News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 2: Issue 46 - 16th February, 2002

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Human genetics - A joyful couple were celebrating at home in Britain yesterday with the country's first - and the world's second - baby to be born with a desired genetic characteristic known in advance. [more]

Hunger - An appetite stimulant produced by the stomach may lead to treatments for obesity and wasting syndromes. [more]

Editor's choice Murder - Hundreds, if not thousands, of women are murdered by their families each year in the name of family "honor." It's difficult to get precise numbers on the phenomenon of honor killing; the murders frequently go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished, and the concept of family honor justifies the act in the eyes of some societies. [more]

Editor's choice Primatology - For more than forty years National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Jane Goodall has called the Gombe Stream National Park, in Tanzania, "home." It was here that Goodall arrived in 1960 at the age of 26 to begin her four-decade long research project, and where she started her enduring rapport with the National Geographic Society. [more]

Mate choice - Does the pill destroy a woman's ability to pick the right man? Alison Motluk reports. [more]

Paedophilia - Two centuries after it was first criminalized in Europe, pedophilia - the sexual attraction of adults to prepubescent children - remains a dark psychological puzzle. [more]

Language - Griffin the grey parrot has recently begun to play with objects and speaks English in a way that raises fascinating questions about the thought processes going on inside a bird's brain. [more]

Human genome - Craig Venter, the genome de-coder the world loves to hate, predicted tonight that within five years a personalized print-out of an individual's genetic code will be cheap enough for anyone to buy. [more]

Marriage - Emotional rather than physical factors may better explain why death rates are higher among single men than their married counterparts. It is well established that unmarried men tend to die younger than married ones. [more]

Psychiatry - All of the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News, 15 February 2002; Vol. 37, No. 4. [more]

Fitness - Fitness, like weight loss, has genetic underpinnings, making it inherently much easier for some to get fit than it is for others. [more]

Antidepressants - When glandular fever left him so lethargic that he could hardly think, university student William Skidelsky turned to antidepressants. And so began a bizarre - and deeply deluded - period of his life. [more]

Diet and behaviour - Fatty acids found in many common foods may help to treat children with dyslexia and behavioural problems, say scientists. [more]

Sex - Sex is so widespread among plants and animals that there must be some payoff. After more than a half-century of debate and 20 published theories, scientists are still trying to pin down just what the payoff is. [more]

Robotics - Scientists are experimenting with robots that will eventually be able to reproduce, writes Dylan Evans. [more]

Editor's choice Neuroscience - What if someone could take a picture of your brain and tell what you were thinking? Should drugs that make people think more clearly be given only to people with mental problems or made available to all people? These are the kinds of questions that make science-fiction aficionados salivate, but it's only a matter of time before the real world will have to grapple with them, too, said a group of brain science experts who met last week at the University of Pennsylvania. [more]

Creationism - Ohio has become the latest battleground for conservative groups that want alternative theories to evolution to be taught in classrooms. [more]

Editor's choice Antidepressants - The professional body for psychiatrists has conceded that antidepressant pills such as Prozac may only have a 50% success rate in treating depression. [more]

Depression - Doctors in Scotland are treating dozens of children under the age of four for clinical depression, new statistics have revealed. [more]

Selfish genes - Richard Dawkins: Our big brains can overcome our selfish genes. From a lecture by the Charles Simonyi professor of the understanding of science, given at the Royal Institution, in London. [more] and [more]

Antidepressants - Patients are not being given full details about the safety and effectiveness of anti-depressant medications, a report suggests. [more]

Love - As Valentine's Day looms, many of us are mulling and musing  "How much do I love him? How much does she love me? Are we right for each other? Will it work out?" We should all stop obsessing and get scientific. [more] and [more]

Panic - People who come to the emergency room complaining of chest pains but who aren't having a heart attack are usually sent home without much treatment. Researchers say many of these patients are actually having a panic attack. [more]

Royal Society - The president of the Royal Society yesterday attacked the old Labour attitudes of the science select committee chairman who accused the society of being an elitist club. [more]

Science - Forget the opening of a fancy London restaurant, the premiere of a West End show or any other glamorous event. I was told that the place to be last Tuesday was the annual science meets the media bash, organised by The Telegraph at the Royal Society. [more]

Addiction - People who are addicted to gambling also may be addicted to alcohol or have other mental disorders, according to a report in the American Journal of Psychiatry. [more]

