Chapter 12. Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases

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By Aylin Woodward Not in my backyard. Territorial songbirds in New Zealand reacted more aggressively towards males encroaching on their territory if those rivals sang more complicated songs. The tui birds perceived these snappy singers as greater territorial threats than their simpler singing counterparts. Birdsong has two main functions: defending a territory and attracting a mate, says Samuel Hill at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. For tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), territory defence is a key concern. “There are flowering and fruiting trees year round in New Zealand, so the tui always have resources to defend,” says Hill. This explains why “they natter all year round”. Warbling away takes lots of energy, so males may be showing off their physical endurance to females. Long and complicated songs may also be a sign of skill, as to sing them birds must use superfast vocal muscles to control rapid acoustic changes. In other songbirds, like zebra finches, females prefer males that sing harder songs. This hasn’t been tested in tui, but Hill says the complexity of a male’s song is probably a proxy for more relevant measures of his quality, like body condition and cognitive ability. If that is so, Hill reasoned, breeding male tui would take umbrage at potential rivals singing at the edge of their territory, particularly if their songs were complex and they were therefore strong competitors. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24227 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By Helen Thomson THE most detailed study ever of brain activity during orgasm has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain, and shown that “switching off” isn’t necessary. Nan Wise at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and her colleagues recruited 10 women to lie in a functional MRI scanner and stimulate themselves to orgasm. They then repeated the experiment but had the volunteers’ partners stimulate them. The team was able to follow brain activity in 20-second intervals to see what happens just before, during and after orgasm. Back in 1985, Wise’s colleagues Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk, both at Rutgers, discovered that during self-stimulation and orgasm, women’s ability to withstand painful finger squeezing increased by 75 per cent, and the level of squeezing at which women noticed the pain more than doubled. Now Wise’s team has explained why. At the point of orgasm, the brain’s dorsal raphe nucleus area becomes more active. This region plays a role in controlling the release of serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain. Her team also saw a burst of activity in the nucleus cuneiformis, which is a part of systems thought to help us control pain through thought alone. “Together, this activity – at least in part – seems to account for the pain attenuating effect of the female orgasm,” says Wise. It’s not yet clear why pain sensation decreases during orgasm, or if men experience the same phenomenon. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Attention
Link ID: 24221 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Lack of sleep may raise the risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes — abnormally high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy — can lead to excessive birth weight, preterm birth or respiratory distress in the baby, among other problems. It can also increase the mother’s risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. Researchers pooled data from eight studies involving 17,595 women. Seven of the studies depended on self-reports of sleep, and one measured sleep duration. After adjusting for variables such as age, body mass index and ethnicity, they found that women who slept less than 6.25 hours a night were almost three times as likely to have gestational diabetes as those who slept more. The study is in Sleep Medicine Reviews. The reasons for the link are not known, but the authors suggest that hormonal changes in pregnancy as well as systematic inflammation tied to lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels. But the study is observational and does not prove a causal relationship between poor sleep and gestational diabetes. “Minimizing sleep disruption is important — limiting caffeine, avoiding electronics at bedtime and so on,” said the lead author, Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s another factor that may influence overall health. But it’s easier said than done.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24215 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Karen Weintraub Each time health care workers grab a pint of blood for an emergency transfusion, they make sure the donor and recipient have compatible blood types. But they do not pay attention to the donor’s sex. A new study raises questions as to whether that should change. In the first large study to look at how blood transfusions from previously pregnant women affect recipients’ health, researchers discovered men under 50 were 1.5 times more likely to die in the three years following a transfusion if they received a red blood cell transfusion from a woman donor who had ever been pregnant. This amounts to a 2 percent increase in overall mortality each year. Female recipients, however, did not appear to face an elevated risk. The study of more than 42,000 transfusion patients in the Netherlands was published Tuesday in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association. The American Red Cross and the researchers themselves were quick to say the study is not definitive enough to change the current practice of matching red blood cell donors to recipients. But if this explosive finding is confirmed with future studies, it could transform the way blood is matched—and it would suggest millions of transfusion patients worldwide have died prematurely. “If this turns out to be the truth, it’s both biologically interesting and extremely clinically relevant,” says Gustaf Edgren, an expert who was not involved in the study but co-wrote an editorial about it. “We certainly need to find out what’s going on.” Edgren, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute and a hematologist at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, says his own research suggests the donor’s sex makes no difference to the transfused patient. “Our data is really not compatible with this finding,” he says. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24214 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA In the days after his son was born, Rob Sandler found the thrill of becoming a new father replaced with dark feelings of dread and hopelessness. Those feelings, coupled with sleep deprivation and stress, culminated in a panic attack during his son’s bris. As a group of old friends was saying goodbye after the ceremony, “I had this feeling that they were leaving and I was stuck in this situation that would never get any better,” said Mr. Sandler, a marketing executive in Dallas. “I just felt trapped.” What followed was months of sadness, anxiety and — perhaps most worrisome of all — a feeling of acute disappointment in his own ability to be a good parent. In recent years, a growing body of research, and the increasing visibility of dads like Mr. Sandler, has given rise to the idea that you don’t have to give birth to develop postpartum depression, the so-called “baby blues.” Studies suggest that the phenomenon may occur in from 7 percent to 10 percent of new fathers, compared to about 12 percent of new mothers, and that depressed dads were more likely to spank their children and less likely to read to them. Now, a University of Southern California study has found a link between depression and sagging testosterone levels in new dads, adding physiological weight to the argument that postpartum depression isn’t just for women anymore. The study also found that while high testosterone levels in new dads helped protect against depression in fathers, it correlated with an increased risk of depression in new moms. “We know men get postpartum depression, and we know testosterone drops in new dads, but we don’t know why,” said Darby Saxbe, a professor of psychology at U.S.C. and an author of the new report. “It’s often been suggested hormones underlie some of the postpartum depression in moms, but there’s been so much less attention paid to fathers. We were trying to put together the pieces to solve this puzzle.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24203 - Posted: 10.17.2017

