News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 1: Issue 36 - 1st December, 2001

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Neurology - The sweet music of a songbird is actually the product of powerful vocal cords and a sophisticated brain, says Tim Birkhead - and it could point the way forward for important neurological research. [more]

Autism - A series of fact sheets describing the latest research findings on autism is now available from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). [more]

Violence - Adolescents who are exposed to violence may develop symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), putting them at risk for serious mental health problems, study findings suggest. [more]

Editor's choice Primatology - Chimpanzees will soon be extinct. If the present rate of hunting and habitat destruction continues, then within 20 years, there will be no chimpanzees living in the wild. But this is more than an environmental or moral tragedy. Chimpanzee extinction may also have profound implications for the survival of their distant relative - human beings. [more]

Futurology - Ask most people and they'll tell you they take the future very seriously. Ask a politician and they'll bore you into the ground with a 50-point action plan. Hopeless, says Richard Slaughter, who's just become president of the World Futures Studies Federation. [more]

Editor's choice Medicine - A new report is advising medical schools to screen their applicants for personality disorders. [more] and [more]

Race - People of different races may not look the same, but they seem to be more closely related than previously thought, according to the results of a genetic study. [more] Congratulations to Howard Freeman for his wonderful comments about race. [more]

Self - Neurologist Antonio Damasio suggests in his book ''Descartes  Error'' that the great French philosopher got it backwards: Not ''I think, therefore I am,'' but rather ''I am, therefore I think.'' Boston Globe, Discourse on the Method by Descartes.

Mental illness - A report on the treatment of mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement is to be filed by the end of the week with the federal judge who has monitored Texas' prisons for more than two decades. [more]

ADHD - Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity  disorder (ADHD) are seven times more likely to have food allergies than children in the general population, according to the results of a small, preliminary study. [more]

"Virtual rape" - "Like many criminal offenders, James Maxwell is not a particularly appealing character. At worst, he's a dangerous sexual predator; at best, he's a sexual deviant," according to Wendy Kaminer. [more]

Violence - "The question of the nature of violence has been forcibly brought to my mind lately. It is not a thing I enjoy thinking about. Terrorist acts designed to hurt and terrify the ordinary populace of a region make no sense," writes Pat Shipman. [more]

Artificial intelligence - Though the year 2001 is nearly over, ultra-smart computers that can talk, think and kill even better than humans are still a long way off. [more]

Shyness - Anti-depressant drugs could cure the very shy of panic attacks, anxious nausea and blushing, the managing director of Danish drugs company Lundbeck said Monday. BBC News Online, The Times, Reuters.

Robotics - Tucker Balch, a robotics researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, sees no great future for robotic soccer stars, but his experiments could provide surprising insights into the workings of human society. [more]

Intelligence - Think you're smart? Really smart? Well, it might not matter as long as someone's just a little bit smarter, according to some new research. [more]

Artificial intelligence - How to make a robotic arm that is able to flex in an infinite number of ways and order it to do so without disorder and confusion? Get yourself an octopus and study it. That is exactly what researchers funded by the Office of Naval Research are doing. [more]

Child and adolescent psychiatry - Youth courts have always handled tough kids. But a lack of services is pushing a growing number of mentally ill children into detention. [more]

"Cartoon therapists" - Unflattering media depictions of psychiatrists and counsellors as dysfunctional crackpots are harming the profession's reputation, it is claimed. [more]

Editor's choice "Cloning" - A United States company says it has cloned a human embryo in a breakthrough experiment. It is the first time anyone has reported successfully carrying out the procedure. BBC News Online, BBC News Online, New York Times, The Guardian, New Scientist, Nando Times, Bionews, BBC News Online, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The Irish Times.  DISCUSSION: Paul Gross, Fredric Weizmann, Paul Gross, Andrew Brown, Anna Michaels, Paul Gross.

