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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 28,543

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Study: Reward and Punishment in the Brain (And its relationship to depression)


"In a recent study, scientists looked at the brain with high resolution fMRI scanning while they showed subjects pictures. Following each picture was a painful electric shock, or a money reward, or no response, or a random response. Subjects quickly learned which pictures would be followed by which stimuli – positive, negative, neutral, or unpredictable.

Scientists do this sort of thing not because they like to torture people but to study the brain’s response. In this case they were particularly interested in a small deep structure called the habenula. What they found, for the first time in humans but consistent with prior animal research, is that the habenula would light up when subjects saw a picture that would be followed by a shock, and the activity in the habenula increased the more certain the subjects were that negative stimuli were following.

The researchers conclude that the habenula is a critical structure for the processing of negative stimuli, in fact it seems to be the hub of the neural network involved in learning to anticipate negative stimuli.


Specifically this helps us understand the neuroanatomical correlates of predicting negative outcomes. In animal research, hyperactivity in the habenula has been associated with depressive behavior. Further, deep brain stimulation of this structure has been used to treat depressive symptoms.



I just found this all the more interesting in light of recent events.

Take care.

EFSA rejects French move to ban GM crop in Europe


Science 1 - Political Silliness (well, I'm sure it's still in the lead) ...

Professor: What exactly is this mythical pristine alternative to GMOs that presents no risks?


Half Of Americans Believe In Medical Conspiracy Theories



Half of Americans subscribe to medical conspiracy theories, with more than one-third of people thinking that the Food and Drug Administration is deliberately keeping natural cures for cancer off the market because of pressure from drug companies, a survey finds.

Twenty percent of people said that cellphones cause cancer — and that large corporations are keeping health officials from doing anything about it. And another 20 percent think doctors and the government want to vaccinate children despite knowing that vaccines cause autism.


Oliver was studying political conspiracy theories when he realized that quite a few of them involved medical care, including vaccine avoidance and a vote rejecting water fluoridation in Portland, Ore.


Three other theories were each supported by 12 percent of people surveyed. They were that the CIA deliberately infected African-Americans with HIV, that genetically modified foods are a conspiracy to reduce population worldwide and that companies use water fluoridation to cover up pollution.


I know this has been discussed before, but it seems like these conspiracy theories keep popping up, again and again.


Another piece the debunks Shiva's usual deceptive claims.


Persistent Anti-GMO Myths by Steven Novella


"One persistent theme in my writing about scientific topics is that, to optimally serve our own interests, public discourse and decision-making on issues that are highly scientific should be informed by the best evidence and scientific analysis available, not on lies, myths, misconceptions, or raw ideology. I am therefore attracted to topics where I think the myth to fact ratio is particularly high.

Genetically modified organisms (GMO) is one such issue. The propaganda machine seems to be way out in front of the more sober voices trying to correct the record and focus the discussion on reality. I also see GMO as the ideological flip side to global warming denial. In the latter case we seen industry and free-market ideologues sowing confusion and misinformation. They also do the ideology shuffle – a dance in which, whenever they are nailed by the facts on one point, they state that their objection is really based on some other point. They never really acknowledge the point, just side-step it.

Anti-GMO activists, in my experience, operate the same way. They have marshaled every possible point they can against GMO, whether or not they are true or valid. When one such point is exposed as a myth, they simply slide over to some other point as their “real” motivation for opposition, but never give any ground.


Like any new powerful technology, GMO needs to be studied, monitored, and regulated, which it is. I do not agree with arguments that it is inherently risky, even transgenic GMO, and so far the technology has proven extremely safe. Cries of Frankenfood and impending environmental disaster are little more than ideologically driven fearmongering.


Novella does a good job covering many of the usual anti-GMO attacks, as well. It's a good read.



"On the 1st of August, an article was published on Common Dreams titled 'The Fine Print of the Food Wars'. This letter was penned by none other than pseudoscience heavy weight and the remarkably effective anti-science troll Vandana Shiva. And before we can truly get into the track record of this woman, let's start taking a look at the article in detail.

The first thing that struck me as odd was how loaded the title was. Chronicling the woo of the world, you get to see some impressively titled pieces of crap, but this one was nefariously loaded. Attributing a 'fine print' to the topic immediately places the reader as an outsider from some type of bureaucratic red tape and insinuating a complexity that doesn't exist. It de-humanizes whatever it is we're to be discussing. Secondly is the topic: 'Food Wars'. That word, war, is utilized by the anti-science chemophobic Luddite crowd quite often. It polarizes the discussion about our agricultural practices into two camps, disallowing for any possibility of a middle path of compromise and discussion.


In the very first two paragraphs, Shiva pulls out an old tactic, making the case that genetically engineered seeds are the only ones patented. In fact, almost all seeds for large scale agriculture are patented; GMO, conventional and organic. As well, she lumps in the technology with Monsanto, despite there being many different producers of GE crops, some of which are competitors in the field. This is especially troubling given Vandana Shiva rather quickly mirrored Mike Adams (owner of Natural News) famous article comparing Monsanto to Nazis and calling for the death of scientists and journalists. (although she took it down once it was apparent people were less than thrilled with the notion of opposition extermination).


She also makes it a point to mention that she was appointed as an expert to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and helped to create Article 19.3. She does this because her entire career depends on legitimizing herself despite almost everything she publishes or says in public forums is either hideously distorted from available facts, or just made-up.


I really hate to have to point out the reality that someone is a huckster, but, in this case, it appears to be needed. Shiva is not someone to be trusted. She has made that very clear, over and over again.



"Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon that is occurring, and causing much fear, wherein the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is suffering huge numbers of lost worker bees from colonies abruptly and without a seemingly evident reason.

While much scientific research is being conducted to try and understand CCD, the fearmongers have taken it upon themselves to whip up alarm in the public and come up with many claims as to why it is occurring; however many of these claims are not only not backed up by solid science, but betray an ideological bent to the proponents of the claims.


There is no doubt that CCD exists, and there are many theories as to why. I mentioned the varroa destructor mite earlier for a reason as this appears to have some of the best evidence for being one of the causes of CCD. As you can see in the first graph, bee populations started to decline right around when this and other parasites were introduced.

This isn't to say CCD is a simple phenomenon with a single cause, it is an extremely complex problem that is still being studied and research by scientists around the world. However things that are not helping are fear mongers who, often blinded by ideology, blame "chemicals" and "frankenfood" and scream that the world is coming to an end. It isn't and by scarring the public you are not helping, you are hindering progress.


A very good assessment of the full picture. This perspective is truly valuable, if one actually wants to figure out what is going on with bees.

How Scare Tactics on GMO Foods Hurt Everybody


Anti-GMO claim examined: Does genetic engineering foster monoculture?

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