Encephalon #38

UPDATED – Following a tiny admin issue, I now have the full selection of entries. This, then, is the Director’s Cut of Encephalon #38, now fortified with extra bloggy goodness.

Once again, thanks to Mo from Neurophilosophy, who kindly asked me to host this fortnight’s edition of the neuroscience carnival Encephalon. This site, Not Exactly Rocket Science, is dedicated to provide posts on new discoveries that are interesting and understandable to everyone, even people with no scientific background. With this in mind, posts are ordered (very, very roughly) in order of complexity of language, so that earlier posts can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone, while those later on demand a bit more technical knowledge.

The good folks at Mind Hacks step up with a post on human social networks in wartime situations and how they can be used to inform military objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Deborah Serani at Dr Deb plays devil’s advocate for Ebeneezer Scrooge in a post about the genetic basis for generosity.

There’s a fair chance that you’ll be spending Christmas embracing sloth and indulgence. But never fear, Alvaro at Sharp Brains has a post on keeping your brain fit and exercised.

At Living the Scientific Life, GrrlScientist writes about a pioneering experiment in behavioural science. By cross-breeding two related species of lovebirds (a popular pet bird) and looking at the nest-building behaviour of the hybrids, William Dilger showed that this behaviour is mainly controlled by genes and relies little on experience.

Pay attention now – Dave from Cognitive Daily writes about an elegant study on the extent to which our attention is diverted by things that we’re specifically looking out for (intention), or just things that we’ve seen or heard recently (priming)

Many people are currently panicking because of carbon dioxide levels, but not in the way that Karen from GNIF Brain Blogger suggests. She writes about new research which shows that breathing in stale air laden with carbon dioxide could cause feelings of panic and anxiety. Karen also has a bumper four-part post about new research on the links between spirituality and mental health.

Jake Young at Pure Pedantry weighs in on the recent shooting at an Omaha mall with a post which argues that mental illness is only a weak predictor of violence and should form the basis of stigmatisation. Jake also talks about a phenomenon called a “hypnic jerk” or “sleep start”, where you feel like you’re falling as you start to fall asleep.

Over at Pharyngula, PZ presents a “strange tale of mutant, bisexual, necrophiliac flies“. With great clarity, he talks about a change in a single gene appropriately called genderblind that turns Drosophila into bisexuals and tells us about the neurochemical origins of sexual behaviour.

Stephanie Allen at Brains on Purpose talks about the myths that surround mirror neurons, nerve cells that fire both when you perform an action and when you see someone else doing the same. Mirror neurons have been variously touted as the source of empathy, language or even morality, but Allen argues that there’s good reason to be more cautious in our interpretation. Allen also has another interesting post on the daughters of Ascelpius, the Greek god of medicine, and what they can teach us about conflict resolution.

The Neurocritic also has something to say on mirror neurons. She asks the question: If these cells fire when we act and when we see other people act, what stops us from actually moving in the second instance? She also weighs in with a fascinating post on the neuroscience of Body Dismorphic Disorder, a condition which makes people incredibly self-critical of their own body image. And before you start self-diagnosis, people with BDD often think that they are so hideously unattractive that they avoid social interaction for fear of ridicule.

Paul Baxter at Memoirs of a Postgrad writes about three functions of the hippocampus – associative representation (building links between different stimuli), sequential organisation (structuring the order of memories) and relational networking (linking the common features of separate memories).

And finally, over here at Not Exactly Rocker Science, I recently blogged about a study which showed (by pushing volunteers off a 150ft tower) that a person’s perception of time doesn’t really slow down in a crisis. Another post dealt with a fascinating study which showed that mere milliseconds of subliminal exposure to a national flag changed the attitudes of Israeli students to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, and even their voting choices.

And that’s all folks. To submit your entries for the next edition of Encephalon, use the automated blogcarnival form.

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5 Responses

  1. thx for some great links to psychology related resources. i am hoping the students take to bird watching or the like- what better way to “objectively” observe behaviours.

  2. […] Not Exactly Rocket Science, 18 December 2008 […]

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