News in Brain and Behavioural
NEWS & VIEWS
Human nature (6 Mar) - Is there such a thing as human nature - something fixed and hard wired, or something primarily plastic? Is the essence of human nature to change human nature? [more]
Kissing (11 Mar) - Kissing is a symbol of desire romance, love and affection, an accepted greeting between friends and family. Kissing plays a role throughout our lives from cradle to grave. But to press your mouth against another's is a really bizarre thing to do: and the origins of kissing are still something of a mystery to scientists. In this intriguing, informative and entertaining journey beyond the lips, Dr Gillian Rice investigates the theories about the origins of the kiss and the sexual chemistry, physiology and cultural significance of this most powerful symbol of trust or betrayal. A kiss is not just a kiss - it's a unique form of communication. [more] [audio]
Media violence (12 March) - Have you been to the cinema recently, and were you shocked at the violence on screen? Perhaps you even considered the sexual content to be verging on the pornographic? Dr Raj Persaud talks to Dr Cleo Van Velson, the Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist who decided that the film ‘Irreversible’ was safe for public consumption, and discovers why she considers Forest Gump more damaging than many violent films. [more] [audio]
Neuroscience (12 Mar) - The world's first brain prosthesis - an artificial hippocampus - is about to be tested in California. Unlike devices like cochlear implants, which merely stimulate brain activity, this silicon chip implant will perform the same processes as the damaged part of the brain it is replacing. New Scientist, The Guardian.
Psychology - "Recently, while lecturing to a large group of lawyers, judges, mediators, and others involved in the family-court system in Los Angeles, I asked how many knew what a "social psychologist" was. Three people shyly raised their hands. That response was typical, and it's the reason I don't tell people anymore that I'm a social psychologist: They think I'm a therapist who gives lots of parties. If I tell them I'm a psychological scientist, they think I'm a pompous therapist, because everyone knows that 'psychological science' is an oxymoron," writes Carol Tavris. [more]
PTSD (11 Mar) - Jonathan Shay, 61, is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating the psychological damage combat inflicts on soldiers. His approach is woven out of the different strands of his life: part neuroscience, part evolutionary theory, part psychiatric empathy and part Homer. [more]
Human rights (11 Mar) - The inauguration of the first eighteen judges at the new International Criminal Court (ICC) will help to thwart U.S. efforts to undermine the court, Human Rights Watch said today. [more] [more] and [more]
Revenge (10 Mar) - Some call it sweet, a few develop a thirst for it. Virtually everybody has plotted ways to get it. Now scientists, too, are seeking revenge. Digging through anthropological and archaeological data on tribal warfare, researchers are analyzing the role that payback plays in human relations. [more]
Wheel (10 Mar) - A 5,100- to 5,350-year-old wooden wheel recently was found in Slovenia buried within an ancient marsh according to a press release issued earlier this month by the Slovenian news agency STA. [more]
Neanderthals (11 Mar) - Contact between modern humans and Neanderthals was fleeting at best, with no interbreeding. There has never been any conclusive evidence that the two species did interbreed, but it has always been a possibility. And just a few years ago, in 1999, scientists in Portugal found the 25,000-year-old skeleton of a boy who seemed to have been a hybrid, the offspring of Homo sapiens (modern humans) and Homo neanderthalensis. New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle.
Psychopathy (5 Mar) - In the light of new recommendations that those with DSPD (also known as psychopaths) should be locked up even if they haven't committed a crime, Dr Raj Persaud asks Dr Bob Johnson, consultant psychiatrist and co-founder of the James Nayler Foundation and Anthony Maden, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Imperial College and Clinical Director of Dangerously Severe Personality Disorder services at Broadmoor Hospital, whether psychopaths are untreatable, as previously believed, or whether there is hope that they can change. [more] [audio]
Eating disorders (9 Mar) - In her 23 years as a specialist in eating disorders, Dr. Margo Maine has received countless telephone calls from women worried that their teenage daughters might be dieting into a danger zone. But several years ago, Dr. Maine, a psychologist who runs an eating-disorders treatment program with a partner in West Hartford, Conn., noticed a shift in the telephone inquiries. [more]
Schizophrenia (3 Mar) - More than two million people in the United States have schizophrenia, yet the disorder remains a medical mystery. Scientists don't know precisely what causes some brains to produce hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking. One reason it's particularly hard to study schizophrenia is that it doesn't seem to occur in animals. But as NPR's Jon Hamilton reports, a small group of scientists at the National Institutes of Health are using genetic engineering to reproduce some of the symptoms of schizophrenia -- in mice. [more]
REVIEWS & DISCUSSION (cont.)
