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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 3: Issue 103 - 27th July, 2003 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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NEWS & VIEWS

Biobank (27 Jul) - Will you be joining the Biobank? Half a million of us will soon be asked to give samples of our DNA in a radical long-term plan to conquer disease. Jo Revill asks who will profit from the data. [more]



Stress (27 Jul) - Scientists at Oxford University have pioneered the world's first test for accurately measuring stress. A simple blood sample could be used to select people for the right jobs, help drivers know when to take a break, monitor stress at work and diagnose those in need of medical help. [more]


Neuroscience - education (25 Jul) - Parents might in future have something a little more technical to discuss with teachers during consultation evenings than their offspring's writing, artwork and test results: brain scans. [more]


Futurology (25 Jul) - Is mankind doomed? Against the background of the war against terror, the march of technology and environmental calamity, this has become the defining question of our age. [more]


Human genetics (25 Jul) - Scientists studying the genetic signatures of Siberians and American Indians have found evidence that the first human migrations to the New World from Siberia probably occurred no earlier than 18,000 years ago. [more] and [more]


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Psychopharmacology (24 Jul) - New figures this week show that use of the drug Ritalin given to calm hyperactive children has soared 100-fold in Britain in the past decade. Doctors dispensed 254,000 prescriptions of it last year, up from 2,000 or so given annually in the early 1990s. [more]


Profile (24 Jul) - David Sloan Wilson's career as a biologist started with zooplankton in the depths of the ocean and has ascended to God. He is convinced the same theoretical tools can be used to analyse the patterns of animal behaviour and human belief; and that the kinds of equations that tell you whether fish will be brightly or dully coloured, depending on the part of a river they live in, will also tell you why Calvinism thrived in 16th-century Geneva but the church of England is in decline today. [more]


Cognitive science (24 Jul) - Surprising new PET and MRI images show deaf people process sign language in the brain regions that for 125 years were regarded as sound centres, such as the superior temporal gyrus. "Regardless of whether we speak American Sign Language or French or English, the human brain processes the information in the identical way," says Laura Ann Pettito, a cognitive neuroscientist - and ASL poet -- at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. [more]


Mate choice (23 Jul) - Rosy cheeks seem to be crucial in the dating game, for monkeys at least. Females of a common primate, the rhesus macaque, prefer males with red faces, a study has shown. It signals high levels of testosterone which, in many male animals, means a healthy immune system and good genes. [more]


Diet (22 Jul) - A vegetarian "ape-diet", based on the foods our simian cousins eat, is as effective in lowering cholesterol as an established cholesterol-lowering drug, reveals a new study. High cholesterol levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. [more]


Anorexia (21 Jul) - For years we've been told to blame our obsession with thinness on society's glorification of it, and that eating disorders like anorexia were "social diseases." But research shows that genetics likely plays a big role too. [more]


Apocalypse (17 Jul) - George Bernard Shaw dismissed it as "the curious record of the visions of a drug addict" and if the Orthodox Christian Church had had its way, it would never have made it into the New Testament. But the Book of Revelation was included and its images of apocalypse, from the Four Horsemen to the Whore of Babylon, were fixed into the Christian imagination and its theology. As well as providing abundant imagery for artists from Durer to Blake, ideas of the end of the world have influenced the response to political, social and natural upheavals throughout history. Our understanding of history itself owes much to the apocalyptic way of thinking. [more]


Sex differences (18 Jul) - Talking openly about sex differences is no longer an exercise in political incorrectness; it is a necessity in fighting disease and forging successful relationships. At 109 and counting, Psychology Today examines the tally. [more]


Sexual behavior (14 Jul) - Women are more likely than men to lie about their sex lives, reveals a new study. Women's coyness about their sexual behaviour was unveiled by a US study involving a fake lie detector test. [more]


Human evolution (9 Jul) - How long ago did our ancestors begin to migrate from Africa? Evidence from a massive volcanic explosion 74,000 years ago in South-east Asia is giving researchers clues about these first colonists, says Stephen Oppenheimer. [more]


Pain (8 Jul) - Do different people feel the same painful experiences differently? They do. And this ScienCentral news video reports that neuroscientists can now see the differences in our brains. [more]


Genetics (8 Jul) - Knowing which gene causes Huntington's disease has so far not led to a cure or even a treatment. But as this ScienCentral News video reports, biomedical researchers have a powerful tool for stopping faulty genes from doing their damage. [more]


Robotics (8 Jul) - Working from their university labs in two different corners of the world, U.S. and Australian researchers have created what they call a new class of creative beings, “the semi-living artist” – a picture-drawing robot in Perth, Australia whose movements are controlled by the brain signals of cultured rat cells in Atlanta. [more]

RESEARCH & COMMENTARY

False memories (24 Jul) - False memories are a common occurrence in the courtroom and in everyday life, and have long been considered by psychologists as a side effect of efforts to boost memory. New research from Tufts University has answered the question of how to increase memory, without also increasing corresponding false memories. [more]


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Audio and Video

Domestic violence (24 Jul) - Children who witness their parents using violence against each other and who regularly receive excessive punishment are at increased risk of being involved in an abusive relationship as an adult, according to a 20-year study that followed children into adult romantic relationships. In partner violence cases that result in injury, the study finds that being the victim of physical abuse and conduct disorders as a child are also important risk factors. [more]


Autism (21 Jul) - Scientists writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association have identified the first physical warning sign of autism: small head circumference at birth, followed by rapid and excessive increase in head size during the first year of life. [more]


