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By CLAUDIA DREIFUS Q. DID CHILDHOOD VIEWING OF THE “FLIPPER” TELEVISION SERIES MAKE YOU WANT TO BECOME A DOLPHIN RESEARCHER? A. No, it was The New York Times! In the 1970s, I was working as a set designer for an avant-garde theater company in Philadelphia. One Sunday, I read The Times and saw this photograph of a baby whale being killed. Something in me just snapped. “It’s a shame we’re slaughtering these animals when we know so little about them,” I said. I then got a Ph.D. I’ve been devoting myself to studying the abilities and the behaviors of whales and dolphins since. Q. DOLPHINS SPEND MUCH OF THEIR LIVES UNDERWATER. HOW CAN YOU OBSERVE THEIR BEHAVIOR? A. Well, I observe captive dolphins in aquariums. At the moment, my laboratory is an underwater glass booth in the dolphin pool at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I climb into it with a video camera. The animals are used to me. My goal is to understand their behaviors well enough so that I can find ways to help them tell us about their cognitive capacities. Dolphins, they have these really large, complex brains. The question is: what are they doing with them? These animals look like fish, but the behavior patterns are more like primates and elephants. They are vocal learners, like parrots and humans. What do the sounds they make mean? Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 14475 - Posted: 09.21.2010

By Larry O'Hanlon There are theories galore about why some dog breeds appear to be smarter than others, but new research suggests that size alone might make a difference. All larger dogs appear to be better at following pointing cues from humans than smaller dogs, which makes them appear smarter. It's possible that bigger dogs appear smarter not just because they are bred for taking orders, but because their wider set eyes give them better depth perception. As a result, they can more easily discern the direction a person is pointing. This latter hypothesis was tested by researchers in New Zealand, who think there might be something to it. "We do know that dog breeds are different," said William Helton of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Human breeding has created dogs with huge physical differences, like shorter snouts for more powerful bites. Even the internal structure of dogs eyes can vary among some breeds, he said. But can something as simple as the distance between the eyes be a factor too? To see if all larger dogs in general were better at discerning human pointing cues, Helton and his colleagues put 104 dogs to the test -- 61 large dogs (greater than 50 lbs) and 43 small dogs (less than 50 lbs). © 2010 Discovery Communications, LLC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 14400 - Posted: 08.30.2010

by Dave Munger Imagine being trapped in a small pressurized underwater chamber (like a diving bell) where you were fed once a day by an octopus that tossed food in from the opening in the floor. Each day an octopus also reached in to poke you gently with a stick. Suppose this went on for two weeks. Do you think you’d be able to figure out that there were actually two octopuses—one “poker” and one “feeder”? Would you be able to tell the difference between the two? Octopuses are so different from humans that it might actually be rather difficult for you to tell them apart—especially since you would only be able to see them through the distorting lens of the water. On the other hand, if you did manage to figure out which octopus was which, you might be able to get out of the way of the stick when the “poker” showed up. You also might be able to demonstrate to the octopuses that you were “intelligent,” perhaps inspiring them to treat you better while in captivity. Obviously this is just a thought experiment, and the real research was done in reverse, but hopefully this example gives you some sense of how difficult the problem of octopus intelligence really is. Because octopus brains evolved independently from human brains, their anatomical structure is very different from our own, so understanding whether octopuses are “intelligent” is not a simple task. How would you tell if an eight-legged alien from another planet was intelligent? ©2005-2009 Seed Media Group LLC.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 14296 - Posted: 07.27.2010

