Archive for December, 2011
The Perversion of Science by Evolutionary Psychologists
In discussion of domain-specific modules, which I continue to insist do not exist, on Sunday, December 25th, 2011, I was asked by a member of the evolutionary-psychology yahoo group:read more December 26, 2011 • 9:15 PM
Human Pheromones: An Accurate Conceptualization
This link; another link to The Scent of Eros: Mysteries of Odor in Human Sexuality; and the excerpts below, provide a concise summary of essential points, statements, and facts to be found in the book I co-authored with Robert T. Francoeur. The précis was published in the online journal “Psycoloquy” on October 29, 1995. It represents what may be the first permanently available on-line indicator of my interest in human pheromones and also indicates my first attempt to teach others about the significance of odor in the development of human behavior. In 1996, I co-authored From fertilization to adult sexual behavior, which further extended the concept of human pheromones.
In 2001, I co-authored Human pheromones: integrating neuroendocrinology and ethology, which referenced the detailed reciprocity in olfactory-genetic-neuronal-hormonal-behavioral relationships that appear to link the nature and nurture of human sexuality and the influence of sensory stimuli, especially chemosensory stimuli, on human sexuality. In 2001, a ground-breaking report by the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine concluded that the study of sex differences could lead to significant improvements in health for both women and men (Wizemann & Pardue, 2001). The report recommended that research on sex differences be conducted at every level—gene, cell, tissue, organ, and organism—and that sex differences be studied at every stage of life, from conception through death (Marts & Resnick, 2007). As indicated in Sex Differences and the FDA Critical Path Initiative one of the most extraordinary changes over the last few years is the ability to globally analyze biological systems, and to use this global analysis in the development of therapeutic agents designed with full considerations for sex differences in their effects, and their side-effects. In 2007, I published The Mind’s Eyes: Human pheromones, neuroscience, and male sexual preferences as a book chapter in the Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality after its 2006 publication in the Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality. In 2012, I expect to publish an article in Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology that links human pheromones and food odors to their epigenetic influences on the socioaffective nature of evolved behaviors via the same gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system pathway I first detailed in The Scent of Eros: Mysteries of Odor in Human Sexuality. The recurring theme of this pathway, which links the social environment to the development of behavior in every species, is as important today as it was when I first began my research. I am attempting to make this perfectly clear. (more…)read more December 27, 2011 • 6:01 AM
Cause and effect in biology
Abstract (full text requires a subscription)
Fifty years ago, Ernst Mayr published a hugely influential paper on the nature of causation in biology, in which he distinguished between proximate and ultimate causes. Mayr equated proximate causation with immediate factors (for example, physiology) and ultimate causation with evolutionary explanations (for example, natural selection). He argued that proximate and ultimate causes addressed different questions and were not alternatives. Mayr’s account of causation remains widely accepted today, with both positive and negative ramifications. Several current debates in biology (for example, over evolution and development, niche construction, cooperation, and the evolution of language) are linked by a common axis of acceptance/rejection of Mayr’s model of causation. We argue that Mayr’s formulation has acted to stabilize the dominant evolutionary paradigm against change but may now hamper progress in the biological sciences.
My comment accepted after submission on Fri, 12/16/2011 – 08:47:
From the perspective of molecular biology it seems most likely that the causal link between food acquisition and further developmental effects on all organisms is the most basic of all considerations. Organisms that lack sufficient nutrition do not reproduce. Those that reproduce use chemical signals to communicate self / non-self differences. The chemical signals are derived from successful metabolism of food. This makes chemical signals from food and from conspecifics the most important of all signals involved in biologically based cause and effect. The reciprocity, which requires food acquisition prior to reproduction and species survival, is correctly derived from what is already known about the epigenetic effects of chemical signals from food sources and from conspecifics, and their direct effect on the levels of biological organization that link them to the genes and behavior across species.read more December 16, 2011 • 5:43 PM
Docosahexaenoic acid and autism: praying for hope, or preying on hope
This link takes you to an article about applications from behavioral analysis, which are currently used in the psychotherapeutic treatment of autism. But what if the key to autism is as relatively simple as improved nutrition either for the mother, for the infant, or for both? If, for example, levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are represented in important cellular aspects supporting hippocampus-related cognitive function?
