News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 1: Issue 39 - 22nd December, 2001
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Editor's choice Archaeology - Man could have settled in Britain up to 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to new studies. Prehistorians had thought the predecessors of modern humans began living in Britain between 450,000 and 500,000 years ago. But recent discoveries in eastern and south western England suggest that is wrong, according to an article in the magazine New Scientist. [more]


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Humour - Men and women have decidedly different tastes in humour, with men preferring aggressive jokes and women favouring wordplay, an online humour experiment has found. [more] and [more]


Autism - Alabama researchers are hoping imaginary animals will tell them something that the children they are studying can't. The animals, used in a computer game, could help researchers detect autism and develop the first performance-based test for diagnosing the disorder. [more]



Parenting - A father's love--or the lack of it--contributes as much to the development of a child's personality and behavior as the love of a mother, according to researchers. In some respects, they add, a father's love is even more influential. [more]


"Sugar buzz" myth - Although sugar may not be the most nutritious food, it packs no buzz. Not even a hum. [more]


Openness - If "bioinformatics" has dominated most of the past year, with advances in genomics, proteomics and data processing, then "openness" has become the watchword of science, and of its protagonists, as 2001 draws to a close. [more]


Psychiatry - All of the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News,  21 December 2001; Vol. 36, No. 24. [more]


Primatology - At the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, a large chimpanzee named Winston is taking part in an unusually pleasant experiment. Using his left hand, he reaches over and grabs a length of PVC pipe from primatologist Bill Hopkins, then he uses his right to scoop out some peanut butter smeared inside. "Winston's a righty," Hopkins says, offering another piece of pipe to a smaller chimp hovering nearby. This one grabs the pipe with his right hand and digs out the peanut butter with his left. "That's Winston's younger brother," Hopkins says. [more]


Violence - Young, inner-city children who have witnessed episodes of violence are more likely to miss days of school and get poor grades, researchers report. [more]


Detention - A powerful new alliance of Australian doctors is to call for an immediate and independent clinical assessment of the physical and mental health needs of asylum seekers in the country's detention centres. [more]


Intelligence - Scientists analyzing new images of the brain have discovered that structures associated with language are heavily influenced by genetics. The finding begins to explain why learning disorders such as dyslexia and autism can run in families. [more]


Neuropsychology - The thrill of discovery is the purest, least understood event in science. Now, studies of the brain are revealing the anatomy of a 'Eureka moment.' [more]


Intoxication -  In the season of office parties, a team of US and UK scientists cautions that by far the clearest indication of drunkenness is stumbling speech. Repeated, missed or elongated words and syllables "betray even mild intoxication" they say. [more]


Evolution - A Rutgers-Newark biology professor who serves as president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is leading a nationwide effort to defend the theory of evolution in the face of what the institute views as opposition and indifference from school boards and government entities. [more] and [more]


Mental illness - Mental illness has become a widespread problem in the UK, official figures show. Latest statistics published by the Office of National Statistics reveal that one in six people has a neurotic disorder such as depression, anxiety or a phobia. [more]


Trauma - From Oklahoma City to New York, we've turned violent human loss into epic narratives of suffering and patriotism. Does this help people heal or hurt them? [more]


Science - Plans for a national body to tackle research fraud have been published by doctors and scientists concerned that foul play is undermining the good name of science. [more]


Creationism - The latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education has two very good articles examining the intelligent design movement. [more]


Anthropology - She shocked Americans of the 1920s by suggesting that teen-agers would be better off with the early experience of life, including sex, that was normal for youngsters on a South Seas island. Even now, as the Library of Congress commemorates what would have been her 100th birthday on Sunday with an exhibit, social scientist Margaret Mead's ideas can be startling. [more]


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Editor's choice Dimbleby lecture - President Bill Clinton refers to a struggle between a Western pluralistic vision of community, in which nobody has a monopoly on the truth, and the ideas of those who believe in one truth. [more]


Gulf war syndrome - The Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments declared for the first time last week that service in the Persian Gulf war a decade ago has been linked to a subsequent illness, namely amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. [more]

Editor's choice Aging - Age-related changes in brain dopamine may affect how people process contextual information, which in turn can hurt attention, memory and more. [more]


