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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 4: Issue 108 -  10 January, 2004 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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NEWS & VIEWS

Biological electronics (9 Jan) - Electronic devices are getting ever smaller, but there may be a limit to what regular silicon technology will allow. In this hour, we'll talk about how researchers are trying to move computing beyond silicon, using the world of biology. Some are using DNA or proteins built by viruses to form the basis of electronic parts. Others are trying to compute with DNA itself. [more]


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Autism (8 Jan) - Historical figures including Socrates, Charles Darwin, and Andy Warhol probably had a form of autism, says a leading specialist. Professor Michael Fitzgerald, of Dublin's Trinity College believes they showed signs of Asperger's syndrome. [more]


Statistics (5 Jan) - A growing school of thought suggests that precise statistical formulas may be more reliable than human intuition in predicting behavior. The perception could affect the workings of groups like parole boards, which often factor in gut instincts to decide whether an inmate is ready for release. NPR's Alix Spiegel reports. [more]


Archaeology (9 Jan) - A world-renowned ancient burial site at Kow Swamp on the Victorian side of the Murray River is nearly 10,000 years older than first thought, according to two Melbourne University scientists. The revised figure places the age of about 40 skeletons excavated from the site at 19,000-22,000 years rather than 9000-15,000 years. The revised figure was a time of climatic upheaval spawned by the last ice age, which helps explain why the skulls appear so primitive, say the scientists, Tim Stone and Matthew Cupper from the school of earth sciences. [more]


War - genetics (7 Jan) - Research into the aggressive behaviour of male chimpanzees, our closest biological ally, suggests that the urge to go to war is in our DNA and that only women can stop it, says Sanjida O'Connell. [more]



Propaganda (6 Jan) - In last night's one-hour documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima, Days That Shook The World, the BBC spent 35 seconds examining the justification for the attack. This involved presenting, unchallenged, the unfounded claim that the attack was required to avoid one million US combat casualties in the event of an invasion of the Japanese mainland. This was then followed by a supportive quote from the US Army Chief of Staff in 1945. [more]

RESEARCH & COMMENTARY

Genetics (9 Jan) - A team of California geneticists has found that many of the world's peoples are genetically adapted to the cold because their ancestors lived in northern climates during the Ice Age. The genetic change affects basic body metabolism and may influence susceptibility to disease and to the risks of the calorie-laden modern diet. [more] and [audio]


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Audio and Video

Memory - repression (8 Jan) - For the first time, researchers at Stanford University and the University of Oregon have shown that a biological mechanism exists in the human brain to block unwanted memories. The findings, to be published Jan. 9 in the journal Science, reinforce Sigmund Freud's controversial century-old thesis about the existence of voluntary memory suppression. [more] and [more]


Hyperlexia (7 Jan) - Georgetown University Medical Center researchers today published the first ever fMRI study of hyperlexia, a rare condition in which children with some degree of autism display extremely precocious reading skills. Appearing in Neuron, the case study uncovers the neural mechanisms that underlie hyperlexia, and suggest that hyperlexia is the true opposite of the reading disability dyslexia. [more]


Gender and suicide (5 Jan) - Relationships with friends play a significant role in whether teenage girls think about suicide, but have little impact on suicidal thoughts among boys, according to a new nationwide study. [more]


Depression (5 Jan) - An imaging study by neuroscientists in Canada has found that patients who recover from depression with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) show a pattern of brain changes that is distinct from patients who recover with drug therapy. [more] and [more]


Addiction (5 Jan) - Results of a new study indicate that people who have recently stopped abusing the powerfully addictive drug methamphetamine may have brain abnormalities similar to those seen in people with mood disorders. The findings suggest practitioners could improve success rates for methamphetamine users receiving addiction treatment by also providing therapy for depression and anxiety in appropriate individuals. [more]


Ethics (2 Jan) - Over the years, valid concerns have been raised whether research should be allowed in prison settings, based on ethical problems in the past and the fact that prisoners inherently have less free will while incarcerated. However, a University of Iowa study indicates that even prisoners with mental illness, compared to non-prisoners without mental illness, generally are competent to decide to be in a study and do not feel coerced. [more]

REVIEWS & DISCUSSION

Emotions - Alex Sager reviews Emotions and Life: Perspectives from Psychology, Biology, and Evolution by Robert Plutchik. [review]

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Psychology - Marcel Scheele reviews Intentions and Intentionality: Foundations of Social Cognition edited by Bertram F. Malle, Louis J. Moses, and Dare A. Baldwin. [review]

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Biography - Marek Kohn reviews Niko's Nature by Hans Kruuk. [review]

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Human evolution - John McCrone reviews How Homo Became Sapiens: On the evolution of thinking by Peter Gärdenfors. [review]

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Darwinism - Michael Cross reviews Darwin's Legacy: What evolution means today by John Dupré. [review]

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Biology - anthropology - Richard Wrangham reviews The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit by Melvin Konner. [review]

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Literature - Gary Cox reviews Human Nature in Utopia: Zamyatin’s We by Brett Cooke. [review]

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