Chapter 8. Hormones and Sex

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By Anna Azvolinsky Researchers have tried to dissect the effects of an older father on kids’ longevity. One study found that kids with older dads had longer telomeres, which may indicate better health and longer lifespan, while another observed that kids with older dads have an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. So far, there have been very few experimental studies in animals that directly test whether paternal age has an affect on offspring telomere length and lifespan. Now, a team of researchers shows that bird embryos sired from old zebra finch fathers have shorter telomeres compared to those with the same moms and younger fathers. The study, published today (March 14) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is among the first to address whether paternal age affects telomere length of offspring using an experimental approach. “The experimental design of this study looking at the effect of paternal age on telomere length of [zebra finch] embryos is particularly strong, allowing for confidence in these results,” writes Dan Eisenberg, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who studies the effects of paternal age on telomere length in humans and chimpanzees, in an email to The Scientist. Jose Noguera, now at the University of Vigo, along with colleagues at the University of Glasgow, bred 32 middle-aged, female zebra finches first with both 16 four-month-old males and later with 16 four-year-old male birds. The team harvested the eggs, 139 in total, artificially incubated them for several days, then analyzed the telomere lengths of the embryos. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24760 - Posted: 03.16.2018

By Hiroko Tabuchi If a sparrow sings his heart out on an oil field, but his would-be sweetheart can’t hear him above the oil pumps, what’s a bird to do? In Alberta, Canada, researchers analyzed hundreds of hours of Savannah sparrow love songs and discovered something extraordinary: To be heard above the din, the birds are changing their tune in complex ways that scientists are only starting to understand. “They’re tailoring their songs depending on which part of their message is the most affected,” said Miyako Warrington, a University of Manitoba biologist who led a recent study on how sparrows cope with noise from the oil and gas infrastructure that dots Canada’s landscape. “This seems to show a complex level of adaptation. It’s not just everybody talking louder.” Dr. Warrington is one of a growing number of scholars who study the noise generated by human activity — drills, turbines, roaring jet engines — and how that affects the natural world around us. Mining on the fringes of the Brazilian rain forest, for instance, is disrupting the calls of local black-fronted titi monkeys, a study found last year. Whales and dolphins are known to be particularly vulnerable to the groans of ship engines or offshore drilling, which can disrupt the complex ways they communicate. Research has shown that noise pollution has doubled the background sound levels in more than 60 percent of protected areas in the United States. And humans are not immune to the din. Epidemiologists have linked traffic noise to cardiovascular and other diseases. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Animal Communication; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24758 - Posted: 03.15.2018

by Ben Guarino Only male birds sing. For years that was the assumption among amateur birdwatchers and ornithologists alike. After all, male birds are “the obvious ones,” says Lauryn Benedict, a biologist at the University of Northern Colorado. “They're out there showing off, strutting their stuff.” But Benedict and fellow birdsong expert Karan Odom, a biologist at Cornell University, want you to look closer if you hear a chirp or warble. Female birds are not, on the whole, silent. In a call-to-ears published Wednesday in the journal the Auk, the two scientists say that “birders and researchers need to be aware that female birds regularly sing, and they need to take the time to evaluate the sex of singing birds.” The tipping point for Odom came in 2014, when she concluded that birdsong is an ancestral trait shared by both sexes. Female birds sang in 71 percent of 323 species surveyed, she and her colleagues reported then in a Nature Communications paper. They traced this behavior through the bird family tree, winding back the generations to a common singing ancestor. At that point in history, they wrote, both male and female birds sang. Benedict, who was not involved with that work, described it like this: Instead of males evolving to be loud, “females have evolved to be quiet.” © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Animal Communication; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24757 - Posted: 03.15.2018

By Nicola Davis Your book is all about reproductive hormones, and their impact on our behaviour. It only focuses on female hormones. Why not look at men’s too? Two reasons. One is that the focus of research in my lab is to look at women’s hormones. The other is that I think there are problems with how people have viewed hormones and women, and I really want to debunk those myths, then pursue some of the implications for further exploring links between women’s hormones and their behaviour. I think they are really important for women’s wellbeing. You say that some people, including women, have pushed back against discussing the influence of hormones. Why is that? I get a strong sense that if you ascribe a woman’s behaviour to biology, people will automatically think that women are automatons, driven by their hormones and unable to regulate their own behaviour. That is false. There is a female stereotype, whereby any time a woman does something a little bit difficult to understand, then it is hormones that make women “irrational”. But nobody says that about men. For that reason, those who are concerned about women achieving equality with men worry that if we talk about women and hormones, then people will say such things as women shouldn’t hold higher office and so on. That’s silly, because men have hormones, too. Are you surprised by how recently we have begun investigating the impact of hormones on women? One reason is that scientists were content for many decades with studying the male as the default sex, and that was in part because women had cycles that made them messy. If you are doing a scientific experiment, you don’t want noise, you don’t want variation, you want everything to be strictly controlled. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24746 - Posted: 03.13.2018

