Chapter 1. An Introduction to Brain and Behavior

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By JAMES GORMAN Recently someone (my boss, actually) mentioned to me that I wrote more articles about dogs than I did about cats and asked why. My first thought, naturally, was that it had nothing to do with the fact that I have owned numerous dogs and no cats, but rather reflected the amount of research done by scientists on the animals. After all, I’ll write about any interesting findings, and I like cats just fine, even if I am a dog person. Two of my adult children have cats, and I would hate for them to think I was paying them insufficient attention. (Hello Bailey! Hello Tawny! — Those are the cats, not the children.) But I figured I should do some reporting, so I emailed Elinor Karlsson at the Broad Institute and the University of Massachusetts. She is a geneticist who owns three cats, but does much of her research on dogs — the perfect unbiased observer. Her research, by the way, is about dog genomes. She gets dog DNA from owners who send in their pets’ saliva samples. The research I have been interested in and writing about involves evolution, domestication, current genetics and behavior. And the questions are of the What-is-a-dog-really? variety. Dogs and cats have also been used as laboratory animals in invasive experiments, but I wasn’t asking about which animal is more popular for those. I had gotten to know Dr. Karlsson a bit while reporting on research she was doing on wolves. I asked her whether there was indeed more research on dogs than cats, and if so, why? “Ooo, that is an interesting question!” she wrote back. “Way more interesting than the various grant-related emails that are filling up my inbox. “The research has lagged behind in cats. I think they’re taken less seriously than dogs, probably to do with societal biases. I have a vet in my group who thinks that many of the cancers in cats may actually be better models for human cancer, but there has been almost no research into them.” Better models than cancers in dogs, that is. Dogs do get many of the same cancers as humans, but in dogs the risk for these cancers often varies by breed, which narrows the target down when looking for the cause of a disease. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24694 - Posted: 02.26.2018

Sarah Webb Four years ago, scientists from Google showed up on neuroscientist Steve Finkbeiner’s doorstep. The researchers were based at Google Accelerated Science, a research division in Mountain View, California, that aims to use Google technologies to speed scientific discovery. They were interested in applying ‘deep-learning’ approaches to the mountains of imaging data generated by Finkbeiner’s team at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease in San Francisco, also in California. Deep-learning algorithms take raw features from an extremely large, annotated data set, such as a collection of images or genomes, and use them to create a predictive tool based on patterns buried inside. Once trained, the algorithms can apply that training to analyse other data, sometimes from wildly different sources. The technique can be used to “tackle really hard, tough, complicated problems, and be able to see structure in data — amounts of data that are just too big and too complex for the human brain to comprehend”, Finkbeiner says. He and his team produce reams of data using a high-throughput imaging strategy known as robotic microscopy, which they had developed for studying brain cells. But the team couldn’t analyse its data at the speed it acquired them, so Finkbeiner welcomed the opportunity to collaborate. “I can’t honestly say at the time that I had a clear grasp of what questions might be addressed with deep learning, but I knew that we were generating data at about twice to three times the rate we could analyse it,” he says. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Robotics
Link ID: 24684 - Posted: 02.21.2018

By David Grimm ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN—If they weren't in the windowless basement of a cavernous biomedical research building, the "Aquatic Suites" might sound like a cushy vacation destination. But the zebrafish here at the University of Michigan (UM) still have it pretty good. In a large room full of aquaria, the striped, pinkie-size swimmers flit past fake green plants, white plastic tunnels, and multicolored marbles that may remind them of the bottoms of lakes and streams. These simple accoutrements are a luxury for creatures typically housed with little more than food and the water they swim in. And the enrichments may make the animals better at what they do: serving as important models for human disease. For decades, lab animals such as rodents and fish have lived in barren enclosures: a small plastic box, few—if any—companions, and little else. The smaller the number of variables, the thinking went, the greater the accuracy of the experiment. But a growing number of studies suggests that this approach may have backfired. Only one in nine drugs that works in animals ever succeeds in human clinical trials, and labs often struggle to reproduce one another's results. Could the environment these creatures live in be part of the problem? That's what a new group of advocates argues. "We're trying to control these animals so much, they're no longer useful," says Joseph Garner, a behavioral scientist who runs a program to improve the value and welfare of lab animals at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. "If we want animals to tell us about stuff that's going to happen in people, we need to treat them more like people." © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24630 - Posted: 02.08.2018

