Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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Nicola Davis The eternal sunshine of a spotless mind has come one step closer, say researchers working on methods to erase memories of fear. The latest study, carried out in mice, unpicks why certain sounds can stir alarming memories, and reveals a new approach to wiping such memories from the brain. The researchers say the findings could be used to either weaken or strengthen particular memories while leaving others unchanged. That, they say, could potentially be used to help those with cognitive decline or post-traumatic stress disorder by removing fearful memories while retaining useful ones, such as the sound of a dog’s bark. “We can use same approach to selectively manipulate only the pathological fear memory while preserving all other adaptive fear memories which are necessary for our daily lives,” said Jun-Hyeong Cho, co-author of the research from the University of California, Riverside. The research is the latest in a string of studies looking at ways to erase unpleasant memories, with previous work by scientists exploring techniques ranging from brain scans and AI to the use of drugs. Published in the journal Neuron by Cho and his colleague Woong Bin Kim, the research reveals how the team used genetically modified mice to examine the pathways between the area of the brain involved in processing a particular sound and the area involved in emotional memories, known as the amygdala. “These mice are special in that we can label or tag specific pathways that convey certain signals to the amygdala, so that we can identify which pathways are really modified as the mice learn to fear a particular sound,” said Cho. “It is like a bundle of phone lines,” he added. “Each phone line conveys certain auditory information to the amygdala.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 23974 - Posted: 08.18.2017

By Aggie Mika | In a report published today (August 16) in Nature, researchers uncover the mechanisms by which the psychoactive and addictive drug fenethylline, trade name Captagon, exerts its potent stimulating effects. Essentially, one component of the drug, theophylline, boosts the effects of another, amphetamine. “This combination greatly enhances amphetamine’s properties,” says coauthor and Scripps Research Institute researcher Kim Janda in a press conference this week, Reuters reports. “So this now makes sense why it’s being so heavily abused.” In exploring fenethylline’s mode of action, the researchers came upon a method to vaccinate against the drug in mice using small, antibody-eliciting molecules called haptens that target the drug’s chemical components. Once antibodies for a specific chemical are prompted by a vaccine, they bind to and prevent it from interacting with its receptors in the body, thus preventing the effects of the drug driven by that chemical. Fenethylline’s use is mostly confined to the Middle East, where approximately 40 percent of young adult drug users in Saudi Arabia are addicted to the drug, the authors write in their report. According to Reuters, the drug initially sparked Janda’s interest because of its use by Islamic State jihadists. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Syrian civil war combatants and Islamic State terrorists have reportedly used the drug to boost their fighting ability and to lessen fear.” © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 23971 - Posted: 08.18.2017

By M. GREGG BLOCHE Was the Central Intelligence Agency’s post-9/11 “enhanced interrogation” program an instance of human experimentation? Recently declassified documents raise this explosive question. The documents were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in connection with a federal lawsuit scheduled for trial next month. The case was brought on behalf of three former detainees against two psychologists who developed the C.I.A.’s program. I reviewed some of the documents in a recent article in The Texas Law Review. Internal C.I.A. records indicate that the psychologists, James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, anticipated objections that critics would later level against the program, such as that coercion might generate unreliable information, and contracted with the agency to design research tools that addressed some of these concerns. Redactions in the released documents (and the C.I.A.’s withholding of others) make it impossible to know the full extent, if any, of the agency’s data collection efforts or the findings they yielded. At their depositions for the A.C.L.U. lawsuit, each of the psychologists denied having evaluated the program’s effectiveness. But the C.I.A. paid the psychologists to develop a research methodology and instructed physicians and other medical staff members at clandestine detention sites to monitor and chart the health conditions of detainees. In response, the advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights has charged that the program was an unlawful experiment on human beings. It calls the program “one of the gravest breaches of medical ethics by United States health professionals since the Nuremberg Code,” the ethical principles written to protect people from human experimentation after World War II. In its lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. is pressing a similar claim. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 23956 - Posted: 08.14.2017

