Wednesday Round Up #142

The image is Steve Budington’s painting Mapreader. It appears on the site Neuroculture, which features artists and scholars exploring the intersection of popular culture, art, and neuroscience.

Budignton’s description of Mapreader is fascinating:

Do our brains bring us to our senses? What happens when the respective acts of looking and listening have bloomed so fully as to displace other ways of interacting with the world? Drawing on sources ranging from early anatomical studies to current developments in politics, environmental studies, and technologies of outdoor gear and apparel, Steve Budington’s paintings present hyperbolical but familiar situations that highlight the dangers (and humors) of specialization. Consumed by the project of “making sense,” the anatomically altered figures in Budington’s paintings become imagined sites of cultural and evolutionary excess between a brain and an environment that compete, as much as they collaborate, for survival.

For more on ideas about “neuroculture,” you can check out the article (paywall) by Giovanni Frazzetto and Suzanne Anker on Neuroculture in Nature.

Neuroscience addresses questions that, if resolved, will reveal aspects of our individuality. Therefore neuroscientific knowledge is not solely constrained within laboratories, but readily captures the attention of the public at large. Ideas, concepts and images in neuroscience widely circulate in culture and are portrayed in literature, film, works of art, the mass media and commercial products, therefore shaping social values and consumer practices. The interaction between art and science offers an opportunity to make the scientific community and the public aware of the social and ethical implications of the scientific advances in neuroscience.

Top

Vivienne Raper, Friday Weird Science Guest Post: Why Opals Aren’t Like Armadillos
*The post I was waiting for from Vivienne! Fashionable science development may allow us to look like a fish or mermaid in the near future. Read this guest blog post on how researchers at the University of Cambridge have created polymer opal, which is lycra coated with an iridescent plastic film.

Katie Glaskin, Dreams, Memory, And The Ancestors: Creativity, Culture, And The Science Of Sleep
*New article using neuroanthropology in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Ethnography from Aboriginal Australia attests to the significance of dreams in the creation of new songs, designs, and ceremonies. In this article, I examine the relationships between dreams, memory, and creativity in ritual, design, and song creation. Advances made in neuroscience mean that, increasingly, scientists are able to map neural activity occurring in different sleep phases. Can this capability help us to understand the emergence of creativity, such as that which appears to have its origins in dreams? Drawing on cognitive psychology and neurophysiology, I argue that much of the creativity that emerges from dreams is contingent on memory. Memory is both biological and cultural, so culture is implicated in how dreams are imaginatively shaped, remembered, reported, and experienced. Thus, an important link between the apparently autonomous aspects of dreams and the resulting creativity that has been reported in many cultures around the world, in ethnography and by dreamers themselves, is the encultured work of memory.

Elizabeth Weise, Counting May Be Cultural, Not Innate
*And this anthropological research is reported in USA Today!

Rosemary Joyce, On Mourning and Being Human
*I really liked how Rosemary, ranging from chimps to human nature, sums up anthropology:

This dual position– of insisting on the unity of humanity, past and present, while vigorously contesting the singularity of any one way of being human– is the position in anthropology that tends to get misunderstood and often deliberately misrepresented by outsiders, who cannot understand a discipline framed around such a tension.

Jeffrey Arnett, The Psychology Of Globalization
*Interesting discussion of the influence of globalization on our psyches and increasing bi-cultural identities – pdf of the original peer-reviewed article

Cassio Turra et al, The Mediating Effects Of Biomarkers In The Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status And Health In Older Populations
*Excellent article (pdf) that looks at social disparities in relation to health outcomes in Costa Rica, the U.S., and Taiwan. Good comparative examination of health disparities in different contexts.

Levi Bryant, Interactive Kinds
*Categories and how people negotiate given identities. A different perspective on how to view social constructions and how interactive kinds (e.g. people) challenge prescribed definitions, which shape their daily interactions.

University of Michigan, Summer Institute in Cultural Neuroscience
*Great opportunity for students and professors interested in learning more about cultural neuroscience and starting their own research in the field. Applications are due March 15th

Foundation for Psychosocial Research, Personal Note: Why I Love My Job
*A first-hand account of how neuroscience is becoming a cross-disciplinary field, along with some great examples of researchers from all backgrounds doing research in this area.