by William Wan Last year, the National Institutes of Health announced plans to tighten its rules for all research involving humans — including new requirements for scientists studying human behavior — and touched off a panic. Some of the country’s biggest scientific associations, including the American Psychological Association and Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, penned impassioned letters over the summer warning that the new policies could slow scientific progress, increase red tape and present obstacles for researchers working in smaller labs with less financial and administrative resources to deal with the added requirements. More than 3,500 scientists signed an open letter to NIH director Francis Collins. The new rules are scheduled to take effect Thursday. They will have a big impact on how research is conducted, especially in fields like psychology and neuroscience. NIH distributes more than $32 billion each year, making it the largest public funder of biomedical and health research in the world, and the rules apply to any NIH-supported work that studies human subjects and is evaluating the effects of interventions on health or behavior. In the biggest change, many studies that investigators previously considered basic research will now be considered clinical trials. That means those studies will be subject to the same stringent rules and reporting requirements demanded of traditional clinical trials, such as those that test the efficacy and dangers of a new drug or medical procedure. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24604 - Posted: 02.02.2018

Sara Reardon The research chimpanzees owned or supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) are ready to retire — but nearly 300 are still stuck in 3 US research facilities, awaiting spots at the country’s only federally funded sanctuary. Moving has proved too much for some of the chimps that have already been relocated, most of which were elderly or had chronic diseases. And in the wake of multiple deaths of sanctuary newcomers between 2015 and 2016, the agency is now rethinking how it assesses the primates’ fitness for travel. The NIH will form a working group to develop recommendations for veterinarians to consider when determining whether or not to move a chimpanzee, said James Anderson, director of the NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, at an advisory-council meeting on 26 January in Bethesda, Maryland. “We will move every chimp that is possible while respecting its welfare,” Anderson told the group. The announcement suggests that the NIH might be reassessing its chimp-retirement plans, which have been criticized by scientists who want to continue using the animals in non-invasive research, and by groups who think that the agency is moving too slowly on relocation. Only 78 have been transferred to the sanctuary since 2015. Under US law, the government’s retired chimps can be moved only to a federally funded sanctuary, and just one such facility exists: Chimp Haven in Keithville, Louisiana. According to the NIH’s retirement plans, all of its chimps would be relocated to the sanctuary by 2026 (see ‘Research chimpanzees’). © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24598 - Posted: 02.01.2018

Harriet Dempsey-Jones Nobody really believes that the shape of our heads are a window into our personalities anymore. This idea, known as “phrenonolgy”, was developed by the German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796 and was hugely popular in the 19th century. Today it is often remembered for its dark history – being misused in its later days to back racist and sexist stereoptypes, and its links with Nazi “eugenics”. But despite the fact that it has fallen into disrepute, phrenology as a science has never really been subjected to rigorous, neuroscientific testing. That is, until now. Researchers at the University of Oxford have hacked their own brain scanning software to explore – for the first time – whether there truly is any correspondence between the bumps and contours of your head and aspects of your personality. The results have recently been published in an open science archive, but have also been submitted to the journal Cortex. But why did phrenologists think that bumps on your head might be so informative? Their enigmatic claims were based around a few general principles. Phrenologists believed the brain was comprised of separate “organs” responsible for different aspects of the mind, such as for self-esteem, cautiousness and benevolence. They also thought of the brain like a muscle – the more you used a particular organ the more it would grow in size (hypertrophy), and less used faculties would shrink. The skull would then mould to accommodate these peaks and troughs in the brain’s surface – providing an indirect reflection of the brain, and thus, the dominant features of an person’s character. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 24554 - Posted: 01.23.2018

Ashley Juavinett Objectivity may be science’s holy grail, but the experiences of its practitioners have a large effect. Here are first-person essays from the front... Being a neuroscientist means I have a lot of awkward conversations in Home Depot. “What do you need it for?” the sales guy inquires after I ask where I might find Kapton tape, a special polyimide tape to protect electronics. “… an experiment,” I sheepishly answer. “Yeah, but like, what, exactly?” I pause. I’m usually eager to explain that I’m a neuroscientist who wants to know how the brain combines information to make decisions. I started my career by measuring the activity in large sections of human brains, but these coarse snapshots didn’t answer my questions. My questions, like this eager employee’s, required a more technical level of explanation. It’s a level of explanation I’m reluctant to offer. I do research with animals, and those parts of my job are hard to talk about. I need the tape to protect an electronic recording device that I’ve implanted on a mouse’s head, so that I can listen to hundreds of neurons in its brain. “I need it to protect some electronics,” I offer the Home Depot guy. Vague, but sufficient.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24509 - Posted: 01.10.2018

