News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The Weekly Edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 1: Issue 23 - 21st July, 2001

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Obituary - Jia Lanpo, an archaeologist who helped to unearth the Peking Man fossils, one of the most important discoveries in the search for human origins, has died at 92. [more]

SUBSCRIBE to our weekly newsletter on brain, behaviour, and evolution by sending a blank email here. You are welcome to join our discussions on evolution or mental health.

Editor's choice Evolution - Just as federal legislators are finding themselves pulled into the evolution controversy, educators at the University of California's Berkeley Museum of Paleontology are building a website in defense of evolution. [more]

Violence and the brain - You don't have to be a psychiatrist, Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis says, to know that something was terribly wrong with Ricky Ray Rector, who before his execution in Arkansas ordered his last meal and asked that the pecan pie be set aside so he could have it later. [more]

Science - Sometime in 1962, to paraphrase Virginia Woolf, the world changed. That year a physicist and historian of science, Thomas S. Kuhn, did for conceptions of science what Copernicus and Einstein did for astronomy and physics. [more]

Ants and artificial intelligence - Ants have been found to make up their minds collectively when it comes to moving to a new home. [more]

Violence - Violent video games may indeed increase aggressive behavior, two Iowa State psychologists conclude after conducting a comprehensive review of the literature in this hotly debated field. However, other experts say the research to date is still not conclusive. [more]

Human genome - Scientists planning the next phase of the human genome project are being forced to confront a treacherous issue: the genetic differences between human races. [more]

Schizophrenia - An Australian psychiatrist claims lack of sunlight on the skin of pregnant women may cause their babies to be schizophrenic. [more] and [more]

Depression - Unbalanced minds, and the depressions they can lead to, need social interactions to recover not courses of drug treatment, insisted one of Britain's leading psychiatrists last night in a public lecture at the Royal Institution in London before an audience that included several eminent neuroscientists. [more]

Primatology - Humans tend to anthropomorphize apes and judge them too much by their appearance. This sort of bad science leads to damaging stereotypes in movies such as Planet of the Apes. [more]

Addiction - Some people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs may have problems with their decision-making skills, researchers suggest. Their findings give weight to the idea that addiction involves a flaw in the brain's decision-making center. [more]

Dissociation - Although it is considered a protective response to traumatic stress, dissociation may actually increase the risk of psychiatric disturbances in sexually abused children and adolescents, researchers suggest. [more]

Creationism - The continuing argument between strict Darwinian evolutionists and those who believe in the intelligent design of the universe seems to hinge on two issues. [more]

'Gut feelings' - Have a hunch that something's about to go terribly wrong? It may just be paranoia. Or, researchers suggest, it may be an entirely accurate ``gut feeling'' based on subtle, unconscious comparisons with past events. [more]

Editor's choice Pheromones - Women suffering from premenstrual syndrome may soon get instant relief from a mix of pheromones, the airborne chemical messengers best known for their role in animal mating behaviour. They'll get the pheromones in a simple nasal spray. [more]

Newspapers - The Journal of the American Medical Association looks at the newspaper as a pathological factor - 100 years ago. [more]

Science - Secondary school students should be examining the moral and ethical issues of science as well as the science itself, says a report today from the Wellcome Trust, one of the world's biggest medical charities. [more]

Sex determination - The Indian Government is planning to come out with an ordinance to prevent misuse of the new chromosome separation technique (CST) which is being resorted to for ensuring birth of a male baby, union minister C P Thakur said on Wednesday. [more]

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'Selfish women' - Could men be bypassed altogether in the process of reproduction? Research at Cornell University in America is also raising the prospect of genetic lesbian parenthood. There are still one or two little obstacles to this nirvana, such as the fact that aspects of embryo development are controlled by the paternal gene. [more]

Menstruation - Ask a woman if her period affects her body beyond the reproductive system and she'll probably answer with a resounding yes. This seemingly basic question is now being asked by numerous investigators in various areas of women's health research. [more]

The sexes - Researchers' understanding of sex is undergoing profound and surprising changes due to new insights gained from sociology, biology, and medicine. [more]

