Here’s a press release from Princeton about some recent studies that show how the brain changes in response to life experiences. Scienists used to think that after animals become adults, the process of neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) stops. In recent years scientists have found that this is not true. This press release is about a Princeton faculty member’s studies of adult neurogenesis in the hipppocampus of rats. Thanks to my friend Jay for telling me about this one.
In the first season of Babylon 5, G’Kar says “The universe is run by the complex interweaving of three elements: energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest.” Here’s an intriguing article from the New Scientist about whether “pure” (not self-interested) altruism is possible and if so, whether it is adaptive.
Here’s a press release from MIT about some research on how we learn. Primitive brain structures seem to have more to do with the process than previously thought.
Here’s another press release from Vanderbilt, this one about an article in the Columbia Law Review (co-authored by professors at Vanderbilt and Yale) about how the legal system needs to take into account the findings of behavioral biology, and why it traditionally hasn’t done so. I haven’t looked up the article itself yet, but it sounds like an interesting take on how the life sciences can help us fashion a better legal system.
Researchers at Vanderbilt have just released results that indicate that some complex behaviors in primate brains (including human brains) might be hard-wired, which would contradict earlier beliefs that only simple behaviors are hard-wired.
Experiments with monkeys indicate that perhaps the monkeys are able to understand when a competitor is aware of them and act upon that knowledge. The experiments may have implications for how human abilities to understand what’s going on in each other’s minds evolved.
A University of Wisconsin study investigated rhesus monkeys in a stressful situation, correlating brain activity with the frequency of calls for help. The results indicate that two brain systems are involved, one more active in more fearful and quiet monkeys, and the other in more secure and vocal monkeys. The press release describes some possible implications for human behavior.
Maybe this isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you’re up late at night pondering humankind’s place in the cosmos, but it is an interesting question: why is yawning contagious? Some recent Finnish research explores what goes on in the brain when we see someone else yawning.