Chapter 1. Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook

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By LISA SANDERS, M.D. The 35-year-old man lay on the bed with his eyes closed, motionless except for the regular jerking of his abdomen and chest — what is known medically as a singultus (from the Latin for ‘‘sob’’) but popularly and onomatopoeically as a hiccup. The man was exhausted. He couldn’t eat, could barely drink and hadn’t slept much since the hiccups began, nearly three weeks earlier. Unending Contractions At first it was just annoying — these spasms that interrupted his life every 10 to 12 seconds. Friends and family suggested remedies, and he tried them all: holding his breath, drinking cold water, drinking hot water, drinking out of the wrong side of the glass, drinking water while holding his nose. Sometimes they even worked for a while. He would find himself waiting for the next jerk, and when it didn’t come, he’d get this tiny sense of triumph that the ridiculous ordeal was over. But after 15 minutes, maybe 30, they would suddenly return: hiccup, hiccup, hiccup. His neck, stomach and chest muscles ached from the constant regular contractions. On this evening, the man had one of the all too rare breaks from the spasms and fell asleep. When his wife heard the regular sound start up again, she came into their bedroom to check on him. He looked awful — thin, tired and uncomfortable. And suddenly she was scared. They needed to go to the hospital, she told him. He was too weak, he told her, ‘‘and so very tired.’’ He would go, but first he’d rest. They had been to the emergency room several times already. During their first visit — nearly two weeks earlier — the doctors at the local hospital in their Queens neighborhood gave him a medication, chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic that has been shown to stop hiccups, though it’s not clear why. It was like a miracle; the rhythmic spasms stopped. But a few hours later, when the drug wore off, the hiccups returned. The couple went back a few days later because he started throwing up while hiccupping. Those doctors offered an acid reducer for his stomach and more chlorpromazine. They encouraged the man to have patience. Sometimes these things can last, they said. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23853 - Posted: 07.20.2017

People with higher IQs are less likely to die before the age of 79. That’s according to a study of over 65,000 people born in Scotland in 1936. Each of the people in the study took an intelligence test at the age of 11, and their health was then followed for 68 years, until the end of 2015. When Ian Deary, of the University of Edinburgh, UK, and his team analysed data from the study, they found that a higher test score in childhood was linked to a 28 per cent lower risk of death from respiratory disease, a 25 per cent reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and a 24 per cent lower risk of death from stroke. These people were also less likely to die from injuries, digestive diseases, and dementia – even when factors like socio-economic status were taken into account. Deary’s team say there are several theories for why more intelligent people live longer, such as people with higher IQs being more likely to look after their health and less likely to smoke. They also tend to do more exercise and seek medical attention when ill. “I’m hoping it means that if we can find out what smart people do and copy them, then we have a chance of a slightly longer and healthier life,” says Dreary. But there’s evidence genetics is involved too. A recent study suggests that very rare genetic variants can play an important role in lowering intelligence, and that these may also be likely to impair a person’s health. Journal reference: British Medical Journal, DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j2708 © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Intelligence
Link ID: 23786 - Posted: 06.29.2017

Frances Perraudin A 90-tonne machine that will allow cancer patients to receive state-of-the-art high-energy proton beam therapy on the NHS for the first time is to be installed at a hospital in Manchester. The cyclotron delivers a special type of radiotherapy currently only available overseas. The NHS has been paying for patients to travel abroad for the treatment since 2008. A 90-metre (300ft) crane will be used to lower the machine into position at the Christie hospital on Thursday. It will sit in a bunker reinforced with 270 timber, steel and concrete posts. Proton beam therapy targets certain cancers very precisely, increasing success rates and reducing side-effects. It causes less damage to healthy tissue surrounding the tumour and is particularly appropriate for certain cancers in children, who are more at risk of lasting damage because their organs are still growing. The treatment came to national attention in 2014 when a police search was mounted after the parents of five-year-old Ashya King took him out of hospital against doctors’ wishes and travelled to the continent. The couple hoped to secure proton beam therapy to treat their son’s brain tumour, but doctors argued that the treatment would not increase the boy’s chances of recovery. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23777 - Posted: 06.27.2017