Evolution - The Natural History Museum is a Romanesque tour de force, a feast of yellow, red and cobalt blue terracotta tiles, wild towers, owlish windows and vibrant zoological carvings clawing its way 675ft along a high-Victorian avenue. [more]

Philosophy - The most celebrated public philosophers of our time—our Rousseau and Voltaire, so to speak—are John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. Prophets of a non-Marxist socialism, they provide the rationale for the domestic agenda of the left wing of the Democratic party, and they are in large measure responsible for the Left's remarkable success in occupying the moral high ground. [more]

Editor's choice Human genetics and politics - A keynote research paper showing that Middle Eastern Jews and Palestinians are genetically almost identical has been pulled from a leading journal. Academics who have already received copies of Human Immunology have been urged to rip out the offending pages and throw them away. [more] DISCUSSION: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi.

Hormones - Hot-tempered? Happy? Hungry? If you think you're in control, we've got news for you. It's not the decisions we make but the hormones coursing through our veins that are responsible for the way we feel about how we feel. [more]

Editor's choice Archaeology - New research on cave art shows that our fear of werewolves goes back 10,000 years, reports Robin McKie. They were created to trigger our most primitive fears - by depicting half-human, half-animal monsters that hunted the living. [more]

Cognitive neuroscience - The human brain is a master of the connect-the-dots game, drawing heavily on its ability to remember the past, make associations in the present and come to conclusions about the future. Indeed, our brains are such talented and overzealous extrapolators that we regularly see patterns where none exist. [more]

Mental illness - Without appropriate treatment the mental ill cycle in and our of prison, according to William Branigin and Leef Smith. [more]

Physiology - Recent research shows that the same chemical that increases blood flow in Tibetan's lungs allowing them to breathe at high altitudes, also gives lift to a flagging penis. [more]

Editor's choice Language - Gorillas and chimpanzees possess a rudimentary speech centre within their brains that until now was thought to be unique to humans, scientists have found. BBC News Online. 

Risk taking - A sense of control is a key factor in determining whether people take risks or avoid them, says Adam Goodie, a University of Georgia assistant professor of psychology. [more]

Infanticide - Parents who smother their children are capable of intense outpourings of grief over the loss of their child(ren), says a report in the Archives of Disease in Childhood. And this may deter doctors and other professionals from believing that murderous intent was involved, so exposing other children to risk, say the authors. [more]

Prejudice - A new study finds that automatic or nonconscious negative attitudes (prejudices) can be altered more easily by changing the social environment that people inhabit instead of relying on the prejudiced person to be motivated to change their internal beliefs. [more]

Language - Just as we have to crawl before we walk, before we can talk we have to babble. Many researchers think babbling babies are merely learning to move the muscles involved with speech. But research presented here 13 November at the Society for Neuroscience meeting indicates that there may be more to babbling than meets the ear: It originates in the brain’s language centers. [more]

Memory - Scientists have produced dramatic images of brain cells forming temporary and permanent connections in response to various stimuli, illustrating for the first time the structural changes between neurons in the brain that, many scientists have long believed, take place when we store short-term and long-term memories. [more]

Ethics - Love of ourselves, love of others and love of nature seem to be common threads linking all of humanity with each other and within the environment. In this paper I wish to consider bioethics in terms of our relationships with other living organisms and the environment, life or the “bios”. [more]

Neuroscience - Brain imaging studies conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in collaboration with scientists at Rutgers University-Newark, are revealing that brain systems known to be involved in learning seem to compete with each other, with the type of learning involved determining which system is dominant. Eurekalert, Nature, Scientific American.

Editor's choice Language - Three members of the family of great apes have a crucial speech-related brain feature previously thought unique to humans. BBC News Online, Nature.

Antipsychotics - New research warns doctors who treat adolescents for schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses to watch closely for signs of blood sugar trouble. [more]

Violence - Adolescents who either witness or are victims of violence are prone to post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds research in Injury Prevention. [more]

Child development - When researchers here asked children and adults a series of ridiculously simple questions about the senses, they discovered something unexpected: the children scored higher than the adults. The questions were as basic as "Do you see with your ears?" Children usually answered correctly, saying that you can't. But adults sometimes would answer that you can see with your ears. The reason, the Ohio State University researchers found, is tied to the adult use of metaphor. As children become adults, they stop taking everything literally and are able to discern the intended meanings in day-to-day conversation. [more]

Editor's choice Human genome - A new computer program has detected overlooked gene segments: Previous estimates of human gene number too low. [more]

Editor's choice Molecular Psychiatry - Maternal separation causes death of brain cells - Prozac treatment reverses those changes. [more]

Editor's choice Autism - The latest in a series of studies on secretin has failed to show that giving the digestive hormone to children with autism alleviates symptoms of the disorder, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. [more]

Deafness - Deaf people sense vibration in the part of the brain that other people use for hearing – which helps explain how deaf musicians can sense music, and how deaf people can enjoy concerts and other musical events. Eurekalert, BBC News Online.

