News in Brain and Behavioural
NEWS & VIEWS
Culture - Described by The Times as a series that "ought to be compulsory listening for politicians, scientists, doctors and sundry other professionals who think they know best". 'Why Did We Do That?' uses a distinctive mix of materials to uncover the roots of present day problems. Secret government documents are set against public statements made at the time, the common voice explaining what happened is heard next to the expert voice describing the theory. [more]
Behavioral economics (28 Jun) - Until the last few years, behavioral economics - which blends psychology, economics and, increasingly, neuroscience to argue that emotion plays a huge role in how people make economic decisions - was an extremely tight-knit group. It had little influence and few practitioners. [more]
Profile (26 Jun) - "Asked to name a linguist, most people come up with Chomsky or Pinker. But Larry Trask - an expert on Basque - deserves to be famous too," writes Andrew Brown. [more]
Human evolution (24 Jun) - Even with new evidence, the theory that Africa is the birthplace of modern humans still remains controversial. [more]
Profile (25 Jun) - For anyone concerned about archaeological heritage, these are troubled times. Looted antiquities are regularly traded on the world's art markets, and even major museums are still displaying unprovenanced artefacts. Renowned archaeologist Colin Renfrew, who alerted the British government to the dangers of archaeological theft in Iraq but was ignored, is outraged. Maggie McDonald talked to him about looting, prehistory and the intriguing relationship between contemporary art and archaeology, the subject of his new book. [more]
Trauma (25 Jun) - The counselling routinely offered to people in the immediate aftermath of a disaster seldom protects them from developing post-traumatic stress - and it could even delay their recovery. [more]
Delinquency (23 Jun) - Boys are far more likely than girls to engage in delinquent behaviour, but girls are more sensitive to risk factors that can lead to delinquency, says a new study prepared for the federal government. [more]
Teaching (24 Jun) - Steven Pinker, internationally famous researcher and author, is first and foremost a teacher. He may be director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he also holds an MIT teaching award as a MacVicar Fellow. [more]
Height (22 Jun) - There is a harsh rule of thumb about male height, and it measures six feet and counting. As study after study has shown, tall men give nearly all the orders, win most elections, monopolize girls and monopolies, and disproportionately splay their elongated limbs across the cushy unconfines of first-class cabins. By the simple act of striding into a room, taller than average men are accorded a host of positive attributes having little or nothing to do with height: a high IQ, talent, competence, trustworthiness, even kindness. [more]
Maternal behavior (23 Jun) - It's no surprise that children pick up many of the habits and behaviors from their parents. But as this ScienCentral News video reports, scientists may be getting closer to knowing why many traits get passed on from one generation to the next. [more]
History (23 Jun) - Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian history? A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity. [more]
Paleoanthropology (23 Jun) - As two of the world's leading fossil hunters, mother and daughter Meave and Louise Leakey are carrying on the work of a legendary scientific dynasty. They talk to Sanjida O'Connell. [more]
Negativity bias (20 Jun) - Why do insults once hurled at us stick inside our skull, sometimes for decades? Why do some people have to work extra hard to ward off depression? The answer is, for the same reason political smear campaigns outpull positive ones. Nastiness just makes a bigger impact on our brains. [more]
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (22 Jun) - Allan Snyder claims that people undergoing transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, can suddenly exhibit savant intelligence -- those isolated pockets of genius-like mental ability that most often appear in autistic people. New York Times, London Free Press, PubMed.
