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By SINDYA N. BHANOO The human brain responds to music in different ways, depending on the listener’s emotional reaction, among other things. Now researchers report that the same holds true for birds listening to birdsong. “The same regions that respond to music in humans, at least the areas that can also be found in the bird brain, responded to song in our sparrows,” said an author of the new report, Donna Maney, a neuroscientist at Emory University. Primed with estrogen to simulate their state during breeding, female white-throated sparrows responded to the songs of male sparrows in the same way as humans listening to pleasant music, she said. Females in a nonbreeding state responded no differently to birdsong than to generic tones of the same frequencies. “So during breeding season, birdsong is received differently by females,” Dr. Maney said. Moreover, male birds treated with testosterone showed a response in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center, when they heard other males singing. The response is akin to the reaction humans have when they hear the sort of music used in a scary movie scene. “If you’re a male and you hear the song, it means that you’re invading territory or being invaded,” Dr. Maney said. “It’s an aggressive signal.” © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 17646 - Posted: 01.01.2013

Becky Summers Monkeys might not be known for their generosity, but when they do seem to act selflessly, a specific area in their brains keeps track of these kindnesses. The discovery of this neuronal tally chart may help scientists to understand the neural mechanisms underlying normal social behaviour in primates and humans, and might even provide insight into disorders such as autism, in which social processing is disrupted. Steve Chang and his colleagues from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, used electrodes to directly record neuronal activity in three areas of the brain prefrontal cortex that are known to be involved in social decision-making, while monkeys performed reward-related tasks. When given the option either to drink juice from a tube themselves or to give the juice away to a neighbour, the test monkeys would mostly keep the drink. But when the choice was between giving the juice to the neighbour or neither monkey receiving it, the choosing monkey would frequently opt to give the drink to the other monkey. The researchers found that in two out of the three brain areas being recorded, neurons fired in the presence or absence of the juice reward only. By contrast, the third area — known as the anterior cingulate gyrus — responded only when the monkey allocated the juice to the neighbour and observed it being received. The authors suggest the neurons in the ACG respond to and record the act simultaneously. The study's results are published today in Nature Neuroscience1. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17636 - Posted: 12.27.2012

By Joss Fong What do an orgasm, a multiplication problem and a photo of a dead body have in common? Each induces a slight, irrepressible expansion of the pupils in our eyes. For more than a century scientists have known that our eyes' pupils respond to more than changes in light. They also betray mental and emotional commotion. In fact, pupil dilation correlates with arousal so consistently that researchers use pupil size, or pupillometry, to investigate a wide range of psychological phenomena. And they do this without knowing exactly why our eyes behave this way. "Nobody really knows for sure what these changes do," says Stuart Steinhauer, director of the Biometrics Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He views the dilations as a by-product of the nervous system processing important information. The visual cortex in the back of the brain assembles the actual images we see. But a different, older part of the nervous system—the autonomic—manages the continuous tuning of pupil size (along with other involuntary functions such as heart rate and perspiration). Specifically, it dictates the movement of the iris to regulate the amount of light that enters the eye, similar to a camera aperture. The iris is made of two types of muscle: a ring of sphincter muscles that encircle and constrict the pupil down to a couple of millimeters across to prevent too much light from entering; and a set of dilator muscles laid out like bicycle spokes that can expand the pupil up to eight millimeters—approximately the diameter of a chickpea—in low light. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 17586 - Posted: 12.10.2012

by Debora Mackenzie The Toxoplasma parasite is an unusually devious operator. When it infects mice, it alters their behaviour so they become fearless enough to seek out cats and get eaten. But exactly how it did this was a mystery. Now it appears that the parasite hijacks its victim's immune system, causing it to produce a chemical normally found in the brain. The discovery suggests that the brain and immune system might have evolved using similar processes to control their behaviour, including electrical and chemical signals now known mainly in nerves. Toxoplasma gondii spends part of its life in a cat's gut, then spreads to mice via cat droppings. It invades their brains and causes them to behave fearlessly towards cats – quickly returning the parasite to a cat's gut and completing its life cycle. The parasite can use other animals as a host, and can spread to humans via infected, uncooked meat as well as cat droppings. Acute infection can harm a fetus, so pregnant women are told to avoid cat litter boxes. A quarter of people have a lifelong Toxoplasma infection and may suffer psychological effects, including increased recklessness. Antonio Barragan of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, has now discovered that the parasite's mind-bending abilities could be a side effect of the way it hijacks the immune system. Invaders like Toxoplasma normally get engulfed by white blood cells called dendritic cells (DCs), a process that helps other immune cells learn to recognise them. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17583 - Posted: 12.08.2012

