Chapter 16. None

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By Michael Price Good luck finding a legislative issue more controversial than gun violence—at least in the United States. Compounding the controversy is a dearth of reliable data, thanks largely to a de facto ban on federally funded firearms research enacted in 1996. Yet a new study funded by Harvard Business School suggests that one policy—a mandatory waiting period between the sale of a gun and its delivery—could save hundreds of U.S. lives each year if implemented nationally. “Absolutely, this study demonstrates a robust association between waiting periods and gun deaths,” says Margaret Formica, a public health researcher at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse who studies firearms deaths but wasn’t involved in the new work. “It’s an innovative way of looking at this issue.” More than 33,000 Americans die each year in gun-related incidents, including accidents, homicides, and suicides, about as many as in vehicle accidents. But regulations that place limits on the sale and ownership of firearms vary widely from state to state, and it’s unclear which measures might actually prevent gun violence. Some research from other countries has suggested that a “cooling off” period between the sale and delivery of a gun can tamp down suicidal impulses and anger-driven violence. So when Harvard University researchers were motivated to contribute to policy-relevant gun research in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, such “waiting periods” were an easy jumping-off point. Not only was there past research, but data on waiting-period laws are relatively easy to track down. “Instead of saying, ‘Isn’t it a tragedy, children are dying, oh well, on to the next meeting,’ we decided we wanted to do something,” says Deepak Malhotra, a negotiation and conflict resolution researcher who co-authored the new study with economist Michael Luca. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24205 - Posted: 10.17.2017

Katharina Kropshofer Life is not so different beneath the ocean waves. Bottlenose dolphins use simple tools, orcas call each other by name, and sperm whales talk in local dialects. Many cetaceans live in tight-knit groups and spend a good deal of time at play. That much scientists know. But in a new study, researchers compiled a list of the rich behaviours spotted in 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, and found that the bigger the species’ brain, the more complex – indeed, the more “human-like” – their lives are likely to be. This suggests that the “cultural brain hypothesis” – the theory that suggests our intelligence developed as a way of coping with large and complex social groups – may apply to whales and dolphins, as well as humans. Writing in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution, the researchers claim that complex social and cultural characteristics, such as hunting together, developing regional dialects and learning from observation, are linked to the expansion of the animals’ brains – a process known as encephalisation. The researchers gathered records of dolphins playing with humpback whales, helping fishermen with their catches, and even producing signature whistles for dolphins that are absent – suggesting the animals may even gossip. Another common behaviour was adult animals raising unrelated young. “There is the saying that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ [and that] seems to be true for both whales and humans,” said Michael Muthukrishna, an economic psychologist and co-author on the study at the London School of Economics. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 24202 - Posted: 10.17.2017

Jules Montague Steve Thomas and I are talking about brain implants. Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For a Hero is playing in the background and for a moment I almost forget that a disease has robbed Steve of his speech. The conversation breaks briefly; now I see his wheelchair, his ventilator, his hospital bed. Steve, a software engineer, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a type of motor neurone disease) aged 50. He knew it was progressive and incurable; that he would soon become unable to move and, in his case, speak. He is using eye-gaze technology to tell me this (and later to turn off the sound of Bonnie Tyler); cameras pick up light reflection from his eye as he scans a screen. Movements of his pupils are translated into movements of a cursor through infrared technology and the cursor chooses letters or symbols. A speech-generating device transforms these written words into spoken ones – and, in turn, sentences and stories form. Eye-gaze devices allow some people with limited speech or hand movements to communicate, use environmental controls, compose music, and paint. That includes patients with ALS – up to 80% have communication difficulties, cerebral palsy, strokes, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries. It’s a far cry from Elle editor-in-chief Jean-Dominique Bauby, locked-in by a stroke in 1995, painstakingly blinking through letters on an alphabet board. His memoir, written at one word every two minutes, later became a film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Although some still use low-tech options (not everyone can meet the physical or cognitive requirements for eye-gaze systems; occasionally, locked-in patients can blink but cannot move their eyes), speech-to-text and text-to-speech functionality on smartphones and tablets has revolutionised communication. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Robotics
Link ID: 24200 - Posted: 10.16.2017

