News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 2: Issue 45 - 9th February, 2002

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Social behaviour - "Dominance hierarchies" just seem to come naturally to males. Social psychologists say it's part of something they call the "pecking order." No kidding. Females, of course, are quite different. [more]

Psychopharmacology - "It said the drug was the best thing since sliced bread. I don't think it is," says David Healy. [more]

Nocebo effect - A phenomenon called the "nocebo effect" may explain why some people report side effects that are not related to the medications they are taking, according to a new report. [more]

Chronic fatigue syndrome - Michael Fitzpatrick on why the medical profession's latest ruling on ME (or chronic fatigue syndrome) is nothing short of disastrous. [more] and [more]

Editor's choice Gene patents - Doctors' ability to diagnose and study a debilitating disease caused by iron overload in the body is being hampered by the patenting of a key gene. [more]

Sexual behaviour - Sorry guys, sometimes a smile is just a smile: new research suggests that men too often mistake women's everyday behavior as a sign of sexual interest. [more]

Obituary - Max Perutz, one of the great figures in modern molecular biology, has died at the age of 87. Perutz's main contribution was to work out the structure of haemoglobin, the large molecule that carries oxygen through the blood, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1962. BBC News Online, James D. Watson, The Independent, Nature Science Update.

Fraud in science - Scientists are accepting large sums of money from drug companies to put their names to articles endorsing new medicines that they have not written - a growing practice that some fear is putting scientific integrity in jeopardy. [more]

Cannabis and depression - Australian researchers have found a strong link between smoking cannabis and depression. Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital gathered data by monitoring 2,000 youths aged 14 to 21 for seven years. [more]

Editor's choice Sexual behaviour - Having sex early and often, even oral sex, with the intended father can reduce the chances of the mother's immune system rejecting the fetus. Yahoo News, Ananova, BBC News Online.

Human Genome Project - Simmering resentment over the very public battle last year between the two factions vying to complete sequencing of the human genome, one privately financed and the other publicly funded, resurfaced today with Craig Venter, protagonist of the private initiative, dismissing John Sulston, one of the champions of the public effort, as "petty." [more]

Posttraumatic stress disorder - Canada's best soldiers are the most likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder - and they are being inadequately cared for by the Canadian Forces, Ombudsman André Marin said yesterday. [more]

Creationism - The Ohio Board of Education met yesterday to decide who will be given the opportunity argue for and against a new theory of the origin of life next month, when a panel meets to debate whether it should be included in the state's science curriculum. [more]

Editor's choice St. John's Wort - Two Swedish women have had unwanted pregnancies because of the effect of a popular health supplement on the contraceptive pill. The news was reported by the country's pharmaceutical regulator, the Medical Products Agency (MPA), which has issued a new warning about St John's Wort. [more]

Editor's choice Rejection - It can cut like a knife, or make your brown eyes blue. It's romantic rejection, and a new study finds big differences in how men and women give would-be partners the brush-off. [more]

Criminology - For years, law enforcement officials have relied on DNA evidence, fingerprints and lie detector tests to identify who committed a crime. Now, they are looking for ways to use the criminal's own brain to convict them. [more]

Mental illness - Ask teens what they know about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, and the answer typically will be "not much." Some might mention a TV show they once saw about a woman with multiple personalities (which is commonly mistaken for schizophrenia) or a homeless man they once bumped into on the sidewalk. [more]

Robotics - With a hiss and a clank, one of the world's first predatory robots seized its metal prey yesterday, plunged a claw into its electronic heart and then whirred off to a computerised mate to "breed". The Guardian, The Independent.

Editor's choice Primatology - conservation - nearly all nine species of gibbon are imperiled through much of their range - none more than the silvery gibbon, named for its distinctive color and found only on the Indonesian island of Java. [more]

Mental illness - A Rare Day: The movies get mental illness right. [more]

Editor's choice Profile - Paul D. Thacker interviews Edward O. Wilson. [more]

Royal Society - A clash is looming between MPs and the Royal Society over whether the organisation, which gives out millions of pounds of government money every year, is the dynamic voice of science it claims to be or an elitist club. [more]

Mental illness - At first blush, it would seem it is one thing to suffer from a mental illness as an acclaimed mathematician at Princeton University, and another as a New Yorker without special gifts. [more]

Editor's choice Self esteem - It has not been much disputed, until recently, that high self-esteem -- defined quite simply as liking yourself a lot, holding a positive opinion of your actions and capacities -- is essential to well-being and that its opposite is responsible for crime and substance abuse and prostitution and murder and rape and even terrorism - until now. [more]

Demography - Falling sperm rates for men and higher career aspirations for women in Japan have created a birth dearth that will chip 500,000 off of the population every year until 2050, when one in three will be of retirement age. [more]

Science - Ask a scientist and he or she will quickly tell you that it is impossible to cost knowledge. It is precious and priceless. But to the public, which usually has to put up the money for its acquisition, the pricetag all too often seems hopelessly out of proportion to results. [more]

Editor's choice Human evolution - For those who dream of a better life, science has bad news: this is the best it is going to get. Our species has reached its biological pinnacle and is no longer capable of changing. That is the stark, controversial view of a group of biologists who believe a Western lifestyle now protects humanity from the forces that used to shape Homo sapiens. [more]

Longevity - Scientists have pinpointed the Methuselah gene - a stretch of DNA that confers healthy old age on men and women - raising the prospect that researchers may one day be able to create drugs that extend human life. [more]

Editor's choice Vision and the body clock - Rods and cones are not the only photoreceptors in our eyes. Reporting in the February 8 issue of Science, researchers at Brown University describe a third photoreceptor and a parallel visual system. The newly discovered cells turn light energy directly into brain signals. The signals govern the body's 24-hour clock. Press release, Press release, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle.

