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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 3: Issue 95 - 12th May, 2003 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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NEWS & VIEWS

Psychopharmacology - BBC's Panorama team looks at serious problems associated with the antidepressant Seroxat. [more]



Creationism (12 May) - The Vardy Foundation's announcement that it is to open six new schools has sparked fresh debate over the teaching of creationism. Evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins called the plans 'educational debauchery'. [more]


EuroNews BBC News   Channel Four News (UK) CBC News (Canada) ABC News (Australia) FeedRoom (US) Deutsche Welle RTÉ News (Ireland) CBS News (US) BBC News 24 BBC Newsnight BBC Question Time BBC Radio Player, BBC World Service, Today, Newshour, The World Today, Radio Netherlands, NPR Hourly News, Talk of the Nation, Science in Action, Discovery, One Planet, The Material World, Thinking Allowed, Heart and Soul, Case Notes, Health Matters, Everywoman United Nations US Congress UK Parliament.

Audio and Video

Mate choice (11 May) - Women looking for a more productive sex life should beware of men with different size feet or one ear smaller than the other. According to scientists who have measured almost everything on the male body that comes in twos, there is a definite association between semen quality and the degree of bilateral symmetry. The greater the difference between one side of the body and the other, the poorer the quality will be. [more]


Music - How does your brain process music? Why do certain tunes get 'stuck' in your head? And why are just a few notes not only enough for you to name that tune, but remember that party 10 years ago where it was playing? [more]



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Psychopharmacology (9 May) - Scientists have raised concerns that claims about the benefits of a new generation of drugs for conditions such as schizophrenia may have been exaggerated. [more]


Neuroscience (10 May) - Antonio Damasio read Spinoza as a teenager, but never imagined the 17th-century philosopher could be relevant to his work as a neuroscientist. Then he came across a Spinozan idea that anticipated his research into human feelings, and set off to the Hague on a journey of discovery. [more]


Electroconvulsive therapy (9 May) - Phil Barker hopes new advice on the use of electroconvulsive treatment in psychiatry will lead to more responsible use of a 'dubious therapy'. [more]


Parenting (2 May) - This month saw the 100th birthday of the famous pediatrician, Benjamin Spock. Jennifer Niesslein, co-editor of the magazine Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers, comments on the proliferation of parenting books, and how they don't really have much to tell us. [more]


Self-organisation (7 May) - Will ant behaviour eventually give us insights into other 'emergent' properties? And if so, will they help explain how the neurones in our brain combine to produce intelligence. [more] [audio]


Free will (8 May) - Now that the human genome - the sum of all our genes - has been decoded, does it appear that a person's destiny is fixed for all time in the letters of his or her DNA? [more]


Neuroscience (8 May) - Neuroscience is now big business, with discoveries coming thick and fast. The time to worry about the future of our brains is now, says Steven Rose. [more]


Synesthaesia (1 May) - People with synesthesia--whose senses blend together--are providing valuable clues to understanding the organization and functions of the human brain. [more]


Language - cognition (3 May) - In a polemical new book, "The Writing on the Wall: How Asian Orthography Curbs Creativity" (University of Pennsylvania Press), William Hannas blames the writing systems of China, Japan and Korea for what he says is East Asia's failure to make significant scientific and technological breakthroughs compared to Western nations. [more] Comment: Clay Ferris Naff, Larry Trask.

The Writing on the Wall

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Schizophrenia (6 May) - Auditory hallucinations are a hallmark of schizophrenia: 50 percent to 75 percent of the 2.8 million Americans who suffer from the illness hear voices that are not there. [more]


Sexual behavior - neurology (5 May) - He was a schoolteacher, a husband, a father. Then he became a pedophile preoccupied with sex. Doctors who treated him at the University of Virginia hospital in 2000 believe that the man's powerful sex addiction was caused by an egg-sized tumor in his brain. [more]


Parenting (4 May) - Modern American parenting advisers, famous for fickleness, are true to the spirit of their founding great-grandfather G. Stanley Hall. From his post as president at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., Hall pioneered an embattled turn-of-the-century career as a proselytizer of the latest scientific, but hardly systematic, gospel about children. [more]



Genes and behavior (2 May) - Some human qualities, such as eye color, are clearly genetic. But what about more complex traits, such as those that make up our behavior? Ira Flatow talks to Nancy Press, Matt McGue, and Matt Ridley. [more]


Genetics (30 Apr) - Samples of DNA taken from humans, animals, plants, microbes and viruses have one thing in common: they form a double helix structure held together by four different chemicals called bases. And scientists from New Zealand and Sweden have now built a computer model to show that organisms are unlikely to evolve if their "life code" is written using more or fewer bases. [more]

RESEARCH & COMMENTARY

Personality (11 May) - Do peoples' personalities change after 30? They can, according to researchers who examined 132,515 adults age 21-60 on the personality traits known as the "Big Five": conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion. EurekAlert, New Scientist, BBC News Online.


