Neuroanthropology

For a greater understanding of the encultured brain and body…

Archive for May, 2009

Lights, Camera… Alcohol?

Posted by dlende on May 29, 2009

James Bond Martini
By Kerry, Lauren, Matt and Nicole

Let’s look at the statistics: “Research found alcohol use depicted in 92 percent of the films in a sample of 601 contemporary movies… Alcohol was used in 52 percent of G-rated films, 89 percent for PG, 93 percent for PG-13 and 95 percent for R”

The stone-cold-sober fact? Alcohol is everywhere in films and it shapes the consumption of alcohol by viewers. A 2008 study concluded that each year the average US adolescent (ages 10-14) was exposed to “5.6 hours of movie alcohol use and 243.8 alcohol brand appearances in the top 100 US box office films from 1998-2002.”

Beyond exposure, the magnetism of a drinking character can influence viewers. “Health educators and policymakers are alerted to the fact that the entertainment media too often portray glamorous characters as enjoying alcoholic beverages without facing negative consequences, which may particularly affect the viewers who feel attracted to the role characters.”

Hollywood cinema can be magical, with scenes that seduce the viewer and tattoo memory to mind. These mystical moments generally glamorize alcohol. Drinkers are frequently depicted in films as more attractive, more aggressive, more romantically/sexually active, and as having a higher socioeconomic status than nondrinkers.

In contrast, Hollywood alcoholics are regularly depicted as hopeless, broken deadbeats, chugging down whiskey while their lives crumble around them. Thus, the movie industry portrays the two polar extremes of alcohol use – glamorized celebration and desolate disease. There is no middle ground.

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Posted in Addiction | 3 Comments »

Caught in the Net – The Internet & Compulsion

Posted by dlende on May 28, 2009

Internet Evolution
By Emily Salvaterra, KT Hanson, Gonzalo Brenner, Hannah Jackson

Why are you reading this? Do you want to learn? Are you doing research? Maybe you’re bored and are looking to kill time? Are you addicted and can’t get offline?

So just how many of those links did you check out? After clicking on the first one, did you want to click on another? Did you fight the urge or just keep clicking?

How Much is Too Much? When a Habit Goes Too Far
World in Hand
Almost 25% of the people in the world are active Internet users. More than 100 million Facebook users log on at least once per day. Nine blogs are created each minute. As advancements in Internet technology continue to make the world smaller and smaller, new users are plugging into the Net at an unbelievable pace. But what happens when these users are logging on too often? Where do you draw the line between harmless and harmful?

Many experts today are asking these questions about Internet usage. The Internet can be a valuable tool for accessing information, making connections, and maintaining relationships. People all over the world use their cell phones, laptops, and home computers to access the Internet and branch out in all directions on the information superhighway. But for some, one wrong turn changes the Internet from a mode of communication to a medium of compulsion.

The Process of Escalation

Remember what your life was like without the Internet? We don’t. And we don’t particularly want to imagine life without it either. Today we live in a fast-paced technology-loving age where the answers to most any question are just a mouse click away. Unfortunately, this is just part of the problem when it comes to Internet addiction.

Over the years, the Internet has become too stimulating, too accessible, too anonymous, and too interactive. To put it simply, it’s way too easy to get sucked into the Internet. For some people, an everyday habit of checking Facebook on your new BlackBerry (a.k.a. CrackBerry) can turn into a full-blown compulsion in a matter of weeks.

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Posted in Addiction, Technology | 7 Comments »

Tobacco Worse Than Cocaine?

Posted by dlende on May 27, 2009

Gas Deal
By Mariana Cuervo, Elizabeth Montana, Brian Smith, and Sadie Pitzenberger

Is your local gas station attendant a drug dealer? Most people would say no, yet he readily deals all day long with customers looking for their next nicotine fix. Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco, keeps its users hooked.

Even though most people do not consider tobacco to be a drug, this post will show that it is exactly that. Tobacco delivers similar neurobiological effects as illegal substances like cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, all more commonly associated with the word “drug.” With tobacco, however, advertising and the law contribute to the common perception that tobacco is not a drug.

