Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter 1962. High quality copy.
Dalton Trumbo, screenwriter 1962. High quality copy.
Biopsychosoc Med Click for full paper
Clip: Direct associations between testosterone, rates of aggression, and dominance rank have been identified in several species, including nonhuman primates [17,18]. Conversely, several studies have failed to demonstrate significant correlations between aggression, dominance rank and testosterone levels [19,20]. In fact, there is surprisingly little evidence that short-term changes in testosterone levels correlate with increased levels of aggression, and fluctuations in testosterone levels in healthy, eugonadal individuals over time do not necessarily predict changes in levels of aggression within individuals, human or nonhuman [reviewed in  and ]. Rather, testosterone may have a permissive effect, potentiating pre-existing patterns of aggression . Testosterone is also more frequently associated with aggression and dominance rank during situations of social instability, such as during challenges by conspecific males for territory or access to mates, the establishment of territorial boundaries, the formation of dominance relationships, or in the presence of receptive females .
Clip: “Arguably, the weak correlation between testosterone and violence gives us reason to be optimistic about the human race: Whereas other animals battle over mates as a direct result of their seasonal fluctuations in testosterone and other hormones, humans have discovered other ways to establish pecking orders. Which isn’t to say that we can’t rapidly adapt to the modern-day manifestations of our violent past: McAndrews’s work demonstrated that one surefire way to raise a man’s testosterone level is to allow him to handle a gun.”
Hmmm…. if your want your son to grow up to look like this (OMG!)
you had better buy him a nice big gun…
We simply are not born with a body / brain system that is capable of standing upright, let alone, walking. We must, through trial and error, and much practice, literally grow into our obligate bipedal locomotion, and it’s a learning process for both body and brain; the human brain must learn to operate the human body.
In fact, each human must repeat the process of becoming bipedal, and all that goes with that peculiar type of locomotion, and it takes years, and many of us are never truly coordinated physical specimens. Athletes, are after all, are elevated in social and cultural stature because they are rare specimens of Master Obligate Bipeds. Although they may be born with physical “potential” top athletes require years of learning: body and brain training, skill practice, and the incorporation of that “body of learning” into both “automatic” and conscious control by the brain.
Which brings up another question. Are human babies born at an extremely premature stage of development in order to accommodate bipedalism? It takes years of practice and external aid by parents and others to become a functional obligatory biped. Quadruped animals often stand, walk and run within minutes of birth; birds are also bipeds, and quite helpless when born. A period of development must take place before they can attempt flying, and even then, it may takes months to years of brain-body feedback to accomplish adult skill.
We assume that the extreme prematurity of human birth is to “allow” for the growth of a humongous brain, but this is not proven. It is, actually, counter-intuitive. The evolutionary changes that occurred due to becoming bipedal may have eventually led to a big brain; but evidence refutes a “destiny” of the highly glorified “big smart brain”. Bipedalism predates “big brains” by millions of years, but there are possibilities as to how bipedalism may have contributed to larger brains.
Early bipeds are “assumed” to have been “like modern bipeds” in functionality – this is a “guess” based on “footprints” that look modern, and on comparative anatomy, computer models, etc. But – it is the brain that “creates – makes possible” those footprints, and tools, and food gathering, and the ability to acquire shelter and protection from predators. The body survives because the brain operates the body; the brain develops while learning to master a complex body.
