John Hawks and Biology of Mind

John Hawks, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Madison – Wisconsin who brings us his paleoanthropological, genetic, and evolution expertise over at his own blog, has set up a new blog Biology of Mind run by his students.

The blog is part of John’s same-titled class which covers “the evolution of human cognition and behavior in a comparative context.” For the most part, the students in their posts provide description and critical commentary on relevant articles. So here’s one on Social Intelligence and Self Awareness, building on the 1998 Gordon Gallup article on that topic.

Besides the students covering and commenting on a wide range of literature, John also puts up weekly readings in pdf format. So this week we have Northcutt on Understanding Vertebrate Brain Evolution and Streidter on Progress in the Study of Brain Evolution.

Last semester I also worked with students blogging. For my medical anthropology class, we ran a student-only blog here at WordPress, where students posted materials, worked up introductions to main readings before discussing them in class, and generally commented on life. It was very easy to set up, and was a closed entity (just for the class and me). So that is one option.

Another option is to have more formal posts done by students, who develop original posts for a public blog (namely this one!). In my class on addiction, groups of students worked on creating some very successful posts on topics ranging from brain imaging to post-conventional outlaws (see them all described here).

So there are lots of ways to get students involved! If you have any more ideas, please let me know with a comment.

Mind Hacks Spike Activity

Most of you are probably aware of the weekly round up or “Spike Activity” appearing every Friday at Mind Hacks. But for those of you who don’t, today’s version was really a great one.

First up, no pun intended, is the study over at Cognitive Daily on condoms: “Cognitive Daily covers a sobering study on sex education that found ‘among sexually active teens, actual condom use bears no relationship to intention to use a condom or belief that using condoms is a good idea. The only factors in their study that correlate with using condoms are buying and carrying condoms’.”

Probably not a big suprise to most anthropologists, where the difference between what people say versus what people do is ground into aspiring ethnographers. It also reminded me of my work with teenage drug users – carrying drugs around was always a good indicator of a real problem, despite many teens’ assertions to the contrary.

Channel N is featuring a video on how obesity spreads through social networks. For those of you looking for research on this topic, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler published a landmark article in the New England Journal of Medicine on “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years” (full text).

PLoS Biology has an important article just out entitled “On Mice and Men, and Chandelier Neurons” (full text) aiming at what makes human brains different, with a focus on short-axon neurons in the frontal cortex.

Then we have cognitive neuroscience in relation to freewill and in relation to philosophy of the mind, as well as Newsweek’s recent article on cognitive neuroscience itself.

Plus even more, so hack into this spike or even those in the past.