Nicholas Christakis, How And Why Does the Social Become Biological?
*Most of us have pondered this question and in this lecture, Christakis attempts to answer it using examples of health disparities. And you get to see it on video!

Tara Parker-Pope, Web of Popularity, Achieved by Bullying

The findings contradict the notion of the school bully as maladjusted or aggressive by nature. Instead, the authors argue that when it comes to mean behavior, the role of individual traits is “overstated,” and much of it comes down to concern about status.

Education

Ben Ansell, From Where We Sit – Quality And Inequality
*Different ways to approach access to higher education from a professor who has taught in the U.S. and the U.K. Some good comparative analysis.

Randall Stross, Online Courses, Still Lacking That Third Dimension
*More universities are turning to online courses to reach students and reduce costs, but some are calling for online classes without a human instructor. Is that even possible and how would it change the learning process?

NPR, A Lack Of Rigor Leaves Students ‘Adrift’ In College
*Recent study showing a decline in critical thinking skills and academic rigor among undergraduate students. The authors suggest that student evaluations, which are linked to a professor’s promotion, influence how challenging courses are.

Michael Winerip, Closing The Achievement Gap Without Widening A Racial One
*Profile of economist, Ronald Ferguson, and his research on racial gaps in educational achievements. He’s known for taking a multifaceted and direct approach to studying this politically and emotionally charged issue.

Jay Mathews, Rhee’s Five Big Missteps
*Former DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee faced a lot of criticism for her actions to over haul the DC public school system and she’s recently been appointed to oversee Florida schools. A new book has come out on her tenure with the DC government and some of the mistakes she made along the way, which alienated her among parents and educators.

Dean Bakopoulos, How Reading Junot Diaz Can Help America Prosper

I explain, we are here not only to read widely and write well, but we are here to train our hearts and our minds in the art of complexity. Things might get uncomfortable, I warn them. But you have to train yourself to deal with intellectual discomfort, no matter what professional destination you’re headed towards.

Mind

Lera Boroditsky, Karen Jacobsen and Charles Walcott, Bird’s Eye View
The amazing navigational abilities of pigeons, including a story about a pigeon that saved lives in WWII and a pigeon-like language in Australia.

Jon Hamilton, Without Language, Large Numbers Don’t Add Up
*Findings from a study of deaf people in Nicaragua who never learned sign language or Spanish, which appears to have affected their ability to count large numbers.

Susan Gaidos, Cerebral Delights
*Surprising new findings on the amygdala (clumps of cells found on the sides of the brain) and how they shape behavioral responses to fear, which is well documented, but also to pleasure.

Steven Pinker, Language As A Window Into Human Nature
*An entertaining pictorial lecture on communication and direct vs. indirect statements. Insights into sexual relationships and political uprisings – it comes down to communality.

Pauline Chen, When Patients Share Their Stories, Health May Improve
Sharing is caring. More research showing the health benefits of hearing personal narratives among patients.

John Rennie, How IBM’s Watson Computer Excels at Jeopardy!
*Great coverage of what we know about the Watson computer currently doing very well all on its own on the popular game show

William Harryman, The Mechanics of Embodiment: a Dialog on Embodiment and Computational Modeling
*Looks like a great new paper on how to create a synthesis between two different views of how cognition works

NPR, V.S. Ramachandran’s Tales of the ‘Tell-Tale Brain’
*The esteemed neuroscientists shares stories from his new book

Anthropology

Namit Arora, Decolonizing My Mind
*One of the easiest methods for gaining control is introducing the colonizer’s language in another country, which denigrates indigenous knowledge and cultural traditions. Interesting post on how language helped the British colonize Africa and India.

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, (Anthropology) And (Science)
*Speech given at the 5th Decennial Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of Great Britain and Commonwealth on anthropology as a science.

Mireya Mayor, Explorer And Wildlife Expert
*A television host with a PhD in biological anthropology! Check out the website for Mireya Mayor, who has a show on National Geographic concerning primates.

Kira Johnson, New Organization Blends Conservation And Anthropology With Inspirational Results
*New magazine on biodiversity conservation that uses an anthropological perspective.