It’s as if the brain learns to “drive a car” while at the same time, helping to design the car. If the car must navigate and negotiate a simple environment, the brain will “settle in” at a level of energy consumption that balances the expenditure of energy required to fuel behavior of a “complexity” that is “good enough” for survival of the organism. A “small brain” may be entirely sufficient to the operation of such a basic vehicle. Millions of years may pass without the need for an “upgrade” to 4WD, a lighter more maneuverable frame and steering system, and increased speed. A change in the environment may “push for / select” upgrades that require a “better” adapted body, and with it a more complex control center (the brain) –
Through time, small adaptations may suffice, until gradually a threshold is reached; a point where small “improvements” in body function (example – the option of “power steering” on a vehicle) makes a big difference. In bipeds, using the hands, arms and upper body for resource collection and tool manufacture, and/or the capacity to migrate to environments that provide more abundant and better quality food, and the “thinking activities” that accompany these changes, bring about the “tipping point” at which the brain, by learning to operate a few improvements, earns a larger share of the additional calories gained by new behaviors for its own growth and complex development. (The rack and pinion unit went blew out on my truck recently: without power-assist it was almost impossible to drive it to the repair shop – by analogy, it would have been impossible for small bipeds to hunt large mammals before becoming larger, stronger and more agile; before developing the capacity to manipulate and throw objects (rocks) and weapons – but, by engaging in learning new behaviors, those behaviors shaped physical changes. Physical adaptation is a BIG DEAL in the transition from being a prey animal to becoming a predator. The brain would have had to “keep up” with new software, memory capacity, and operating system upgrades – the brain changed.
The switch from being a “prey species” to being a predator (as well as remaining prey for large carnivores) was critical. Being “social” animals, as “we” define social – (neurotypical, neotenic, post-agricultural, fossil-fuel technology-dependent contemporary humans) was a response (and not entirely positive) to entirely different and very recent demands on Homo sapiens. Early “homo” erectus, Denisovan, Neanderthal and related “types” or species, would have succeeded due to advantages that were the consequence of a long history of bipedal / brain-body interactions within a broad range of earth environments that they exploited by migration (Getting the Hell out of Dodge in adverse circumstances may be our most effective form of adaptation).
Importantly, brains require a lot of energy: no brain can be supported by calories that don’t exist; a brain must return a “profit” in energy by exploiting resources and opportunities in the environment. A brain that uses more energy than it can “return” in improved functionality of the body (turn an energy profit) will kill the organism. So, bipedalism is not “just” a method of locomotion; it involves the entire system, especially the “control center brain” and its capacity to “make sense of and respond to” the environment AND to the extraordinary demands of bipedalism itself, including the expansion of behaviors that this ‘new” system makes possible.
This leaves us with a new predicament: Whereas bipedalism appears to have contributed to much of ape-hominid development that we can see in ourselves today, it really is not a “resource for coping with” the biggest environmental challenge that human evolution has faced: the “social crisis” that was precipitated by Agriculture and Urbanization. Masses of humans have been crowded together in unhealthy environments for which our evolutionary history has no pre-adaptations: technology has provided “stop gap” reprieves in this incredibly sudden demand on the human brain and body. These have failed; Homo sapiens is not “naturally social” but survives on severe and draconian accommodations imposed by social and cultural structures, and NOT ON evolutionary adaptation. It took millions of years for the advent of bipedalism to play out as a feedback system between the organism and changes in human environments. Homo sapiens today is failing to adapt as a physical species; we simply cannot “evolve instantly” into a successful social species. Desperate measures prove to be temporary. Our “modern infantile attitude” in the face of “reality” is dominated by hysteria, destruction and magical thinking. “Wonder drugs and wonder gadgets” have been added to “counting on” miraculous intervention by supernatural beings. And now, the race is on to eliminate “physical humans” altogether. It might be the inevitable outcome: self-eradication via technology.
Authentic experience is not allowed, but prescribed!
The source of the Titanic struggle over the behavior of ASD / Asperger children is obvious and unnecessary: hyper-social parents, teachers (and as adults) bosses are “indignant” (or often enraged) that a child or adult won’t conform to arbitrary demands. It’s “my way or the highway” with most adults, who are “in charge” of training children to obey the parents’ schedules and rituals and “social absolutes” – ditto with teachers, “bosses” or managers, even if those social rituals lead to conflict, lower productivity, and passive aggressive sabotage by family members, spouses, and employees.
