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

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.


Links 21 - 40 of 2293

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Y. Lee , Contributor Sorry SpongeBob Square Pants. You too Yoda. Some people are on to your wandering eyes. According to a new study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, men with a high facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR) may have higher sex drives and be more likely to cheat. So if you believe this study, watch out for those partners with wide, microwave oven-shaped faces...right? Before you start bringing a tape measure to your dates or blaming your partner for having such a wide face, let's take a closer look at the study, which was actually a combination of two studies. Researchers from Nipissing University (Steven Arnocky, Justin M. Carré, Triana Ortiz, and Nicole Marley), Simon Fraser University (Brian M. Bird), Northern Ontario School of Medicine (Benjamin J. P. Moreau), and the University of Ottawa (Tracy Vaillancourt) conducted the studies. The first study recruited 145 heterosexual students, 69 men and 76 females, who were currently in romantic relationships, from a mid-sized Canadian university, measured the dimensions of their faces from facial photographs, and had them complete sexual drive questionnaires. The researchers calculated the FWHR by dividing the bi-zygomatic width of the face by the height of the upper face (i.e., the distance between the upper lip and brow) and found that both men and women who had higher FWHR's were more likely to report higher sex drives. The second study recruited 314 students (43% men) from a different small Canadian university, which was about 350 km away from the university where the first study was conducted. In addition to measuring the participant's FWHRs on facial photographs and sex drive via questionnaires, the researchers also had the participants complete questionnaires designed to measure attitudes towards and likelihood of infidelity or cheating.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24106 - Posted: 09.25.2017

By Ruth Williams Contrary to the longstanding belief that puberty is largely controlled by hormones, new evidence shows that sexual touch is a powerful puberty promoter. Touching prepubescent female rats’ genitals can cause the brain region that responds to such tactile stimuli to double in size and their bodies to show signs of puberty up to three weeks earlier than non-stimulated females, according to a report in PLOS Biology today (September 21). The study reveals the hitherto unappreciated influence of physical sexual experience on the young brain and body. “The dominant idea has been that puberty is controlled in the brain and in behavior by the release of hormones . . . but there has been a smattering of findings over the years that additional environmental influences effect puberty and the onset of sexual behavior,” says Dan Feldman of the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study. This new work “suggests that maybe this is true and that actual tactile stimulation can be something that accelerates the onset of puberty,” he adds. Puberty in mammals is a period of dramatic changes not just to the body, but to behavior and brain function. Indeed, one of the most pronounced changes, recently observed in both male and female rats, is the doubling in size of the genital cortex, which is a part of the larger somatosensory cortex—the brain area associated with physical sensation. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24102 - Posted: 09.23.2017

Katherine Ellen Foley, Youyou Zhou, Christopher Groskopf One way to understand long-term trends in medical and health research is to analyze the language used in massive bodies of literature produced in the different fields. To better understand the shifting focus of sex research since the field was established, we downloaded (with permission) 4,545 articles published in the Journal of Sex Research and the Archives of Sexual Behavior from 1970 to 2017, and tracked just over 1,000 of the most-used words in these studies. You can use the tool below to explore all of these words, and see how their frequency in the literature has changed over time. Beneath it, we’ve pulled out some of the most interesting trends we noticed and investigated possible explanations for why they’ve occurred. Humans have been having sex since as long as we’ve been on the planet, but it wasn’t until recently that we really started studying it. Sexology became a serious field just after World War II, starting with the work of Alfred Kinsey, a biologist at Indiana University, and later founder of the school’s Kinsey Institute, which today studies love and sexuality. Kinsey published his first book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, in 1948, followed by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female in 1953. In the 1960s, the field was further advanced by the work of lab mates (and lovers) William Masters and Victoria Johnson, who published the seminal Human Sexual Response in 1966.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24094 - Posted: 09.22.2017

