News in Brain and Behavioural
NEWS & VIEWS
Development - Among the Au people of Papua, New Guinea, babies don't crawl. They scoot around on their bottoms, propelling themselves with their hands. The adults call it - but this is a polite translation - "rear-end walking." David P. Tracer, an anthropologist working among them, decided to do some research into who crawls and why. His conclusion: For most of human history, babies probably haven't crawled. [more]
Addiction - The Carte Blanche team investigate drug addiction in South Africa. [more]
Politics - Humanity has George Orwell to thank for exposing the necessary connection between the massacre of language and meaning and the massacre of millions under totalitarianism. [more]
Race - Challenging the widely held view that race is a "biologically meaningless" concept, a leading population geneticist says that race is helpful for understanding ethnic differences in disease and response to drugs. [more]
Sexual behaviour - From inner-city mean streets to serene suburban cul-de-sacs, from bar stools to pulpits, and from state houses to the state prisons, sex offenders uniformly inspire fear and loathing. [more]
Anthropology - "The American Anthropological Association has just published the results of an extensive investigation into charges of abuse of the Yanomami Indians of Venezuela and Brazil that had been brought by its own members against their colleagues Napoleon Chagnon and James Neel. The AAA report is a 325-page document, dense with opinion papers, ethical pronouncements, vast but unbalanced background materials, even the panelists' résumés. When those materials are stripped away, what remains is a verdict of not guilty on the truly serious charge -- genocide -- and guilty on some comparatively minor issues related to publications and fieldwork," write Thomas Gregor and Daniel R. Gross. [more]
Genetics - Almost a thousand new human genes have been discovered in the human genome by scientists who have decoded the genome of a very distant relative, the fugu, or puffer fish. [more]
Development - Lulling a baby to sleep with a song is an age-old part of child-care. But a Canadian researcher says even tiny babies respond to the lullabies because they recognise melodies. [more]
Obituary - Paul Weiss, an indefatigable philosopher who kept teaching despite the efforts of some of the best American universities to stop him because of his advancing age, died on July 5 at his home in Washington. He was 101. [more]
Psychiatry - The latest news from the American Psychiatric Association in Psychiatric News 19 July 2002; Vol. 37, No. 14. [more]
Depression - The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will soon be the second largest public health problem. Has the world become more depressing, or has the pharmaceutical industry simply become better at marketing antidepressants? [more]
Suicide - Close to 3 million Americans age 12 to 17 considered suicide in 2000 and more than a third of those tried to kill themselves, a government survey found. [more] A new study has found that casino gambling has little or no correlation with suicide rates in U.S. communities with casinos. [more] Adults with bipolar disorder are at high risk of attempting to commit suicide in their early 30s, usually within 7 to 12 years of the onset of the mental illness, researchers in Taiwan report. [more]
Psychology - "There is a gigantic project yet to be done that will have the effect of rooting psychology in natural science. Once this is accomplished, you'll be able to go from phenomenology. . . to information processing. . . to the brain. . . down through the workings of the neurons, including the biochemistry, all the way to the biophysics and the way that genes are up-regulated and down-regulated. This is going to happen; I have no doubt at all. When it does we're going to have a much better understanding of human nature than is otherwise going to be possible," says Stephen M. Kosslyn. [video]
Mental illness - Animal models for mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia came under scrutiny today as leading experts debated their usefulness. While other fields in biology advance rapidly, they said, behavioral pharmacology may have remained inappropriately stagnant. [more]
Psychologists - Psychologists were put to a popularity contest in a new study that appears in the Review of General Psychology (Vol. 6, No. 2), which ranks 99 of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. [more]
Crime - Research shows that improving the diet of young offenders will reduce their criminal tendencies, says Dr John Briffa. [more]
Music therapy - Music therapy programs are popping up in hospitals and treatment centers around the country. But what do we actually know about the health benefits of music & or how music is processed by our brains? In this hour of Science Friday, Ira talks with patients, doctors, and scientists about the research and practice of music therapy. [more] [audio]
Conservation - Western gorillas could be extinct before the century is over. But in Central Africa, the biggest threat isn't loss of habitat; it's a hungry commercial demand for their meat, which is smoked and sold in city markets as a high-priced delicacy. [more]
Deception - Can science find a foolproof way of uncovering truth? The inner workings of deception in our brains confront scientists with an almost insoluble mystery. [more]