By George Musser, Satsuki Ayaya remembers finding it hard to play with other children when she was young, as if a screen separated her from them. Sometimes she felt numb, sometimes too sensitive; sometimes sounds were muted, sometimes too sharp. As a teenager, desperate to understand herself, she began keeping a journal. “I started to write my ideas in my notebooks, like: What’s happened to me? Or: What’s wrong with me? Or: Who am I?” she says, “I wrote, wrote, wrote. I filled maybe 40 notebooks.” Today, at 43, Ayaya has a better sense of who she is: She was diagnosed with autism when she was in her early 30s. As a Ph.D. student in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Tokyo, she is using the narratives from her teen years and after to generate hypotheses and suggest experiments about autism — a form of self-analysis called Tojisha-Kenkyu, introduced nearly 20 years ago by the disability-rights movement in Japan. In Ayaya’s telling, her autism involves a host of perceptual disconnects. For example, she feels in exquisite detail all the sensations that typical people readily identify as hunger, but she can’t piece them together. “It’s very hard for me to conclude I’m hungry,” she says. “I feel irritated, or I feel sad, or I feel something [is] wrong. This information is separated, not connected.” It takes her so long to realize she is hungry that she often feels faint and gets something to eat only after someone suggests it to her. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24736 - Posted: 03.10.2018

By Shawna Williams In recent years, US society has seen a sea change in the perception of transgender people, with celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox becoming the recognizable faces of a marginalized population. Transgender rights have also become a mainstream political issue, and the idea that people should be referred to by the names and pronouns they find most fitting—whether or not these designations match those on their birth certificates, or align with the categories of male and female—is gaining acceptance. Yet a biological understanding of the contrast between the natal sex and the gender identity of transgender people remains elusive. In recent years, techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have begun to yield clues to possible biological underpinnings of the condition known as gender dysphoria. In particular, researchers are identifying similarities and differences between aspects of the structure and function of the brains of trans- and cisgender individuals that could help explain the conviction that one’s gender and natal sex don’t match. The results may not have much effect on how gender dysphoria is diagnosed and treated, notes Baudewijntje Kreukels, who studies gender incongruence at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. “It’s really important that it will not be seen as, ‘When you see [gender dysphoria] in the brain, then it’s true.’” But the insights from such research could go a long way toward satisfying the desire of some transgender people to understand the roots of their condition, she adds. “In that way, it is good to find out if these differences between them and their sex assigned at birth are reflected by measures in the brain.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24724 - Posted: 03.06.2018

by Amy Ellis Nutt In the first broad demographic study of trends in gender-affirming surgeries in the United States, researchers found that the number of operations increased fourfold from 2000 to 2014. Some of the dramatic rise, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery, may be related to an increase in insurance coverage for the procedures. “Early on we recognized there’s been a lot of work on health disparities having to do with age, race and so on that get collected in health-care settings,” said Brandyn Lau, an assistant professor of surgery and health sciences informatics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “One of the things we need to know is whether [lesbian, gay and transgender] patients are getting the same care.” Lau and other researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and Harvard University analyzed 15 years of data from the National Inpatient Sample, a collection of hospital inpatient information from across the country, and found a total of 4,118 gender-affirming surgeries. The surgeries took place as LGBTQ people are finding increasing acceptance, especially among younger generations. The majority of the surgeries that occurred between 2000 and 2011 involved patients not covered by health insurance. About half of the transgender patients in the study paid out of pocket between 2000 and 2005. That number rose to 65 percent between 2006 and 2011. However, the trend reversed between 2012 and 2014, with the number plummeting to 39 percent. Much of that decrease, say the study's authors, is due to Medicare and Medicaid. In May 2014, Medicare ended its 33-year ban on transgender surgeries. Loren Schechter, who specializes in transgender surgeries, says he does about 300 procedures a year, whereas it was only about 50 in 2000. The plastic surgeon also accepts Medicare, which others do not. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24708 - Posted: 02.28.2018