By John Horgan To help my students appreciate how science reflects cultural prejudices, I often cite examples from psychiatry. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, which the American Psychiatric Association compiles as a guide to diagnosis and treatment of illness, listed homosexuality as a "sociopathic personality disturbance” in the DSM-I, published in 1952, and as a “sexual deviation” in the DSM-II, published in 1968 (see Further Reading). Homosexuality has been treated with lobotomies, chemical castration, electrical shocks and nausea-inducing drugs as well as psychotherapy. I then tell my students about a bizarre gay-conversion experiment carried out in 1970 by a leading brain-implant researcher, Dr. Robert G. Heath of Tulane University in New Orleans. I mentioned Heath in my recent profile of Jose Delgado, a pioneer in the use of brain implants to manipulate patients’ minds and behavior. Heath was arguably even more ambitious than Delgado in his experiments, and he was not a fringe figure. He had degrees in psychiatry and neurology from Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania. n 1949 he founded Tulane’s department of psychiatry and neurology. He oversaw the department until 1980 but continued working into the 1990s. In his 1996 book Exploring the Mind-Brain Relationship, he reviews his career and speculates that someday “biological methods” might make it possible “for man to live in harmony with his fellow man.” © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24198 - Posted: 10.16.2017

Jo Marchant Male scientists are more likely to share their published work than are women — but only with other men, a study of hundreds of researchers has found. Humans are generally considered to be a highly cooperative species, says Jorg Massen, a cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna. But most of the evidence for that assumption comes from artificial situations such as computerized cooperation tasks. “I wanted to test human prosociality in an everyday situation,” he says. So he chose one of the most competitive situations he could think of: his own field of research psychology. To investigate cooperation among psychologists, Massen turned his fellow researchers into guinea pigs. He and his colleagues e-mailed nearly 300 researchers and asked them to share either a PDF of one of their latest papers, or some raw data (pretending that they wanted to include it in a meta-analysis). The results were published in Scientific Reports on 10 October1. In general, the scientists contacted were highly cooperative, with almost 80% willing to share a PDF and almost 60% willing to send raw data. “I was surprised,” says Massen. “Humans are prosocial even in this competitive field.” Even more unexpected, however, was a strong gender difference in how the scientists responded to the request for help. Massen and his colleagues had wondered whether men might respond more favourably to women, or vice versa. In fact, men were more likely to share, but only with other men. A male–male request was 15% more likely to be granted than any other gender combination. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 24188 - Posted: 10.13.2017