By Helen Thomson People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may get relief simply from watching someone else perform their compulsive actions. If the finding holds up, we may be able to develop apps that help people with OCD stop needing to repeatedly wash their hands or pull their hair. When we watch someone else perform an action, the same parts of our brains become active as when we do the action ourselves. This is called the mirror neuron system, and it is thought to help us understand the actions and feelings of others. Baland Jalal at the University of Cambridge wondered whether this system could be used to help people with OCD. Working with his colleague Vilayanur Ramachandran, at the University of California, San Diego, he studied 10 people with OCD symptoms, who experience disgust when touching things they consider even mildly contaminated. The anxiety this causes forces them to wash their hands compulsively. First, Jalal and Ramachandran showed each participant something to make them feel disgusted – either an open bag of vomit, a bowl containing blood-soaked bandages or a bedpan of faeces and toilet paper. The participants were unaware that each stimulus was in fact fake. In a variety of conditions, either the participant or a researcher touched the bag, bowl or bedpan for 15 seconds while wearing latex gloves. The participants were then asked to rate how disgusted they felt, before being allowed to wash their hands, or watch the researcher do the same. They then rated how relieved they now felt. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Link ID: 23927 - Posted: 08.08.2017

By Francine Russo Survivors of sexual assault who come forward often confront doubt on the part of others. Did you fight back? they are asked. Did you scream? Just as painful for them, if not more so, can be a sense of guilt and shame. Why did I not resist? they may ask themselves. Is it my fault? And to make matters worse, although the laws are in flux in various jurisdictions, active resistance can be seen as necessary for a legal or even “common sense” definition of rape. Unless it is clearly too dangerous, as when the rapist is armed, resisting is generally thought to be the “normal” reaction to sexual assault. But new research adds to the evidence debunking this common belief. According to a recent study, a majority of female rape survivors who visited the Emergency Clinic for Rape Victims in Stockholm reported they did not fight back. Many also did not yell for help. During the assault they experienced a kind of temporary paralysis called tonic immobility. And those who experienced extreme tonic immobility were twice as likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and three times more likely to suffer severe depression in the months after the attack than women who did not have this response. Tonic immobility (TI) describes a state of involuntary paralysis in which individuals cannot move or, in many cases, even speak. In animals this reaction is considered an evolutionary adaptive defense to an attack by a predator when other forms of defense are not possible. Much less is known about this phenomenon in humans, although it has been observed in soldiers in battle as well as in survivors of sexual assault. A study from 2005, for example, found 52 percent of female undergraduates who reported childhood sexual abuse said they experienced this paralysis. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23916 - Posted: 08.05.2017

By Giorgia Guglielmi After a 5-month road trip across Asia in 2010, 22-year-old college graduate Matthew Lazell-Fairman started feeling constantly tired, his muscles sore and head aching. A doctor recommended getting a gym membership, but after the first training session, Lazell-Fairman’s body crashed: He was so exhausted he couldn’t go to work as a paralegal for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., for days. Lazell-Fairman has never fully recovered. He can now do a few hours of light activity—cooking, for example—per day but has to spend the rest of his time lying flat in bed. Lazell-Fairman is among the estimated 17 million people worldwide with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a disease whose trigger is unknown and for which there are neither standard diagnostic tools nor effective treatments. In the largest study of its kind, researchers have now found that the blood levels of immune molecules that cause flulike symptoms such as fever and fatigue track the severity of symptoms in people who have received a diagnosis of CFS. The results may provide insight into the cause of the mysterious illness, or at least provide a way of gauging its progress and evaluating treatments. “This work is another strong piece of evidence that there is a biologic dysfunction at the root of the disease,” says Mady Hornig, a physician scientist at Columbia University whose research has also identified potential biomarkers for CFS. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Depression; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 23902 - Posted: 08.01.2017

