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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 3: Issue 106 - 7th September, 2003 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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Therapy (7 Sep) - Pouring your emotions out on paper could help wounds heal quicker, researchers say. It is thought that writing about troubling experiences helps people deal with them. [more]

Ecstasy (7 Sep) - Experts who gave a dramatic warning that ecstasy led to brain damage based their study on a huge blunder, reports health editor Jo Revill. [more]

Archaeology (4 Sep) - Fossilized skulls from a long-extinct tribe found in Mexico have reignited a debate about how Homo sapiens colonized the Americas after his emergence from Africa and long trek across Asia. [more]

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Ideological software agents (2 Sep) - A futurist at a pioneering new technology school in Italy has envisioned a piece of software that could help you weed through all the political issues without picking up a newspaper, visiting a Web site, or even, someday, stepping into a voting booth. [more]

Profile (4 Sep) - A critic of modern jazz, a key theoretician of the left and a leader in the most celebrated academic institute of the last century, Theodor Weisengrund Adorno combined the intense speculative focus of a German academic with the feel for the concrete of a French aesthete. Along the way, he also unwittingly became a model - and a foil - for Anglo-American culture critics. [more]

Interview (3 Sep) - Elizabeth Loftus was enjoying her life researching the unreliability of memory in adults and children, and was often called as an expert witness in major trials such as that of OJ Simpson. By the mid-1980s those cases increasingly involved sexual abuse. But when her own work questioned the theory of repressed memory of sexual abuse, all hell broke loose. A woman hit her with a rolled-up newspaper. Worse, as she told Wendy M. Grossman, the controversy made her enemies - and propelled her out of her much-loved job. [more]

Politics and the Life Sciences (3 Sep) - The Association for Politics and the Life Sciences (APLS), is dedicated to the proposition that analyzing politics and philosophy without reference to human biology and evolutionary history would be like deliberately ignoring general relativity and quantum mechanics when discussing physics. Nevertheless, injecting human biology into political discussions still makes most political scientists come down with the vapors. [more]

Self-harm (2 Sep) - Self-harm is increasing among children as young as six. Hilary Freeman reports on why so many are turning to the razor, and one teenager tells her story. [more]

Pheromones (2 Sep) - Pheromones are airborne, mostly odorless chemicals that alter sexual behavior, mark territory, and influence reproduction throughout the animal kingdom. But whether humans send and receive "sex chemicals" is a hot and bothered topic. [more]

Genetics (2 Sep) - Mice with virtually identical genes can grow into quite different-looking animals-fat and yellow, or lean and brown-depending on what their mothers ate during pregnancy. As this ScienCentral News video reports, researchers are studying a twist to heredity that goes beyond our genes. [more]

Memory (1 Sep) - When evidence in a criminal trial is improperly presented, judges can instruct jurors to "disregard" or intentionally forget it. But a new study suggests that even jurors who do forget a piece of evidence--not an easy thing to do--can be unconsciously influenced by it. [more]

Mental health (1 Sep) - President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has recommended strategies to improve the quality of mental health services, including making early mental health screening common practice. [more]

Evolutionary psychology (25 Aug) - New findings suggest male scientists tend to do their greatest work as young men because of evolutionary psychology: they are trying to attract a mate. The study's author, psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics, says that the output of married scientists tends to decline. Hear Kanazawa. [more]

Eugenics (28 Aug) - The world thought Hitler was mad and barely understood his rationales. But the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race was not Adolf Hitler's. The idea was created in the United States at least two decades before Hitler came to power. [more] and [more]

Belief (29 Aug) - Ever consulted a pet psychic? Swear you saw a UFO? Think you met Elvis and Bigfoot at the local convenience store? In this hour of Science Friday, we talk about science, pseudoscience and the nature of scientific proof. Why do we believe in strange things? Are we skeptical enough? [more]

Culture (3 Sep) - Images of heavily-armed Marines patrolling Iraq may not be winning the US many friends in the Islamic world. So it could be time to enlist the soft and fluffy inhabitants of Sesame Street in the battle against anti-Americanism. [more]

Software - artificial intelligence (3 Sep) - The work of a shy and reclusive Bulgarian-born writer may seem like a strange source of inspiration for a computer game. But the writings of Elias Canetti about the nature of power are behind a complex and ambitious game called Republic: The Revolution, which has just gone on sale in the UK. Republic is a strategy simulation game that puts you in the role of a budding revolutionary, out to overthrow a despotic and corrupt regime.  Much of the artificial intelligence in the game is based on the book, Crowds and Power, by the 1981 Nobel Laureate in Literature. [more]

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Aging (7 Sep) - Never good with numbers? The bad news: As you age, you may still not be good with them. The good news: You'll still be good at what you're good at today. New research reveals that, contrary to prior thinking, even the very old retain their distinctive patterns of cognitive strengths and weakness. The findings are published in the September issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: [more]

