News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 1: Issue 31 - 27th October, 2001

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Editor's choice Obituary - David Kellogg Lewis a metaphysician and a philosopher of mind, language and logic at Princeton University, died on Sunday at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 60. [more] and [more]

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Sex - A nasal spray may become the most effective form of foreplay for both men and women if trials of a new sex drug in America prove successful. The Guardian, Ananova, The Times.

Stigma - Stigma's largely unexplored effects on the health of people suffering from ailments ranging from AIDS to schizophrenia attracted much interest at a recent conference. [more]

Editor's choice RNA - Overnight, the number of known members of the tiny RNA family, known to play a role in regulating gene expression, has ballooned from two to more than 70. But it won't stop there says Volker Erdmann. [more]

"Conflict barometer" - Researchers in the US have devised a system they claim could predict much earlier any countries approaching civil war. [more]

"Mad leader disease" - A potentially devastating condition that has affected hundreds of thousands of people, and even altered the course of world history, remains unchecked, President James F. Toole warned in his opening remarks to the World Congress of Neurology in London last June. He urged members of the international community of neurologists to take action. [more]

Scientific publishing - Do studies prove the effectiveness of peer review? [more]

Genomics - Singaporean scientists released the genetic blueprint of the Japanese pufferfish on Friday, saying it will help speed up understanding of the human genome. [more] A wealth of technologies exists to find elusive genetic polymorphisms. [more]

Biology and crime - Numerous studies have shown a link between antisocial, violent crime and low serotonin metabolism in offenders. But researchers have not been able to explain why processing of this essential neurotransmitter was lowered in these individuals. [more]

Editor's choice Autism - The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency today jointly announced four new children's environmental health research centers – centers that will focus research on childhood autism and such behavioral problems as attention deficit disorder. [more]

Archaeology - Almost a decade has passed since the frozen body of a Stone Age man now called Ötzi was discovered in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Italy and Austria, and science is still revealing secrets and refining theories about the 5,000-year-old Iceman. [more]

Darwin - A fire in a 100-year-old building at Glasgow University is thought to have destroyed first edition works of Charles Darwin and caused £8 million of damage. [more]

Editor's choice Neuro-Journalism - The James S. McDonnell Foundation selects some of the worst neuro-journalism of recent times. [more]

Neuroscience and the arts - "I think of neuroscience and the human sciences as like two very small human beings energetically tunneling in from opposite sides of a very large Alp," writes Norman Holland. [more]

Editor's choice Language - A genetic study of several hundred people in Africa has revealed that the first human language may have resembled today's African click languages, geneticists argue. The proposal is controversial, however. [more] and [more]

Psychopharmacology - Doctors are increasingly prescribing psychiatric drugs such as Ritalin and Prozac to preschoolers, despite questions about safety and effectiveness, experts reported over the weekend. [more]

Cognitive science - The 24th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci2002),  will be held August 8 - 10, 2002 (Thursday through Saturday), at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA. [more]

Artificial intelligence - It is a commonplace occurrence in science-fiction: Men and women talk directly to computers as if they were other people. The machines understand spoken language and respond immediately to people's needs. University of Colorado researchers are trying to make reality out of that fiction. [more]

Human genome - After the success of the genome, scientists have got carried away with the study of 'omics. They all want 'omes of their own, explains Oliver Morton. [more]

Editor's choice Empathy - Empathy is second nature to us, so much so that anyone devoid of it strikes us as dangerous or mentally ill. [more]

Eating disorders - A few years ago doctors would have considered eating disorder a social problem, the result of peer pressure, media manipulation or neglectful parenting. [more]

Longevity - Scientists have identified a gene that increases the lifespan of humans and other mammals. [more]

Neurology - Dr. V. S. Ramachandran has devoted his life to unraveling the mysteries of the human brain. "What excites me is I can go in there, pretend I'm Sherlock Holmes and try and figure out what has gone wrong," he says early in "Secrets of the Mind. [more]

Editor's choice Autism - In a move that reflects the emergence of autism to the center stage of the scientific community, the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) will promote communication and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists researching the disorder. [more]

Psychology - Psychology describes how our biology and experience shape how we think and feel. [more]

Editor's choice Musical intelligence - In 1988 a German musicologist walked up to American composer David Cope, exclaimed, "Musik ist tot!" (dead) and tried to punch him in the nose.  Seven years earlier Cope-the author of over seventy published compositions, and a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz-had invented a form of artificial intelligence that could emulate the great composers. [more]