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

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

Carl Safina Last week footage of five young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe to sell to zoos travelled round the world. Parks officials used helicopters to find the elephant families, shot sedatives into the young ones, then hazed away family members who came to the aid of the drugged young ones as they fell. The film, shared exclusively with the Guardian, showed the young captives being trussed up and dragged on to trucks. In the final moments of footage, two men repeatedly kick a small dazed elephant in the head. Removing young elephants from their parents and sending them into captivity is largely justified on the basis that they do not feel and suffer as we do. For decades we have been admonished against anthropomorphism – imbuing animals with human-type emotions such as sadness or love. But, actually, humans have these emotions because other animals do as well. Brain science, evolutionary biology, and behavioural science now show that elephants, humans, and many other animals share a near-identical nervous system and likely experience near-identical basic emotions. Human and elephant brains are bathed in the same chemicals that create mood and motivation in us. We are all mammals, and under the skin we are kin. Scientists have watched rats’ brains as they dream, and dogs’ brains showing love. In fact, sperm whales’ family structure is nearly identical to that of elephants. Animals living in stable social groups – apes and monkeys, wolves and wild dogs, hyenas and cats, various birds, some dolphins and others, know who they are and whom they are with. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 24197 - Posted: 10.16.2017

By Elizabeth Pennisi One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, even at the level of the cell. That’s where—according to new research—a waste product of the retina fuels part of the eye that powers the rods and cones that help us sense light. Without this waste, that part of the eye “steals” glucose from the retina, leading to the death of retinal cells and likely vision loss. The finding could help explain why eyesight degenerates with age—and in diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetes. “It’s almost a revolutionary concept” that there is such a tight coupling between the two parts of the eye, says Stephen Tsang, a retina specialist at Columbia University who was not involved in the work. Rods and cones are very active, and they need a lot of energy to do their jobs. Exactly how they get this energy has long been a mystery. In previous studies, researchers showed that a layer of cells beneath the retina, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), ferries glucose from the blood to the retina. But it was unclear why the RPE didn’t keep the glucose for itself. After a decade of study, biochemist James Hurley at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues have now shown that the retina’s rods and cones burn the glucose, convert leftovers into a fuel called lactate, and then feed that back to the RPE. “There is a growing consensus that no cell exists on its own in complex tissues like the retina,” says Martin Friedlander, an ophthalmologist at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, who was not involved with the new work. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 24194 - Posted: 10.14.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou A rare sighting of a chimpanzee giving birth in the wild came to a grisly conclusion. Within seconds of the birth, the baby was snatched away and eaten by a male of the same group. The observation explains why female chimpanzees tend to go into hiding for weeks or months when they have their babies. Little is known about how chimpanzees give birth in the wild because only five births have ever been observed, says Hitonaru Nishie of Kyoto University in Japan. Nishie and his colleagues have been studying chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Mahale mountains for the last few years. One of the reasons so few have been witnessed is that the soon-to-be mothers often leave the group when the baby is due, and don’t return until the infant is weeks or months old. This absence has been described as a chimpanzee’s “maternity leave”. So Nishie and his colleague Michio Nakamura were surprised when, at around 11 am one December day, a female member of the chimpanzee group they were observing began to give birth in front of the 20 other members. As soon as the baby was out – and before the mother had even had a chance to touch it – the baby was snatched away by a male member of the group, who then disappeared into the bush. The researchers found him around 1½ hours later, sitting up a tree and eating the infant from the lower half of its body. He ate the entire body within an hour. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24193 - Posted: 10.14.2017

Heidi Ledford The US government is considering whether to approve a gene therapy to prevent the degradation of cells in the retina (shown here in an image from a scanning electron microscope). Advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have paved the way for the agency’s first approval of a gene therapy to treat a disease caused by a genetic mutation. On 12 October, a panel of external experts unanimously voted that the benefits of the therapy, which treats a form of hereditary blindness, outweigh its risks. The FDA is not required to follow the guidance of its advisers, but it often does. A final decision on the treatment, called voretigene neparvovec (Luxturna), is expected by 12 January. An approval in the lucrative US drug market would be a validation that gene-therapy researchers have awaited for decades. “It’s the first of its kind,” says geneticist Mark Kay of Stanford University in California, of the treatment. “Things are beginning to look more promising for gene therapy.” Luxturna is made by Spark Therapeutics of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is designed to treat individuals who have two mutated copies of a gene called RPE65. The mutations impair the eye’s ability to respond to light, and ultimately lead to the destruction of photoreceptors in the retina. The treatment consists of a virus loaded with a normal copy of the RPE65 gene. The virus is injected into the eye, where the gene is expressed and supplies a normal copy of the RPE65 protein. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Vision; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24192 - Posted: 10.14.2017