Genetics  - If Darwin was right, and evolution relentlessly weeds out genetic traits that impede a species' survival, why are one-quarter of adult Europeans and 90 percent of Asians unable to digest milk products - a rich, year-round source of protein and energy? [more]

Editor's choice Creationism - The latest challenge to evolution's primacy in classrooms - the theory of intelligent design, not the old foe creationism - will get a full- scale hearing next month before Ohio Board of Education members, who are in a heated debate over whether established science censors other views about the origins of life. [more]

Mental illness - Mental illness is a disease with many causes and manifestations, some environmental and some physical. More importantly, we also know that many of these diseases can be treated effectively with medication and therapy, allowing those with chronic mental illness to be productive members of society. [more]

Scientology - The Church of Scientology has started a $1 million billboard campaign in major U.S. cities, with the signs claiming to have answers for people struggling with fear, grief and economic uncertainty. [more]

Cognitive neuroscience - The National Science Foundation (NSF) is launching a new initiative in the area of cognitive neuroscience. NSF is seeking highly innovative, interdisciplinary proposals aimed at advancing the understanding of how the brain supports thought, perception, action, social process, and other aspects of behavior. [more]

Mental health courts - Congress has allocated $4 million to the U.S. Department of Justice to set up a pilot mental health courts program. The program gives nonviolent offenders with mental health problems treatment instead of jail time, trains law enforcement personnel and judges about mental health problems and treatment, and provides ongoing supervision for offenders sentenced to treatment. [more]

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]

Editor's choice Domestic violence - Some perpetrators of domestic violence may suffer from a nervous system irregularity that makes it harder for them to control emotions and aggression, suggest the results of a study. [more]

Editor's choice Browse through our Review of the Year and read the latest controversial and thought-provoking articles and reviews in the Human Nature Review.

Primatology - One of the fundamental assumptions about primates is under attack. Two American primatologists are challenging the current and dominant theory that competition is the driving force of social behavior in primates - both human and non-human. [more] and [more]

Mental illness - One in seven inmates in western nations' prisons may have a serious mental illness, and it is unclear if the systems have the capacity to care for them, according to UK researchers. [more]

History - Gender-discrimination legends surrounding Nobelist Barbara McClintock and DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin are to be aired at the AAAS convention. [more]

Editor's choice Archaeology - Some unique behaviors associated with modern humans--including a shift in diet and the earliest evidence of personal ornaments like beads--may be linked to an increase in human population density between 40 and 50 thousand years ago, Mary C. Stiner and Steven L. Kuhn reported today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. EurekAlert, BBC News Online, New Scientist.

Palaeoanthropology - The common "textbook" view in paleoanthropology of when and how modern humans came to be in Western Europe sees a migration of modern humans coming from Africa through the Middle East sometime between 50,000-40,000 years ago. In this view, these "tropical" modern humans were physically and culturally distinct from the cold-adapted, culturally primitive Neandertals who were already there, and the invaders drove the older inhabitants to extinction in fairly short order. Paleoanthropologists and archaeologists cite a shift in the fossil evidence and the sudden appearance of art and tool making as evidence of the change. But is the evidence really so clear? Not at all, says Arizona State University paleoanthropologist Geoffrey Clark. [more]

 Language - Will space travelers speak a language we can understand when they return from a 200-year journey? That's the question posed by Sarah Thomason, a professor of linguistics at the University of Michigan, in her presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. [more]

Language and cognition - In English, time rushes forward. In Mandarin Chinese, it moves down. The past lies above, and the future lies below. So is the mind of a Mandarin speaker different from the mind of an English speaker? [more]

Belief and health - Older people who have a strong sense of spiritual belief and personal meaning in life are less likely to suffer from depression or mental health problems even when they have lost a spouse within the past year. [more]

Editor's choice Mental illness - A new study suggests that mental disorders may be less prevalent among adults in the United States than previously thought. Yahoo News, Archives of General Psychiatry.

