News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The Weekly Edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 1: Issue 25 - 4th August, 2001

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New brain scanner - British neurophysiologists are developing a portable brain scanner whose potential sensitivity could make it both useful as a basic research tool and equally promising as a cheap alternative to conventional clinical scanners. [more]

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Nutrition - What is the most efficient way to raise low-income pupils' achievement? Is it ending social promotion, increasing accountability or adding more testing? It could be none of those. Improving nutrition might bring a bigger test-score gain. [more]

Archaeology - Claims by two researchers that they have isolated DNA from a 1.8 million-year-old hominid have been dismissed by leading palaeoarchaeologists. New Scientist, Ananova.

Ancient writing - Three months after the announcement of its discovery in Central Asia, a tiny stone object inscribed with symbols thought to be the writing of an obscure desert culture from 4,000 years ago is more of an enigma than ever. [more]

Gulf war syndrome - A scientist claims she has found stronger evidence that a alleged ingredient of vaccines given to Gulf War troops may have made them ill. [more] [video]

Creationism - A state Board of Education committee yesterday opened the door to the teaching of creationism -- the biblical version of the origin of mankind -- as an alternative to the theory of evolution currently taught in public school science classes. [more]. [more] and [more]

Ancient DNA - Two researchers claim that they have extracted the DNA of a 1.8-million-year-old hominid from microscopic traces of blood found on stone tools excavated at the Sterkfontein Caves. [more] and [more]

Language - There's only one thing that everyone knows about language that it's a living, growing thing so it seems particularly unfortunate that it should be false. [more] Larry Trask comments [more]

ADHD - Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and tic disorders showed a 37 percent improvement when they took the medication guanfacine, an alternative to drugs like Ritalin, which can worsen tics, Yale researchers found in a new study published in the July issue of American Journal of Psychiatry. [more]

Language and thought - Does the language you speak affect how you think about the world? This question is taken up in three experiments. English and Mandarin talk about time differently-English predominantly talks about time as if it were horizontal, while Mandarin also commonly describes time as vertical. [more]

Teenage pregnancy - The strongest predictor of an adolescent girl's attitude toward pregnancy appears to be whether or not her boyfriend wants a baby, according to researchers from the Salud Family Health Centers in Brighton, Colorado. [more]

Neuroscience - The results obtained in these studies indicate that many specific cognitive functions are carried out by groups of highly specialized neurons whose roles in performing these functions are genetically predetermined and their activity could not be substituted by the activity of other neurons. [more]

Capgras delusion - It has been hypothesized that Capgras delusion, in which individuals believe an individual close to them has been replaced by a duplicate, occurs because of the breakdown of a modular system that requires both visual and affective input (see Stone and Young, 1997). This fascinating new finding in the current edition of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry suggests that there is also an auditory form of Capgras. [more]

Schizophrenia - In patients with early-onset schizophrenia, the predominantly right-sided volumetric abnormalities found in the superior temporal gyrus may reflect a particularly early neurodevelopmental disruption. The relationship between language-related symptoms and superior temporal gyrus volume is similar to that seen in adult-onset cases but not as lateralized. [more]

Alcoholism - Anticipation of increasing monetary rewards selectively activates the human nucleus accumbens of the ventral striatum. Since this brain region is implicated in animal studies of alcohol and drug self-administration, the research may help lead to methods for understanding the biological basis of alcohol and drug craving in humans. EurekAlert, Journal of Neuroscience.

Depression - Depression during pregnancy is more common than postnatal depression, finds a study in this week's BMJ. As mood during pregnancy may affect the unborn child, more efforts need to be directed towards recognising and treating antenatal depression, report the authors. [more]

Neuroscience - The microcircuitry of the mammalian neocortex remains largely unknown. Although the neocortex could be composed of scores of precise circuits, an alternative possibility is that local connectivity is probabilistic or even random. A new study reveals precisely specified cortical microcircuits. [more]

Disease - We need to define the term disease so that it incorporates our expanding genetic knowledge, taking into account the possible risks and adverse consequences associated with certain genetic variations, while acknowledging that a definition of disease cannot be based solely on one genetic abnormality. [more] and [more]

Population - The past century's world population surge has led many to wonder how the globe will sustain the ever-growing horde of humanity. A new study suggests that it may not have to: the world's population may peak as soon as 2070, then start to decline. [more]

Neanderthals - New research suggests Ice-age Neanderthals were not our close relatives but a completely different species. Ananova, BBC News Online, Nature, National Geographic, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Learning - To learn a skill well enough to excel in a job or sport, practice must be structured in certain ways to ensure long-term retention. A new study confirms earlier research on both verbal and motor learning that practicing several different skills in separate, concentrated blocks leads to better performance during practice but not during the actual task. [more]

Suicide - Adolescent boys and girls with a same-sex sexual orientation are twice as likely to attempt suicide compared with other adolescents, according to a report in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health. [more]

Evolution - Despite its importance in countless Frankenstein movies, most scientists consider the life-giving properties of lightning to be more theatrical than actual. But for bacteria at least, bolts from the blue might just be instrumental in evolution. [more]

Violence - Gwen Adshead reviews Preventing Violence by James Gilligan. [more]

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Human reproduction - Hillard S. Kaplan reviews On Fertile Ground: A Natural History of Human Reproduction Peter Ellison. [more]

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Statistics - John D. Potter reviews The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century by David Salsburg. [more]

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Medicine - Steve Horwitz reviews Great Feuds in Medicine: Ten of the Liveliest Disputes Ever by Hal Hellman. [more]

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'Darwinian fundamentalism' - A look at Stephen Jay Gould's approach to evolutionary biology. [more] [free electronic books]

Biology - Robert H. Insall reviews Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life: A New, Unifying Approach to Cell Function by Gerald H. Pollack. [more]

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Archaeology - A custody battle in a federal court rages over the bones of Kennewick Man. The federal government claims his bones for five Indian tribes, arguing that the Indians were the original Americans and that Kennewick Man is part of their family. Bruce Ramsey reviews Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans by James C. Chatters  [more]

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Bioinformatics - A. Jamie Cuticchia reviews Bioinformatics: Sequence and Genome Analysis by David W. Mount [more]
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