By Kimberly Hickok If you ever wanted to know what a moth was thinking, this might be as close as you’re going to get. In a new study published today in Cell Reports, researchers placed female hawkmoths (Manduca sexta) in a wind tunnel containing two pieces of filter paper—one covered in a test odor, and one with no odor. Perhaps not surprisingly, the insects were most attracted to odors containing aromatic chemicals, which are present in plants that are common nectar sources. Some odors consistently caused the moths to touch their feet to the paper while curving their abdomen, which is how they lay eggs, indicating that moths associate those odors with egg laying. With six different odors, the moths alternated touching their feet and their mouths to the same odor, suggesting that plants containing one or all of those chemicals, such as jimson weed, are important for both feeding and egg laying. By combining these data with imaging of nerve cells at the base of the moths’ antennae, the researchers identified four clusters of nerves specifically associated with feeding behavior and six specifically associated with egg laying, but none associated with both behaviors. This means moths use specific odors to direct their behavior. The scientists say more research is needed to see whether nerve clusters respond to odor the same way in other species of moths and pollinating insects, which can help identify important odors and the plants that make them. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste); Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24706 - Posted: 02.28.2018

By JOANNA KLEIN FEB. 13, 2018 If Cupid wanted to make two songbirds fall in love, he’d have better luck aiming at their brains. That’s because songbirds, which form lifelong mating pairs, have brain systems perfectly tuned to fit together. While you sort through the messages of admirers, deciding who to make your Valentine, consider finches. Young males in this family of feathered crooners learn the song of their father, perfect it and perform it as adults to attract a lifelong mate. It’s loud, elaborate and precise. With their songs they say “chirp, chirp — my brain is healthy, and my body is strong. That’s something you’re into, right?” A female finch also learns the songs of her father from a young age, but she doesn’t perform. She’s the critic. She analyzes every detail of a potential mate’s song, compares it to her father’s example and decides if this performer is one she’d like to keep around. If she detects a song is too simple or off in any way, she’ll have nothing to do with its performer. She’s very picky, as she should be, because the mate she chooses will help raise their young — till death do they part. Over the past decade, researchers looking into the chickpea-sized brains of finches have discovered that each sex uses what’s called its sound control system to convert sound waves to social messages and then use them to find mates, kind of how humans use vocal sounds to communicate. And while these systems are well-developed and finely tuned in both sexes of songbirds, the wiring is different. “The biggest difference between male and female brains of the same species is found in songbirds,” said Sarah Woolley, a neuroscientist who studies finches at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute. Dr. Woolley’s lab has been looking into the acoustic systems of zebra, bengalese and long-tailed finches to see how their brains take in and process sounds — learning, performing and analyzing different parts of them to make sense of songs. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24660 - Posted: 02.14.2018

An all-female freshwater fish species called the Amazon molly that inhabits rivers and creeks along the Texas-Mexico border is living proof that sexual reproduction may be vastly overrated. Scientists said on Monday they have deciphered the genome of the Amazon molly, one of the few vertebrate species to rely upon asexual reproduction, and discovered that it had none of the genetic flaws, such as an accumulation of harmful mutations or a lack of genetic diversity, they had expected. They found that the Amazon molly, named after the fierce female warriors of ancient Greek mythology, boasts a hardy genetic makeup that makes it equally fit, or even more so, than fish using sexual reproduction in which both maternal and paternal genes are passed along to offspring. "The Amazon molly is doing quite well," said biologist Manfred Schartl of the University of Wuerzburg in Germany. "Unexpectedly, we did not find the signs of genomic decay as predicted." The fish reproduces using a strategy in which a female's egg cell develops into a baby without being fertilized by a male's sperm cell. But that does not mean the fish does not need some hanky panky. "The Amazon molly female produces clones of itself by duping a male of a closely related species to mate with her. The asexual mode of reproduction termed gynogenesis requires the female to mate with a male but none of the male's genome is passed to the offspring," said geneticist Wesley Warren of the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. ©2018 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 24659 - Posted: 02.14.2018