Thought - culture - Are you more likely to see the forest or the trees? A new book says the answer may depend on your culture. Join host Neal Conan for a fresh look at the geography of thought. The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why by Richard Nisbett. [more] [audio]
Homosexuality - Andrew Hacker reviews Reinventing the Male Homosexual: The Rhetoric and Power of the Gay Gene by Robert Alan Brookey [more], The World Turned: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and Culture by John D'Emilio [more], Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude by Amy Bloom [more], and Left Out: The Politics of Exclusion, Essays 1964-2002 by Martin Duberman. [more] [review]
Darwinism - Robin McKie reviews A Devil's Chaplain by Richard Dawkins. [review]
RESEARCH & COMMENTARY
Endocrinology (14 Mar) - Scientists at Rockefeller University and Weill Medical College of Cornell University have discovered how estrogen initiates physical changes in rodent brain cells that lead to increased learning and memory -- a finding, the researchers contend, that illustrates the likely value of the hormone to enhance brain functioning in women. [more]
Smell - mate choice (12 Mar) - Mice can recognise their elders by the smell of their urine, a new study shows. This unusual skill could turn out to be very important to mice, as it suggests a mechanism behind one theory of mate choice. [more]
Altruism - punishment (13 March) - The idea of fair punishment helps to maintain altruism in human groups, new experiments have shown. People playing an investing game with real money rapidly abandoned their altruistic behaviour if they felt the punishment given for selfish acts was unwarranted. New Scientist, The Economist, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Sexual behaviour (12 Mar) - A University of Alberta professor of psychology has learned men tend to overestimate the number of sexual partners they've had, and he's come up with some interesting theories explain why the do this. EurekAlert, SABC News.
Archaeology (13 Mar) - Palaeontologists have found what could be the earliest human footprints, fossilized in volcanic ash in Southern Italy. The 20-centimetre prints hint that early man was less than 1.5 metres tall when he walked down the Roccamonfina volcano between 385,000 and 325,000 years ago. Nature Science Update, Nature, Associated Press, New Scientist, Nando Times, BBC News Online, National Geographic, The Independent, MSNBC, The Guardian, The Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Globe and Mail.
Vision (12 Mar) - It's common knowledge that things aren't always as they appear, but a new study shows our brains are complicit in our vision errors even at the earliest point in the brain's visual processing system. In an article to be featured in an upcoming issue of Nature Neuroscience, David Ress of Stanford University and David Heeger of NYU report that activity in the brain's visual cortex corresponds to what the subjects perceive, rather than what they actually see. [more]
Psychology (12 Mar) - Charles Spearman was the originator of the classical theory of mental tests, the multivariate statistical method called "factor analysis," and the first comprehensive theory of the intellect--- A Two Factor Theory of Intelligence---which is comprised of a central notion, called "general intelligence," together with certain "specific factors of intelligence." Spearman utilized both mathematical methods and empirical psychological studies to pioneer research efforts in these three areas. It will also be shown that there are strong links connecting the areas---that they are not independent of one another. [more]
Obesity (11 Mar) - Lack of exercise - and not diet - causes obesity and diabetes among those who are predisposed to the conditions, suggests new research on wild baboons by Saint Louis University geriatricians published this month in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. [more]
Social behaviour (11 Mar) - We are an intensely social species - it has been argued that our social nature defines what makes us human, what makes us conscious or what gave us our large brains. [more]
Memory (11 Mar) - The malleability of memory is becoming increasingly clear. Many influences can cause memories to change or even be created anew, including our imaginations and the leading questions or different recollections of others. The knowledge that we cannot rely on our memories, however compelling they might be, leads to questions about the validity of criminal convictions that are based largely on the testimony of victims or witnesses. Our scientific understanding of memory should be used to help the legal system to navigate this minefield. [more]