by Emily Underwood On the reality television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the lucky recipient gets a first look at his newly renovated home. For a split second, his face contorts with—shock? Joy? During intense emotional experiences, there's a fleeting moment when expressions of pleasure and pain are hard to distinguish. In fact, others read intense emotion more effectively by looking at a person's body language than by watching his facial expressions, a new study suggests. Most studies of facial cues rely on a set of stylized, recognizable expressions—perhaps made by actors in photographs. The actors make expressions meant to be obvious enough to translate across cultures: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. But these stylized images don't necessarily reflect the expressions that people make in the real world, says Hillel Aviezer, a neuropsychologist at who is now at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lead author of the new study, published online today in Science. Moreover, when emotions get particularly extreme, people undergoing fleeting peaks of intense pain, joy, grief, or anger look surprisingly similar, Aviezer says. From the face, at least, "when you compare extreme pain to extreme pleasure, you really can't tell them apart," he says. And yet most people are rarely confused about whether someone is experiencing grief or joy. To figure out what tips us off, Aviezer and his colleagues showed photos of professional tennis players to 45 Princeton University students, randomly divided into three groups of 15. Each tennis player had just won or lost an important match, and the participants rated the players' contorted facial expressions from negative to positive on a scale from 1 to 9, with 5 marking the neutral midway point. One group of participants looked at head-to-toe photos of the players, the second group looked at only the players' bodies, and the third group looked at only their heads. Only the final group had trouble making the correct identification, suggesting that facial expressions alone didn't tell them whether the players were joyous or in despair. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17558 - Posted: 12.01.2012

By BENEDICT CAREY For years they have lived as orphans and outliers, a colony of misfit characters on their own island: the bizarre one and the needy one, the untrusting and the crooked, the grandiose and the cowardly. Their customs and rituals are as captivating as any tribe’s, and at least as mystifying. Every mental anthropologist who has visited their world seems to walk away with a different story, a new model to explain those strange behaviors. This weekend the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association will vote on whether to adopt a new diagnostic system for some of the most serious, and striking, syndromes in medicine: personality disorders. Personality disorders occupy a troublesome niche in psychiatry. The 10 recognized syndromes are fairly well represented on the self-help shelves of bookstores and include such well-known types as narcissistic personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, as well as dependent and histrionic personalities. But when full-blown, the disorders are difficult to characterize and treat, and doctors seldom do careful evaluations, missing or downplaying behavior patterns that underlie problems like depression and anxiety in millions of people. The new proposal — part of the psychiatric association’s effort of many years to update its influential diagnostic manual — is intended to clarify these diagnoses and better integrate them into clinical practice, to extend and improve treatment. But the effort has run into so much opposition that it will probably be relegated to the back of the manual, if it’s allowed in at all. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 17542 - Posted: 11.27.2012

The Associated Press Chimpanzees going through a midlife crisis? It sounds like a setup for a joke. But there it is, in the title of a report published Monday in a scientific journal: "Evidence for a midlife crisis in great apes." So what do these apes do? Buy red Ferraris? Leave their mates for some cute young bonobos? Uh, no. "I believe no ape has ever purchased a sports car," said Andrew Oswald, an author of the study. But researchers report that captive chimps and orangutans do show the same low ebb in emotional well-being at midlife that some studies find in people. That suggests the human tendency toward midlife discontent may have been passed on through evolution, rather than resulting simply from the hassles of modern life, said Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick in England who presented his work Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A second study in the journal looks at a younger age group and finds that happiness in youth can lead to higher income a few years down the road. Several studies have concluded that happiness in human adults tends to follow a certain course between ages 20 and 70: It starts high and declines over the years to reach a low point in the late 40s, then turns around and rises to another peak at 70. On a graph, that's a U-shaped pattern. Some researchers question whether that trend is real, but to Oswald the mystery is what causes it. "This is one of the great patterns of human life. We're all going to slide along this U for good or ill," he said. "So what explains it?" © CBC 2012

