Reading time: 11 – 18 minutes
Welcome to the 58th edition of Encephalon, where we highlight some of the best neuroscience and psychology blog posts from around the blogosphere. This edition includes 20 articles on a variety of interesting topics, including intelligence, belief, neurodegeneration, multi-tasking, memory, grief and consciousness.
In the digital age, these are the characteristics of new media: recent, relevant, reachable and reliable.
This edition of Encephalon coincides with the historic 44th U.S. Presidential election. As with every election, voters had to decide which candidate for whom to cast their ballot. Although a recent brain-imaging study found that voting decisions are more associated with the brain’s response to negative aspects of a politician’s appearance than to positive ones , many other sources of information come into play when we make important and complex decisions. Indeed, studies have shown that decision making is largely an unconscious process , in which a set of attributes, including needs, preferences, values and emotions, shape our response to sensory input.
Will there be engaging and thought-provoking articles below? Will each of us learn something new as we read through the posts? Will this edition of Encephalon be successful?
Let’s move through each of the attributes and shape our response to these questions.
Understanding how the aging process affects the human brain is a complex task. Many neuroanatomical changes, some of them gender specific, occur as we get older. Thus, to provide a detailed characterization of the brain’s aging process, detailed information at the level of individual genes is needed. A recent gene expression study looked at gender differences in brain aging . Kristen Fortney explores Sex and the Aging Brain.
Addiction … is it biology or is it culture? Dr. Daniel Lende discusses craving and the understanding of dopamine function as he describes Studying Sin.
The Patient Report
Do you drink alcohol? A new study finds that alcohol causes the brain to shrink . Cheree Briggs Cleghorn cautions, Before You Open That Bottle of Wine, Read This “¦
Although luck is a myth, many people seem to have a deep-seated psychological need to place their “fate” in the hands of some external force. David Bradley examines Five-leaf Clovers.
Kylie Sturgess recounts a trip to the toy store to check out a new psychologically-appropriate doll for young Australian women, the “Australian Girl”. Miss Polly Had A Dolly (That Kicks Kangaroo Arse) discusses the sexualization of children and its potential to discourage activities that promote cognitive development and physical health.
Dana Press Blog
Less than two months after the release of a study reported on by the Dana Press Blog (here), scientists from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found further evidence that the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene plays an essential role in one of the deadliest childhood cancers, the nerve cancer neuroblastoma . Aalok Mehta discusses Another Leap in the Fight Against Childhood Cancer.
Besides reading this article, what else are you doing right now? Watching TV? Talking on the phone? Instant messaging? If so, you may not remember what you’ve read. Dr. Bill Klemm reviews a number of studies showing that the brain cannot do more than one thing at a time, and asks Memory Problems? Perhaps you are Multi-tasking.
Have you ever gotten an icy look or a cold shoulder? Does a person’s perceptions of temperature change after experiencing various social situations, especially those that are isolating? A recent study reveals that social exclusion actually feels cold . Dave Munger describes the research showing that Being Excluded From a Social Group Makes You Feel Cold — Literally.
Dana Press Blog
Combining creativity and biology, the Library of Congress lecture series Music and the Brain looks to be an interesting set of discussions on the physical processes behind mental abilities. Aalok Mehta reviews three recent lectures.
Together with growing demand to learn and handle constant change in complex environments, increased life spans are stimulating new initiatives to the challenges of gerontology. Alvaro Fernandez presents a draft proposal to create a global consortium to drive Neurocognitive Fitness Innovation. Update: Global Consortium for Neurocognitive Fitness Innovation
The Mouse Trap
A recent study reviews evidence that a negative relationship exists between intelligence and religious belief in the U.S. and Europe . Is religious belief exhibited by people with low I.Q. really mediated by their social economic status (SES) and low feelings of control? Sandy G questions the correlation. IQ and Religion: is the Relation Mediated by Wealth and Feelings of Control?
Adolf Hitler was a master of coercion, convincing a nation to follow him before and during World War II. Sajid Surve reviews Hitler’s Guide to Propaganda – The Psychology of Coercion.