By CADE METZ SAN FRANCISCO — Dawn Jewell recently treated a patient haunted by a car crash. The patient had developed acute anxiety over the cross streets where the crash occurred, unable to drive a route that carried so many painful memories. So Dr. Jewell, a psychologist in Colorado, treated the patient through a technique called exposure therapy, providing emotional guidance as they revisited the intersection together. But they did not physically return to the site. They revisited it through virtual reality. Dr. Jewell is among a handful of psychologists testing a new service from a Silicon Valley start-up called Limbix that offers exposure therapy through Daydream View, the Google headset that works in tandem with a smartphone. “It provides exposure in a way that patients feel safe,” she said. “We can go to a location together, and the patient can tell me what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking.” The service recreates outdoor locations by tapping into another Google product, Street View, a vast online database of photos that delivers panoramic scenes of roadways and other locations around the world. Using these virtual street scenes, Dr. Jewell has treated a second patient who struggled with anxiety after being injured by another person outside a local building. The service is also designed to provide treatment in other ways, like taking patients to the top of a virtual skyscraper so they can face a fear of heights or to a virtual bar so they can address an alcohol addiction. Backed by the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, Limbix is less than a year old. The creators of its new service, including its chief executive and co-founder, Benjamin Lewis, worked in the seminal virtual reality efforts at Google and Facebook. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Emotions
Link ID: 23897 - Posted: 07.31.2017

By Virginia Morell Frogs, birds, monkeys, and humans make a variety of sounds expressing emotions. And because that ability is shared by every land-dwelling animal with a backbone, Charles Darwin argued that these cries have a common origin. Humans can recognize the emotions in the voices of other mammals, including cats and dogs. To find out whether we can also do this for nonmammals, scientists gathered recordings from nine species, including the hourglass tree frog (above), American alligator, common raven, Barbary macaque, and Tamil-speaking humans in two emotional states: highly and mildly aroused. They played the calls to 75 people—men and women who spoke English, German, or Mandarin—and asked them to judge whether the animal was very excited or subdued. You can try it yourself below: Participants easily passed the tests. Some 90% of listeners distinguished between the excited and calmer sounds of the tree frogs (which were calling for mates), and 87% scored the alligator calls correctly. Sixty-two percent were right about the ravens’ calls of alarm. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Emotions
Link ID: 23877 - Posted: 07.26.2017

By CLAY ROUTLEDGE Are Americans becoming less religious? It depends on what you mean by “religious.” Polls certainly indicate a decline in religious affiliation, practice and belief. Just a couple of decades ago, about 95 percent of Americans reported belonging to a religious group. This number is now around 75 percent. And far fewer are actively religious: The percentage of regular churchgoers may be as low as 15 to 20 percent. As for religious belief, the Pew Research Center found that from 2007 to 2014 the percentage of Americans who reported being absolutely confident God exists dropped from 71 percent to 63 percent. Nonetheless, there is reason to doubt the death of religion, or at least the death of what you might call the “religious mind” — our concern with existential questions and our search for meaning. A growing body of research suggests that the evidence for a decline in traditional religious belief, identity and practice does not reflect a decline in this underlying spiritual inclination. Ask yourself: Why are people religious to begin with? One view is that religion is an ancient way of understanding and organizing the world that persists largely because societies pass it down from generation to generation. This view is related to the idea that the rise of science entails the fall of religion. It also assumes that the strength of religion is best measured by how much doctrine people accept and how observant they are. This view, however, does not capture the fundamental nature of the religious mind — our awareness of, and need to reckon with, the transience and fragility of our existence, and how small and unimportant we seem to be in the grand scheme of things. In short: our quest for significance. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Attention; Emotions
Link ID: 23868 - Posted: 07.24.2017

By Erin Blakemore What do you see? That question is so complex it may be impossible to answer. But when Vanessa Potter lost her sight because of a rare condition, she became obsessed with describing the experience of both literal and inner vision. Patient H69: The Story of My Second Sight Book by Vanessa Potter Her new book, “Patient H69,” tracks Potter’s progression from advertising producer to patient. But her memoir shows how a medical ordeal also turned her into a scientific detective, advocate and artist. In 2012, Potter suddenly lost her sight. The first half of her book tracks her terrifying loss of vision and illustrates the psychological toll that accompanies the transition from healthy person to patient. Potter’s ailment turned out to be neuromyelitis optica, a disorder also known as Devic’s disease. People with the autoimmune disorder experience inflammation of the optic nerve, temporary blindness and spinal cord inflammation that can cause pain and sensory loss. Determined to regain her sight and understand her illness, Potter collaborated with scientists as her optical nerve healed.Along the way, she documented her experience. Her descriptive powers serve her well as she illustrates what it’s like to experience the development of sight in real time — a progression that, for Potter, included synesthesia (a blending of the senses in which a word may be seen as a certain color, for example), self-hypnosis and plenty of emotion. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Vision; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 23867 - Posted: 07.24.2017