By Emily Anthes Perhaps the most unlikely hero to emerge from this summer’s World Cup was Paul the octopus, a lightly spotted invertebrate living in an aquatic center in Germany. Paul earned worldwide fame for successfully “predicting” the winner of eight out of eight soccer games, including the final match. Before each game, Paul’s keepers would place two food-filled boxes, each of which was decorated with one team’s national flag, in the creature’s tank. Whichever box Paul ate from first was considered to be his pick. The octopus nailed it all eight times. Though Paul’s success seems mainly to have been luck — evidence for psychic sports forecasting ability in octopuses is, well, somewhat lacking — if you were looking to consult a brainy animal, you could do worse than an octopus. Research is increasingly revealing that there’s something sophisticated going on inside the octopus’s soft and squishy head. The critters, it seems, are surprisingly smart. Octopuses “make decisions all the time, complicated decisions,” says Roger Hanlon, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. “People don’t expect that from a creature related to an oyster.” What scientists are discovering about the octopus calls into question many of our assumptions about intelligence. Partly this is because the creatures are so different from the kinds of animals — social vertebrates, especially mammals — that have long been seen as having a monopoly on smarts. Octopuses are members of a class of creatures known as cephalopods, which appeared on the planet even before the first fish, and they are almost as far removed from us primates as another animal can get. And although it has long been theorized that intelligence evolved in social creatures as a way for species that live in groups to navigate the complex social world, the octopus leads a solitary life. © 2010 NY Times Co.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 14281 - Posted: 07.24.2010

Nathan J. Emery Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings. Duane M. Rumbaugh and David A. Washburn. xvii + 326 pp. Yale University Press, 2003. $35. How can you tell whether an animal is intelligent? Perhaps this is an impossible question to answer for species as different from us as honeybees and fish, but what about our closest relatives, the great apes? Shouldn't their cognitive abilities be easier to comprehend because of our anatomical and genetic similarities? Or does the degree of similarity cause biases in our thinking that may cloud our understanding? Ever since Darwin, biologists have been interested in the minds of these animals. But we are still far from discovering the real similarities and differences between ape and human intelligence—despite a wealth of important recent research, some of which is documented in Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings, by Duane M. Rumbaugh and David A. Washburn. There are two ways to approach the investigation of mental ability in primates. Comparative psychologists conduct laboratory tests of learning, memory and problem solving. In the first half of the 20th century, Robert Yerkes in the United States and Wolfgang Köhler in Europe were among the first to confront apes with problems whose solution required complex cognitive skills (how to traverse a maze, for example, or to obtain food that they cannot grab directly). Yerkes and Köhler wanted to determine whether apes had the mental equipment to solve such problems and to find out whether in attempting a solution they would employ the same processes or psychological mechanisms as humans. © Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 5552 - Posted: 06.24.2010

Age-dependent learning deficit can be overcome by the reduced production of a potassium channel in the mouse model All of us experience a successive decline in learning and memory capacities with ageing. In the course of their investigations of the neurophysiological basis of this decline, Thomas Blank, Ingrid Nijholt, Min-Jeong Kye, Jelena Radulovic, and Joachim Spiess from the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen have obtained new insight into the mechanisms of age-related learning deficits in the mouse model. In experiments with mice, the Max Planck researchers were able to revert the observed age-related learning and memory deficits by down-regulation of calcium-activated potassium channels (SK3) located in the hippocampus, a brain region recognized to be important for learning and memory. The researchers published their results as a Brief Communication in the journal Nature Neuroscience. In the study, young (4-6 months) and aged mice (22-24 months) had to learn that a defined tone was associated with a mild electric footshock serving as an aversive stimulus. If the tone was immediately followed by a footshock, young and aged mice remembered easily the association on the following day. They showed their memory by a so-called "freezing response" when exposed to the same tone used for training, but without application of a foot shock. This freezing, a naturally occurring defense behavior, is characterized by complete immobility of the mouse. The scientists then generated a more complex learning task by separating the tone from the shock by several seconds. As result of this change, the task now required specifically the hippocampus. Under these conditions, the aged mice were strongly impaired in comparison to the young mice. In agreement with the behavioral differences between aged and young mice, the scientists observed that "long-term potentiation" (LTP), an electrophysiological phenomenon indicating neuronal plasticity was lower in hippocampal brain tissue of aged mice when compared to LTP in hippocampus of young mice.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 4103 - Posted: 06.24.2010

