News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 1: Issue 35 - 24th November, 2001

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Embryogenomics - Geneticists compile genome sequences based only on what they find in adult tissue, say critics, regularly ignoring the importance of developmental biology and, in particular, the embryonic and fetal stages of growth. [more]

"Neurofeedback" - Andy Hogan is refining his skills in a therapy, called neurofeedback, which he has found to be effective in treating mental disorders. But he has an uphill battle in establishing his practice. [more]

Neuroscience - Early maternal neglect changes the expression of genes involved in the development of the dopamine system, research on mice has revealed. [more]

Editor's choice Human genome - "Preceding a House of Representatives vote in July to ban human cloning, including the cloning of embryos for research, University of Chicago bioethicist Leon Kass publicly endorsed the ban as a means 'to seize the initiative and to gain some control of the biotechnical project,' which he, and others, believe to be the 'eugenic redesign of future generations.' The one known fact about the President's bioethics council is that Leon Kass has been appointed as its chair," writes Ralph Brave. [more]

Neuroscience - Combining two relatively straightforward surgical procedures, German scientists have made the remarkable discovery that mature neurons possess the intrinsic ability to re-grow their axons over long distances. [more]

Why we say it with flowers - Why did so many people reach out to firefighters and their lost comrades following the Twin Towers disaster, by solemnly laying blossoms at the firehouse door? For that matter, why did the British heap flowers in front of Buckingham Palace when a princess died tragically before her time? [more]

Auditory hallucinations - When Mike Smith trained as a mental health nurse in the early 1980s, he was told to deny the existence of the voices that patients reported they heard. His trainers argued it was potentially dangerous to give meaning to what psychiatry regarded as auditory hallucinations. At the very least, staff risked hindering their clients' recovery by encouraging such delusions. [more]

Obituary - Professor Ernest Hilgard, who has died aged 97, developed hypnosis as a medical tool to cure people of harmful habits such as smoking and also to control pain. [more]

Childbirth - Midwifery may be as old as humanity, a new study suggests. Changes in the birth canal as our distant ancestresses began to move in an upright posture, together with increasing brain size, made delivery more difficult and assistance both useful and reassuring. [more]

Editor's choice Primatology - People fail to appreciate orangutans' talent as thieves. Highly intelligent and uncanny imitators, orangutans don't take long to figure out how to unzip backpacks and fish out whatever catches their eye. [more]

Editor's choice Computation - "Some processes are obviously computational. Others are obviously not computational. Where does the computational perspective illuminate?  Well, that depends on who's looking at the illumination," says Daniel Dennett. [video] Lee Smolin on information and computation. [video] The Edge.

"Neurobics" - If you want to strengthen your muscles, you exercise. But what if you want to boost your creativity, improve your memory and generally keep your brain crackling with new thoughts and ideas? [more] DISCUSSION: Chittaranjan Andrade

Human genetics - Genetic evidence continues to provide additional proof to the claims that the Jewish people are descended from a common ancient Israelite father: Despite being separated for over 1,000 years, Sephardi Jews of North African origin are genetically indistinguishable from their brethren from Iraq, according to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. [more] The people closest to the Jews from a genetic point of view may be the Kurds, according to results of a new study at the Hebrew University. [more]

Pain - Mice with an overabundance in the brain of an important pain molecule appear to be at increased risk of age-related mental decline, a new study says. [more] DISCUSSION: Chittaranjan Andrade.

Kissing - A German academic claims kissing originates from animals sniffing each other. [more]

Postpartum depression - Despite increased attention on postpartum depression over the last few years, the number of women screened and then referred for treatment has not increased significantly, according to a national expert on the disorder. [more]

History - A slab, dating back to the Second century, is the first to show a woman in a pose indicating that she wrote. Ananova, Nando Times.

Aging - Looking old for one's age may have as much do to with chemicals in the blood as it has with a person's way of life, research suggests. [more]

Psychopharmacology - Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. on Monday released clinical trial data showing that its experimental antidepressant, duloxetine, was more effective in reducing depressive symptoms than popular treatment Paxil, made by GlaxoSmithKline Plc. [more]

Anxiety - 9/11: The Psychological Aftermath. Anxiety is on the rise and experts estimate that 100,000 people in New York alone are at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. [more]

Human evolution - It is the key, defining ability of our species, the one critical evolutionary feature that sets us apart from other creatures. Yet the reason for humanity developing a prowess to walk on two legs has baffled palaeontologists for decades. [more]

Editor's choice Human genome - Emerging information about haplotype structures has now provoked a paradigm shift in genetic analysis, leading geneticists suggest. A series of papers, have dramatically downplayed genetic diversity in humans, and promise to revolutionize genetic association studies for common diseases. [more]

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Abuse - A history of physical or sexual abuse may affect women's ovarian function, potentially leading to the early onset of menopause, new research suggests. [more]

Editor's choice Schizophrenia - Identification of patterns of changes in gene expression may lead to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia disorders. [more] and [more - free registration required]

Advances in psychiatry - The recent recognition of the global importance of mental disorders has put psychiatry firmly on the international health agenda. The World Health Organization has estimated that neuropsychiatric disorders and suicide account for 12.7% of the global burden of disease. [more]

Philosophy of biology - That biology provides explanations is not open to doubt. But how it does so must be a vexed question for those who deny that biology embodies laws or other generalizations with the sort of explanatory force that the philosophy of science recognizes. [more]

Antipsychotics - New study findings suggest that melatonin could help ease the side effects of drugs used to treat schizophrenia. [more]

Editor's choice Animal cognition - Experiments by animal-behavior researchers at the University of Cambridge show that scrub jays that have been previously observed stealing food from others tend to move their own food to different locations to hide it from other sneaky predators. Nando Times, Nature.