Ashley Yeager DNA might reveal how dogs became man’s best friend. A new study shows that some of the same genes linked to the behavior of extremely social people can also make dogs friendlier. The result, published July 19 in Science Advances, suggests that dogs’ domestication may be the result of just a few genetic changes rather than hundreds or thousands of them. “It is great to see initial genetic evidence supporting the self-domestication hypothesis or ‘survival of the friendliest,’” says evolutionary anthropologist Brian Hare of Duke University, who studies how dogs think and learn. “This is another piece of the puzzle suggesting that humans did not create dogs intentionally, but instead wolves that were friendliest toward humans were at an evolutionary advantage as our two species began to interact.” Not much is known about the underlying genetics of how dogs became domesticated. In 2010, evolutionary geneticist Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University and colleagues published a study comparing dogs’ and wolves’ DNA. The biggest genetic differences gave clues to why dogs and wolves don’t look the same. But major differences were also found in WBSCR17, a gene linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome in humans. Williams-Beuren syndrome leads to delayed development, impaired thinking ability and hypersociability. VonHoldt and colleagues wondered if changes to the same gene in dogs would make the animals more social than wolves, and whether that might have influenced dogs’ domestication. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Aggression; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23855 - Posted: 07.20.2017

How well cancer patients fared after chemotherapy was affected by their social interaction with other patients during treatment, according to a new study by researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Cancer patients were a little more likely to survive for five years or more after chemotherapy if they interacted during chemotherapy with other patients who also survived for five years or more. Patients were a little more likely to die in less than five years after chemotherapy when they interacted during chemotherapy with those who died in less than five years. The findings were published online July 12, 2017, in the journal Network Science. “People model behavior based on what’s around them,” Jeff Lienert, lead author in NHGRI’s Social and Behavioral Research Branch and a National Institutes of Health Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program fellow. “For example, you will often eat more when you’re dining with friends, even if you can’t see what they’re eating. When you’re bicycling, you will often perform better when you’re cycling with others, regardless of their performance.” Lienert set out to see if the impact of social interaction extended to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Joining this research effort were Lienert’s adviser, Felix Reed-Tsochas, Ph.D., at Oxford’s CABDyN Complexity Centre at the Saïd Business School, Laura Koehly, Ph.D., chief of NHGRI’s Social and Behavioral Research Branch, and Christopher Marcum, Ph.D., a staff scientist also in the Social and Behavioral Research Branch at NHGRI.

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23854 - Posted: 07.20.2017

Xiaomeng (Mona) Xu, assistant professor of experimental psychology, and Ariana Tart-Zelvin, If you have experienced the evolution from having a crush to falling in love, it may seem like the transition happens naturally. But have you ever wondered how we make such a huge emotional leap? In other words, what changes take place in our brains that allow us to fall deeply in love? Stephanie Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago who has studied the neuroscience of romantic love for the past decade, explains that the process involves several complex changes, particularly in the brain’s reward system. More specifically, in a 2012 review of the love research literature Lisa Diamond and Janna Dickenson, psychologists at the University of Utah, found romantic love is most consistently associated with activity in two brain regions—the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the caudate nucleus. These areas play an essential role in our reward pathway and regulate the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. In other words, during the early stages of love you crave the person because he or she makes you feel so good. And over time these feelings persist. Our neuroimaging research and that of others suggests that once you are in love—as long as the relationship remains satisfying—simply thinking about your partner not only makes you feel good but can also buffer against pain, stress and other negative feelings. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Emotions; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23852 - Posted: 07.20.2017

