Wednesday Round Up #90

I’m hoping this is the last of the recent Thursday editions – the end of the semester is getting close, and with it the heavy teaching load I’ve had on Mondays and Wednesdays. But onto the round up – it’s free will, climate change, mind and anthropology this week.

Top of the List

Gretchen Reynolds, Phys Ed: Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious
Very cool – exercise prepares the brain to deal with stress. Is this the new version of no pain, no gain?

Carlos Reynoso, Ciencia Cognitiva y Antropología del Conocimiento
The summary page for a fascinating seminar on cognitive science and anthropology in Buenos Aires. Fascinating overviews, and lots to download (under Creative Commons license). Que lastima que no pude asistir.

Ed Yong, Travels with Dopamine – The Chemical That Affects How Much Pleasure We Expect
What is dopamine and how does it affect us.

Schott’s Vocab, Weekend Competition: Squiffy, Sozzled, Smashed
“This weekend, co-vocabularists are invited to share the words and phrases they use to describe being drunk, drummed, daffy, decanted, or utterly Dean Martoonied.” Some smashing entries!

Conrad Lee, Is Obesity Contagious? A Review of the Debate over “Network Effects” of Obesity
In-depth analysis and critique, particularly in terms of modeling and statistics, of the work by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler that obesity is “contagious” and passed through social networks

Free Will

Anil Ananthaswamy, Free Will Is Not An Illusion After All
Libet’s milestone study that alleged to show free will doesn’t exist is now being challenged by new research.

Nathaniel D. Law et al., Uncertainty-Based Competition Between Prefrontal and Dorsolateral Striatal Systems for Behavioral Control
Article pdf: The brain contains multiple systems for behavioral choice. Not free choice here – but perhaps the probabilistic alternative?

Randall C. O’Reilly & Michael J. Frank, Making Working Memory Work: A Computational Model of Learning in the Prefrontal Cortex and Basal Ganglia
Getting at motor action and executive function in a dynamic way – a great addition to the above article in thinking how brain systems work together to produce adaptive behavior

The Economist, The Conceit of Deceit
Whoops, I thought free will was supposed to be pure – or how people make-up good explanations for bad conduct.

Wolfgang Prinz, Daniel Dennett, & Natalie Sebanz, Toward a Science of Volition
New edited volume from MIT on Disorders of Volition. Here’s the opening chapter, which outlines the book’s major goal to advance our understanding of the procedures sustaining controlled
action by looking at circumstances in which the will is weakened or damaged.


William H. Calvin, Thinking Ahead About Climate Change
A theoretical neurophysiologist, and author of a number of popular brain books, writes about climate change. You can also see his Atlantic piece on the Climate Flip-Flop

Irin, Condom: Fewer Humans, Less Climate Change
The biggest carbon footprint you can have is a child. For more, see the LA Times, Can Condoms Combat Climate Change? and Salon’s Contraception Fights Global Warming

Current: Green Fewer Feet, Smaller Footprint
Thomas Wire makes the following claim: “Family planning is five times cheaper than conventional green technologies in combating climate change.”


Raymond Tallis, Neurotrash
Tallis is against the rising propensity to elucidate everything from attractiveness to misdemeanor in terms of brain function. For comment, see Mind Hacks.

Aaron Seaman, Cultural Formulation: A Special Issue of Transcultural Psychiatry
Somatosphere gives us the online list of the issue’s articles and their abstracts from a fascinating special issue on cultural formulation in the DSM-V

Tim Jones, Michael Gazzaniga: Split Brains & Other Heady Tales – ‘All in the Mind’
“How the conscious mind arises from the brain, how the two different brains operate and govern our actions and perceptions of the world around us, and also in the increasingly controversial and at times acrimonious debate as to what degree people have criminal responsibility for their misdeeds with regards to the legal system.”

Carl Zimmer, The Brain: The Big Similarities and Quirky Differences Between Our Left and Right Brains
A broken symmetry from our evolutionary legacy is part of what makes us human.

Durham University, Young Afghans Suffer Violence and Stress, not just Related to War
A Durham University-led study concludes, “One in five schoolchildren in northern Afghanistan is likely to suffer from a psychiatric disorder.”

Zyphur, M., Narayanan, J., Koh, G., & Koh, D., Testosterone-Status Mismatch in a Group is Linked with Reduced Collective Confidence
Testosterone levels – they’re not innate.

Jonah Lehrer, Calorie Postings
A new study discloses that all those unappetizing calorie counts on New York City menus don’t lead to more conscientious food choices.

Scicurious, Friday Weird Science: Oxytocin and the Big O
A study that looks at when oxytocin levels change in men and women and whether or not oxytocin levels draw a parallel specifically with orgasm, and what characteristics of orgasm they compare with.

Stanislas Dehaene, Your Brain on Books
Neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene explains his pursuit to comprehend how the mind makes sense of written language.

Ed Yong, Elephants and Humans Evolved Similar Solutions to Problems of Gas-guzzling Brains
Big brains are gas-guzzling organs and they require a lot of energy.


Edmund Blair Bolles, The FOXP2 Molecular Network Begins Taking Shape
The FOXP2 gene and its role in language is examined over at Babel’s Dawn

Vaughan Bell, The Illusion of a Universe in Our Own Back Yard
“Science News covers a revealing new study on the Hadza people of Tanzania that has the potential shake up some of the rusty thinking in evolutionary psychology.”

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Mothers and Others
Get the video – “Sarah Blaffer Hrdy presents a new vision of human evolution and to argue that our capacity to understand, engage and empathise with each other stems from our status as a cooperatively parenting species.”

The Situationist, Barbara Ehrenreich on the Sources of and Problems with Dispositionism
From GRITtv: “Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book looks at the downside of looking on the bright side, which she says has undermined America.” Good viewing.

Carole Cadalladr, Beirut is Back… and it’s Beautiful
How the Lebanese capital transitioned from warzone to 2010’s fantastic tourist stop.

Tom Van Hout, Michael McIntyre on Indexical Order
“Indexical order refers to the normativity of meaning relations: it is the ‘principle’ that bestows discourse with a particular meaning in a particular context.” Includes a funny video where the comedian illustrates the principle in action.

Sidney W. Mintz & Christine M. Du Bois, The Anthropology of Food and Eating
“The study of food and eating is important both for its own sake since food is utterly essential to human existence (and often insufficiently available) and because the subfield has proved valuable for debating and advancing anthropological theory and research methods.”

Marshall Sahlins et al., The Sadness of Sweetness: The Native Anthropology of Western Cosmology [& Comments & Reply]
Certain key anthropological themes are talked about in the Judeo-Christian cosmology that seem applicable to Western economic conduct in the 18th Century.

Eugene Raikhel, The Berlin Wall as Metaphor and Diagnosis
How two decades of postsocialism have had far from unequivocal results after the Berlin Wall fell.

Robert Lawless, Empires and the Sullying of Anthropology
CounterPunch – anthropologists as colonial agents with the military.

Erkan Saka, Virtual Issue: The Anthropology of Knowledges
Erkan’s Diary covers this new virtual issue from the Royal Anthropological Institute, plus throws in a bunch more links as well, including Antropologi’s looking at 10 years of Public Anthropology online

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