Chapter 1. Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook

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By Neuroskeptic On this blog I usually focus on academic, scientific neuroscience. However, there is a big world outside the laboratory and, in the real world, the concepts of neuroscience are being used (and abused) in ways that would make any honest neuroscientist blush. In this post I’m going to focus on three recent examples of neuro-products: commercial products that are promoted as having some kind of neuroscience-based benefit. 1) Neuro Connect Golf Bands We’ll start out with a silly one. This product, full name Neuro Connect™ INFUSED Shaft Bands, costs $150 for a pack of ten bands. You’re supposed to place one of these bands just below the grip on your golf clubs. This will improve your golf swing by providing a ‘subtle energy connection’ between your club and your brain. Here’s how it works: “A field emitted by the shaft bands intersects with the central nervous system when the club is swung around the body. Swinging with an INFUSED shaft band immediately enhances the function of nerve receptors in muscles and joints.” Now, generally speaking, when an “energy field” interacts with your nerves, the result is rather painful, but Neuro Connect uses a special “subtle energy pattern” which has no known negative effects. I suspect the field has no positive effects either, and that it doesn’t exist. On their FAQ, under the heading of “Do you have any scientific proof the devices work?”, Neuro Connect admit that “credible peer-reviewed studies take years to complete” which I take as a roundabout way of saying “no”.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25336 - Posted: 08.16.2018

Laura Sanders To understand the human brain, take note of the rare, the strange and the downright spooky. That’s the premise of two new books, Unthinkable by science writer Helen Thomson and The Disordered Mind by neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel. Both books describe people with minds that don’t work the same way as everyone else’s. These are people who are convinced that they are dead, for instance; people whose mental illnesses lead to incredible art; people whose memories have been stolen by dementia; people who don’t forget anything. By scrutinizing these cases, the stories offer extreme examples of how the brain creates our realities. In the tradition of the late neurologist Oliver Sacks (SN: 10/14/17, p. 28), Thomson explores the experiences of nine people with unusual minds. She travels around the world to interview her subjects with compassion and curiosity. In England, she meets a man who, following a bathtub electrocution, became convinced that he was dead. (Every so often, he still feels “a little bit dead,” he tells Thomson.) In Los Angeles, she spends time with a 64-year-old man who can remember almost every day of his life in extreme detail. And in a frightening encounter in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, she interviews a man with schizophrenia who transmogrifies into a growling tiger. By visiting them in their element, Thomson presents these people not as parlor tricks, but as fully rendered human beings. Kandel chooses the brain disorders themselves as his subjects. He explains the current neuroscientific understanding of autism, depression and schizophrenia, for example, by weaving together the history of the research and human examples. His chapter on dementia and memory is particularly compelling, given his own Nobel Prize–winning role in revealing how brains form memories (SN: 10/14/00, p. 247). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25326 - Posted: 08.14.2018

Alison Abbott The two major neuroscience societies in the United States and Europe have joined forces to criticize the prestigious Max Planck Society (MPS) in Germany for its treatment of a world-renowned neuroscientist targeted by animal-rights activists. Nikos Logothetis, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (MPI-Biocyb) in Tübingen who used to run a primate laboratory, has been charged with mistreatment of animals after allegations made by animal-rights groups. When Logothetis was indicted in February, the MPS removed many of his responsibilities relating to animal research — despite the fact that a court has not yet ruled on those charges. Logothetis, who studies how the brain makes sense of the world, denies the allegations. In a strongly worded statement posted online on 3 August, the US Society for Neuroscience (SfN) and the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), which together represent more than 60,000 scientists, add to an outcry that has been gathering momentum since scientists at MPI-Biocyb made their concerns public in May. “FENS and SfN are extremely dismayed by the treatment of Professor Nikos Logothetis and his colleagues,” reads the joint statement. The MPS's actions set "an alarming precedent whereby institutions neglect to support affiliated scientists facing similar unproven accusations and disregard the presumption of innocence”, adds the statement. © 2018 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25309 - Posted: 08.08.2018

