Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Well I arrived back in Michigan after a deep-fried Thanksgiving in Florida, hope you all had an as opulently greasy and delicious a meal as I did. I have to share a funny anecdote from my drive to the airport yesterday. My parents drove me to the Orlando airport, and we had to drive through the now-infamous Polk County. On the highway, my dad pointed out this dog (a “hunten-dawg”) standing on top of what can only be described as a huge cage on wheels. We saw that the dog’s collar was tied to the top of the cage so he wouldn’t fall off. As I was voicing protest as to how mean that was (traffic was moving fast) somebody noticed what was *IN* the cage– three huge black wild hogs (“hawgs”) on one side and two more dawgs on the other side of a wire partition in the cage. The dogs were furiously barking at the hogs, which were barely fazed by being in a cage, or on a road, or next to the dogs. My sister says, “Only in the South.” Yup.

Anyway, as I’m far too exhausted to write anything in-depth tonight, I’ll share a few stellar links that accumulated in my inbox while I was in no-internet-access land.

1. Reason Magazine has a great piece up called “The Theory of Moral Neuroscience,” which explores how current research results in neuroscience may bolster the 18th century musings on morality of British philosopher Adam Smith. Generally, Smith thought that a human’s ability to empathize is at the root of “morality.” I don’t agree with the entire premise of the essay but its interesting food for thought, and introduced me to Reason Magazine which looks quite promising too. (Hat tip Chuck)

2. Media buff/neuroscientist Dr. Barry Gibb has recently wrote a book called A Rough Guide to the Brain, which I’d like to get my hands on. But until then, you and I can content ourselves with this slick video, where Dr. Gibb explains some general things about brains in a cute Scottish accent as promo for the book. (Hat tip Graham)

3. Rob Knop is back in blog at Galactic Interactions. Encourage him to stick around this time. Now, if only we could convince Alon Levy to come back.

4. Don’t stress too much about holiday weight-gain. A 2000 NEJM study found that weight gained between Thanksgiving and New Years is really only about 1.5 lbs. Its the continual gain over time which is more likely to lead to obesity.

5. Turkey does contain tryptophan (as do many other foods we eat), but it is not that amino acid which makes us drowsy on Thanksgiving. Its actually the release of insulin which follows the very high-carb meal that is the Thanksgiving feast. Probably the spiked cider or eggnog helps too.

6. Lots of turkey-trivia in this short article. Did you know that the wild turkey was nearly hunted to extinction in the US? That all domestic-bred turkeys are white? And that Americans eat 675 million pounds of turkey each Thanksgiving? Also, Americans spent over $10 billion shopping the day after Thanksgiving.


  1. #1 Kevin
    November 26, 2007

    I have been a subscriber to Reason for many years. It is a libertarian magazine that focuses more on issues involving politics, economics, and constitutional liberty than on science, but it always offers some interesting reading.

    I loved the hawgs and dawgs story. It’s a stereotype but it’s not. It’s just the way things are.

  2. #2 Bryce M
    November 26, 2007

    Once in downtown Winter Park, FL I saw a camel riding in a bus, so I guess it is something with Florida.

  3. #3 Doug
    November 26, 2007

    Hi Shelly,

    Thanks for this reference to Adam Smith. I was aware of his economic theories but not on his views of morality.

    I suspect that tools from more modern economic game theory, as awarded in 1994 Nobel to Harsanyi, Nash and Selten, can be applied to “moral neuroscience”.

  4. #4 ivan
    November 27, 2007

    Well, see what else you can come across on the “highway”.

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