Sunday, February 20, 2005

Brain study points to 'sixth sense' | Science Blog

Brain study points to 'sixth sense' | Science Blog

Following the Asian tsunami, scientists struggled to explain reports that primitive aboriginal tribesmen had somehow sensed the impending danger in time to join wild animals in a life-saving flight to higher ground. A new theory suggests that the anterior cingulate cortex, described by some scientists as part of the brain's "oops" center, may actually function as an early warning system -- one that works at a subconscious level to help us recognize and avoid high-risk situations.

While some scientists discount the existence of a sixth sense for danger, new research from Washington University in St. Louis has identified a brain region that clearly acts as an early warning system -- one that monitors environmental cues, weighs possible consequences and helps us adjust our behavior to avoid dangerous situations.

"Our brains are better at picking up subtle warning signs than we previously thought," said Joshua Brown, Ph.D., a research associate in psychology in Arts & Sciences and co-author of a study on these findings in the Feb. 18 issue of the journal Science.

The findings offer rigorous scientific evidence for a new way of conceptualizing the


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