Work and gender - The belief that women are more likely than men to quit their managerial jobs for family or other reasons -- a belief that could be the cause of discrimination in women's hiring or promotion -- may be outdated, according to new research on the turnover rates of male and female managers. [more]


Childhood disorders - Anxiety symptoms in childhood are tied to an increased risk of migraines in adulthood, while neck or back injuries in childhood are predictive of future tension-type headaches. [more]


Parenting - Two University of Illinois researchers duly note in a new study that welcoming a second child into a family and helping the children establish sibling relationships involves many challenging tasks. Unfortunately, they say, the advice parents are getting falls short. [more]


Changing mates - No fewer than 11 hypotheses have been proposed to explain why socially monogamous bird species divorce. Is divorce adaptive and, if so, is it adaptive for one or for both partners? [more]


Neuroimaging - Major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder are very different psychiatric conditions, yet both respond to treatment with selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. In this article, the author explores how the same class of drugs may help patients suffering from such distinct illnesses. [more]


Genetics - A new cellular protein discovered by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill appears to be a crucial molecular component of a master switch that turns genes on and off. [more]


Mathematics - To analyse even moderately large data sets under realistic evolutionary models, researchers have been forced to use supercomputers. But this is now changing quickly since evolutionary biologists discovered an old statistical approach called Bayesian inference. [more]


Genetics - The controversial--and formerly unprovable--proposition that evolution moves forward through duplication of entire genomes is getting support from current advances in molecular biology. [more]


Editor's choice Evolution - Evolutionary biology has always faced a major hurdle - how to test a process that takes place over thousands, if not millions, of years. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution. [more]


Editor's choice Mental illness - Mentally ill patients are six times more likely to be murdered than the general population, researchers have found. The mentally ill also have higher death rates from suicide and accidental causes. BBC News Online, The Lancet.


Schizophrenia - One of the oldest cases of schizophrenia in Gogol's Diary of a Madman. British Medical Journal.


Stress and death - Findings of excess cardiac mortality on "unlucky" days are consistent with the hypothesis that cardiac mortality increases on psychologically stressful occasions. British Medical Journal.


Editor's choice Language - neuroscience - The first demonstration of a 'sensitive' or 'critical' period for language in an Right Hemisphere structure. This has implications for language acquisition and for understanding age-related changes in neuroplasticity more generally. [more]



Neuroscience - We identified functional anatomical subdivisions of human lateral and basal temporal cortex related to recent verbal memory for object names, text and auditory words. [more]


Primatology - neuroscience - We recorded neuronal responses from ventrolateral PFC to auditory cues in awake monkeys under controlled conditions and report that the macaque ventrolateral PFC contains an auditory responsive domain in which neurons show responses to complex sounds, including animal and human vocalizations. [more]


Psychiatric disorders in children - Group A streptococcal tonsillopharyngitis, if it occurs repeatedly and is untreated, can lead to the development of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette's syndrome, according to study findings presented on Tuesday at a major infectious disease meeting. [more]


Trauma - After September 11, requests for sleep medications had increased some 30 percent in New York City, while 23 percent of Americans nationwide said they had been suffering from insomnia. But in fact, many trauma survivors sleep much better than they think they do, according to a report in the Dec. 20 New England Journal of Medicine. [more]


Archaeology - Using information gleaned from the sun's solar cycles and tree rings, archaeologists are rewriting the timeline of the Bronze and Iron Ages. The research dates certain artifacts of the ancient eastern Mediterranean decades earlier than previously thought. And it places an early appearance of the alphabet outside Phoenicia at around 740 B.C. Eurekalert, Aegean Dendrochronology Project, Commentary.


Sensitivity - Super-sensitive to stroking but impervious to pinch: US researchers have manufactured mice with shifted senses. A touch receptor identified in the skin could be the target for future drugs to ease pain or heighten pleasure. [more]


Abiogenesis - Life on Earth may have got off to a sweet start nourished by sugar from space. The suggestion is based on the discovery of sugar in two meteorites that are billions of years old. BBC News Online, Nature.


