Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Free will


To evaluate the efficacy, as well as potential moderators and mediators, of a revised acceptance-based behavioral treatment (ABT) for obesity, relative to standard behavioral treatment (SBT).

Concepts: Behaviorism, Free will, Psychology, Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial


The Zika virus has spread rapidly in the Americas since its first identification in Brazil in early 2015. Prenatal Zika virus infection has been linked to adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, most notably microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. To determine whether Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes these adverse outcomes, we evaluated available data using criteria that have been proposed for the assessment of potential teratogens. On the basis of this review, we conclude that a causal relationship exists between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. Evidence that was used to support this . . .

Concepts: Ontology, Philosophy of science, Free will, Causality, Metaphysics, Cosmological argument


The Food Choice Questionnaire (FCQ) assesses the importance that subjects attribute to nine factors related to food choices: health, mood, convenience, sensory appeal, natural content, price, weight control, familiarity and ethical concern. This study sought to assess the applicability of the FCQ in Brazil; it describes the translation and cultural adaptation from English into Portuguese of the FCQ via the following steps: independent translations, consensus, back-translation, evaluation by a committee of experts, semantic validation and pre-test. The pre-test was run with a randomly sampled group of 86 male and female college students from different courses with a median age of 19. Slight differences between the versions were observed and adjustments were made. After minor changes in the translation process, the committee of experts considered that the Brazilian Portuguese version was semantically and conceptually equivalent to the English original. Semantic validation showed that the questionnaire is easily understood. The instrument presented a high degree of internal consistency. The study is the first stage in the process of validating an instrument, which consists of face and content validity. Further stages, already underway, are needed before other researchers can use it.

Concepts: Portuguese language, Free will, Semantics, Translation, Grammar, Psychometrics, Language, Brazil


Chest x-ray (CXR) is the test of choice for diagnosing pneumonia. Lung ultrasound (LUS) has been shown to be accurate for diagnosing pneumonia in children and may be an alternative to CXR. Our objective was to determine the feasibility and safety of substituting LUS for CXR when evaluating children with suspected pneumonia.

Concepts: Free will, Lung, Heart, Epidemiology, Pneumonia, Randomized controlled trial


Do people know when, or whether, they have made a conscious choice? Here, we explore the possibility that choices can seem to occur before they are actually made. In two studies, participants were asked to quickly choose from a set of options before a randomly selected option was made salient. Even when they believed that they had made their decision prior to this event, participants were significantly more likely than chance to report choosing the salient option when this option was made salient soon after the perceived time of choice. Thus, without participants' awareness, a seemingly later event influenced choices that were experienced as occurring at an earlier time. These findings suggest that, like certain low-level perceptual experiences, the experience of choice is susceptible to “postdictive” influence and that people may systematically overestimate the role that consciousness plays in their chosen behavior.

Concepts: Experience, Decision theory, Decision making software, Qualia, Mind, Choice, Free will, Concepts in metaphysics


There are ever more compelling tools available for neuroscience research, ranging from selective genetic targeting to optogenetic circuit control to mapping whole connectomes. These approaches are coupled with a deep-seated, often tacit, belief in the reductionist program for understanding the link between the brain and behavior. The aim of this program is causal explanation through neural manipulations that allow testing of necessity and sufficiency claims. We argue, however, that another equally important approach seeks an alternative form of understanding through careful theoretical and experimental decomposition of behavior. Specifically, the detailed analysis of tasks and of the behavior they elicit is best suited for discovering component processes and their underlying algorithms. In most cases, we argue that study of the neural implementation of behavior is best investigated after such behavioral work. Thus, we advocate a more pluralistic notion of neuroscience when it comes to the brain-behavior relationship: behavioral work provides understanding, whereas neural interventions test causality.

Concepts: Human brain, Free will, Brain, Cosmological argument, Causality, Philosophy of science, Experiment, Psychology


Adaptive decision-making uses information gained when exploring alternative options to decide whether to update the current choice strategy. Magnocellular mediodorsal thalamus (MDmc) supports adaptive decision-making, but its causal contribution is not well understood. Monkeys with excitotoxic MDmc damage were tested on probabilistic three-choice decision-making tasks. They could learn and track the changing values in object-reward associations, but they were severely impaired at updating choices after reversals in reward contingencies or when there were multiple options associated with reward. These deficits were not caused by perseveration or insensitivity to negative feedback though. Instead, monkeys with MDmc lesions exhibited an inability to use reward to promote choice repetition after switching to an alternative option due to a diminished influence of recent past choices and the last outcome to guide future behavior. Together, these data suggest MDmc allows for the rapid discovery and persistence with rewarding options, particularly in uncertain or changing environments.

Concepts: Choice architecture, Risk, Feedback, Negative feedback, Decision making software, Free will, Philosophy of life, Decision theory


We demonstrate that exposure to the news media causes Americans to take public stands on specific issues, join national policy conversations, and express themselves publicly-all key components of democratic politics-more often than they would otherwise. After recruiting 48 mostly small media outlets, we chose groups of these outlets to write and publish articles on subjects we approved, on dates we randomly assigned. We estimated the causal effect on proximal measures, such as website pageviews and Twitter discussion of the articles' specific subjects, and distal ones, such as national Twitter conversation in broad policy areas. Our intervention increased discussion in each broad policy area by ~62.7% (relative to a day’s volume), accounting for 13,166 additional posts over the treatment week, with similar effects across population subgroups.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Area, Free will, News media, Conversation, Causality, Journalism, Mass media


Dietary sugars have been suggested as a cause of obesity, several chronic diseases, and a range of cardiometabolic risk factors, but there is no convincing evidence of a causal relation between sugars and risk factors other than body weight.

Concepts: Nutrition, Determinism, Free will, Evidence-based medicine, Medicine, Systematic review, Epidemiology, Randomized controlled trial


Inhibition of prepotent action is an important aspect of self-control, particularly in social contexts. Action inhibition and its neural bases have been extensively studied. However, the neural precursors of free decisions to inhibit have hardly been studied. We asked participants to freely choose to either make a rapid key press in response to a visual cue, or to transiently inhibit action, and briefly delay responding. The task required a behavioural response on each trial, so trials involving inhibition could be distinguished from those without inhibition as those showing slower reaction times. We used this criterion to classify free-choice trials as either rapid or inhibited/delayed. For 13 participants, we measured the mean amplitude of the ERP activity at electrode Cz in three subsequent 50 ms time windows prior to the onset of the signal that either instructed to respond or inhibit, or gave participants a free choice. In two of these 50 ms time windows (-150 to -100, and -100 to -50 ms relative to action onset), the amplitude of prestimulus ERP differed between trials where participants “freely” chose whether to inhibit or to respond rapidly. Larger prestimulus ERP amplitudes were associated with trials in which participants decided to act rapidly as compared to trials in which they decided to delay their responses. Last-moment decisions to inhibit or delay may depend on unconscious preparatory neural activity.

Concepts: Free will in theology, Predestination, Brain, Mind, Choice, Causality, Metaphysics, Free will