Editor's choice Evolution - Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have uncovered the first genetic evidence that explains how large-scale alterations to body plans were accomplished during the early evolution of animals. Press release, UniSci, Nature, National Center for Science Education, Scientific American, Ananova, BBC News Online.

Editor's choice Autism - As Britain seeks to address growing concerns over the safety of the MMR vaccine, new research findings released on Friday indicate no link between its use and autism. [more]

Combat stress - Post-combat syndromes are not unique to the Gulf war, but have arisen after all major wars over the past century, finds a study in this week's British Medical Journal, BBC News Online.

Evolution - Recent data help explain how this famous group of Galápagos birds evolved, although gaps in our understanding remain. [more]

Learning - Marie Cheour at the University of Turku in Finland exposed newborn babies to a tricky Finnish vowel sound. She discovered that infants whose exposure included their night-time sleeping hours were able to recognise this new sound when they were tested in the morning, while the other infants couldn't pick it out at all. New Scientist, Nature.

Editor's choice Developing countries - Poverty and political, social, and economic inequalities between groups predispose to conflict; policies to tackle them will reduce this risk. British Medical Journal.

Animal cognition - In a new study no evidence was found for categorically different signature whistle types in isolated bottlenose dolphins using both qualitative and quantitative techniques. [more]

Editor's choice Anthropology - The evolution and development of cranial form in Homo sapiens. [more]

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Panic - Using a brief structured interview, physicians with no formal psychiatric training can reliably diagnose panic disorder in the emergency room (ER) setting, according to a recent report. [more]

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - As many as 10% of North Carolina school children have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and many of those youngsters are taking medication for the condition, researchers report. [more]

Editor's choice Biochemistry - Chemists have reproduced the basic process of information transfer central to all life without the catalysts that facilitate it in living cells. [more]

Diet - Eat meat. That's the dietary advice given by a team of scientists who examined the dietary role of fat in a study that combined nutritional analysis with anthropologic research about the diets of ancient hunter-gatherer societies. [more]

Sexual behaviour - Men who were sexually abused as children are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual practices as adults, putting them at higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, a new study has found. [more]

Psychiatry - An evaluation of the evidence base for risperidone and haloperidol for the prevention of relapse in patients with schizophrenia. [more]

Neuroscience - Brain size is a lot like shoe size. It doesn't correlate with height, weight or even IQ, though boys tend to have larger brains (and feet) than girls. This lack of proportional comparison coupled with the fact that, like fingerprints, brains are unique, has created barriers to the better understanding of brain development. [more]

Smell - Women's greater ability to detect odours and aromas could be linked to the oestrogen hormone, according to research. BBC News Online, New Scientist.

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Language - Computer simulation: A new scientific approach to the study of language evolution. [more]
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Alcohol - Moderate alcohol consumption may offer some protection to the brain as well as the heart, a new study published in The Lancet suggests. [more]

Placebo effect - An analysis by Nicholas Humphrey. [more]

Language -  The adaptive advantage of symbolic theft over sensorimotor toil: Grounding language in perceptual categories. [more]

Schizophrenia - Australian researchers have produced the first compelling evidence that low prenatal vitamin D might be a risk factor for schizophrenia. They have shown that the brains of vitamin D-depleted neonate rats have proportionally thinner cortices and larger ventricles than undepleted controls - changes that are also seen in the brains of schizophrenics. BioMedNet News, New Scientist, BioMedNet Conference Report, BBC News Online.

Editor's choice Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy, traditionally psychiatry's Cinderella treatment, has finally reached the consciousness of mental health policy makers. British Medical Journal.

Editor's choice Genes and behaviour - Daniel Jones reviews Revolutionary Biology: The New, Gene-Centred View of Life by David P. Barash and The Triumph of Sociobiology by John Alcock. [more] [table of contents]

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Evolutionary psychology - W. G. Runciman reviews Religion Explained: The Human Instincts that Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors by Pascal Boyer. [more]

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Biography - David Reich reviews A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics by Nicholas Wright Gillham. [more] [first chapter]

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Human Genome Project - Steven Rose on the DNA race in John Sulston and Georgina Ferry's The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome. [more]

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Neuropsychology - How is it that a man with brain disease can no longer read, yet can still do mathematical calculations? In a new Guardian book of science essays, Brian Butterworth explores the mysteries of memory. [more]

Love - JoAnn Gutin reviews Can Love Last by Stephen Mitchell. [more]

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Science - David Goodstein reviews Science, Truth, and Democracy by Philip Kitcher. [more]

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Cognitive science - Fiona Cowie reviews Mind in Everyday Life and Cognitive Science by Sunny Y. Auyang. [more]

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Human Genome Project - Gail Vines reviews The Common Thread by John Sulston and Georgina Ferry. [more]
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Primatology - Gail Vines reviews Great Apes and Humans edited by Benjamin Beck. [more]

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Feral children - Ian Francis reviews Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A history of feral children by Michael Newton. [more]

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Schizophrenia - Marina Pisano reviews The Day the Voices Stopped: A Memoir of Madness and Hope by Ken Steele. [more]

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Drugs - Mark S. Gold and Kim Frost-Pineda review Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World by David T. Courtwright. [more]

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Genetics - Amy Barrett talks to James D. Watson about his new book Genes, Girls and Gamow. [more]

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Race - James Forman Jr. reviews The Anatomy of Racial Inequality by Glenn Loury. [more]
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Human Genome Project - Robin McKie reviews The Common Thread by John Sulston and Georgina Ferry. [more]

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