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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 3: Issue 104 - 7th August, 2003 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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NEWS & VIEWS

 Depression (6 Aug) - A new study into the length of the gene that transmits serotonin among brain cells may hold the key to a better understanding of depression. [more]



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Emotion - facial expression (5 Aug) - Around the world, more than 500 people - including neurologists, psychiatrists and psychologists - have learned Paul Ekman's research tool called FACS, or Facial Action Coding System, for deciphering which of the 43 muscles in the face are working at any given moment, even when an emotion is so fleeting that the person experiencing it may not be conscious of it. [more]


Obituary (5 Aug) - Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic, a professor of neuroscience at Yale University whose pioneering research on brain and memory functions helped pave the way for understanding schizophrenia and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, died last Thursday at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She was 66 and lived in New Haven. [more]


Biology (4 Aug) - The complex of problems falling under the 'levels of selection' rubric includes an intriguing mix of empirical, conceptual and philosophical issues. Roughly speaking, the key question concerns the level of the biological hierarchy at which natural selection occurs. Does selection act on organisms, genes, groups, colonies, demes, species, or some combination of these? Evolutionary biologists and philosophers of biology have devoted considerable attention to this question over the last forty years, so much so that in some quarters the debate is now regarded as stale. Despite this perception, recent years have in fact seen interesting and important new work on the levels of selection, some of which has significantly re-defined the terms of the traditional debate. This paper aims to introduce the reader to these new developments. [more]


Suicide (4 Aug) - Psychiatrists agree now on a point that was long debated: Suicide can run in families. They do not know, however, how this risk is transferred from one family member to another -- whether it is ''learned'' behavior, passed on through a grim emotional ripple effect, or a genetic inheritance, as some scientists theorize. But new research published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry prepares ground for a genetic search, suggesting that the trait that links high-suicide families is not simply mental illness, but mental illness combined with a more specific tendency to ''impulsive aggressiveness.'' [more]


Narrative (3 Aug) - How many stories are there to tell in the world? One school of thought holds that there are just 10 archetypal tales around which novelists spin more or less elegant variations. [more]


Evolutionary psychology (1 Aug) - A fierce debate about whether jealousy, lust and sexual attraction are hardwired in the brain or are the products of culture and upbringing has recently been ignited by the growing influence of a school of psychology that sees the hidden hand of evolution in everyday life. [more]


Risk (31 Jul) - "What is a risk? Well, it is usually seen as any action or potential action that may serve as a threat or danger to life and limb, for oneself or to another. ‘Risk’ carries a negative connotation. Something ‘bad’ may happen. In a larger sense, ‘risk’ refers to a change of state or status. This may be positive or negative. Really, we are talking about the process of being alive. To be at risk is to risk to be alive. At any moment the consequence of being alive entails sudden unforeseen changes which may enhance or endanger health," writes Joseph Berke. [more]



Robotics (31 Jul) - Delve into the world of 21st-century robotics and prepare to be disappointed. The truth is that today's cutting-edge robots are a motley crew of motorised bins, mechanised drones, glorified roller skates and animated heads that babble away in no language known to man. [more]


Empathy (29 Jul) - A small baby who sees his father burst into tears suddenly starts crying himself, his sad little face the very picture of misery. Is this empathy? Or is it, as psychologist Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain and Learning at the University of Washington in Seattle, thinks, something less exalted, like emotional ''contagion?'' [more]


Development (29 Jul) - A burst of brain activity recorded by scientists could offer clues to a baby's level of understanding of the world around it. The researchers involved, from Birkbeck College, and University College London, believe their finding could begin to settle a controversial argument on baby brain development. [more]


Philosophy (25 Jul) - Take a snapshot of philosophy in Britain today, and you'll get a picture that is recognizable not only to North American philosophers but also to academics in other disciplines in the humanities. Many agree that the field is becoming more diverse, more interdisciplinary, and more relevant to the concerns of wider society. Look closer, however, and the British philosophical landscape is significantly different from that in North America. Examining these differences is instructive, not only for philosophers but for anyone working in the humanities, and perhaps for some of their scientific colleagues as well. [more]

RESEARCH & COMMENTARY

Harmony - speech (5 Aug) - For over two thousand years, musicians and scientists have puzzled over why some combinations of musical tones played together sound more harmonious than others. Now, Duke University perception scientists David Schwartz, Catherine Howe and Dale Purves have presented evidence that variation in the relative harmoniousness, or "consonance," of different tone combinations arises from people's exposure to the acoustical characteristics of speech sounds. [more]


PTSD (5 Aug) - Posttraumatic stress disorder in injured children and their parents is common, but under-diagnosed, following a child's traumatic injury. Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have developed a simple screening tool, involving specific questions asked at the initial treatment visit, that can help predict the likelihood of a child or parent developing persistent PTSD. The Screening Tool for Early Predictors of PTSD (STEPP) is described in the August 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. [more]