Cognitive neuroscience - Gloria Lenhoff is a 46-year-old lyric soprano singer who has performed with such diverse groups as the San Diego Master Chorale and members of Aerosmith. She can sing nearly 2,500 songs in more than 25 languages, reportedly in a perfect accent. She even has perfect pitch. But the rest of her world is not perfect. Gloria is affected by a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome. With an IQ of about 55, Gloria literally cannot subtract three from five or make change for a dollar. [more]

Parenting - A new study confirms that parental behavior can affect how likely teenagers are to join a gang or participate in gang delinquency. [more]

Editor's choice Evolution - Last year, scientists described how partial reproductive isolation between two sockeye salmon populations had evolved at the astonishingly rapid rate of about 13 generations. This was stunning to many biologists, who think of reproductive isolation as a process that evolves over tens of thousands, or even millions of years, but certainly not decades. [more]

Autism - Women who have had a major stressful event - death of a spouse, job loss, or a long-distance move - midway through their pregnancy may have a greater chance of having an autistic child than do their unstressed counterparts say researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center. [more]

Schizophrenia - People who are born and raised in cities may be at increased risk of schizophrenia compared with individuals who reside in less urban areas, researchers in Denmark report. [more]

Editor's choice Fatherhood - A new mathematical analysis suggests that evolution favours babies who don't much resemble their fathers, and males who believe their partner when she says a child looks just like him. Nature Science Update, Ananova, Acta Ethologica. DISCUSSION: Ian Fraser, Ian Montgomerie.

Friendship - Friends are not a random selection of the population. If they were, the chance that you and I share a friend of a friend would be much smaller than it is. Nature Science Update, Preprint.

Neuroscience - The emotional load of a stimulus does not affect the way we perceive it but does have an effect on how we become used to it if we see it many times. Imaging of the brains of subjects suggests that the amygdala, a brain region implicated in emotional response, may play a role in this emotion-dependent adaptation. UniSci, Neuron.

Editor's choice Imitation - Imitation is a complex phenomenon, the neural mechanisms of which are still largely unknown. When individuals imitate an action that already is present in their motor repertoire, a mechanism matching the observed action onto an internal motor representation of that action should suffice for the purpose. [more]

Primatology - Kin selection promotes the evolution of social behavior that increases the survival and reproductive success of close relatives. Among primates, maternal kinship frequently coincides with a higher frequency of grooming and agonistic aiding, but the extent to which paternal kinship influences adult female social relationships has not yet been investigated. [more]



Enlightenment - Nicholas Lezard reviews The Creation of the Modern World: The British Enlightenment by Roy Porter. [more]

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Editor's choice Faculty of 1000 - An innovative online research tool from BioMed Central that highlights the most interesting papers in biology, based on the recommendations of over 1000 leading scientists. Register now for a free trial. [more] and [more]

Emergence - Chris Lavers reviews Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software by Steven Johnson. [more]
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Monogamy - The Editors of Scientific American recommend  The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton. [more]

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Language - Anne Eisenberg reviews Language and the Internet by David Crystal. [more]
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Editor's choice Anthropology - The American Anthropological Association's preliminary report on the 'Darkness in El Dorado' scandal. [more] Introduction to the Preliminary Report, Allegations and Case Studies, References, Regions of the Yanomami.

Employment - Psychiatry vacancies in the New York area. [more]

Psychiatry - Walter A. Brown 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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Morality - Maria Trochatos reviews Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives by Leonard D. Katz. [more] and [more]

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Epilepsy - Kimford J. Meador reviews Psychiatric Issues in Epilepsy: A Practical Guide to Diagnosis and Treatment edited by Alan B. Ettinger and Andres M. Kanner. [more]

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - John Langone reviews Freeing Your Child From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Dr. Tamar E. Chansky. [more]

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The Body - Oxford University Press announces The Oxford Companion to the Body edited by Colin Blakemore and Sheila Jennett. [more]

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Mind-body problem - Gregg Caruso reviews How to Solve the Mind-Body Problem by Nicholas Humphrey. [more]

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Evolutionary psychology - New Titles: Human Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar, Louise Barrett, and John Lycett [UK], Evolutionary Explanations of Human Behaviour by John Cartwright [US|UK], The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology by David F. Bjorklund, and Anthony D. Pellegrini [US|UK], Evolutionary Psychology: The Ultimate Origins of Human Behavior by Jack A. Palmer, and Linda K. Palmer [US|UK].

Consciousness - Stevan Harnad reviews The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio,  A Universe of Consciousness by Gerald M. Edelman and Giulio Tononi, The Mysterious Flame by Colin McGinn, The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition by Michael Tomasello, and The Mind Doesn't Work That Way by Jerry Fodor. [more]