By Kat McGowan Doctors at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital could not figure out what was wrong with the 29-year-old man sitting before them. An otherwise healthy construction worker from Nicaragua, the patient was suffering from a splitting headache, double vision and ringing in his ears. Part of his face was also numb. The cause could have been anything—from an infection to a stroke, a tumor or some kind of autoimmune disease. The Emergency Department (ED) staff took a magnetic resonance imaging scan of the man’s brain, performed a spinal tap and completed a series of other tests that did not turn up any obvious reason for the swelling in his brain—a condition that is formally known as encephalitis. Most likely, it was some kind of infection. But what kind? Nineteen standard tests are available to help clinicians try to pin down the source of encephalitis, but they test for the presence of only the most common infections; more than 60 percent of cases go unsolved each year. Physicians looked in the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid (which surrounds the brain and protects it) for evidence of Lyme disease, syphilis and valley fever, among other things. Nothing matched. So the S.F. General ED staff settled on the most likely culprit as a diagnosis: a form of tuberculosis (TB) that causes brain inflammation but cannot always be detected with typical tests. Doctors gave the man a prescription for some steroids to reduce the swelling plus some anti-TB drugs and sent him home. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23767 - Posted: 06.23.2017

By Joshua Rothman In 2004, when she was twenty-three, Sunaura Taylor Googled “arthrogryposis,” the name of a condition she has had since birth. Its Greek roots mean “hooked joints”; the arms and legs of many people who have it are shorter than usual because their joints are permanently flexed. Taylor was curious about whether animals had it, too. In the journal of the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Centre, she found a report called “Congenital Limb Deformity in a Red Fox.” It described a young fox with arthrogryposis. He had “marked flexure of the carpal and tarsal joints of all four limbs”—that is, hooked legs. He walked on the backs of his paws, which were heavily callused. In a surprised tone, the report noted that he was muscular, even a little fat: his stomach contained “the remains of two rodents and bones from a larger mammal mixed with partially digested apple, suggesting that the limb deformity did not preclude successful hunting and foraging.” All this had been discovered after he had been shot by someone walking in the woods, who noticed that he “had an abnormal gait and appeared sick.” Taylor was taken aback by this story. The fox, she thought, had been living a perfectly good life before someone had shot it. Perhaps that someone—the report named only “a resident of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia”—had been afraid of it; maybe he’d seen it as a weird, stumbling creature and imagined the shooting as an act of mercy. Taylor’s hands are small, and she has trouble lifting them; she uses a motorized wheelchair to get around. Once, her libertarian grandmother had told her that, were it not for the help of others, Taylor would “die in the woods.” When she read about the fox, she was coming into political consciousness as a disabled person. She had been learning about what disabilities scholars call the “better-off-dead narrative”—the idea, pervasive in movies and books, that life with a disability is inherently and irredeemably tragic. In the fox, she saw herself. © 2017 Condé Nast.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 23710 - Posted: 06.06.2017

