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News in Brain and Behavioural Sciences
The weekly edition of The Human Nature Daily Review
Volume 3: Issue 97 - 1st June, 2003 - http://human-nature.com/nibbs/

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Emotional convergence (30 May) - Laugh and the world laughs with you, the saying goes, and this is especially true for couples and roommates, the results of a new study suggest. It seems that couples and roommates tend to have similar emotional reactions as time goes by. So if your roommate or lover laughs out loud at movies or gets weepy over hurt puppies, you may too -- given time. [more]

Neanderthals (1 June) - Research suggests the so-called brutes fashioned tools, buried their dead, maybe cared for the sick and even conversed. But why, if they were so smart, did they disappear? [more]

Biography of an archetype (30 May) - Cinderella, the world's best-known and most beloved fairy tale, sounds like the purest fantasy. But if it represents nothing but random invention and fantasy, why has the tale emerged so often over so many centuries in so many languages and mediums and cultural traditions? [more]

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Adaptation vs. inheritance (3 June) - Most people see a blur when they dive underwater, but a group of youngsters in Southeast Asia, who belong to a semi nomadic, seafaring tribe called the Moken, can discern small objects on the sea floor. Swedish scientists, who have studied these children, reckon this heightened ability highlights human adaptability to diverse environments. [more]

Human genetics - eugenics (29 May) - Many of the newspaper, radio and television accounts of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's double helix, focused on the eccentric genius and baffling charm of co-discoverer James Watson. Meanwhile, largely unnoticed, Nobel laureate Watson, or "Honest Jim" as he likes to consider himself, celebrated in his own way: by continuing to aggressively advance his agenda for genetically re-engineering the human species - even if that requires engaging in medical experimentation that puts lives at risk. [more]

Mate choice (28 May) - Handsome men may have better semen, a study suggests. Researchers in Spain have found that men who are regarded as attractive by women are also more fertile. [more]

Weapons of mass elation? - What should the military do when faced with terrorists who have taken hostages? The answer, according to the Pentagon, may be to give the bad guys some Valium. [more]

Intersex and identity (28 May) - What would you do if your baby was born intersex, with sex organs and external genitalia not clearly male or female? How would you choose whether to bring up your child as a boy or a girl and decide whether doctors should perform corrective genital surgery? [more]

Pseudoarchaeology (1 June) - Programs propagating pseudoarchaeological speculations--the mystical powers of pyramids, ancient astronauts, Atlantis' role in human development, etc.--air on an increasingly regular basis not only on the niche cable channels (Discovery, The Learning Channel [TLC], and The History Channel) but also occasionally on the networks. [more]

Biology (28 May) - Edge talks to E. O. Wilson. [more]

MMR - Autism (27 May) - 'Public duped by media over MMR' was the headline-grabbing claim emerging from a survey published on 19 May 2003 by the Economic and Social Research Council (1). On cue, the British press promoted yet another piece of junk science from the anti-MMR campaign. [more]

History (27 May) - History books favor stories of conquest, not of continuity, so it is perhaps not surprising that many Englishmen grow up believing they are a fighting mixture of the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Vikings and Normans who invaded Britain. The defeated Celts, by this reckoning, left their legacy only in the hinterlands of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. [more]

David Horrobin (25 May) - A vitriolic attack in the British Medical Journal has devastated eminent academic David Horrobin's family, reports Robin McKie. [more]

Antidepressants (25 May) - A major inquiry is to be launched into the safety of widely prescribed antidepressant drugs, including Seroxat and Prozac, following a spate of suicides and reports of severe withdrawal reactions. [more]

Beauty (24 May) - Good-looking men and women are generally judged to be more talented, kind, honest and intelligent than others. This is one of a number of patently unfair and irrational ways in which prejudices affect our judgements of each other. [more]

Racism - Racism as a sickness is a notion that has only recently been taken seriously among those in the scientific community. Elizabeth Chin, an associate professor of anthropology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, explains. [more]

Archaeology - human evolution (23 May) - A 400,000-year-old stone object unearthed in Morocco could be the world's oldest attempt at sculpture. [more]

