In a recent study, researchers looked at people between the ages of 60 and 94 to see the effects of a cognitive program which developed their inductive reasoning skills. Inductive reasoning is the ability to make useful generalisations on the basis of observations. The researchers found that the program effectively improved the inductive reasoning skills of the subjects compared to a control group. The researchers also found that a measure of one personality trait – openness – had changed at the end of the intervention. This was a small change but still significant and challenges the hypothesis that personality remains unchanged in later life. However the changes were small and it would be interesting to see the results of replication studies in this area.
Researchers investigating early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease have found a new association with the SORL 1 gene which codes for a protein involved in the production of Beta-Amyloid peptide which is thought to play a cental role in the pathology of Alzheimer’s Disease according to the Amyloid Cascade Hypothesis.
Actor Richard Dreyfuss recently talked about living with Bipolar Disorder in an interview here.
There’s an interesting paper on the Clock Drawing test. This is a very useful clinical test used in the assessment of cognition. In this moderately sized study, the researchers looked at people with right-sided brain injury. Compared to controls, this group tended to draw elliptical clocks and clocks that were smaller. One particularly interesting finding was that the further away from the centre of the paper the brain injured subjects drew the clock, the smaller the clock was. This fits with a hypothesis that injury to the right side of the brain impacts on the ability to graphically reconstruct images from memory.
A new Open-Access Journal e-Life is being started up and already generating a lot of interest following the success of PLOS One.
Archaeologists excavating a cave in South Africa have identified the remains of controlled fires dating back to 1 million years ago. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The likely candidate for producing these fires is Homo Erectus thought to be one of our early ancestors. Fire production enables the cooking of food and there has been one theory of how this might relate to hominid brain development (although this is controversial). Controlled fire production facilitated a number of other behaviours however and was certainly a landmark event. If you look at the behaviours of Chimpanzees and Bonobos as well as many of the other Greater Apes there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that they are intelligent creatures manifesting considerable flexibility in their behavioural and (possibly phenomenological) repertoire. The question that now remains is just how far back along the 6 million year divergence from our Greater Ape cousins did controlled fire production extend?
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