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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 2: Issue 66 - 24th August, 2002 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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NEWS & VIEWS

Neuroscience (24 Aug) - Plenty of evidence indicates that the recognition of familiar faces depends largely on structures on the right side of the brain's outer layer, or cortex. However, the brain appears to take a sharp left turn in fostering the ability to identify one's own face. [more]



Sex, Drugs, and Cults (23 Aug) -  An evolutionary psychology perspective on why and how cult memes get a drug-like hold on people, and what might be done to mitigate the effects. By H. Keith Henson. [more]


Human evolution (23 Aug) - An international team of medical researchers and anthropologists has determined that a gene mutation found only in humans and not in our evolutionary cousins, the apes, occurred more than two million years ago, just prior to human brain expansion but after human ancestors stood upright. [more]


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Obsessions (23 Aug) - When does an enthusiasm become an obsession? Is an unhealthy interest in certain pop stars the thin end of the wedge? Quite possibly, according to Obsessions (BBC1), which presented ever more spectacular case studies for our appalled edification. [more]


Asylums (23 Aug) - China is under pressure to open its mental asylums to foreign scrutiny as the world's psychiatry body responds to allegations that these asylums contain thousands of political dissidents locked up as mental patients. [more]


Sexual behaviour (22 Aug) - Monogamy is one of the rarest behaviours in nature, writes Olivia Judson. The Guardian, Audio.

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Incest - Our families smell - and it's part of the natural mechanism to deter incest, say scientists. [more]


Competition (21 Aug) - Boys will compete just for the sake of it, but girls will not waste effort on competition unless it pays, a Canadian study has revealed. [more]


Bedwetting (21 Aug) - Bedwetting could be due to a delay in how the nervous system develops, scientists say. [more]


Pain (20 Aug) - People who have quick tempers are likely to be more pain sensitive, while their easygoing neighbors find physical aches less painful, new research presented Tuesday at the 10th World Congress on Pain suggests. [more]


Psychiatry (20 Aug) - Emory University psychiatrist J. Douglas Bremner, M.D., has compiled more than ten years of research, reflection, and observations as a clinical psychiatrist in a book that explains how stress-induced changes in the brain may account for some psychiatric disorders, including Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dissociative disorders, borderline personality disorder, adjustment disorder, depression, and anxiety. [more]

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Species (19 Aug) - The argument over DNA substitutions and speciation is one which rekindles the great debate between selectionists and mutationists . Most disturbing is the assault on the concept of species in which some phylogeneticists seem near to be arguing that every gene variation is a speciation event replacing Mayr's biological species concept. [more]


Memory (19 Aug) - Most of the time, the right side of the brain is better at identifying familiar faces, but when it comes to recognizing one's own face, the left side of the brain is tops, new research suggests. [more]


Psychiatry - All of the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News 16 August 2002; Vol. 37, No. 16. [more]


Autism (14 Aug) - An upsurge in autism cases diagnosed in the Silicon Valley area of California may be due to genes more common in its high-tech workers, say experts. As many as one in 150 children in the region have some sort of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), a rate which far outstrips other areas of the US. [more]


Evolutionary psychology (14 Aug) - British scientists have come up with an explanation for why most men are taller than women.  They say taller men are more sexually attractive and are more likely to father children. [more]


Obituary (14 Aug) - Eugene P. Odum, 88, who established the modern study of ecology and ecosystems and helped set the agenda for the environmental movement, died Aug. 10 at his home in Athens, Ga. He apparently suffered a heart attack, the Clarke County coroner said. [more]


Seasonal affective disorder (13 Aug) - No one looks forward to spring more than people with seasonal affective disorder, who grow depressed in the waning light of winter. A smaller group of people, however, suffer on the opposite side of the calendar. [more]


Neuroscience (13 Aug) - Brand names engage the "emotional", right-hand side of the brain more than other words, new experiments suggest. And they are more easily recognized when they are in capital letters. [more]


Altruism - panic (7 Aug) - Group panic and irrational behavior did not occur at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Instead the event created a sense of "we-ness" among those threatened, says Rutgers University sociology professor Lee Clarke. In his article, "Panic: Myth or Reality?", in the fall 2002 edition of Contexts magazine, he explains that 50 years of evidence on disasters and extreme situations shows that panic is rare, even when people feel "excessive fear." [more]


Human evolution (6 Aug) - Two ancient skulls, one from central Africa and the other from the Black Sea republic of Georgia, have shaken the human family tree to its roots, sending scientists scrambling to see if their favorite theories are among the fallen fruit. [more]


Psychiatry (5 Aug) - An unknown infectious agent may be responsible for a five-fold increase in mental illness over the last two centuries, a controversial psychiatrist proposes in a new book. [more]


Language - Researchers at the Acoustical Society of America meeting in June reported brain imaging studies and clinical experiments that expose new details of how the first language we learn warps everything we hear later. [more]