Gender - education (26 May) - From kindergarten to graduate school, boys are fast becoming the second sex. "Girls are on a tear through the educational system," says Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington. "In the past 30 years, nearly every inch of educational progress has gone to them." [more]

Archaeology (22 May) - In one of the more unusual examples of experimental archaeology, researchers piecing together the finds from Boxgrove, Britain's most important Stone Age site, recruited a university athlete to hurl a wooden spear at a dead deer. [more]

Happiness - meditation (22 May) - Buddhists who meditate may be able to train their brains to feel genuine happiness and control aggressive instincts, research has shown. According to Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy at Duke University in North Carolina, Buddhists appear to be able to stimulate the left prefrontal lobe - an area just behind the forehead - which may be why they can generate positive emotions and a feeling of well being. [more]

Facial expression (21 May) - Victorian Englishmen were not known for feeling comfortable displaying their emotions. Charles Darwin, exceptional in so many other ways, was like his countrymen in this regard, and considered the display of emotions in adult humans to be vestigial, something left over from our evolutionary past. That didn't stop him from publishing, in 1872, what remains the most comprehensive text on the nature of emotions. [more]

Genetic discrimination (21 May) - After years of talking about the issue, a Senate committee approved legislation Wednesday to bar employers and insurers from discriminating against people based on genetic information. [more]

PTSD (21 May) - Former British troops claiming to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have lost their battle for compensation. But how did the case get to court in the first place? [more]

Aesthetics (20 May) - As we speak, manufacturers and marketers involved in developing consumer products are funding research into the whole concept of Darwinian esthetics, the basic premise of which seems simple enough Square shapes, Darwinian thinking goes, tap into something primitive in our brains. Apparently, human beings are instinctively drawn to them as part of a universal design esthetic. [more]

Autism (21 May) - Researchers in America provided new ammunition for opponents of the combined MMR vaccine for children yesterday by suggesting that there was a significant link between the triple jab and increased reports of brain diseases. [more]

Einstein (20 May) - Albert Einstein's writings about science, politics and travel are now just a click away on the Internet. More than 230 scientific manuscripts, 740 non-scientific essays and 5 travel diaries have been digitized and entered into a free, searchable database, hosted by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Many of the articles have never been seen by the public before, says Diana Kormos Buchwald, director of the Einstein Papers Project. [more] and [more] [radio discussion]

Psychopharmacology (20 May) - Fourteen years after the first of the "atypical" antipsychotic drugs entered the market, researchers are questioning whether they are quite as miraculous - or benign - as originally advertised. [more]

Consciousness (19 May) - There are all sorts of gaps in our conscious experience which has prompted some to argue that we don't actually see the world as it really is. Yes, seriously, could it all be a grand illusion? The conundrum of human consciousness strikes again on All in the Mind. [more]

Human intelligence (19 May) - The cyborg, that posthuman hybrid of flesh and machine, has long been fodder for futuristic Hollywood flicks like Terminator. Cyborgs make most of us nervous about what sort of future we're facing. But acclaimed philosopher and cognitive scientist Andy Clark reckons all of us are already Natural Born Cyborgs, with minds made to merge with the material world - your watch, paper, computer. [more]


Drug companies (31 May) - Research funded by drug companies is more likely to produce results that favour the sponsor's product than research funded by other sources, claim researchers in this week's British Medical Journal. [more] [more] [more] and [more]

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Sexual behavior (30 May) - Gay men who have poor communication skills and feel unable to protect themselves against HIV infection are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors, according to newly released data. [more]

Sexual reproduction (29 May) - Theories abound as to why organisms favour sexual reproduction, but testing these has been notoriously difficult. A common view is that sexual reproduction helps to reduce the effects of damaging mutations within a population. [more]

Psychopathy (29 May) - Psychopathic murderers fail to see violence as unpleasant. Nicola S Gray and University of Cardiff colleagues subjected psychopathic murderers to a modified Implicit Association Test, designed to reveal concealed prejudices. Compared with non-psychopathic criminals and psychopaths who are not killers, psychopathic murderers had more positive reactions to violence. The researchers say a form of the test could help identify potentially violent psychopaths before they offend. [more]

