I’m going to try something a bit different with the weekly updates, so consider this the pilot episode. Since I read the majority of the blog posts pretty much every day, I want to use these updates to deliver a compact shot of information from the most important and interesting posts. I’ll discuss what’s most popular, but I will also try to point out some exceptional posts form lesser-known bloggers. Please use the comment boards and let me know what you like, what you don’t like, questions, comments–anything at all!
Brain & Behavior channel photo. Psychologists at work. From Flickr, by tupwanders
Brain and Behavior
Wednesday, October 22, 2008— Grrl Scientist from Living the Scientific Life: Scientist, Interrupted featured a video of a PBS Nature program called Parrots in the Land of Oz, Oz being a reference to the Australian countryside. I was lucky enough to stumble across her preview post five minutes before the show aired and caught the entire thing. As an exotic bird enthusiast, I must say that this special had incredible footage of parrots that are only found as house pets—and rarely so— in the United States. The videographers were able to capture the mating behavior of the sexually dimorphic (the male and female differ drastically in phenotype) Eclectus, the extensive courtship rituals of the Black Palm Cockatoo, and the crop-destroying feeding frenzies of Major Mitchell Cockatoos. As parrots have powerfully sharp vision, especially when it comes to detecting motion, I have no idea how anyone was able to capture these creatures on film behaving naturally in their most guarded areas.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008—Matt Springer from Built on Facts danced around a dilemma of sorts concerning experimental testing, exploring the consequences of making statements that can not be falsified. This post prompted a variety of thoughtful reader responses, which ranged from frustration with the alleged futility of the topic to critical philosophical qualifications and discussions on tautology.
Monday, October 20, 2008—Scicurious from Neurotopia reviewed a scholarly article that tested the timeless bit of instinctual knowledge that running is good for you. She discussed the results and possible shortcomings of the study, which concluded that exercising, in rats, produced a cognitive improvement following a radiation treatment compared with rats that did not exercise.
Obviously this has some really important implications for children who have had cancer. It might be a good idea to add some exercise to their therapy that they generally receive following radiation treatment. And really, as long as you’re careful, what can it hurt? And for those of you who are feeling a little stupid today, go run around the block! Your hippocampus will thank you.
Thursday, October 16, 2008—Jonah Lehrer, Seed Magazine Editor At Large and author of The Frontal Cortex, wrote a thought-provoking post about anchoring, the way meaningless numbers influence decision-making abilities, or as Lehrer put it, “the brain’s spectacular inability to dismiss irrelevant information.” Tying contemporary research on this phenomenon into an all-too relevant problem that the majority of Americans face today—credit card debt—by associating anchoring methods with minimum-balance payments, Lehrer provides context for one of the factors that contributed to the current dismal economic situation in America.
That’s all for now. Check back for the Technology Channel Weekly Update tomorrow.