By Alla Katsnelson, Men and women both transmit an increasing number of new mutations to their children as they age, according to a study published today in Nature1. The finding is based on an analysis of whole genomes from nearly 5,000 people. The increase in these ‘de novo’ mutations may explain why older parents are more likely to have a child with a condition such as autism. Men accumulate de novo mutations four times faster than women, the researchers found. However, in about 10 percent of the genome, mutations accumulate twice as quickly as elsewhere, and appear at an equal rate in both women and men. “The majority of the contribution still comes from the father, particularly when the father is in an older age range,” says lead investigator Kári Stefánsson, chief executive of deCODE Genetics. “But the mutation rate is not equal across the genome, so we have to make sure we do not generalize too much.” The new study builds on earlier work by deCODE Genetics, a company based in Reykjavik, Iceland. In 2012, the researchers reported that the rate at which people acquire mutations and pass them down to their children increases sharply with age in men but stays level in women. Those findings were based on whole-genome sequences from just 78 individuals and their parents. The findings provide one possible explanation for the increased risk of autism among children born to older parents. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24091 - Posted: 09.21.2017

Amy Maxmen Male ducks respond to sexual competition by growing either an extra-long penis or a nub of flesh, a new study finds. The unusual phenomena occurred in two species studied: the lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) and the ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). It suggests that penis size — in line with many traits and behaviours meant to impress or allow impregnation of the opposite sex — involves a trade-off between the potential to reproduce and to survive. Patricia Brennan, an evolutionary biologist at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, compared the penises of ducks kept in male–female pairs to those housed with multiple males per female. The findings are published in a study on 20 September in The Auk: Ornithological Advances1. “If they were alone with a female, the males just grew a normal-sized penis, but if there were other males around, they had the ability to change dramatically,” Brennan says. “So evolution must be acting on the ability to be plastic — the ability to invest only in what is needed in your current circumstance.” Because evolutionary success relies on reproduction, genitals are adapted to meet the varied circumstances that every animal faces. Some male ducks, for example, have penises in the shape of corkscrews to navigate the labyrinth-like vaginas of their female counterparts. An earlier study by Brennan found that females’ anatomy evolved to prevent access to undesirable males who force copulation2. To mate successfully with their chosen partners, Brennan says, female ducks assume a posture that allows males to enter them fully and deposit sperm near eggs. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 24086 - Posted: 09.21.2017

Cordelia Fine argues no; Joe Herbert says yes. Cordelia Fine: A common assumption, which I refer to as the ‘Testosterone Rex’ view, is that testosterone is a proximal tool of distal evolutionary processes, acting via the brain (prenatally, then from pubescence) to shape sex differences in behaviour that would have been differentially reproductively advantageous for men versus women in our ancestral past. Joe, as you put it in your book Testosterone: Sex, power and the will to win, ‘for [male] reproduction to be successful, testosterone has to act on many parts of the male to make him fit for the competitive world of male sexuality’. So, for example, males’ greater testosterone exposure predisposes them to be more risk-taking and competitive than females – an idea sometimes called on to help explain gender gaps in risky and competitive occupations, a category which happens to include most high-status and well-remunerated roles. So what exactly does testosterone do? Testosterone acts directly on the brain, but the circulating level of testosterone in the blood is just one part of a highly complex, multi-faceted system. What’s more, different species appear to tweak those system dials in different ways, enabling cross-species differences in relations between hormones and behaviour. What do we need to try to explain when it comes to humans? One important feature of sex differences in behaviour is that these are much smaller than sex differences in testosterone exposure (a lot of overlap between female and male populations, and very little, respectively). This casts serious doubt on the assumption that more testosterone means more masculinity, and that men must inevitably be more masculine because they have higher absolute levels of testosterone on average. © Copyright 2000-2017 The British Psychological Society

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24085 - Posted: 09.20.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou Aggression and sexual behaviour are controlled by the same brain cells in male mice – but not in females. The finding suggests that males are more likely to become aggressive when they see a potential mate than females. The brain regions that contain these cells look similar in mice and humans, say the researchers behind the study, but they don’t yet know if their finding has relevance to human behaviour. Similar to humans, male mice are, on the whole, more aggressive than females. Because of this, most research into aggression has overlooked females, says Dayu Lin at New York University. “I would say 90 per cent of aggression studies have been done in males,” she says. “We know very little about aggression in females.” But females can be aggressive too. For instance, female mice can be aggressive when protecting their newborn pups. In 2011, Lin and her colleagues studied a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, responsible for regulating many different behaviours. They discovered a set of cells within this region in male mice that controlled both aggressive and sexual behaviours. When the cells were shut off, the mice didn’t mate or show aggression, but both behaviours could be triggered when the cells were stimulated. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24076 - Posted: 09.19.2017