Fear - How do we learn to fear danger? Neuroscientists have been studying this response for some time, using fear conditioning. [more]

Editor's choice Race and medicine - "Race is generally not a useful consideration in a clinical decision," says medical ethicist Susan Setta, professor of philosophy and religion at Northeastern University in Boston. "It is sometimes used as a substitute for considerations of lifestyle, which are often essential components of clinical decision-making." [more - free registration required]

Neuroscience - Two mathematicians are working on a mathematical way to map the convoluted surface of the human brain so that neuroscientists can compare different brains. [more]

Economics - New research by economists at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford has provided surprising information on just how much people hate a winner. It also shows what lengths human beings are prepared to go to damage a winner out of a sense of envy or fairness. [more]

Sex differences - When it comes to autoimmunity, the sexes respond in their own ways. [more - free registration required]

Editor's choice Child development - New research shows that while babies often imitate what older and wiser adults do, they go their own way when it makes sense. Yahoo News, Nature, New Scientist, Press Release.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder - A type of brain surgery may help some patients with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that fails to respond to medication or behavioral therapy, according to Boston researchers. [more]

Editor's choice Evolution - A study of insects known as water striders has yielded what researchers claim is the first evidence of an anatomical arms race between the sexes. Nando Times, Nature Science Update, Nature.

Evolutionary psychology - What normative duties do we owe to future generations? [more - pdf]

Schizophrenia - Children with three or more minor physical anomalies are more likely to develop a schizophrenia spectrum disorder than to develop no mental illness or other psychopathology, according to a report published in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry. [more]

Biology - Two hair's breadths long and five across - that's the average capacity of a fly's brain, German researchers have calculated. They hope to set a benchmark for crania by which oddballs can be judged. [more]

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Editor's choice Mood - Are you moody? If so, then there is a small area near the front of your brain - an inch or two behind your right eye (if you are right handed) - that is probably working overtime. That is the conclusion of a new study, published Feb. 12 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found a significant association between activity in a specific area of the brain and individual differences in mood. EurekAlert, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington Post, BBC News Online, Scientific American.

Editor's choice Autism - Withdrawing from social interaction and communication is a hallmark of autism. Now, researchers have identified structural differences in the brains of autism patients that might explain the behavior. EurekAlert, BBC News Online, Reuters.

Body image - Women who live in wealthy neighbourhoods are more likely to be unhappy with their bodies, according to research. BBC News Online, Ananova.

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Editor's choice Depression and immunity - It is estimated that 15-57 percent of older adults experience some form of chronic depression for a period of time later in their lives, according to recent research, and this may compromise their ability to fight off infections and cancers. EurekAlert, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, BBC News Online.

Depression - Recovering from depression may be tougher for certain groups of patients: elderly women, the less educated, those with neurotic traits and the medically ill, according to a new study. [more]

Editor's choice Human reproduction - A new study on the sex life of molds is raising startling new questions about gene silencing, speciation and perhaps some facets of human reproduction. [more]

Phrenology - Vanja Kljajevic reviews The New Phrenology: The Limits of Localizing Cognitive Processes in the Brain by William R. Uttal. [more]

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Biology - Jon Turner reviews The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson. [more] [first chapter]

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Sexual behaviour - Christian Perring reviews The Sex Lives of Teenagers: Revealing the Secret World of Adolescent Boys and Girls by Lynn E. Ponton. [more]

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Editor's choice Language - Larry Trask reviews The Atoms of Language: The Mind's Hidden Rules of Grammar by Mark C. Baker. [more] and [more]

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Decision-making - Keith S. Harris reviews Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making by Reid Hastie and Robyn M. Dawes. [more]

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Science - Sheilla Jones reviews Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries by Steven Weinberg and Who Rules in Science: A Guide to the Wars by James Robert Brown. [more]

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Evolutionary psychology - Anthony Dickinson reviews The Theory of Options: A New Theory of the Evolution of Human Behavior by Sean Gould. [more]

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Neurology - H. Richard Tyler reviews Neurological Eponyms edited by Peter J. Koehler, George W. Bruyn, and John M. S. Pearce. [more]

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Science - Kevin Shapiro reviews Who Rules in Science: A Guide to the Wars by James Robert Brown. [more]

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Communicative action - John Wright reviews Communicative Action and Rational Choice by Joseph Heath. [more]

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Population - Michel Guillot reviews Beyond Six Billion: Forecasting the World's Population edited by John Bongaarts and Rodolfo A. Bulatao. [more]

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

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Philosophy - Nicholas Fearn reviews Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World by Robert Nozick. [more]

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Madness - Julian Keeling reviews Madness: A Brief History by Roy Porter. [more]

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The unconscious - Lavinia Greenlaw reviews Hidden Minds: A history of the unconscious by Frank Tallis. [more]

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Editor's choice Browse through our Review of the Year and read the latest controversial and thought-provoking articles and reviews in the Human Nature Review.

Madness - Joanna Griffiths reviews Madness: A Brief History by Roy Porter. [more]

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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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