By Dina Fine Maron Suspicions of a link between prenatal ultrasound scans and autism spectrum disorder are nothing new. The technology has exploded in recent decades, giving expectant parents more detailed images of their developing offspring than ever before. And as ultrasound use has sharply increased, so too have diagnoses of autism—prompting questions about a potential relationship. A rigorous new study examining the association between ultrasounds during the first or second trimester of pregnancy and later development of autism spectrum disorder, however, delivers some good news. The study, which analyzed the medical records and ultrasound details of more than 400 kids who were born at Boston Medical Center, found there was no increase in the number of prenatal scans or duration of ultrasound exposure in children with autism compared with kids with typical development or separate developmental delays. In fact, the group with autism had less average exposure time during its first and second trimesters of development than individuals without autism did. The finding adds weight to earlier studies that suggested such scans—which use high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the fetus, placenta and surrounding maternal organs—are not a powerful enough environmental risk to cause autism on their own. But the new study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, did leave one question unanswered: Does the depth of the actual ultrasound scan make a difference? The work found the children with autism were exposed to prenatal ultrasounds with greater penetration than the control group: During the first trimester, the group with autism had scans with an average depth of 12.5 centimeters compared with 11.6 centimeters for the control group. And during the second trimester the group with autism had scan depths of 12.9 centimeters compared with 12.5 centimeters for the typical development control group. Ultrasounds may not be uniform for reasons including the position of the fetus in the womb. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24655 - Posted: 02.13.2018

Adam Cole Love is complicated, scientifically speaking. There's no single, specific "love chemical" that surges through our bodies when we see our beloved, and we can't point to a specific corner of the brain where love resides. Still, scientists have measured real changes in our bodies when we fall in love: an ebb and flow of signaling molecules. In that early lustful phase, sex hormones like testosterone fuel the libido (in both men and women). The dopamine highs of new attraction have been compared by some scientists to the effects of cocaine use. The anxiety associated with new romance has been linked to low levels of serotonin in the brain. And some researchers say they see similarities in the way serotonin is regulated in the early phases of love and the way it is modulated in obsessive compulsive disorder. Meanwhile, our brains start producing more oxytocin, a chemical that is crucial to, among other things, the bonding of mothers and infants. Comparisons to drug use and compulsion aren't perfect (obviously there's a lot more fancy chemistry going on in our brains) but they do seem to speak to our experience. In Skunk Bear's new video, we explore the symptoms of love and their neurological causes. Why does your heart race when you see your crush? What gives you that feeling of butterflies? And why does love make us act so dumb? This love ballad is our Valentine's gift to you. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24651 - Posted: 02.13.2018

A mutant species of all-female crayfish taking over the world is not the latest science fiction film but a real-life environmental thriller. A new study has found that marbled crayfish are multiplying rapidly and invading ecosystems across the world. The ten-legged pests are descended from one single female with a mutation allowing it to reproduce without males. These self-cloning ladies are found for sale in North America, despite a warning against keeping them as pets. Sales of the six-inch creature are already banned by the European Union. Procambarus virginalis did not exist three decades ago. Born to a male and female slough crayfish, a species originally from Florida, the original marbled crayfish had an additional set of chromosomes - a mutation that made her distinct from her parents and allowed her to reproduce without having to mate. Now officially a separate species, the marbled crayfish can been found in the wild in Japan, Madagascar, multiple European countries and the US. The new study published in Nature, Ecology and Evolution describes the invasive species as a threat to wild ones, particularly seven native species in Madagascar. "If you have one animal, essentially, three months later, you will have 200 or 300," Dr Wolfgang Stein, one of the researchers, told Canadian public broadcaster CBC. Dr Stein, who is a neurophysiologist at Illinois State University, told the BBC that they compared 11 marbled crayfish, spread through the pet trade to four locations on three continents. He noted that while they all share the DNA of one mother crayfish, there were some differences in "colouring". "The animal sequenced here by us in the US was more blue-ish than the ones from Germany and Madagascar," Dr Stein said. © 2018 BBC.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 24650 - Posted: 02.13.2018

Lee Burdette Williams The call came from a former colleague who coaches college students on the autism spectrum. “We’ve got someone who’s in trouble, and we could use some advice. It’s one of those Title IX things.” She told me the story. The student loves punk music and wanted to start a band. He put up fliers on the campus, which in itself was an issue because he violated the institutional posting policy. But even in today’s climate, I thought, that doesn’t usually rise to a Title IX complaint. She continued. “He wrote something in Morse code on the flyer, a message directed to women, because he was trying to recruit some to join the band. It was a little ‘stalky-creepy’ -- OK, pretty creepy -- but this guy is totally harmless and clueless and just doesn’t know how to meet women.” My first reaction was to smile. Morse code? How many college students even know what it is? But it didn’t surprise me to learn this about a student with Asperger’s syndrome, the commonly used term for those with high-functioning autism. Indeed, this kind of situation, I have come to realize, exemplifies a disastrous nexus of two trends on college campuses: the increased awareness of Title IX’s expectations for student behavior and institutional response, and the growing number of students with a diagnosis (or simply just characteristics) of autism who are attending college. I imagined the student had learned Morse code at the age of 5 and was no doubt still fluent in it. In his mind, a wondrous place created by the distinct neural connections common among those with this diagnosis, the use of Morse code to signal his interest in meeting women made perfect sense. To those who know him, it is one of many quirky characteristics -- some of them sweet, some of them annoying -- that require a bit of translation for him and about him as he moves within the world of higher education. © 2018