By Helen Thomson The most detailed study yet of orgasm brain activity has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain and shown that ‘switching off’ isn’t necessary. It’s not easy to study the brain during orgasm. “A brain scanner like fMRI is the least sexy place in the world,” says Nan Wise at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. “It’s noisy, claustrophobic and cold.” There is also the problem of keeping your head still – movement of little more than the width of a pound coin can render data useless. Despite these hurdles, Wise and her colleagues recruited 10 heterosexual women to lay in a fMRI scanner and stimulate themselves to orgasm. They then repeated the experiment but had their partners stimulate them. Wise’s custom-fitted head stabiliser allowed the team to follow brain activity in 20 second intervals to see what happens just before, during, and after an orgasm. Pain relief Back in 1985, Wise’s colleagues Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk, both at Rutgers, discovered that, during self-stimulation and orgasm, women are less likely to notice painful squeezing of a finger, and can tolerate more of this pain. They found that women’s ability to withstand pain increased by 75 per cent during stimulation, while the level of squeezing at which women noticed the pain more than doubled. Now Wise’s team has explained why. At the point of orgasm, the dorsal raphe nucleus area of the brain becomes more active. This region plays a role in controlling the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Attention
Link ID: 24187 - Posted: 10.13.2017

Dean Burnett Another day, another powerful man embroiled in a sinister sexual scandal decades in the making. This time it’s powerful Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein. The moral, ethical and political aspects of this whole mess have been covered extensively elsewhere, and will no doubt continue to be so over the coming days and weeks. However, recent reports suggest that Weinstein has checked himself into a European rehab clinic for sex addiction. This has been met with some not-inconsiderable cynicism, but, even if it is true, wondering whether Weinstein is a sex addict overlooks a more fundamental question: is anyone a sex addict? Because that diagnosis, as commonplace as it may seem, is far from established psychiatric fact. Many people do believe sex addiction is real and serious problem, while others dismiss it outright. Despite it being a widely-used term, it doesn’t feature in either the DSM-V or ICD-10, the two main sources for officially-recognised psychiatric disorders the world over (although that’s not a guarantee of consensus either). How can something that seems, to many, to be so straightforward be the subject of so wide a debate? We all know what sex is, we all know what addiction is, what’s the issue? First, sex is a fundamental drive inherent in practically every human. A large percentage of our brain’s systems are responsible for or at least involved in it. An underlying need to seek out sex and an ability to engage in it as and when we like is a remarkably human trait (well, maybe bonobos too). This has many significant consequences for how our societies and cultures work, but one relevant problem is, at what point do you want sex too much? Because that’s not an easy thing to pin down. Those who don’t support the idea of sex addiction often argue that it’s another attempt to pin a clinical diagnosis on “normal” human behaviour (like the dispute around grief in the DSM-V). Some even compare it to gay conversion therapy, in how it medicalises and tries to undo what is an expression of human sexuality. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24185 - Posted: 10.12.2017

By Sara Van Note On a recent Saturday morning, two-year-old Ryleigh and five-year-old Colton Arnett play with brightly colored play dough in the family room of their Albuquerque home. Colton narrates his creations with a gap-toothed smile. “I’m going to use a mold. I’m going to make a boat.” Ryleigh echoes him enthusiastically, “Mold! Boat!” An estimated 30,000 New Mexicans carry the mutation, and the numbers are increasing. Their mother, Lori Dunworth, remarks that Colton and his sister don’t usually play so well together. “Usually she’s a bit of a bully when it comes to toys.” Both Ryleigh and Colton receive speech therapy because of something that happened to Colton several years ago, when Dunworth and her husband, Toby Arnett, first noticed that Colton, who was two at the time, was making repeating clicking sounds while his face twitched on one side. After one episode lasted over 20 minutes, they called their doctor, who told them to take him to the hospital immediately. Colton had suffered a seizure, and scans would later reveal masses in his brain — lesions, it turned out, caused by abnormal blood vessels. “The original impact was devastating,” Arnett says. Colton was ultimately diagnosed with Cerebral Cavernous Malformations (CCM), a rare disease that can cause seizure, stroke, and death. He also tested positive for a genetic mutation that causes the disease, known as the Common Hispanic Mutation. Colton’s sister and his mom also have the mutation. Dunworth had no idea she was the carrier. “I’ve never had any symptoms, no seizures, no paralysis, no nothing,” she says. Copyright 2017 Undark

Keyword: Epilepsy; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24184 - Posted: 10.12.2017

