Tag Archive: behaviour

That Loving Feeling: The Science Behind Attraction

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What is love? It’s a hard enough question to contemplate, let alone answer. We all know what it feels like; flushed cheeks, clammy hands and a racing heartbeat are all sure fire signs that cupid’s arrow has struck home. But what about the science behind the emotion. How exactly is that loving feeling created, and just what are the physiological and psychological triggers behind it?… THE PHYSIOLOGY: Although research is still in its infancy, a number of hormones have been identified as key regulators in the development of love. To begin with, the brain and adrenal glands begin to pump out prodigious amounts of dopamine, which enhances testosterone release. Dopamine itself acts on various organs, including the genitals and the sweat glands, to produce those physically embarrassing effects of attraction that we all know so well. It also influences the senses, causing a shift in mood and emotions, which leads to feelings of increased energy, excitement and happiness. Meanwhile, testosterone continues …

Victory Is Bitter Sweet

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They are often cited as the one creature likely to survive in the event of all out-nuclear war. But it seems that the lowly cockroach has now found a brand new way to survive. American scientists have discovered that a strain of European cockroach has managed to completely reorganize its sense of ‘taste’. Instead of being attracted to the ‘sweet’ glucose used in traps around the continent, these intrepid little bugs perceive the bait as bitter. The phenomenon was first noted over two decades ago, when pest controllers reported a failure to eradicate the roaches because the insects were stubbornly refusing to eat the bait. Subsequent scientific studies have confirmed these anecdotal observations. When offered a choice between sweet jam or the more savoury peanut butter, hungry cockroaches from the mutant strain showed a much greater aversion to the glucose rich jam, physically jumping back when contact was established. The neural mechanism behind the response was identified using tiny electrodes to …

Phobias and society

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I’m sure all of us are a little afraid of something; be it something small, something big or even something exceptionally common. Take Arachnophobia for example: research shows that 50% of all women in the US suffer from the fear of spiders, and it’s the most common phobia in the UK. However, not one species of native UK spider is classified as deadly. So we have to ask ourselves, in general, are phobias rational or irrational? It was Walter Bradford Cannon who first coined the term ‘fight or flight’. Cannon was a physiologist who studied the response of animals when faced with an immediate threat. As well as acceleration of heart rate, increased breathing and loss of peripheral vision, the body releases a series of hormones (including adrenaline and noradrenaline) to prepare itself for danger. Now, as humans, we’ve evolved from our prehistoric roots; we no longer face the terrible dangers of times past, yet we still undergo that same fight or flight …

A Question Of Faith

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  To say religion is a contentious issue may qualify as a serious contender for understatement of the millennium. The Western World in particular has experienced a greater number of religious scandals in recent years, along with a growing and more vocal secular movement. But religion is not a recent phenomenon and, from Aristotle to Aquinas, has always been at the forefront of attempts to explain our existence. It is only relatively recently, with the advent of modern scientific discovery, that these traditional modes of faith have been challenged by a new and empirical worldview. And yet, faith and religion continue to hold a prominent place in the hearts and minds of billions of people across the globe. So just what is it that makes them such attractive concepts, and why are they so prevalent throughout human culture? What’s immediately clear, is that the origins of our obsession with faith are mired deep in evolutionary history. Indeed, it all seems …

Bad Boys…

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When we think of science we like to imagine dedicated men and women laboring intensely for one grand and noble aim; the pursuit of knowledge. But unfortunately, the scientific spirit has not always been quite so pure. History shows that there have been many evil empiricists who were willing to abandon all ethical considerations in pursuit of their own twisted aims. So, just who are science’s top 5 bad boys? Let’s take a look… 5) Scientist: Sidney Gottlieb, Experiment: MKULTRA The fact that Gottlieb’s unofficial moniker was ‘Dr Feelgood’ may give you some indiciation about his particular field of scientific misadventure. An American military psychiatrist with a PhD in chemistry, Gottlieb worked with the CIA during the Cold War. Displaying an extraordinary single mindedness, he tended to prefer to solve all problems by simply poisoning the offending party. He was the mastermind behind the plot to place thallium in the soles of Fidel Castro’s shoes. A potent depilatory, the thallium was supposed …

Dinosaurs in bed – the cigarette after

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In my last post, I wrote about the biomechanical issue surrounding sexual activity amongst the saurpod dinosaurs (the really big, long necked ones) and those with spiny backs. In today’s post, I’s like to consider some of the solutions which have been offered. Of those who have considered the problem, as we have seen, many initially suggested that they did it doggie-style, but copulating in this position, as we saw last time presents all manner of biomechanical and hydraulic problems. Some animals, particularly birds, do not engage in penetrative sex, but rather perform what is anthropomorphically known as a cloacal kiss: that is to say, no penis is, strictly speaking, necessary, and the sperm is exchanged during a brief period at the climax – as it were – of the mating ritual. The big problem here is trying to work out how Mr. Dino manage to get his cloaca anywhere near that of Mrs. Dino, since they both had great big fat and rather stiff tails? It has even been suggested …

Book Review: In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw

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In Defence of Dogs Author: John Bradshaw Published: 5 July 2012 Publisher: Penguin Summary: Illuminating but, at times, a little too academic. One of the most widely held views of dog training is based on two scientific observations. Firstly, that dogs share 99.96% of their DNA with the grey wolves from which they’re descended, and secondly, that captive wolves housed in enclosures quarrel and fight until a particular individual is crowned dominant. These two notions have led to the popularisation of the ‘dominance model’ of domestic dog training, an ideology that encourages owners to continuously assert their authority on their furry companion in order to establish themselves as the superior, or alpha. However, anthrozoologist Dr John Bradshaw has a bone to pick with the dominance model of dog training, and In Defence of Dogs is where he presents his arguments. Bradshaw’s objections are compelling: he notes that, unlike the zoos in which a random assemblage of unrelated wolves are forced into an …

Bookworms mimic their heroes

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It has recently come to light that bookworms may actually absorb personality traits from their favourite characters. That’s not to say that, after a few chapters of Harry Potter, readers have inexplicably found themselves donning a mighty beard and waving a pink umbrella around (although I’m sure there’s a fair bit of that going on at most Halloween parties these days), the results seem to be lot more subtle than that. Researchers at Ohio State University examined a process known as ‘experience-taking’, a phenomenon that sees readers experiencing the emotions, thoughts and values of fictional characters in the books they’re reading. The researchers found that, after participants (all students of the university) had read a story in which a central character overcame obstacles in order to vote, said participants were much more likely to vote in a real world election several days later. Interestingly, experience-taking only seems to work when readers are able to forget about and forgo their own self-identity whilst reading. …

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