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17515 - Posted: 11.20.2012

By MICHAEL TRIMBLE IN 2008, at a zoo in Münster, Germany, a gorilla named Gana gave birth to a male infant, who died after three months. Photographs of Gana, looking stricken and inconsolable, were ubiquitous. “Heartbroken gorilla cradles her dead baby,” Britain’s Daily Mail declared. Crowds thronged the zoo to see the grieving mother. Sad as the scene was, the humans, not Gana, were the only ones crying. The notion that animals can weep — apologies to Dumbo, Bambi and Wilbur — has no scientific basis. Years of observations by the primatologists Dian Fossey, who observed gorillas, and Jane Goodall, who worked with chimpanzees, could not prove that animals cry tears from emotion. In his book “The Emotional Lives of Animals,” the only tears the biologist Marc Bekoff were certain of were his own. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy, the authors of “When Elephants Weep,” admit that “most elephant watchers have never seen them weep.” It’s true that many mammals shed tears, especially in response to pain. Tears protect the eye by keeping it moist, and they contain antimicrobial proteins. But crying as an embodiment of empathy is, I maintain, unique to humans and has played an essential role in human evolution and the development of human cultures. Within two days an infant can imitate sad and happy faces. If a newborn mammal does not cry out (typically, in the first few weeks of life, without tears) it is unlikely to get the attention it needs to survive. Around three to four months, the relationship between the human infant and its environment takes on a more organized communicative role, and tearful crying begins to serve interpersonal purposes: the search for comfort and pacification. As we get older, crying becomes a tool of our social repertory: grief and joy, shame and pride, fear and manipulation. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17475 - Posted: 11.11.2012

By Evan Charney and William English Dozens of studies in the past few years have linked single genes to whether a person is liberal or conservative, has a strong party affiliation or is likely to vote reguarly. The discipline of “genopolitics” has grabbed headlines as a result, but is the claim that a few genes influence political views and actions legitimate? We don't think so. The kinds of studies that have produced many of the findings we question involve searching for connections between behavior and gene variants that occur frequently in the population. Most of the 20,000 to 25,000 human genes come in hundreds or thousands of common variations, which often consist of slight differences in a gene's sequence of DNA code letters or in repeats of a particular segment. For the most part, scientists do not know what effect, if any, these common variants, known as polymorphisms, have on the functioning of the proteins they encode. Genes predict certain well-defined physiological diseases—such as hereditary breast cancer and the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease—but when it comes to complex human behaviors such as voting, the link is tenuous at best. One of the most prominent papers showing a link between a few polymorphisms and political behavior was published by James Fowler and Christopher Dawes in 2008 in the Journal of Politics. They concluded that people who possess certain variants of a gene called MAOA are more likely to vote than those who do not and that people with a particular variant of a gene known as 5-HTT who regularly attend religious services are also more likely to vote. We do not believe that these conclusions are right. © 2012 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17453 - Posted: 11.05.2012

by Sarah C. P. Williams All for one, or in it for yourself? That depends on how you were brought up, according to a new study involving the prisoner's dilemma, perhaps the most famous scenario in game theory. In the game, you can either cooperate or betray your partner. And adult males who were exposed as children to violence, crime, conflict, and neglect turn on their partners earlier and more often in the game than males who grew up in more stable environments, the study finds. Imagine that you're a thief, and you and your partner have been nabbed by the police. If you both stay silent, you both get a month in jail. But if you rat out your partner, or "defect," while he stays silent, he gets 2 years and you go free. Alas, if you both snitch, you both get a year. Dreamed up decades ago, the prisoner's dilemma has now become a staple of social psychology experiments. "It's really an assay for how your mind is built to tradeoff between different ways of living in the world," says psychologist Michael McCullough of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. "Are you going to be tempted by short-term payoffs or are you going to invest again and again to try to get long-term benefits?" McCullough and colleagues wanted to explore how these choices might vary based on a person's background. The researchers recruited 244 male and female undergraduate students to participate in multiple iterations of the prisoner's dilemma game in which points—later converted into real money—were won in each round depending on the choices made. Each student was told they were playing at least 20 rounds of the game via a computer. They were told their opponents were human—but instead the computer was programmed to take a "tit for tat" strategy: The computer repeats the moves made by the player in the previous round. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17441 - Posted: 10.31.2012