Hannah Devlin Forget negotiations over who takes out the bin, new research suggests that the ideal home temperature is the vexed question most likely to split households down gender lines. A study found that one third of couples dispute this issue and that four in 10 women covertly turn up the heating behind their partner’s back. The research, which was sponsored by Corgi Homeplan, a company that installs and maintains boilers and thermostats, probably falls short of the rigours of peer-reviewed science. However, there is strong evidence to back up the idea that women are more sensitive to the cold. A 2015 study by Dutch scientists, for instance, found that women are comfortable at a temperature 2.5C warmer than men, typically between 24-25C. Men and women have roughly the same core body temperature, at over 37C; in fact, some studies have found the female core body temperature is slightly higher. However, our perception of temperature depends more on skin temperature, which, for women, tends to be lower. One study reported that the average temperature of women’s hands exposed to cold was nearly 3C degrees lower than that observed in men. The female hormone oestrogen contributes to this because it slightly thickens the blood, reducing the flow to capillaries that supply the body’s extremities. This means that, in women, blood flow to the tips of fingers and toes tends to shut off more readily when it is cold. Research has shown that women tend to feel colder around ovulation, when estrogen levels are high. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24181 - Posted: 10.12.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou For the first time, researchers have shown that being born by C-section can contribute to obesity in mice. This probably happens because the procedure disrupts a newborn’s microbiome. Until fairly recently, babies were thought to be born with sterile guts free from bacteria. But we now know that babies are born with a gutful of microbes, and that at least some of these come from a mother’s vaginal canal during birth. Babies born by C-section are thought to miss out on these bacteria, which could explain why their microbiomes look different. The ecosystem of microbes that live inside us has been implicated in a range of health issues, so this may explain why babies born by C-section are more likely to grow up overweight, and to develop allergies and asthma in later life. To test if C-sections really do lead to heavier babies, Maria Dominguez-Bello at New York University and her colleagues performed C-sections on 34 pregnant mice, and compared the resulting pups to 35 that were born vaginally. By the time the mice had grown into adults 15 weeks later, there were stark difference in body weight between the two groups. The mice born by C-section were, on average, 33 per cent heavier than those born vaginally. Females seemed particularly affected, says Dominguez-Bello. While the C-section males were around 20 per cent heavier than their vaginally-born counterparts, the females were 70 per cent heavier, she says. “We were very surprised to see this,” she says. “We have no idea why it’s happening.” © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24180 - Posted: 10.12.2017

Rae Ellen Bichell Abstinence may have found its most impressive poster child yet: Diploscapter pachys. The tiny worm is transparent, smaller than a poppy seed and hasn't had sex in 18 million years. It's basically just been cloning itself this whole time. Usually, that's a solid strategy for going extinct, fast. What's its secret? "Scientists have been trying to understand how some animals can survive for millions of years without sex, because such strict, long-term abstinence is very rare in the animal world," says David Fitch, a biologist at New York University. Most plants and animals use sex to reproduce. As he and his colleagues report in the recent issue of Current Biology, this seemingly unimpressive roundworm seems to have developed a different way of copying its genes — one that leads to just enough mutations to give the worms room to adapt, but not enough to cause crippling defects. Sex is pretty great for a lot of reasons (unless, perhaps, you're a duck), but one is that's it's a good way to dodge the effects of bad mutations. "All organisms accumulate mutations," says Kristin Gunsalus, a developmental geneticist at New York University and a co-author of the study. Usually, the machinery that copies DNA makes a few mistakes each time a cell divides. In humans, says Gunsalus, there are about six errors per cell division. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Evolution; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24179 - Posted: 10.12.2017

By Lise Eliot As efforts to improve diversity in science, technology, engineering and maths accelerate, so the voices of those who question those efforts seem to get louder. They say the STEM gender gap has its roots in innate biology, that men are inherently better at or more interested in these subjects. One of their favourite supporting arguments is that differences in male and female brains are clearly influenced by prenatal testosterone. Is there any truth in this claim? As a biologist, I appreciate that genes and hormones are important in brain and behavioural development. But my research over the past 20 years indicates that the differences between boys’ and girls’ brains are subtle, and that testosterone isn’t a key determinant of interest in or aptitude for STEM subjects. First, in spite of decades of MRI studies, there is little evidence that boys’ higher prenatal exposure to testosterone affects their brain structure or function. Most recently, the two largest studies of the brains of newborns found no difference between boys’ and girls’ functional brain networks and that prenatal testosterone exposure had a surprisingly weak effect on specific neural structures. Even the most clear-cut gender difference in infant behaviour – verbal ability, which develops more slowly in boys – hasn’t been linked to prenatal testosterone. Of course, male and female brains are different, but not in the way the diversity critics claim. At birth, boys’ brains are 6 per cent larger on average than those of girls, but boys’ birthweight is also typically about 7 per cent heavier. This difference in brain size has long been known to parallel sex differences in height and weight across the lifespan. Every other organ, such as the heart and kidneys, is also some 15 per cent larger in males. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24172 - Posted: 10.11.2017

