News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 2: Issue 41 - 12th January, 2002.
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Depression - At the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida, Dr. Pierre Blier is conducting research to determine the effectiveness of a combination of drugs in treating clinical depression more quickly. [more]



Neuroscience - The Secret Life of the Brain, a David Grubin Production, reveals the fascinating processes involved in brain development across a lifetime. [more]


Profile - Intelligence is almost as baffling as stupidity. Only recently have scientists from wide-ranging disciplines started to piece together how complexity arises from tiny, unmistakably dumb parts. Steven Johnson, founder of Feed Magazine and author of Interface Culture, investigates the similarities between ant colonies, slime molds, and human intelligence in Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. Amazon.com Cyberculture Editor Rob Lightner connected with Johnson via e-mail. [more]


Depression - Trials of a hi-tech treatment for depression and anxiety are set to begin at a London hospital, using a computer programme to assist sufferers. The Priory Hospital in north London is to trial the PC-based multi-media system which it says can be used alongside face-to-face therapy. [more]


Sex - Researchers move beyond the basics to better understand the differences between men and women. [more]


Profile - Howard Bloom is a walking university. A Visiting Scholar at NYU, he studies intelligent systems in bacteria, insects, and even humans, incorporating scientific and historical data into his analyses. His book Global Brain explores intelligence broadly and deeply, and is especially notable for its prescient warnings about the rise of fundamentalism. [more]


American Society of Human Genetics - The presentations and posters at the recent American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting offered up reams of data that pointed to a commanding future of discoveries. But, as the geneticists and students checked in and got their badges, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks cast an ominous shadow that could not be ignored. [more]


Human genetics - Recent studies reveal that the human species is young and genetically uniform. [more]


Depression - Exercise can indeed boost people's moods, but they may have to start off down in the dumps to feel the effects, findings from a UK study suggest. [more]


Exhibition - Visitors to a new genetics exhibit can explore the mysteries of DNA, witness a virtual human embryo in action and gaze at cloned mice, mutant flies and hatching chicks. [more]


Bipolar disorder - The national strategic framework for mental health states that "one person in 250 will have a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder." It goes on to cite bipolar affective disorder as one of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide in adults aged 15-44. How surprising then that the service needs of people with bipolar affective disorder receive no specific consideration in this major policy document. [more]


Mental illness - Mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, right? Wrong, says Craig Newnes. [more]


Internet and religion - In recent years, the American public has fervently worshipped at the altar of high tech. Now the concept of cyber-faith has become more literal. According to a new Pew Internet and American Life survey, more Americans have searched the Web for religious and spiritual information than have participated in online auctions, gambling or online stock trading. [more]


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - A gene variation associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) first appeared 10,000 to 40,000 years ago, and may have been advantageous to early humans, according to a new report. [more]


Happiness - They say "money can't buy you happiness" but researchers have proved the opposite. Winning just £1,000 can be enough to change a person's outlook on life, suggests the study by researchers at the University of Warwick. [more]


Palaeoanthropology - Humanity's first steps out of Africa along a path that led ultimately to dominion over the earth are subject to intense scientific debate. So is the role played by the Neandertals who roamed across Europe for 100,000 years before quietly disappearing. The two issues may well be related, and a University of Tennessee anthropologist reports statistical evidence that Neandertals and emerging modern humans likely interbred and evolved together. [more]


Human genetics - Peering deep into the archive of population history that is stored in the human genome, a Stanford University biologist believes he has picked up a genetic signature of the ancestral human population. [more]


Anthropology - Paul Byers, an early practitioner of visual anthropology, which he pioneered with Margaret Mead, died on Dec. 31 at his home in the East Village, Manhattan. He was 81. [more]


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Neanderthals - Researchers say Neanderthals had considerable technical and intellectual skills and were as ingenious as modern humans. Ananova, The Independent.


