Curating bits and pieces of Anthropology, Archaeology, Primatology, Psychology, Biology...

Basically any and all the 'ologies' that can help us attempt to understand the past, present and future of our utterly bizarre yet fabulous species.
anthrocity:

Chimps, much like humans focus on faces:

A chimp’s attention is captured by faces more effectively than by bananas. A series of experiments suggests that the apes are wired to respond to faces in a similar manner to humans.

See yet another way we are similar to out closest living relative. Also, perhaps more importantly, tips on how to get scientists to give you a treat.

anthrocity:

Chimps, much like humans focus on faces:

A chimp’s attention is captured by faces more effectively than by bananas. A series of experiments suggests that the apes are wired to respond to faces in a similar manner to humans.

See yet another way we are similar to out closest living relative. Also, perhaps more importantly, tips on how to get scientists to give you a treat.

neurosciencestuff:

Scientists discover brain’s anti-distraction system
Two Simon Fraser University psychologists have made a brain-related discovery that could revolutionize doctors’ perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders.
This discovery opens up the possibility that environmental and/or genetic factors may hinder or suppress a specific brain activity that the researchers have identified as helping us prevent distraction.

The Journal of Neuroscience has just published a paper about the discovery by John McDonald, an associate professor of psychology and his doctoral student John Gaspar, who made the discovery during his master’s thesis research.
This is the first study to reveal our brains rely on an active suppression mechanism to avoid being distracted by salient irrelevant information when we want to focus on a particular item or task.
McDonald, a Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, and other scientists first discovered the existence of the specific neural index of suppression in his lab in 2009. But, until now, little was known about how it helps us ignore visual distractions.
“This is an important discovery for neuroscientists and psychologists because most contemporary ideas of attention highlight brain processes that are involved in picking out relevant objects from the visual field. It’s like finding Waldo in a Where’s Waldo illustration,” says Gaspar, the study’s lead author.
“Our results show clearly that this is only one part of the equation and that active suppression of the irrelevant objects is another important part.”
Given the proliferation of distracting consumer devices in our technology-driven, fast-paced society, the psychologists say their discovery could help scientists and health care professionals better treat individuals with distraction-related attentional deficits.
“Distraction is a leading cause of injury and death in driving and other high-stakes environments,” notes McDonald, the study’s senior author. “There are individual differences in the ability to deal with distraction. New electronic products are designed to grab attention. Suppressing such signals takes effort, and sometimes people can’t seem to do it.
“Moreover, disorders associated with attention deficits, such as ADHD and schizophrenia, may turn out to be due to difficulties in suppressing irrelevant objects rather than difficulty selecting relevant ones.”
The researchers are now turning their attention to understanding how we deal with distraction. They’re looking at when and why we can’t suppress potentially distracting objects, whether some of us are better at doing so and why that is the case.
“There’s evidence that attentional abilities decline with age and that women are better than men at certain visual attentional tasks,” says Gaspar, the study’s first author.
The study was based on three experiments in which 47 students performed an attention-demanding visual search task. Their mean age was 21. The researchers studied their neural processes related to attention, distraction and suppression by recording electrical brain signals from sensors embedded in a cap they wore.

neurosciencestuff:

Scientists discover brain’s anti-distraction system

Two Simon Fraser University psychologists have made a brain-related discovery that could revolutionize doctors’ perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders.

This discovery opens up the possibility that environmental and/or genetic factors may hinder or suppress a specific brain activity that the researchers have identified as helping us prevent distraction.

Read More

s-c-i-guy:

First Eurasians left Africa up to 130,000 years ago
"Scientists have shown that anatomically modern humans spread from Africa to Asia and Europe in several migratory movements. The first ancestors of today’s non-African peoples probably took a southern route through the Arabian Peninsula as early as 130,000 years ago, the researchers found."

A team of researchers led by the University of Tübingen’s Professor Katerina Harvati has shown that anatomically modern humans spread from Africa to Asia and Europe in several migratory movements. The first ancestors of today’s non-African peoples probably took a southern route through the Arabian Peninsula as early as 130,000 years ago, the researchers found. The study is published by Professor Katerina Harvati and her team from the Institute for Archaeological Sciences at the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Ferrara, Italy, and the National Museum of Natural History, France. The study appears in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists tested different hypothetical dispersal scenarios, taking into account the geography of potential migration routes, genetic data and cranial comparisons. They found that the first wave of migration out of Africa started earlier than previously thought, taking place as early as the late Middle Pleistocene — with a second dispersal to northern Eurasia following about 50,000 years ago.