By David Grimm —As soon as the big yellow school bus pulls into the parking lot of the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) here, it’s clear that many of the high school students on board don’t know what they’ve signed up for. They know that science happens somewhere on this wooded, 70-hectare campus west of Portland—and that they may get to see monkeys—but everything else is a mystery. “Are we going to go into some giant underground lair?” asks a lanky sophomore in a hoodie, imagining that the center is set up like a video game or Jurassic Park. Diana Gordon is here to disabuse him of both notions. As the education and outreach coordinator of the country’s largest primate research center, she spends her days guiding students, Rotary clubs, and even wedding parties through the facility. Here, visitors see monkeys in their habitats and meet scientists—all while learning, Gordon hopes, that the animals are well-treated and the research is critical for human health. “If we don’t speak up, there’s only one side being heard,” she says. “The side that wants to shut us down.” That side has been racking up victories recently. In the past 6 months, animal activist groups have won bipartisan support in Congress to scuttle monkey and dog studies at top U.S. research facilities; they have also helped pass two state bills that compel researchers to adopt out lab animals at the end of experiments. The public itself seems to be turning against animal research: A Gallup poll released last year revealed that only 51% of U.S. adults find such studies morally acceptable, down from 65% in 2001. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Scienc

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25147 - Posted: 06.27.2018

By Lisa Feldman Barrett Jasanoff’s big message in “The Biological Mind” is you are not your brain. Or rather, you are not merely your brain — your body and the broader circumstances of your life also make you who you are. Jasanoff reminds us that the brain is not some mystical machine — it’s a gooey, bloody tangle of cells, dripping with chemicals. But we mythologize brains, creating false boundaries that divorce them from bodies and the outside world, blinding us to the biological nature of the mind. These divisions, Jasanoff contends, are why neuroscience has failed to make a real difference in anyone’s life. Unfortunately, the book’s own divisions between body versus brain, and nature versus nurture, reinforce the very dualisms that Jasanoff indicts. He gives examples of the ways our bodies and the world around us affect our thoughts, feelings and actions, but not how body and world become biologically embedded to constitute a mind. Missing is a discussion of how the workings of your body necessarily and irrevocably shape your brain’s structure and function, and vice versa. The artificial boundary between brain and world also goes largely unmentioned. In real life, the experiences we have from infancy onward impact the brain’s wiring. For example, childhood poverty and adversity fundamentally alter brain development, leaving an indelible mark that increases people’s risk of illness in adulthood. This is fascinating and profound stuff, but it mostly goes unexamined in Jasanoff’s book. Still, “The Biological Mind” is chock-full of fun facts that entertain. And best of all, it makes you think. I found myself debating with Jasanoff in my head as I read — surely a sign of a worthy book. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25143 - Posted: 06.26.2018

Paul Biegler explains. Mind-reading machines are now real, prising open yet another Pandora’s box for ethicists. As usual, there are promises of benefit and warnings of grave peril. The bright side was front and centre at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington DC in November 2017. It was part of a research presentation led by Omid Sani from the University of Southern California. Sani and his colleagues studied six people with epilepsy who had electrodes inserted into their brains to measure detailed electrical patterns. It is a common technique to help neurosurgeons find where seizures start. The study asked patients, who can be alert during the procedure, to report their mood during scanning. That allowed the researchers to link the patients’ moods with their brainwave readings. Using sophisticated algorithms, the team claimed to predict patients’ feelings from their brainwaves alone. That could drive a big shift in the treatment of mental illness, say researchers. Deep brain stimulation (DBS), where electrodes implanted in the brain give circuits a regular zap, has been successful in Parkinson’s disease. It is also being trialled in depression; but the results, according to a 2017 report in Lancet Psychiatry, are patchy. Sani and colleagues suggest their discovery could bump up that success rate. A portable brain decoder may be available within a generation.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 25136 - Posted: 06.25.2018

By Neuroskeptic Do scientists have a responsibility to make their work accessible to the public? “Public Engagement”, broadly speaking, means scientists communicating about science to non-scientists. Blogs are a form of public engagement, as are (non-academic) books. Holding public talks or giving interviews would also count as such. Recently, it has become fashionable to say that it is important for scientists to engage the public, and that this engagement should be encouraged. I agree completely: we do need to encourage it, and we need to overcome the old-fashioned view that it is somehow discreditable or unprofessional for scientists to fraternize with laypeople. However, some advocates of engagement go further than I’d like. It is sometimes said that every researcher actually has a responsibility to engage the public about the work that they do. Speaking about my own experience in neuroscience in the UK, this view is certainly in the air if not explicitly stated, and I think most researchers would agree. Public engagement and ‘broader impact’ sections now appear as mandatory sections of many grant applications, for instance. In my view, making public engagement a duty for all scientists is wrong. Quite simply, scientists are not trained to do public engagement, and it isn’t what they signed up to do when they chose that career. Some scientists (like me) want to do it anyway, and they should be encouraged (if I say so myself), but many don’t want to. Cajoling the latter into doing engagement is futile. A half-baked public engagement exercise helps no-one.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25133 - Posted: 06.25.2018

