Archive by date | December 2007

Brain doping

Anyone who follows the sports world is well-aware of the concept of doping, in which athletes participate to establish an edge over the competition. This goes back a long ways and includes more famous examples like the East German Olympic machine, and the sprinter Ben Johnson, but also the more recent examples of Todd Landis, Marion Jones and, of course, Barry Bonds.  Read more

Learning from your horrible mistakes

Learning from your horrible mistakes

Staying on the genetics theme, a recent Science article suggests that a particular variant of the dopamine receptor (D2) causes some people to poorly learn via negative reinforcement. The A1 allele, as this variant is known, has previously been linked to increased vulnerability of addiction. The researchers recruited volunteers, who performed a learning task while lying in an fMRI machine. Individuals with the A1 allele (at least one copy) were equally successful at selecting a targeted “good” symbol reinforced with positive feedback (the display of a “smiley face”) as those individuals completely lacking the A1 allele. However, when the task  … Read more

The final installment

With this entry, I hereby retire from reporting on the details surrounding Dr. James Watson’s race row. The subject of IQ and race may rage on in this blog, but it is time to move past the tabloid reporting. Fittingly, I felt that we should return to where it all began…with the release of a new book. Here is a review on Dr. Watson’s Avoid Boring People by Jerry Coyne, a geneticist at the University of Chicago. Dr. Coyne paints a complex picture of the author, and attempts to be rather candid, succeeding for the most part. In addition, he does not hide his obvious admiration for the man. You can feel free to contrast Dr. Coyne’s review with the opinion of another critic. No mercy given by that Nature editor.  Read more

When it rains…it pours

I don’t know what it is about Jim Watson and my blog posting, but every time I mention him (as I did in my previous entry), something else pops up and I have to talk about him again. While doing my morning reading, I stumbled upon an entry from the DrugMonkey blog that was simply too good to pass up. Jim Watson is more mixed race than anyone thought, with 16% of his genes likely to have come from an African great-grandparent, as reported in the Sunday Times.  Read more

The column that Dr. Watson needed to read

There was a great Op-Ed piece in the NY Times yesterday, written by Dr. Richard Nisbett, that provides a nice set of studies challenging the notion of inherent intelligence differences between races. Dr. Nisbett communicates these findings to the reader in a very clear fashion, providing good information for those of you who followed the news and debate underlying the Watson scandal.  Read more

“All the News That’s Fit to Print” (except the part about potential conflicts of interest)

Since the recent fall-out of the recent NY Times OP-Ed piece discussing the use of fMRI to predict the inclinations and feelings of swing voters is still fresh in our minds, I wanted to simply provide the link to a recent PLoS ONE paper that touches on the general concept of the media reporting on science.  Read more

Antidepressants and caloric restriction, what’s the connection?

Antidepressants and caloric restriction, what's the connection?

If it exists, it must be a tenuous link, right? Well, at least in C. elegans, it is definitely not. Linda Buck and colleagues revealed, in a recent Nature article that drugs modulating the serotonin system in the worm can increase lifespan. Caloric restriction has been a well-documented means to enhance longevity in animals ranging from rodents to worms. We have only recently begun to mechanistically understand why eating less allows us to live longer (remember the sirtuin genes?)  … Read more