Most scientists agree that all humans living today are descended from a common ancestor population which existed 100,000 to 200,000 years ago in Africa. The decreasing genetic and phenotypic diversity observed in humans at increasing distances from Sub-Saharan Africa has often been interpreted as evidence of a single dispersal 50,000 to 75,000 years ago. However, recent genetic, archaeological and palaeoanthropological studies challenge this scenario.
Professor Harvati’s team tested the competing out-of-Africa models of a single dispersal against multiple dispersals of anatomically modern humans. The scientists compared modern human crania from different parts of the world, neutral genetic data, and geographical distances associated with different dispersal routes. Likewise, they reconstructed population split times from both the genetic data and as predicted by each competing model. Because each dispersal scenario is associated with specific geographic and temporal predictions, the researchers were able to test them against the observed neutral biological distances between groups, as revealed from both genetic and cranial data.
"Both lines of evidence — anatomical cranial comparisons as well as genetic data — support a multiple dispersal model," says Katerina Harvati. The first group of our ancestors left Africa about 130,000 years ago and followed a coastal route through the Arabian Peninsula to Australia and the west Pacific region. "Australian aborigines, Papuans and Melanesians were relatively isolated after the early dispersal along the southern route," says Hugo Reyes-Centeno, first author of the study and member of the Tübingen team. He adds that other Asian populations appear to be descended from members of a later migratory movement from Africa to northern Eurasia about 50,000 years ago.
The researchers are confident that continued field work and advances in genetics will allow for fine-tuning of models of human expansion out of Africa. So far we can only speculate whether, for example, severe droughts in East Africa occurring between 135,000 and 75,000 years ago prompted migration or had an impact on the local evolution of human populations. The southern route region is a vast geographical space that has been understudied by archaeologists and anthropologists, so future work in this area will help support their findings.
source

s-c-i-guy:

First Eurasians left Africa up to 130,000 years ago

"Scientists have shown that anatomically modern humans spread from Africa to Asia and Europe in several migratory movements. The first ancestors of today’s non-African peoples probably took a southern route through the Arabian Peninsula as early as 130,000 years ago, the researchers found."

Read More

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

theadvancedapes:

Transcript: Everyone knows that Lord of the Rings is a work of fiction. There is no evidence that JRR Tolkien’s elves, wizards, dwarves or orcs ever existed. But recent discoveries have raised an important question: did hobbits actually exist? 

Read More

sixpenceee:

If you thought the post on twins sharing consciousness was awesome, wait until you hear this.

A 44-year-old French man one day went to the trip to the doctor’s because he felt a pain in his left leg. He’s a married man with two kids and a steady job.

Doctor’s found that he had hydrocephalus as a child (when your brain is filled with fluids) so they decided to run some brain scans.

What they found was that the majority of his head was filled with fluid. Over time, the buildup caused his lateral ventricles to swell so much that his brain had been flattened to a thin sheet.

Doctors estimated that his brain mass had been reduced by at most 70%, affecting the areas in charge of motion, language, emotion, and, well, everything.

Shockingly, he was fine. While his IQ was only 75, he wasn’t mentally challenged. He held a steady job, raised a family, and didn’t have trouble interacting with others.

Over time, his brain had adapted to all that pressure, and even though he had fewer neurons that most, Jacques was still a fully functional human being.

The doctors drained the fluid and while his brain is much smaller now, he is still a healthy individual with a normal life.

SOURCE

Friday, April 11, 2014
theolduvaigorge:

Humans May Be Most Adaptive Species

Constant climate change may have given Homo sapiens our flexibility

by Nathanael Massey and ClimateWire
“In the 5 million years since early hominids first emerged from east Africa’s Rift Valley, the Earth’s climate has grown increasingly erratic. Over cycles lasting hundreds of thousands of years, arid regions of central Africa were overrun by forests, forests gave way to grasslands and contiguous landscapes were fractured by deep lakes.
It was within the context of this swiftly changing landscape that humans evolved their sizable brains and capacity for adaptive behavior, said Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. In such a world, the ability to think creatively, to imagine novel solutions to survival threats, proved to be a major asset, he said.
"The evolution of the brain is the most obvious example of how we evolve to adapt," he explained. "But in the modern era, we know that in the human genome there are all kinds of interactions that allow human organisms to have plasticity — the capacity to adjust is itself an evolved characteristic."
Man had two key advantages, he said: our brains and our capacity for culture.
"Our brains are essentially social brains," he added. "We share information, we create and pass on knowledge. That’s the means by which humans are able to adjust to new situations, and it’s what differentiates humans from our earlier ancestors, and our earlier ancestors from primates."
This adaptive ability not only allowed our progenitors to ride the massive seesaws of climate shifts but subsequently helped them to colonize new habitats. The earlier hominid species Homo erectus ranged across much of Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, Homo neanderthalensis — Neanderthals — occupied large parts of Europe. Our own species, Homo sapiens, dispersed to even more far-flung corners of the globe, employing boats to reach Australia more than 50,000 years ago” (read more).
(Source: Scientific American)

theolduvaigorge:

Humans May Be Most Adaptive Species

Constant climate change may have given Homo sapiens our flexibility

It was within the context of this swiftly changing landscape that humans evolved their sizable brains and capacity for adaptive behavior, said Rick Potts, director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. In such a world, the ability to think creatively, to imagine novel solutions to survival threats, proved to be a major asset, he said.