By David Grimm The environment a laboratory animal lives in can have a dramatic impact on whether it’s a good model for human disease. A mouse that lives in a shoebox-size cage, for example, gets less exercise than its wild relatives, and thus may not be the best model for studying obesity. Enriched environments with bigger cages and more toys can help, says Garet Lahvis, but the best way to make animals good models is to take them out of the lab—and, in some cases, study them outside in the great wide world. This could be accomplished with cutting-edge electronics and remote sensors, says the behavioral neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. He’s presenting his proposal today at the Behavior Genetics Association’s annual conference in Boston. Lahvis chatted with Science about what studying lab animals in the wild could look like, and why some researchers think it won’t happen. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Q: Why did you become interested in this idea? A: Our lab studies social behavior in mice. We’ve shown that mice have the capacity for empathy when they hear other mice getting an electrical shock, and that mice are gregarious—they like to hang out with each other. But we were studying them in these small, relatively sterile cages—not anything like they’d encounter in the wild. About 6 or 7 years ago, I started thinking, “How could it be normal for you to spend your entire life with only three other individuals in a small room? Are the mice we’re looking at really normal?” Once that door opened, I started to think about everything else that could go wrong with lab animal research. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25128 - Posted: 06.22.2018

By Meredith Wadman Breaking with a history of reticence, nearly 600 scientists, students, and lab animal workers published a letter in USA Today this morning that calls on U.S. research institutions to “embrace openness” about their animal research. “We should proudly explain how animals are used for the advancement of science and medicine, in the interest of the well-being of humans and animals,” the 592 signatories write in the letter. “From the development of insulin and transplant surgery to modern day advances, including gene therapies and cancer treatments; animals … continue to play a crucial role in both basic and applied research.” The letter was organized by the pro–animal research advocacy group Speaking of Research, which has offices in the both the United States and the United Kingdom. The group notes that four Nobel Prize–winning biologists are among the signatories: William Campbell, Mario Capecchi, Carol Greider, and Torsten Wiesel. It was also signed by students, lab technicians, veterinarians, physicians, and a few public policy experts. “I read the letter and decided within minutes that I would sign it,” says Greider, a biologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her discovery of the enzyme telomerase. “Animal research is very important to understanding fundamental biological mechanisms.” © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25114 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Aaron E. Carroll The medical research grant system in the United States, run through the National Institutes of Health, is intended to fund work that spurs innovation and fosters research careers. In many ways, it may be failing. It has been getting harder for researchers to obtain grant support. A study published in 2015 in JAMA showed that from 2004 to 2012, research funding in the United States increased only 0.8 percent year to year. It hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation; officials say the N.I.H. has lost about 23 percent of its purchasing power in a recent 12-year span. Because the money available for research doesn’t go as far as it used to, it now takes longer for scientists to get funding. The average researcher with an M.D. is 45 years old (for a Ph.D. it’s 42 years old) before she or he obtains that first R01 (think “big” grant). Given that R01-level funding is necessary to obtain promotion and tenure (not to mention its role in the science itself), this means that more promising researchers are washing out than ever before. Only about 20 percent of postdoctoral candidates who aim to earn a tenured position in a university achieve that goal. This new reality can be justified only if those who are weeded out really aren’t as good as those who remain. Are we sure that those who make it are better than those who don’t? A recent study suggests the grant-making system may be unreliable in distinguishing between grants that are funded versus those that get nothing — its very purpose. When a health researcher (like me) believes he has a good idea for a research study, he most often submits a proposal to the N.I.H. It’s not easy to do so. Grants are hard to write, take a lot of time, and require a lot of experience to obtain. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 25097 - Posted: 06.18.2018