Editor's choice Human genome - Scientists have deciphered the complete genetic instructions of a third chromosome, one of the 24 bundles of DNA that carry our genetic material. BBC News Online, Nature, Independent.


SSRIs - Paroxetine, fluoxetine, and sertraline are comparable in reducing depressive symptoms among patients treated in primary care settings, according to the results of A Randomized Trial Investigating SSRI Treatment (ARTIST). Reuters, Yahoo, Journal of the American Medical Association.


Editor's choice Neuropsychology - The cognitive profile of a patient who had damage to the right basal ganglia showed most cognitive functions were intact, she showed specific neuropsychological deficits, most notably a difficulty in developing, through abstraction of the relevant information, a higher-level rule by which to guide behaviour. [more]


Psychology - A new issue of Annual Review of Psychology has been made available. [more]


Fatherhood - First-time fathers are more likely to put on weight and drink excessively during their partner's pregnancy than after the baby is born, according to the findings of a study by Australian researchers. [more]


Evolution - A microorganism whose evolutionary roots can be traced to the era of the first multicellular animals may provide a glimpse of how single-celled organisms made a critical evolutionary leap. [more]


Depression - New long-term findings demonstrate that patients with difficult to treat chronic or recurrent depression continue to respond to vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy for up to two years. [more]


Artificial intelligence - Our brains excel at all kinds of things, but when neurobiologists and psychobiologists try to reverse engineer certain brain functions in order to produce a machine or system that might mimic some of the brain’s extraordinary abilities, more often than not they fail. [more]


Alcoholism - Many alcohol researchers believe that a person's genetic predisposition interacts with their environment to produce his or her overall risk for alcoholism. In addition, ethnic differences in rates of alcohol use and abuse have been linked to differences in the genes that code for certain enzymes that break down alcohol. [more]

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

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Biography - Carla C. Keirns reviews The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock’s Search for the Patterns of Genetic Control by Nathaniel C. Comfort. [more]

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Cognitive science - Valerie M. Chase reviews Educating Intuition by Robin M. Hogarth. [more]

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History - Angela N. H. Creager reviews Devices & Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America by Andrea Tone and Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill by Lara V. Marks. [more]

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Science - Jan Golinski reviews The One Culture? A Conversation about Science by Jay A. Labinger and Harry Collins. [more]

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Editor's choice Human evolution - New titles in the Rutgers University Press Series in Human Evolution edited by Robert Trivers: Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality by Kingsley R. Browne. [Amazon US | UK] Desolate Landscapes: Ice-Age Settlement in Eastern Europe by John F. Hoffecker. [Amazon US | UK] Genomic Imprinting and Kinship by David Haig. [Amazon US | UK] Digit Ratio: A Pointer to Fertility, Behavior, and Health by John T. Manning. [Amazon US | UK] Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom by Paul H. Rubin. [Amazon US | UK


Lying - Raymond Tallis reviews The Liar's Tale; A History of Falsehood by Jeremy Campbell. [more]

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History - Nathaniel Comfort reviews Meselson, Stahl, and the Replication of DNA A History of "The Most Beautiful Experiment in Biology" by Frederic Lawrence Holmes. [more]

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Evolution - Douglas Palmer reviews The Alfred Russel Wallace Reader: A selection of writings from the field edited by Jane Camerini. [more]

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Parenthood - S. McGuire reviews The Effect of Children on Parents by Anne-Marie Ambert. [more]

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Epilepsy - J. C. DeToledo reviews The History of Modern Epilepsy: The Beginning, 1865-1914 by Walter J. Friedlander. [more]

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Parenthood - Elizabeth M. Alderman reviews Parenthood in America: Undervalued, Underpaid, Under Siege by Jack C. Westman. [more]
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Psychoanalysis - Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi reviews Freud and Psychoanalysis by Nick Rennison. [more]

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Editor's choice Anthropology - The American Anthropological Association's preliminary report on the Darkness in El Dorado scandal. [more] Has the American Anthropological Association responded properly to the controversy set off last year by Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon? [more]


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The New Statesman Christmas - You will spend the holiday catching up on important new works in philosophy, political theory, science and so on. Won't you? Well, here's Peter Watson's guide. [more]