Sleep apnea - Gender hormones may be a key factor in the onset of a common human disorder called sleep apnea, suggest findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine. [more]

Editor's choice Evolutionary biology - A special issue of Annales Zoologici Fennici commemorating Bill Hamilton has appeared and is freely accessible. [more]

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Memory - Recent functional imaging and electrophysiological results indicate that failure to remember experiences can result from a decreased recruitment of encoding processes that build effective memories and an increased recruitment of alternative mechanisms that may impair effective learning. [more]

Editor's choice Terrorism - What is terrorism? Does moral conviction have a dark side? What are the consequences of the terrorist attacks for beliefs about civil liberties, bias against others, attitudes about immigration, and other aspects of intergroup conflict? [more]

Rationality and emotion - People use the emotional parts of their brain to make so-called rational personal decisions, according to a University of Washington researcher. [more]

Biochemistry - Scientists from Emory University School of Medicine and the University of Pavia, Italy, have determined for the first time the three-dimensional structure of monoamine oxidase B. [more]

Personality - "The personality is a dynamic system. Like all other dynamic systems, it must be self-organized, " according to Maxson J. McDowell. [more]

Malfunction and mental illness - For years a debate has raged within the various literatures of philosophy, psychiatry, and psychology over whether, and to what degree, the concepts that characterize psychopathology are social constructions that reflect cultural values. [more]


Consciousness - Bruce Charlton reviews A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness by Merlin Donald. [more]

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Evolutionary psychology - Human Nature and the Limits of Science by John Dupré, University of Exeter. [more] and [excerpt - pdf]

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Academia - Steven M. Bachrach reviews Who Owns Academic Work? Battling for control of intellectual property by Corynne McSherry. [more]

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Editor's choice Prejudice - American attitudes about Arab Muslims may have changed or been colored as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. How much they changed is difficult to assess, but individuals have the opportunity to measure their own level of unconscious prejudice toward Arab Muslims by taking a test on the Internet developed by University of Washington and Yale University psychologists. [more]

Philosophy - An excerpt from Wittgenstein's Poker by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. [more]

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Editor's choice Creationism - Jonathan Wells, the author of Icons of Evolution, composed "Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution", based on the antievolutionary claims he makes in his book. However, many of Wells's claims are incorrect or misleading; Icons of Evolution and "Ten questions" are intended only to create unwarranted doubt in students' minds about the validity of evolution as good science. [more]

Medicine - David J. Rothman reviews Severed Trust: Why American Medicine Hasn't Been Fixed by George D. Lundberg with James Stacey. [more]

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Addiction - Barry Liskow reviews Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System by Lonny Shavelson. [more]

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Editor's choice Ejournals - The rapid spread of electronic journals (e-journals) has affected the ways scientists and physicians use scientific journals. E-journals provide a variety of features to their users, and thus far, relatively few data have been collected about the usefulness of these features and how they affect the work of scholars and practitioners. [survey]

Philosophy - Some philosophy-related websites collected for a learned society covering all disciplines that is planning to make a directory of
websites. [more]

Evolutionary psychology - Tony Dickinson reviews The Evolution of Mind edited by D. D. Cummins & C. Allen. [more]

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Evolution and health - This is the outline text of Peter Marsh's lecture to the Institute for Cultural Research at the King's Fund, London, November 17 2001 "In Praise of Bad Habits". [more]

Genetics - David Williams reviews Shrinking the Cat: Genetic Engineering Before We Knew About Genes by Sue Hubbell. [more]

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Evolutionary psychology - Excerpt from Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology edited by Hilary Rose and Steven Rose. [more]

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