News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 2: Issue 44 - 2nd February, 2002

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Visual agnosia - They walk among us, apparently well and ordinary, but their world is an adventure full of people, places, and things they know but cannot recognise by sight. They are people with visual agnosia, the product of a damaged brain following a stroke or head injury. BBC News Online, The Independent, The Guardian.

Mental retardation - Albino zebrafish offer a model for some inherited forms of mental retardation in humans, geneticists in Singapore are due to reveal this weekend. Aside from faulty pigmentation and impaired vision, the fish also appear to lack an enzyme co-factor linked to severe damage of the central nervous system, the Singaporean team reports. [more]

Pheromones - Mice need to use a "secret" smell system to help them choose a sexual partner, according to researchers. [more]

Darwin Day - Led by evolutionary ecologist Massimo Pigliucci, the University of Tennessee will hold its annual Darwin Day celebration on the old guy's 193rd birthday. Festivities include movies, discussions, information booths, book displays, and a keynote speaker, University of Wisconsin philosopher Elliot Sober. [more]

Human genome - The Human Genome - One Year Later. Or, how hundreds of authors fit 3 billion letters into 40,000 words. [more]

Human nature - "The very idea of a human nature--has been under assault for centuries. That philosophical, historical, and anthropological attack is now fading, and end-of-history theorists, followed by sociobiologists, have come riding to human nature's defense," says Peter Augustine Lawler.  [more]

Psychiatry - All of the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News, 1 February 2002; Vol. 37, No. 3. [more]

Attraction - People are highly attracted to images of themselves which have been distorted to make them look more like the opposite sex, a new study has discovered. [more]

Development - "Inside the Teenage Brain," tonight's "Frontline" investigation on PBS, goes the medical route, connecting adolescent turmoil to the brain's physical development. [more]

Neuroscience - It may seem like science fiction, but scientists say they have developed a technology that enables a monkey to move a cursor on a computer screen simply by thinking about it. [more]

Editor's choice Politics - The key to helping developing countries with hungry populations is not just providing more food - it is eliminating war and providing stable, democratic governments. [more]

Race - Race, and the role of science in its identification, focused a passionate debate among researchers of differing political hue before a free, public gathering at the Science Museum in London in remembrance of the Holocaust, records a report for BioMedNet News tomorrow. [more] Debaters tilt over "race." Some say that geneticists favor biological definitions of race, and that it's politicians who overemphasize genetics. [more]

Editor's choice Politics - The Botswana government is set to destroy the remaining Bushman communities in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. It is cutting off all water to the communities this week, in an attempt to drive the Gana and Gwi Bushman tribes off the land they have lived on for 20,000 years. Survival International, the worldwide organisation supporting tribal peoples, is condemning the move as placing the very survival of these tribes in danger. [more]

Homosexuality - For decades, the entry on "Sexual deviations" in the official manual of the American Psychiatric Association contained 81 words. For decades, one of those words was "homosexuality." We devote this week's entire program to the untold story of how the APA's closeted gay president-elect, and several of his colleagues, spearheaded a behind-the-scenes movement to change the definition. In 1973 they finally succeeded, but not before spawning a full-scale professional war, which one side saw as a battle of liberation, and the other saw as a defense of "the basic code and concept of life." This American Life, [audio]

Perfect pitch - US scientists are trying to find the gene, or genes, responsible for the rare musical ability known as perfect pitch, which allows a minority of the population to "hear" the world differently from everyone else. [more]

Editor's choice Human genome - A two-day conference at Washington University brought experts from science, medicine, law, politics, philosophy, literature, economics and ethics to talk about the Human Genome Project and how it will affect nearly all aspects of society. [more] East China's Shanghai Municipality is preparing for the seventh International Human Genome Conference, which is scheduled between April 14 and 17 and will be attended by over 700 local and overseas experts and scholars. [more]

Telehypnosis - Telehypnosis, conducted via a videolink, is more effective than face-to-face therapy, a small UK study suggests. New Scientist, Reuters.

Evolutionary psychology - Lynn Segal, Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Birkbeck College, London and Ruth Mace, Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at University College London discuss evolutionary psychology. [more] [audio]

Addiction - Excessive cravings do not necessarily involve physical substances. Gambling can become compulsive; sex can become obsessive. One activity, however, stands out for its prominence and ubiquity--the world's most popular leisure pastime, television. [more]

Editor's choice Gene stories - From the BBC: The future of sport [more] Sex on the brain [more] Adam and Eve [more] Interactive website [more]

Race - "Discrimination and racism require real or imagined difference - from clothes and patterns of worship to skin colour and smell. But some differences are deemed important, others not, and what is important has differed at different times and in different societies," says Steven Rose. [more]

Suicide - Sunshine may play a role in triggering suicide, according to recent study findings. [more]

Eating disorders - A study published in the January issue of Personality and Individual Differences, indicates that regular eating under the cover of darkness is strongly associated with bulimic behavior and may provide researchers with new ways to prevent and treat eating disorders, which afflict more than six million men and women nationwide. [more]

Human genetics - While responses to "What's the difference between men and women?" might evoke answers about reproductive plumbing and hormones, researchers are unearthing some subtle, genomic reasons for the differences. So far, the linchpins to finding these genomic variations seem to involve X-chromosome inactivation, Y chromosome genetics, and genetic imprinting. [more]

