265 posts · 211,859 views
Brains, behaviour, and evolution.
Victoria Braithwaite’s Do Fish Feel Pain? is not a technical book. The type is large and the prose is easy to understand.
I had to read this book, because many of the issues around fish pain are the same as those raised for invertebrate pain (Puri and Faulkes 2010; this post). Fish researchers are about five years ahead of the invertebrate researchers.
Braithwaite’s answer to the question posed in her title is...
Spoiler alert! Click the heading of the post to read more.
H........ Read more »
Bshary, R., Hohner, A., Ait-el-Djoudi, K., & Fricke, H. (2006) Interspecific communicative and coordinated hunting between groupers and giant moray eels in the Red Sea. PLoS Biology, 4(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040431
Brathwaite V. (2010) Do fish feel pain?. Oxford University Press, 1-194. info:/978-0-19-955120-0
Tracey Jr., W., Wilson, R., Laurent, G., & Benzer, S. (2003) painless, a Drosophila gene essential for nociception. Cell, 113(2), 261-273. DOI: 10.1016/S0092-8674(03)00272-1
“It has the most primitive form of nervous system of any bilateral animal,” intones the voiceover for the National Geographic video.The “it” being referred to is an acorn worm, a little known kind of invertebrate that is actually relatively closely related to the vertebrates. Vertebrates belong to the chordate phylum, and acorn worms are hemichordates – literally, “half chordates.” Hemichordates are interesting in studies of chordate evolution (and thus, in a roundabout way, hu........ Read more »
Nomaksteinsky, M., Röttinger, E., Dufour, H., Chettouh, Z., Lowe, C., Martindale, M., & Brunet, J. (2009) Centralization of the Deuterostome Nervous System Predates Chordates. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.05.063
A comment on Twitter about PubMed left me wondering aloud why people use the thing instead of Google Scholar. This idle comment brought a surprising amount of comments.
Before I get to the comments, let me explain my point of view. I’ve never warmed to PubMed, although I know many of my peers use it multiple times daily. I suppose part of it is the “med” moniker. While PubMed does include a lot of the basic biological literature, it’s still fundamentally a medical resource. And I am not........ Read more »
Falagas, M., Pitsouni, E., Malietzis, G., & Pappas, G. (2007) Comparison of PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar: strengths and weaknesses. The FASEB Journal, 22(2), 338-342. DOI: 10.1096/fj.07-9492LSF
Shultz, M. (2007) Comparing test searches in PubMed and Google Scholar. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 95(4), 442-445. DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.95.4.442
Pity poor Hans Berger.
The man changed our understanding of human experience and human consciousness, but didn’t know how he did it, was largely ignored in his life, and committed suicide.
In the mid 1920s, Berger invented the electroencephalagraph (EEG), a technique for measuring the electrical activity of brains. Unfortunately, Berger didn’t understand electricity very well, so didn’t have a clear understanding of what his recordings might mean. But he revolutionized the study of human........ Read more »
McKinney S, Dang-Vu T, Buxton O, Solet J, & Ellenbogen J. (2011) Covert waking brain activity reveals instantaneous sleep depth. PLoS ONE, 6(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017351
Research on magic has been getting a lot of attention recently, but most of the focus has been on the psychology of the audience.
But what can we learn by studying the performer?
One of the things you need to be a magician, particularly a close-up magician who works with cards or coins, is dexterity. I tried to learn some basic card tricks once, and failed. It requires some very fine motor control, and I didn’t put in enough work to master it.
Many illusions rely on the magician imitating ........ Read more »
“We’re going to have some problems getting this under the microscope...”There are just times you’d like to be a fly on the wall when certain science projects are being planned. I can’t quite imagine the conversations that led up to this paper. “Let’s look at the brain of the biggest fish in the world.” (I suppose the fish start small and have to grow up big. But still.)The brains of sharks are interesting, in part because they much larger than people would think. People tend to t........ Read more »
Yopak, K., & Frank, L. (2009) Brain Size and Brain Organization of the Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus, Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 74(2), 121-142. DOI: 10.1159/000235962
Since Heterocephalus glaber are naked mole rats, they shouldn’t mind anyone looking at their sex organs, right? I mean, they’re naked, so it’s not like they’re ashamed or anything.Seney and colleagues noticed that male and female naked mole rats had very similar looking sex organs. Naked mole rats happen to be famous for having a social system that is very much like social insects, with normally a single reproductive adult female and non-reproductive workers. They wondered if this unsual........ Read more »
Seney, M., Kelly, D., Goldman, B., Šumbera, R., & Forger, N. (2009) Social Structure Predicts Genital Morphology in African Mole-Rats. PLoS ONE, 4(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007477
Why do zebras look like this?