By Alex Green Empirical descriptions of consciousness have been available in Western literature for centuries and in Eastern literature for millennia. Western empirical descriptions are due largely to Descartes and Kant but William James and Hermann Weyl have also made important contributions. It is often maintained that no-one can define consciousness but there exists a clear empirical description of consciousness as an observation of the space, time and content of our minds (where the content contains intuitions and feelings). Perhaps the claim that no-one can define consciousness is frustration at the fact that no-one can explain consciousness. Weiskrantz (1988) considered that “Each of us will have his or her own idea of what, if anything, is meant by ‘consciousness’..” and that insisting upon a precise definition would be a mistake. Koch and Crick (1999) stated that “Consciousness is a vague term with many usages and will, in the fullness of time, be replaced by a vocabulary that more accurately reflects the contribution of different brain processes”. Is ‘consciousness’ really a “vague term” and should we each have our own idea of what it means? Copyright © Alex Green

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 2644 - Posted: 06.24.2010

by Ewen Callaway As wind instruments go, folded vegetation seems a little on the primitive side. Orang-utans have been found to blow through leaves to modulate the sound of their alarm calls, making them the only animal apart from humans known to use tools to manipulate sound. The orang-utan's music, if you can call it that, is actually an alarm call known as a "kiss squeak". "When you're walking the forest and you meet an orang-utan that not habituated to humans, they'll start giving kiss squeaks and breaking branches," says Madeleine Hardus, a primatologist at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who documented the practice among wild apes in Indonesian Borneo. She contends that orang-utans use leaves to make kiss squeaks to deceive predators, such as leopards, snakes and tigers, as to their actual size – a deeper call indicating a larger animal. Baritone squeaks Orang-utans also produce kiss squeaks with their lips alone or with their hands. To determine if the leaves make a difference, Hardus's team recorded a total of 813 calls produced by nine apes, and then measured the pitch of the different kinds of kiss squeaks made by each animal. Across all nine orang-utans, the unaided kiss squeaks came out with the highest pitch, followed by calls produced when the apes put their hands over their mouths. But leaves lowered the high-pitched calls the most, Hardus' team found. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 13133 - Posted: 06.24.2010

by Ewen Callaway For all their cognitive prowess, chimpanzees will never build four-stroke engines, stone pyramids, or even a simple wheel. Technological innovation and improvement seem to be uniquely human traits, despite culture and ample tool use in chimpanzees and other animals. New research on children and chimpanzees might explain why. "For culture to accumulate – to become more and more complex – requires innovations and one of the first ways in which hominins clearly went beyond chimpanzees was in making stone tools," says Andrew Whiten, a psychologist at St Andrew's University, UK. He and researchers in Germany argue that this difference comes down to the distinct ways in which humans and chimpanzees learn new tricks from others. Eyes on the prize For chimpanzees, culturally transmitted skills tend to focus on food, whether cracking nuts with rocks, or fishing insects out of the dirt with sticks. Overwhelming evidence now suggests that chimpanzees pass these traditions onto their brethren. For instance, individuals in Ta National Park in Ivory Coast feast on nuts, while chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania ignore them. Less clear is what chimpanzees learn by watching another animal demonstrate a new trick. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 13085 - Posted: 06.24.2010

by Ewen Callaway Human intelligence may not be so human after all. New research on monkeys finds that individual animals perform consistently on numerous different tests of intelligence – a hallmark of human IQ and, perhaps, an indication that human intellect has a very ancient history. No doubt, the human brain has bulged in the six million or so years since our species last shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees, offering more cognitive prowess compared to our closest relatives. But traces of human intelligence, such as a sense of numbers, or the ability to use tools, lurk in a wide range of animals, particularly in other primates. Less clear, though, is whether animals possess the same kind of general intelligence as humans: where performance on one facet, say verbal, strongly predicts performance on other tests of intelligence like working memory. "We were essentially looking for evidence of a general intelligence factor – something that would be an evolutionary homologue of what we see in humans," says Konika Banerjee, a psychologist at Harvard University who led the new study along with colleague Marc Hauser. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 0: ; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 12957 - Posted: 06.24.2010