by William Wan and Lenny Bernstein The National Institutes of Health on Friday canceled a mammoth study of moderate drinking after determining that officials had irrevocably compromised the research by soliciting over $60 million from beer and liquor companies to underwrite the effort. NIH Director Francis S. Collins said the results of the 10-year, $100 million study would not be trusted because of the secretive way in which staff at an institute under NIH met with major liquor companies, talked to them about the trial’s design and convinced them to pick up most of the tab for it. “Many people who have seen this working-group report were frankly shocked to see so many lines crossed,” he said, calling the staff interaction with the alcohol industry “far out of bounds.” Collins ordered the examination of what was originally planned as a study of more than 7,800 people around the globe after the New York Times reported in March that officials had aggressively sought the industry funding and routed their donations through the institutes’ nongovernmental foundation. In May, NIH suspended enrollment of participants in the research, which was already underway when the newspaper published its story. The findings released Friday address the scientific merit of the study. The review found that the staff who met with five liquor companies did not follow existing rules that required them to report such contacts. In a statement, NIH said that “a small number” of employees at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) violated policies and that “appropriate personnel actions” would be taken, without specifying what that would entail. The report includes a lengthy appendix with emails between staff and industry representatives. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25096 - Posted: 06.16.2018

Susan Milius A little brain can be surprisingly good at nothing. Honeybees are the first invertebrates to pass a test of recognizing where zero goes in numerical order, a new study finds. Even small children struggle with recognizing “nothing” as being less than one, says cognitive behavioral scientist Scarlett Howard of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. But honeybees trained to fly to images of greater or fewer dots or whazzits tended to rank a blank image as less than one, Howard and colleagues report in the June 8 Science. Despite decades of discoveries, nonhuman animals still don’t get due credit outside specialist circles for intelligence, laments Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London, who has explored various mental capacities of bees. For the world at large, he emphasizes that the abilities described in the new paper are “remarkable.” Researchers recognize several levels of complexity in grasping zero. Most animals, or maybe all, can understand the simplest level — just recognizing that the absence of something differs from its presence, Howard says. Grasping the notion that absence could fit into a sequence of quantities, though, seems harder. Previously, only some primates such as chimps and vervet monkeys, plus an African gray parrot named Alex, have demonstrated this level of understanding of the concept of zero (SN: 12/10/16, p. 22). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Intelligence; Evolution
Link ID: 25069 - Posted: 06.08.2018

…but has yet to reach Base Camp 1 By Gary Stix LONG ISLAND, N.Y.—Brains & Behavior,* a conference at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) held from May 30 to June 4—furnished a captivating look at the work of neuroscientists toiling to isolate the multitude of missing links that bind B&B. Of course, everyone knows about the close ties between the two, but generation after generation of researchers will be needed toto figure out the how of it all. At the end of the conference, Adam Kepecs, a CSHL researcher who had given a talk about his lab’s work on how the brain computes confidence in its own decision-making, summarized several emerging themes to be derived from the conference—novel technologies driving progress in the field and the conversion of some basic research into treatments—not just pharmaceuticals but technologies such as electrical stimulation of the brain. The still relatively slow pace toward clinical trials follows from the size of the challenge. “Understanding the brain functionally—and its dysfunctions—is arguably one of the greatest challenges of humanity,” Kepecs said. CSHL asked me to interview three of the presenters for the lab’s YouTube channel, CSHL Leading Strand. The videos, just a few of those from the conference on the lab’s channel, provide more detail about what the scientists there are up to—and the halting steps toward that initial base camp. There was Li-Huei Tsai of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory who talked to me about using noninvasive, flickering light that alters brain rhythms to potentially aid Alzheimer’s patients. Ricardo Dolmetsch, global head of neuroscience with the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, recounted the development of a gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy. And Robert Malenka, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University Medical School continues to investigate a brain pathway that promotes social interactions—as well as the street drug, MDMA (aka ecstasy), which enhances prosocial behavior, also through its actions on the neurotransmitter serotonin. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25063 - Posted: 06.07.2018

By Ingfei Chen Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly 820,800 guinea pigs, dogs, cats, and other animals covered by the Animal Welfare Act are used in research in the U.S.; of those, about 71,370 are subjected to unalleviated pain. These stats don’t track the millions of mice and rats that are used in lab experiments and excluded from the animal protection law (although the rodents are covered by other federal regulations). Scientists and their institutions say they’re committed to keeping pain or distress to a minimum in lab animals where they can. But how do you know how much pain a mouse or a zebrafish feels? And who decides how much pain is too much? “We know if they’re in really bad pain, as much as they want a nice nest, they’re not gonna put the work into doing that.” The issue of animal suffering was in the headlines earlier this year, when landlocked Switzerland banned the culinary practice of boiling lobsters alive. No one knows for sure whether these big-clawed crustaceans, equipped with only a rudimentary nervous system, experience pain. Nonetheless, Swiss authorities now require stunning lobsters in a humane way before tossing them into the pot. I read of this milestone in crustacean rights with bemused fascination and anthropomorphic cringing, as I imagined the lobster’s hypothetical plight. But the Swiss move also made me wonder how scientists measure and deal with animal pain in research studies. Experiments that use critters to simulate human illness or injury are stepping stones to the medical treatments we all use. Yet, the benefits we reap must outweigh the costs to animal welfare for those sacrifices to be justified, ethicists and animal advocates say. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Animal Rights; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 25061 - Posted: 06.06.2018