By David Z. Hambrick, Madeline Marquardt There are advantages to being smart. People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence—IQ tests—tend to be more successful in the classroom and the workplace. Although the reasons are not fully understood, they also tend to live longer, healthier lives, and are less likely to experience negative life events such as bankruptcy. Now there’s some bad news for people in the right tail of the IQ bell curve. In a study just published in the journal Intelligence, Pitzer College researcher Ruth Karpinski and her colleagues emailed a survey with questions about psychological and physiological disorders to members of Mensa. A “high IQ society”, Mensa requires that its members have an IQ in the top two percent. For most intelligence tests, this corresponds to an IQ of about 132 or higher. (The average IQ of the general population is 100.) The survey of Mensa’s highly intelligent members found that they were more likely to suffer from a range of serious disorders. The survey covered mood disorders (depression, dysthymia, and bipolar), anxiety disorders (generalized, social, and obsessive-compulsive), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and autism. It also covered environmental allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. Respondents were asked to report whether they had ever been formally diagnosed with each disorder, or suspected they suffered from it. With a return rate of nearly 75%, Karpinski and colleagues compared the percentage of the 3,715 respondents who reported each disorder to the national average. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Intelligence; Depression
Link ID: 24397 - Posted: 12.06.2017

By John Horgan Years ago I was surfcasting on an ocean beach and caught a big, beautiful striped bass. My daughter and son, who were 8 and 10, respectively, were nearby. I held the fish up and yelled, Look kids, I caught dinner! Skye, my daughter, burst into tears and pleaded with me to let the fish go. I tried to josh her out of her mood, in vain. I assured her that I’d been catching fish like this since I was a boy, fish don’t really feel pain, they’re just fish, they’re like swimming machines. Skye was unconvinced. I said I would stick a knife into the fish’s brain now to put it out of its misery. Dumb move! Skye shrieked in horror and begged me not to kill the fish. By now, other people on the beach, attracted by the commotion, had gathered around the weeping girl and mean man. This traumatic—for me!—scene came back to me when I attended “Animal Consciousness” at New York University last weekend. I’m trying to wrap up a book on the mind-body problem, so I really didn’t have the time to attend the meeting. But I couldn’t resist going, and now I can’t resist firing off a quick report. Advertisement Philosopher David Chalmers, one of the conference organizers, kicked the meeting off by noting that many researchers are investigating whether non-human animals are conscious. If animals are capable of consciousness, he said, they can suffer, and that should matter to us. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24357 - Posted: 11.25.2017

By JAMES GORMAN and CHRISTOPHER WHITWORTH Cockatoos are smart birds, and the Goffin’s cockatoos in a Vienna lab are among the smartest. In an experiment reported about a year ago, they turned out to be real stars at making tools from a variety of materials in order to get a treat. In a new study, researchers tested the birds’ ability to match shapes using an apparatus reminiscent of a child’s toy. The birds had to put a square tile into a square hole and more complicated, asymmetrical shapes into matching holes. If they were successful, they got a treat. Cornelia Habl, a master’s student at the University of Vienna, and Alice M. I. Auersperg, a researcher at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, ran several experiments. They reported in the journal PLOS One that the cockatoos were not only able to match the shapes to the holes, but did much better than monkeys or chimpanzees. “It was thought to be an exclusively human ability for a long time,” Ms. Habl said. Tests of matching shapes are used to mark milestones in child development. Babies can put a sphere into the right hole at age 1, but they can’t place a cube until age 2. From there, they continue to improve. Some primates can do similar tasks, although they need a lot of basic training to get up to speed before they can use the experimental apparatus, called a key box. The birds jumped right in without any training and excelled. “Compared to primates, the cockatoos performed very well,” Ms. Habl said. Why are they so good? In the wild, they haven’t been observed using tools. But they are generalists, foragers who take whatever food they can find. They are adaptable enough to do well in some urban areas in Australia, Ms. Habl said. To succeed in a variety of environments eating a variety of foods, “they have to be very, very flexible.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Evolution; Intelligence
Link ID: 24344 - Posted: 11.21.2017

