Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality

Darcia Narvaez is Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and focuses on moral development and flourishing from an interdisciplinary perspective, integrating anthropology, neuroscience, clinical, developmental and educational sciences. Dr. Narvaez’s current research explores how early life experience influences societal culture and moral character. One of her recent books, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom won the 2015 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association. She writes a popular blog for Psychology Today (“Moral Landscapes”).

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Posted in Human morality, Morality, Neurobiology | Tagged , ,

Old human cells rejuvenated in breakthrough discovery on ageing

A new way to rejuvenate old cells in the laboratory, making them not only look younger but start to behave more like young cells, has been discovered by researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Brighton.

A team led Professor Lorna Harries, Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Exeter has discovered a new way to rejuvenate inactive senescent cells. Within hours of treatment, the older cells started to divide and had longer telomeres – the ‘caps’ on the chromosomes which shorten as we age.

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The Psychological Construction of Emotion

This volume presents cutting-edge theory and research on emotions as constructed events rather than fixed, essential entities. It provides a thorough introduction to the assumptions, hypotheses, and scientific methods that embody psychological constructionist approaches. Leading scholars examine the neurobiological, cognitive/perceptual, and social processes that give rise to the experiences Western cultures call sadness, anger, fear, and so on. The book explores such compelling questions as how the brain creates emotional experiences, whether the “ingredients” of emotions also give rise to other mental states, and how to define what is or is not an emotion. Introductory and concluding chapters by the editors identify key themes and controversies and compare psychological construction to other theories of emotion.

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How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

The science of emotion is in the midst of a revolution on par with the discovery of relativity in physics and natural selection in biology. Leading the charge is psychologist and neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, whose research overturns the long-standing belief that emotions are automatic, universal, and hardwired in different brain regions. Instead, Barrett shows, we construct each instance of emotion through a unique interplay of brain, body, and culture. A lucid report from the cutting edge of emotion science, How Emotions Are Made reveals the profound real-world consequences of this breakthrough for everything from neuroscience and medicine to the legal system and even national security, laying bare the immense implications of our latest and most intimate scientific revolution.

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Nutrients or nursing? Understanding how breast milk feeding affects child cognition

Purpose. To explore the associations between type of milk feeding (the “nutrients”) and mode of breast milk feeding (the “nursing”) with child cognition.

Methods. Healthy children from the GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Toward healthy Outcomes) cohort participated in repeated neurodevelopmental assessments between 6 and 54 months. For “nutrients”, we compared children exclusively bottle-fed according to the type of milk received: formula only (n = 296) vs some/all breast milk (n = 73). For “nursing”, we included only children who were fully fed breast milk, comparing those fed directly at the breast (n = 59) vs those fed partially/completely by a bottle (n = 63).

Conclusions. Our findings suggest that nutrients in breast milk may improve general child cognition, while nursing infants directly at the breast may influence memory.

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Persistent metabolic youth in the aging female brain

Sex differences influence brain morphology and physiology during both development and aging. Here we apply a machine learning algorithm to a multiparametric brain PET imaging dataset acquired in a cohort of 20- to 82-year-old, cognitively normal adults (n = 205) to define their metabolic brain age. We find that throughout the adult life span the female brain has a persistently lower metabolic brain age—relative to their chronological age—compared with the male brain. The persistence of relatively younger metabolic brain age in females throughout adulthood suggests that development might in part influence sex differences in brain aging. Our results also demonstrate that trajectories of natural brain aging vary significantly among individuals and provide a method to measure this.

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Posted in Aging, Brains, Female | Tagged , ,

Large and fast human pyramidal neurons associate with intelligence

It is generally assumed that human intelligence relies on efficient processing by neurons in our brain. Although grey matter thickness and activity of temporal and frontal cortical areas correlate with IQ scores, no direct evidence exists that links structural and physiological properties of neurons to human intelligence. Here, we find that high IQ scores and large temporal cortical thickness associated with larger, more complex dendrites of human pyramidal neurons. We show in silico that larger dendritic trees enable pyramidal neurons to track the activity of synaptic inputs with higher temporal precision, due to fast action potential kinetics. Indeed, we find that human pyramidal neurons of individuals with higher IQ scores sustain fast action potential kinetics during repeated firing. These findings provide the first evidence that human intelligence is associated with neuronal complexity, action potential kinetics and efficient information transfer from inputs to output within cortical neurons.

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Human Intelligence: What single neurons can tell us

IQ scores are correlated with the morphology and activity of certain neurons in the human temporal cortex.

You probably remember being at school as a child and learning how to do arithmetic, to read and comprehend stories, and to solve puzzles. These tasks may appear simple to you now, but they are actually quite demanding because they require a high level of brain processing power. For decades, scientists have been working out ways to quantify our ability to take in knowledge and apply it to new situations – in other words, our intelligence. They have also explored the characteristics of the human brain that contribute to individual differences in performance on such tasks.

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Science Anxiety

Psychologists who conduct the experiment describe these respective behavioral patterns as a secure and anxious-ambivalent attachment. The latter is the product of inconsistent parenting, neglect mixed with intrusive attention. The child’s inability to depend reliably on its parent prevents the growth of the child’s independence. The vacillating parent creates a vacillating child, pulled one moment by neediness and the next by wariness, in a simple harmonic motion of dysfunction.

Whatever the merits of this tidy theory on its own, it’s a useful metaphor for thinking about the relationship today between the public and that vast body of knowledge, work, and authority we monolithically call “science.” Our conversations about science are dominated on one side by those who reflexively distrust broad swathes of it as corrupted by groupthink, corporatism, or global governance conspiracy, and on the other by those keen to distance themselves as far as possible from the first group, to label any deviation from scientists’ opinions as paranoia, “denialism,” “anti-science.”

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The Diet That Lowers Your Intelligence

The diet causes lower intelligence and 50% more laziness.

High-fat foods can reduce intelligence in just 9 days, research finds.

Cognitive performance reduced by 20% in just over a week after eating a high-fat diet.

The study on rats fed them a diet equivalent to human junk food

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