by Ewen Callaway For decades scientists have tried, mostly in vain, to explain where intelligence resides in our brains. The answer, a new study suggests, is everywhere. After analysing the brain as an incredibly dense network of interconnected points, a team of Dutch scientists has found that the most efficiently wired brains tend to belong to the most intelligent people. And improving this efficiency with drugs offers a tantalising – though still unproven – means of boosting intelligence, say researchers. The concept of a networked brain isn't so different from the transportation grids used by cars and planes, says Martijn van den Heuvel, a neuroscientist at Utrecht University Medical Center who led the new study. "If you're flying from New York to Amsterdam, you can do it in a direct flight. It's much more effective than going from New York, then to Washington, and then to Amsterdam. It's exactly the same idea in the brain," he says. Instead of airports, van den Heuvel's team mapped the communications between tiny slivers of brain measured by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. Rather than scan the brains of subjects performing mental tasks, as most fMRI studies do, researchers took 8-minute-long snapshots of the brains of 19 volunteers, as they did nothing in particular. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 17: Learning and Memory; Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 12942 - Posted: 06.24.2010

by Ewen Callaway In addition to checking blood pressure and heart rate, doctors may want to test their patients' IQs to get a good measure of overall health. A new study of 3654 Vietnam War veterans finds that men with lower IQs are more likely to suffer from dozens of health problems – from hernias, to ear inflammation, to cataracts – compared with those showing greater intelligence. This offers tantalising – yet preliminary – evidence that health and intelligence are the result of common genetic factors, and that low intelligence may be an indication of harmful genetic mutations. "It poses the question to epidemiologists: why is it that intelligence is a predictor for things that seem so very far removed from the brain," says Rosalind Arden, a psychologist at King's College London, who led the study. Lifestyle choices One obvious counter-argument is that intelligent people make healthier choices. "You could say: 'look, brighter people make better health decisions – they give up smoking when they find it's bad for you, they take up exercise when they find out its good for you, and they eat a lot of salad'," Arden says. That's probably true, she says, yet her team found that indicators of healthy living, such as a low body mass index and not smoking, do not correlate with overall health of veterans as well as several tests of intelligence. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 12835 - Posted: 06.24.2010

Emma Young Crows seem to be able to use causal reasoning to solve a problem, a feat previously undocumented in any other non-human animal, including chimps. Alex Taylor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and his team presented six New Caledonian crows with a series of "trap-tube" tests. A choice morsel of food was placed in a horizontal Perspex tube, which also featured two round holes in the underside, with Perspex traps below. For most of the tests, one of the holes was sealed, so the food could be dragged across it with a stick and out of the tube to be eaten. The other hole was left open, trapping the food if the crows moved it the wrong way. Three of the crows solved the task consistently, even after the team modified the appearance of the equipment. This suggested that these crows weren't using arbitrary features – such as the colour of the rim of a hole – to guide their behaviour. Instead they seemed to understand that if they dragged food across a hole, they would lose it. To investigate further, the team presented the crows with a wooden table, divided into two compartments. A treat was at the end of each compartment, but in one, it was positioned behind a rectangular trap hole. To get the snack, the crow had to consistently choose to retrieve food from the compartment without the hole. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 12054 - Posted: 06.24.2010