Social progress (21 Jul) - Denmark and Sweden lead the world in social progress, Afghanistan is at the bottom of the list and the United States ranks 27th among 163 nations, according to the latest Index of Social Progress. [more]


Refugees - mental health (19 Jul) - More than a quarter of refugee children living in the UK have significant psychological disturbance, finds a study in this week's British Medical Journal. [more]


Psychopharmacology (18 Jul) - Recent changes to the classification of psychiatric disorders are encouraging pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs that are of questionable clinical value, argue researchers in this week's British Medical Journal. [more]


Psychology (18 Jul) - The brain is constantly striving to find meaning in things, even in situations where there is no meaning. This attempt to find meaning can often lead to what music perception pioneer Diana Deutsch calls 'illusions in the brain.' Just as one might imagine seeing, for example, the outline of a woman's face in a gnarled tree trunk, in its grasp for meaning, the brain often produces auditory illusions that lead us to hear phantom words. [more]


Depression (18 Jul) - Among people who suffered multiple stressful life events over 5 years, 43 percent with one version of a gene developed depression, compared to only 17 percent with another version of the gene, say researchers funded, in part, by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Those with the "short," or stress-sensitive version of the serotonin transporter gene were also at higher risk for depression if they had been abused as children. Yet, no matter how many stressful life events they endured, people with the "long," or protective version experienced no more depression than people who were totally spared from stressful life events. The short variant appears to confer vulnerability to stresses, such as loss of a job, breaking-up with a partner, death of a loved one, or a prolonged illness, report Drs. Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt, University of Wisconsin and King's College London, and colleagues, in the July 18, 2003 Science. EurekAlert, The Guardian, Nature Science Update, New Scientist.


Compulsive shopping (16 Jul) - While a trip to the mall may mean a cute sweater or new CD for most of us, it has ominous implications for the thousands of Americans who suffer from compulsive shopping disorder, a condition marked by binge shopping and subsequent financial hardship. Now Stanford University Medical Center researchers have found that a drug commonly prescribed as an antidepressant may be able to curb the uncontrollable shopping urges. [more]


Depression (16 Jul) - Depression is the second-leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting nearly 10% of the population. According to George S. Zubenko, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and adjunct professor of biology at Carnegie Mellon University, women are twice as likely as men to develop depression, and genetic differences appear to account for some of that disparity. [more]


Autism (15 Jul) - Small head circumference at birth, followed by a sudden and excessive increase in head circumference during the first year of life, has been linked to development of autism by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine and Children's Hospital and Health Center, San Diego. Autism spectrum disorder occurs in one out of every 160 children and is among the more common and serious of neurological disorders of early childhood. [more]


Evolutionary psychology (10 Jul) - Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Political Science examined the lives of 280 eminent scientists, including Pierre Curie and Albert Einstein. He found that 65% had published their best paper by the age of 35. What's more, unmarried scientists peaked later in life than those who had tied the knot. Crime, similarly, is a bachelor's game. [more]



Autism (10 Jul) - Difficulties that children with autism have in pointing and showing objects to other people may emerge from earlier problems with simple face-to-face interaction, according to new research sponsored by the ESRC. [more]


Dementia (10 Jul) - Higher education or a larger brain may protect against dementia, according to new findings by researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Kentucky. The study, published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, provides important new evidence that either more years of formal education or better early brain development may help delay dementia in later life. The findings were drawn from the Nun Study, a longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer's disease. [more]

REVIEWS & DISCUSSION

Anatomy - John Banville reviews Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form by Michael Sims. [more] [review]

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Darwinism - Mark Parascandola reviews Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? by Michael Ruse [more] Deeper than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution by John Haught [more] Darwin and the Barnacle by Rebecca Stott [more] and Lowly Origin: Where, When and Why Our Ancestors First Stood Up by Jonathan Kingdon. [more] [review]


Futurology - M. Allen reviews Metal and Flesh: The Evolution of Man: Technology Takes Over by Ollivier Dyens. [more] [review]

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Religion - Wendy Kaminer reviews H. L. Mencken on Religion edited by S. T. Joshi. [more] [review]

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Science -  David Lindley reviews Uncertain Science, Uncertain World by Henry N. Pollack. [more] [review]

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Sexual behavior - Ian Sansom reviews Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation by Thomas W Laqueur [more] [review]

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Fiction - P. D. Smith reviews Darwin's Children by Greg Bear [more] [review]

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Evolutionary psychology - Denis Dutton reviews Darwinian Politics. The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom by Paul H. Rubin. [more] [review]

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Psychopathology - Pawel Kawalec reviews Measuring Psychopathology by Anne Farmer, Peter McGuffin and Julie Williams. [more] [review]

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Science - Ed Brandon reviews How Scientific Practices Matter: Reclaiming Philosophical Naturalism by Joseph Rouse [more] [review]

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Human evolution - Mike Pitts reviews After the Ice: A global human history 20,000-5000 BC by Steven Mithen. [review]

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Emotion - health - John W. Reich reviews Emotions, Stress, and Health by Alex J. Zautra. [more] [review]

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Neurophilosophy - Isabel Gois reviews Studies in Neurophilosophy by Patricia Smith Churchland. [more] [review]

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Nature and nurture - Eccy de Jonge reviews Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human by Matt Ridley. [more] [review] A review by Michael Ruse [review] [first chapter] A review by H. Allen Orr. [review]

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