. 0:25

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    Déjà vu might be caused by a neuron spontaneously firing or a delay in a neuron's transmission. 1:11

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    Some theorists hypothesize that déjà vu arises when the brain recognizes a few familiar elements in a new setting. 1:51

Schadenfreude Neurons Fire When Other People Fail

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Schadenfreude Neurons Fire When Other People Fail

In a study that aimed to discover something completely different, neuroscientists may have discovered the brain cells associated with schadenfreude, or the joy that comes from another person's suffering. Neuroscientists studying the neurons associated with observational learning—that is, learning by watching how others succeed or fail at certain tasks—stumbled upon this discovery when they analyzed the brain activity of 10 epileptic patients as they played a card game. The participants were asked to draw a card from one of two decks, one that gave them a 30% chance of winning and the other gave them a 70% chance of winning. The participants were allowed to watch two others play the same game so they could figure out which deck gave them the best odds. Here's what the researchers noticed: brain cells in the area of the brain responsible for emotion, social interactions, and decision-making changed their activity depending on whether the player thought their opponents would win or lose, then changed again depending on whether their guess was correct. But the most interesting finding was that those brain cells showed increased activity both when a player won and when their opponents lost, and decreased activity when their opponents won. This suggests that these neurons may be associated with that feeling of schadenfreude we experience when other people fail. Check out these videos to learn more about why we sometimes feel good when others feel bad.

The Brain's "On" Switch For OCD Has Been Found By Scientists

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The Brain's "On" Switch For OCD Has Been Found By Scientists

Until early 2016, scientists were left in the dark about what causes obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in people's brains. The mystery around this topic is in part due to the wide variety of ways OCD can manifest itself. By conducting studies with mice, scientists have found the chemical receptor in the brain that is responsible for OCD. The article, published in Biological Psychiatry in May 2016, details how scientists looked at the neural activity of mice that were bred to lack a gene called Sapap3, which, when missing, caused mice to obsessively groom themselves. With the knowledge they gathered about the Sapap3 gene, researchers went a step further — they examined the mice with obsessive grooming habits and found that the chemical receptor called mGluR5 was constantly activated in the brains of mice who exhibited OCD. Shockingly, when scientists injected these mice with a chemical that deactivates mGluR5 receptors, the mice's OCD behavior disappeared within minutes. Learn more about OCD, and other psychological disorders, with these videos.

About 40,000 fMRI Studies Might Now Be Useless

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About 40,000 fMRI Studies Might Now Be Useless

We may know even less about the brain than we thought we did, and we didn't think we knew much to begin with. A study submitted for review in February 2016 and approved in May 2016 found a bug in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) software. This flaw isn't just a small bump in the road, it could mean that everything we've learned about human brain activity in the past 15 years is totally wrong. Until the publication of this paper, scientists commonly used fMRI to scan the brain for study. Oftentimes, researchers used a technique in which areas of the brain would "light up" when in use. For the most recent study, researchers tested three of the most popular fMRI software packages (SPM, FSL, and AFNI), expecting an average false-positive rate of about five percent. Instead, the software resulted in false-positive rates of up to 70 percent. The bug was corrected in May 2016, but it leaves all of some 40,000 studies that used FMRI research in question. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.