By David Z. Hambrick Physical similarities aside, we share a lot in common with our primate relatives. For example, as Jane Goodall famously documented, chimpanzees form lifelong bonds and show affection in much the same way as humans. Chimps can also solve novel problems, use objects as tools, and may possess “theory of mind”—an understanding that others may have different perspectives than oneself. They can even outperform humans in certain types of cognitive tasks. These commonalities may not seem all that surprising given what we now know from the field of comparative genomics: We share nearly all of our DNA with chimpanzees and other primates. However, social and cognitive complexity is not unique to our closest evolutionary cousins. In fact, it is abundant in species with which we would seem to have very little in common—like the spotted hyena. For more than three decades, the Michigan State University zoologist Kay Holekamp has studied the habits of the spotted hyena in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, once spending five years straight living in a tent among her oft-maligned subjects. One of the world’s longest-running studies of a wild mammal, this landmark project has revealed that spotted hyenas not only have social groups as complex as those of many primates, but are also capable of some of the same types of problem solving. This research sheds light on one of science’s greatest mysteries—how intelligence has evolved across the animal kingdom. According to the social brain hypothesis, intelligence has evolved to meet the demands of social life. The subject of many popular articles and books, this hypothesis posits that the complex information processing that goes along with coexisting with members of one’s own species—forming coalitions, settling disputes, trying to outwit each other, and so on—selects for larger brains and greater intelligence. By contrast, the cognitive buffer hypothesis holds that intelligence emerges as an adaption to dealing with novelty in the environment, in whatever form it presents itself. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Intelligence; Evolution
Link ID: 23685 - Posted: 05.31.2017

By Meredith Wadman In 2013, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector visited Thomas D. Morris, Inc., a Maryland animal breeder that sells to U.S. government and academic scientists. The inspector found numerous violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which sets standards for humane treatment. Fifteen unshorn sheep were penned in a sweltering building, while a group of calves and sheep had no shelter at all. A goat and a lamb were lame; another goat had an egg-sized swelling on its shoulder. In a subsequent letter, USDA warned the firm, which had 18 employees and $5 million in revenue in 2013, that future violations could result in fines or criminal prosecution. But it’s difficult for the public to know whether the company—which supplied animals used in at least 48 biomedical studies published since 2012—has kept a clean record. That’s because, on 3 February, USDA abruptly removed inspection reports, warning letters, and other documents on nearly 8000 animal facilities that the agency regulates, including Thomas D. Morris, from public databases. Some of the documents, which are maintained by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), have since been restored. But thousands remain hidden, and animal welfare advocates are now in court trying to force USDA to restore the records, and post all new documents, too. USDA officials said the removal was prompted by their commitment to “maintaining the privacy rights of individuals” identified in the documents, which animal rights groups, journalists, and others have regularly used to publicize the failings of AWA violators. And they say they are still reviewing the withdrawn documents, with an eye toward blacking out information that shouldn’t be public before reposting them. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 23658 - Posted: 05.25.2017

By Sandrine Ceurstemont Hear them roar. Lionfish have been recorded making sounds for the first time. Decoding these sounds could give us an insight into secret lives of this voracious invasive species – and help us keep tabs on its spread. Many fish produce sounds to communicate with each other as low-pitched noises travel far underwater. “It’s a dominant mode of communication,” says Alex Bogdanoff at North Carolina State University. Bogdanoff and his team decided to investigate the lionfish’s ability to produce sound after hearing reports from several divers that they make noises. This invasive species has been spreading through the Caribbean and east coast of the US. They often devour several organisms at a time, which is drastically reducing some native fish populations and altering ecosystems. The team recorded the underwater soundscape in an outdoor tank for five days, at first with a single lionfish and then with a group of five individuals. Occasionally, they stirred up the water with a net to see whether stress caused the fish to make different sounds. The team found that the fish often produced a rhythmic sound similar to a heartbeat and to calls made by other fish. But they also produced another noise made up of a much quicker series of beats (listen to the audio file, below). “It sounds like the rapid beating of a drum,” says Bogdanoff. Lionfish seemed to alter their calls when they were agitated, producing quicker and louder pulses. In follow-up experiments, the team found that they made sounds throughout the day, but were more vocal in the morning and evening. Sounds are likely to vary between individuals as well. Bogdanoff and his team are now working on identifying these differences. They already have evidence that body size affects the noises that lionfish make. Males and females are likely to make different calls, so that they can find one another and reproduce. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 23620 - Posted: 05.17.2017