BPS Research Digest
Brain-damaged patients who have experienced damage to the frontal cortex often provide strange answers to questions about their life or recent activities. Although this phenomena has traditionally been perceived to be a problem with memory retrieval, a new study proposes an alternative explanation . The British Psychological Society Research Digest blog wonders, Are brain damaged people who confabulate even trying to remember?
Recent research by neuroscientist R. Quian Quiroga finds that human brains are assigned one neuron to remember a familiar face. Dr. Steven Novella discusses face-recognition and Single Neuron Neuroscience.
Before the localization of cognitive functions to specific neural regions of the brain, intelligence was the subject of philosophers. Jared Tanner briefly reviews the history, asking What is Intelligence?
A recent neuroimaging study compared boys with aggressive conduct disorder who viewed clips of accidentally inflicted pain to matched controls . Did their brains find it more rewarding or were there actually signs of greater empathy when viewing another’s pain? The Neurocritic reviews the Hah-Ha! stimuli.
The Mouse Trap
A recent Scientific American article debunked psychological stages, suggesting that stage theories have little evidentiary support . In defense of stage theories, Sandy G takes on the article, countering that it contains more opinion than science. The Stage Theories: Are They All Fiction?
Central to the debate on abortion is the question of whether a fetus can feel pain. Paul Baxter appraises a study from 2000 reviewing the fetal development of pain systems . How early in development is there Fetal Pain?
A recent article in the New Yorker describes the search by one psychologist for the roots of psychopathy. Vaughan finds it an engaging read and writes Through the Eyes of the Psychopath.
Dr Shock MD PhD
Perhaps not surprisingly, women are more sensitive than men. Dr. Shock explores the topic of gender differences in terms of response to antidepressants and highlights the take-home points from a review of Gender Differences in Depression and it’s Treatment .
Well, what do you think? Have you made a decision? We’ve moved through each of the different attributes: needs, preferences, values and emotions. Did you find the articles interesting? Did you learn anything new? Was this a successful edition of Encephalon?
I really enjoyed reading through each of the articles and learned quite a lot. My thanks to everyone that contributed articles — it’s been great hosting this edition of Encephalon. Be sure to take a moment and let your fellow bloggers know this issue is available so that everyone’s hard work can be appreciated and enjoyed by all.
You can find both the hosting schedule and past editions at the Encephalon Archives & Calendar. The next edition of Encephalon will be at Ionian Enchantment on November 24th. If you’d like to contribute, send an email with links to up to three blog posts to encephalon.host[at]gmail.com.
Soon et al. Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nat Neurosci. 2008 May;11(5):543-5. Epub 2008 Apr 13.
- Spezio et al. A neural basis for the effect of candidate appearance on election outcomes. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2008. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsn040
Berchtold et al. Gene expression changes in the course of normal brain aging are sexually dimorphic. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Oct 7;105(40):15605-10. Epub 2008 Oct 1.
Paul et al. Association of alcohol consumption with brain volume in the Framingham study. Arch Neurol. 2008 Oct;65(10):1363-7.
George et al. Activating mutations in ALK provide a therapeutic target in neuroblastoma. Nature. 2008 Oct 16;455(7215):975-8.
Zhong and Leonardelli. Cold and lonely: does social exclusion literally feel cold? Psychol Sci. 2008 Sep;19(9):838-42.
- Richard et al. Average Intelligence Predicts Atheism Rates across 137 Nations. Intelligence. 2008. DOI: 10.1016/j.intell.2008.03.004
Zannino et al. Do confabulators really try to remember when they confabulate? A case report. Cogn Neuropsychol. 2008 Sep;25(6):831-52. Epub 2008 Sep 1.
Decety et al. Atypical empathic responses in adolescents with aggressive conduct disorder: A functional MRI investigation. Biol Psychol. 2008 Sep 30. [Epub ahead of print]
Maciejewski et al. An empirical examination of the stage theory of grief. JAMA. 2007 Feb 21;297(7):716-23.
Vanhatalo and van Nieuwenhuizen. Fetal pain? Brain Dev. 2000 May;22(3):145-50.
Gorman JM. Gender differences in depression and response to psychotropic medication. Gend Med. 2006 Jun;3(2):93-109.