You know. All stripey.
One theory for this “Notice me!” pattern was picked up by naval officials: that the complicated, high contrast shapes somehow made zebras harder to see. Here, we see the HMAS Australia, painted with “dazzle” colouration.
Some said this particular pattern contained a “lady’s leg.” But then, some people see that sort of thing everywhere.
That the advantage of this kind of pattern hasn’t been well tested is maybe not surpri........ Read more »
You have two copes of your DNA in almost all your cells. The notable exceptions are your sperm (if you’re a guy) or your eggs (if you’re a gal).
Many molluscs, like Limax maximus here (same genus, different species than used in this research) have big, honkin’ neurons. This is what has made some slugs, particularly Aplysia californica, valuable animals to people who want to record the electrical activity from neurons. Somewhere along the way, someone measured the amount of DNA in Aplysia,........ Read more »
Yamagishi M, Ito E, & Matsuo R. (2011) DNA endoreplication in the brain neurons during body growth of an adult slug. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(15), 5596-5604. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0179-11.2011
People in the military are highly trained to perform at high levels under horrible situations. It’s a reasonable hypothesis to think that these individuals would have different cognitive performance and brain activity than civilians.
A new study by Paulus and colleagues tries to get inside the brains of some of these military personnel using the darling technique of the moment for humans, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The authors recruited veteran Navy SEALs, and compared th........ Read more »
Paulus, M., Simmons, A., Fitzpatrick, S., Potterat, E., Van Orden, K., Bauman, J., & Swain, J. (2010) Differential Brain Activation to Angry Faces by Elite Warfighters: Neural Processing Evidence for Enhanced Threat Detection. PLoS ONE, 5(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010096
A couple of years ago, a paper by Begall and colleagues made a big splash by claiming that cows could detect, and align to, earth’s magnetic field. This report took on a life of its own. I heard it within the last week on one of the science podcasts I listen (though I can’t remember which one).
This paper got attention not only because this was an unusual claim, but for the way that they determined this. Instead of generating their own data, they looked at pictures of cows in Google Earth.
........ Read more »
Begall S, Cerveny J, Neef J, Vojtech O, & Burda H. (2008) Magnetic alignment in grazing and resting cattle and deer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(36), 13451-13455. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0803650105
Hert J, Jelinek L, Pekarek L, & Pavlicek A. (2011) No alignment of cattle along geomagnetic field lines found. Journal of Comparative Physiology A. DOI: 10.1007/s00359-011-0628-7
Neurotransmitters get all the glory as the most interesting molecules in the nervous system. They are responsible for the fast signalling between two neurons; things that are all over in a few milliseconds.
But the nervous system is awash in chemicals, which influence neurons in many ways. Hormones, for instance, influence behaviour by acting on nervous systems.
It’s a little unusual, though, to think of brains making their own hormones. Oh, sure, the pituitary gland sits right next to brai........ Read more »
Jeong J, Tremere L, Burrows K, Majewska A, & Pinaud R. (2011) The mouse primary visual cortex is a site of production and sensitivity to estrogens. PLoS ONE, 6(5). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020400
“Origin” means beginning. So it’s unfortunate that the best known book on the subject of evolution is On the Origin of Species. Because the theory of evolution is not about the origin of life.
A recent article by Paz-y-Miño and Espinoza made that rookie mistake. And they got called on it. And quite right, too. The letter writers, Rice and colleagues, however, are upset not just because Paz-y-Miño and Espinoza use the theory too loosely.
The first reason they give t........ Read more »
Paz-y-Miño C., G., & Espinosa, A. (2009) Acceptance of Evolution Increases with Student Academic Level: A Comparison Between a Secular and a Religious College. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 2(4), 655-675. DOI: 10.1007/s12052-009-0175-7
Rice, J., Warner, D., Kelly, C., Clough, M., & Colbert, J. (2010) The Theory of Evolution is Not an Explanation for the Origin of Life. Evolution: Education and Outreach. DOI: 10.1007/s12052-010-0225-1
Just over a week ago, a vote by botanists at the International Botanical Congress decided to allow species names to be considered valid if they are published only electronically. Nature talks about this in this editorial. (Not only were botanists wedded to paper publication, but having species descriptions in Latin. Latin? I had no idea.)
Zoologists, from what I’ve read so far, think that botanists made a bad decision.
Because zoologists are bitter about their floppy disks.
Okay, perhaps n........ Read more »
Boyko CB. (2002) A worldwide revision of the recent and fossil sand crabs of the Albuneidae Stimpson and Blepharipodidae, new family (Crustacea, Decapoda, Anomura, Hippoidea). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 1-396. DOI: 10.1206/0003-0090(2002)2722.0.CO;2
We’re smart. Octopuses are smart. But we have different kinds of smart.