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24644 - Posted: 02.12.2018

By Kimberly Hickok Your webcam may know your face, but your keyboard knows your gender. Computer models can predict with 95.6% accuracy whether a man or woman is typing, according to a new study. To conduct the research, computer engineers installed keystroke-logging software onto the personal computers of 75 volunteers—36 men, 39 women—which monitored their daily computer use for 10 months. The researchers then used a program they created, called “ISqueezeU” to calculate the relative helpfulness of different typing features for determining gender—things like the time between two specific keystrokes, or the amount of time a key is pressed down during a single keystroke. A few features stood out as being more useful than others. For example, the average time between pressing the “N” key to pressing the “O” key was the most helpful, followed by the average time between pressing the “M” and “O” keys. The program isn’t capable of specifying whether a man or woman types those keys faster or more often—only that there is a difference. The researchers then tested the program’s findings using five machine learning models, which are computer programs that build models based on what they “learn” from existing data. All five models were able to predict gender accurately more than 78% of the time, with the most successful model being more than 95% accurate, the engineers report this week in Digital Investigation. The team proposes the use of keystroke dynamics as a cost-efficient and nonintrusive way to identify the gender of unknown computer users in criminal investigations, such as in cases of cyberstalking or identity theft. The researchers plan to expand their data collection with more volunteers, and see whether incorporating other variables such as handedness or education level can increase accuracy. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24639 - Posted: 02.10.2018

Robert D. Martin This may be surprising to some: A woman's age is not alone in affecting pregnancy and birth, despite the impression often given. Reviewing Paul Raeburn's book Do Fathers Matter?, Tabitha Powledge wrote: "Everybody knows that older mothers run higher risks of a baby with birth defects — Down syndrome being the most common and best-known. By comparison, hardly anybody knows that the older Dad gets, the riskier it is for him to conceive a child." Partners age together, so a fetus or baby with an older mother will mostly have an older father, too. Logic demands exploration of age effects in both sexes. Though few and far between, such studies do indeed reveal that both men and women contribute. With Down syndrome, age effects for fathers and mothers are roughly balanced. But new data clearly show that, when it comes to inherited defects, fathers actually carry greater risks than mothers. Random changes in DNA — mutations — accumulate four times faster in sperms than in eggs. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace realized that variety is not just the spice of life; it is the very essence. Inherited differences between individuals are the raw material for natural selection. And the prime source of natural variation in genes is new mutations. These have been studied intensively, notably regarding rates of change. Yet mutation also has a dark side because it can produce adverse effects along with variety. Hence, the mutation rate has fundamental implications for medical genetics as well as for evolutionary biology. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 24592 - Posted: 01.31.2018

By RONI CARYN RABIN Most dieters know the hard truth: Sticking to a weight loss regimen gets more difficult as the day wears on. But while those who give in to food cravings and binge at night may blame flagging willpower, a new study suggests the problem could lie in the complex orchestra of hormones that drive hunger and signal feelings of satiety, or fullness. The small study of 32 obese men and women, half of whom had a habit of binge eating, suggests that satiety hormones may be lower during the evening hours, while hunger hormones rise toward nightfall and may be stoked even higher by stressful situations. Overweight binge eaters may be particularly susceptible to the influence of fluctuations in these appetite-regulating hormones, the researchers found. “There’s more opportunity to eat in the evening, but this study is showing that hormonal responses are setting them up to do this,” said Susan Carnell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who was a first author of the study along with Charlotte Grillot of Florida State University. It’s not clear whether these hormonal patterns precede and cause the binge eating behaviors or are conditioned by an individual’s eating habits, Dr. Carnell said. But either way, “you can get stuck in the cycle.” The study is an important reminder that myriad factors contribute to weight gain, and that shaming and blaming people for their weight problems is inappropriate, said Kelly Costello Allison, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the new research. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24591 - Posted: 01.31.2018

