The various excerpts that follow contain research findings and journalistic commentary that inform the issues discussed occasionally among a small group of humanists in the Bay Area. We are interested in how man-made places reveal the ways that varying values and norms stemming from changing environmental conditions interact with ( i.e., shape or are shaped by) our genetic heritage.
Few things get music scholars more nervous than cross-cultural comparisons. The field of ethnomusicology, which was invented to inquire into this very subject, has grown increasingly uneasy with this part of its mission. The ethnomusicologist, in the words of Bruno Nettl, does not seek out such comparisons, but rather serves as “the debunker of generalizations.” Anthony Seeger has offered a similar perspective, expressing his resistance to “the privileging of similarities over differences.” In other words, if human beings from different cultures share certain musical proclivities and practices, academics in the field would rather not hear about it.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive procedure uses a metal coil to send pulses to the brain. By using TMS to deactivate and certain part of the prefrontal cortex and reduce a sense of threat, many of the the subjects dropped any belief in god, hell, heaven etc It also made them more tolerant compared to those who had the cap on but did not receive a sufficient dose of energy. That the brain's default wiring in the face of death pushes most people toward religion. Perceived threats of immigration result normally in more ethnocentrism. No free will there.
Said one of the neuroscientists from the University of York: “As expected, we found that when we experimentally turned down the posterior medial frontal cortex, people were less inclined to reach for comforting religious ideas, despite having been reminded of death,”
This tendency extends to all protective ideologies. Another author of the paper in an Oxford Unv. Press Journal: “These findings are very striking, an…
Research spotlights the grim effect of poverty on education By ALISON GOPNIK May 13, 2015 11:13 a.m. ET 109 COMMENTS A fifth or more of American children grow up in poverty, with the situation worsening since 2000, according to census data. At the same time, as education researcher Sean Reardon has pointed out, an “income achievement gap” is widening: Low-income children do much worse in school than higher-income children. Since education plays an ever bigger role in how much we earn, a cycle of poverty is trapping more American children. It’s hard to think of a more important project than understanding how this cycle works and trying to end it. Neuroscience can contribute to this project. In a new study in Psychological Science, John Gabrieli at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues used imaging techniques to measure the brains of 58 14-year-old public school students. Twenty-three of the children qualified for free or reduced-price lunch; the other 35 were middle-cl…
Does a strategy of opposing traits explain humanity’s success? By ALISON GOPNIK July 16, 2015 11:20 a.m. ET 10 COMMENTS Walk into any preschool classroom and you’ll see that some 4-year-olds are always getting into fights—while others seldom do, no matter the provocation. Even siblings can differ dramatically—remember Cain and Abel. Is it nature or nurture that causes these deep differences in aggression? The new techniques of genomics—mapping an organism’s DNA and analyzing how it works—initially led people to think that we might find a gene for undesirable individual traits like aggression. But from an evolutionary point of view, the very idea that a gene can explain traits that vary so dramatically is paradoxical: If aggression is advantageous, why didn’t the gene for aggression spread more widely? If it’s harmful, why would the gene have survived at all?
Testosterone deserves a special approach. Studies on the impact of this hormone on the aggressive behavior are being carried out for centuries. It is well known that, in animal world, for example in birds, the individuals who have a higher level of testosterone behave more aggressively and they can even attack their brothers; they are more combative, more sexually active and bolder in claiming or searching for food [Müller et al., 2014]. When it comes to human species, the important role of testosterone in forming the aggressive and dominating character, especially in men, has been proved [Mazur, Lamb, 1980; Mazur, Booth, 1998; Archer, 2006]. In one of the studies, it has been found that the level of testosterone in delinquents that have been convicted for crimes that implied unprovoked violence is higher than in those who have been convicted for nonviolent crimes, and this trait is characteristic both for men and women [Kreuz, Rose, 1972; Dabbs et al., 1988]. As regarding the impact of…
...TMS [transcranial magnetic stimulation] works by sending pulses of magnetic energy across the skull. These magnetic fields induce electric currents to flow in small patches of the brain of around one square centimetre, which in turn causes the neurons in that area to activate - these events take place over fractions of a second. For reasons that are not well understood, spacing out trains of these magnetic pulses leads to more durable effects, lasting for an hour or more after the stimulation - this is known as repetitive TMS, or rTMS. Repeated sessions of rTMS, given every day for several days, exploit the brain’s plasticity to change brain activity for many months. This gives neuroscientists a way to reorganise (never ‘rewire’) small brain circuits.
rTMS treatment for MDD [major depressive disorder] targets the prefrontal cortex, usually in a spot a few centimetres above the corner of the left eye, called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (or DLPFC). The cells in this area connec…
"If brain scans are to play a scientifically legitimate role in determining criminal responsibility of a defendant or in reducing a defendant’s sentence, they need to be able to assist us in answering legal questions. That means, at bottom, that these scans must be amenable to being deciphered in such a way that they bear narrowly on potentially excusing or mitigating mental states, such as damaged capacity for reason or an impaired ability to form intent or exert self-control
Dr. Sally Satel and Prof. Scott O. Lilienfeld (guest-blogging)
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES By CHARLES MURRAY, American Enterprise Institute March 24, 2015 7:11 p.m. EThttp://www.wsj.com/articles/charles-murray-why-the-sat-isnt-a-student-affluence-test-1427238664 A lot of the apparent income effect on standardized tests is owed to parental IQ—a fact that needs addressing.
Spring is here, which means it’s time for elite colleges to send out acceptance letters. Some will go to athletes, the children of influential alumni and those who round out the school’s diversity profile. But most will go to the offspring of the upper middle class. We all know why, right? Affluent parents get their kids into the best colleges by sending them to private schools or spending lots of money on test preparation courses. Either way, it perpetuates privilege from generation to generation.
The College Board provides ammunition for this accusation every year when it shows average SAT scores by family income. The results are always the same: The richer the parents, the higher the…
Intuitive thought is characterized by processing information automatically and unconsciously, requiring little cognitive effort. This way of thinking is frequently ascribed to women under the title of so-called "female intuition," and now, researchers suggest this could have a biological influence, rooted in lower prenatal exposure to testosterone in the womb.
A little bit of stress is normal. But too much, and at a vulnerable time, can lead to long-lasting problems that cut across generations. A new study from the University of Colorado Denver has found the stress that comes with racial discrimination during a woman’s pregnancy may get passed on to her newborn child. A solid amount of evidence already exists to support stress as not just a temporary frustration, but as a force capable of changing our genes — particularly if the stress is chronic. Severely stressed-out teenagers, for example, face a greater risk of mental illness in adulthood because of how the stress affects their genes. The effect comes from the hormone cortisol. The longer it stays in your body, the more your body begins to adjust to the new normal of constant stress, and it breaks down.