By Ian Randall René Descartes began with doubt. “We cannot doubt of our existence while we doubt. … I think, therefore I am,” the 17th century philosopher and scientist famously wrote. Now, modern scientists are trying to figure out what made the genius’s mind tick by reconstructing his brain. Scientists have long wondered whether the brains of geniuses (especially the shapes on their surfaces) could hold clues about their owners’ outsized intelligences. But most brains studied to date—including Albert Einstein’s—were actual brains. Descartes’s had unfortunately decomposed by the time scientists wanted to study it. So with techniques normally used for studying prehistoric humans, researchers created a 3D image of Descartes’s brain (above) by scanning the impression it left on the inside of his skull, which has been kept for almost 200 years now in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. For the most part, his brain was surprisingly normal—its overall dimensions fell within regular ranges, compared with 102 other modern humans. But one part stood out: an unusual bulge in the frontal cortex, in an area which previous studies have suggested may process the meaning of words. That’s not to say this oddity is necessarily indicative of genius, the scientists report online in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences. Even Descartes might agree: “It is not enough to have a good mind,” he wrote. “The main thing is to use it well.” © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Intelligence
Link ID: 23579 - Posted: 05.06.2017

Kevin Davis When his criminal trial begins next week, attorneys for Andres “Andy” Avalos, a Florida man charged with murdering his wife, a neighbor and a local pastor, will mount an insanity defense on behalf of their client because, as they announced last summer, a PET scan revealed that Avalos has a severely abnormal brain. In March, shortly after an Israeli American teenager was arrested on suspicion that he made bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the U.S. and abroad, his lawyer declared that the teenager had a brain tumor that might have affected his behavior. Both cases are part of a growing movement in which attorneys use brain damage in service of a legal defense. To support such claims in court, lawyers are turning to neuroscience. The defense brings in hired guns to testify that brain scans can identify areas of dysfunction linked to antisocial behavior, poor decision-making and lack of impulse control. The prosecution calls their own expert witnesses to argue that what a scientist might observe in brain scans shows nothing about that person’s state of mind or past actions. The truth is that even the most sophisticated brain scans cannot show direct correlations between brain dysfunction and specific criminal behavior, nor can they prove whether someone is legally insane. What neuroscience can show is that a person’s decision to commit a crime — or to do anything in life for that matter — is triggered by a series of chemical and electrical interactions in the brain. It can also show approximately where those interactions are occurring.

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 23572 - Posted: 05.04.2017

By Partha Mitra Intricate, symmetric patterns, in tiles and stucco, cover the walls and ceilings of Alhambra, the “red fort,” the dreamlike castle of the medieval Moorish kings of Andalusia. Seemingly endless in variety, the two dimensionally periodic patterns are nevertheless governed by the mathematical principles of group theory and can be classified into a finite number of types: precisely seventeen, as shown by Russian crystallographer Evgraf Federov. The artists of medieval Andalusia are unlikely to have been aware of the mathematics of space groups, and Federov was unaware of the art of Alhambra. The two worlds met in the 1943 PhD thesis of Swiss astronomer Edith Alice Muller, who counted eleven of the seventeen planar groups in the adornments of the palace (more have been counted since). All seventeen space groups can also be found in the periodic patterns of Japanese wallpaper. Without conscious intent or explicit knowledge, the creations of artists across cultures at different times nevertheless had to conform to the constraints of periodicity in two dimensional Euclidean space, and were thus subject to mathematically precise theory. Does the same apply to the “endless forms most beautiful,” created by the biological evolutionary process? Are there theoretical principles, ideally ones which may be formulated in mathematical terms, underlying the bewildering complexity of biological phenomema? Without the guidance of such principles, we are only generating ever larger digital butterfly collections with ever better tools. In a recent article, Krakauer and colleagues argue that by marginalizing ethology, the study of adaptive behaviors of animals in their natural settings, modern neuroscience has lost a key theoretical framework. The conceptual framework of ethology contains in it the seeds of a future mathematical theory that might unify neurobiological complexity as Fedorov’s theory of wallpaper groups unified the patterns of the Alhambra. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23482 - Posted: 04.12.2017