Tania Lombrozo In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce describes the mind as "a mysterious form of matter secreted by the brain," engaged in a futile attempt to understand itself "with nothing but itself to know itself with." Questions about the limits of self-understanding have persisted long after Bierce's 1911 publication. One user on Quora asks: "Is the human brain intelligent enough to fully understand itself?" A satirical headline at The Onion reports that psychology has come to a halt as "weary researchers say the mind cannot possibly study itself." Despite such doubts, the science of the mind has made enormous advances over the last century. Yet many questions remain, along with the more foundational worry that motivated Bierce. Are there fundamental limits to what science can explain about the human mind? Can science truly explain consciousness and love, morality and religious belief? And why do topics like these seem especially ineffable — further beyond the scope of scientific explanation than more mundane psychological phenomena, such as forgetting a name or recognizing a face? Psychology PhD student Sara Gottlieb and I decided to find out. In a series of studies forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, we asked hundreds of participants to tell us whether they thought it was possible for science to one day fully explain various aspects of the human mind, from depth perception and memory loss to spirituality and romantic love. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24342 - Posted: 11.21.2017

Jon Hamilton The Society for Neuroscience meeting is taking place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. Researchers there are focusing on how to find the biological underpinnings of mental disorders. MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: More than 30,000 brain scientists are in Washington, D.C., this week attending the Society for Neuroscience meeting. One of the hot topics this year is mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia and autism. NPR science correspondent Jon Hamilton has just come from the meeting to talk about some of what he's been seeing and hearing. Hi, John. Thanks for coming. JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: Hi. MARTIN: So how does this work contribute to understanding mental disorders in people? HAMILTON: Twenty years ago, I'd say it didn't contribute much, but things are really changing. And I was really surprised. I was going through the abstracts to this year's meeting, and there were nearly a thousand papers that mentioned depression. There were 500 that mentioned schizophrenia or autism. And just this morning, there was this study on how - looking at the brain tissue of people with obsessive compulsive disorder and how it's different. So the fields of brain science and mental health are converging. And I think the reason is that brain scientists are finally beginning to figure out how the biology works, the biology that underlies mental health problems. So I was talking to a scientist at the meeting. His name is Robbie Greene. He's a psychiatrist, but he's also a lab scientist at UT Southwestern in Dallas. And he was telling me that neuroscience is now at a point where it can help psychiatrists and psychologists understand all of those things that are happening in the brain that we're not conscious of. Here's what he told me. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24324 - Posted: 11.13.2017

By Lena H. Sun Experts who work on the mosquito-borne West Nile virus have long known that it can cause serious neurological symptoms, such as memory problems and tremors, when it invades the brain and spinal cord. Now researchers have found physical evidence of brain damage in patients years after their original infection, the first such documentation using magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. Brain scans revealed damage or shrinkage in different parts of the cerebral cortex, the outer part of the brain that handles higher-level abilities such as memory, attention and language. “Those areas correlated exactly with what we were seeing on the neurological exams,” said Kristy Murray, an associate professor of pediatric tropical medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine and lead author of the study. “The thought is that the virus enters the brain and certain parts are more susceptible, and where those susceptibilities are is where we see the shrinkage occurring.” Results of the study, which has not yet been published, were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The 10-year study of 262 West Nile patients is one of the largest assessments studying the long-term health problems associated with West Nile infections. Most people who are infected do not develop symptoms. About 20 percent will develop fever, and less than 1 percent have the most severe type of infection that causes inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24309 - Posted: 11.09.2017

By Emily Underwood In 2003, neurologist Helen Mayberg of Emory University in Atlanta began to test a bold, experimental treatment for people with severe depression, which involved implanting metal electrodes deep in the brain in a region called area 25. The initial data were promising; eventually, they convinced a device company, St. Jude Medical in Saint Paul, to sponsor a 200-person clinical trial dubbed BROADEN. This month, however, Lancet Psychiatry reported the first published data on the trial’s failure. The study stopped recruiting participants in 2012, after a 6-month study in 90 people failed to show statistically significant improvements between those receiving active stimulation and a control group, in which the device was implanted but switched off. Although that decision was “game over” for BROADEN, the story wasn’t finished for some 44 patients who asked to keep the implants in their brains, and the clinicians responsible for their long-term care, Mayberg explained last week to colleagues at a meeting on the ethical dilemmas of brain stimulation research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. The episode highlights a tricky dilemma for companies and research teams involved in deep brain stimulation (DBS) research: If trial participants want to keep their implants, who will take responsibility—and pay—for their ongoing care? And participants in last week’s meeting said it underscores the need for the growing corps of DBS researchers to think long-term about their planned studies. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24276 - Posted: 11.01.2017

