Six more wonderful things (Cognition Tuesday)

April 7, 2009

1. Soldiers’ Stress: What Doctors Get Wrong about PTSD

Because this is too plausible:

PTSD critic Ben Shephard [asserts] that American society itself gained something from the creation of the PTSD diagnosis in the late 1970s: a vision of war’s costs that, by transforming warriors into victims, lets us declare our recognition of war’s horror and absolves us for sending them for we were victimized, too, fooled into supporting a war we later regretted. We should recognize war’s horror. We should feel the soldier’s pain. But to impose on a distressed soldier the notion that his memories are inescapable, that he lacks the strength to incorporate his past into his future, is to highlight our moral sensitivity at the soldier’s expense.

2. A Wiring Diagram in the Brain for Depression

Because this is such a good lede, it makes me wish I had followed up when I had the chance:

When Helen Mayberg started curing depression by stimulating a previously unknown neural junction box in a brain area called Brod­mann’s area 25—discovered through 20 years of dogged research—people asked her where she was going to look next. Her reaction was, “What do you mean, Where am I going to look next? I’m going to look more closely here!”

3. The Serious Need for Play

Because I would never have guessed:

[E]vidence indicates that [unstructured or “free”] play is evolutionarily quite ancient. Rats that have had their neocortex removed—a large brain region that is involved in higher-order thinking such as conscious thought and decision making—still engage in normal play, which suggests that play motivation comes from the brain stem, a structure that precedes the evolution of mammals.

4. Evolution of the Mind: 4 Fallacies of Psychology

Because in Cryptonomicon we’re told that the German Japanese expression for Shaftoe’s Goto Dengo’s opiate addiction translates most literally to “morphine seeky“:  

Evolutionary neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp of Bowling Green State University has identified seven emotional systems in humans that originated deeper in our evolutionary past than the Pleistocene. The emotional systems that he terms Care, Panic and Play date back to early primate evolutionary history, whereas the systems of Fear, Rage, Seeking and Lust have even earlier, premammalian origins.

5. A bad taste in your mouth – moral outrage has origins in physical disgust

Because the evolutionary plot thickens:

Hanah Chapman from the University of Toronto has found that both physical and moral disgust cause the levator labii muscles, which run from your eyes to your mouth, to contract. The result: you wrinkle your nose and you purse your lips. Nasty tastes, gross photos and foul play all cause the same physical reaction and the same subjective emotions. When people say that moral transgressions “leave a bad taste in your mouth”, it’s more than just a pretty metaphor.

6. “Just smile, you’ll feel better!” Will you? Really?

Because science is hard and incremental, and suspension of disbelief is probably useful for jurors, movie watchers and psych study volunteers, at a minimum:

In 1988 a team led by Fritz Strack came up with a brilliant cover story that allowed them to manipulate facial expressions without the research participants’ awareness. The researchers told participants that they were studying adaptations for people who had lost the use of their hands. Such individuals would need to use their mouths to hold pencils for writing, or to use a television remote.

The take home: smiling is like shifting happiness into 4th gear. So where does that leave Lilly Allen?


2 Responses to “Six more wonderful things (Cognition Tuesday)”

  1. Patrick Says:

    It was Sgt. Shaftoe, not Dengo, that had the morphine addiction. And the translation was from German, not Japanese.

    For the record.

  2. JR Minkel Says:

    Thanks, Patrick.

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