By Maggie Koerth-Baker If an animal is smart enough, should we treat it like a human? An abstract question, but one that found its way into a courtroom recently. A case bidding for consideration by the New York State Court of Appeals sought to extend the legal concept of habeas corpus — which allows a person to petition a court for freedom from unlawful imprisonment — to cover two privately-owned chimpanzees. The case for giving the chimps a human right like freedom from unlawful incarceration is based on their similarity to humans — they can think, feel and plan, argue the people bringing the case on behalf of the chimpanzees, so shouldn’t they have some guarantees of liberty? The court declined to hear the case, but one judge did say that some highly intelligent animals probably should be treated more like people and less like property. It’s just one judge, but you hear this kind of thing a lot from animal rights activists. The Nonhuman Rights Project, the nonprofit behind the habeas corpus lawsuit, has a stated goal of securing increased, human-like rights for great apes, elephants, dolphins and whales — highly intelligent, charismatic mammals. So, does a chimpanzee deserve more rights than, say, a pigeon? The logic that leads to “yes” is clear enough, but putting it into practice would be tough, scientists say. Because when it comes to measuring intelligence, we’re actually a little dumb. One of the problems: Animals don’t stack up the way you’d expect. “[Pigeons have] knocked our socks off in our own lab and other people’s labs in terms of what they can do,” said Edward Wasserman, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Iowa. “Pigeons can blow the doors off monkeys in some tasks.” Experts who study animal intelligence across species say we can’t rank animals by their smarts — scientists don’t even try anymore — which means there’s no objective way to determine which animals would deserve more human-like rights.

Keyword: Evolution; Animal Rights
Link ID: 25047 - Posted: 06.01.2018

Alison Abbott Scientists at one of Germany’s leading neuroscience institutes say that their employer, the Max Planck Society (MPS), is failing in its responsibility to defend the institute’s scientists against efforts by animal-rights activists to disrupt research. The criticisms are outlined in two letters to MPS leadership seen by Nature, and in interviews with scientists. They relate to the MPS’s handling of a struggle between animal-rights activists and Nikos Logothetis, a world-renowned neuroscientist who has been a director at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (MPI-Biocyb) in Tübingen since 1996. An expert in visual reception, Logothetis studies how the brain makes sense of the world, and used to run a primate laboratory at MPI-Biocyb. The MPS, which has an annual public budget of €1.8 billion (US$2.1 billion), is Germany’s most prestigious research organization, and runs 84 research institutes and facilities. The struggle began in September 2014, when a German television channel aired footage taken by an undercover animal-welfare activist who had infiltrated Logothetis’s lab, purporting to show mistreatment of research monkeys. Death threats and insults to Logothetis and his family followed — and in 2015, Logothetis decided to wind down his primate lab and replace it with a rodent facility. Events came to a head on 20 February this year, when Logothetis was indicted for allegedly violating animal-protection laws, after an animal-welfare group made complaints to police on the basis of the 2014 footage. Logothetis denies the charges. A trial date has not yet been set. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25039 - Posted: 05.31.2018

By Victoria Gill Science correspondent, BBC News Scientists working with dolphins at a marine park near Paris have attempted to measure how the animals feel about aspects of their lives in captivity. In what researchers say is the first project to examine captivity "from the animals' perspective", the team assessed what activities dolphins looked forward to most. They found that the marine mammals most keenly anticipated interacting with a familiar human. The results, they say, show that "better human-animal bonds equals better welfare". The study, published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, was part of a three-year project to measure dolphin welfare in a captive setting. Lead researcher Dr Isabella Clegg worked at Parc Astérix, a theme park with one of France's largest dolphinariums. With colleagues at the University of Paris animal behaviour lab, she designed experiments to decode dolphin behaviour - essentially looking for physical postures that indicate how the animals were feeling. "We wanted to find out what activities in captivity they like most," Dr Clegg told the BBC. To work this out, she tested three activities: a trainer coming and playing with dolphins; adding toys to the pool; and a control, which meant leaving the dolphins to their own devices. "We found a really interesting result - all dolphins look forward most to interacting with a familiar human," Dr Clegg said. The animals showed this anticipation by "spy hopping", the action of peering above the surface and looking in the direction that trainers usually approached from. The dolphins would also increase their level of activity in the pool and spend more time at the edge. "We've seen this same thing in other zoo animals and in farm animals," said Dr Clegg, adding: "Better human-animal bonds equals better welfare." © 2018 BBC.