By Warren Cornwall For years, scientists and universities have complained about the patchwork of U.S. regulations governing the welfare of animals used in research. Studies involving rabbits and larger mammals, for example, are overseen chiefly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. Federally funded studies of rats, mice, and birds are subject to different rules and a different overseer, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Many privately funded animal studies, meanwhile, get relatively little federal oversight. “It’s a crazy quilt,” says Ross McKinney, chief science officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, D.C. Now, AAMC and three allied groups are pushing for sweeping changes to animal research rules. In a report released this week, the groups call for moving all oversight to a single, unnamed agency, conducting less frequent lab inspections, and giving researchers greater say in crafting new rules. The changes would ensure “that we’re protecting the research animals,” McKinney says. “But we want to do so in a way that’s consistent, coherent, and effective.” The political climate is ripe for reform, with a new law calling for federal officials to streamline regulation of animal research and a White House that dislikes regulations. But many of the recommendations aren’t sitting well with groups concerned about animal research. “It’s clear this would negatively impact animal welfare,” says Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues at The Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. The changes would water down government oversight, the critics charge, and give researchers too much say over how their work is regulated. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24239 - Posted: 10.25.2017

By Corinna Hartmann, Andreas Jahn Medical historians have recently published accounts that show neurologists were indeed complicit with the Nazis—and became victims if they were classified as “non-Aryan. Heiner Fangerau, who teaches the history and ethics of medicine at University Hospital Düsseldorf—along with colleagues Michael Martin at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf and Axel Karenberg from the University of Cologne—undertook extensive research on neurologists during the Third Reich for the German Society of Neurology. Fangerau discussed new findings with Corinna Hartmann and Andreas Jahn of Gehirn&Geist, the psychology and neuroscience specialty publication of Spektrum der Wissenschaft, and the German sister publication of Scientific American. An edited transcript of the interview follows. Professor Fangerau, your research project examines the role played by neurologists during the Nazi period. Why is this only happening 70 years after the fact? Advertisement There were several different phases in which people dealt with National Socialism after World War II. Immediately after 1945 the Allies pursued a policy of denazification. After that German society as a whole attempted to suppress its dark past. Many members of the next generation, however, found it impossible to close their eyes: Students in the 1968 movement were angry that their parents were unwilling to deal openly with the “Third Reich.” The medical specialties took even longer to begin working through the past. As a result, their reappraisal of the crimes committed began only in the 1980s. Part of the reason why historical research into neurology has only been conducted systematically over the past several years is that neurology and psychiatry were forced into the same disciplinary framework in 1935. Before then neurology had begun to separate from psychiatry. The basic idea was to leave psychological phenomena that are difficult to understand to the psychiatrists and to concentrate on disorders that are anatomically demonstrable. The National Socialists nullified this effort. They believed that they could control these medical specialties more effectively if they brought them together in the Society of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists, which was dominated by psychiatrists committed to the ideology of racial hygiene. The chairman of the society was Ernst Rüdin, a psychiatrist. As a result, neurology has come to be viewed as less implicated. Historical research conducted since the late 1980s, however, paints a very different picture. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24238 - Posted: 10.25.2017

Nell Greenfieldboyce In a small, windowless room at Johns Hopkins University, pigtail macaques jump around in cages. The braver ones reach out between the metal bars to accept pieces of apricot with their long fingers. In one cage, a monkey hangs back in the corner. At first it looks like he's all alone in there, until veterinarian Bob Adams points out, "No, he's got a friend." Another monkey is clinging to his back, almost hidden. Not too long ago, these guys wouldn't have had a pal to hold on to. Like humans, monkeys are social animals. But for two decades, researchers here routinely put animals in separate cages after experimentally infecting them with a monkey form of HIV. The concern was that cagemates might swap viruses and mess up the science. Then, a few years ago, Adams urged the research team to try pairing up the animals. It's worked out great, and now each cage houses two buddies. "Part of the realization that people are coming to is not just that it's not a problem, but that it actually helps to improve the science," says Kelly Metcalf Pate, who uses these monkeys to study how HIV can evade treatment. Loneliness can suppress the immune system, Pate notes, and being alone is not what most infected humans experience. "The majority of patients, regardless of disease that we're looking at, aren't living in isolation," she says. But many lab monkeys do live in cages alone. Last year, 109,821 primates were held in research facilities across the United States, according to data collected by the government. Some of those animals were kept for breeding or other non-experimental purposes, but the majority were used to study everything from cancer to diabetes to addiction. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24206 - Posted: 10.18.2017