Grant Tomkinson and Makailah Dyer Examine your fingers. Which is longer? Is it the index finger (the finger you use to point with — technically the second digit, or 2D, counting the thumb), or the ring finger (the fourth digit, or 4D)? The relative length of the index and ring fingers is known as the digit ratio or the 2D:4D. For example, if your index finger is 2.9 inches (or 7.4 cm) long, and your ring finger is 3.1 inches (or 7.9 cm) long, your digit ratio is 0.935 (i.e., 2.9/3.1 or 7.4/7.9). Males typically have lower digit ratios (the ring finger in males is typically longer than the index finger) than females (the fingers are about the same length in females). The ratio does not change much with age. There is some indirect evidence that the digit ratio is determined during early fetal development — as early as the second trimester of pregnancy — by the balance between the steroid hormones testosterone and estrogen. The developing ring finger has a high number of receptors for testosterone: the more testosterone the fetus produces, the longer the ring finger, and so the lower the digit ratio. Our research team wanted to take this finger research a step further: could the differences predict athletic ability, and, if so, how?

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24062 - Posted: 09.14.2017

Reza Ziai In recent years, many individuals on the political left have been earnestly conveying the message that what a person is attracted to (i.e. mate preference) is entirely constructed by the environment. Their reasons for doing so seem sincere. Take for example, the oft-cited connection between the media’s portrayal of female standards of beauty and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. To postmodernists, since standards of attraction are seen as being environmentally produced, the media’s “stereotypical” portrayal of female beauty is also seen as being environmentally produced, sexist, and therefore, unjustifiable. Postmodernism (see also Critical Theory and The Frankfurt School) combats this perceived bigotry by attempting to justify the need to enforce changes in the status quo. Most notably in recent news, many liberal arts students have attempted to deplatform speakers like Charles Murray, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali from speaking on their campuses. Limiting free speech has been just one way that postmodernism and people on the far-left have tried to control the environment. Reforms (sometimes mandatory ones) have been seen in pronoun usage, soft drink sizes, the media, children’s toys, social attitudes, etc. Their idea is that since the environment (and not biology) affects our attitude, if you change the environment, you change the person, and thus, society is improved. By minimizing or ignoring the role that biology has on human nature, postmodernists can effectively blame all of the ills of the modern world on poorly designed laws, U.S. foreign policy, or Western cultural attitudes. Those who dissent from their view can be denounced as bigots and cast aside.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24061 - Posted: 09.14.2017

Devin Coldewey We count on machine learning systems for everything from creating playlists to driving cars, but like any tool, they can be bent towards dangerous and unethical purposes as well. Today's illustration of this fact is a new paper from Stanford researchers, who have created a machine learning system that they claim can tell from a few pictures whether a person is gay or straight. The research is as surprising as it is disconcerting. In addition to exposing an already vulnerable population to a new form of systematized abuse, it strikes directly at the egalitarian notion that we can't (and shouldn't) judge a person by their appearance, nor guess at something as private as sexual orientation from something as simple as a snapshot or two. But the accuracy of the system reported in the paper seems to leave no room for mistake: this is not only possible, it has been achieved. It relies on cues apparently more subtle than most can perceive — cues many would suggest do not exist. And it demonstrates, as it is intended to, a class of threat to privacy that is entirely unique to the imminent era of ubiquitous computer vision. Before discussing the system itself, it should be made clear that this research was by all indications done with good intentions. In an extensive set of authors' notes that anyone commenting on the topic ought to read, Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang address a variety of objections and questions. Most relevant are perhaps their remarks as to why the paper was released at all: We were really disturbed by these results and spent much time considering whether they should be made public at all. We did not want to enable the very risks that we are warning against. The ability to control when and to whom to reveal one’s sexual orientation is crucial not only for one’s well-being, but also for one’s safety.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24046 - Posted: 09.08.2017