"The evolution of the brain is the most obvious example of how we evolve to adapt," he explained. "But in the modern era, we know that in the human genome there are all kinds of interactions that allow human organisms to have plasticity — the capacity to adjust is itself an evolved characteristic."

Man had two key advantages, he said: our brains and our capacity for culture.

"Our brains are essentially social brains," he added. "We share information, we create and pass on knowledge. That’s the means by which humans are able to adjust to new situations, and it’s what differentiates humans from our earlier ancestors, and our earlier ancestors from primates."

This adaptive ability not only allowed our progenitors to ride the massive seesaws of climate shifts but subsequently helped them to colonize new habitats. The earlier hominid species Homo erectus ranged across much of Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, Homo neanderthalensis — Neanderthals — occupied large parts of Europe. Our own species, Homo sapiens, dispersed to even more far-flung corners of the globe, employing boats to reach Australia more than 50,000 years ago” (read more).

(Source: Scientific American)

scienceyoucanlove:

Human embryo at 7 weeks gestation, measuring approximately 14 mm (crown to rump). the fingers and face are developing and growing rapidly but are still forming their shape. It is possible to clearly see the formation of the skull, which begins to close, which will form the fontanelle (“soft spots”) that subsequently shut as children grow, creating a suture in the skull. This openness facilitates at birth in normal delivery, and allows the growth of the child’s brain.

Photo: Ralph Hutchings/Getty images 
via https://www.facebook.com/vidabiologia
source

scienceyoucanlove:

Human embryo at 7 weeks gestation, measuring approximately 14 mm (crown to rump). the fingers and face are developing and growing rapidly but are still forming their shape. It is possible to clearly see the formation of the skull, which begins to close, which will form the fontanelle (“soft spots”) that subsequently shut as children grow, creating a suture in the skull. This openness facilitates at birth in normal delivery, and allows the growth of the child’s brain.

Photo: Ralph Hutchings/Getty images 

via https://www.facebook.com/vidabiologia

source

aeonmagazine:

The pleasure we take in beauty must have been shaped by evolution — but what adaptive advantage did it give us?
'Aesthetic pleasure is the fun of perceptual play, and it is valuable because it develops perceptual skill. This complements a suggestion made by the British neuroscientist Semir Zeki: art, he wrote in 1998, is a search for ‘the constant, lasting, essential and enduring features of objects, surfaces, faces, situations’. The objects we pleasurably gaze at are those that afford us a rich field for such a search. We begin our lives by taking pleasure in looking and listening to things, which is how we learn to perceive.' …

aeonmagazine:

The pleasure we take in beauty must have been shaped by evolution — but what adaptive advantage did it give us?

'Aesthetic pleasure is the fun of perceptual play, and it is valuable because it develops perceptual skill. This complements a suggestion made by the British neuroscientist Semir Zeki: art, he wrote in 1998, is a search for ‘the constant, lasting, essential and enduring features of objects, surfaces, faces, situations’. The objects we pleasurably gaze at are those that afford us a rich field for such a search. We begin our lives by taking pleasure in looking and listening to things, which is how we learn to perceive.' …

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Human Face Is Far More Expressive Than We Thought

ziyadnazem:

The Human Face Is Far More Expressive Than We Thought

In a study that now seems embarrassingly overdue, scientists have tripled the list of human facial expressions from six to 21 — adding such emotions as “sadly surprised” and “happily disgusted.”

Previous studies on emotional facial expressions have…

"With language we can ask, as can no other living beings, those questions about who we are and why we are here. And this highly developed intellect means, surely, that we have a responsibility toward the other life-forms of our planet whose continued existence is threatened by the thoughtless behavior of our own human species — quite regardless of whether or not we believe in God. Indeed, those who acknowledge no God, but are convinced that we are in this world as an evolutionary accident, may be more active in environmental responsibility — for if there is no God, then, obviously, it is entirely up to us to put things right."
Pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall, who turns 80 today, on science, religion, and our human responsibility (via explore-blog)
 
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