Keyword: Animal Rights; Emotions
Link ID: 25028 - Posted: 05.29.2018

By Ashley Yeager Finding food and lighting fires might explain why humans have such big brains, researchers report yesterday (May 23) in Nature. Humans’ brains are six times as large as those of similarly sized mammals, an observation that has led scientists to ponder for decades what led to such big noodles. Studies suggest social challenges, such as cooperating to hunt, or sharing cultural knowledge spurred the expansion, but a mathematical model to explain human brain evolution finds the environment had a stronger influence. Study coauthors Mauricio González-Forero and Andy Gardner of the University of St. Andrews developed a computer model to simulate the effects of social, environmental, and cultural challenges on brain size over time. “We were expecting social challenges to be a strong promoter of brain size,” González-Forero tells New Scientist. Surprisingly, environmental challenges won out. About 60 percent of the increase in brain size over our ape ancestors came as a result of surviving in the environment, finding and caching food, for example. Another 30 percent came from banding together to survive, and the final 10 percent came from competing with other human groups, the researchers report. If left alone to survive, humans’ brains would be even bigger, according to the model, González-Forero tells The Los Angeles Times. Increasing the cooperative challenges in the model to greater than 30 percent decreased brain size, the team found. “Cooperation decreases brain size because you can rely on the brain of other individuals and you don’t need to invest in such a large and expensive brain,” González-Forero says. The Scientist

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 25019 - Posted: 05.25.2018

by Lindsey Bever A rare, brain-damaging virus has killed at least 10 people in southern India, where medical crews are scrambling to manage the spread of the deadly disease — and to minimize panic. Health officials said Tuesday that 10 people who were exposed to the Nipah virus and showed symptoms have died. Two others have tested positive for Nipah and are considered critically ill, and more than three dozen people have been put into quarantine since the outbreak began in the Indian state of Kerala, according to BBC News. “This is a new situation for us; we have no prior experience in dealing with the Nipah virus,” said K.K. Shailaja, health minister of the state, according to Reuters. “We are hopeful we can put a stop to the outbreak.” Shailaja had said earlier the outbreak had been “effectively” contained and that there was no need for the public to panic. But the virus's spread — and the rapidly rising death toll — have prompted concern in the outbreak's epicenter, Kozhikode, a coastal city in Kerala, where people have been “swarming” hospitals with fevers and other illnesses to ensure they do not have the virus, a local government official told Reuters. “We’ve sought the help of private hospitals to tide over the crisis,” said the official, U.V. Jose. Gulf News reported that Kerala “is in a state of panic after many cases of the killer Nipah virus were detected.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25009 - Posted: 05.23.2018

by Karin Brulliard For several years, an animal rights organization has sought to convince New York courts that chimpanzees kept by private owners are “legal persons” with a right to be free. For several years, the courts have rejected that argument. New York’s highest court did the same on Tuesday, denying an appeal of a lower court’s refusal to grant writs of habeas corpus to two caged chimps named Tommy and Kiko. But in a striking concurring opinion that was cheered by the chimps’ advocates, one judge wrote that the legal question at the heart of the case — whether all animals are mere property or things — is far from settled. “Does an intelligent nonhuman animal who thinks and plans and appreciates life as human beings do have the right to the protection of the law against arbitrary cruelties and enforced detentions visited on him or her?” wrote Eugene Fahey, one of five Court of Appeals judges who ruled on the matter. “This is not merely a definitional question, but a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention.” The 5-to-0 vote upheld a June decision by a lower appeals court that, like courts before it, ruled that chimpanzees could not be legal persons because they cannot take on legal duties. The Nonhuman Rights Project, which has asked courts to move Tommy and Kiko to a sanctuary, says the interpretation is flawed. The group’s director, Steven M. Wise, has noted in interviews that both infants or comatose people possess rights despite an inability to assume legal duties and that primate experts say chimps have rights and responsibilities within peer groups and in settings with humans. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24956 - Posted: 05.10.2018