Tobacco Products

Just like on the street corner, where you might be able to buy crack, marijuana or meth, a gas station offers different types of drugs. Tobacco itself comes in many forms: dip, snuff, cigars and, of course cigarettes.

Chewing tobacco or “dip” is a smokeless form of tobacco, which when packed into the lip allows nicotine to flow into the bloodstream via the gum line. Snuff, a finer form of tobacco, is snorted while cigarettes are smoked. Both provide an alternative way to get a nicotine high.

The ways in which these tobacco products are consumed mirror the techniques of cocaine consumption – coca leaves are chewed, cocaine is snorted, and crack is smoked. So how is tobacco different?
Cigarette Poisons
And just like marijuana tobacco is grown in the ground, picked and dried, and then rolled into cigars and cigarettes. Tobacco has nicotine while marijuana has tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Both are responsible for getting the user high.

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Posted in Addiction, Applied Anthropology, Medical anthropology | 13 Comments »

Wednesday Round Up #65

Posted by dlende on May 27, 2009

Plenty of mind/brain posts in this week’s Encephalon: Big Night, so the top list is focused on social issues. After that, I just take care of business – brain, animals and anthropology.

Top

Susan Blum, Should China Copy the West on Academic Integrity?
Researcher of truth in China and plagiarism in the US examines cultural notions of originality and due credit and their effect on academic practice and policy: “an academic system where people were hired and rewarded on the basis of contacts, seniority, and cooperation rather than publication and competition.”

Adrian Ivakhiv, Lakoff’s Environmental Frames vs. Connolly’s Resonance Machines
Cognition meets the environmental movement – neuropolitics results. Lakoff over-simplifies, and Ivakhiv brings in William Connolly to examine actual interactions, not just embodied frames.
I really liked this line, “communicating this idea of a social nature in a culture that still sees nature as “out there” somewhere and culture as “in here” among us humans, is not easy, as it goes against the grain even of what a large part of the American conservationist community has traditionally said (and celebrated), i.e., that nature is in our national parks, not in our homes or schoolyards.”
For more from the Immanence blog, see the post Robert Brulle’s Response to Lakoff.

EcoTone, Citizens First, Scientists second: The Argument for Advocacy
A new paper argues that scientists can be activists too through advocacy – in other words, questioning not the scientific method but the stand-off ethos that is often cultivated

Tamler Sommers, On Debunking
Considering love beyond evolutionary theory and brain function. Sommers follows up with Selective debunking in metaethics. Also see Ars Psychiatrica for more on love in All in your head?

Julia Douthwaite, Homo ferus: Between Monster and Model
Our images of the “wild man” – a savage, an innocent archetype, and defining what it meant to be human in the 18th century

Norman Holland, Has Psychology Become One of the Humanities?
Endless publications and not much advances in understanding – narrow efforts and the unscientific nature of the mind itself don’t add up to cumulative, generalizable knowledge.
Ars Psychiatrica takes on Holland, offering more a view from the humanities – “consciousness is inherently a dynamic entity, and one engaged in essential value discrimination, on its own and in relation to other minds. The latter is the humanistic endeavor, and when it comes to the mind regarding itself, the stakes are highest of all.”

David Dobbs, Pharma Objects to Empiricism
The latest in how Big Pharma aims to control both basic research and policy to our own detriment – very good piece over at Neuron Culture

Brain

Vaughan Bell, All Smoke and Mirror Neurons?
Love the title! And it’s a perfect fit, as Mind Hacks discusses a coming article that takes on the hype and the actual research around mirror neurons

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Posted in Wednesday Round Up | Leave a Comment »

What’s the Dope on Music and Drugs?

Posted by dlende on May 26, 2009

Record Player
But in the long run these drugs are probably gonna catch up sooner or later
But fuck it I’m on one, so let’s enjoy,
let that X destroy your spinal chord, so it’s not a straight line no more
So we walk around lookin like some wind-up dolls,
shit stickin out of our backs like a dinosaur,
Shit, six hit’s won’t even get me high no more,
so bye for now, I’m gonna try to find some more

- Eminem, Drug Ballad

Drug strewn lyrics and references are found in much of today’s popular music. What effect do these words have on the average listener? Would you let your 10 year old listen to this? Why not… they’re just lyrics right?