Barbara J. King In 1981, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man hit the presses. A take-down of studies purporting to demonstrate that the intelligence of humans is genetically determined — and that some human groups (read "white Western Europeans") are innately superior — the book exposed interpretive bias and scientific racism in the measurement of human intelligence. Different environmental histories across human groups, in fact, affect testing outcomes in significant ways: There is no innate superiority due to genes. The Mismeasure of Man ignited ferocious discussion (and the occasional subsequent correction) that has continued even in recent years across biology, anthropology, psychology and philosophy: Its argument mattered not only for how we do science, but how science entangles with issues of social justice. Now, psychologists David A. Leavens of the University of Sussex, Kim A. Bard of the University of Portsmouth, and William D. Hopkins of Georgia State University have framed their new Animal Cognition article, "The mismeasure of ape social cognition," around Gould's book. Ape (especially chimpanzee) social intelligence, the authors say, has been routinely mismeasured because apes are tested in comprehensively different circumstances from the children with whom they are compared — and against whose performance theirs is found to be lacking. Leavens et al. write: "All direct ape-human comparisons that have reported human superiority in cognitive function have universally failed to match the groups on testing environment, test preparation, sampling protocols, and test procedures." © 2017 npr

Keyword: Evolution; Intelligence
Link ID: 24123 - Posted: 09.29.2017

By Laurie McGinley The Food and Drug Administration has suspended experiments on the effects of nicotine in squirrel monkeys, research aimed at better understanding one of the most pernicious of addictions. Two weeks ago, British primatologist Jane Goodall wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, urging an end to what she called “cruel and unnecessary” and “shameful” research. On Monday, he responded, saying that he had put a hold on the study this month “after learning of concerns related to the study you referenced.” He also said he has sent a medical team of primate experts to the FDA facility — the National Center for Toxicological Research in Arkansas — “to evaluate the safety and well-being of the monkeys and to understand whether there are additional precautions needed.” The research involved training adolescent and adult squirrel monkeys to press a lever to give themselves infusions of nicotine. Four monkeys in the studies, which began in 2014, have died, according to people close to the situation. The deaths are still being investigated, but nicotine overdose isn't seen as the likely cause. Gottlieb also told Goodall that he has appointed an FDA team, including senior career officials and guided by primate veterinarians, to assess the “science and integrity” of the animal research process for the study and whether the research should be resumed. If the study is terminated, he said, the monkeys will be sent to an alternative location that can provide appropriate long-term care. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24110 - Posted: 09.26.2017

By Neuroskeptic A new paper asks why neuroscience hasn’t had more “impact on our daily lives.” The article, Neuroscience and everyday life: facing the translation problem, comes from Dutch researchers Jolien C. Francken and Marc Slors. It’s a thought-provoking piece, but it left me feeling that the authors are expecting too much from neuroscience. I don’t think insights from neuroscience are likely to change our lives any time soon. Francken and Slors describe a disconnect between neuroscience research and everyday life, which they dub the ‘translation problem’. The root of the problem, they say, is that while neuroscience uses words drawn from everyday experience – ‘lying’, ‘love’, ‘memory’, and so on – neuroscientists rarely use these terms in the usual sense. Instead, neuroscientists will study particular aspects of the phenomena in question, using particular (often highly artificial) experimental tasks. As a result, say Francken and Slors, the neuroscience of (say) ‘love’ does not directly relate to ‘love’ as the average person would use the word: We should be cautious in interpreting the outcomes of neuroscience experiments simply as, say, results about ‘lying ’, ‘free will ’, ‘love’, or any other folk-psychological category. How then can neuroscientific findings be translated in terms that speak to our practical concerns in a nonmisleading, non-naive way? They go on to discuss the nature of the translation problem in much more detail, as well as potential solutions.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24099 - Posted: 09.23.2017