by Robby Berman Our problem with opioids has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason: It’s arguably the worst drug problem the U.S. has ever faced. The leading cause of death for people under 50? Opioids. According to the CDC, between 1999 and 2015, over 183,000 Americans have died of overdoses from prescription opioids alone. The agency estimates that more than 1,000 people receive emergency treatment for prescription overdoses every day. While those numbers are leveling off a bit now — perhaps as doctors become more careful about prescribing them — the number of deaths from non-prescription opioids is rising fast. Overdoses are easy to count, but nearly as disturbing, if less visible, is how many people are dependent on these drugs. The CDC estimates that in 2014 that number was two million Americans. The top three prescription opioids causing overdoses, says the CDC, are methadone, oxycodone (including OxyContin®), and hydrocodone (including Vicodin®). The two leading non-prescription killers on the rise are heroin and fentanyl, the drug that killed musician Prince. Experts believe that prescription opioids serve as gateways for illegal ones, so getting prescription use under control may be the key first step. Meanwhile, watch this. If you’ve ever thought that those who become dependent on opioids are weak or have defective personalities — and that these drugs might be safe for others, even you — this video from Lily Fang about how they work in the human brain reveals why these pain-killers are so incredibly dangerous. The video was created for a HarvardX class. © Copyright 2007-2017 & BIG THINK,

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24190 - Posted: 10.13.2017

Laura Sanders The brain’s mapmakers don’t get a break, even for sleep. Grid cells, specialized nerve cells that help keep people and other animals oriented, stay on the clock 24/7, two preliminary studies on rats suggest. Results from the studies, both posted October 5 at bioRxiv.org, highlight the stability of the brain’s ‘inner GPS’ system. Nestled in a part of the brain called the medial entorhinal cortex, grid cells fire off regularly spaced signals as a rat moves through the world, marking a rat’s various locations. Individual grid cells work together to create a mental map of the environment. But scientists didn’t know what happens to this map when an animal no longer needs it, such as during sleep. Grid cells, it turns out, maintain their mapmaking relationships even in sleeping rats, report two teams of researchers, one from the University of Texas at Austin and one from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. (The Norway group includes the researchers who won a Nobel Prize in 2014 for discovering grid cells (SN Online: 10/6/14).) By eavesdropping on pairs of grid cells, researchers found that the cells maintain similar relationships to each other during sleep as they do during active exploration. For instance, two grid cells that fired off signals nearly in tandem while the rat was awake kept that same pattern during sleep, a sign that the map is intact. The results provide insights into how grid cells work together to create durable mental maps. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 24186 - Posted: 10.13.2017

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

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

By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK Dr. Michel Jouvet, a neurophysiologist who discovered the region of the brain that controls rapid eye movement, and who helped define REM sleep as a unique state of consciousness common to humans and animals alike, was found dead on Oct. 3 in Villeurbanne, France. He was 91. Pierre-Hervé Luppi, a fellow researcher who worked with Dr. Jouvet for many years, said he had died overnight at a hospital. The curious physiological phenomenon known as REM sleep was first reported in the early 1950s by Eugene Aserinsky and Nathaniel Kleitman, researchers at the University of Chicago. They noticed that people who appeared to be sleeping soundly sometimes moved their fully lidded eyes, and that electroencephalogram recordings showed that brain activity during periods of eye movement was closer to that of someone awake than someone unconscious. They and another colleague, William C. Dement, eventually determined that sleepers had intermittent periods of REM during which they often dreamed. Dr. Jouvet was a researcher at the University of Lyon in France, studying how sleeping cats react to stimuli, before he turned his attention to REM in the late 1950s. In deep, or slow-wave, sleep, both cats and humans show slight muscle tension and low brain activity. But Dr. Jouvet found that during periods of REM sleep the muscles of cats were completely slack, even though their brain waves suggested physical activity. He called the REM state “paradoxical sleep,” since the brain is active even though the body is virtually still. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24177 - Posted: 10.12.2017

By Esther Landhuis Among hundreds of genes that might nudge your risk of Alzheimer's up or down, Apolipoprotein E (APOE) has the strongest effect. Scientists discovered a quarter century ago that people with the APOE ε4 version of this gene are four to 15 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, a deadly brain disorder that afflicts more than five million Americans. Yet how APOE actually sets off dementia has been somewhat of a mystery—and efforts to use it as a drug target have floundered. The field’s attention has focused on another “A” word—amyloid beta (Aβ). This protein can unwittingly accrue in the brain for years, disrupting nerve connections essential for thinking and memory. APOE has been thought of as a co-conspirator in this process, but finding ways to undermine its collusion have proved challenging. Anti-amyloid drugs have consumed the labors of pharmaceutical companies. If a drug could break those insidious clumps of protein or keep them from forming, drug developers reasoned, it could in theory halt the progression of the disease. But billions of dollars have poured into large-scale clinical trials of amyloid-lowering therapies that so far have failed. Advertisement APOE has hovered on the periphery as far as drug development, but this could soon change. Connections have emerged between the functioning of APOE and Aβ. In 2012 Boston scientists studying autopsy tissue from Alzheimer’s patients found APOE ε4 individuals had unusually high levels of brain Aβ. And they noticed Aβ clumped more readily in test tubes if mixed with ApoE proteins, especially ApoE4. Mouse data from teams at Washington University in Saint Louis and the University of California, San Francisco—suggested a similar relationship. Each lab worked with existing Alzheimer’s mouse models and further modified their genomes to make different types and amounts of ApoE proteins. In both studies animals with less ApoE had fewer Aβ plaques in their brains. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 24176 - Posted: 10.12.2017