Longevity (2 Aug) - For the first time, researchers have found evidence suggesting people may live longer by eating fewer  calories each day, a dietary restriction that already has shown in experiments to extend the lives of  laboratory animals by up to 40 percent. [more]


Mental health law (2 Aug) - Mental health workers and users have good reason to be concerned. A new  government Bill will introduce powers to allow the indefinite detention of those deemed to be suffering from a mental disorder and considered dangerous - even if they have not committed a crime. [more]


Psychiatry - All of the latest news from the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News 2 August 2002; Vol. 37, No. 15. [more]

PAPERS & COMMENTARY

Schizophrenia (23 Aug) - Swedish scientists have found a tiny particle in the spinal fluid of people with schizophrenia that could be a marker for the disease, or even play some part in causing it. Reuters, BBC News Online.


Eating disorders (23 Aug) - A new survey suggests very few major college athletes suffer from full-blown eating disorders, but slightly more than one in six may exhibit limited symptoms of disordered eating. [more]


Language (22 Aug) - The strong predominance of right-handedness appears to be a uniquely human characteristic, whereas the left-cerebral dominance for vocalization occurs in many species, including frogs, birds, and mammals. Right-handedness may have arisen because of an association between manual gestures and vocalization in the evolution of language. Michael Corballis argues that language evolved from manual gestures, gradually incorporating vocal elements. [more]


Development (22 Aug) - No single "silver bullet" produces a well-adjusted adolescent, according to a team of sociologists reporting on the influence of family, school, neighborhoods and friends on the lives of early teens. [more]


Sexual behaviour (22 Aug) - Asymmetry could account for a fifth of the variation in romantic jealousy from person to person, says a Canadian researcher. New Scientist, BBC News Online.


Genetics (21 Aug) - Tiny bits of DNA that scientists thought could only come from a child's mother may sometimes also come from the father, a new study shows. Reuters, Newsday


Communication (21 Aug) - Young captive dolphins mimic their trainer's whistle in their calls to other dolphins, researchers say. The finding is some of the first evidence that animals use imitated sounds to communicate with each other. Nature Science Update, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Journal of Comparative Psychology.


Genetics (Aug 20) - Some genetic elements spread infectiously in populations by increasing their rate of genetic transmission at the expense of other genes in the genome. These so-called selfish genetic elements comprise a substantial portion of eukaryotic genomes and have long been viewed as a potent evolutionary force. [more]


Genetics (20 Aug) - Genetic heterozygosity is thought to enhance resistance of hosts to infectious diseases, but few tests of this idea exist. In particular, heterozygosity at the MHC, the highly polymorphic loci that control immunological recognition of pathogens, is suspected to confer a selective advantage by enhancing resistance to infectious diseases (the "heterozygote advantage" hypothesis). [more]


Obesity (19 Aug) - A team of researchers asks in a new health journal article, "Are the Fat More Jolly?" What they found was that obesity does not protect people from mental health problems. [more]


Race (19 Aug) - What if the U.S. government stopped measuring race? Would the results be positive, negative, or indifferent? Under what conditions does the classification of people by race for the purpose of scientific inquiry promote racial division, and when does it aid in the achievement of justice and equality? [more]


Fear (19 Aug) - Duke University researchers have shown how emotions such as fear or horror travel along separate paths through the brain and are more likely than simple distractions to interfere with a person's efforts to focus on a task such as driving. [more]



Parenthood (19 Aug) - As the 20th century progressed, parents shouldered the care and financial burdens of raising children with less and less help, say Brown sociologists. Frances K. Goldscheider and colleagues analyzed census data from 1880 to 1990 and presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. [more]


Testing (18 Aug) - Assessing the intelligence of students for the purpose of college admissions is difficult and controversial. On the one hand, the higher overall performance by whites on tests raises questions about whether they are fair or not. Tests in the early grades, for example, often advantage whites and magnify racial differences at later ages. For these and other reasons, including differences in the quality of schools, blacks generally have lower scores on assessment tests. [more]


Sexual behaviour (18 Aug) - Major social changes over the past fifty years in the United States have profoundly reshaped how intimate unions are formed. As sexual ties have increasingly become decoupled from marriage, the nature and formation of relationships have taken on new forms and meaning--with significant implications for different subgroups in the population, and for the quality of life in general. [more]


Poverty (17 Aug)- In a study of 254 low-income families in three U.S. cities, 52 percent report concurrent physical and mental health problems in both the primary caregiver and at least one of the children in the household. In addition, the separation of welfare assistance, Medicaid and health insurance programs have created major challenges for recipients to obtain and keep a lasting job - a key goal of welfare reform, researchers say. [more]


Language - Human evolution (15 Aug) - Two critical mutations appeared roughly 200,000 years ago in a gene linked to language, then swept through the population at roughly the same time anatomically modern humans began to dominate the planet, according to new research. Washington Post, Science and Religion Information Service, Nature Science Update, New York Times, BBC News Online, Science, ABC News, Audio.


