Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: , , , , , ,

The last frontier: The brain.

Image: Orphaned. Contact me so I can provide credit and linkage.

Welcome to Encephalon! This is the blogosphere’s neuroscience blog carnival that focuses specifically upon the brain, neuroscience, perception and behavior. If you sent me an essay or video about the brain and its relationship to behavior, perception, cognition, or learning, then it is included here! Also, please accept my sincerest apologies for the one day delay in publishing Encephalon: a police action in the public library where I was working interrupted my neural and cognitive processes. You will be relieved to know that this interruption has sufficiently angered me as to be the impetus for an upcoming blog entry!

So without further ado, here’s the latest installment of Encephalon:

The Genetics of Autism

Blog author, Walter reports that last month, at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in Philadelphia, researchers reported the results of two genome-wide genetic analyses, identifying five significant loci that contribute to autism susceptibility, three of which have not been reported previously, as well as a novel association of genetic variation on chromosome 5 with autism. So what do all the woo-meisters out there have to say about these apples??

Gender Brain Differences and Computer Games

Research suggests that the mesolimbic pathway is involved with producing pleasurable feelings, and is often associated with feelings of reward and desire, particularly because of the connection to the nucleus accumbens, which is also associated with these states. Recent research indicates that men generally exhibit greater activation of the mesocorticolimbic reward circuitry and also greater connectivity, which helps explain why computer games are more popular with men and boys. This piece, by Dr. Shock, explores the psychosocial aspects of computer games and the possible neural differences for why there is a gender difference in fondness for computer games.

Gender Identity

When a child suffers from Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, she can end up starting puberty at the ripe old age of four, which then results in a total lack of personal privacy of her body because curious doctors spent so much time poking at and examining her body. Unfortunately, the result of all this is that she is now an adult who does not really know what gender she is.

Gender and Behaviors

Women may be fed up with being stereotyped as the chattier sex, but the cliche turns out to be true – in female-centric monkey groups at least. The gossipy nature of female macaques adds weight to the theory that human language evolved to forge social bonds. Does the word “gossipy” offend you?

Behavioral Modeling

According to Professor Carolyn Webster-Stratton, a psychologist and nurse-practitioner, early onset aggression in children as young as age 3 is the single most-important predictor of later delinquency, substance abuse and violence. So she has developed a curriculum that teaches aggressive young kids how to improve their social confidence and self-regulation skills, which serves to later prevent problems with Oppositional Defiance Disorder, ADHD and juvenile delinquency. Includes video.

Beauty and Context

The beautiful, yet symmetrically flawlessly boring planes of a model’s face is the context, according to one of my SciBlings, SciCurious. But what makes a model beautiful is something that, in any other context, might be merely bland, or even ugly. But taken out of context and placed on a beautiful face, the perception of it is heightened and noticed. The result is that her face is more interesting, and often more beautiful, because of it. Why? It’s all about your orbitofrontal cortex.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Body ownership — the sense that one’s body belongs to one’s self — is central to self-awareness, and yet is something that most of us take completely for granted. We experience our bodies as being an integral part of ourselves, without ever questioning how we know that our hands belong to us, or how we can distinguish our body from its surroundings. According to my friend and colleague, Mo, researchers from the Karolinska Institute report that they have induced a “body-swap” illusion, whereby subjects perceived the body of another person as belonging to themselves.

Equilibrium as a Perceptual System

Daniel sent along an interesting draft of some of his research into motor learning: basically, he investigates the handstand and bananeira as perceptual challenges. He is seeking feedback from you, so be sure to go there and help him as he completes this paper for peer-review.

Body Image Distortion and Pain Perception

Body image is constructed by the brain from past experience and present sensations, wherein the body image is a fundamental aspect of both self-awareness and self-identity, although it can be disrupted in many conditions. Disruption of the body image can have profound physical and psychological effects. Interestingly, new research that finds visual distortions of the body image in patients suffering from chronic pain can significantly affect their perception of painful sensations.

Brain, Gender and Stress

New research suggests that the region of the brain used for coping with stress flips to the opposite side of the brain during a woman’s period — from an area linked to negative emotion to one that usually deals with cheerier thoughts. What does this mean in real life? Or does this finding have any meaning at all? You be the judge.

Tasting Words

My friend and colleague, Dave, sent along this essay about the rarest form of synasthesia, “word-gustatory synesthesia,” where hearing or seeing a word evokes an involuntary taste association. Apparently, only five people in the world have ever been documented to have this fascinating medical condition, which leads me to ask: is this a real medical condition?

Diagnostic Challenges Associated with ADHD

While most ADHD experts would agree that no single test could or should be used in isolation to diagnose ADHD, Alvaro Fernandez’s essay explores why the availability of an accurate and objective ADHD diagnostic test would be useful. Second, Alvaro Fernandez includes a link to The Society for Neuroscience‘s newly released user-friendly publication aimed at helping educators and the general to public learn more about the brain.

Neuroscience and Juvenile Delinquency

Here is a brief report on a paper that presents an overview of several important contemporary issues that are tied in with increased impulsivity in kids. Early identification of those with impulsivity problems provides opportunities for prevention of later substance abuse, school drop out, and delinquency.

Dealing with Delinquency

Sandra presents a vintage educational film [21:14] about “the nationwide harvest of violence and human waste” from juvenile delinquency. It was being “fought with old and inadequate ideas” (such as a Jewish summer camp for boys in this case) so this video documents a case study where a boy’s emotional problems are identified by a psychiatrist and then solved simply by providing his family with a temp homemaker from a local charity.

Paranormal Beliefs and False Memories

The influence of popular media and the urging of others towards believing in UFOs can’t be discounted; which leads to the question of what difference is there between people who believe who actually experienced what they consider to be alien contact and the pretenders? Apparently, there is a relationship between belief in alien abductions and a person’s greater tendency towards hallucinations and high dissociativity, and even a higher incidence of sleep paralysis.

Circadian Clocks and Early Birds

Why are some people naturally “early birds” while others are “night owls”? A group of researchers set out to answer this question by looking at expression of several genes in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus or SCN and Amiya reports their findings in Molecular Basis of Genetic Switch In The Circadian Clock.

Bird Brains

This is a review of Irene Pepperberg’s recently published book, Alex and Me, a memoir of her 31 years of research into the iintelligence, cognitive and learning abilities of an African Grey Parrot. Even though the book is mostly a memoir, the review includes a link to a more scientific treatment of how this research was actually carried out.

Thus ends this edition of Encephalon. If you have an essay that you’ve written about the brain; neuroscience, neurobiology or the relationship between the brain and behavior, cognition, learning or perception, feel free to send it to the next host for cosideration for the next edition of Encephalon.