Human attachment (4 Aug) - The mother-child bond is undoubtedly homologous with that of other primates (and mammals). However, the man-woman pair bond and man(to)child pair bond are not paralleled by any terrestrial primate nor many mammals. Hence, knowledge of primate behavior would not be predictive of the pan-human (i) social father and (ii) the extended pair bond between a man and woman (with the cultural overlay of marriage). It is suggested that female choice of mating partner shifted in the direction of a canid analogue in which men's motivations to share resources with the female and to exhibit paternalistic behaviors were positively selected. Accordingly, it would be predicted that, compared to other terrestrial primates, the neuro-hormonal bases for the mother-child affiliative bond would be similar, but the bases of man-woman affiliative bond and the man(to)child affiliative bond would be dissimilar. [more]


Women - leadership (4 Aug) - Much has been written about the glass ceiling, the double standard and other barriers to women in management. A related question that has consumed both academic and popular writers is whether men and women have the same leadership abilities. The answer suggested by a comprehensive meta-analysis published in the current Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 129, No. 3) might surprise you. On average, women in management positions are somewhat better leaders than men in equivalent positions, according to the study. [more]


Clinical psychology (3 Aug) - The carefree days of youth apparently aren't so carefree anymore - if they ever were - according to the results of a new study of America's adolescents. The study, involving 4,023 youth (ages 12-17) interviewed by telephone, finds that roughly 16 percent of boys and 19 percent of girls met the criteria for at least one of the following diagnosis: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive episode and substance abuse/dependence. The findings appear in the August issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. [more]


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Audio and Video

Intelligence (1 Aug) - Some mice are cleverer than others, say US neuroscientists. Their rodent equivalent of an IQ test might fuel the controversial pursuit for genes linked to human intelligence. [more] and [more]


Antidepressants (1 Aug) - Studying women with histories of clinical depression, investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that the use of antidepressant drugs appears to protect a key brain structure often damaged by depression. [more]


Criminology (31 Jul) - Harsher sentences do not deter people from committing crimes, says a new report by University of Toronto criminologists. One of the objectives of sentencing under the Canadian Criminal Code is to attempt to deter people from committing crimes, says professor Anthony Doob, who authored the report, Sentence Severity and Crime: Accepting the Null Hypothesis. "The implication of the law is that harsher sentences will make us safe but our research findings suggest this isn't true." [more]


Yawning (29 Jul) - Contagious yawning is known to be more than coincidence. Studies have shown that 40-60% of people who watch videos or hear talk about yawning end up joining in. But psychologists have wondered what causes it. "It seems like such a hokey phenomenon," says psychologist Steven Platek at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Nature Science Update, Cognitive Brain Research, The Guardian.



Body image (28 Jul) - A single, two-hour workshop can make a positive change in women's feelings about their bodies, a Mount Holyoke College study has found. The findings could have significance for the 72 to 85 percent of college-age women who experience some level of discomfort with the size and shape of their bodies, the study's author says. [more]


Neuropsychology (27 Jul) - Those dreaded piano lessons pay off in unexpected ways: According to a new study, children with music training had significantly better verbal memory than their counterparts without such training. Plus, the longer the training, the better the verbal memory. These findings underscore how, when experience changes a specific brain region, other skills that region supports may also benefit -- a kind of cognitive side effect that could help people recovering from brain injury as well as healthy children. The research appears in the July issue of Neuropsychology. [more]

REVIEWS & DISCUSSION

Biography - Joseph H. Berke reviews To Redeem One Person is to Redeem the World: The Life of Frieda Fromm-Reichman by Gail A. Hornstein. [more] [review]

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Men - John Archer reviews Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones. [more] [review]

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Parenting - Mark Daims reviews Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? A Parent's Guide to Raising Multiracial Children by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. [more] [review]

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Agency - Joel Smith reviews Agency and Self Awareness: Issues in Philosophy and Psychology edited by Johannes Roessler and Naomi Eilan. [more] [review]

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God - Richard Dawkins reviews Is There a God? by Richard Swinburne. [more] [review]

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Conscious will - Berel Dov Lerner reviews A review of The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner. [more] [review]

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Imagination - psychopathology - Vaughan Bell reviews Imagination and its Pathologies edited by James Phillips and James Morley. [more] [review]

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Aid - Kofi Ankomah reviews Aid to Africa: So Much to Do So Little Done by Carol Lancaster. [more] [review]

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Darwin - Alexandre Guilherme reviews On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin Edited by Joseph Carroll. [more] [review]

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Body language - Roy Sugarman reviews The Book of Tells: How to Read People's Minds From Their Actions by Peter Collett. [review]

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Colonialism - Kofi Ankomah reviews Empire of Capital by Ellen Meiksins Wood. [more] [review]

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Health - David Paul reviews The Political Economy of Social Inequalities: Consequences For Health and Quality of Life by Vicente Navarro. [more] [review]

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Sociobiology - Wendy C. Hamblet reviews The Animal Within Us: Lessons From Our Animal Ancestors by Jay D. Glass. [more] [review]

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Environment - Kofi Ankomah reviews Global Environment Outlook 3: Past, Present and Future Perspectives by the United Nations Environment Programme. [more] [review]

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Hatred - Melvin Konner reviews Hatred: The Psychological Descent Into Violence by Willard Gaylin.  [more] [first chapter] [review]

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Biography - James Buchan reviews Revolutions in the Earth: James Hutton and the True Age of the World by Stephen Baxter [review]

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