New look at second X chromosome in women

Here’s a news story about two papers in Nature that discuss the “inactive” second X chromosome in women. Scientists have suspected that this chromosome is not truly inactive; recent work not only confirms that some genes from this chromosome are expressed, but reveals that individual women differ in which ones are expressed. This could be a key to future understanding of biological and behavioral variations among women, and perhaps of differences between men and women.

How life experience can change the brain

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.

Nature, nurture, and the law

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.

Calling for help vs. staying quiet

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.