Science - It seems a fairly obvious idea: when science experiments are successful, the results are published in a well-respected journal for all to see and the body of human knowledge expands. But the sad truth about science is that most experiments fail and the hypotheses that seduced researchers turn out not to be true or, at least, the studies provide no evidence that they are true. Are such studies any less important, any less successful? And what happens to them? [more]
Internet - A Guide to the Internet for Psychotherapists and Psychoanalysts by Robert M. Young. [more]
Diet - If the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ''Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution'' and ''Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true. [more]
Creationism - The holy war against evolution has escalated again, with attempts by creationists to construe an explanatory statement accompanying a federal law on education as evidence that the US government approves the teaching of intelligent design theory alongside Darwinian evolution. [more]
Psychiatry - The latest news from the American Psychiatric Association: Psychiatric News, 5 July 2002; Vol. 37, No. 13. [more]
Schizophrenia - Despite years of false leads, setbacks and unsustained claims, researchers hope they are now starting to close in on some of the genes that go awry in schizophrenia, a devastating mental disease that affects two million Americans. [more]
Sex - Drugs such as Viagra should work for some women - especially if they have a big G spot. This spot, famed for producing spectacular orgasms, turns out to be awash with the enzymes that these drugs act on. [more]
Depression - Genes play a role in who will suffer depression and who will be spared, and researchers have also found these "depression genes" are different for men and women. [more]
History - He was responsible for the most telling thesis of the post war period - the End of History. But Professor Francis Fukuyama found that his grand idea was left wanting after September the 11th. [video]
Pharmacotherapy - In his annual report to the nation's psychiatrists in May, the medical director of the American Psychiatric Association rallied America's psychiatrists "to stop this plague from spreading across the nation." Steven Mirin was not referring to bacteria, a virus or a brain disease like Alzheimer's. The "plague" was a victory by psychologists in New Mexico, who recently won the power to write prescriptions for such psychiatric drugs as Prozac -- an authority generally limited to psychiatrists and other MDs. [more]
Environment - Global warming has become more-or-less received wisdom. But at least one environmentalist begs to differ. Nothing more than a voice in the wilderness? Jeremy Paxman interviewed Bjorn Lomborg. [video]
History - genetics - Gene scientists claim to have found proof that the Welsh are the "true" Britons. The research supports the idea that Celtic Britain underwent a form of ethnic cleansing by Anglo-Saxons invaders following the Roman withdrawal in the fifth century. [more]
Obituary - Erwin Chargaff, who has died aged 96, was one of the giants of the world of biochemistry. He did pioneering work in several fields; hence, his absence from the roll of Nobel prizewinners remained something of an enigma. [more]
Childhood - How did we evolve to the point where we spend almost a third of our lives being small, vulnerable and unable to do what evolution wants: reproduce? [more]
Motherhood - In her book Mother Nature anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy challenges conventional assumptions about "maternal instinct" in offering the latest research and interpretations about what it means to be a mother. She draws on history, biology, animal behavior, literature, psychology, and her own personal experience. [audio]
Antidepressants - Fourteen years after Eli Lilly introduced a small green and white capsule called Prozac, antidepressants have mushroomed from a modest market into a $12 billion industry. And Americans, little by little, are coming to think of depression as an illness like any other, a topic discussed on dates and at dinner parties. But the euphoria that greeted the arrival of the generation of drugs that Prozac heralded has faded. [more]
Virtual virology - Computer viruses mirror their human equivalents in the way they behave, are structured and even in the threat they pose, according to a new study. Following a year-long investigation, experts in medicine and technology believe they have discovered parallels between the two viruses which could help in the fight against them. [more]
Anthropology - The Final Report of the AAA El Dorado Task Force into allegations against Napoleon Chagnon, James Neel and others. [more] 'Anthropology and the Search for the Enemy Within' by Thomas A. Gregor and Daniel R. Gross. [more]
Obituary - Erwin Chargaff, whose research into the chemical composition of DNA helped lay the groundwork for James Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of its double-helix structure - the pivotal finding of 20th-century biology - died on June 20 in a New York hospital. He was 96. [more]
PAPERS & COMMENTARY
Aging - In a new study older people with more positive self-perceptions of aging, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging. Press release, BBC News Online.
