2010-07-30 Spike activity

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

Popular Science reports on proposals to study the obscure hallucinogen ibogain as a treatment for opiate addiction.

A study on how money restricts life’s pleasures is covered by PsyBlog.

Yale Alumni Magazine looks at research “which seeks to use robots not to perform tasks for humans but as a means of investigating the inner workings of human behavior and psychology”.

The chance of getting executed for killing a white person is about three times higher than for killing an African American, regardless of the offender’s race, according to research covered by In the News.

The New York Times piece on free will by philosopher Galen Strawson has some insightful commentaries here at The Frontal Cortex and here at Oscillatory Thoughts.

Stereotypes of mental illness in cinema – a brief diagnostic guide – over at Frontier Psychiatrist.

Wired Science reports on a study finding synchronised brain activity between people in a conversation.

The first and preliminary controlled trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD is covered by Drug Monkey.

New Scientist analyse the shaky idea that bigger brains means more intelligence.

A video introduces IBM cognitive computing’s SyNAPSE project – which stands for ‘Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics’ since you asked – is over at Developing Intelligence.

The Today Programme from BBC Radio 4 interviews psychologist Til Wykes on changes to psychiatric diagnosis and the shrinking definition of normality.

What proportion of chemical leaks provoke mass hysteria? asks the BPS Research Digest.

Seed Magazine has an interesting review of ‘Sex at Dawn’ – a new book looking at the history of sexuality in pre-history.

Brain scan based career advice? The Neurocritic covers a curious study on using brain structure and cognitive performance for ‘vocational guidance’.

Life Matters from ABC Radio National discusses whether ‘bad kids’ become more popular as rule-breaking becomes attractive as kids age.

There’s a great piece on how a study of heroin addiction in ex-Vietnam soldiers gave birth to the ‘disease model’ of addiction over at Addiction Inbox.

The New York Times has an in-depth article discussing whether the seemingly permanent record of the internet means an ‘end to forgetting’.

The Research Blogging editor’s selections of psychology and neuroscience articles posted regularly at The Thoughtful Animal are excellent.

Wired has an in-depth article on the possibilities of a ‘stress vaccine‘ that protects against the damage associated with chronic stress.

Can music negatively affect your memory? asks Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

New Scientist reports on how a doctor has been reprimanded apparently for asking valid questions about the validity of ‘shaken baby syndrome’.

There is some intelligent commentary concerning the recent Edge online seminar on the psychology of morality over at Neuroanthropology.

Scientific American Mind has excellent coverage of the recent ‘self-fulfilling feigning of mental illness’ study.

BBC Radio 4’s Inside the Ethics Committee programme had an interesting discussion on when it is ethical to accept a mentally ill patient’s decision to refuse a life-saving operation if their objections are based on delusional ideas.

Not Exactly Rocket Science discusses an awesome ‘sniff-detector‘ that allows paralysed people to write messages, surf the net and drive a wheelchair.

What if there had never been a Cognitive Revolution? asks Cognition and Culture.

Booty calling

Someone, somewhere, can look you straight in the eye and say “I’ve got a PhD in booty call research”.

A new study just published online in the Journal of Sex Research investigates where the booty call falls on the spectrum of relationships.

Positioning the Booty-Call Relationship on the Spectrum of Relationships: Sexual but More Emotional Than One-Night Stands

Peter K. Jonason; Norman P. Li; Jessica Richardson

Journal of Sex Research

Most research on human sexuality has focused on long-term pairbonds and one-night stands. However, growing evidence suggests there are relationships that do not fit cleanly into either of those categories. One of these relationships is a “booty-call relationship.”

The purpose of this study was to describe the sexual and emotional nature of booty-call relationships by (a) examining the types of emotional and sexual acts involved in booty-call relationships and (b) comparing the frequency of those acts in booty-call relationships to one-night stands and serious long-term relationships.

In addition, the manner in which sociosexuality is associated with the commission of these acts was also examined. Demonstrative of booty-call relationships’ sexual nature was individuals’ tendency to leave after sex and infrequent handholding.

In contrast, the romantic nature of booty-call relationships was demonstrated through the frequency of acts like kissing. The results suggest the booty-call relationship is a distinct type of relationship situated between one-night stands and serious romantic relationships.

Guys, if you need a post-doc… just call.

Link to booty call study in the Journal of Sex Research (via @NoahWG).

The experiment requires that you continue

Spanish daily El País recently published an article on psychologist Stanley Milgram which had this amazing photo of the young conformity researcher where he looks surprisingly beatnick.

Sadly the photo isn’t dated but it makes quite a contrast to the better known photos where he looks much more like the typical professor of the age.