In my experience, all a neurotypical parent or boss needs to do, if suffering the terrible fate of having to deal with an Asperger, is this: set a “goal point” for whatever you require – especially if (in your mind) the one and only solution is a LINEAR sequence of tasks. Instead of demanding that a child follow, step by step, your unimaginative idea that life is a list that must be obeyed, try this: tell your Aspie child the time at which the school bus will appear at the bus stop, necessitating that he/she be ready to leave the house at 7:15 a.m. Leave it at that! Remind them, if you must, that this means being dressed, eating breakfast, and gathering “stuff” needed at school.
Your Aspie child (not infant or toddler) will likely surprise you by arranging these tasks in a way that makes sense to them! Starting with a “completion point” removes the obstacle of linear problem-solving (which is your hang up) and allows the child to express their natural visual-spatial brain processing. Reward them for getting to the 7:15 a.m. “exit point” and don’t get petty over how they accomplish this.
They may surprise you by “revising” the morning activities to be more and more efficient; arranging clothing items ahead of time (maybe for the entire week) or meticulously assigning school necessities to specific pockets in a backpack, or deciding to eat their favorite brand of cereal every morning. Don’t “freak out” when changes to “your procedure” actually demonstrate how smart (efficient) your AS child is.
Take a look at your own life: how compulsive and controlling are you? You are unlikely to be the “rebellious free spirit” that so many Americans imagine themselves to be.
Get over the self-centered fear that your “social standing” will be demolished because your child has chosen “a non-matching” outfit, or has turned out to be a girl who likes flannel shirts and camo pants, but hates dresses, or a boy that loves to wear plaid shirts with plaid pants. If they are “Aspergers” they are going to be different no matter what you do to attempt to disguise them as “socially normal” conformists.
My academic weekly schedule: by Mr. X (an actual post comment)
My schedule is online, and sync’d with my iPod Touch and with my HP TouchPad. This enables me to know what I am doing anywhere at any point in time. For years, my wife and I shared our online calendars, because that made it easier for her and for me to plan our time together. And I booked time for her that would overlap with my “open” time. That was, for me, the only way to maintain a healthy relationship. I follow the same philosophy when I book time for my friends and for my family, as well as for my own health. Nobody can schedule time for THEIR activities when it’s MY time. If you notice, I have left ample time for administrative stuff and for meetings during normal hours.
Nature neuroscience Editorial | July 2004
Excerpt: “The prospect of big corporations or political lobbyists enlisting brain science to manipulate consumer and voter behavior has inevitably raised concerns in some quarters: a watchdog agency founded by consumer advocate Ralph Nader, for instance, has asked the US government to investigate neuro-marketing companies on public health grounds. But given the current state of the science, these worries seem premature. Cognitive science is not yet close to explaining or predicting human decision-making in the real world, and even advocates such as Kilts admit that companies need to be more informed about the technology of fMRI if they are to understand its limitations. It is easy to be seduced by colorful pictures of brain activity and to believe that these images are rich in scientific content. But the images are highly processed and cannot be interpreted without a detailed understanding of the analytical methods by which they were generated. Moreover, these images are invariably produced under controlled laboratory conditions, and it is a major leap to extrapolate to a genetically and culturally diverse population of people in an almost infinite variety of real-world situations.”
http://www.fastcompany.com (a rah-rah business website)
What is “neuromarketing” – the odd corner of marketing research NeuroFocus has staked out for itself? Broadly speaking, neuromarketers measure how the brain and body react to certain stimuli, then extrapolate from that information whether an advertisement, brand, product, or package is having its desired effect. Neuromarketers reportedly had a hand in the 2010 midterm elections, with several consulting for Republican candidates. Neurological research has also been used to help market movies.
I have posted often about the false claims of scientific reliability and experimental rigor on the part of the Psych. Industry. I’m not alone.
In 2009, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara performed a curious experiment. In many ways, it was routine — they placed a subject in the brain scanner, displayed some images, and monitored how the subject’s brain responded. The measured brain activity showed up on the scans as red hot spots, like many other neuroimaging studies.