Empathy (27 May) - Preliminary observations of stroke patients with problems relating emotionally to others suggest that in order to feel empathy, people must be able to imitate the actions of others. In other words, to understand what others are feeling, you must put yourself physically in their shoes. [more - free registration required]

Pheromones (28 May) - Looking for a way to relax? Then try sniffing a man's underarm. New research shows that armpit sweat calms female volunteers. It also shifts menstrual cycles, so the discovery could give rise to perspiration-derived drugs to manipulate female fertility. [more]

Jealousy (27 May) - Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, or so we've been told, and when it comes to jealousy this is especially true. Men, psychologists have long contended, tend to care more about sexual infidelity while women usually react more strongly to emotional infidelity. This view has long been espoused by evolutionary psychologists who attribute these gender differences to natural selection, which, they say, encouraged the sexes to develop different emotional reactions to jealousy. [more]

Human migration (27 May) - Human beings may have made their first journey out of Africa as recently as 70,000 years ago, according to a new study by geneticists from Stanford University and the Russian Academy of Sciences. Writing in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers estimate that the entire population of ancestral humans at the time of the African expansion consisted of only about 2,000 individuals. [more]

Language (27 May) - We humans are nothing if not talkative. Indeed, it's one of our most salient characteristics as a species. But exactly how we came to be so chatty is less obvious. Despite decades of research into the subject, anthropologists are still struggling to reconstruct the chain of events that produced our unique oral capabilities. Now the results of a new study suggest that one part of the story they thought they had nailed in fact needs revision. [more]

Social psychology - race (25 May) - Children's perceptions of occupational status and their own vocational interests are affected by the racial make-up of the workforce, according to a new study involving first and six grade African American children. For both real and made-up jobs, children ascribed higher status to those occupations that are or were depicted as having all or mostly European American workers (and no or low numbers of African Americans workers) than to those jobs with no or low numbers of European American workers (and all or high numbers of African Americans workers). [more]

Childbirth - PTSD (26 May) - New research by psychologist Dr Stephen Joseph at the University of Warwick reveals that women who experience traumatic childbirth can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious condition of anxiety usually associated with events like wars and assaults. [more]

Human genetics (23 May) - "Community, Identity, Stability," describe the Brave New World conceived by Aldous Huxley in 1932, but today we stand on the brink of a brave new world characterized by the possibilities contained inside a double helix. Recent technological advances in human and animal genetics have led to sequencing the human genome, mapping the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus and in the near future, the release of the completed bovine genetic code. [more]

Human genetics - fertility (22 May) - A gene that belongs to a family of genes implicated in heart disease has been found to be essential for male fertility but has no impact on female fertility, researchers at University of Toronto, along with colleagues in New York and Japan, have discovered. [more]

Suicide (23 May) - Reported suicide rates for developing countries are misleading. Centred on 85 villages in the Kaniyambadi region of southern India, researchers used verbal autopsies-an agreement on cause of death by a local team of health workers-to gather data on deaths between 1994 and 1999. The average suicide rate for the 6 year period was 95 per 1000,000. Older men were more likely to commit suicide than younger men. Most women who committed suicide were aged 15-24 or older than 65. There were more suicides among women than among men in the 15-24 years age group. [more]

Evolutionary biology - (23 May) - Thirty years ago, Trivers and Willard hypothesized that parental “condition” could be central in influencing the sex ratio of offspring, “good condition” being associated with the conception of males. However, I argue that “condition” is a distraction in this otherwise useful hypothesis, because it is merely a frequent indicator of dominance (a characteristic which often leads to priority access to resources); and that it is dominance, a biologically-based characteristic underpinned by testosterone, which is of interest. Shifting the focus from good condition to the dominance-testosterone link could help explain otherwise anomalous findings in the literature on the sex ratio. In addition, in female mammals, testosterone is hypothesized to have a role in reproductive processes such that the mother could influence or even control the sex of her offspring, conceiving whichever sex she is, at that time, and in that place, best suited to raise. Such a mechanism would confer an evolutionary advantage on those females able to make use of it. [more]