With bright blue hair and tattoos, Dr Caspar Addyman is not your average scientist. But then Britain's "Babylab" is not your average laboratory. Here, inside one of the world's leading infant-research units, Dr Addyman has spent the morning filtering through the results of his new Baby Laughter project. It is the first in-depth study since the Sixties into what makes infants chuckle. Last time around, the experiment involved a toy clown attached to a piece of string, which scientists held in front of their tiny, unwitting human guinea pigs to see if and when they would laugh. Fortunately Dr Addyman's experiment, which he launched in August this year, is a little more complex. "Smiling and laughing are indices of our understanding of the world. Adults laugh at something when they find it surprising or unusual; it is exactly the same for babies," he explains. "Finding out what makes infants laugh teaches us more generally about how humans understand and respond to the world around them, and also the ways in which that can change." His gleeful subjects, who are all aged between two months and two years, are helping him to hunt for information that could eventually be used to determine how different developmental groups – for instance, people with autism or Down syndrome – respond to stimuli at different stages, which might ultimately lead to interventions. It is all smiles in Babylab HQ, at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, University of London. The lab was responsible earlier this year for a breakthrough study in autism which demonstrated a difference in brainwave patterns in infancy between children who later went on to develop the condition and those who did not. © independent.co.uk

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17428 - Posted: 10.27.2012

Lizzie Buchen A popular political advertisement from early this summer begins with US President Barack Obama addressing a crowd of moon-eyed supporters. Suddenly, the screen goes dark to a crescendo of minor chords. Phrases such as “Fear and Loathing”, “Nauseating” and “Divide and Conquer” flash onto the screen, along with video clips of commentators complaining that Obama has used scare tactics to manipulate voters. In the final scene, the iconic poster from Obama's 2008 election campaign appears, the word HOPE transforming into FEAR as it bursts into flames. The advertisement, produced by the conservative organization American Crossroads in Washington DC, is typical of those that have come to dominate the US airwaves and YouTube in preparation for next month's presidential election. Emerging from both the right and the left, these commercials increasingly resemble horror films as they seek to sway voters by triggering basic emotions such as fear, anger and disgust. That strategy fits with emerging scientific evidence about how people acquire their political beliefs. In the past, political scientists agreed that social forces — most importantly, parents and the childhood environment — strongly influenced whether people became conservative or liberal, and whether they voted or engaged in politics at all. “We now know that it is probably not the whole story,” says John Jost, a psychologist at New York University. An increasing number of studies suggest that biology can exert a significant influence on political beliefs and behaviours. Biological factors including genes, hormone levels and neurotransmitter systems may partly shape people's attitudes on political issues such as welfare, immigration, same-sex marriage and war. And shrewd politicians might be able to take advantage of those biological levers through clever advertisements aimed at voters' primal emotions. © 2012 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17421 - Posted: 10.25.2012

By Megan Gannon Something "uncanny" seems familiar yet alien at the same time, often stirring a feeling of fear or revulsion. For example, we tend to feel creeped out around lifelike robots and animatronics that fall in the "uncanny valley," the divide between the fully human and the not-exactly-human. New research suggests this type of reaction might start in infancy. Scientists in Japan studied how 57 babies reacted to pictures of faces. The infants were shown real photographs — either of the child's mother or a complete stranger — and natural-looking morphed images that combined either the mother's face and a stranger's face or two strangers' faces. In previous studies, researchers showed that infants tend to stare at pictures of both mothers and strangers for about the same amount of time, but measures of their neural responses suggest they process the two faces differently. "Infants like both familiarity and novelty in objects," Yoshi-Taka Matsuda of Tokyo's Riken Brain Science Institute said in a statement. "We wondered how their preference might change when they encountered objects that are intermediate between familiarity and novelty." Using an eye-tracking system, the researchers found the infants looked at the photos of their mothers longer than the "half-mother" hybrid faces. This effect strengthened with the infant's age, the team said. There was no significant difference in the infants' preference between the real and morphed photos of strangers. © 2012 NBCNews.com