We humans have the ability to learn, to reason and solve problems. We're self-aware, and we’re also conscious of the presence, thoughts and feelings of others. We make tools and practice the art of deception. We're creative. We think abstractly. We have language and use it to express complex ideas. All of these are arguably signs of intelligence. Scientists may not agree on the best and fullest definition of intelligence – but they generally agree that humans are highly intelligent. Other members of the animal kingdom exhibit signs of intelligence as well, and some scientists might say the definition of animal vs. human intelligence is merely a matter of degree – a point that was brought home in 2005 when the London Zoo put “Homo sapiens” on display in the exhibit pictured here. Click the "Next" arrow above to learn about nine other species that stand out for their smarts. © 2008 MicrosoftMSN

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 11640 - Posted: 06.24.2010

Bigger brained birds have a better chance of survival, according to a study that looked at the mortality rates of 200 bird species around the world. Daniel Sol at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain and colleagues looked for a correlation between two factors. The first factor was the birds' mortality – a measure of how likely individuals are to survive from one year to the next using data from tagged birds – and their brain-to-body-weight ratio. Statistical analysis showed that birds with bigger brains relative to their weight were more likely to survive, which could explain why birds with small brains, such as pheasants, find it harder to avoid a moving car than those with larger brains, such as magpies. The finding may seem intuitive, but it is not necessarily about birds with bigger brains being “smarter” than others. In fact, Sol is not sure what makes bigger-brained birds more likely to survive, but reckons it has something to do with their ability to better adapt to changes to their environment. This idea is called the "cognitive buffer hypothesis" and was originally put forward to explain why animals – humans included – have evolved larger brains, despite the resource cost of developing and maintaining that brain. Previous research suggests that species with larger brains have more flexible behaviours, Sol says. Indeed, in 2005 he and colleagues observed birds inventing new foraging behaviours to adapt to changing environments: swallows feeding on insects attracted to street lights, for instance, or birds adopting new types of food (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, DOI:10.1073/pnas.0408145102). © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 9828 - Posted: 06.24.2010

Jim Giles Researchers say that a remarkable data set on the developing brain adds to the idea that IQ is a meaningful concept in neuroscience. The study, which is published on page 676 of this issue, suggests that performance in IQ tests is associated with changes in the brain during adolescence. Claims that IQ is a valid measure of intelligence tend to attract angry responses, in part because of studies that have attempted to link group differences in IQ with race. In their 1994 book The Bell Curve, political scientist Charles Murray and psychologist Richard Herrnstein argued that the lower-income status of some US ethnic minorities was linked to below-average IQ scores among those groups. These were in turn attributed to mainly genetic factors. Before that, Harvard University entomologist Edward Wilson provoked outrage with work that proposed evolutionary explanations for human behaviour and individual differences in intelligence; critics called the work racist. And this month, the journal Intelligence printed an editorial note defending its policy regarding the publication of controversial papers. The note comes after a study linking IQ and skin colour (D. I. Templer and H. Arikawa Intelligence 34, 121–139; 2006), published online last November, prompted a string of complaints from scientists. ©2006 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 8733 - Posted: 06.24.2010

Waltham, Mass. – A Brandeis University researcher has shown that an African grey parrot with a walnut-sized brain understands a numerical concept akin to zero – an abstract notion that humans don't typically understand until age three or four, and that can significantly challenge learning-disabled children Strikingly, Alex, the 28-year-old parrot who lives in a Brandeis lab run by comparative psychologist and cognitive scientist Dr. Irene Pepperberg, spontaneously and correctly used the label "none" during a testing session of his counting skills to describe an absence of a numerical quantity on a tray. This discovery prompted a series of trials in which Alex consistently demonstrated the ability to identify zero quantity by saying the label "none." Dr. Pepperberg's research findings, published in the current issue of The Journal of Comparative Psychology, add to a growing body of scientific evidence that the avian brain, though physically and organizationally somewhat different from the mammalian cortex, is capable of higher cognitive processing than previously thought. Chimpanzees and possibly squirrel monkeys show some understanding of the concept of zero, but Alex is the first bird to demonstrate an understanding of the absence of a numerical set, Dr. Pepperberg noted. "It is doubtful that Alex's achievement, or those of some other animals such as chimps, can be completely trained; rather, it seems likely that these skills are based on simpler cognitive abilities they need for survival, such as recognition of more versus less," explained Dr. Pepperberg.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 7611 - Posted: 06.24.2010

