News in Brain and Behavioural
NEWS & VIEWS
Alternative medicine - The failings of contemporary medical practice are best confronted from the rational basis of scientific medicine, not by a retreat into the mystical traditions of alternative health. [more]
Development - In 1992, Karen Wynn's numbers came in big. The numbers in question were tiny in an absolute sense, but they counted for a lot among investigators of child development. The reason: Wynn claimed to have exposed intuitive arithmetic skills of 5-month-old babies. [more]
Science - Throughout the ages, scientists and philosophers have searched for unifying theories of the universe. Ever since the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia in 1687, the standard approach has been to formulate laws of nature using mathematical equations and then to test these laws with experiments. [more]
Eccentricity - Odd and eccentric behaviour increases with age - but flamboyant behaviour becomes less pronounced, according to a new UK study. [more]
Mental health - Tough new mental health laws proposed. [more] Concern over mental health proposals. [more] 'These measures are good news' [more] Q&A: Mental health laws. [more] I survived mental illness. [more]
History - The revolution in genetics began in an Augustinian abbey in what is now the Czech Republic. Here, in the late 1800s, Gregor Mendel discovered the basic laws of inheritance. The current abbot, Lukas Evzen Martinec, is again turning the abbey into a centre for genetic discovery. Claire Ainsworth hears his story. [more]
Virtual reality - Psychiatrists are planning to use a VR environment to convince people with schizophrenia that their hallucinations are not real and that they suffer from an illness that requires treatment. [more]
Environment - A new paper released by scientists claims that humanity's 'footprint' (whatever that is) on the planet has increased by half in under 40 years. The paper, Tracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy, also suggests that by 1999 the human economy was absorbing 120 percent of the Earth's productive capacity (whatever that means) (1). Attempting to measure man's 'footprint' upon the planet has become quite fashionable. [more] and [more]
Neanderthals - An excavation at a quarry in Norfolk has revealed what could be one of the best-preserved Neanderthal sites ever found in the UK. Among the finds at the site are the skeletons from three or possibly four mammoths, including two metre-long tusks. BBC News Online, New Scientist, Yahoo.
Corporal punishment - After analyzing six decades of expert research on corporal punishment, a psychologist says parents who spank their children risk causing long-term harm that outweighs the short-term benefit of instant obedience. Nando Times, New York Times.
Scientific publishing - No wonder so many people feel alienated by science: all the journals use $5 words. Literally. Often inscrutable, most are also high-priced. [more]
Biotechnology - Gregory Stock has just completed a roadshow of public meetings and media performances across the UK and the USA, to promote his new book Redesigning Humans. Stock is director of the Programme on Medicine, Technology and Society at UCLA's School of Medicine, and was a former biotechnology adviser to Bill Clinton. His latest book was published at the same time as Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future - meaning that he often finds himself pitted against the 'biotechnology sceptic' Fukuyama. [more]
Sexual selection - Zoologists and evolutionary experts are coming up with evidence that suggests greater evenness in gender equations across the animal kingdom, meaning that females as well as males - at least in some species - strive to attract the opposite sex. [more]
Neuroscience - A rapid way to create a 3D map of the brain's genetic activity should help researchers pinpoint the neurological underpinnings of autism, schizophrenia and other brain disorders. [more]
Postnatal depression - Scientists may soon be able to predict which women are likely to suffer from depression after giving birth. [more]
Freud - To some he was a visionary anatomist of human nature, to others a talented writer who wove absurd theories into compelling narratives. A. C. Grayling on the battle over the reputation of Sigmund Freud. [more]
Biology and society - Derek Lovejoy discusses It Ain't Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions by Richard Lewontin, The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment by Richard Lewontin and Defenders of the Truth: The Battle for Science in the Sociobiology Debate and Beyond by Ullica Segerstråle. [more]
Schizophrenia - Unemployment and early separation from both parents may be key factors behind the higher rates of schizophrenia in British African-Caribbeans, research suggests. [more]
Genetic manipulation - The public doesn't believe governments are keeping up with the revolution in genetic science. And with a minority of one in five Britons already favouring genetic manipulation for cosmetic purposes, a new market will be here sooner than many people think. [more]
PAPERS & COMMENTARY
Development - From birth, human infants prefer to look at faces that engage them in mutual gaze and that, from an early age, healthy babies show enhanced neural processing of direct gaze. The exceptionally early sensitivity to mutual gaze demonstrated in these studies is arguably the major foundation for the later development of social skills. Ananova, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Psychological medicine - The Editor of the British Medical Journal writes: "It is becoming increasingly clear that we can improve medical care by paying more attention to psychological aspects of medical assessment and treatment. The study and practice of such factors is often called psychological medicine. Although the development of specialist consultation-liaison psychiatry (liaison psychiatry in the United Kingdom) and health psychology contribute to psychological medicine, the task is much wider and has major implications for the organisation and practice of care. The ABC on psychological medicine that starts this week aims to explain some of those implications." Editorial, British Medical Journal.