School House Rock: Monkey Hear, Monkey Do?
John Markert: Two Schools of Thought

1) Reflection Theory : “Music is popular because it reflects the values and beliefs of those who consume it.” Proponents of Reflection Theory examine cultural forms such as music lyrics to gain insight into social beliefs. Here music is used to probe the connection between society and culture. Supporters of this intellectual tradition see the audience consuming with a critical eye, selecting songs because the theme relate to them and their world.
Woodstock
2) Arnoldian Theory : “Music is didactic and acts as a socializing agent by teaching behavior.” The concern by those at the other end of the intellectual tradition is that song lyrics may teach inappropriate social behavior. Mathew Arnold laid the foundation for this perspective in the last century, and his initial assessment continues to remain popular.

This is where the real debate can begin. Are the music and lyrics of songs with drug, alcohol, sex, and violence references putting adolescents at a greater risk of alcohol and drug use? Or is it simply the culture that these songs and music are created and engulfed in?

Pros and Cons of the Two Schools

One can make a case for both opposing ideologies. On the one hand, it is easy to see how the music and general lyrics can influence adolescents into using drugs and alcohol. For example, when browsing for songs that contain any type of alcohol or drug reference it is not hard to find hundreds of songs that contain one if not both. “White Lines”, “Fight for Your Right to Light the Bong,” and “Crack Monster” are just a few of the songs that diminish the dangers and actually commemorate the use of drugs and alcohol.

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Posted in Addiction, Cultural theory, Learning | 6 Comments »

Encephalon #71: Big Night

Posted by dlende on May 25, 2009

Big Night
Welcome to Encephalon #71 – a Big Night here at Neuroanthropology, as we are hosting Encephalon for the second time (last year it was The Usual Suspects). Enjoy your multi-course mind feast!

Editor’s Selections
What is this: ‘Too much’? HEY! It is never ‘too much’; it is only ‘not enough’! Bite your teeth into the ass of life and drag it to you!

Carl Feagans, A Hot Cup of Joe
Artificial Cranial Modification: Trephination and Head Shaping

Alvaro Fernandez, Sharp Brains
The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: 18 Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, To Keep Your Brain Sharp

Students @ Neuroanthropology – their own Big Night!
Gambling and Compulsion: Neurobiology Meets Casinos

Ginger Campbell, Brain Science Podcasts
Brain Science Podcast #57: Chris Frith, PhD (author of “Making Up The Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World”)

Learning
“People should come just for the food!” “I know that, I know. But they don’t.”

Dave Munger, Cognitive Daily
Musicians Have Better Memory – Not Just for Music, but Words and Pictures Too

Greg Downey, Neuroanthropology
Talent: A Difference That Makes a Difference

Walter van den Broek, i.e., Dr. Shock
Neuroscience of Learning Arithmetic

Nicky Penttila, Sharp Brains
Brain Scientists Identify Links between Arts, Learning

Brain Health
I’m a businessman. I’m anything I need to be at anytime.

My Mind on Books
“What Makes Us Happy?”: George Vaillant and the Harvard Study of Adult Development @ The Atlantic

Adam Benforado, The Situationist
Something to Smile About

The Neurocritic
Suicide Rates in Greenland Are Highest During the Summer

Ward Plunet, Brain Health Hacks
How to Increase Your D2 Receptor Levels, and therefore the Dopamine System – for Better Brain Health

Dr. Shock
Neuroscience of Exercise

On the Basics
Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone.

Vaughan Bell, Mind Hacks
The Psychology of Being Scammed

Sandeep Gautam, The Mouse Trap
Synaptic Plasticity: Angelman’s/Autism and Psychosis

Jacy Young, Advances in the History of Psychology
Interview with Alexandra Rutherford, author of “Beyond the Box: B.F. Skinner’s Technology of Behavior from Laboratory to Life”

Mo Costandi, Neurophilosophy
Decoding the Brain’s Response to Vocal Emotions

Critique and Comment
“She’s a criminal. I want to talk to her.” “You want to talk to her? Okay! You want to talk to her? That’s great.”

