“the simple characterization of oxytocin as ‘the love hormone’ may be an overreach.”


“the simple characterization of oxytocin as ‘the love hormone’ may be an overreach.”

Line blurs between man, animal: Monkeys do math, baboons seem to read, orangutans plan ahead


Line blurs between man, animal: Monkeys do math, baboons seem to read, orangutans plan ahead

Hunger, Appetite and Compulsive Behavior


Hunger, appetite and addictions– Funny, it is said that superior sales people are never fat.  This research suggests people not interested in food (like me) have more interest in novel experiences (me too!)

“Neurons that control overeating also drive appetite for cocaine


Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have zeroed in on a set of neurons in the part of the brain that controls hunger, and found that these neurons are not only associated with overeating, but also linked to non-food associated behaviors, like novelty-seeking and drug addiction.

In attempts to develop treatments for metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, researchers have paid increasing attention to the brain’s reward circuits located in the midbrain, with the notion that in these patients, food may become a type of “drug of abuse” similar to cocaine. Dietrich notes, however, that this study flips the common wisdom on its head.

“Using genetic approaches, we found that:

  • increased appetite for food can actually be associated with decreased interest in novelty as well as in cocaine, and on the other hand, less interest in food can predict increased interest in cocaine,” 
  • “We found that animals that have less interest in food are more interested in novelty-seeking behaviors and drugs like cocaine,”
  •  “This suggests that there may be individuals with increased drive of the reward circuitry, but who are still lean. This is a complex trait that arises from the activity of the basic feeding circuits during development, which then impacts the adult response to drugs and novelty in the environment.”

Horvath and his team argue that the hypothalamus, which controls vital functions such as body temperature, hunger, thirst fatigue and sleep, is key to the development of higher brain functions. “These hunger-promoting neurons are critically important during development to establish the set point of higher brain functions, and their impaired function may be the underlying cause for altered motivated and cognitive behaviors,” he said.

“There is this contemporary view that obesity is associated with the increased drive of the reward circuitry. 

But here, we provide a contrasting view: that the reward aspect can be very high, but subjects can still be very lean. At the same time, it indicates that a set of people who have no interest in food, might be more prone to drug addiction.”

“Identifying Influential and Susceptible Members of Social Networks” – Science Mag


Identifying Influential and Susceptible Members of Social Networks June 21, 2012

A representative sample of 1.3 million Facebook users showed that:

  • younger users are more susceptible than older users,
  • men are more influential than women,
  • women influence men more than they influence other women, and
  • married individuals are the least susceptible to influence in the decision to adopt the product we studied.
  • influential individuals are less susceptible to influence than non-influential individuals and that they cluster in the network, which suggests that influential people with influential friends help spread this product.
  • homophily (the tendency for individuals to choose friends with similar tastes and preferences and thus for preferences to be correlated amongst friends),
  • confounding effects (the tendency for connected individuals to be exposed to the same external stimuli)
  • simultaneity (the tendency for connected individuals to co-influence each other and to behave similarly at approximately the same time)

Influencers – Not Really So
One particularly controversial argument in the peer effects literature is the “influentials” hypothesis—the idea that influential individuals catalyze the diffusion of opinions, behaviors, innovations and products in society.  Continue reading

“chronic inflammation may be a disease of affluence.”


exposure to microbes early in life may fine-tune the immune system so that it can regulate its response to acute and low-grade infections more efficiently—much in the same manner as the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” predicts that children who are exposed to microbes, such as on farms, for example, are less likely to develop allergies later in life. Indeed, the rural Shuar foragers are very lean and healthy, with low rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, says Snodgrass.

Others agree with these conclusions. “McDade’s general point that the immune system is dysregulated in the absence of pathogen exposure early in life is extremely important—and seems to have downstream consequences on many seemingly unrelated diseases,” says biological anthropologist Michael Gurven of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In the absence of these organisms that co-evolved with us, people living in industrialized nations developed a defect in their immune regulation, says microbiologist Graham Rook of University College London, who proposed in 2003 that with urbanization, humans are not exposed to as many pathogens, such as parasites and bacteria in dirty water and mud. Poorly controlled inflammation, he notes, “occurs not in people living in third-world countries, riddled with infections, but rather in rich, infection-free, urbanized populations.” In other words, says McDade, “chronic inflammation may be a disease of affluence.”




COLUMBUS, Ohio – People aren’t very good at media multitasking but do it anyway because it makes them feel good, a new study suggests.

The findings showed that multitasking often gave the students an emotional boost, even when it hurt their cognitive functions, such as studying.

“There’s this myth among some people that multitasking makes them more productive.  But they seem to be misperceiving the positive feelings they get from multitasking. They are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”

Take, for example, students who watched TV while reading a book:

  • They reported feeling more emotionally satisfied than those who studied without watching TV
  • but also reported that they didn’t achieve their cognitive goals as well
  • “They felt satisfied not because they were effective at studying, but because the addition of TV made the studying entertaining. The combination of the activities accounts for the good feelings obtained,”

…People show poorer performance on a variety of tasks when they try to juggle multiple media sources at the same time: for example, going from texting a friend, to reading a book, to watching an online videoBut surveys show that media multitasking is only becoming more popular.

The results showed that:

  • participants were more likely to multitask when they reported an increase in cognitive needs (such as study or work) or habitual needs or both
  • “They are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.
  • ”That means, for example, that the students were more likely to multitask when they needed to study (a cognitive need).

But one of the key findings of the study is that this multitasking didn’t do a very good job of satisfying their cognitive needs which actually motivate the multitasking in the first place.

That’s probably because their other media use distracted them from the job of studying. However, the students reported that the multitasking was very good at meeting their emotional needs (fun/entertainment/relaxing) – interestingly, a need they weren’t even seeking to fulfill.

the results showed that habits played an important role in the use of media multitasking“Our findings showed that habitual needs increase media multitasking and are also gratified from multitasking,” she said.

This suggests that people get used to multitasking, which makes them more likely to continue.

“We found what we call a dynamical feedback loop. If you multitask today, you’re likely to do so again tomorrow, further strengthening the behavior over time,”

“This is worrisome because students begin to feel like they need to have the TV on or they need to continually check their text messages or computer while they do their homework. It’s not helping them, but they get an emotional reward that keeps them doing it.

Psychopath Brain Missing Empathy, Guilt Shame Parts, Of Course



The brains of psychopaths showed:

  • less gray matter in the anterior rostral prefrontal cortex and temporal poles
  • These areas of the brain are activated when people think about moral behavior and they are responsible for empathy and understanding other people’s emotions and intentions
  • They also influence a response to fear and self-conscious emotions such as guilt, embarrassment, and remorse.
  • The offenders without the pathology had gray matter volumes similar to non-offenders.

The Structure of a Psychopath

June 1, 2012

What are psychopaths made of?… Is it violence and aggression and defiance? That’s what psychopaths are made of. At least, that’s how they behave. And, new research sheds light on brain structure that could explain the violent behavior and seeming lack of conscience. Continue reading