A new brain study shows that people who use their intuitionare subconsciously sensing trouble ahead. Our unconsciousbrains pick up clues too subtle for our conscious brains topay attention to, so when we feel uneasy about getting intoa certain situation, we should stop and listen to ourintuition?because it’s usually right. One example of this isthat during the recent Asian tsunami, some aboriginal peoplewent to higher ground before the disaster because theysensed it was the right thing to do.

Ed Edelson writes in Healthday.com that an early warningsystem may exist in the anterior cingulate cortex, the brainarea that processes complex information. Researchers gavetests with conflicting choices to volunteers and measuredtheir brain response with MRIs. On computers, they wereshown arrows pointing in various directions. They were toldto push the computer key indicated by the arrow, but attimes another key was actually the correct one to push. Theywere also shown colored dashes, white for left, blue forright. Sometimes the first (correct) arrow or dash wasfollowed by a much larger incorrect one. When the dasheswere used, 50% of the blue dashes were “wrong,” while only4% of white dashes were.

The volunteers weren’t told about what was really going onin their computers, but some of them subconsciously began tofigure it out. When a blue dash was flashed on the computerscreen, the MRIs showed increased activity in the part ofthe brain that processes a certain type of information. They

had begun to intuit that the blue dashes often sent thewrong messages.

Abnormalities of the anterior cingulate cortex have beenassociated with several mental illnesses, includingschizophrenia, meaning that mental illness may be, to someextent, a sign that the part of the brain that controlsintuition isn’t working properly. Too much activity in thispart of the brain has been linked with obsessive-compulsivedisorder, as if the brain is constantly telling us thatthings are going wrong, even when they’re not.

People who have had certain types of experiences wonder ifthey cantrust theirintuition.

Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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