Should the behavior analysts’ approach be compared to a biologically-based approach with a dietary supplement? DHA is important to neurite growth, synaptogenesis, synapsin, glutamatergic synaptic function and glutamate receptor expression. What may be a direct effect of DHA on glutamate receptor expression could link nutrition directly to autism during development in the womb, or in the postnatal period, especially during the first two years. It might also link nutrition to genetically prediposed olfactory deficits, if any can be detailed in autistics — as well as to nutrient dependent /enzymatically-influenced deficits in the development of mirror neurons.
In this regard, my discussion attempts with participants in the human ethology yahoo group have led to complaints of psychology bashing (as indicated in my title here by “preying on hope”). I would be grateful to learn of where such things can be discussed — without such complaints. Indeed, the article I have linked to in this post might be considered psychology bashing, if only because it focuses on claims of benefits compared to scientific evidence that supports the claims.
read more December 20, 2011 • 11:25 AM
Pheromones and the Evolution of Drug Resistance
Excerpt: “You have a culture of bacteria and a computer that is monitoring how happy they are, namely how fast they grow,” explained Kishony. “If they are growing too fast it adds more drug.” In essence, it keeps the bugs unhappy and unhealthy, thus pressuring them continuously to adapt.”
Awake, and dreaming out loud:
It may soon make sense to use pheromones responsible for quorum sensing in one strain to suppress the pathological growth of other strains. The effect could potentially be measured in the morbidostat that these researchers designed. Measurements could help detail the molecular mechanisms involved in the typical colonization by one organism (in one tissue). This might avoid any harm done by attempts to entirely eliminate it, along with many commensal others. For example, few people know that broad spectrum antibiotics can cause peripheral neuropathy, although many people know about associated maladies of the digestive tract. The morbidostat could result in treatments that would suppress infection to levels typically managed by a competent immune system and reduce problems with mutations, as well as reduce the potential side effects. Antibiotic-induced peripheral neuropathy may be reason enough for the FDA to push for more research into molecular mechanisms, as indicated in their “Critical Path Initiative” for drugs that alter behavior; especially now that we are learning more about how bacteria influence our behavior.read more December 21, 2011 • 9:50 AM
Human skull study causes evolutionary headache
If the changes in the skull and in intelligence are driven by genetically predisposed changes in the size of the olfactory bulbs, they present an even bigger challenge to evolutionary psychologists and others who typically seem to think we are primarily visual creatures. Changes driven by the evolution of our olfactory acuity and specificity also rule out domain-specific modules, which is another evolutionary theory that never made scientific sense to me.read more December 20, 2011 • 8:34 PM
“Behavioral Epigenetics” was held on October 29–30, 2010 at the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus Center, Boston, Massachusetts. This meeting featured speakers and panel discussions exploring the emerging field of behavioral epigenetics, from basic biochemical and cellular mechanisms to the epigenetic modulation of normative development, developmental disorders, and psychopathology. This [free] report provides an overview of the research presented by leading scientists and lively discussion about the future of investigation at the behavioral epigenetic level.
Excerpt: “Tronick recognized that at the present time our ability to specify the chain of causality of epigenetic changes in human behavior is limited because of our inability to access brain tissue.”
The “chain of causality” of epigenetic changes has been established across all species via the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization. It is the pathway that directly links sensory input from the environment to genetically predisposed behavior in mammals. This pathway (i.e., the chain of causality) is gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system. In mammals, the pathway leads to changes in brain tissue that have repeatedly been causally linked to behavior across species including non-human primates and humans. There is no reason human brain tissue must be accessed to specify the chain of causality in human behavior unless every animal model that links this pathway to an organism’s behavior is ignored. Clearly, that type of ignorance is not what the FDA is advocating in their “Critical Path Initiative,” which focuses on the requirements for new drug development. And clearly, the ASAM wants the gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ system pathway to be more fully considered by psychologists before they implement treatments that are not grounded in biological science.