He looks both wonderfully creative and slightly haunted, which seems to capture his contribution to psychology perfectly.

The article is also worth checking out but is only available in Spanish, so you may have to deploy a utilisation of the page of Google’s Translate which can make a translate of the text if you desire to read it in the English.

Link to El Pa√≠s article ‘El psic√≥logo’.
Link to big version of photo.

Poker face science

The best ‘poker face’ is probably not a neutral expression, but a happy one, as it led to a greater number of opponent mistakes in a study just published in PLoS One.

The research looked at how poker playing was influenced by the emotional expression of opponents and discovered that blank and threatening expressions had little effect, but a positive expression tends to lull people into a false sense of trust and puts them off their game.

Taken from the study abstract:

This study investigates whether an opponent’s face influences players’ wagering decisions in a zero-sum game with hidden information. Participants made risky choices in a simplified poker task while being presented opponents whose faces differentially correlated with subjective impressions of trust. Surprisingly, we find that threatening face information has little influence on wagering behavior, but faces relaying positive emotional characteristics impact peoples’ decisions.

Thus, people took significantly longer and made more mistakes against emotionally positive opponents. Differences in reaction times and percent correct were greatest around the optimal decision boundary, indicating that face information is predominantly used when making decisions during medium-value gambles. Mistakes against emotionally positive opponents resulted from increased folding rates, suggesting that participants may have believed that these opponents were betting with hands of greater value than other opponents.

According to these results, the best “poker face” for bluffing may not be a neutral face, but rather a face that contains emotional correlates of trustworthiness. Moreover, it suggests that rapid impressions of an opponent play an important role in competitive games, especially when people have little or no experience with an opponent.

Link to Pubmed entry for study.
Link to full-text of study at PLoS One.

Plastic punk

Some awesome geek moves from the science of phonetics, as applied to the new wave punk classic ‘√áa Plane Pour Moi’ previously and falsely believed to have been sung by Plastic Bertrand.

From the AV Club report:

A staple of any new-wave dance night (ask a white person), “Ca Plane Pour Moi” made a chart-stopping star out of Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand (né Roger Jouret) and provided him with his most lasting legacy—except an expert linguist has just proved that Bertrand didn’t actually sing on his most famous record. The battle over “Ca Plane Pour Moi” has been brewing for four years now, stemming from a 2006 lawsuit involving original producer Lou Deprijck, who released his own version of the single under the marketing claim that he was the “original voice.” At the time, Deprijck found himself sued by record label AMC.

As a result, a panel of experts was appointed to study the track, and today a linguist announced that, after three months of study, during which he compared the original to Deprijck’s 2006 version, he had determined that ‚Äúthe way the phrases end on each record show that the song could only have been sung by a Ch’ti‚Äîotherwise known as someone from the Picard region of France. It could therefore not have been Plastic Bertrand‚Äîwho was born in Brussels‚Äîand was surely Monsieur Deprijck.‚Äù So it’s been settled: Plastic Bertrand was the Milli Vanilli of the punk era.

Link to AV Club on the fake Plastic Bertrand (via @sophiescott).

From on hayo

An amazing passage about the use of coca among of the indigenous Kogi and Ika people of Colombia, taken from p24 of anthropologist Wade Davis’ magical book on the ethnobotany of ceremonial chemicals, One River.

In a sacred landscape in which every plant is a manifestation of the divine, the chewing of hayo, a variety of coca only found in the mountains of Colombia, represents the most profound expression of culture. Distance in the mountains is not measured in miles but coca chews. When two men meet, they do not shake hands, they exchange leaves. Their societal ideal is to abstain from sex, eating and sleeping while staying up all night, chewing hayo and chanting the names of ancestors. Each week the men chew about a pound of dry leaves, thus absorbing as much as a third of a gram of cocaine each day of their adults lives.

The book traces Davis’ own travels, and those of his mentor Richard Evans Schultes, to understand the culture and chemistry of psychoactive plants among the native peoples of America, both North and South.

It’s an amazingly evocative book and is full of engrossing cultural insights into how plants like coca, the peyote cactus and psilocybin mushrooms have been used traditionally and how they were discovered by Western science.

As we’ve mentioned before, Davis has also given a couple of amazing TED talks that focus on traditional uses of mind altering plants.

Link to more info on One River (Thanks @David_Dobbs!)
Link to previous discussion and links to TED talks.

SciFoo bound

Mind Hacks updates may be a little hit and miss over the next week as I’m off to San Francisco for SciFoo – the Nature / Google / O’Reilly science anti-conference.

Apart from conferencing I’ll be sleeping on floors and wandering the streets but normal service should be resumed in a week.