Wednesday Round Up #127

The photo is by Bo Rum Ryu, along with Jeff Lichtman and Joshua Sanes, and features neurons stained with snake venom. It comes out of research on how “exercise and caloric restriction in lab mice visibly protect and rejuvenate synapses.” For more on this research, see here.

Jeff Lichtman pioneered the use of flourescence techniques to study brain function and structure. That led to amazing Brainbow images. Our post Jeff Lichtman’s Brainbows featured a great selection of Brainbow photos, along with providing background to his research.

Today we have the top, a strong selection on decision making, anthropology, extensive coverage on drugs and addiction, mind, and genetics. Plus a Last Word on writing.


Foundation for Psychocultural Research, Cultural Neuroscience: Bridging Lab and Field
*Can anthropologists and neuroscientists work together?
-Great introduction to the field of cultural neuroscience and different definitions of culture within these two fields.

James Garvey, Hacker’s Challenge
*Not everyone’s convinced about neuroscience. Philosopher Peter Hacker’s critique of neuroscientists.

Steve Silberman, I’m Right Here: Rudy Simone on Life as an “Aspergirl”
*Interesting and insightful article on Rudy Simone, a woman who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in her 40s.
-As a follow-up on NeuroTribes, Corina Becker of the Autism Women’s Network wrote on Communication Shutdown for Autism Awareness? No Thanks!

Jay Mahin, 25 Reasons Why Working at McDonalds is Better Than Being a Graduate Student
*Hilarious explanation of why a job at McDonalds might be more fulfilling that being a graduate student.

Wade Davis, Race is a Fiction
*Wade Davis gives a Ted talk on race and sustainable tourism.

Alvaro Machados Dias, The Foundations of Neuroanthropology
*Another person pushing the field of neuroanthropology! Get the abstract here.

Eugene Raikhel, “Cultures of the Internet”: the 2011 Advanced Study Institute in Cultural Psychiatry, Montreal, April 26-29, 2011
*It’s not too early to start making plans for next summer.
-Check out McGill University’s Advanced Study Institute and Summer — Program in Social and Cultural Psychiatry, which includes presentations by Vaughn Bell, Tom Boellstorff, and many more.

John Rennie, Height, Health Care, and IQ
*Great post on the genetics and environments of height, and how that knowledge can also help us understand arguments about what shapes IQ

Jurgen Habermas, Leadership and Leitkultur
*Habermas in the NY Times! Here he covers recent German politics, in particular the controversy over immigration and multiculturalism

Kirsten Adam, The True Size of Africa
*Get the Hub version of this piece making the rounds of the Internet. What makes this piece stand out is our “immapancy”!

Byte Size Biology, Carnival of Evolution #29
*Get the latest on evolution!

Misha Angrist, Things We Said Today
*Genome Boy’s book is out! Complete with video!!

Vaughan Bell, Ted Hughes on Thinking
*Mind Hacks has been awesome lately, so I strongly encourage people to scroll through the last couple weeks. This piece was one of my favorites, the poet Ted Hughes on the experience of thinking

Decision Making

Patrick Clarkin, Choice, Obesity and the Irrational Ape
*Great explanation of the various factors involved in the obesity epidemic and why it’s so difficult to get away from “personal responsibility” attacks on obese individuals. Plus a video with Dan Ariely.

Fran Korten, The Science of Cooperation
*Interview with 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences recipient Elinor Ostrom, who has a more positive outlook on collaboration among people.

Jonah Lehrer, The Allais Paradox
*Why people buy lottery tickets and other examples of how we evaluate our odds of winning.

Soyoun Kim and Daeyeol Lee, Prefrontal Cortex and Impulsive Decision Making
*It’s not free, but it’s an interesting read on why we sometimes choose immediate rewards over delayed ones.

Christian Jarrett, ‘Don’t Do It!’ – How your Inner Voice Really Does Aid Self-Control
*Go ahead and listen to your inner voice, it might be giving you good advice.

Neuroskeptic, Sex and Money on the Brain
*Our minds are stimulated by sex and money, as shown in this study using fMRI imaging to examine how heterosexual men react to porn and money.
-And yes, it was the primitive part of the brain that was active in response to pornographic images.

Edmund Rolls, From Reward Value to Decision-Making: Neuronal and Computational Principles
*Comprehensive article (pdf) on how we make decisions and evaluate rewards.

Susan Guibert, Research Shows Gamblers’ Winning Streaks Lead to Reckless Betting and Losing
*“Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em” Otherwise you might lose a lot of money.