Eugene Raikhel, Somatosphere
A Critical Neurosciences Manifesto

The Neurocritic
The Constant State of Desire: Broccoli & Self-Control

Jared Tanner, Brain Blogger
What is Free Will?

Cristopher Green, Advances in the History of Psychology
“Homosexuality Conversion” Classics Fraudulent?

Philip Dawdy, Furious Seasons
Psychiatrist Calls Profession’s Leaders Out Of Touch

Sandra K., Channel N
Neuroethics Diavlog – Neuroscience and the Law with Carl Zimmer and Michael Gazzanniga

Greg Downey, Neuroanthropology
Escaping Orientalism in Cultural Psychology

Anthropology
Give to people what they want, then later you can give them what you want.

Edmund Blair Bolles, Babel’s Dawn
From Protolanguage to True Language

Dan Sperber, Cognition and Culture
Is the Left Hemisphere more Whorfian than the Right One?

Jacy Young, Advances in the History of Psychology
Interviews with Milgram’s Participants

David DiSalvo, Neuronarrative
Are We Born Believers or Cultural Receivers? A Discussion with Author and Psychologist Bruce Hood

Addiction
This place is eating us alive.

Dirk Hanson, Brain Blogger,
Clearing the Haze – Is Marijuana Addictive?

Scicurious, Neurotopia
Things I like to Blog About: Addiction and the Opponent Process Theory
Opponent-Process Theory: Welcome to the Dark Side

Vaughan Bell, Mind Hacks
Numbers Up for Dopamine Myth

Notes on Big Night

For more on the 1996 film Big Night, you can see the IMDb site and Wikipedia. The quotes (with occasional slight modifications) were taken from two sources: IMDb and MovieQuotes.

The movie inspired a cookbook Cucina & Famiglia, where you can actually find the recipe for the wonderful Timpano (see these images) featured in the movie.

Or you can do directly to the web and find the Timpano recipe straight from the cookbook or a slightly modified one. You can also get a 2007 account and a 2008 account of the process of making Timpano.

Posted in general, Links | 5 Comments »

Gambling and Compulsion: Neurobiology Meets Casinos

Posted by dlende on May 23, 2009

Slot MachinesBy Jarred Carter, Andrew Cavanagh, Elizabeth Olveda, and Meredith Ragany

Vegas baby, Vegas!

So you’ve finally made it out to Sin City, setting aside a few hundreds dollars to gamble. Maybe even a thousand. You’re hoping to get lucky and have some fun. A few hours and a half-dozen drinks into your weekend, you find yourself at the craps table, dice in hand. You’re feeling good, ready to turn your recent down streak into big bucks. Where does that leave you?
Right where the casino wants you.

The game is rigged. Everyone loses money eventually, if not immediately. But just like gamblers grab hold of that lever and pull, society has stepped up to the gambling craze. And now gambling is pulling people for all they’re worth: emotionally, mentally and, most notably, financially.

This post will look more closely at casino’s techniques to draw gamblers back to the slot chairs and the tables, focusing on both physiological aspects and engaged decision making. Ultimately, these observations will demonstrate that casinos create more than entertainment; they develop an entire compulsive experience.

The Gambler’s Rush

The casino’s greatest asset might be the very personal, very intense rush that gamblers experience as they step up to the blackjack table or slot machine, hoping to strike it rich. This characteristic “rush” or “high” stems from the series of steps and actions that are involved in addictive behavior. Stimulation from the surrounding atmosphere and the thrill of a big risk drives the “high”. Ultimately, the “rush” from gambling can be as intense as a drug fix.

Dealing Emotions

Excitement, making a quick buck, or even the possibility of financial independence is enticing. From experience, most people know that emotions are difficult to control. From a neurological standpoint, the amygdala is situated in the limbic system and is one main centers of emotion (pdf) in the human brain. Other parts of the brain, like the prefontal cortex, display less activity (pdf) during the act of gambling.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Addiction, Brain imaging, Brain Mechanisms, Decision Making, Psychological anthropology | 3 Comments »

Why Do They Do It? Portrayals of Alcohol on Facebook and MySpace

Posted by dlende on May 22, 2009

“I’m so much cooler online…Yeah I’m cooler online…”
– Brad Paisley, Online

By David Patterson, Elizabeth Kuzmich, Francis Verhaegen, and Natalie Leopold
Facebook Cheer
Why do they do it? Why do otherwise smart and savvy college and high school student post photos of themselves drinking and partying on Facebook and MySpace? To the right is just one. There are many more, some of them a lot more, um… revealing than this one.