Little Big Pine, Why They Hate Us
*Scathing critique of American neoliberalism and how it has influenced our global reputation.

Lana Lynne, “Ethos” Documentary Examines “Conscious Consuming”
*New documentary examining the current state of environmental, social, political, and economic conditions in the world. Includes interviews with Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and many more.

Anon & Anthropology Of Hacking
*Fascinating discussion of the anthropology of hacking and the lack of group “characteristics” in Anonymous, an online entity that has launched cyber attacks against Scientology, Sarah Palin, and others.

John Hawks, Is The Biological Species Concept A “Minority View”?
*Some paleoanthropologists believed early humans did not interbreed with Neanderthals, but genetic evidence has shown it did occur. Hawks argues that the biological species concept is no longer the minority view as it once was.

Michael Smith, Is Archaeology A Social Science
*Examples of why archaeology is a social science and is considered by some as the more “sciencey” sub-field in anthropology

Owen Wiltshire, Making Anthropology Accessible Online
*Owen shares the results from his dissertation work on anthropology online. I really like his distinction between public anthropology and anthropology in public.

So I conclude the beast by discussing two kinds of anthropology that are openly accessible online. One is anthropology in public, the other public anthropology. Anthro in public is about reaching anthros with the Internet. Anthropology is done for academics, who then do great things with that knowledge (objection heresay!). Public anthropology is about changing the style of anthropology to appeal to different audiences outside academia.

Ryan Anderson, The Subject(s) of Anthropology
*What is anthropology? A deep reflection that reflects on the Other

Science Daily, Earliest Humans Not So Different from Us, Research Suggests
*John Shea’s new paper in Current Anthropology covered:

Archaeologists have been searching for evidence of “behavioral modernity,” a quality supposedly unique to Homo sapiens, when they ought to have been investigating “behavioral variability,” a quantitative dimension to the behavior of all living things.

Matt Thompson, The Illustrated Man, #3 – The Stuff of Life
*A cultural anthropologists reflects on teaching biological anthropology, and how students engage with the short book The Stuff of Life, an illustrated guide to DNA and genetics

Anthroprobably, Solidarity, Open Access, and the Future of Anthropology

It is true that the four-field approach to the study of humans is very expansive in the realm of specialization; this is something that no other field can boast. I challenge those who argue that this weakens anthropology as a social science. The biggest thing I took from the whole debacle was this: we need better communication between the sub-disciplines.

John Giuffo, Bad Boys Die Early And Curmudgeons Get To Age
*Chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain does not have a degree in anthropology, but his show “No Reservations” has an anthropological perspective as he travels to different countries in search of “authentic” culinary experiences. This season his show goes to some of the most unlikely destinations for a travel/food show, including Haiti and the Congo.

Trauma and PTSD

Siobhan Fallon, An Army Wife Reflects On ‘When The Men Are Gone
*Touching accounts of what the families of soldiers go through when their relatives are deployed.

U.S. News, Stress of War Spurs Changes in Brain Activity, Study Finds
*Findings showing the long-term effects of trauma on the brain.

Hans Pols, Review—PTSD Before PTSD. The Politics Of War Trauma: The Aftermath Of World War II In Eleven European Countries
*A new book of essays on the origin of PTSD diagnoses post-WWII, which is in contradiction to literature stating it was first recognized in the 1970s in the U.S.

BBC, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 1 Of 3 – The Trauma Industry – BBC Panorama Documentary
*Emotionally charged documentary of Vietnam veterans seeking compensation for PTSD in the U.K.

Charles Marmar, Mental Health Impact Of Afghanistan And Iraq Deployment: Meeting The Challenge Of A New Generation Of Veterans
*Comprehensive examination of historical documentation of PTSD, its inclusion in the DSM, and cases from current global conflicts.

Jennifer Senior, The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War
*Gripping interviews with former soldiers suffering from PTSD and other mental issues from their deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vaughan Bell, Five Minutes Past Trauma
*Does it make a difference if counseling is started immediately after traumatic events? Not really according to ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind segment on treating mental issues.

James Dao, For Some Troops, Powerful Drug Cocktails Have Deadly Results
*Drugging our troops

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