Biological movement (11 Mar) - The visual recognition of complex movements and actions is crucial for the survival of many species. It is important not only for communication and recognition at a distance, but also for the learning of complex motor actions by imitation. [more]
Novel events (11 Mar) - The ability to detect and respond to novel events is crucial for survival in a rapidly changing environment. Four decades of neuroscientific research has begun to delineate the neural mechanisms by which the brain detects and responds to novelty. Here, we review this research and suggest how changes in neural processing at the cellular, synaptic and network levels allow us to detect, attend to and subsequently remember the occurrence of a novel event. [more]
Depression (10 Mar) - A portion of the brain that helps us respond to odors and process emotions may be malfunctioning in severely depressed individuals, say researchers who measured the brain activity of individuals presented with smells like roses and rotten butter. [more]
Suicide terrorism (7 Mar) - The suicide bombers of the Middle East are usually not the uneducated, poverty-stricken fanatics characterized by world leaders as symbols of desperation. That's according to new research published today in the journal Science. A more precise profile shows middle-class, college-educated people with complicated motives. NPR's Chris Joyce reports. National Public Radio, Toledo Blade, ABC News, New Zealand Herald, CTV, Detroit Free Press, The Times, Ivanhoe, MSNBC, Straits Times, Boston.com, Toronto Star, Reuters, Australian Radio National, El Mundo (Trans.), La Recherche (Trans.), Ledger-Enquirer.
Face recognition (9 Mar) - Aficionados may not only treat their automobiles as if they are people, but it now appears that they recognize their cars with the special part of the brain that is also used to identify faces. And, when they try to identify cars and faces at the same time, they are likely to experience a kind of perceptual traffic jam. EurekAlert, New Scientist, New York Times.
Aggression (9 Mar) - Research shows that teenagers who commit violent acts such as homicide or assaults often showed signs of aggressive behaviors while in elementary school, such as hitting, kicking and using verbal insults and threats. Two school-based violence prevention programs that recognize this are finding success at the elementary school level, according to two studies published in the March issue of Developmental Psychology. [more]
Development - media (9 Mar) - Children's viewing of violent TV shows, their identification with aggressive same-sex TV characters, and their perceptions that TV violence is realistic are all linked to later aggression as young adults, for both males and females. That is the conclusion of a 15-year longitudinal study of 329 youth published in the March issue of Developmental Psychology. [more]
Genomic imprinting (9 Mar) - A new study, published online in Nature Genetics on Monday (March 10) makes a case for epigenetics by identifying a gene that may be critical for proper epigenetic changes. The new study shows for the first time that the gene called "Eed" is required for the proper epigenetic regulation of a subset of genes that normally show parent of origin expression, known as genome imprinting. Genome imprinting is a phenomenon in which only one copy of specific genes are active, or switched on. Which copy is active depends upon whether they are inherited from the mother or the father. [more]
Memory (7 Mar) - Studying mice, scientists from Johns Hopkins have successfully prevented a molecular event in brain cells that they've found is required for storing spatial memories. Unlike regular mice, the engineered rodents quickly forgot where to find a resting place in a pool of water, the researchers report in the March 7 issue of the journal Cell. [more]
Genetics (7 Mar) - a team of researchers at The Wistar Institute reports discovery of a family of molecular complexes involved in the repression of extensive sets of tissue-specific genes throughout the body. Additionally, one member of the family involved in repressing brain-specific genes in other types of tissues has been found to include a gene thought to be responsible for X-linked mental retardation when mutated. Other components of these complexes have been associated with certain forms of leukaemia. [more]
Depression (6 Mar) - A good way to learn whether children under 6 years old are depressed is to watch how they play, according to a team of infant and preschool investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. [more]
REVIEWS & DISCUSSION (cont.)
REVIEWS & DISCUSSION
Power - Trevor Jackson reviews The Cheating Classes: How Britain's Elite Abuse their Power by Sue Cameron. [review]
Darwin - Roy Herbert reviews The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Volume 13: 1865 edited by Frederick Burkhardt, Duncan M. Porter, Sheila Ann Dean, Samantha Evans, Shelley Innes, and Alison M. Pearn. [more] [review]