Facebook/MySpace and the pictures posted on these websites represent a microcosm of social life. It is true that college students drink more often and in higher quantities than any other age group. Their lives include class, work, homework, club meetings…and partying. Many times, pictures of fraternity parties and keggers do not portray college students accurately. In other words, these students choose to portray only certain aspects of their lives on the Internet.

Thus, the pictures posted on Facebook/MySpace only represent some of these activities, specifically partying. For the same reason that website profiles of older adults often feature their wives and children, the profiles of college students feature what they believe is the most interesting, or ‘coolest,’ part of their life – having fun while partying and drinking.

Pictures of drinking and partying are interesting to their peers. The college social scene revolves around attending bars and fraternity parties. Just as the public looks to celebrities for cues on what to wear, where to go, and how to act, young adults look to their peers to see what are the best parties and activities, which are illustrated on Facebook/MySpace. It is unlikely that a college student would post a picture of himself or herself in the library or working at the ice cream shop.

Facebook/MySpace allows for the creation of new or altered identity and the presentation of this identity to others. Individuals can portray themselves as social, attractive, and popular by posting pictures of themselves surrounded by friends at a party. In theory, this makes them more desirable to the other sex and ‘cooler’ to their peers.

Examining the Profiles

In order to take a closer look at the prevalence of alcohol-related pictures in Facebook and MySpace profiles, 25 Facebook profiles and 25 MySpace profiles were randomly selected from a large pool of male and female individuals using a random numbers generator. The users’ ages varied from 17 to 25, essentially the average aged college students. From these profiles, the photo albums were inspected to determine whether they were alcohol or party related. Pictures containing beer cans, bottles, or handles of liquor or those taken in a bar or party setting or other miscellaneous drinking activities counted towards an “alcohol-related” picture or photo album.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Addiction | 10 Comments »

Student Posts Coming

Posted by dlende on May 22, 2009

Just like last year, groups of students from my class Alcohol and Drugs: The Anthropology of Substance Use and Abuse have put together some great posts to share with the world. This year had more of a compulsion and culture theme, looking at “addictions” in areas besides drugs and alcohol as well as the impact of music and the internet on our everyday involvements. I’ll put the first post up later today, and then go more-or-less one a day until I get through all nine.

The posts represent quality work by the students. The students developed their own arguments and ideas, and did the background research themselves. I don’t always agree with them, and that’s good – all part of academic discourse.

Last year’s posts proved very popular. The one on brain imaging is in our Top Ten overall, and another on the genetic and environmental bases of addiction is in the top twenty. All told, the eight posts have been read more than 13,000 times!

The students covered a range of topics last year, from post-conventional outlaws and the drug war to college binge drinking and gender, stress and addiction and inequality and addiction, and finally on denial and disease and on age limits on drinking.

To see all of last’s years posts, check out Why A Final Essay When We Can Do This?

Posted in Addiction | 1 Comment »

Sorting Stones

Posted by dlende on May 21, 2009

Sorting Stones
Sorting Out Science is hosting the latest Four Stone Hearth, gathering together the best of recent anthropology blogging.

The lead is the entire Pig in the Garden Series, covering the recent Jared Diamond and New Yorter controversy. If I had to pick one piece for this audience, it would be Nancy Sullivan’s ‘Light Elephants’ and Dark Revenge In The New Yorker: The Problems of Amateur Anthropology. Besides covering ethical concerns, she brings a deep ethnographic appreciation from a more psychological/cultural anthropology angle of how revenge actually works in Papua New Guinea.

Then there are big boobs featured in the media (yes, the recent venus figurine – Sorting Science has three solid pieces on this discovery); plus the recent Neanderthals got eaten by humans controversy is dismantled; some hot joe on head shaping and trepination; and much more.

A stand-out edition! So go check out Sorting Science’s Four Stone Hearth.

Posted in Links | Leave a Comment »

 
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