By LISA FELDMAN BARRETT Imagine that a bully threatens to punch you in the face. A week later, he walks up to you and breaks your nose with his fist. Which is more harmful: the punch or the threat? The answer might seem obvious: Physical violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren’t. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” But scientifically speaking, it’s not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life. Your body’s immune system includes little proteins called proinflammatory cytokines that cause inflammation when you’re physically injured. Under certain conditions, however, these cytokines themselves can cause physical illness. What are those conditions? One of them is chronic stress. Your body also contains little packets of genetic material that sit on the ends of your chromosomes. They’re called telomeres. Each time your cells divide, their telomeres get a little shorter, and when they become too short, you die. This is normal aging. But guess what else shrinks your telomeres? Chronic stress. If words can cause stress, and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm, then it seems that speech — at least certain types of speech — can be a form of violence. But which types? This question has taken on some urgency in the past few years, as professed defenders of social justice have clashed with professed defenders of free speech on college campuses. Student advocates have protested vigorously, even violently, against invited speakers whose views they consider not just offensive but harmful — hence the desire to silence, not debate, the speaker. “Trigger warnings” are based on a similar principle: that discussions of certain topics will trigger, or reproduce, past trauma — as opposed to merely challenging or discomfiting the student. The same goes for “microaggressions.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression; Brain imaging
Link ID: 23846 - Posted: 07.18.2017

Jon Hamilton Harsh life experiences appear to leave African-Americans vulnerable to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, researchers reported Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London. Several teams presented evidence that poverty, disadvantage and stressful life events are strongly associated with cognitive problems in middle age and dementia later in life among African-Americans. The findings could help explain why African-Americans are twice as likely as white Americans to develop dementia. And the research suggests genetic factors are not a major contributor. "The increased risk seems to be a matter of experience rather than ancestry," says Megan Zuelsdorff, a postdoctoral fellow in the Health Disparities Research Scholars Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Scientists have struggled to understand why African-Americans are so likely to develop dementia. They are more likely to have conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, which can affect the brain. And previous research has found some evidence that African-Americans are more likely to carry genes that raise the risk. But more recent studies suggest those explanations are incomplete, says Rachel Whitmer, an epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Northern California. Whitmer has been involved in several studies that accounted for genetic and disease risks when comparing dementia in white and black Americans. "And we still saw these [racial] differences," she says. "So there is still something there that we are trying to get at." © 2017 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Stress
Link ID: 23841 - Posted: 07.17.2017

Brandie Jefferson It wasn't long ago that there were no treatments for multiple sclerosis. In the 1970s, some doctors used chemotherapy to treat the degenerative neurological disease. Since then, more than a dozen drugs have been developed or approved, including infusions, oral medications and self-administered shots. None of these are a magic bullet for a disease that can be disabling and deadly. But now there is a new drug, Ocrevus, that looks like a game-changer. It uses a novel approach to blocking the inflammation that drives the disease and looks as if it's spectacularly effective. It also costs $65,000 a year. I have MS. Should I take Ocrevus? That, I discovered, is not a simple question to answer. But because I'm an MS patient and a science journalist, I was determined to try to figure it out. In March, the FDA approved Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, the most common form of the disease. People with RRMS tend to have flare-ups when their symptoms worsen, followed by periods of remission and, in some cases, a full or partial recovery. In two clinical trials sponsored by the drug's eventual manufacturer, F. Hoffmann-La Roche, RRMS patients who were given ocrelizumab had about 50 percent fewer relapses and up to 95 percent fewer new lesions on the brain and spinal cord than those who were given Rebif, a common therapy. MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning the body attacks itself. The body's nerve endings and the fatty tissue that coats them, called myelin, bear the brunt of the immune system's attacks. As a result, the central nervous system has difficulty communicating with the nerves, leading to a disease that manifests itself in different ways, such as pain, fatigue, disability and slurred speech. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis
Link ID: 23838 - Posted: 07.14.2017

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Brash, brawny and keen to impose their will on anyone who enters their sphere of existence: the alpha male in action is unmistakable. Now scientists claim to have pinpointed the biological root of domineering behaviour. New research has located a brain circuit that, when activated in mice, transformed timid individuals into bold alpha mice that almost always prevailed in aggressive social encounters. In some cases, the social ranking of the subordinate mice soared after the scientists’ intervention, hinting that it might be possible to acquire “alphaness” simply by adopting the appropriate mental attitude. Or as Donald Trump might put it: “My whole life is about winning. I almost never lose.” Prof Hailan Hu, a neuroscientist at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, who led the work said: “We stimulate this brain region and we can make lower ranked mice move up the social ladder.” The brain region, called the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), was already known to light up during social interactions involving decisions about whether to be assertive or submissive with others. But brain imaging alone could not determine whether the circuit was ultimately controlling how people behave. The latest findings answer the question, showing that when the circuit was artificially switched on, low-ranking mice were immediately emboldened. “It’s not aggressiveness per se,” Hu said. “It increases their perseverance, motivational drive, grit.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Aggression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23836 - Posted: 07.14.2017