Depression - A new study shows that depression is associated with an increased incidence of heart failure in elderly women, but not elderly men. [more]

Psychology - Being the main breadwinner still seems to carry an important distinction for husbands and their sense of well-being, says a Penn State researcher. [more]

Editor's choice Schizophrenia - Recent  findings further suggest that there are sex differences in structure-function relations in schizophrenia such that men may have more pronounced frontolimbic system abnormalities. [more] There may be a progressive loss of cerebral gray matter in schizophrenia patients. [more]

Domestic violence - Reported frequency of domestic violence: cross sectional survey of women attending general practice. [more] and [more]

Panic - A recent study showed that four out of five patients suffering from panic disorder remained symptom-free six months after they stopped taking medication to treat the often-debilitating illness. The secret may lie in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) - a psychological-based treatment the subjects received after halting their prescribed medication. [more]

Editor's choice Human reproduction - Female embryos exert a greater influence than male embryos over the hormone that nurtures early pregnancy, and the difference can be detected as little as 16 days after conception. UniSci, Human Reproduction.

Orgasm - The orgasmic brain spot appears to be somewhere in the right, or typically "non-dominant," side of the brain--possibly in a region called the amygdala, which is involved in emotional response. [more]

Obsessive-compulsive disorder - Carriers of a gene linked to myoclonus-dystonia (M-D) appear to be at increased risk for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to a report published in the January 22nd issue of Neurology. [more]

Depression - Magnetic stimulation may be as effective as electroconvulsive therapy in treating severe depression. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS, which delivers brief but intense magnetic pulses to the brain, may be as effective as traditional electroconvulsive therapy in treating severe depression, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study. [more]

Evolution - Modern birds evolved from ground-dwelling reptiles as their increasingly refined parenting skills led them into the trees, where they could better protect their young, proposes a researcher at the University of California, Davis. [more]

Posttraumatic stress disorder - Greater intellectual resources may, according to a new study of Vietnam veterans, help buffer soldiers from developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after combat. APA, Neuropsychology.

Neuroscience - New research provides evidence for the time-locked processing of reward prediction errors in human ventral striatum. [more]

Editor's choice Language - Anatomo-functional correlations between data obtained using intraoperative subcortical mapping and postoperative MRI have revealed the existence in all thirty patients in this study of common pathways which seem essential to language. [more]

Neuroscience - Findings suggest an important role of inhibition in the cerebral cortex-controlling the timing of neuronal activities during cognitive operations and thereby shaping the temporal flow of information. [more]

Psychosis of epilepsy - A finding of amygdala enlargement agrees with the observation of an association between dysphoric disorders of epilepsy and POE described nearly 100 years ago. [more]

Editor's choice Memory - Findings from a lesion study and functional brain imaging of healthy subjects suggest that olfactory memory requires input from left and right temporal lobe regions for optimal odour recognition, and that, unlike with verbal or non-verbal visual material, there is not a strong functional lateralization for olfactory memory. [more]

Editor's choice Schizophrenia - Using functional brain imaging, National Institute of Mental Health scientists for the first time have linked two key, but until now unconnected, brain abnormalities in schizophrenia. They have shown that the less patients' frontal lobes activate during a working memory task, the more the chemical messenger dopamine, thought to underlie the delusions and hallucinations of schizophrenia, rises abnormally in the striatum, a relay station deep in the brain. [more]

Economics - Solvent socialist economies could be more at risk from corruption than liberal ones, according to a team of physicists, mathematicians and economists. [more]

Race - Adam Fairclough reviews The Anatomy of Racial Inequality by Glenn Loury and Interracial Intimacy: The Regulation of Race and Romance by Rachel F. Moran. [more]

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Human nature - Marcin Szwed reviews Man, Beast and Zombie: What Science Can and Cannot Tell Us About Human Nature by Kenan Malik. [more]

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Human evolution - William H. Calvin, A Brain for All Seasons:  Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change (University of Chicago Press, 2002). [more]

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Evolution - Douglas Palmer reviews Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer. [more]

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Fiction - John Morrison reviews Libidan by P. J. Goddard. [more]

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Trauma - Rachel Cooper reviews Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 edited by Mark S. Micale and Paul Lerner. [more]

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Promiscuity - Keith S. Harris reviews Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition by Tim Birkhead. [more]

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Psychotherapy - Keith S. Harris reviews Tracking Mental Health Outcomes: A Therapist's Guide to Measuring Client Progress, Analyzing Data, and Improving Your Practice by Donald E. Wiger and Kenneth B. Solberg. [more]

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Psychoanalysis - Adrian Johnston reviews Beyond Gender: From Subject to Drive by Paul Verhaeghe. [more]

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Evolution - Alison Motluk reviews Future Evolution by Peter Ward. [more]

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Editor's choice Evolution - From the classic work of Darwin to developments in such fields as psychology and economics, evolutionary biology is an increasingly powerful tool for understanding the natural world. Here in two volumes is a comprehensive, accessible, and authoritative guide to what we know about evolutionary biology, from "The Origins of Species" to "The Selfish Gene" and beyond. [more]
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