Ed Yong, The Signature of the Bluffing Brain
*How your brain does strategy – really good coverage of what parts of the brain activate when bluffing

Emily Singer, Tracking the Brain’s Ability to Bluff
*Another take on the PNAS study, this one from Technology Review. Presents it as “theory of mind” research, and how that might play into psychiatric disorders

Kayt Sukel, Conforming Opinions Activate the Brain’s Reward Center
*The neural correlates of social influence

Indre Viskontas et al., Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia Provide Insights into Orbitofrontal Cortex Function and Social Behavior
*Exploration of how dementia affects certain behaviors through neural deficits

Tom Meyvis et al., Why Don’t We Learn to Accurately Forecast Feelings?
*We misremember the past:

The findings indicate that this recall error results from people’s tendency to anchor on their current affective state when trying to recall their affective forecasts.

Washington Post, Gut Instincts Allow People to Make Routine Decisions without Thinking Too Hard
*The importance of heuristiscs – a nice review of Wray Herbert’s new book On Second Thought


Krystal D’Costa, On My Shelf: Friendship: Development, Ecology, and Evolution of a Relationship
*Review of Daniel Hruschka’s book on friendships across cultures and some of the common attributes found in these relationships.

Marcelo Gleiser, Between the Spiritual and the Material
*Intriguing posting on how our focus on material things has resulted in a decline of a sense of community and our humanity.

Elana Brief and Judy Illes, Tangles of Neurogenetics, Neuroethics, and Culture
*Examination of the various ethical issues that arise when obtaining consent from participants in neurogenetic studies.

Selina, Left Brain Talks to the Right Hand, Study Finds
*More evidence supporting that human speech evolved from gestures and sounds.

Dennis Rosen, A Light Look at Some Heavy Mistakes
*A physician looks at how misguided beliefs and theories have contributed to poor health policies.

Laura Seay, How Social Scientists Think: Correlation is Not Causation
*Great analysis of how distinguishing between correlation and causation is difficult for social scientists.

Jason Kottke, Shakespeare in the Original Pronunciation
*Kenneth Branagh wasn’t entirely “authentic” in his film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays.
-Check out this clip of students at the University of Kansas performing Shakespeare with the original pronunciation used back then.

Ashley Mears, Why Thin is Still In
*What it means to be a “fierce” model and other aspects of the ideal feminine figure in the fashion world.

Jim Harrison, A Lens on History: Photographer Susan Meisela’s Quest to Understand via Images
*Retrospective look at Meisela’s work over the years and how cultural anthropology influenced her.

Scottie Westfall, Dog Culture Wars
*How we talk about our dogs says a lot about our culture.


Emily Anthes, In Which We Learn that it is Unwise to Drink and Handle Snakes
*Fortunately for us, Joseph Clover in 1852 demonstrated the importance of this invaluable lesson about drinking and handling snakes.

Michael Montgomery, Will Legalizing Pot Wipe Out the Black Market?
*Californians were considering a proposition to legalize marijuana, but if passed, how effective will it be at stopping black market deals?
-This question is posed to a variety of interested parties, including growers and users of marijuana.

Michael Velardo, Researchers Discover Why Concaine Is So Addictive
*The connection between cocaine use and neuron activation.

David Kroll, Is DEA About to Act of K2 Spice Synthetic Marijuana Products
*There have been reports over the past several months about a synthetic form of marijuana, but so far the DEA has held back on stepping in and regulate this new compound.

Kara Rogers, Debunking Myths About the Physiological Effects of Marijuana: 5 Questions for Neurobiologist Margaret Haney
*Can you become addicted to marijuana?
-Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist who studies the neurological and physiological effects of marijuana, addresses this question and others about marijuana use.

Arya Sharma, Gender Differences in Trauma and Addictions
*A look at how men and women respond differently to trauma and how this may affect the addictions they develop.

Karen Schrock, How Smokers Think About Death
*Some European countries have placed graphic pictures of diseases lungs on cigarette packages to deter smoking, but how effective are these images in reality?

Nicholas Kristof, End the War on Pot
*Another argument for legalizing marijuana…think about how profits from sales could be used for public initiatives, such as education.

Dave Munger, Do Smoking Bans Work?
*Great overview of how certain smoking cessation measures work and others don’t.

Krystal D’Costa, The Anthropology of Coffee..In Five Minutes
*Learn about the history of coffee through an anthropological lense.

Natasha Mitchell, Cultural History Part 1 of 3 Khat
*Comprehensive look at khat, its history, and use over the years.