Genetics (15 Aug) - Laboratory experiments led by Hopkins scientists have revealed that so-called "jumping genes" create dramatic rearrangement in the human genome when they move from chromosome to chromosome. If the finding holds true in living organisms, it may help explain the diversity of life on Earth. [more]


Eating disorders (14 Aug) - Group interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is equally as effective as group cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for treating binge eating disorder, according to an article in the August issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry. [more]


Schizophrenia (14 Aug) - Levels of a pivotal signal processor in the brain are reduced significantly in people with schizophrenia, a study by scientists at UC Irvine, Weill Cornell Medical College and Rockefeller University has found. Archives of General Psychiatry. [more] and [more]


"Cheat detector" (12 Aug) - Part of the human brain is dedicated to detecting cheats, say evolutionary psychologists, after a study with a brain-damaged man. "We think it develops in all normal individuals, and that it develops in part because our brains were selected to develop this competence," says John Tooby at the University of California, Santa Barbara. New Scientist, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Science Update, The Independent, Audio.


Genetics (12 Aug) - Reconsidering the null hypothesis: Is maternal rank associated with birth sex ratios in primate groups? [more]


Alcoholism (14 Aug) - In response to stress, including alcohol withdrawal, the body secretes a hormone called cortisol. The study, published in the August issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that recently detoxified alcoholics demonstrated impaired release of cortisol, which in turn was associated with lower scores on measures of problem-solving ability and memory. The study also found a possible link between the number of previous alcohol withdrawal episodes and the extent of cognitive problems. [more]


Development (10 Aug) - Birth weight and social class at birth have a strong influence on cognitive (mental) function in children, say researchers in the British Medical Journal. [more]


Mutation (8 Aug) - Results of a new University of Michigan study suggest that junk DNA - dismissed by many scientists as mere strings of meaningless genetic code - could have a darker side. [more]


Self-doubt and materialism (7 Aug) - People with chronic self-doubt may be more likely than others to define personal success by having the biggest house on the block or a new luxury car. [more]


Anthropology (7 Aug) - New Y genetic data support the Neolithic demic diffusion model. [more]


Self-esteem (5 Aug) - People with low self-esteem are less motivated than people with high self-esteem to improve a negative mood, even when they are offered an activity that will change their frame of mind, a team of American and Canadian psychologists has found. [more]


Childhood depression (3 Aug) - Compared with the literature on depression in adults, evidence from randomized controlled trials for the efficacy of treatments for depression in young people is scarce. [more]


Abuse - criminality (1 Aug) - Children who suffer abuse and who have a common variation in a gene linked to behaviour are much more likely to become aggressive, anti-social adults, a major new study has found. New Scientist, Washington Post, Medical News, PubMed.

REVIEWS & DISCUSSION

Genetics - Gina Maranto reviews Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future by Gregory Stock. [more]

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Evolution - Paul Raeburn reviews Of Moths and Men: An Evolutionary Tale: The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth by Judith Hooper. [more]

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Altruism - Markus Kemmelmeier reviews Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue Edited by Stephen G. Post, Lynn G. Underwood, Jeffrey P. Schloss, & William B. Hurlburt. [more]

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Mind - Thomas W. Clark reviews The Problem of the Soul: Two Visions of the Mind and How to Reconcile Them by Owen Flanagan. [more]

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Human evolution - Bruce Bridgeman reviews Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us About Human Social Evolution, edited by Frans B. M. de Waal and Evolution and the Human Mind: Modularity, Language, and Meta-cognition, edited by Peter Carruthers and Andrew Chamberlain. [more]

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Genetics - Robin Dunbar reviews Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through our Genes by Steve Olson. [more]

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Philosophy - Helene Guldberg reviews Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals by John Gray. [more]

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Psychotherapy - Christopher Dowrick reviews Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Psychotherapy by Myrna M. Weissman, John C. Markowitz, and Gerald L. Klerman. [more]

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Mind - Elizabeth McCardell reviews How to Solve the Mind-Body Problem by Nicholas Humphrey. [more]

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Happiness - Robert Emmons reviews Authentic Happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment by Martin Seligman. [more]

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Morality - Neil Levy reviews Evolutionary Origins of Morality edited by Leonard D. Katz. [more]

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Madness - Yvonne Melia reviews From the Ashes of Experience. Reflections on Madness, Survival and Growth edited by Phil Barker, Peter Campbell and Ben Davidson. [more]

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Psychiatry - Roy Sugarman reviews Cutting-Edge Medicine: What Psychiatrists Need to Know edited by Nada L. Stotland. [more]

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Networks - James Brody reviews Linked: The New Science of Networks by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. [more]

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Eugenics - F. Allan Hanson reviews Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics From the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom by Wendy Kline. [more]

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