From the perspective of molecular biology it seems most likely that the causal link between food acquisition and further developmental effects on all organisms is the most basic of all considerations. Organisms that lack sufficient nutrition do not reproduce. Those that reproduce use chemical signals to communicate self / non-self differences. The chemical signals are derived from successful metabolism of food. This makes chemical signals from food and from conspecifics the most important of all signals involved in biologically based cause and effect. The reciprocity, which requires food acquisition prior to reproduction and species survival, is correctly derived from what is already known about the epigenetic effects of chemical signals from food sources and from conspecifics, and their direct effect on the levels of biological organization that link them to genes and behavior across species.read more December 16, 2011 • 6:25 PM
Timing is key in the proper wiring of the brain: study
(Medical Xpress) — After birth, the developing brain is largely shaped by experiences in the environment. However, neurobiologists at Yale and elsewhere have also shown that for many functions the successful wiring of neural circuits depends upon spontaneous activity in the brain that arises before birth independent of external influences.
Now Yale researchers have shown in research published online Dec. 18 in the journal Nature Neuroscience that the timing of this activity is crucial to the development of vision — and perhaps to other key neural processes that have been implicated in autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
“This spontaneous activity is not dependent upon external sensory stimuli,” said Michael Crair, the William Ziegler III Associate Professor of Neurobiology and associate professor of ophthalmology and visual science and senior author of the paper. “We want to know where this activity comes from and how does it work.”
Yale researchers tried to interfere with this spontaneous activity in neonatal mice through a technique called optogenetics – or the manipulation of brain cells genetically engineered to be activated by light. The Yale team showed that proper wiring of connections between the eye and brain depended upon exactly when this spontaneous activity occurs. When the researchers simultaneously induced retinal activity in both eyes of a neonatal mouse, they found the visual connections did not develop properly. However, when they induced activity first in one eye and then the other, neural connections were unaffected or even enhanced.
Crair said that rhythmic spontaneous activity has been implicated in proper development of many brain areas, including the cortex, cerebellum, and spinal cord. He said it is possible that a disruption in the timing of this spontaneous activity could play a role in a host of developmental disorders.
“The genes thought to be involved in autism involve the formation and function of brain synapses and neural circuits, and that is exactly what is getting messed up when we interfere with brain activity early in development,” Crair said.
The rhythmic pulsatility of the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) pulse links in utero chemical communication between mother and infant in placental mammals to in utero and postnatal brain development. For example, GnRH modulates the secretion of other hormones, like luteinizing hormone (LH) that link olfactory/pheromonal sensory input from the environment to steroidogenesis and white/gray matter ratios. There is also a direct effect of pheromones on LH and hippocampal neurogenesis, which is important to learning and memory. This effect helps to explain why the odor preferences of mammals, including humans, appear to develop before birth, but it probably has nothing to do with visual input except via its association with olfactory/pheromonal input, neurogenesis, learning and memory. The same might be said for disorders of brain development that are attributed to development of sensory systems linked to olfaction and thereby directly to brain development. But researchers are just now starting to look at connections between olfaction, mirror neurons, and autism. And most people continue to think that their sense of smell is less important to the development of their behavior than it is to the development of behavior in other animals.read more December 19, 2011 • 4:52 PM
Human pheromones provide clues to personality
(Medical Xpress) — An interesting study conducted by Polish researchers Agnieszka Sorokowska, Piotr Sorokowski and Andrzej Szmajke, of the University of Wroclaw, has found that people are able to guess a person’s type of personality to a reasonable extent, simply by smelling them, or their clothes. The team did some testing with volunteers, as they describe in their study published in the European Journal of Personality, and found that people could guess another’s personality through odors at least as well as they could when shown videos of people in action.
read more December 10, 2011 • 6:54 PM
Progress in brain research (e.g., starting over)
The FDA Critical Path Initiative directs a more intelligent approach for development of drugs that effect the brain and behavior. It must start with gene activation in cells of hormone-secreting tissue in the brain, which is the most important organ of any organ system involved in behavior. The potential for the use of knowledge gleaned from the molecular biology of olfaction increases each time a report links odors to behavior — as is the case with food odors and social odors in all species from microbes to man. What’s happening now appears to be an attempt to get back to the basic principles of biology and levels of biological organization across species. I’m not sure where researchers first strayed from the gene, cell, tissue, organ, organ-system pathway, but I am happy to see evidence that research may get back on the path that directly links sensory input to brain function and behavior.read more December 07, 2011 • 6:52 AM