Biodiversity - Areas with the most animal species also contain the greatest number of human languages, say researchers. The coincidence of biological and cultural diversity hints that preserving cultures may also preserve species, and vice versa. Nature Science Update, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Physiology - emotion - Scientists have discovered why being cuddled feels so good - human skin has a special network of nerves that stimulate a pleasurable response to stroking. The revelation came after doctors realised that a woman with no sense of touch still felt a "pleasant" sensation when her skin was caressed. Washington Post, New Scientist, BBC News Online, Nature Science Update, Nature Neuroscience.
Narcissism - For two decades, self-help books have hammered home a consistent theme for successful romantic relationships: first, you must love yourself. A new study, headed by a psychologist at the University of Georgia, may turn that wisdom on its head, though. [more]
Appetite - Research conducted in animals has revealed that an appetite suppressant drug, D-fenfluramine (D-FEN), activates brain pathways that regulate food intake and body weight. The NIH-funded study suggests that drugs targeting central nervous system pathways affecting appetite, obesity, and anorexia may lead to selective, effective treatments for weight control. [more]
Pharmacogenomics - A team of researchers suggests that "pharmacogenomic" testing may be a way to help drug-treatment centers select appropriate treatment regimens for their opiate-addicted patients, and it may also provide valuable information in the care of patients who require substantial levels of pharmacological pain management. [more]
Neuroscience - Parts of the brain involved in judgment, planning and decision-making are different among teenagers with conduct problems, according to researchers Lance Bauer, Ph.D., and Victor Hesselbrock, Ph.D. [more]
Sperm competition - Individual adjustment of sperm expenditure accords with sperm competition theory. [more]
Neuroscience - paranormal - Whether or not you believe in the paranormal may depend entirely on your brain chemistry. People with high levels of dopamine are more likely to find significance in coincidences, and pick out meaning and patterns where there are none. [more]
Longevity - Young men are often risk takers, and their predilection for thrills and spills means that they are more likely to die than young women. But if you assume things even out in later life, think again. Even after the excesses of youth, simply being a man is bad for your health. EurekAlert, BBC News Online.
Self - The capacity to reflect on one's sense of self is an important component of self-awareness. Sterling C. Johnson and colleagues investigate some of the neurocognitive processes underlying reflection on the self using functional MRI. Brain.
Emotional memory - Men and women's brains use different strategies to remember highly emotional images, according to a new brain imaging study. The discovery helps explain how women manage to remember emotional events better than men, something psychologists have known for years. New Scientist, Yahoo, BBC News Online, Discovery.
Psychology - Cooperation, Psychological Game Theory, and Limitations of Rationality in Social Interaction by Andrew M. Colman. [more]
Autism - Children with autism exhibit abnormal brain development during the very early years of life, according to two separate studies published in the current issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. EurekAlert, PubMed, New York Times. Autism, Asperger syndrome and brain mechanisms for the attribution of mental states to animated shapes. Brain. Smoking during early pregnancy could increase a child's risk of developing autism. BBC News Online.
Fear - The amygdala, the brain structure known as the hub of fear, responds differently to pictures of scary faces, depending on which version of a gene one has inherited, report National Institute of Mental Health scientists. EurekAlert, BBC News Online, Ananova, Science, National Institutes of Health.
Genetics - A surprising amount of the DNA sequence in the genes of humans and other higher organisms ends up on the cutting-room floor, so to speak, spliced out by the cellular machinery that turns genetic code into functional proteins. Differences in the editing of genetic information may, in fact, be a significant source of genetic variability. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have now taken a big step toward understanding how this editing process (known as splicing) is regulated. [more]
Brain development - Researchers have identified a protein that may help to explain why the brain's cerebral cortex is disproportionately larger in humans than in other species, a finding which appears in the July 19 issue of Science and adds an important piece to the developing "blueprint" of the part of the brain responsible for the intellectual abilities that make humans unique. EurekAlert, USA Today.
Schizophrenia - Convergence of Biological and Psychological Perspectives on Cognitive Coordination in Schizophrenia by William A. Phillips and Steven M. Silverstein. [more]
Altruism - Functional MRI scans have revealed a "biologically embedded" basis for altruistic behavior, with several characteristic regions of the brain being activated when players of a game called "Prisoner's Dilemma" decide to trust each other and cooperate, rather than betray each other for immediate gain, say researchers from Emory University. EurekAlert, Neuron - PDF, New York Times, Wired News.