Genetics - Scientists at the University of Virginia Health System have identified another step in the mysterious process of gene regulation -- what turns genes on or off, making them cause or suppress disease and other physical developments in humans. [more]
Mental retardation - Clemson University and Greenwood Genetic Center researchers have found a link between a single gene and mental retardation. Dr. Anand K. Srivastava and his colleagues report their findings in the June 28 edition of the internationally respected journal, Science. EurekAlert, BBC News Online, Reuters.
Social anxiety disorder
- People with social anxiety disorder (SAD), also known as social
phobia, significantly reduced their fear, anxiety and related symptoms
in four or six weeks of treatment with the extended release (XR)
formulation of the antidepressant venlafaxine, the first available
serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), according to data
from two studies presented today at the Collegium Internationale
Sexual behaviour - There's more than one way that sex makes people happy. Women who had been exposed to semen were found to be less depressed than those who weren't. Gordon Gallup and his team at the State University of New York studied women whose partners used condoms and compared them with a group that didn't. They found that women who regularly used condoms during sex were more depressed and more likely to commit suicide. It seems that semen contains mood-altering hormones that are absorbed through the vagina. However, Gallup emphasises that there are plenty of good reasons to continue using condoms. New Scientist, BBC News Online.
Parent-offspring conflict - Molecular defects in the placenta make some babies small at birth, two independent studies show. The link could improve antenatal screening programmes. The new work may also lend credence to evolutionary theories about competition between male and female genes. "The placenta is emerging as a major genetic battleground," says geneticist Miguel Constancia of the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, UK. Nature Science Update, Nature, BBC News Online.
Eating disorders - Most patients with anorexia or bulimia nervosa who participate in a computer-aided feedback program, combined with rest and limited physical activity, achieve sustained remission, Swedish researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early online edition for June 24-28. [more]
Violence - The prevalence of physical aggression among adults "eclipses rates based on police reports or victimization surveys by a factor of 10," according to a study by University at Buffalo researchers recently reported in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. [more]
Learning and environment - At-risk inner-city girls who see nature through the windows of their homes may have a better chance for success than those girls whose views are not as green, say scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. [more]
Resemblance and trust - We're more likely to trust someone who looks a bit like us, says a psychologist. The same tendency may have helped our ancestors to help their kin. Nature Science Update, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Evolution and Human Behavior.
Marriage - Men are not anti-marriage, they just aren't in a hurry to get to the altar according to the latest study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers. [more]
Crime - Encouraging healthier eating could be the government's secret weapon in the fight against crime, according to experts. A study by researchers at the University of Surrey has found that adding vitamins and other vital nutrients to young people's diets can cut crime. BBC News Online, British Journal of Psychiatry, The Guardian,
Neurosis - One in six adults in Britain has a neurotic disorder, such as anxiety or phobias, according to a new report presented on Monday to psychiatrists attending a meeting in Wales. [more]
Medicine - Doctors in developed countries are overprescribing potentially addictive drugs, such as antidepressants and sedatives, a United Nations drugs expert said on Monday. [more]
Biological clock - You may feel different at the dreary hour of 4 a.m. than you do mid-afternoon at 4 p.m. Now, researchers might understand why. A study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis helps explain how genes dictate our biological clock. [more]
Primatology - Conservation International announced today the discovery of two new species of titi monkey in Brazil's Amazon rain forest. The findings are published in a just-released special supplement to the journal Neotropical Primates. EurekAlert.
REVIEWS & DISCUSSION
Human evolution - Jeffrey H. Schwartz reviews A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change by William H. Calvin. [more]
Human evolution - Where Do We Come From?: The Molecular Evidence for Human Descent by Jan Klein and Naoyuki Takahata. [more]
Pathological gambling - John Scanlan reviews Understanding and Treating the Pathological Gambler by Robert Ladouceur, Caroline Sylvain, Claude Boutin and Celine Doucet. [more]
Biography - Jane Gregory reviews Rosalind Franklin: the dark lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox. [more]
Beauty - Bojan Todosijevic reviews Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty by Nancy Etcoff. [more]
Lies - Jack Parsons reviews Telling Lies. Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage by Paul Ekman. [more]
Evolution - Michael Bradie reviews Thinking About Evolution: Historical, Philosophical, and Political Perspectives edited by Rama S. Singh, Costas B. Krimbas, Diane B. Paul, and John Beatty. [more]
Consciousness - Dan O'Brien reviews The Emergence of Consciousness edited by Anthony Freeman. [more]
Jealousy - Michael J. Downes reviews The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love or Sex by David M. Buss. [more]
Consciousness - H. John Caulfield reviews The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory by David Chalmers. [more]
Racism - Carlin Romano reviews Racism: A Short History by George M. Fredrickson. [more]
Schizophrenia - Lisa Bortolotti reviews Social Cognition and Schizophrenia edited by Patrick W. Corrigan and David L. Penn. [more]
Development - language - Anne Bezuidenhout reviews How Children Learn the Meanings of Words by Paul Bloom. [more]
Science - Antti Karjalainen reviews The Fate of Knowledge by Helen E. Longino. [more]
Psychiatry - Peter B. Raabe reviews Psychiatric Diagnosis and Classification edited by by Mario Maj, Wolfgang Gaebel, Juan Jose Lopez-Ibor, and Norman Sartorius. [more]