Wednesday Round Up #135

Bradley Voytek and Jessica Voytek have created a wonderful new visualization tool, BrainSCANr, or the Brain Systems, Connections, Associations, and Network Relationships engine. It creates a map of associations found in the peer-reviewed literature for specific brain areas, functions, and pathologies. The map here is one of cognition.

Mind Hacks covers the new tool in its always excellent fashion in the post Mind and Brain Science: An Instant Overview, which also includes a PTSD map. And given my interests, here is a direct link to a map on addiction.

Bradley was kind enough to clarify one interpretive issue for me – the blue lines are the direct relations between the searched for term (say, addiction) and what’s out there in the literature. The grey lines are the relations between the other terms that popped during the search itself (say, prefrontal cortex and plasticity). And the width of any line indicates the strength of the association.

Link to BrainSCANr.


Associated Press, Portugal’s Drug Policy Pays Off; US Eyes Lessons
*The Associated Press on target in this review of drug policy in Portugal, with more treatment, less legal and incarceration costs, and revitalized communities. Will the US finally see the light?

Patrick Clarkin, Lessons From The Christmas Truce of 1914
*Touching lesson on ending the cycle of violence from WWI. On Christmas Eve, German and Scottish agreed to a temporary truce and celebrated the holidays together.

Steve Silberman, Meet The Ethical Placebo: A Story That Heals
* Good news for patients and not so great news for pharmaceutical companies. Interesting findings from a UK study showing that informing patients that they are taking a placebo pill does not diminish the effect of the placebo.

Ed Yong, Evidence That Placebos Could Work Even If You Tell People They’re Taking Placebos
*A more detailed analysis of the UK placebo study and some of its limitations.

Maximilian Forte, Anthropology, Secrecy, and Wikileaks
*An anthropological perspective of Wikileaks, secrecy, and how governments and societies work.

Eugene Raikhel, 50 Years of Medical Sociology
*Special issue from the Journal of Health and Social Behavior on the 50th anniversary of their Medical Sociology Section. Check out the great selection of articles in the issue.

John Maeda, On Meaningful Observation
*STEM should actually be STEAM, with an A for Art, and we also need IDEA for Intuition, Design, Emotion and Art

Lena Groeger, Rethinking the Gene
*A great essay that highlights how science views genetics today – not the popular view at all!

Currently, the public views genes primarily as self-contained packets of information that come from parents and are distinct from the environment. “The popular notion of the gene is an attractive idea—it’s so magical,” said Mark Blumberg, a developmental biologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. But it ignores the growing scientific understanding of how genes and local environments interplay, he said…

“The elegant simplicity of the idea is so powerful,” said Shenk. Unfortunately, it is also false. The blueprint metaphor is fundamentally deceptive, he said, and “leads people to believe that any difference they see can be tied back to specific genes”…

Let’s say that in a population with people of different heights, 60 percent of the variation in height is attributable to genes (as opposed to nutrition). The heritability of height is 60 percent. This does not mean, however, that 60 percent of an individual’s height comes from her genes, and 40 percent from what she ate growing up. Heritability refers to causes of variations (between people), not to causes of traits themselves (in each particular individual).


Karel Ježek et al., Stress-Induced Out-of-Context Activation of Memory
*Evidence suggesting that stress can reactivate memories unrelated to current events. New article in PLoS using animal models for PTSD – stress, past trauma, and present and unrelated events

Siri Carpenter, Body of Thought
*Fascinating look at how physical sensations can influence our reasoning and perceptions.

Ashlee Vance, In Pursuit of a Mind Map, Slice by Slice
*Connectomics, mapping the brain to find out how it works.

Robin Dunbar, You’ve Got to Have (150) Friends
*Social networking sites, like Facebook, have expanded our friendships, but are our minds capable of maintaining multiple close relationships?

Elizabeth Landau, Do You Have a Brain for Social Networks?
*How our social networks influence structures within our brains, in this case the amygdala. And up pops the chicken-and-egg question, does a large amygdala lead to greater socialization, or does socialization make for a larger amygdala?

India Current Affairs, Evolution Study Says Socialising Led to Bigger Brains in Some Mammals
*Data showing that more social mammals developed larger brains.

John Hawks, Genes and Drugs
*John highlights an excellent introduction to gene-drug interactions in Nature Reviews Genetics. Here is the link to the actual article, Pharmacogenomics: Will The Promise Be Fulfilled?

Polly Amorie, Polys in Court – Week 3 – Dr Joseph Heinrich Summary
*Court testimony by an anthropologist on the consequences of polygamy. His testimony touches on the “psychology of polygamy” among humans and its practice among different groups. You can even get Joe Henrich’s Polygamy Powerpoint

Kathryn Clancy, I Don’t Have a 28-Day Menstrual Cycle, and Neither Should You
*There’s a great deal of variation in the length of menstrual cycles and continuing to tell women that 28 days is the norm exacerbates the anxiety of women who have “abnormal” cycles.

Patti Neighmond, When Does Moderate Drinking Become A Problem?
*Interesting article on the “gray zone” when it comes to drinking, when we’re in danger of drinking too much and should cut ourselves off.

Christine Carter, How Exercise Can Boost Kids’ Brainpower… And Yours, Too
*The positive association of exercise with cognitive abilities is well documented, but if you still need convincing, here’s an article on why you and your children should be more active.


Lorenz, How Racist is American Anthropology?
*Western anthropology finds itself on the receiving of the anthropologist’s gaze in Mwenda Ntarangwi’s book Reversed Gaze. Ntarangwi takes issue with the discipline’s emphasis on studying the “other” among other critiques.

James Holland Jones, Measuring Epidemiological Contacts in Schools
*Check out a cross-disciplinary project on the implications of contact among high school students for the spread of diseases.

Gambler’s House, The C Word
*The dreaded specter of cannibalism has reappeared among archaeologists studying Native Americans. New archaeological sites have led some to conclude that cannibalism may have been practiced in the Americas, although they are still uncertain for the reasons behind its occurrence. A good post to understand how anthropologists can approach this topic, rather than some of the sensationalist stuff out there of late

Alan Wolfe, Cultureligion
*Fascinating new book from Oliver Roy on religious fundamentalism and his thoughts on the decline of culture. Hint: secularism is winning the day, and fundamentalism is just a reaction to that…

Carl Zimmer, Siberian Fossils Were Neanderthals’ Eastern Cousins, DNA Reveals
*Long lost cousins of Neanderthals found in Siberia and DNA evidence suggesting their descendants migrated to New Guinea.

John Hawks, The Denisova FAQ
*Comprehensive guide to frequently asked questions about the Denisovan study.

Pallab Ghosh, Neanderthals Cooked and Ate Vegetables
*Evidence from Neanderthal remains indicating their culinary skills and fondness for vegetables.

Razib Khan, The Paradigm is Dead, Long Live The Paradigm!
*Detailed account of the debate within anthropology regarding out of Africa and multiregional theories about human evolution.

AAA, Writer’s Circle
*Great forum for anthropologists seeking to reach a wider audience through op-ed pieces, interviews, and magazine articles.

Josh Fischmann, The Pressure of Race
*An excellent example of applied anthropology on public health concerns. Read about Lance Gravlee’s work on hypertension among African Americans in a small Florida town and how racism affects health status.

Rachel Zoll, US Muslims: A New Consumer Niche
*Although Islamaphobia has grown in some parts of the country, corporations are viewing American Muslims as an important consumer group and gearing their products and marketing campaigns to Muslims in the U.S.

Sheryl Sandberg, Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders
*Simple, straightforward advice from Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, on how more women can reach the top of their professions.

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