By George Johnson Who knows what Arturo the polar bear was thinking as he paced back and forth in the dark, air-conditioned chamber behind his artificial grotto? Just down the pathway Cecilia sat quietly in her cage, contemplating whatever chimpanzees contemplate. The idea that something resembling a subjective, contemplative mind exists in other animals has become mainstream — and not just for apes. In recent years, both creatures, inhabitants of the Mendoza Zoological Park in Argentina, have been targets of an international campaign challenging the morality of holding animals captive as living museum exhibits. The issue is not so much physical abuse as mental abuse — the effect confinement has on the inhabitants’ minds. Last July, a few months after I visited the zoo, Arturo, promoted by animal rights activists as “the world’s saddest polar bear,” died of what his keepers said were complications of old age. (His mantle has now been bestowed on Pizza, a polar bear on display at a Chinese shopping mall.) But Cecilia (the “loneliest chimp,” some sympathizers have called her) has been luckier, if luck is a concept a chimpanzee can understand. In November, Judge María Alejandra Mauricio of the Third Court of Guarantees in Mendoza decreed that Cecilia is a “nonhuman person” — one that was being denied “the fundamental right” of all sentient beings “to be born, to live, grow, and die in the proper environment for their species.” Copyright 2017 Undark

Keyword: Consciousness; Animal Rights
Link ID: 23437 - Posted: 04.01.2017

By David Wiegand I just did something great for my brain and you can do the same, when the documentary “My Love Affair With the Brain: The Life and Science of Dr. Marian Diamond” airs on KQED on Wednesday, March 22. According to the UC Berkeley professor emerita, the five things that contribute to the continued development of the brain at any age are: diet, exercise, newness, challenge and love. You can check off three of those elements for the day by watching the film by Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg. No matter how smart you are, even about anatomy and neuroscience, you will find newness in the information about the miraculous human brain, how it works, and how it keeps on working no matter how old you are. That’s one of the fundamentals of modern neuroscience, of which Diamond is one of the founders. You will also be challenged to consider your own brain, to consider how Diamond’s favorite expression — “use it or lose it” — applies to your brain and your life. You will be challenged to consider what Diamond means when she says brain plasticity (its ability to keep developing by forming new connections between its cells) makes us “the masters of our own minds. We literally create our own masterpiece.” Before Diamond and her colleagues proved otherwise, the prevailing thought was that brains developed according to a genetically determined pattern, hit a high point and then essentially began to deteriorate. Bushwa: A brain can grow — i.e., learn — at any age, and you can teach an old dog new tricks. © 2017 Hearst Corporation

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 23392 - Posted: 03.23.2017

Sara Reardon, Jeff Tollefson, Alexandra Witze & Erin Ross Funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather satellites, which track hurricanes, would be maintained under the Trump plan. When it comes to science, there are few winners in US President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal. The plan, released on 16 March, calls for double-digit cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It also lays the foundation for a broad shift in the United States’ research priorities, including a retreat from environmental and climate programmes. Rumours of the White House proposal have swirled for weeks, alarming many researchers who depend on government funding — and science advocates who worry that the Trump administration’s stance will jeopardize US leadership in fields ranging from climate science to cancer biology. It is not clear, however, how much of the plan will survive negotiations in Congress over the coming months. What could Trump’s budget for science mean for you? “Cutting [research and development] funding from our budget is the same as cutting the engines off an airplane that’s too heavy for take-off,” says Jason Rao, director of international affairs at the American Society for Microbiology in Washington DC. The greatest threats to the United States, he says, are those presented by infectious diseases, climate change and energy production — none of which can be addressed effectively without scientific research. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23376 - Posted: 03.20.2017