By Jessica Wright Nearly 20 years ago, a new strain of mice debuted in a California laboratory. The mice were missing a gene called SCN2A that helps neurons transmit electrical currents. And the study announcing their genesis was the last word on the matter for many years. About a decade later, the mouse’s creator, Maurice Montal, sacrificed the few animals left from the colony. He had sent some of his mice to other researchers, and some ended up with a team in Houston, Texas. But they, too, eventually stopped working with the strain. Perhaps the only one who continued to work with the mice was a postdoctoral researcher named Edward Glasscock, who brought the mice from Houston to the University of Louisiana when he launched his own lab. After years of work, Glasscock found that a mutation in SCN2A can muffle the effect of another mutation that triggers sudden death in people with epilepsy. That turned out to be only the beginning of the mice’s comeback. In June 2016, Kevin Bender, an autism researcher, sent Glasscock an urgent request asking for the mice. Requests from two other autism researchers quickly followed. Soon the mice were populating labs in San Francisco, Baltimore, and France. “I was surprised that there would be such a rush to get them,” says Glasscock, assistant professor of cellular biology and anatomy at Louisiana State University. “Back when I first started working with the mice, it would never have been on my radar that they would have been an important gene for autism.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 24586 - Posted: 01.30.2018

Emily Willingham How many times did I say it – to myself, out loud alone or out loud to others, throughout my childhood? ‘I wish I were a boy.’ The words were mine, a fervent and frequent wish. They were not born of a feeling of mismatch between external expectations and internal signals. Except for a lifelong tension with society’s mixed messages about what it means to be a woman, I’m comfortable identifying as the gender assigned to me. But I wished for boyness because the boys did so many things I wanted to do and was excluded from doing because I was a girl. My body and my brain mapped to each other just fine, but my body didn’t map at all to what society told these boys – and me – I was allowed to do. As many a woman can attest, this feeling of belonging in male spaces that lock you out doesn’t end with teenhood, adulthood, careerhood or parenthood. An aficionado of adventure stories, I couldn’t – still can’t – help but notice that the places men can go are often No Women’s Lands for someone like me. Not because I lack the physicality, strength or stamina to traverse them but because the mere presentation of being female is itself dangerous. Realistically, it invites violence, exclusion and violation in too many ways to be considered anything but a liability. And then there are the less wild places, just boys’ clubs and men’s clubs, de facto or tacit, where being a girl or woman means being viewed as an intruder or, as women have always known, being subject to harassment or worse. Every day, I see men circle their masculinity like musk oxen, protective and exclusionary, in my professions of academia and journalism. Even in the virtual world of social media, they reflexively exclude women who are their peers in expertise and competence while readily engaging men who are neither. I am wryly amused when people committed to the idea that men and women are cognitively different throw women the double-edged bone of being ‘better at verbal expression’. (Look, we’re good at a thing! That you’ll also use to make fun of us chatty, chatty Cathies!) I read that and think of who receives most of the major book awards and other writing accolades. Hint: it’s men. I’ll wager that the social factors involved in the latter contribute to the assumptions underlying the former. © Aeon Media Group Ltd. 2012-2018.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24581 - Posted: 01.29.2018

By Shawna Williams When the Voyager I spacecraft left Earth in 1977, it carried with it a “Golden Record” containing audio recordings of messages meant for any intelligent life that might cross its path. It bore sounds from around the world, including greetings in 55 languages, Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” and a fussy baby being soothed by its mother. According to Marc Bornstein, a developmental psychologist at Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Carl Sagan and other members of the committee who decided what to include on the record were spot on in picking the latter track. “Infant cry is . . . the very first communication between an infant and a caregiver,” Bornstein says. Crying is infants’ best tool for ensuring they get the care they need, but Bornstein and his research collaborators wondered about the caregivers’ responses: to what extent were those innate versus learned? To investigate, they enrolled 684 new mothers and their babies from 11 countries around the world and put cameras in their homes. Each time a baby began crying, the researchers recorded what the mother did in the next five seconds. Did she pick the baby up? Kiss or stroke it? Talk to it? Try to distract it with a toy? “Within five seconds, the predominant kinds of responses are picking up and holding and talking to the baby,” says Bornstein (PNAS, 114:E9465-73, 2017). The degree of uniformity surprised him. “People in Kenya and Cameroon . . . the mothers are growing up and have been reared in wildly different circumstances than mothers in Brazil and Argentina or the United States, or certainly than Japan or South Korea.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Language
Link ID: 24571 - Posted: 01.26.2018