Suicide - Deliberate self poisoning is one of the commonest reasons for admission to hospital in the United Kingdom, but there are no effective treatments available. However, a study in this week's BMJ finds that psychotherapy may be a valuable treatment for these patients. This finding could be a first step towards improving the management of suicidal behaviour. [more] and [more]. People born in the summer may be more likely than others to end up taking their own lives when they become elderly, according to British researchers. [more]

Editor's choice Neuroscience - For humans and other animals to think, move, remember or do most other things, nerve cells must communicate with adjacent nerve cells or neurons by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. In a new study, University of Utah biologists showed how a single protein plays an essential role in preparing nerve cells to send these chemical signals. Press release, Nature.

Parenting - Parenting style is a crucial influence on whether young teenagers turn to crime or engage in delinquent activities. [more]

Editor's choice Evolution - At the beginning of the Cambrian period, about 545 million years ago, almost all the main types of animals that are still dominant today suddenly emerge in the fossil record. But was there a Cambrian "explosion" that saw accelerated evolution, or was there an extended period of evolutionary genesis in the Precambrian that did not leave a trace in the fossil record? A new finding provides support for the second hypothesis. Science, BBC News Online, Science, Newsday.

History - Abraham Lincoln reached over and picked a man up by the coat collar at the back of the neck and shook him "until his teeth chattered." He became so angry "his voice thrilled and his whole frame shook." Lincoln only stopped when someone, "fearing that he would shake Ficklin's head off," broke his grip. A new study suggests that mercury poisoning may explain Lincoln's bizarre behaviour. [more]

Editor's choice Schizophrenia - Positive and negative symptoms in schizophrenia predict corresponding schizotypal symptoms in relatives. This provides evidence that these schizophrenic symptom factors (1) are etiologically distinct from each other and (2) occur on an etiological continuum with their personality-based counterparts. [more]

Stereotypes - Teachers’ behavior may play a key role in promoting or discouraging the development of stereotypical attitudes in children, according to the results of a new study. [more]

Evolution - If you're always late for work you could try a new excuse. An out-of-kilter body clock may be down to Darwinian evolution, suggests research from Japan. The mismatch in minutes between the day-night cycle and our internal clock may be a legacy from the struggle for survival. [more]

Contraception - An analysis by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health of data collected from married couples in 23 developing countries has found many discrepancies between spouses' statements about their use of contraception. [more]

Personality - Two new studies find that personality and job complexity can influence the health and safety of industrial workers and firefighters. The findings appear in the July issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. [more] and [more]

Editor's choice Neuroscience - Early traumatic emotional experience alters synaptic input of pyramidal neurons. Such experience-induced modulation of limbic cortex development may determine psychosocial and cognitive capacities during later life. [more]

Pheromones - A new line of approach is giving researchers a different way to analyze the tantalizing link between odor and mate choice in animals and humans. A research team has used an electronic nose to confirm which genes are involved. They are on their way to studying the question in humans, according to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [more]

Primatology - A group of primatologists has observed wild western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) using water to generate spectacular 'splash displays'. Nature, Ananova, New Scientist.

Editor's choice Evolution - Using a revolutionary computer program that gives scientists the opportunity to watch evolution take place before their eyes using "digital organisms," a team of researchers from Michigan State University and Caltech has confirmed an evolutionary process long suspected but, until now, unproven. EurekAlert, Nature, San Francisco Chronicle.

Imaging - Olfactory cues can elicit intense emotional responses. This study used fMRI in male common marmoset monkeys to identify brain areas associated with sexual arousal in response to odors of ovulating female monkeys. [more]

Language - In most humans, language is lateralized to the left side of the brain. It has been speculated that this hemispheric specialization is a prerequisite for the full realization of linguistic potential. Using standardized questionnaires and performance measures, we attempted to determine if there are behavioural correlates of atypical, i.e. right-hemispheric and bilateral, language lateralization. [more]

Language - Neuropsychological studies of patients with selective deficits for nouns or verbs have been taken as evidence for the neural specialization of different word classes. Noun deficits are associated with lesions in anterior temporal regions while verb deficits arise from left inferior frontal lesions. However, neuroimaging studies do not unequivocally support this account. [more]