By NATALIE ANGIER A normal human baby, according to psychologists, will cry about two hours over the course of a day. A notorious human crybaby, according to her older siblings, parents and the building superintendent, will cry for two hours every two hours, refusing to acknowledge any distinction between crying and other basic infant activities, like “being awake” or “breathing.” Current and former whine enthusiasts, take heart. It turns out that infant crying is not only as natural and justifiable as breathing: The two acts are physically, neurologically, primally intertwined. Scientists have discovered that the small cluster of brain cells in charge of fast, active respiration also grant a baby animal the power to cry. Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Carmen Birchmeier and Luis Hernandez-Miranda, of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, and their colleagues showed that infant mice stripped of this key node — a mere 17,000 neurons, located in the evolutionarily ancient hindbrain — can breathe slowly and passively, but not vigorously or animatedly. When they open their mouths to cry, nothing comes out. As a result, their mothers ignore them, and the poorly breathing pups quickly die. “This was an astonishing finding,” Dr. Birchmeier said. “The mother could see the pups and smell the pups, but if they didn’t vocalize, it was as though they didn’t exist.” The new study is just one in a series of recent reports that reveal the centrality of crying to infant survival, and how a baby’s bawl punches through a cluttered acoustic landscape to demand immediate adult attention. The sound of an infant’s cry arouses a far quicker and stronger response in action-oriented parts of the adult brain than do similarly loud or emotionally laden noises, like a dog barking or a neighbor weeping. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24037 - Posted: 09.05.2017

By Aylin Woodward If you’re trying to overthrow the boss, you might need a friend to back you up. The same is true for female macaques, who need allies to resist authority and take down more powerful members of the group. Most primates have social hierarchies in which some individuals are dominant over the others. For rhesus macaques, these strict hierarchies are organised around female relationships. Lower-ranked females have little social mobility and must silently bare their teeth to higher-ranked females. The signal means “I want you to know that I know that you out-rank me” and is important in communicating social rank, says Darcy Hannibal at the University of California, Davis. “They are ‘bending the knee’.” But Hannibal and her colleagues have discovered that subordinate females can override the status quo. To do this, female macaques form alliances with family, friends or both. These alliances help females maintain or increase their social rank and compete for resources. A female who wants to challenge those higher up needs this help, says Hannibal. Insubordination events were more likely if the lower-ranked female was older. They were most likely if the subordinate outweighed the dominant female by 7 kilograms and the dominant female had no family allies. The more allies the subordinate female had, and the more days her mother was present in the group, the more often she would exhibit insubordinate behaviour. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24005 - Posted: 08.28.2017

Darby Saxbe Postpartum depression has become more visible as celebrity moms including Brooke Shields, Drew Barrymore and Chrissy Teigen have publicly shared their struggles with feeling sad and hopeless after birth. But when a father – Adam Busby, from reality TV show “OutDaughtered” – recently opened up about his own postpartum depression, he received instant backlash, including comments telling him to “man up.” Despite the skepticism, postpartum depression in fathers is very real, with estimates that around 10 percent of men report symptoms of depression following the birth of a child, about double the typical rate of depression in males. Postpartum depression in women has been linked with hormonal shifts, but the role of hormones in men’s postpartum depression has been unknown. In an attempt to solve this mystery, my colleagues and I recently tested whether men’s levels of the hormone testosterone are related to their postpartum depression risk during early parenthood. We found that men’s testosterone levels might predict not only their own postpartum depression risk, but their partner’s depression risk as well. Testosterone is an androgen hormone, responsible for the development and maintenance of male secondary sex characteristics. It promotes muscle mass and body hair growth, and motivates sexual arousal and competitive behavior. Many studies have found that testosterone dips in new fathers across the animal kingdom. Among animals that engage in the biparental care of offspring – Mongolian gerbils, Djungarian hamsters, California mice and cotton-top tamarins – males show lower testosterone levels following the birth of pups. © 2010–2017, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Depression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 24001 - Posted: 08.26.2017