Suicide - antidepressants (10 May) - In Australia, suicide rates have fallen most in those groups of people most exposed to antidepressant drugs, especially older people. [more]


Schizophrenia - genetics (7 May) - Studies of a gene that affects how efficiently the brain's frontal lobes process information are revealing some untidy consequences of a tiny variation in its molecular structure and how it may increase susceptibility to schizophrenia. People with a common version of the gene associated with more efficient working memory and frontal lobe information processing may pay a penalty in adverse responses to amphetamine, in heightened anxiety and sensitivity to pain. Yet, another common version may slightly bias the brain toward a pattern of neurochemical activity associated with psychosis, report researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). [more]


Cognitive impairment - genetics (7 May) - A study in rats matching the activity of 146 genes with brain aging and impaired learning and memory produces a new picture of brain aging and cognitive impairment. The research, by scientists at the University of Kentucky, uses powerful new gene microarray technology in a novel way to match gene activity with actual behavioral and cognitive performance over time, resulting in the identification of this wide range of aging- and cognition-related genes (ACRGs). [more]


Lifespan - genetics (7 May) - Researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS) have discovered that a gene in yeast is a key regulator of lifespan. The gene, PNC1, is the first that has been shown to respond specifically to environmental factors known to affect lifespan in many organisms. [more] In work published this week in the journal Nature, researchers discuss how one gene found in yeast seems to play a role in regulating the organism's lifespan. The gene, named PNC1, appears to turn on in periods of calorie restriction, a condition that has been found to extend lifetimes in some organisms. The researchers said that a yeast strain whose genome contains five copies of PNC1 lives 70 percent longer than a 'normal' strain. We'll talk about what the find might mean, as well as other genetic clues to the aging process. [more]


SETI (7 May) - If we are not alone in the Universe, why have we never picked up signals from an extraterrestrial civilisation? This long-standing puzzle, known as the Fermi paradox after physicist Enrico Fermi, who first posed the question, is still one of the strongest arguments against the existence of intelligent aliens. But two physicists have come up with an intriguing solution. They suggest a way in which aliens could send messages to each other across space that not only disguises their locations but also makes it impossible for a casual observer to even distinguish the messages from background noise. [more]


Evolution - AI (7 May) - An interdisciplinary team of scientists at Michigan State University and the California Institute of Technology, with the help of powerful computers, has used a kind of artificial life, or ALife, to create a road map detailing the evolution of complex organisms, an old problem in biology. [more]


Mental illness (6 Dec) - The United States has a higher prevalence and lower treatment rate of serious mental illness than a number of other developed countries, according to a study published in a special edition on international health care in the May/June issue of the policy journal Health Affairs. [more]


Bipolar disorder (6 May) - A study by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center indicates that people with bipolar disorder may suffer progressive brain damage. [more]


Language - evolution (5 May) - In order to formulate hypotheses about the evolutionary underpinnings that preceded the first glimmerings of language, mother-infant gestural and vocal interactions are compared in chimpanzees and humans and used to model those of early hominins.  These data, along with paleoanthropological evidence, suggest that prelinguistic vocal substrates for protolanguage that had prosodic features similar to contemporary 'motherese' evolved as the trend for enlarging brains in late australopithecines/ early Homo progressively increased the difficulty of parturition, thus causing a selective shift toward females that gave birth to relatively undeveloped neonates. [more]


Aggression - music (4 May) - Songs with violent lyrics increase aggression related thoughts and emotions and this effect is directly related to the violence in the lyrics, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The findings, appearing in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, contradicts popular notions of positive catharsis or venting effects of listening to angry, violent music on violent thoughts and feelings. EurekAlert, The Guardian, ABC News, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


Animal cognition (3 May) - Salamanders, given a choice between tubes containing two fruitflies or three, lunge at the tube of three. This hints that the ability to differentiate between small numbers of objects may have evolved much earlier than scientists had thought. Nature Science Update, Animal Cognition.


Depression (3 May) - A new Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center study indicates that depression may play a significant role in hindering the ability of mothers to care for their children. [more]


REVIEWS & DISCUSSION (cont.)

Art - human evolution - Craig Palmer reviews The Ancestress Hypothesis: Visual Art as Adaptation by Kathryn Coe. [more] [review]

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Obsessions - Eduardo Keegan reviews The Treatment of Obsessions by Stanley Rachman. [more] [review]

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Dyslexia - NPR's Tavis Smiley talks to Dr. Sally Shaywitz of Yale University School of Medicine about her book Overcoming Dyslexia: A Science-Based Program for Reading Problems At Any Level. [more] [audio]

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REVIEWS & DISCUSSION

Neuroscience - Roy Sugarman reviews Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain by Antonio Damasio. [more] [review]

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Intelligence - race - Osmo Tammisalo reviews Intelligence, Race and Genetics - Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen by Frank Miele. [more] [review]

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Pheromones - Mark Sergeant reviews The Scent of Eros: Mysteries of Odor in Human Sexuality by James Vaughn Kohl and Robert T. Francoeur. [more] [review]

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Archaeology - Roy Sugarman reviews Under the Canopy: The Archaeology of the Tropical Rain Forests edited by Julio Mercader. [more] [review]

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Sexuality - Nanelle Rose Barash reviews Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. [more] [review] [excerpt] [audio]

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Politics - human nature - Bojan Todosijevic reviews King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership by Arnold M. Ludwig. [more] [review]

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History - eugenics - Jack Parsons reviews Quality and Quantity. The Quest for Biological Regeneration in Twentieth-Century France by William H. Schneider. [more] [review]

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Human nature - Keith S. Harris reviews Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices by Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria. [more] [review]

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Genetic engineering - Jon Turney reviews Enough: Staying human in an engineered age by Bill McKibben. [more] [review]

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Teenagers - Laura Spinney reviews The Primal Teen by Barbara Strauch. [more] [review]

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Psychotherapy - clinical psychology - Roy Sugarman reviews The Neuroscience of Psychotherapy: Building and Rebuilding the Human Brain by Louis Cozolino [more] and Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology edited by Scott .O Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn and Jeffrey M. Lohr. [more] [review]

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