Profile - The irresistible question for Carnegie Mellon University brain researcher Marcel Just is: How do we get a human mind and a human being out of a brain? [more]


Human genetics - If the entire adult population of the world had sat down on New Year's Eve and drank the same amount of alcohol, who do you think would have woken up with the worst hangover? [more]


Editor's choice Love - Professor Cindy Hazan, of Cornell University, interviewed 5,000 men and women across 37 cultures and found that just about all of us seem biologically predisposed to be 'in love' for precisely 18 to 30 months. [more]


Memory - It's hard to imagine ever forgetting the events of Sept. 11. Even months later, the slow-motion clips of the World Trade Center towers crumbling still seem just as frightening as they were that day. But psychologists question how accurately the human memory can recall details of such a traumatic event that galvanized the nation in terror the way Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy's assassination and the Challenger explosion had before. [more]


Psychiatry - All the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News, 4 January 2002; Vol. 37, No. 1. [more]


Depression - Middle-aged men who have symptoms of psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, are more than three times as likely to have a fatal stroke, research suggests. [more]

Immunology - There may be some wisdom in the traditional British maxim: 'feed a cold, starve a fever'. The balance of two chemicals that regulate the relevant branches of the immune system seem to shift markedly after a meal, preliminary research suggests. [more]


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Depression - For the first time researchers have made a systematic study of the ways in which attitudes towards depression are rooted in culture. The findings of the ESRC-funded research at Royal Holloway, University of London, inform our understanding of alcohol use and abuse. Among other things, the study highlights the importance of gender issues in the study of alcohol-related beliefs and behaviour. [more]


Editor's choice Human genetics - We postulate that in Prader Willi syndrome (PWS), an abnormal pattern of expression of a sex-specific imprinted gene on chromosome 15 is associated with psychotic illness in early adult life. The Lancet - free registration required, Reuters, BBC News Online.


Eating disorders - Research has shown that more than half of college women have experienced eating disorder symptoms (although most do not have full-blown anorexia or bulimia). While the cause of eating disorders is still unknown, new research suggests that depression and difficulty expressing one's feelings may be a risk factor for disordered eating in young women with a history of family problems or abuse. [more]


Editor's choice Psychology - Using large national data sets, investigators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that -- contrary to previous research -- U.S. boys hardly surpass U.S. girls in mathematical ability. [more]


Editor's choice Behaviour genetics - Analyses of sequence evolution indicate that regulation of social organization by Gp-9 is conserved in South American fire ant species exhibiting social polymorphism and suggest that positive selection has driven the divergence between the alleles associated with alternate social organizations. This study demonstrates that single genes of major effect can underlie the expression of complex behaviors important in social evolution. [more]


Editor's choice Archaeology - Abstract engravings show modern behavior emerged earlier than previously thought. People were able to think abstractly, and accordingly behave as modern humans much earlier than previously thought, according to a paper appearing in this week's issue of Science. Eurekalert, BBC News Online, Nature Science Update, Ananova, Science, Science, The Independent, National Science Foundation, National Public Radio.


Musical pitch perception - There is no "music center" in the brain, but distinct regions are involved in different aspects of music perception. Now there is evidence that the auditory cortex, an area of the brain that interprets sound, is important for frequency processing and pitch perception. [more]


Neuroscience - A brain protein linked to narcolepsy, the sudden, uncontrollable and inexplicable onset of sleep, helps regulate bodily sensations. [more]


Editor's choice Altruism - Cooperation can flourish if the public-spirited majority can punish freeloaders, say Swiss economists. People will pay to punish - suggesting that their notions of fairness outweigh selfish considerations. The work may help explain why people cooperate in society. Nature Science Update, New Scientist, Nature.


Music and the brain - If cellist Yo Yo Ma and fiddler Natalie MacMaster live to be 80, will their musically-trained brains help them fend off the ravages of age-related dementia? [more]


Mood disorders - The genetic underpinnings of panic disorder and manic depressive (bipolar) illness have long eluded scientists. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins studying the inheritance patterns of these conditions have concluded that they probably are not separate diseases at all, but different forms of a shared and complex biological condition. [more]


Editor's choice Human genetics - Scientists may have discovered why some women who smoke during pregnancy have small, premature babies while others do not. They believe the key is the way that certain genes interact with cigarette smoke. BBC News Online, Eurekalert, Journal of the American Medical Association.


Psychiatric disorders - A virus that causes a fatal brain disease in horses and sheep could be linked to mental disorders in humans, a scientist is set to tell a UK conference on Wednesday. BBC News Online, Reuters.