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Schizophrenia (5 Sep) - Faulty brain cells may cause schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to a UK study. The report is helping to rewrite scientists' view of the diseases. The world's 24 million schizophrenia sufferers experience disrupted thoughts and behaviour and sometimes psychotic episodes such as delusions. For years doctors suspected that abnormal levels of certain brain chemicals underlie the disorder because antipsychotic drugs to treat the condition alter activity of these molecules. The latest report backs the idea that a class of brain cells called oligodendrocytes, which help nerves to transmit electrical pulses, are to blame instead. [more]

Anger (4 Sep) - Research into how people recognize emotion has identified a brain region that seems to be involved in the perception of anger. It could be part of an extended circuit of specialized emotion-response areas, suggest the investigators. [more]

Happiness (4 Sep) - What do social survey data tell us about the determinants of happiness? First, that the psychologists' setpoint model is questionable. Life events in the nonpecuniary domain, such as marriage, divorce, and serious disability, have a lasting effect on happiness, and do not simply deflect the average person temporarily above or below a setpoint given by genetics and personality. [more] When it comes to predicting exactly how you will feel in the future, you are most likely wrong. [more]

Motivation - employment (4 Sep) - Forget performance related pay and flexi-time, new research by Martin Corbett from Warwick Business School reveals large corporations increasingly use hip pop music to develop loyal, hard-working employees, and encourage workers, literally, to sing from the same hymn sheet. However, despite encouragement, not all employees dance to the same tune. [more]

Archaeology (4 Sep) - Intricate ivory carvings said to be the oldest known examples of figurative art have been uncovered in a cave in southwestern Germany. Researchers say that the finding could change our understanding of early man's imaginative endeavours. The artefacts - including a figurine depicting a Lowenmensch ('lion man') - have been carbon-dated to around 30,000 years ago, when some of the earliest known relatives of modern humans populated Europe. [more]

Handedness (4 Sep) - Right-handed people tend to have hair that swirls clockwise, a US researcher has discovered. Amar Klar of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, surreptitiously inspected people's pates by spying on them in airports and shopping malls - ignoring the long-haired and the bald. More than 95% of right-handers' hair whorls clockwise on the scalp, he found. The locks of lefties and the ambidextrous are equally likely to coil either way. Nature Science Update, Genetics.

Human evolution (3 Sep) - Humans evolved beyond their vegetarian roots and became meat-eaters at the dawn of the genus Homo, around 2.5 million years ago, according to a study of our ancestors' teeth. In 1999, researchers found cut marks on animal bones dated at around 2.5 million years old. But no one could be sure that they were made by meat-eating hominids, because none appeared to have suitable teeth. Now an analysis by Peter Ungar of the University of Arkansas has revealed that the first members of Homo had much sharper teeth than their most likely immediate ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, the species that produced the famous fossil Lucy. [more]

Obsessional thoughts (2 Sep) - Both fathers and mothers have distressing thoughts after the birth of a baby, according to a new Mayo Clinic study published in the Sept. 3 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings. In a survey mailed to 300 childbearing women and their partners, participants were asked to report distressing thoughts, such as "My baby is going to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)" or "What if I drown my baby while bathing her?" [more]

Mind-body - health (3 Sep) - Staying healthy may involve more than washing hands or keeping a positive attitude. According to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it also may involve a particular pattern of brain activity. By monitoring activity levels in the human brain's prefrontal cortex, the researchers demonstrate for the first time that people who have more activity in the left side of this area also have a stronger immune response against disease. The findings, soon to be published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pinpoint one of the mechanisms underlying the link between mental and physical well-being. EurekAlert, The Independent, New York Times.


Self-awareness - consciousness - Alain Morin reviews The Face in the Mirror: The Search for the Origins of Consciousness by Julian Paul Keenan with Gordon C. Gallup Jr. and Dean Falk.  [more] [review]

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Happiness - Peter Crabb reviews Darwinian Happiness: Evolution as a Guide for Living and Understanding Human Behavior by Bjørn Grinde. [more] [review]

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Medicine - enhancement technologies - Ross Upshur reviews Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream by Carl Elliott.  [more] [review]

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Parenting - Mark Daims reviews Raising America: Experts, Parents and a Century of Advice About Children by Ann Hulbert. [more] [review]

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Neuroeconomics - Paul A. Wagner reviews Decisions, Uncertainty, and the Brain: The Science of Neuroeconomics by Paul W. Glimcher. [more] [review]

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Human evolution - Steve Moxon reviews The Eternal Child: An Explosive New Theory of Human Origins and Behaviour by Clive Bromhall. [review]

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Philosophy - Ann Whittle reviews Powers: A Study in Metaphysics by George Molnar, edited by Stephen Mumford. [more] [review]

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Eugenics - history - David Plotz reviews War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black. [more] [review]

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Nature vs. nurture - Philip Gerrans reviews Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human by Matt Ridley. [more] [review]

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