Evolution - Computer scientists have adapted evolutionary concepts to study problems for some time, but now it dawns on them that these tools are well suited for studying evolution itself, and other complex problems of biology. The problem now is to bring biologists into the fold. [more]
Developmental disorders - Are developmental disorders like cases of adult brain damage? Implications from connectionist modelling by Michael Thomas and Annette Karmiloff-Smith. [more]
Dyslexia - Dyslexia is caused by a genetic flaw in the part of the brain used for reading, according to a new study from Yale researchers that could help educators improve teaching methods for millions of children. Boston Globe, PubMed. A poor sense of rhythm could be to blame for dyslexia, scientists believe. Researchers from University College London (UCL) found dyslexic children were less able to detect beats in sounds with a strong rhythm. BBC News Online.
Life histories - A theory portraying children as start-up companies and middle-aged adults as their investors has been proposed to explain why humans have such big brains and long life spans. New Scientist, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Development - Nineteenth-century farmers suffered very different fates, depending on which month they were born in, new research suggests. Women born in northern Quebec in June left on average seven more grandchildren than those born in April. "That's a huge effect," says ecologist Virpi Lummaa. [more]
Sex differences - Women have higher rates of obesity and eating disorders than men do, but scientists don't know why. New findings offer clues to the root of sex differences in eating behaviors. The study showed that men's and women's brains react differently to hunger, as well as to satiation. [more]
Sexual behaviour - The amount of trust, reciprocity and cooperation among community members working together to achieve common goals - referred to as "social capital" by behavioral scientists, is a predictor of sexually transmitted infectious diseases and risky sexual behaviors, according to research by Emory University investigators. [more]
Suicide - Recognising mental illness in young people and dealing with it appropriately could help prevent suicides, concludes a study in the British Medical Journal.
Human evolution - In what may be the most startling fossil find in decades, scientists in central Africa say they have unearthed the oldest trace of a pre-human ancestor -- a remarkably intact skull of a previously unknown species that walked upright as far back as 7 million years ago. Associated Press, Nature Science Update, Nature, Nature, Nature Science Update, Nature - Feature of the Week, Press release, BBC News Online, New York Times, BBC News Online, Independent, Independent, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Washington Post, The Guardian, Newsday, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, The Observer. Video: This is regarded by some as the most significant find in living memory, Professor Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, Nature magazine's Dr Henry Gee, Palaeontologist Mark Collard.
Researchers report this week in the journal Nature that they have discovered the fossil skull of what may be a distant human ancestor. The over six-million-year old skull, found in the Djarab desert of Chad by the Mission Paleoanthropologique Franco Tchadienne team, predates other hominid finds by about a million years. Some scientists say that it might be a distant early ancestor, far back on humankinds' family tree. In this hour, we'll talk about the find, how it fits into our picture of human evolution, and what questions remain to be answered. [more] [audio]
Teenagers - Is it any surprise that teenagers are anxious and moody? Perhaps not, but their rates of anxiety appear unexpectedly high, and their anxiety makes them more prone to overeat and smoke, a UCI study has found. [more]
Addiction - New studies reveal that a learned compensatory response can trigger "drug tolerance," a physiological process central to addiction. Drug tolerance makes people need more and more drug to get the same effect, whether pain relief or a "high." [more]
Biology - From the Modern Synthesis to Lysenkoism, and Back? by Uwe Hossfeld and Lennart Olsson. [more]
Human evolution - The skull and jawbone of a small, lightly-built individual, discovered at an archaeological site in Dmanisi, Georgia, may call into question the prevailing idea that larger brain size was behind the migration of human ancestors out of Africa. An international research team describes their find in the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. EurekAlert, BBC News Online, National Geographic, Science, Dallas News. Video: Skull find surprises even scientists, Dmanisi location ripe for migrating peoples, Site provides detailed record of life long ago.
Pollution - fertility - Hormone-like chemicals in food and pesticides may stop adult sperm fertilizing eggs, suggests a new study. Some think that the findings may partly explain falling fertility rates. [more]
Sleep - learning - Harvard Medical School researchers have confirmed the adage that practice does, indeed, make perfect - but only if you also get a good night's sleep. [more]
Physics - biology - Two physicists have figured out how to make the best of a bad job. They have shown that a device made of faulty components, such as a computer circuit made from error-prone transistors, can still function, as long as the components are combined in the right way. Nature Science Update, Physical Review Letters.
Language - Word association can link just about any two common words in the English language using an average of three steps, says a team of scientists in Arizona. Nature Science Update, Physical Review E.