Dead fish do not normally exhibit any kind of brain activity, of course. The study was a tongue-in-cheek reminder of the problems with brain scanning studies. Those colorful images of the human brain found in virtually all news media may have captivated the imagination of the public, but they have also been subject of controversy among scientists over the past decade or so. In fact, neuro-imagers are now debating how reliable brain scanning studies actually are, and are still mostly in the dark about exactly what it means when they see some part of the brain “light up.”
Glitches in reasoning
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures brain activity indirectly by detecting changes in the flow of oxygen-rich blood, or the blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal, with its powerful magnets. The assumption is that areas receiving an extra supply of blood during a task have become more active. Typically, researchers would home in on one or a few “regions of interest,” using ‘voxels,’ tiny cube-shaped chunks of brain tissue containing several million neurons, as their units of measurement.
Early fMRI studies involved scanning participants’ brains while they performed some mental task, in order to identify the brain regions activated during the task. Hundreds of such studies were published in the first half of the last decade, many of them garnering attention from the mass media.
Eventually, critics pointed out a logical fallacy in how some of these studies were interpreted. For example, researchers may find that an area of the brain is activated when people perform a certain task. To explain this, they may look up previous studies on that brain area, and conclude that whatever function it is reported to have also underlies the current task.
Among many examples of such studies were those that concluded people get satisfaction from punishing rule-breaking individuals, and that for mice, pup suckling is more rewarding than cocaine. In perhaps one of the most famous examples, a researcher diagnosed himself as a psychopath by looking at his own brain scan.
These conclusions could well be true, but they could also be completely wrong, because the area observed to be active most likely has other functions, and could serve a different role than that observed in previous studies.
The brain is not composed of discrete specialized regions. Rather, it’s a complex network of interconnected nodes, which cooperate to generate behavior. Thus, critics dismissed fMRI as “neo-phrenology” – after the discredited nineteenth century pseudoscience that purported to determine a person’s character and mental abilities from the shape of their skull – and disparagingly referred to it as ‘blobology.’
When results magically appear out of thin air
In 2009, a damning critique of fMRI appeared in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Initially titled “Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience” and later retitled to “Puzzlingly high correlations in fMRI studies of emotion, personality, and social cognition,” the article questioned the statistical methods used by neuro-imagers. The authors, Ed Vul of University of California in San Diego and his colleagues, examined a handful of social cognitive neuroscience studies, and pointed out that their statistical analyses gave impossibly high correlations between brain activity and behavior.
“It certainly created controversy,” says Tal Yarkoni, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin. “The people who felt themselves to be the target ignored the criticism and focused on the tone, but I think a large subset of the neuroimaging community paid it some lip service.”
Russ Poldrack of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University says that although the problem was more widespread than the paper suggested, many neuro-imagers were already aware of it. “They happened to pick on one part of the literature, but almost everybody was doing it,” he says.
The problem arises from the “circular” nature of the data analysis, Poldrack says. “We usually analyze a couple of hundred thousand voxels in a study,” he says. “When you do that many statistical tests, you look for the ones that are significant, and then choose those to analyze further, but they’ll have high correlations by virtue of the fact that you selected them in the first place.”
Not long after Vul’s paper was published, Craig Bennett and his colleagues published their dead salmon study to demonstrate how robust statistical analyses are key to interpreting fMRI data. When stats are not done well enough, researchers can easily get false positive results – or see an effect that isn’t actually there, such as activity in the brain of a dead fish.
The rise of virtual superlabs
The criticisms drove researchers to do better work— to think more deeply about their data, avoid logical fallacies in interpreting their results, and develop new analytical methods.
At the heart of the matter is the concept of statistical power, which reflects how likely the results are to be meaningful instead of being obtained by pure chance. Smaller studies typically have lower power. An analysis published in 2013 showed that underpowered studies are common in almost every area of brain research. This is specially the case in neuroimaging studies, because most of them involve small numbers of participants.