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 17369 - Posted: 10.15.2012

By Gregory Thomas, During an introductory psychology course at Britain’s University of Essex in 2009, Arnold Wilkins asked his class to participate in a quick experiment. Wilkins projected two images on a wall and asked students to write down whether they found either of them disturbing. One was a photograph of a woody landscape. The other was a close-up of a lotus-flower seedpod — a flat-faced pod pocked with small holes. Most of the students were unmoved, but one, freshman An Le, recalls being both transfixed and revolted by the lotus image. “It felt like I was in shock,” he says. Le is far from alone in his response. Thousands of people claim to suffer trypophobia, a term derived from the Greek “trypo,” which means punching, drilling or boring holes. It refers to an irrational fear of clusters of small holes, such as beehives, ant holes and even bubbles in a pancake on the griddle or air pockets in a chocolate bar. On Web sites and blogs, self-diagnosed trypophobes share tales of vomiting, sleep loss and anxiety attacks at the sight of such objects as honeycombs and rotting wood. They say the fears are haunting and disruptive of their daily lives. But the medical world hasn’t yet embraced the phobia as real. Trypophobia isn’t listed in any major dictionary or in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Attempts to add trypophobia to the Oxford English Dictionary and even to establish a Wikipedia page have been rebuffed because there hasn’t been any research published on the subject. A Wikipedia editor who deleted an entry on trypophobia in 2009 noted that trypophobia is “likely hoax and borderline patent nonsense.” © 1996-2012 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 17320 - Posted: 10.02.2012

By Tori Rodriguez Feeling sociable or reckless? You might have toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which the CDC estimates has infected about 22.5 percent of Americans older than 12 years old. Researchers tested participants for T. gondii infection and had them complete a personality questionnaire. They found that both men and women infected with T. gondii were more extroverted and less conscientious than the infection-free participants. These changes are thought to result from the parasite's influence on brain chemicals, the scientists write in the May/June issue of the European Journal of Personality. “Toxoplasma manipulates the behavior of its animal host by increasing the concentration of dopamine and by changing levels of certain hormones,” says study author Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Although humans can carry the parasite, its life cycle must play out in cats and rodents. Infected mice and rats lose their fear of cats, increasing the chance they will be eaten, so that the parasite can then reproduce in a cat's body and spread through its feces. In humans, T. gondii's effects are more subtle; the infected population has a slightly higher rate of traffic accidents, studies have shown, and people with schizophrenia have higher rates of infection—but until recent years, the parasite was not thought to affect most people's daily lives. In the new study, a pattern appeared in infected men: the longer they had been infected, the less conscientious they were. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17296 - Posted: 09.25.2012

By TARA PARKER-POPE How do we decide whether to trust somebody? An unusual new study of college students’ interactions with a robot has shed light on why we intuitively trust some people and distrust others. While many people assume that behaviors like avoiding eye contact and fidgeting are signals that a person is being dishonest, scientists have found that no single gesture or expression consistently predicts trustworthiness. But researchers from Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell recently identified four distinct behaviors that, together, appear to warn our brains that a person can’t be trusted. The findings, to be published this month in the journal Psychological Science, may help explain why we are sometimes quick to like or dislike a person we have just met. More important, the research could one day be used to develop computer programs that can rapidly assess behavior in airports or elsewhere to flag security risks. In the first experiment, 86 undergraduates from Northeastern were given five minutes to get to know a fellow student they hadn’t met before. Half the pairs met face to face; the other half interacted online by instant message. Then the students were asked to play a game in which all the players got four tokens and the chance to win money. A token was worth $1 if a player kept it for himself or $2 when he gave it to his partner. Players could win $4 each if both partners kept their tokens, but if they worked together and traded all four tokens, then each partner could win $8. But the biggest gain — $12 — came from cheating a partner out of his tokens and not giving any in return. Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17246 - Posted: 09.11.2012

by Sarah C. P. Williams To run or to hide? For an elk trying to avoid a gun-wielding hunter, the choice depends on personality. Gutsy, bold elk are more likely to sprint faster and farther when they encounter a threat. Others shy away from danger in the first place, shunning human-frequented areas and exploring new places less often. Human hunters more often kill animals that fall into the bolder group, new research has found. And this tendency could put evolutionary pressure on elk populations to become more skittish, the scientists hypothesize. "There has been a lot of work in the past on humans selecting for appearance of animals," says biologist John Fryxell of the University of Guelph in Canada, who was not involved in the study. "What really distinguishes this paper is the fact that it focuses on selecting behavior." Previous studies have found that hunters are most likely to target animals that are the biggest or have the largest antlers. To test whether hunting also selected for elk with certain behavioral traits, researchers led by biologist Simone Ciuti of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, put GPS collars on 122 male and female elk (Cervus elaphus) in the Canadian Rockies and monitored their movement throughout the year. By the end of hunting season, 25 elk had been killed by hunters. The researchers analyzed the GPS data to determine whether the way elk move correlated with whether they’d been killed. Hunters, they found, typically picked the elk that moved more often and traveled longer distances and that were more likely to spend time in open areas. The trend was particularly noticeable for male elk, which had larger variation in their movement patterns. The researchers found much less difference in movement patterns between the killed and nonkilled females. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17223 - Posted: 09.07.2012