Editor's choice Depression - Between 1987 and 1997, there was a marked increase in the proportion of the population who received outpatient treatment for depression. Treatment became characterized by greater involvement of physicians, greater use of psychotropic medications, and expanding availability of third-party payment, but fewer outpatient visits and less use of psychotherapy. Journal of the American Medical Association, Yahoo, Washington Post.


Editor's choice Brain, Behavior and Immunity - A special issue on the immunobiology of serious psychiatric diseases. [more]


Pharmacological neuroimaging - To examine alterations in brain activation associated with pharmacologically induced memory impairment, we used functional MRI (fMRI) to study the effects of lorazepam and scopolamine on a face-name associative encoding paradigm. [more]


Editor's choice Primatology - In contrast to human populations who appear to have had a low effective size and a recent origin with subsequent population growth, some taxa within the genus Pan may be characterized by large populations of relatively constant size, more ancient origins, and high levels of subdivision. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Posttraumatic stress disorder - Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases craving in drug abusers diagnosed with both conditions, confirming the need to treat the conditions simultaneously, the first laboratory study of the two disorders has shown. [more]


Editor's choice Human genetics - A genetic basis for behaviour in infancy? [more]


Editor's choice ADHD - The immune system may be involved in the susceptibility to childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Eurekalert, BBC News Online.


Neuroscience - Scientists are deducing the internal circuitry of the visual brain by mathematically reproducing the geometric hallucinations people see when they ingest mind-altering drugs, view bright, flickering lights or encounter near-death experiences. [more]


Editor's choice Schizophrenia - When schizophrenic patients quit smoking, some aspects of their cognitive function become impaired, according to a new study published this month by Yale researchers in the Journal Neuropsychopharmacology. [more]


Behaviour - A new report from the National Institute of Mental Health (US) - Taking Stock of Risk Factors for Child/Youth Externalizing Behavior Problems. [more - pdf - 1.5MB]

Extremism - Ron Rosenbaum reviews Them: Adventures With Extremists by Jon Ronson. [more] [first chapter]

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Evolutionary psychology - Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair reviews Human Nature and the Limits of Science by John Dupré. [more]

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Mental illness - Lynn E. O’Connor reviews Creating Mental Illness by Allan V. Horwitz. [more]
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Eugenics - Alex Paton reviews In Our Own Image: Eugenics and the Genetic Modification of People by David Galton. [more]

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Genetics - Edward Hooper reviews Narrow Roads of Gene Land, Volume 2: Evolution of Sex by W. D. Hamilton. [more]

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Anthropology - Last fall, journalist Patrick Tierney reignited a long-standing dispute about scientists' treatment of the Yanomamö Indians with Darkness in El Dorado. [more] [AAA report]


Psychiatry - David W. Hodo reviews Of Spirits and Madness: An American Psychiatrist in Africa by Paul R. Linde. [more]

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Therapy - Frances R. Frankenburg reviews In Therapy We Trust: America's Obsession with Self-fulfilment by Eva S. Moskowitz. [more]

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Evolution - Michael Chapman reviews Evolution's Workshop by Edward J. Larson. [more]

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Psychotherapy - Edwin J. Mikkelsen reviews The Fragile Alliance: An Orientation to Psychotherapy of the Adolescent by John E. Meeks and William Bernet. [more]
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Creationism - Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological & Scientific Perspectives edited by Robert T. Pennock. [more]
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Evolution - Herbert Gintis reviews Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest by Kim Sterelny. [more]

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Health - Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot by Dr. Richard Restak. [more]

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Biology - autobiography - Michael Barrett reviews Genes, Girls and Gamow by James D Watson. [more]

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Suicide - Michael Waterhouse reviews The Art of Suicide by Ron M. Brown. [more]

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Parenting - In "Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age" (Talk Miramax, $23.95), Dan Kindlon describes the results of his research into parenting practices and the effects those practices have on children's well-being. Kindlon teaches psychology at Harvard University and is the co-author of "Raising Cain" (1999). [more]


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Evolution - Robin Marantz Henig reviews 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]



Editor's choice Reference - A giant reference work which dwarfs any book in history will start to take shape in March, in a project seen as a vote of confidence in paid-for services on the internet. Oxford University Press is putting hundreds of its dictionaries, mini-encyclopaedias and companions on a subscription website expected to total 130m words. [more]