Biology of belief - Lewis Wolpert, well known British rationalist, scientist and author, will be one of the main speakers of the Third International Rationalist Conference scheduled to be held at New Delhi, the capital of India, on 8-12 February 2002. [more]

Cyber-meditation - Larry Hodges believes virtual reality could deliver calm and inner peace more effectively than the traditional yoga mat and sandalwood joss stick. [more]

Human genome - Corporate feudalism is hampering research, says an eminent geneticist. [more]

Anxiety - Could it be that Paxil-maker GlaxoSmithKline is attempting to capitalize on the disasters of September 11th? [more]

Finger length - Young boys who are at risk of a heart attack early in their adult lives can be identified simply by measuring their fingers, research at a British university has established. [more]

Editor's choice Amygdala - The amygdala is a brain area that has recently become a very hot topic in neuroscience. Interest in the amygdala is not limited to scientists, but also includes the general public and business professionals who are actively seeking more information about how the brain governs emotions and how we cope with everyday life. [more]

Palaeoanthropology - The  last decade has witnessed a heated debate over the age and the character of the earliest occupation of Europe. This paper addresses two aspects of the debate. [more]

Depression - A survey of experts in the field of geriatric psychiatry, aimed at developing a set of Expert Consensus Guidelines on pharmacotherapy for depression in older patients, indicates that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the "medications of choice" in this setting. [more]

Editor's choice Contraception - Does the Pill affect libido by blunting a woman’s sense of smell? Eurekalert, BBC News Online.

Selection - Authors frequently refer to gene-based selection in biological evolution, the reaction of the immune system to antigens and operant learning as exemplifying selection processes in the same sense of this term. However, as obvious as this claim may seem on the surface, setting out an account of "selection" that is general enough to incorporate all three of these processes without becoming so general as to be vacuous is far from easy. [more]

Editor's choice Fragile X - Patients with fragile X syndrome have a significantly lower risk of cancer than individuals in the general population. [more]

Conception - A simple way of establishing on which days in a woman’s menstrual cycle she is fertile has been identified by US and Italian fertility experts, according to research published in Europe’s leading reproductive medicine journal, Human Reproduction. [more]

Editor's choice Depression - Around 450 million people worldwide have mental or psychosocial problems, but up to a quarter of those who turn to health services for help will not be correctly diagnosed and will not, therefore, get the right treatment. [more] and [more]

Population genomics - Evolutionary genetic studies yield critical clues about the histories of human populations, and they provide substantial support for an African origin of modern humans. [more]

Editor's choice Primatology - According to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the most extensive genetic study to date indicates that, in fact  female chimps rarely mate with males from outside communities. Scientific American, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Editor's choice Subliminal training - You must pay attention to learn, teachers say. Not necessarily, US psychologists now argue: sights we are unaware of can have a lasting impact on our brains. Nature Science Update, Nature, BBC News Online.

Mental health - Children with anxiety disorders who come from dysfunctional families have less successful outcomes in psychiatric treatment programs than children from healthy families, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. [more]

Archaeology - Even such mythical detectives as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot would have difficulty trying to find the culprit that killed the mammoths, mastodons and other megafauna that once roamed North America. [more]

Consciousness - Many special problems crop up when evolutionary theory turns, quite naturally, to the question of the adaptive value and causal role of consciousness in human and nonhuman organisms. [more]

Agency - Understanding death as the cessation of intentional action: A cross-cultural developmental study. [more]

Essentialism - This essay examines the proposal that psychological essentialism results from a history of natural selection acting on human representation and inference systems. [more]

Hormones and behaviour - Risky behaviors (e.g., binge drinking, drunk driving, risky sex) are increasing among U.S. college students, and the personality trait of sensation seeking provides a potential link between such norm-breaking behaviors and biological processes. [more]

Editor's choice Altruism - Because each selfish decision is individually preferred to each altruistic decision, people can benefit from altruistic behavior only when they are committed to an altruistic pattern of acts and refuse to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. [more]

Neuroscience - When zero is not zero: The problem of ambiguous baseline conditions in fMRI. [more]

Editor's choice Economics - On the impossibility of predicting the behavior of rational agents. [more]

Development - The effects of childhood family disruptions -- such as parental divorce, long-term separation from biological parents, parental abandonment and foster care -- can reverberate into later life. [more]