By Kate Darby Rauch When Marian Diamond was growing up in Southern California, she got her first glimpse of a real brain at Los Angeles County Hospital with her dad, a physician. She was 15. Looking back now, at age 90, Diamond, a Berkeley resident, points to that moment as the start of something profound — a curiosity, wonderment, drive. “It just blew my mind, the fact that a cell could create an idea,” Diamond said in a recent interview, reflecting on her first encounter with that sinewy purple-tinged mass. She didn’t know that this was the start of a distinguished legacy that would stretch for decades, touching millions. But today, she’d be one of the first to scientifically equate that adolescent thrill with her life’s work. Because she helped prove a link. Brains, we now know, thanks in large part to research by Diamond, thrive on challenge, newness, discovery. With this enrichment, brain cells are stimulated and grow. This week, Diamond, a UC Berkeley emeritus professor of integrative biology and the first woman to earn a PhD in anatomy at Cal, is being honored by the Berkeley City Council, which is designating March 14 as Marian Diamond Day. And on March 22, KQED TV will air a new documentary film about her life’s work, My Love Affair With the Brain. © Berkeleyside All Rights Reserved.

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23366 - Posted: 03.16.2017

By Meredith Wadman The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering repealing a rule that exempts captive members of 11 threatened primate species from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). If the agency approves a repeal, the captive animals would be designated as threatened, like their wild counterparts, and researchers would need to apply for permits for experiments. To be approved, studies would have to be aimed at species survival and recovery. A rule change would affect biomedical researchers who work with several hundred captive Japanese macaques housed in Oregon. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a Norfolk, Virginia–based animal rights organization, petitioned FWS this past January, asking it to extend ESA protections to captive members of the 11 species housed in research labs, zoos, and held as pets. For obscure reasons, a “special rule” exempted these captive populations from ESA protection in 1976. Among the 11 species, the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata) appears to be the only one regularly used in U.S. research. A troop of roughly 300 resides at the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro. That is where the main impact of a successful PETA petition would be felt by scientists. “The importance of protecting endangered animals can’t be minimized,” says Jared Goodman, the director of animal law at the PETA Foundation in Los Angeles, California. “These animals are not listed lightly [under the Endangered Species Act],” he adds. “And the agencies until now have unlawfully provided differential treatment to animals in captivity who are similarly threatened.” © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 23335 - Posted: 03.10.2017

There has been much gnashing of teeth in the science-journalism community this week, with the release of an infographic that claims to rate the best and worst sites for scientific news. According to the American Council on Science and Health, which helped to prepare the ranking, the field is in a shoddy state. “If journalism as a whole is bad (and it is),” says the council, “science journalism is even worse. Not only is it susceptible to the same sorts of biases that afflict regular journalism, but it is uniquely vulnerable to outrageous sensationalism”. News aggregator RealClearScience, which also worked on the analysis, goes further: “Much of science reporting is a morass of ideologically driven junk science, hyped research, or thick, technical jargon that almost no one can understand”. How — without bias or outrageous sensationalism, of course — do they judge the newspapers and magazines that emerge from this sludge? Simple: they rank each by how evidence-based and compelling they subjectively judge its content to be. Modesty (almost) prevents us from naming the publication graded highest on both (okay, it’s Nature), but some names are lower than they would like. Big hitters including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian score relatively poorly. It’s a curious exercise, and one that fails to satisfy on any level. It is, of course, flattering to be judged as producing compelling content. But one audience’s compelling is another’s snoozefest, so it seems strikingly unfair to directly compare publications that serve readers with such different interests as, say, The Economist and Chemistry World. It is equally unfair to damn all who work on a publication because of some stories that do not meet the grade. (This is especially pertinent now that online offerings spread the brand and the content so much thinner.) © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23334 - Posted: 03.09.2017

