August 30, 2004

Recommended books

Here are a few Neuro-related books that I have found useful and/or interesting. I try to have read, or at least used a book before posting it. If you buy from Amazon UK via the link from here then I get a small cut which will help me through college! I own most of these books so if you want to ask me something more specific then go ahead.

Core Textbooks (average weight > 2kg)

Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind How does Gazzaniga find the time to write and edit so many books? Maybe he'll publish it in a paper one day. This text is concise and written in a very accessible style, and features many clinical case studies which are invaluable in aiding understanding. A recommended overview of the subject. coverPrinciples of Neural Science My most-used textbook. Is due for a new-edition, so misses some recent developments, but covers core topics step-by-step, and at the same time without patronising the reader.


IQ and Human Intelligence A thorough and entertaining review of this frequently controversial topic. The book is openly opinionated, but will cover opposing theories in-depth before trashing their arguments.

Popular Science

The Emerging Mind The transcripts of an excellent set of lectures V.S. Ramachandran delivered for the BBC in 2003. Covers a wide variety of clinical and research topics in an accessible and entertaining style. Wow, I sound like the back of a book.
See the BMJ review .
Download the full lectures on MP3 here .
Will be updating this list as I get more books!

Posted at 2:47 pm | 0 comments

August 29, 2004

Mothers get angry

Increased levels of a hormone have been shown to result in the loss of a mother's maternal aggression when protecting offspring. Mice injected with CRF (Corticotropin-Releasing Factor) were less aggressive towards potential threats to their offspring than those with a low or zero-dosage of the hormone. Other maternal behaviour was unaffected. Lead author Stephen Gammie said:

"Low CRH levels appear to be a necessary part of maternal aggression. If you don't keep them low you won't see this fiercely protective behaviour. "You see this protective behaviour across the species. Mice do it, birds do it and so do humans. "It's a stretch from mice to humans but because this behaviour is so conserved between species it's not unreasonable to think this might be similar in humans."
While this study will quickly be linked to papers that have investigated the relationship between high CRH and postnatal depression, groups have been quick to point out the danger in attributing the complex depression in humans to biochemical imbalances. Heather Welford from the National Childbirth Trust warns:
"Postnatal depression, of all degrees of severity, is known to have many social and emotional aspects which are not accounted for in studies like this. "Maybe we can treat women with the right cocktail of drugs to reduce whatever excess is present. "But as an explanation of why some women suffer badly with postnatal depression, it doesn't get us very far."
Read the BBC News article Read the abstract

Posted at 1:08 am | 0 comments

August 26, 2004

Worm sex

So we take a step closer to understanding our complex mate-seeking interactions thanks to the humble worm.

Sexually mature males when left alone on a food source wandered off, presumably in search of a mate. When a potential mate was present on the food source, though, they remained.
I'm not sure I'm comfortable with my mating habits being compared (admittedly very very loosely) with those of a worm. More importantly, this food/companionship model fails to explain why I don't wander off in search of a mate while I'm watching Late Edition at 3am with a box of Cheez-Its®. Where is the funding for that study?
Read the news-release Read if you have a subscription to the Journal of Neuroscience.

Posted at 11:44 pm | 1 comments

August 25, 2004


[This article is a stub. It will be expanded over the coming weeks!]
Here is my list of the Neuro journals that I access regularly. Because not everyone has free access to these resources though college accounts, I will list the free-access journals first, then the paid-for journals. I will update this list slowly but surely... If you particularly like any other relevant journals, please tell me.

Free-access journals

Journal of Neuroscience / full text from May 1996 onwards / some free resources Entrez PubMed / includes over 15 million citations for biomedical articles back to the 1950's. If love is a website, this is it. Man, I am a geek.

Paid-for journals

Nature Neuroscience This is a very limited list of the journals that are out there. If you want a thorough, searchable database, is your best bet.

Posted at 11:45 pm | 1 comments

Think of a number

Linguistic determinism is real? So suggests a newly published study which investigated a Brazilian tribe whose language does not define numbers above two. The tribe's language only has words for the numbers "one" and "two"; everything else is "many". When asked to tell the difference between a row of four objects and a row of five, they could not do so effectively.

Experts agree that the startling result provides the strongest support yet for the controversial hypothesis that the language available to humans defines our thoughts.
See the New Scientist article.

Posted at 2:09 pm | 0 comments

Hurt me

Not exactly a shocking result, but interesting nonetheless:

The perception of pain is influenced by many factors, some of which have nothing to do with the physical stimulus itself, as anyone who has feared a trip to the dentist can attest. In this issue Salomons et al. used fMRI to examine how perceived control of a painful stimulus changes the perception of pain. During brain imaging, subjects used a joystick that they were told could reduce the duration of a painful thermal stimulus. However, this control was illusory because the physical stimulus remained constant. Nonetheless most subjects reported that they had reduced the length of the painful stimulus under the "controllable" condition.
What I want to know is who would sign up for a test advertised as testing response to "painful thermal stimulus"? I hope the money was good.
Read the abstract Read the paper if you have a subscription to the Journal of Neuroscience.

Posted at 2:08 pm | 0 comments