By Josh Gabbatiss Some female dolphins have evolved a secret weapon in their sexual arms race with males: vaginas that protect them from fertilisation by unwelcome partners. Penises come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, especially in dolphins and other cetaceans. That seems to imply a similar diversity in vaginas, but Dara Orbach of Dalhousie University, Canada, says there is “a huge lag” in our understanding of female genitalia. That is partly because it is tricky to visualise vaginal structure. To overcome this problem, Orbach has created silicone moulds of cetaceans’ vaginas, revealing complex folds and spirals. “There’s this unparalleled level of vaginal diversity that we had no idea existed before,” Orbach says. Similarly complex vaginal structures are found in several species of duck. Orbach’s collaborator Patricia Brennan of Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, has previously found evidence that duck vaginas have evolved to make it harder for males to force copulation. So Orbach wondered if female cetaceans’ unusual vaginas had also evolved to keep out unwanted sperm. Orbach, Brennan and their colleagues obtained genitals from marine mammals that had died of natural causes: common and bottlenose dolphins, common porpoises and common seals. They inflated the males’ penises with saline to see how they looked when they were erect, and compared them with the vaginal moulds. They also took CT scans of penises inserted into the corresponding vaginas, to determine whether they fitted in easily and the best positions. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 24170 - Posted: 10.11.2017

Nicola Davis “Woman seems to differ from man in mental disposition, chiefly in her greater tenderness and less selfishness,” wrote Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man. Now scientists claim that the stereotype is supported by evidence that the brain’s reward system may be geared towards more “prosocial” behaviour in women. “It was known that women and men behave differently, but it was not known why, or how this comes about in the brain,” said Philippe Tobler, associate professor of neuroeconomics and social neuroscience at the University of Zurich, and co-author of the research. The team note it is not clear whether the gender differences they see in the brain’s reward system are in any way “innate”, or whether they are the result of social pressures, but in short: women seem to get more of a chemical reward for being generous than men do. “It is known that girls receive different kinds of feedback than boys for being prosocial,” said Tobler. “It is perfectly conceivable that [the root of the differences here are] only cultural – we simply don’t know.” Writing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Tobler and colleagues from Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands carried out two studies looking at whether dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the brain’s reward system, is linked to different social behaviours in men and women. In the first, a group of 56 men and women were randomly allocated to two groups, and either given a placebo or amisulpride – a drug that blocks the action of dopamine in the brain. Neither the scientists nor the participants knew which pill was taken. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24169 - Posted: 10.10.2017

By HEATHER MURPHY Michal Kosinski felt he had good reason to teach a machine to detect sexual orientation. An Israeli start-up had started hawking a service that predicted terrorist proclivities based on facial analysis. Chinese companies were developing facial recognition software not only to catch known criminals — but also to help the government predict who might break the law next. And all around Silicon Valley, where Dr. Kosinski works as a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, entrepreneurs were talking about faces as if they were gold waiting to be mined. Few seemed concerned. So to call attention to the privacy risks, he decided to show that it was possible to use facial recognition analysis to detect something intimate, something “people should have full rights to keep private.” After considering atheism, he settled on sexual orientation. Whether he has now created “A.I. gaydar,” and whether that’s even an ethical line of inquiry, has been hotly debated over the past several weeks, ever since a draft of his study was posted online. Presented with photos of gay men and straight men, a computer program was able to determine which of the two was gay with 81 percent accuracy, according to Dr. Kosinski and co-author Yilun Wang’s paper. The backlash has been fierce. “I imagined I’d raise the alarm,” Dr. Kosinski said in an interview. “Now I’m paying the price.” He’d just had a meeting with campus police “because of the number of death threats.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24167 - Posted: 10.10.2017