Octopuses don’t process information like us. An octopus can tell -[ from ]-, but has a very difficult time telling < from >. There are plenty of task that we find trivial that are very, very hard for octopuses to do. (Many are shown in Wells 1978).
Gutnick and colleagues were interested in whether octopuses could integrate sight and touch. We do this all the time. Almost the entire video game industry depends u........ Read more »
Gutnick T, Byrne R, Hochner B, & Kuba M. (2011) Octopus vulgaris uses visual information to determine the location of its arm. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.01.052
The superhero Daredevil had few powers. His fighting abilities and roof-running were the result of Matt Murdock’s athleticism and a technological ingenuity (DD’s self-made billy club). His true superpowers were his hyper-keen senses (click to enlarge):
The irony, of course, was that the bad guys never they were getting taken down by a blind man.
Daredevil’s story follows the belief that if you lose one sense, the others become more sensitive to compensate. This belief is old and common,........ Read more »
Wong M, Gnanakumaran V, & Goldreich D. (2011) Tactile Spatial Acuity Enhancement in Blindness: Evidence for Experience-Dependent Mechanisms. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(19), 7028-7037. info:/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6461-10.2011
Squat lobsters are not terribly well known, and this is a new species in a genus that even I didn’t know about: Uroptychus.
This species is being split off from Uroptychus naso (“naso” means nose), which is found in the western Pacific. The new species was spotted because of genetic surveys. Two lineages of mitochondrial DNA were found in samples, which prompted a closer look at what had been thought to be a single species.
Once they had spotted the genetic difference, the authors went ........ Read more »
Poore GCB, & Andreakis N. (2011) Morphological, molecular and biogeographic evidence support two new species in the Uroptychus naso complex (Crustacea: Decapoda: Chirostylidae) . Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. info:/10.1016/j.ympev.2011.03.032
When you’re a crustacean neurobiologist, cooking a lobster is a topic you’d better be familiar with, because you will be asked about it. (See posts in February 2005; May 2003; maybe this subject needs to get its own label.)
The Daily Mail has an article on the latest effort to deal with concerns that boiling lobster alive is inhumane. The title claims it’s a way “to kill a lobster with kindness.” This potentially more humane alternative to boiling?
........ Read more »
Appel, M., & Elwood, R. (2009) Motivational trade-offs and potential pain experience in hermit crabs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 119(1-2), 120-124. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2009.03.013
A picture like this used to adorn the office door of some of my fellow graduate students:
The original picture (minus the labels) was taken from a general biology textbook to illustrate detour problems. We look at that and think, “That’s easy. Run around the post. Silly dog.”
Dogs turn out to be fairly bad at detour problems. Squirrels, I understand, solve such problems in a heartbeat, given that they have evolved to navigate complex three-dimensional environments as they leap from bra........ Read more »
Smith, B., & Litchfield, C. (2010) How well do dingoes, Canis dingo, perform on the detour task?. Animal Behaviour. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.04.017
Lewejohann, L., Pickel, T., Sachser, N., & Kaiser, S. (2010) Wild genius - domestic fool? Spatial learning abilities of wild and domestic guinea pigs. Frontiers in Zoology, 7(1), 9. DOI: 10.1186/1742-9994-7-9
I know my most recent paper is probably going take some flak as being naïve.
This is the price you pay for trying to expand your horizons. An invert neuro guy writing an ethics paper? About brain scans? In humans? With spies? The potential to look foolish is huge.
But since I’ve gone and done it anyway, let me tell you how it all came about.
This paper started about three years when I ran into my colleague Cynthia Jones at lunch at the student union. I actually hadn’t seen her for a whil........ Read more »
Faulkes Z. (2011) Can brain imaging replace interrogation and torture?. Global Virtue Ethics Review, 6(2), 55-78. info:/
Ganis G, Rosenfeld J, Meixner J, Kievit R, & Schendan H. (2011) Lying in the scanner: Covert countermeasures disrupt deception detection by functional magnetic resonance imaging. NeuroImage, 55(1), 312-319. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.11.025
Rissman J, Greely H, & Wagner A. (2010) Detecting individual memories through the neural decoding of memory states and past experience. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(21), 9849-9854. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1001028107
Shirer, W., Ryali, S., Rykhlevskaia, E., Menon, V., & Greicius, M. (2011) Decoding Subject-Driven Cognitive States with Whole-Brain Connectivity Patterns. Cerebral Cortex. DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhr099
Slotnick S, & Schacter D. (2004) A sensory signature that distinguishes true from false memories. Nature Neuroscience, 7(6), 664-672. DOI: 10.1038/nn1252
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