Sam Nastase was taking a break from his lab work to peruse Twitter when he saw a tweet about his manuscript. A PhD in cognitive neuroscience at Dartmouth College, Nastase had sent his research out for review at a journal, and hadn’t yet heard back from the scientists who would read the paper and—normally—provide anonymous comments. But here, in this tweet, was a link to a review of his paper. “I was like, ‘Oh that’s my paper, OK.’ So that was a little bit nerve-wracking,” says Nastase. A few weeks later, he received the same review as part of a response from the journal, “copied and pasted, basically.” So much for secret, anonymous peer review. The tweet linked to the blog of a neuroscientist named Niko Kriegeskorte, a cognitive neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council in the UK who, since December 2015, has performed all of his peer review openly. That means he publishes his reviews as he finishes them on his personal blog—sharing on Twitter and Facebook, too—before a paper is even accepted. Scientists traditionally keep reviews of their papers to themselves. The reviewers are anonymous, and publishers protect their reviewers’ identities fastidiously, all in the name of honest, uncensored appraisal of scientific work. But for many, the negatives of this system have started to outweigh the positives. So scientists like Kriegeskorte, and even the journals themselves, are starting to experiment. Kriegeskorte’s posting policy has made a lot of people uncomfortable. He’s faced resistance from journal staff, scientific editors, and even one scientist who anonymously reviewed a paper that he reviewed openly. “People in the publishing business, my feeling is that they feel that this is deeply illicit,” Kriegeskorte says, “but they don’t know exactly which rule it breaks.” Still, after more than a year of this experiment with exclusively writing reviews on his blog—he’s done 12 now—Kriegeskorte says he’ll never write a secret review again.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23306 - Posted: 03.03.2017

JoAnna Klein Some microscopes today are so powerful that they can create a picture of the gap between brain cells, which is thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. They can even reveal the tiny sacs carrying even tinier nuggets of information to cross over that gap to form memories. And in colorful snapshots made possible by a giant magnet, we can see the activity of 100 billion brain cells talking. Decades before these technologies existed, a man hunched over a microscope in Spain at the turn of the 20th century was making prescient hypotheses about how the brain works. At the time, William James was still developing psychology as a science and Sir Charles Scott Sherrington was defining our integrated nervous system. Meet Santiago Ramón y Cajal, an artist, photographer, doctor, bodybuilder, scientist, chess player and publisher. He was also the father of modern neuroscience. “He’s one of these guys who was really every bit as influential as Pasteur and Darwin in the 19th century,” said Larry Swanson, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California who contributed a biographical section to the new book “The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.” “He’s harder to explain to the general public, which is probably why he’s not as famous.” Last month, the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis opened a traveling exhibit that is the first dedicated solely to Ramón y Cajal’s work. It will make stops in Minneapolis; Vancouver, British Columbia; New York; Cambridge, Mass.; and Chapel Hill, N.C., through April 2019. Ramón y Cajal started out with an interest in the visual arts and photography — he even invented a method for making color photos. But his father pushed him into medical school. Without his artistic background, his work might not have had as much impact, Dr. Swanson said. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 23251 - Posted: 02.18.2017

By Meredith Wadman The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today put the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on notice that it intends to use legal tools to force the agency to restore tens of thousands of documents on animal welfare that it removed from its website on Friday. In this letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the animal welfare organization reminded the government that under the terms of a 2009 legal settlement with HSUS, USDA had agreed to make public some of the records it has now scrubbed from its public database. HSUS, its lawyers write, “is exercising its rights under [the 2009 settlement] and intends to take further action unless USDA agrees to reconsider this bizarre reversal of the agency’s longstanding policy” of making inspection records and others publicly available. The animal organization’s letter notes that under the terms of the 2009 settlement, the two parties, HSUS and USDA, now have 30 days to settle their differences. After that, HSUS can ask the court to reopen the lawsuit. A spokesperson for USDA did not in the course of 3 hours return an email and a call requesting comment. The HSUS letter also argues that USDA’s actions violate laws governing the electronic release of data under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). One of the laws requires agencies to “make available for public inspection … [By] electronic means” all FOIA requests that it releases to anyone and that it determines are likely to be asked for again, by others. When they were public, many of USDA’s inspection reports, especially those of troubled facilities, were accessed repeatedly by a number of different users. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 23192 - Posted: 02.07.2017