The Frontal Cortex

Archives for July, 2007

The Neuroscience of Gambling

This is just sad: Harrah’s New Orleans, the largest casino in the city, is on pace for its best year ever: gambling revenue is up 13.6 percent through the first five months of 2007 compared with the same period in 2005, pre-Katrina. The casinos in this region are generating more revenue — from significantly fewer…

Parrots and PTSD

It’s a brilliant new approach to treating the traumatized minds of war veterans: having them care for rescued and abused parrots. By developing a bond of trust with a bird, the PTSD patients slowly recover their faith in humanity. Listen to the NPR story. And here’s a shot of my own parrot, eating her vegetables…

Lion Eating Apes

Is this a living missing link? Scientists in the Congo have found a band of primates that seem to engage in some very sophisticated hunts. The Guardian reports: Deep in the Congolese jungle is a band of apes that, according to local legend, kill lions, catch fish and even howl at the moon. Local hunters…

Expensive Coffee

I like good coffee as much as the next pretentious writer, but this is a little gross: To connoisseurs of fine coffee, only one is good to the last dropping. Human hands don’t harvest the beans that make this rare brew. They’re plucked by the sharp claws and fangs of wild civets, catlike beasts with…

Is Homosexuality An Accident?

Yesterday, PZ linked to a short list of leading evolutionary explanations for homosexuality. On this subject, PZ is an ardent non-adaptationist: There are really just two classes of explanation [for homosexuality], the adaptationist strategy of trying to find a necessary enhancement to fitness, and the correct strategy of recognizing that not all attributes of an…

Williams Syndrome

David Dobbs has a wonderful article in the most recent Times Magazine on Williams syndrome, a development disorder that results in a bizarre mixture of cognitive strengths and deficits: Williams syndrome rises from a genetic accident during meiosis, when DNA’s double helix is divided into two separate strands, each strand then becoming the genetic material…

Factoids of the Day

From the latest National Geographic cover story on malaria: “Some scientists estimate that one out of every two people who have ever lived have died of malaria.” From the Times: “Last year, UPS cut 28 million miles from truck routes – saving roughly three million gallons of fuel – in good part by mapping routes…

It’s easy to forget just how nasty kids can be. They might look cute, but they are such assholes. They prey on differences and disabilities, using taunts to generate solidarity. Middle school really is a terrible time. But I was pretty surprised to learn that American kids have a strong bias against overweight kids, and…

Lead and Crime

By now, just about everybody knows about the two competing hypotheses that attempt to explain the drop in crime in the late 1990’s. There’s the “broken windows” theory, which assumes that crime is contextual, and that cracking down on the small misdemeanors (like public drunkenness, loitering and graffiti) eliminates the conditions that encourage felonies. And…

Sources of Inequality

Here’s your depressing determinist paper for the day: Is lifetime inequality mainly due to differences across people established early in life or to differences in luck experienced over the working lifetime? We answer this question within a model that features idiosyncratic shocks to human capital, estimated directly from data, as well as heterogeneity in ability…