This week on Picks: mother's experiences before birth affect offspring, psychology IS a science, near-death cognitive experiences, the weird case of antidepressants, inside the mind of a killer whale.


Forewarned is Fore-armed: Crickets Exposed to Predators Have More Cautious Offspring by Sedeer el-Showk

Organisms respond to their environment in a variety of ways, and natural selection operates by preserving the variations best suited to surviving and reproducing in a particular environment. In some cases, however, the environment itself acts to shape the next generation. One example is the fall field cricket (Gryllus pennsylvanicus); in 2010, a pair of researchers at Indiana State University showed that young G. pennsylvanicus develop differently depending on whether or not their mother was exposed to predation.

Psychology’s brilliant, beautiful, scientific messiness by Melanie Tannenbaum

Today, sitting down to my Twitter feed, I saw a new link to Dr. Alex Berezow’s old piece on why psychology cannot call itself a science. The piece itself is over a year old, but seeing it linked again today brought up old, angry feelings that I never had the chance to publicly address when the editorial was first published. Others, like Dave Nussbaum, have already done a good job of dismantling the critiques in this article [...]

Could a final surge in brain activity after death explain near-death experiences? by Mark Stokes

Can neuroscience shed light on one of life's biggest mysteries - death? In a new study just published in PNAS, researchers observed a surge of brain activity just moments before death. This raises the fascinating possibility that they have identified the neural basis for near death experiences.

We don't know if antidepressants work, so stop bashing them by Pete Etchells

Lately, it seems as if everyone is anti-antidepressants. In a recent CiF article, Giles Fraser bemoaned the apparent need to treat anything vaguely resembling unhappiness with a pill. Just a week earlier, Will Self launched a scathing attack on psychiatry along similar lines.

Scientists make ‘impossible material’ … by accident by Andrew Bissette

Researchers in Uppsala, Sweden accidentally left a reaction running over the weekend and ended up resolving a century-old chemistry problem. Their work has led to the development of a new material, dubbed Upsalite, with remarkable water-binding properties. Upsalite promises to find applications in everything from humidity control at home to chemical manufacturing in industry.

The Case of the Heterodox Fox: Bergmann’s Rule North and South of the Equator by Anne-Marie Hodge

Ecology is a mind-bogglingly complex field. As such, ecologists make few "rules"--they're more like "tentative tenets." Nature presents an exception for nearly everything, so even "rules" are often framed less as absolute laws and more as hypotheses to continue testing.

Hide and Seek by Tania Browne

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are all very well as long as you have all the relevant information to compile them. But what if you don't? What if some trials, or even just some data from particular trials, is missing?

Inside the mind of a killer whale: A Q+A with the neuroscientist from ‘Blackfish’ by Aviva Hope Rutkin

Two weeks ago, I saw ‘Blackfish’, the fascinating new documentary about killer whales in captivity. Here’s the trailer. I enjoyed the movie, but it left me with questions. A lot of questions. Neuroscience questions. What makes whales different from other animals? How do whales perceive humans? What did the filmmakers mean when they said that killer whales have a wide range of emotions? How smart are these animals, really? So I called up Lori Marino, a neuroscientist prominently featured in ‘Blackfish’, and asked her to satiate my curiosity.


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