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The human brain pays itself the biggest compliment by never letting us feel any of the enormous efforts with which it produces thoughts and emotions, words and actions. Weighing as little as three pounds, the astounding organ still holds the key to art works and seemingly banal everyday routines. Yet the brain's ingenuity appears to be almost casual. – Most of us have surely never asked ourselves how difficult it would be to open a bottle of wine using a cork draw, let alone phenomena such as humour, sadness, or pride, boredom, thirst for adventure, or play instinct.
Our brain hosts hundreds of pop songs as well as complete symphonies. Its convolutions have created and erected pyramids, have produced "Faustus", and constructed airplanes. It consists of 100 billion cells combined in one great network – shaped like a walnut form the outside, and of the consistency of an avocado inside. Communicating through hundreds of billions of neural connections, they create a cosmos of a world – as individual as a fingerprint, and as fascinating as mysterious..
Almost one in five people in Germany suffers from chronic pain. Yet, we lack a complete understanding of where the complaints come from, which sometimes seems to come out of nowhere. It does seem clear however, that expectations play a role. Various scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig are investigating how these expectations work and how they can be influenced. They’re asking questions such as, “How can two stimuli of identical strength be perceived, at different times, as differing in terms of pain.”
Language is our everyday tool. We chat, listen, discuss, write, think and formulate the whole day. Nevertheless, little is known so far about this natural given and still highly complex ability. Which speed rate is the best so that the other one picks up the most content? Why is language built as it is? And what happens when one of the crucial brain areas fails? Two new research groups at Max Planck Institute Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) face these questions – to bring more clarity into this human unique capability.
For many people stress seems to have become everyday life. However, much is still unknown about this "new normal state“. Where does all this stress come from? And why are some people able to handle it better than the others? How does it influence the brain and which strategies are effective to manage it? Several research teams at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) want to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.