Neuron Culture

i-bbeace5640b504fb576339446267dea8-201005022352.jpg

Newscom/Zuma, via TPM

Brains, genes, and taxes won the month.

How does Williams syndrome prevent racism? It’s subtle

Ed Yong, Mo Costandi, Scientific American, and others have covered nicely a new paper finding that people with WIlliams syndrome (a condition I’ve been interested in since writing a long feature about it for the Times Magazine a few years back) show little or no racial bias. But I wanted to add one thought about the finding.

Most of the write-ups have emphasized, rightly, that people with Williams tend to show little or no social fear — a lack that could explain a lack of racial bias. If you don’t fear people, you don’t feel out-groups. Yet as I noted in my article, people with Williams also show a distinct lack of social savvy, and I think this could contribute too:

Your genetic info — not free, easy, or clear

After I wrote in my Atlantic article about getting my serotonin transporter gene assayed (which revealed that I carry that gene’s apparently more plastic short-short form), I started getting a lot of email — several a week — from readers asking how to have their SERT gene tested. This led to an interesting hunt.

Accidental brain evolution suffers a reversal

A couple weeks ago, the Guardian ran an article in which Oxford neurobiologist Colin Blakemore described “how the human got bigger by accident and not through evolution.” Though I didn’t get to it at the time, I thought that an odd headline, since evolution actually occurs when genetic accidents — those mutation things — grant an advantage. Now John Hawks has written a post addressing what he says is a pretty big muckup by Blakemore:

Genomes, cool conferences, and what the hell to tell people about behavioral genes

I had the pleasure of attending the Genomes, Environment, and Traits conference on Tuesday. Was wonderful and strange, with many inspiring, exciting, and/or entertaining moments — and a few things a bit worrisome.   

State taxes inversely related to certain undesirable outcomes

The Tax Foundation recrently ranked the states according to their tax load, with low taxes generating high rankings. My home state of Vermont did not fare well.
Enter my friend David Goodman (Davidgoodman.net)