Pre-industrial societies are very different from ours. Some of them kill grandparents when they get to a certain age. Individuals are often fluent in ten or more languages. They feast when food is plentiful, but are happy to go without for several days if there is nothing to eat.
Until a few thousand years ago, all humans lived in this way. It is what we evolved to do. This book is a fascinating account of Jared Diamond’s lifetime of observation of pre-industrial people from around the world. It is long, but packed with packed with intriguing stories from tribal societies.
Not surprisingly, Jared Diamond thinks that we have a lot to learn from these people.
The Rorschach test is often regarded as an example of the unscientific and subjective research methodology of the Psychodynamic school. In fact it was an early attempt at objectivity.
One research group gave the Rorschach test to Nazi prisoners in 1945, and rejected their own results because they couldn’t believe them. Those results are now being reappraised.
New Scientist No. 3120, 8th April 2017. p.42-43.
Lucid dreams are the experience of being conscious while dreaming. Most of us can only remember our dreams when we wake up. Many people achieve lucidity for a moment or two before waking up. But some people regularly have lucid dreams, in which the world around them seems tangible and real, and they are “awake”, and aware that they are dreaming.
Ursula Voss at the Goethe University Frankfurt has discovered a way to use electrical brain stimulation to induce lucid dreams. Kristoffer Appel at Osnasbrück University is now able to communicate with lucid dreamers inside their dreams. This might one day lead to new therapies for anxiety disorders.
One participant looked around his dream for something that might convey signals from outside. He was in a bus terminal, and spotted a ticket machine. Soon, it began to beep.
The article also contains instructions on how to achieve lucid dreams yourself.
New Scientist No. 3113, 18th February 2017, p. 32 – 35.
We know from Loftus that it is possible to insert memories into people’s minds. But is it possible to erase memories, or to remove traumatic associations from memories of adverse experiences?
Neuroscientists are investigating a process called “reconsolidation.” It seems that every time a memory is recalled, it is just as if a new memory is being laid down. This process can be manipulated with drugs, ECT, or even by playing Tetris during reconsolidation.
“We can reverse-engineer the brain’s time machine, hijack it or jump-start it.”
New Scientist No. 3111, 4th February 2017, p.36-39.
Rachel Yehuda noticed that people with post traumatic stress disorder have lower levels of cortisol. Which is contrary to what you would expect, given that cortisol is “the stress hormone”.
To work out why, she has to convince a community of Holocaust survivors to subject themselves to scientific study.
Cause and Effect.
In biopsych we learn that speech production and speech recognition are highly localised. Neuropsychologist Jack Gallant has peered into the brains of volunteers while they listen to podcasts, and finds that speech comprehension is actually much more interesting than the textbook would lead you to believe.
“when you’re listening to someone tell an interesting story, an enormous swath of your brain is being activated.”
This is Your Brain on Podcasts.
Pregnancy causes loss of grey matter in specific regions of the brain, including the hippocampus. This is probably due to synaptic pruning. If you show new mothers pictures of their babies, the modified areas of the brain become highly active.
This pioneering work by Elseline Hoekzema, a neuroscientist at Leiden University the Netherlands who is also the pregnant mother of a 2-year-old, is the first to demonstrate widespread anatomical changes in the pregnant human brain.
It also shows that the changes last for at least 2 years. “It opens the door to the possibility that it might cause changes in parenting that might have implications in decision-making and behaviour later in life,” says Mel Rutherford, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
Pregnancy resculpts women’s brains for at least 2 years.
Pregnancy Causes Lasting Changes in a Woman’s Brain.