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Why We Can't Remember Colors Accurately

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Our eyes can distinguish between millions of colors. The trouble is, we’re not very good at recalling them. So while you might be an ace at picking out the odd-colored square in Kuku Kube, you probably can’t choose the right paint swatch at the hardware store to match your walls. 

As a team of psychologists explains in a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, that’s because our memories simplify colors we see into their overall hue. The study required participants to study a 180-hue color wheel and find a specific color on the wheel when it popped up again on a computer screen. 

Image Credit: Royce Faddis/JHU

Colors drawn from memory are biased toward general categories of color rather than specific shades, the researchers found. While in the moment, we can distinguish between navy, cobalt, and turquoise. But when the hue is filed away into memory, it becomes merely “blue.” The researchers found that people were better at remembering colors if they fit more neatly into the standard definition of a “blue” or a “green” or whatever the base color was—if they appeared to be the “best” representation of that color. 

“We have very precise perception of color in the brain, but when we have to pick that color out in the world," study author Jonathan Flombaum of John Hopkins University explained in a statement, “there's a voice that says, ‘It’s blue,’ and that affects what we end up thinking we saw."

[h/t: Eurekalert]

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Medicine
The World's First VR Brain Surgery Is Here
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A lot of consumers are focused on virtual reality as a means of immersing themselves in games or traveling to exotic locales, but the technology holds some incredible potential as a learning tool. One recent—and graphic—example is VR brain surgery, which allows viewers to examine the amygdala like they never thought possible.

In the experience, which was produced and overseen by Fundamental VR at the Royal London Hospital, users will be able to follow along with surgeons as a patient is wheeled into the operating room and undergoes a real neurosurgical procedure to repair two aneurysms (balloon-like bulges in an artery that can rupture). Cameras installed in the OR and GoPro units on the surgeons provide a first person-perspective; you can also switch to the POV of the patient as instruments enter and exit your field of view.

The idea was embraced by surgeons at Royal London, who see it as having the potential to be a valuable training tool for neurosurgeons by mimicking "hands on" experience. Although the footage is best seen using a VR headset, you can get a feel for the experience in the YouTube footage below. Did we mention it's very, very graphic?

More sophisticated versions of the program—including tactile feedback for users—are expected to be implemented in Fundamental VR's surgical training programs in the future. Currently, programs like Surgical Navigation Advanced Platform (SNAP) are being used at major institutions like Stanford University and University of California, Los Angeles to map the brain prior to incision.

If this whets your appetite for witnessing brain operation footage, don't forget we filmed and broadcast a live brain surgery in partnership with National Geographic. You can still check it out here.

[h/t Wired]

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Health
How Dangerous Is a Concussion?
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It's not football season, but the game is still making headlines: In a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, neuropathologist Ann McKee and her colleagues examined the brains of 111 N.F.L. players and found 110 of them to have the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The condition has been linked to repeated blows to the head—and every year in the U.S., professional and novice athletes alike receive between 2.5 and 4 million concussions. This raises the question: What happens to the human brain when we get a concussion or suffer a hard blow to the head, and how dangerous are these hits to our long-term health?

Expert Clifford Robbins explains in the TED-Ed video below:

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