“Ten years ago I was willing to publish papers showing correlations between brain activity and behavior in just 20 people,” says Poldrack. “Now I wouldn’t publish a study that doesn’t involve at least 50 subjects, or maybe 100, depending on the effect. A lot of other labs have come around to this idea.”
Cost is one of the big barriers preventing researchers from increasing the size of their studies. “Neuroimaging is very expensive. Every lab has a budget and a researcher isn’t going to throw away his entire year’s budget on a single study. Most of the time, there’s no real incentive to do the right thing,” Yarkoni says.
Replication – or repeating experiments to see if the same results are obtained – also gives researchers more confidence in their results. But most journals are unwilling to publish replication experiments, preferring novel findings instead, and the act of repeating someone else’s experiments is seen as aggressive, as if implying they were not done properly in the first place. Confirmation by repeat experiments is vital to the scientific method! This “unwillingness” is a SOCIAL IMPOSITION on the validity of scientific inquiry. We wouldn’t want to hurt the feelings of the researchers, would we? But no one cares about the consequences to the public!
One way around these problems is for research teams to collaborate with each other and pool their results to create larger data sets. One such initiative is the IMAGEN Consortium, which brings together neuro-imaging experts from 18 European research centers, to share their results, integrate them with genetic and behavioral data, and create a publicly available database.
Five years ago, Poldrack started the OpenfMRI project, which has similar aims. “The goal was to bring together data to answer questions that couldn’t be answered with individual data sets,” he says. “We’re interested in studying the psychological functions underlying multiple cognitive tasks, and the only way of doing that is to amass lots of data from lots of different tasks. It’s way too much for just one lab.”
An innovative way of publishing scientific studies, called pre-registration, could also increase the statistical power of fMRI studies. Traditionally, studies are published in scientific journals after they have been completed and peer-reviewed. Pre-registration requires that researchers submit their proposed experimental methods and analyses early on. If these meet the reviewers’ satisfaction, they are published; the researchers can then conduct the experiment and submit the results, which are eventually published alongside the methods.
“The low statistical power and the imperative to publish incentivizes researchers to mine their data to try to find something meaningful,” says Chris Chambers, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cardiff. “That’s a huge problem for the credibility and integrity of the field.”
Chambers is an associate editor at Cortex, one of the first scientific journals to offer pre-registration. As well as demanding larger sample sizes, the format also encourages researchers to be more transparent about their methods.
Many fMRI studies would, however, not be accepted for pre-registration – their design would not stand up to the scrutiny of the first-stage reviewers. “Neuro-imagers say pre-registration consigns their field to a ghetto,” says Chambers. “I tell them they can collaborate with others to share data and get bigger samples.”
Pushing the field forward
Even robust and apparently straight-forward fMRI findings can still be difficult to interpret, because there are still unanswered questions about the nature of the BOLD signal. How exactly does the blood rush to a brain region? What factors affect it? What if greater activation in a brain area actually means the region is working less efficiently?
“What does it mean to say neurons are firing more in one condition than in another? We don’t really have a good handle on what to make of that,” says Yarkoni. “You end up in this uncomfortable situation where you can tell a plausible story no matter what you see.”
To some extent, the problems neuro-imagers face are part of the scientific process, which involves continuously improving one’s methods and refining ideas in light of new evidence. When done properly, the method can be extremely powerful, as the ever-growing number of so-called “mind-reading” and “decoding” studies clearly show.
It’s likely that with incremental improvements in the technology, fMRI results will become more accurate and reliable. In addition, there are a number of newer projects that aim to find other ways to capture brain activity. For example, one group at Massachusetts General Hospital is working on using paramagnetic nanoparticles to detect changes in blood volume in the brain’s capillaries. Such a method would radically enhance the quality of signals and make it possible to detect brain activity in one individual, as opposed to fMRI that requires pooling data from a number of people, according to the researchers. Other scientists are diving even deeper, using paramagnetic chemicals to reveal brain activity at the cell level. If such methods come to fruition, we could find the subtlest activities in the brain, maybe just not in a dead fish.