Artificial intelligence (22 Jun) - In the featured "Dinner with..." series, Astrobiology Magazine looks at the possibilities for computers to emulate complex human patterns. The father of artificial intelligence and Nobel Laureate, Herbert Simon, gives a short course in life. [more]
Human genetics - intelligence (20 Jun) - Studies imply genes account for about 50 percent of the difference in intelligence from one person to the next. That's a high enough "heritability" that you'd think genome labs would be practically spitting out genes related to intelligence. [more]
Race (20 Jun) - "I'm not sure if many Americans have noticed, but the concept of race has taken some devastating hits in recent years. Everywhere one looks in academia these days-from the abstract precincts of critical theory to the hard laboratories of molecular genetics-once-mighty notions of racial taxonomy have fallen hard," says Salim Muwakkil. [more]
Psychopathy (20 Jun) - The levels of two chemicals in the spinal fluid may give doctors extra clues about the presence of psychopathic personality traits. The findings of a Swedish research team may also bring scientists closer to understanding the root cause of these problems. [more]
RESEARCH & COMMENTARY
Development (27 Jun) - Young babies' views of the world are far more basic than many believe. A new three-year research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council suggests that babies are not born with as much innate knowledge of the world as some current studies suggest. [more]
Terrorism (27 Jun) - The memories of Polish migrants who resisted Nazism in France during World War Two have been recorded and analysed in ESRC-sponsored research which aims to throw new light on what draws people into modern- day terrorism. This research is published today as part of the ESRC's Social Science Week. [more]
Profile (30 Jun) - Despite being eligible for Social Security, geneticist and symbiogenesis proponent Lynn Margulis prefers doing what 10-year-old boys like to do: hiking, camping, exploring the wilds, reading. "I can't think of any greater punishment than a smoky bar," she says. "I've worked every Saturday night of my life." [more]
Human genome (30 Jun) - Stored in the human genome, perhaps, is the record of human evolution and existence on this planet. Many say, however, that this history and the benefits it may unfold for human health cannot be found in the single, essentially complete human sequence--99.9% similar to any other human sequence. It's the 0.1% difference that should tell the tale--not only of migration, war, technological achievement, and conquest--but also of the differences that confer susceptibility to complex, multigenic diseases. [more]
Scientific publishing (26 Jun) - The Public Library of Science is excited to announce our newest, public-oriented initiatives. This campaign aims to increase public awareness of the anachronistic scientific publishing system that denies citizens around the world access to publicly-supported research and to promote an alternative that will provide universal access and greatly accelerate scientific and medical progress. [more] and [more]
ADHD (26 Jun) - Inadequate clinical training, inexperience and the lack of a well-validated screening tool are major barriers prohibiting primary care physicians from diagnosing ADHD in adults, according to a national survey released today by New York University School of Medicine. [more]
Animal cognition (26 Jun) - Rhesus monkeys can match up sounds and facial expressions, research suggests. It hints that our capacity to do likewise may have evolved from our primate ancestors. Nature, Nature Science Update, CBC.
Pain (23 Jun) - Doctors and nurses have known for many years that some people are more sensitive to pain than others. Now brain scans of people experiencing the same painful stimulus have provided the first proof that this is so. But the scans also suggest that how much something hurts really is "all in the mind". New Scientist, EurekAlert.
Tourette's syndrome (23 Jun) - Researchers have found a gene mutation that seems to lead to the mental disorder Tourette's syndrome. The gene is normally switched on in nerve cells; its disruption might make them hyperactive. Nature Science Update, Genomics.
Autism (23 Jun) - New findings may indicate delayed maturation in autistic subjects in these brain regions involved in functions including working memory, emotion processing, language and eye gaze. [more]
Search news, articles, reviews and previous editions of the newsletter.
Development - education (23 Jun) - Constructivist pedagogy draws on Piaget's developmental theory. Because Piaget depicted the emergence of formal reasoning skills in adolescence as part of the normal developmental pattern, many constructivists have assumed that intrinsic motivation is possible for all academic tasks. This paper argues that Piaget's concept of a formal operational stage has not been empirically verified and that the cognitive skills associated with that stage are in fact "biologically secondary abilities" (Geary and Bjorklund, 2000) culturally determined abilities that are difficult to acquire. Thus, it is unreasonable to expect that intrinsic motivation will suffice for most students for most higher level academic tasks. [more]
Mate selection (23 Jun) - This paper examines predictions from evolutionary and socio-structural perspectives on sex differences in mate selection criteria on a sample of 127 respondents from Serbia. The respondents were asked to assess the degree of un/desirability of sixty behavioural and personality traits in a potential mate, on the 7-point Likert type scale. The sexes strongly agree in general ranking of the traits' desirability. The obtained statistically significant differences tend to favour the evolutionary interpretation. The largest differences are in the perceived desirability of thinness, strength, fearfulness, self-pity, fragility, aggressiveness, and beauty. Males perceived all these traits as more desirable (or less undesirable) than females, except that females valued strength more positively. Male respondents are less troubled by negative character traits of a potential partner, while females are less concerned with a partner's physical appearance. The higher status of women correlated positively with their concern with a mate's potential socio-economic status, contrary to the prediction of the socio-structural model. [more]
Face recognition (22 Jun) - Characters from Irish soap operas and The Simpsons have been used in ESRC-funded research into how we get to learn people's faces. [more]
REVIEWS & DISCUSSION
Asymmetry - A book about asymmetry has won the prestigious Aventis Prize for the best popular science publication in 2003. Right Hand, Left Hand by Chris McManus was honoured in a gala dinner at London's Science Museum on Wednesday. [more] [review] [review]