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Women with high blood pressure in their 40s are at increased risk for dementia in later years, researchers report. But the finding does not hold for men. Beginning in 1964, investigators collected health and lifestyle information on 5,646 men and women when they were 30 to 35 years old, and again when they were in their 40s. From 1996 to 2015, 532 of them were found to have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. The study is in Neurology. Hypertension in women in their 30s was not associated with dementia. But women who were hypertensive at an average age of 44 had a 68 percent higher risk for dementia than those who had normal blood pressure at that age, even after adjusting for B.M.I., smoking and other risk factors. High blood pressure in men in their 30s or 40s was not associated with later dementia, but the study’s senior author, Rachel A. Whitmer, said that studies have tied hypertension in men in their 50s to later dementia. Dr. Whitmer, a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., added that hypertension is more common in men, and the hypertensive men in the study tended to die at a younger age than the women. “The big picture here is that brain health is a lifelong issue,” she said. “What you do in young adulthood matters for your brain in old age.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 24175 - Posted: 10.12.2017

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

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

By Toni Clarke, (Reuters) - Spark Therapeutics Inc’s experimental gene therapy for a rare inherited form of blindness is effective, though it is unclear whether the benefit lasts over time, according to a preliminary review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The therapy, Luxturna, or voretigene neparvovec, would be the first-ever gene therapy for any inherited disease to be approved in the United States. The FDA’s review, posted on Tuesday on the agency’s website, comes two days ahead of a meeting of outside advisers who will discuss the treatment and recommend whether it should be approved. Advertisement Michael Yee, an analyst at Jefferies, said the FDA documents “look fairly benign and as expected,” and said he expects the advisory panel is likely to vote in favor of approval. The FDA noted there is no available long-term data to show whether the effectiveness of the therapy is maintained after a year, so the clinical benefit beyond that “is unclear.” Inherited retinal diseases are a group of rare conditions caused by mutations in one or more than 220 different genes, including one known as RPE65, which tells cells how to produce a crucial enzyme needed for normal vision. Spark studied Luxturna in people with one of these conditions, Leber congenital aumaurosis, whose disease was mediated by defects in the RPE65 gene. Clinical trial results showed 93 percent of participants experienced some improvement in their functional vision as measured by their ability to navigate obstacles in poor light. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 24171 - 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 Frances Stead Sellers October 8 at 9:00 AM One late-summer day last year, my surroundings started playing tricks with me. The letters I typed on my computer screen looked fuzzy. Objects on my desk seemed to slip sideways, escaping their own outlines. My colleagues, viewed across the room, appeared to have shifted slightly so that now they stood or sat as ghostly silhouettes beside themselves. I put it down to fatigue or lack of food. The next morning, neither sleep nor sustenance had cured me. I squinted my way out of my apartment and reached for the handrail that runs alongside the front steps. As my left arm extended, my forearm divided somewhere between my elbow and my wrist, so that now I had two left hands and 10 fingers, groping for two railings that ran not parallel to one another but diverged into the distance. Below my four feet, the neat brick geometry of a Capitol Hill sidewalk had become a muddled mosaic. I looked up to see two identically dressed men, swinging their arms in unison as they marched, lockstep, toward me. I closed one eye and then the other. Both worked well. In fact, each restored reassuring order to the world: One man. One left hand. One railing. But when I tried to walk with only my right eye open, I keeled over to the side. I lost my balance — and a little confidence. “Not good,” the ophthalmologist murmured later that morning as he tracked the movement of my eyes from left to right and back again. Diplopia was his diagnosis. Greek for double vision. How did I feel? he asked. Had I had a virus? I needn’t go to the ER, he said, unless I developed a splitting headache or started vomiting. But I should see a neuro-ophthalmologist. Soon. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Vision; Movement Disorders
Link ID: 24166 - Posted: 10.09.2017