Report to Congressional Requesters Criminal Alien Statistics, March 2011
Information on Incarcerations, Arrests, and Costs
71 PAGES of statistics and analysis –
One might think that after being yelled at thousands of times by neurosocials, we Asperger types would realize that their stories of pain and frustration (which often are self-imposed; the result of failed actions repeated over and over, or are due to a simple lack of practical or scientific knowledge) are not requests for help. Asperger individuals stupidly persist in offering solutions because it is in our nature to solve problems. If a person describes a situation that is causing them confusion and pain, and if I can unravel a tangle of erroneous beliefs and misinformation that is causing it, why wouldn’t I make the effort? Wake up! This is empathy!
The desire to substantially aid another human being is considered a great defect by neurosocials. Solving problems often requires a change of mind, learning facts and making an effort. Many neurosocials prefer to wait for a miracle.
Asperger people are accused of lacking a Theory of Mind and are told that empathy, compassion, or any ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes is absent from our soulless bodies: The desire to help in ways that produce results is not of value to social humans. The social definition of empathy rejects and excludes rational response and tangible returns. A theater of gestures, facial expressions, words of sympathy, cute balloons and cards are not only preferred, but demanded and scrutinized by the gatekeepers of normal human behavior – Puritanical psychologists who consider their theories (which aren’t actually theories, but dogma), to be the sole measure of human feeling. Some psychologists acknowledge that cognitive empathy does exist, but it doesn’t count toward being an acceptable human being. Hence the label invented by Simon Baron Cohen for Asperger kids: “positive psychopaths.”
These narrow criteria of what it means to be human not only impinge on the freedom of expression of Asperger types, but social typical people are stripped of honest communication by the well-policed forms of interaction that society imposes.
The majority of any population is composed of low ranking children, women, minorities and the poor; this portion of humanity are required to stifle their thoughts and reactions in order to preserve the vastly unequal layers of the social pyramid. “Allowing” people to speak honestly is socially taboo, because honest expression between people confers equality – moreover, solving problems upsets the social pyramid of power.
Politicians don’t answer questions, but deliver canned speeches about “addressing issues” “having meetings” “talking to their advisors” and they are perpetually “about to begin looking into the problem.” They claim to “be listening.” New and thorough problem-solving expeditions are promised, but don’t go anywhere. An example is fervent promises to honor veterans, who have been abandoned by the agencies tasked with “caring” for them.
The ill-treatment of the majority of citizens who occupy the bottom of the social hierarchy, is the source of power at the top. It’s a structural fact: Why would any politician or plutocrat “solve” a problem and put him or herself out of a job? Social typical people are taught that there are no real solutions, only supernatural disappointments. Real action and results are dismissed as more rare than miracles.
There is plenty of shallow emotional empathy floating around: a gesture, a hug, a promise and utterly insincere pledges of support – a word devoid of meaning. When Asperger people don’t perform social charades, we’re effectively exiled by those who claim to know who is normal: after all, the condition called “normal” is the powerful coercive invention of the predators at the top of the pyramid.
More than 60 of the studies did not hold up.
The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences.
Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.
The vetted studies were considered part of the core knowledge by which scientists understand the dynamics of personality, relationships, learning and memory. Therapists and educators rely on such findings to help guide decisions, and the fact that so many of the studies were called into question could sow doubt in the scientific underpinnings of their work.
Dr. John Ioannidis, a director of Stanford University’s Meta-Research Innovation Center, who once estimated that about half of published results across medicine were inflated or wrong, noted the proportion in psychology was even larger than he had thought. He said the problem could be even worse in other fields, including cell biology, economics, neuroscience, clinical medicine, and animal research.
The report appears at a time when the number of retractions of published papers is rising sharply in a wide variety of disciplines. Scientists have pointed to a hypercompetitive culture across science that favors novel, sexy results and provides little incentive for researchers to replicate the findings of others, or for journals to publish studies that fail to find a splashy result.