RICHMOND, Va. – People with bigger brains are smarter than their smaller-brained counterparts, according to a study conducted by a Virginia Commonwealth University researcher published in the journal “Intelligence.” The study, published on line June 16, could settle a long-standing scientific debate about the relationship between brain size and intelligence. Ever since German anatomist and physiologist Frederick Tiedmann wrote in 1836 that there exists “an indisputable connection between the size of the brain and the mental energy displayed by the individual man,” scientists have been searching for biological evidence to prove his claim. “For all age and sex groups, it is now very clear that brain volume and intelligence are related,” said lead researcher Michael A. McDaniel, Ph.D., an industrial and organizational psychologist who specializes in the study of intelligence and other predictors of job performance. The study is the most comprehensive of its kind, drawing conclusions from 26 previous – mostly recent – international studies involving brain volume and intelligence. It was only five years ago, with the increased use of MRI-based brain assessments, that more data relating to brain volume and intelligence became available.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 7520 - Posted: 06.24.2010

By Patrik Jonsson | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor RALEIGH, N.C. – Hardly articulate, the tiny strangleweed, a pale parasitic plant, can sense the presence of friends, foes, and food, and make adroit decisions on how to approach them. Mustard weed, a common plant with a six-week life cycle, can't find its way in the world if its root-tip statolith - a starchy "brain" that communicates with the rest of the plant - is cut off. The ground-hugging mayapple plans its growth two years into the future, based on computations of weather patterns. And many who visit the redwoods of the Northwest come away awed by the trees' survival for millenniums - a journey that, for some trees, precedes the Parthenon. As trowel-wielding scientists dig up a trove of new findings, even those skeptical of the evolving paradigm of "plant intelligence" acknowledge that, down to the simplest magnolia or fern, flora have the smarts of the forest. Some scientists say they carefully consider their environment, speculate on the future, conquer territory and enemies, and are often capable of forethought - revelations that could affect everyone from gardeners to philosophers. Indeed, extraordinary new findings on how plants investigate and respond to their environments are part of a sprouting debate over the nature of intelligence itself. Copyright © 2005 The Christian Science Monitor.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 6966 - Posted: 06.24.2010

Ethan Remmel When I teach about the mind/body issue, I am often struck by how many of my students are dualists. I'm not talking about modern hedged positions such as property dualism or explanatory dualism; I'm talking about good old–fashioned Cartesian substance dualism, which maintains that our physical bodies/brains are inhabited by immaterial souls/minds and that body and soul are intimately linked, yet distinct and dissociable (at death, for example, when the soul may depart the body). And these students are not wild–eyed religious evangelists; they are sober–minded science majors. I pose what seem to me to be serious problems with this position: For example, how could material and immaterial substances interact? But many of these students seem unable even to see the problem. I end up perplexed by their lack of perplexity. Paul Bloom has an explanation. In his new book, Descartes' Baby, he maintains that dualism is innate—that is, not learned. We naturally see the world as containing both material objects, which are governed by physical laws, and mental entities, whose behavior is intentional and goal–directed. Some things in the world, such as people, can be seen either way, as physical bodies or as intentional agents. However, as Bloom describes, we tend toward the latter interpretation whenever possible, even attributing intentions to animated shapes on a computer screen if they move in certain ways. According to Bloom, dualism is the product not of nurture but of nature—specifically, evolution by natural selection. It was adaptive for our ancestors to be able to predict the behavior of physical objects and social creatures (especially conspecifics). © Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Link ID: 6016 - Posted: 06.24.2010