Evolutionary biology (21 May) - The strongest mothers are much more likely to bear sons in times of food shortages than weaker women, suggest a new study in Ethiopia. Animals have long been known to manipulate the sex of their offspring in response to food availability. But such a phenomenon has never before been shown in humans, says study leader Ruth Mace, an evolutionary anthropologist at University College London, UK. [more] and [more]

Manic depression (21 May) - Important developments in the treatment of manic depression were presented for the first time today at the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) annual meeting, the largest psychiatric congress in the world, which indicate that Seroquel (quetiapine) is an effective, well tolerated and fast-acting treatment for the manic symptoms of manic depression. [more]

Genetics (22 May) - Almost every week we hear of a new genome sequence being completed, yet turning sequence information into knowledge about what individual genes do is very difficult. An article published in Journal of Biology this week will simplify this task, as it describes a new online tool that dramatically improves predictions of how individual genes are regulated. [more]

Darwinism (21 May) - The New Darwinism in the Humanities: From Plato to Pinker by Harold Fromm. [more]

Mental health (21 May) - While competition among managed care organizations is thought to improve access to medical care, the "administrative burden" of juggling their policies and procedures may limit patient access to high-quality mental health services, according to a national survey of more than 7,000 primary care physicians. [more]

ADHD (21 May) - Adults with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder treated long term with an extended-release mixed-salts amphetamine medication maintained significant symptom improvement with good tolerance, a new study shows. [more]

Depression (21 May) - Eating salmon, sardines or other fish might help pregnant women avoid depression before and after childbirth, a study suggests. [more]

Genetics (19 May) - The latest twist in the debate over how much DNA separates humans from chimpanzees suggests we are so closely related that chimps should not only be part of the same taxonomic family, but also the same genus. New Scientist, The Independent, BBC News Online. This week, scientists claimed that chimps are so close to mankind that they should be reclassified as practically human. So should they have the same rights as us? Tim Radford reports on a debate that could help save them from extinction, while Stephen Moss visits them in 'person' at London Zoo. The Guardian.


Face recognition - Elizabeth McCardell reviews Face Recognition: Cognitive and Computational Processes by Sam S. Rakover and Baruch Cahlon. [more] [review]

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Men - However you weigh the evidence, there is only one inescapable conclusion: books from Simon Baron-Cohen and Sam Martin prove that all men are nerds. [review]

Genetics - Michael Bradie reviews What Genes Can't Do by Lenny Moss. [more] [review]

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Drug companies - Ray Moynihan reviews The Big Fix: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Rips Off American Consumers by Katherine Greider. [more] [review]

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Men - Carl T. Hall reviews Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones. [more] [review]

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Futurology - Steve King reviews Our Final Hour by Martin Rees. [more] [review] A review by J. G. Ballard. [review]

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Primatology - conservation - Richard Ellis reviews Eating Apes by Dale Peterson. [more] [review]

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Philosophy - biotechnology - Neil Levy reviews The Future of Human Nature by Jürgen Habermas. [more] [review]

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Human genome - Martin Hunt reviews The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome by John Sulston and Georgina Ferry. [more] [review]

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Emotions - Paul Ekman's new book is "Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces And Feelings To Improve Communication And Emotional Life." Ekman describes how facial expressions work. For example, he can tell the difference between a fake and a real smile by mapping the muscle movements of both. Ekman is professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco. He frequently consults for government agencies like the FBI. [more] [interview]

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Psychiatry - history - Sean A Spence reviews Presumed Curable: An Illustrated Casebook of Victorian Psychiatric Patients in Bethlem Hospital by Colin Gale and Robert Howard. [more] [review]

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Rivalry - politics - Markus Kemmelmeier reviews Bound by struggle: The strategic evolution of enduring international rivalries by Zeev Maoz and Ben D. Mor. [more] [review]

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Evolution - Benjamin J. A. Dickins reviews Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution edited by Susan Oyama, Paul E  Griffiths and Russell D. Gray. [more] [review]

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Human evolution - Lowly Origin: Where, When, and Why Our Ancestors First Stood Up Jonathan Kingdon. [more] [chapter]

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