BBC, Alcohol ‘More Harmful than Heroin’ Says Professor Nutt
*Controversial findings by the former UK Chief Drugs Advisor, Professor Nutt, on how the harm from alcohol abuse is greater than heroin use.

Majka Burhardt, Coffee Story: Ethiopia
*Listen to this preview of a recently published book about coffee in Ethiopia.
-The writer, Majka Burhardt, is a writer, climber, and guide, with a background in anthropology. She’s traveled to Ethiopia several times to climb and learn about the cultivation of coffee.

Liz Borkowski, Tallying the Toll of Drugs – On Users and Others
*Very good summary of the recent UK study declaring alcohol as more harmful than heroin and cocaine

Bill Knaus, Five Addiction Prescriptions for Actress Lindsay Lohan
*All about getting people started. I particularly liked the last bit, where it’s basically a laundry list of here, these types of programs have worked, try them. Refreshing to see this sort of wider advocacy

Dirk Hanson, Tracking Synthetic Highs
*Covering designer drugs around the world – a lot of pills now…

Ray Reyes, Pain Clinics Feeding Habit
*A good example of how prescription pills reach people, with some typical law enforcement blustering about the evils, some people really hooked, and others just wanting to deal with their pain

Wray Herbert, The Science of Recovery
*We’re Only Human rounds up its extensive coverage of its essays covering the psychology of recovery

Timothy Fong, When Is Gambling an Addiction?
*A Q&A with Fong, co-director of the gambling studies program at UCLA

Vaughan Bell, What Price Sobriety (in Vouchers?)
*Paying to get people to lose weight, get vaccinated, or stay sober:

Payment turns out to be particularly effective at keeping addicts clean and this caught my eye because it seems to go against some of the core scientific beliefs about persistent drug users.

Ape Man, Spiders on Drugs
*Very funny YouTube video on how spiders react to drugs.


John Paulos, Stories vs. Statistics
*An examination of the differences and similarities between stories and statistics.

Marianne Freilberger, Wiring Up Brains
*Interview with Ed Bullmore and Dan Greenfield about the “wires” that help our brains function.

Dan Siegel, The Brain and the Developing Mind
*Short, but interesting lecture on how the brain develops.

American Psychological Association, New Mothers Grew Bigger Brains within Months of Giving Birth
*Don’t worry mothers-to-be, your brain will not turn to mush after giving birth, but actually might get bigger.

Antonio Damasio, Self Comes to Mind
*Dr. Damasio explains what inspired him to write Self Comes to Mind.

Michelle Legro, Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain
*Fascinating gallery of images from neuroscientific studies.

Brenda Patoine, The Unhealthy Ego
*Being confident is good, but a large ego isn’t so great or welcomed. This article explores the ego and neuroscientific explanations for it.

Dr. Petra, Women with Low Libidos ‘Have Different Brains’
*Yet another example of a questionable study with claims about sexuality and a woman’s brain, which the media has unfortunately reported on without a thorough examination of the findings.

Tom Jacobs, A New Take on Political Ideology
*Conservatives have a larger social network and liberals are more open to new experiences are some of characteristics explored in this piece.

Steven Macknik, Susana Martinez-Conde and Sandra Blakeslee, Mind Over Magic? Conjuring Reveals How Our Neurons Can be Hacked
*Magicians as amateur neuroscientists…

Deborah Rudacille, This is Your Brain on Art
*Do the arts promote creative thinking?

Carl Zimmer, Harnessing Your Marilyn Monroe Neurons
*Neurons controlling computers! How are reaction to specific images active certain part of our brains.

Pam Belluck, For Youths, Depression Often Has a Sequel
*Study looking at recurrence among boys and girls who were previously treated for depression.

Beryl Benderly, The Real Science Gap
*If Americans want to maintain their preeminence in the field of science, reforms will need to be carried out on career structures.


Vaughan Bell, The Outer Limits of Psychiatric Genes
*Genetic mapping might not hold all of the answers to mental health issues.

Tom Chivers, Is ‘the Liberal Gene’ Nonsense? No, But the Jokes on the Subjects Are
*Are Barak Obama and Bill Clinton carriers of a liberal gene? Probably not.

Steve Jones, Bad Seeds, Bad Science, and Fairly Black Cats?
*The media has played a role in trumpeting genetic studies, which aren’t always thoroughly reviewed, as in the case of a recent announcement for a gene that causes ADD.

Last Word

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones:

“Writing is the act of discovery. You want to discover your relationship with a topic, not the dictionary definition.”

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