By Diana Kwon Recovering from a concussion typically takes female athletes more than twice as long as males, according to a new study that tracked hundreds of teenagers active in sports. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence that vulnerability to this injury—and aspects of the healing process—may vary by sex. A handful of studies published since the mid-2000s have suggested that girls in high school and college may sustain a higher rate of these injuries on the playing field than boys do, and investigations over the last few years have indicated they may also take longer to recover. As a result, when sports medicine researchers and experts convened in Berlin last fall for the 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport, their subsequent statement cited evidence girls were more likely to suffer concussions that required a more lengthy recovery period than their male counterparts did. “But there wasn’t enough data to [definitively] say that this was the case,” says John Neidecker, a sports medicine physician with the Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina. “We thought that we'd take a look back at the athletes that we saw over a three-year period and actually [provide] some objective data.” Neidecker and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of 212 middle and high school athletes who visited a sports medicine practice in southern New Jersey—110 boys and 102 girls—who had experienced their first concussion while playing an organized sport such as football, field hockey or wrestling. (Only initial head injuries were considered to rule out the possible effect of prior incidents.) Their analysis revealed the median recovery time for girls was 28 days—more than double that of boys, which was 11 days. The results appeared Monday inThe Journal of the © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24142 - Posted: 10.03.2017

Josh Dehaas: Earlier this month, Stanford University researchers released a study that showed artificial intelligence can be used to predict whether a person is gay. Given a single image, computers used an algorithm to correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81 per cent of cases, and in 71 per cent of cases for women. Humans could also pick out gay people more often then not: 61 per cent for men, and 54 per cent for women. The researchers said their results offer support for the theory that prenatal hormones, which influence how we look, also influence sexual orientation. For gay people like me, the study simply seemed to confirm what we already know: sexual orientation is fixed at birth. You might think that LGBT activists would embrace this new study as yet more evidence that could be used to persuade religious conservatives or other skeptics that being gay isn’t a moral failing. Their response was, in fact, the opposite. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a huge lobby group in the U.S., called the study “junk science.” The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) chided the few media outlets who dared to write about it, criticizing the methodology, including the researchers’ decision to use all Caucasian photos (which they presumably did to ensure the computers were detecting facial differences related to sexuality rather than race), and their exclusion of transgender and bisexual people (a flaw, but not a huge one). A couple of professors joined the pile on, suggesting that it is unethical to so much as study whether machines can predict a person’s sexuality, because it could be used by anti-gay governments to further target and oppress people. That is a frightening concern in a world where being gay is illegal in more than 70 countries, but it ignores the possibility that this kind of research might actually change how oppressive regimes think about these issues in the long term. As University of Lethbridge sexuality researcher Paul Vasey points out, “the more people think homosexuality is biological the more tolerant they are.” And intolerance persists, even here in North America. Roy Moore, the man who just won a primary runoff to become the Republican nominee for senator in Alabama, wrote in 2002 (when he was the chief justice of that state’s Supreme Court) that “homosexual behavior is a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.” In 2005, he said that “homosexuality should be © 2017 National Post,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24128 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Robin Dunbar, Angela Saini, Ben Garrod, Adam Rutherford We were all gearing up for the summer of love when, in 1967, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape took us by storm. Its pitch was that humans really were just apes, and much of our behaviour could be understood in terms of animal behaviour and its evolution. Yes, we were naked and bipedal, but beneath the veneer of culture lurked an ancestral avatar. With his zoologist’s training (he had had a distinguished career studying the behaviour of fishes and birds at Oxford University as part of the leading international group in this field), he gave us a picture of who we really are. In the laid-back, blue-smoke atmosphere of the hippy era, the book struck a chord with the wider public – if for no other reason than that, in the decade of free love, it asserted that humans had the largest penis for body size of all the primates. The early 1960s had seen the first field studies of monkeys and apes, and a corresponding interest in human evolution and the biology of contemporary hunter-gatherers. Morris latched on to the fact that the sexual division of labour (the men away hunting, the women at home gathering) necessitated some mechanism to ensure the sexual loyalty of one’s mate – this was the era of free love, after all. He suggested that becoming naked and developing new erogenous zones (notably, ear lobes and breasts), not to mention face-to-face copulation (all but unknown among animals), helped to maintain the couple’s loyalty to each other. Morris’s central claim, that much of our behaviour can be understood in the context of animal behaviour, has surely stood the test of time, even if some of the details haven’t. Our hairlessness (at around 2m years ago) long predates the rise of pair bonds (a mere 200,000 years ago). It owes its origins to the capacity to sweat copiously (another uniquely human trait) in order to allow us to travel longer distances across sunny savannahs. But he is probably still right that those bits of human behaviour that enhance sexual experience function to promote pair bonds – even if pair bonds are not lifelong in the way that many then assumed. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 24107 - Posted: 09.25.2017