UK ‘Kinsey report’ reveals 1950s sex lives

blur_couple.jpgBBC News describes a suppressed sexual behaviour survey conducted in the 1950s, in the wake of the Kinsey Reports that first described the then shocking truth about the sexual behaviour of American participants.

The British survey followed the Kinsey’s studies by only a few years, but reportedly revealed information considered too uncomfortable to publicise and subsequently remained unpublished (although the BBC story doesn’t indicate who was responsible for suppressing it).

Findings in the survey included:

One in four men admitted to having had sex with prostitutes, one in five women owned up to an extra-marital affair, while the same proportion of both sexes said they had had a homosexual experience.

The techniques used in the study would be considered vastly unethical by today’s standards, and were even dodgy when compared to the research methods used by Kinsey on the other side of the Atlantic.

The research is further discussed in a BBC television programme called Little Kinsey to be shown on BBC Four on Wednesday 5 October, at 2100 BST.

Link to “Britain’s secret sex survey”.

Non-invasive neuroprosthetics

eeg_street.jpgNature reports that by simply recording the brain’s electrical signals from electrodes on the scalp, researchers have enabled trained participants to reliably control computer equipment, a feat normally associated with physical implants in the brain.

This is part of the growing science of neuroprosthetics, that aims to create technology that directly interfaces with the brain.

It is being particularly championed for people with paralysis, who do not have the use of their limbs, or people with damaged sensory organs, who might have their senses improved by technological replacements.

Previous trials of the technology have resulted in electronic implants to replace damaged retinas and a microchip implant that allows a paralysed man to control a computer.

These sorts of technologies typically require complex, experimental and invasive surgery, so being able to control technology via a skull cap and surface electrodes would be a more convenient option.

One of the disadvantages, well known to scientists who use forms of EEG recording to research the brain, is that the skull ‘smears’ the signal from the brain. Furthermore, muscle activity can introduce large amounts of electricial noise into the recording.

To get round this, mathematical analysis is used to filter out the unwanted interference, usually by averaging over several trials of the same task, allowing underlying brain activity to be inferred.

This is not an exact science, however, meaning the moment-to-moment ‘decoding’ of electrical activity needed for instant control of technology is more difficult to acheive.

Link to article ‘Computer users move themselves with the mind’.

‘Connectome’ call for human brain mappers

diffusion_tensor_image.jpgAn article in open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology reviews current knowledge and calls for a comprehensive map of the brain’s connections.

Echoing the aims of the Human Genome Project the authors argue that a detailed ‘connectome’ is needed to fully understand how different areas of the human brain interconnect.

There is already a good understanding about how some areas of the brain connect, but it is currently not available in a single database, and there are crucial pathways that are not described in sufficient detail.

Having accurate information about the physical layout of the brain would allow a better understanding of the significance of brain activity from neuroimaging studies, and the effects of brain damage on areas not directly affected by the injury.

The paper in PLoS Computational Biology is part of a growing trend to integrate measures of activity (typically attributed to averaged or relatively rough locations in the brain) with detailed anatomical maps.

A recent toolkit released for SPM – a popular brain scan analysis package – allows researchers to judge the probability of activity arising from different areas in the brain, each is which is distinguished by differences in the microscopic structure of the neural tissue.

Link to article ‘The Human Connectome: A Structural Description of the Human Brain’.