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Nearly Naked Apes

Humans are weird mammals. We have enormous brains, we live long lives, and we constantly walk upright. But perhaps one of our most unique features is our hairlessness. No other mammals, aside from subterranean naked mole-rats and marine-living species, exhibit this trait. Generally, we think that mammals with missing hair are sick, like a dog […]

Understanding the Evolution of Human Handedness

Chances are that if you are reading this you are right-handed. If you are not, you’re one of roughly 10% of the population that is left-handed. Or you may identify as ambidextrous. That is, you use both hands with a similar frequency, dexterity, and precision. We call the regular use of one hand manual laterality. […]

Sound Science: 25 years after the Valdez oil spill, biologists in Prince William Sound are studying the slow herring recovery

In the early hours of March 24, 1989, a large tanker went aground on Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of oil into this thriving ecosystem. The historically important herring and roe fisheries were among many commercial species under threat in the sound. Pacific herring has been a critical subsistence […]

Using the brain to map our understanding of ‘person-space’

A 2-D ‘map’ of the similarity between brain activity patterns elicited when thinking about different famous people. Closer people elicit more similar neural patterns in participants. Like maps of Earth, this projection is imperfect – more than two dimensions are necessary to capture reality. The accuracy of the placement of points increases with point size. […]

Intuition for other people’s emotional dynamics

A network diagram with arrows between mental states indicating which transitions are viewed as likely (>75%) by participants. Arrowheads indicate the direction(s) of transition between states. The size of each state’s circle is proportional to self-reported frequency of that state’s occurrence. Colored clusters of states arise from application of a community-detection algorithm – the names […]

Reading genomes with machine learning

The human genome comprises 3 billion nucleotides of information that outline how to construct and continue to live as a human. ~2% of those nucleotides code for proteins, which perform the bulk of the work to be done in the cell. The remaining 98% contains instructions for where and when to turn those proteins on […]

Self-control as value-based choice

The usual way that laypeople and researchers alike think about self-control is as a battle between “hot” impulsive forces, such as craving, and “cold” calculating ones, such as a distant goal to be healthy. But research has not consistently supported that hot-cold dichotomy. For example, the hot and cold processes are not always opposed to one another during self-control, […]

Meditation reduces pain, and blocking opioid receptors makes that effect even stronger!

Describe your research and the big picture problem or puzzle it addresses. Over the last 10 years, a series of well-designed laboratory studies using pain induction and healthy meditation practitioners have shown that meditation can be helpful for dealing with pain. When meditators are given the same kind of stimulation and pain is compared before vs. […]

Using spectroscopy to identify the bugs that make (or spoil) wine

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the ‘sugar mold,’ is used to convert sugar to alcohol in wine and beer fermentation. In the wine business, it is a common refrain that “the wine is made in the vineyard.” This is meant to suggest that good wine ultimately relies on good grapes. It’s not clear that this maxim is true, […]

“Social pain?” Not in the brain

Describe your research and the big picture problem or puzzle it addresses. Rejection stings, right? The social pain hypothesis says that same biology for processing social exclusion also handles physical pain. Some evidence for this comes from fMRI studies of social exclusion finding that brain regions involved in social exclusion overlap with the regions that […]