Pheromones - All it takes is a few molecules of a certain chemical to enable mammals to smell their own species up to a half-mile away, said Milos Novotny, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and director of the Institute for Pheromone Research at Indiana University. [more]

Geology - history - The Greeks and Romans took their prophesies from a woman who was high on the fumes of natural gas, say US geologists. Geological surveys of the site of the Greek Temple of Apollo in Delphi reveal that the temple ruins lie over a fault cross that emits intoxicating vapours. [more]

Evolutionary psychology - The current Evolutionary Psychology Movement (EPM) argues that the mind/brain cannot be understood except by conceiving of it as the product of design by natural selection. [more]

Philosophy - Philosophical discussion of molecular and developmental biology began in the late 1960s with the use of genetics as a test case for models of theory reduction. With this exception, the theory of natural selection remained the main focus of philosophy of biology until the late 1970s. It was controversies in evolutionary theory over punctuated equilibrium and adaptationism that first led philosophers to examine the concept of developmental constraint. [more]

'The Greenroom' - With Host Dorian Devins on Mondays from 7-8PM EST. In-depth interviews with people working in the sciences, technology, mathematics, and related areas. [more] Robert Sapolsky, Daniel Schachter, Robin Marantz Henig.

ADHD - At the dawning of a new decade, we have "The Explosive Child" by child psychologist Ross W. Greene, who offers, as the book's subtitle suggests, "a new approach for understanding and parenting easily frustrated, chronically inflexible children." While Greene's approach may be valid for some extreme cases, "The Explosive Child" overpathologizes difficult children and is likely to have a pernicious effect on our already-lax culture of parenting. (Expect the publication next year of "The Lethal Child" and perhaps by the end of this decade, "The Thermonuclear Child.") [more]

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Editor's choice David Healy - The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one of eight teaching hospitals affiliated with University of Toronto, is standing behind its decision to rescind a clinical leadership job offer to British professor David Healy. It is a decision that U of T's dean of medicine says warrants no further investigation. Press release, David Healy's Lecture. Interest has been aroused because of the suggestion that the job withdrawal was a consequence of the clash of interest between academic freedom and the commercial interests of pharmaceutical companies. [more]

History - Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill by Lara V Marks. [more]

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Evolutionary psychology - As detailed in today's Independent podium piece, the Institute of Ideas has just published its first Conversation in Print on the subject of what science can and cannot tell us about being human. The publication consists of an extend essay by Kenan Malik author of 'The Meaning of Race' (1996) and Man, Beast and Zombie (2000), followed by responses from Maggie Gee (novelist), Professor Kiernan Ryan (Shakespeare scholar), Norman Levitt (mathematician), Anthony O'Hear (philosopher), Kevin Warwick (cyberneticist) and Matt Ridley (science writer).  Finally,  Malik replies to his critics! [more]

SUBSCRIBE to this weekly newsletter on brain, behaviour, and evolution by sending a blank email here. You are welcome to join our discussions on evolution or mental health.

Primatology - Will Self reviews The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist with Frans B. M. De Waal. [more]

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Evolution - Jon W. Turney reviews The Imitation Factor: Evolution Beyond the Gene by Lee Dugatkin. [more] [first chapter]

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Sociobiology - The Triumph of Sociobiology by John Alcock. [more]

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Aging - The Ageing Brain provides the first popular, comprehensive and wide ranging examination of ageing from a biological, social and policy perspective. Within the book, Lawrence Whalley challenges many of the accepted wisdoms surrounding ageing, most importantly that mental decline is inevitable - there are in fact aspects of brain function that improve with ageing. [more]

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Editor's choice Darwin - The twelfth volume of "The Correspondence of Charles Darwin" is published by Cambridge University Press on Wednesday 11 July, 2001. It includes all letters written in 1864 to and from the most celebrated of nineteenth-century naturalists. [more]

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Psychiatry - Paul Raeburn reviews Out of its Mind. Psychiatry in Crisis: A Call for Reform by J. Allan Hobson and Jonathan A. Leonard. [more]

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