by David Hambling ROBOTS developed in the safety of a laboratory can be too slow to react to the dangers of the real world. But software inspired by biology promises to give robots the equivalent of the mammalian amygdala, a part of the brain that responds quickly to threats. STARTLE, developed by Mike Hook and colleagues at Roke Manor Research of Romsey in Hampshire, UK, employs an artificial neural network to look out for abnormal or inconsistent data. Once it has been taught what is out of the ordinary, it can recognise dangers in the environment. For instance, from data fed by a robotic vehicle's on-board sensors, STARTLE could notice a pothole and pass a warning to the vehicle's control system to focus more computing resources on that part of the road. "If it sees something anomalous then investigative processing is cued; this allows us to use computationally expensive algorithms only when needed for assessing possible threats, rather than responding equally to everything," says Hook. This design mimics the amygdala, which provides a rapid response to threats. The amygdala helps small animals to deal with complex, fast-changing surroundings, allowing them to ignore most sensory stimuli. "The key is that it's for spotting anomalous conditions," says Hook, "not routine ones." © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17214 - Posted: 08.29.2012

By NATALIE ANGIER Deseada Parejo, a biologist at the Arid Zones Experimental Research Station in Almería, Spain, was studying family dynamics behavior in Eurasian rollers — spectacular jay-size birds with long, slender tails and the Cray-Pas colors of parakeets. On removing one of the nestlings for a standard check of size and weight, she practically jumped at its horror-film response: The tiny chick gaped its mouth wide and vomited up a big dose of sticky orange liquid, enough to fill half a teaspoon. Dr. Parejo touched a second chick, a third, a sixth, and got the same expulsory retort. “I have worked with many other bird species,” she said, “but I never found anything similar to this vomiting behavior before.” Not only that: The fluid had a distinctive, evolving odor. “It’s like orange juice at first,” she said. “Then it begins to smell like insects, like the prey the parents provide.” In the current issue of Biology Letters, Dr. Parejo and her colleagues describe their study of this noteworthy aroma, which they designate the roller nestlings’ “smell of fear.” The researchers said that while the reflux reflex might well serve as a defense mechanism — helping to repel nest predators like snakes and rodents — they were interested in a different question: whether the parents could detect the olfactory cry of alarm, and if so, how they reacted. The answer to the first question was yes. But the parental response to the eau of offspring terror was anything but heroic; instead, it was a bit like those childhood nightmares, where the louder you cry out to Mom and Dad in a crowd, the faster they leave you behind. © 2012 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17159 - Posted: 08.14.2012

By Eric Kandel Our attraction to faces, and particularly to eyes, appears to be innately determined. Infants as well as adults prefer to look at eyes rather than other features of a person’s face, and both infants and adults are sensitive to gaze. The direction of a person’s gaze is very important in our processing of the emotions displayed by that person’s face, because the brain combines information from gaze with information from facial expressions. Reginald Adams from Pennsylvania State University and Robert Kleck from Dartmouth College have found that a direct gaze and an expression of happy emotion facilitate the communication and processing of joy, friendliness, and approach-oriented emotions presumably because, as Uta Frith has found, only direct gaze recruits the dopaminergic reward system. In contrast, an averted, sad, or fearful gaze communicates the avoidance-oriented emotions of fear and sadness. Although gaze and facial expression are processed together, other aspects of beauty, such as gender and age, are processed independently. In a biological experiment designed to examine the neural correlates of beauty—that is, the mechanisms in our brain that account for our sense of beauty—John O’Doherty and his colleagues explored the role of the smile. They found that the orbitofrontal (ventrolateral) region of the prefrontal cortex, the region that is activated by reward and thought to be the apex of the representation of pleasure in the brain, is also activated by attractive faces. Moreover, the response of this region is enhanced by the presence of a smile. © 2012 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 17151 - Posted: 08.13.2012