Alcoholism - A Wake Forest University School of Medicine researcher today challenged a commonly accepted view on how alcohol acts in the brain in a plenary session presentation at the Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in San Francisco. [more]
Human evolution - immunology - Scientists from Imperial College London have suggested why the human genome may possess far fewer genes than previously estimated before the human genome project was begun. [more]
Schizophrenia - New brain imaging research shows clear abnormalities in the brains of people experiencing their first episode of psychosis, suggesting early detection and even prevention may be possible. [more]
Antipsychotics - Research from Duke University Medical Center suggests there might be a link between at least one drug used to treat schizophrenia and the onset of diabetes, a disease widely recognized as one of the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. [more]
REVIEWS & DISCUSSION
Genetics - Benjamin B. Normark reviews Narrow Roads of Gene Land (Vol. 2) The Evolution of Sex by W. D. Hamilton. [more]
Psychiatry - Mark H. Fleisher reviews The Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric Patient edited by Mantosh J. Dewan and Ronald W. Pies. [more]
Networks - John L. Casti reviews Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and Nexus by Mark Buchanan. [more]
Depression - Christopher Dowrick reviews Depression is a Choice: Winning the Battle Without Drugs by A. B. Curtiss. [more]
Religion - Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi reviews Religion Explained: The Human Instincts That Fashion Gods, Spirits and Ancestors by Pascal Boyer. [more]
Development - Mark Sergeant reviews Maternal Personality, Evolution and the Sex Ratio: Do Mothers Control the Sex of the Infant? by Valerie J. Grant. [more]
Unconscious processes - Jonathan Smallwood reviews Out of Mind: Varieties of Unconscious Processes edited by Beatrice de Gelder, Edward de Haan and Charles Heywood. [more]
Sexual behaviour - Johnjoe McFadden reviews Sexual Selections: What We Can and Can't Learn About Sex from Animals by Marlene Zuk and Stud: Adventures in Breeding by Kevin Conley. [more]
History - Henry J. Friedman reviews The Sexual Century by Ethel S. Person. [more]
Neuroscience - Bradley F. Boeve reviews Frontal-Subcortical Circuits in Psychiatric and Neurological Disorders edited by David G. Lichter and Jeffrey L. Cummings. [more]
Language - Helena Drysdale reviews Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts by Andrew Robinson. [more]
Consciousness - Jon McCrone reviews Consciousness by Rita Carter. [more]
Development - Where do our thoughts come from? What is it about the way we relate to the world as babies that lets us develop the creative, flexible, imaginative thinking that is the hallmark of humans? In his book The Cradle of Thought, psychologist Peter Hobson says it has a lot to do with the emotional engagement and attachments we make in our first 18 months. Liz Else listens in. [more]
Politics - Donald E. Brown reviews The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of the Social Order by Francis Fukuyama. [more]
Language - Ann Dowker reviews Language and Thought: Interdisciplinary Themes edited by Peter Carruthers and Jill Boucher. [more]
Evolution and human behaviour - Paul H. Rubin reviews Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour by Kevin N. Laland and Gillian R. Brown. [more]
Democracy - John Madeley reviews A New Democracy: Alternatives to a Bankrupt World Order by Harry Shutt. [more]
Sleep - Bryan Appleyard reviews Counting Sheep: the science and pleasures of sleep and dreams by Paul Martin. [more]
Stupidity - Gavin McNett reviews Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid edited by Robert J. Sternberg. [more]
Science - Loch Adamson talks to Stephen Wolfram about A New Kind of Science. [more] Stephen Wolfram says that all complex phenomena, including mind-benders such as genetic variation and the behavior of the stock market, can actually be explained with very simple rules. [more] [audio] A review by Philip Ball. [more]
Hypnosis - Raj Persaud reviews Hidden Depths: The Story of Hypnosis by Robin Waterfield. [more]
History - genetics - Steven Rose reviews Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes by Steve Olson. [more]
Memes - Simon Ings reviews Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think and Communicate by Robert Aunger. [more]
Netocracy - Mike Holderness reviews Netocracy: The New Power Elite and Life After Capitalism by Alexander Bard, Jan Soderqvist. [more]
Psychology - psychiatry - Peter Watson reviews Surprise, Uncertainty, and Mental Structures by Jerome Kagan. [more]
Food - Eric Asimov reviews Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food by Felipe Fernández-Armesto. [more]
Evolution - John R. G. Turner reviews The Structure of Evolutionary Theory and I Have Landed by Stephen Jay Gould. [more]