Primatology - Primates use social grooming to service coalitions and it has been suggested that these directly affect the fitness of their members by allowing them to reduce the intrinsic costs associated with living in large groups. [more]

Editor's choice Racist "Christian" Theologies - In 'Children of a White God' Matthew C. Ogilvie writes: "It is common knowledge that Islamic extremism has been associated with numerous terrorist attacks around the world. It remains, though, that racist Christian theologies have also animated violent movements. One key example concerns the Oklahoma City bombing. Bomber Timothy McVeigh has been connected to white supremacist movements such as White Aryan Resistance and the Christian Identity Movement, both of which promote racist theology. In Australia, racist theologies have gained attention through the medium of racist politician Pauline Hanson. Apart from her generally anti-Indigenous and anti-Asian stance, Hanson has advocated giving preference to Christian migrants over those from non-Christian backgrounds. The media attention given Ms Hanson has been accompanied by an increase in race-based violence within Australia. While one acknowledges that Ms Hanson has not articulated a 'race-theology' her movement has brought out many others who do present such racist religion. The seriousness of the threat presented by supremacist groups is reflected in the US Army's approach to anti-terrorism. In the prepublication edition of Force Protection: Antiterrorism 1997, it is noted that there exists within the United States, 'an eclectic array of extremist organizations, which do not officially condone terrorism but may serve as breeding grounds for terrorist activities.'" [more]
The Human Nature Daily Review/News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences will now consider for publication original articles and book reviews on any subject covered by this newsletter. To submit a manuscript write to The Editor.

Editor's choice Memory - Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered a pattern to protein manufacture in the hippocampus, the part of the brain devoted to making memories. [more]

Neurology - Tic disorders related to problems in school, more common in children than previously thought. [more]

Alzheimer's disease - The risk of developing Alzheimer's is increased for people with small head sizes who also carry an Alzheimer's-related gene, according to a study published in the October 23 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. [more]

Penis size - Does the size of the male penis, in terms of length or width, make a difference in female sexual satisfaction? [more]

Complexity - Daniel W. McShea reviews Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature by Eric J. Chaisson. [more]
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Genes - William C. Summers reviews The Misunderstood Gene by Michel Morange, The Impact of the Gene: From Mendel’s Peas to Designer Babies by Colin Tudge, and The Cooperative Gene: How Mendel’s Demon Explains the Evolution of Complex Beings by Mark Ridley. [more]

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History - David A. Hollinger reviews The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand. [more]

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Violence - Rob Fisher reviews Remaking a World: Violence, Social Suffering, and Recovery by Veena Das, et al. [more]

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Self - Steven R. Quartz reviews The Shattered Self: The End of Natural Evolution by Pierre Baldi. [more]

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Biology - Michel Morange reviews Ahead of the Curve: David Baltimore’s Life in Science by Shane Crotty. [more]

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Literature - Johann W. N. Tempelhoff reviews Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Second edition by Gillian Beer. [more]

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Philosophy of biology - Ed Brandon reviews Norms of Nature by Paul Sheldon Davies. [more]

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Science studies - M. Lynn Byrd reviews Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science by Donna Haraway. [more]

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Editor's choice Cognitive neuroscience - MIT CogNet is pleased to announce that a major new reference work -- Nelson and Luciana's "Handbook of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience" -- has been added to the library collection. [more]

Depression - Mari Lloyd Williams reviews The Great Blue Yonder by Alex Shearer. [more]
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Human genetics - BioMedNet's Conference Reporter has just finished reporting from the American Society of Human Genetics, San Diego, California, 12-16 October 2001. [summary] [reports]

Masculinity - The Masculinities Reader provides a clear and comprehensive introduction to the key debates informing the study of masculinity. [more]
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Biography - Roy Herbert reviews Darwin's Mentor by S. M. Walters and E. A. Stow. [more]

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Depression - Christian Perring reviews Depression Is a Choice: Winning the Fight Without Drugs by A. B. Curtiss. [more]

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History - Helen Dunmore reviews Emma Darwin: the inspirational wife of a genius, by Edna Healey. [more]
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Psychology of women - Leslie Hartley Gise reviews Psychological Aspects of Women's Health Care: The Interface Between Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology edited by Nada L. Stotland and Donna E. Stewart. [more]

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Science - Steven Shapin reviews Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion by Daniel Greenberg. [more]

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History of ideas - Kenan Malik reviews The Metaphysical Club: a story of ideas in America by Louis Menand. [more]
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