Ian Sample Science editor The secret to a good night’s sleep later in life is having a good reason to get up in the morning, according to US researchers who surveyed people on their sleeping habits and sense of purpose. People who felt they had a strong purpose in life suffered from less insomnia and sleep disturbances than others and claimed to rest better at night as a result, the study found. Jason Ong, a neurologist who led the research at Northwestern University in Chicago, said that encouraging people to develop a sense of purpose could help them to keep insomnia at bay without the need for sleeping pills. More than 800 people aged 60 to 100 took part in the study and answered questions on their sleep quality and motivations in life. To assess their sense of purpose, the participants were asked to rate statements such as: “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future.” According to Ong, people who felt their lives had most meaning were less likely to have sleep apnea, a disorder that makes the breathing shallow or occasionally stop, or restless leg syndrome, a condition that compels people to move their legs and which is often worse at night. Those who reported the most purposeful lives had slightly better sleep quality overall, according to the study in the journal Sleep Science and Practice. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep; Attention
Link ID: 23819 - Posted: 07.11.2017

By Michael Price Male baboons that harass and assault females are more likely to mate with them, according to a new study, adding evidence that sexual intimidation may be a common mating strategy among promiscuous mammals. The study’s authors even argue that the findings could shed light on the evolutionary origins of our own species’ behavior, although others aren’t convinced the results imply anything about people. “I think the data and analyses in this study are first-rate,” says Susan Alberts, a biologist who studies primate behavior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “[But] I also think it’s a big stretch to infer something about the origins of human male aggression towards women.” To conduct the research, Elise Huchard, a zoologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Montpellier, France, and colleagues examined a group of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) living in Tsaobis Nature Park in Namibia over a 9-year period. These brownish, dog-sized primates live in troops of dozens of males and females. Females will mate with multiple males throughout the year. The male chacma are about twice the size of females and aggressively fight one another and engage in howling competitions to establish dominance. The more dominant a male is, the more likely he is both to succeed in finding a mate and to sire offspring. Males rarely force females to mate, but after years spent observing the animals in the wild, Huchard noticed that a subtler form of sexual coercion appeared to be going on. “Males often chase and attack some females of their own group when meeting another group, and they generally target sexually receptive females on such occasions,” she says. “I spent a great deal of time studying female mate choice, and my main impression … was that females don't have much room to express any preference.” © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 23813 - Posted: 07.07.2017

Mike Mariani With its bright colors, anthropomorphic animal motif, and nautical-themed puzzle play mat, Dr. Kimberly Noble’s laboratory at Columbia University looks like your typical day care center—save for the team of cognitive neuroscientists observing kids from behind a large two-way mirror. The Neurocognition, Early Experience, and Development Lab is home to cutting-edge research on how poverty affects young brains, and I’ve come here to learn how Noble and her colleagues could soon definitively prove that growing up poor can keep a child’s brain from developing. Noble, a 40-year-old from outside of Philadelphia who discusses her work with a mix of enthusiasm and clinical restraint, is among the handful of neuroscientists and pediatricians who’ve seen increasing evidence that poverty itself—and not factors like nutrition, language exposure, family stability, or prenatal issues, as previously thought—may diminish the growth of a child’s brain. Now she’s in the middle of planning a five-year, nationwide study that could establish a causal link between poverty and brain development—and, in the process, suggest a path forward for helping our poorest children. It’s the culmination of years of work for Noble, who helped jump-start this fledgling field in the early 2000s when, as a University of Pennsylvania graduate student, she and renowned cognitive neuroscientist Martha Farah began exploring the observation that poor kids tended to perform worse academically than their better-off peers. They wanted to investigate the neurocognitive underpinnings of this relationship—to trace the long-standing correlation between socioeconomic status and academic performance back to specific parts of the brain. “There have been decades of work from social scientists, looking at socioeconomic disparities in broad cognitive outcomes—things like IQ or high school graduation rate,” she says. “But there’s no high school graduation part of the brain.” ©2017 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Stress
Link ID: 23805 - Posted: 07.04.2017