Volume 2, Number 2 Spring, 1989
Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121, E-mail CHARLESL@CARLETON.BITNET.
EDITORIAL: LET'S GET TOGETHER!
You will be happy to hear that the network is growing by leaps and bounds. Thanks to our announcement in the Triple-A's Anthropology Newsletter a new wave of letters have been received from people wanting to participate. Thus far the rolls are up to 23 full members and 37 adjunct members (total 60 members). The number of members on e-mail now stands at 13. And the countries represented, besides the USA and Canada, are Japan, South Africa, France, Netherlands, Austria, Israel, the USSR and Hungary. As soon as the responses settle down a bit, I will send out a fresh edition of the Directory . If you have not yet received your copy of the first edition of the Directory , please write me.
As some of you are already aware, Lee Blonder from the University of Florida College of Medicine has put together a session on neuroanthropology for the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (see below). The meetings will be held in Washington, D.C. in November. She has kindly agreed to host a wine and cheese reception for the network in her hotel room on the evening of the day the session is scheduled ( Este Armstrong also offered her house for the event). We do not yet know the date of the session, but we will get that information to you when we have it. Hope to see you there. We will continue to look for oportunities for the network to get together, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
You will notice that several of the pieces in this issue of the NNN feature information about brain collections that may be used for research. I deliberately sought these out as a theme for this issue. If you know of any other collections that may be of use to students and professionals, I would invite you to either write them up and send them in for a later issue, or give me a name and I will contact them.
There are other themes of general interest to the network I would like to cover (with your help) in up-coming issues: First, it would be valuable to pool our experiences on the strategies, materials, and course designs some of us may have used in teaching neuroanthropology, either within a neuroscience curriculum or an anthro-pological one. If you have taught neuroanthropology in some fashion, would you please write me a letter in the next month or so letting me know what you have taught, how you have gone about it, the materials and texts you have used, any problems you have encountered, successes and failures along the way?
Second, and of corollary interest would be short descriptions of current graduate research going on in the general area of neuro-anthropology, so if you could put me onto any grad students doing that kind of work, I will ask them to describe their work for us.
And third, I would like to establish an on-going column recounting the history of neuroanthropology; that is, the history of anthropological interest, theory, research, teaching, etc. relative to matters neurophysiological. Those of us who have had intimate involvement in the topic could take turns writing short pieces relating what we know about the development of neuroanthropological issues and pursuits. Not only would such material be of general interest, it would establish a historical data base on the matter. I just read a book purporting to be about the history of physical anthro-pology and it says scarcely a word about interest in the evolution of the brain. I would like to see us set the record straight! Who would like to go first?
Now, I have to add that so far no one has sent in an unsolicited mini-article, book review or report for inclusion in the NNN . Don't be timid! This is your vehicle for expression. Feel free to send in material, even if it is as informal as a letter. Otherwise, this newsletter might get to look like the world according to Charlie Laughlin -- perish the thought.
I want to take this oportunity to thank Dr. Marilyn Marshall , our new Dean of Social Sciences here at Carleton University, for her generous financial support of our network publications. She has made it possible to continue this newsletter and the Directory throughout the 1989-90 academic year without charging a membership fee.
PROFILE IN RESEARCH:
ESTE ARMSTRONG ANDTHE YAKOVLEV COLLECTION
Este Armstrong is currently Distinguished Scientist with the Yakovlev Collection at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C. 20306-6000, USA, Ph: (202) 576-2929. Prior to her move to the Yakovlev Collection in July 1987 to head up the research efforts, her research had been focused on analyzing adult primates to determine the role of parameters like metabolism in producing relative brain size and evolutionary changes in different thalamic nuclei, and especially structures within the Papez circuit that are enlarged in the human brain. The latter nuclei contrast with other nuclei which have not enlarged as much as the whole brain has enlarged.
At the moment she is looking at the ontogeny of these nuclei and hopes to determine the role that neoteny may have played in human evolution. In addition, questions arising out of a correlation between the size of the anterior thalamus and social organization (species that usually live in single-male troops versus those that typically live in multi-male groups) continues to interest her. Is a particular behavior or a developmental event responsible for this association? Could one of these groups have a slower neural ontogeny than the other? How many of the limbic nuclei scale differently according to social organization? And how do these shifts effect the role of the limbic system in labelling different sensory stimuli?
These questions, among others, led her to the Yakovlev Collection. This is a rich and exciting collection of whole human brains that have been processed (serially sectioned and stained) as a single unit. Given the large size of the human brain, this has been a difficult task. It is the brain child of Dr. Paul Yakovlev who originally trained as a psychiatrist, but who felt that treatment was impeded by not knowing about the neural tissues involved in pathology. He started the collection and, quite naturally considering his interests, focused on pathological specimens. However, a need for normal controls led to the acquisition of brains from patients who had died without any known neurological problems.
These brains are of major interest for neurologically-minded anthropologists and they range in age from embryos and fetuses to adults in their 90's. At the moment there are 186 normal brains in the collection, and of these, 33 are embryos/fetuses to 20 gestational weeks, 44 are stillborn/neonates to 50 gestational weeks, 49 are newborn/infants to one year of age, 10 are children to 10 years of age, and the rest are adults of varying ages.
In order to be able to study the many different parts of the brain, brains are sectioned in one of three planes: coronal, horizontal or sagittal. All the brains have been serially sectioned at 35um. Generally every 20th section has been stained with a Nissl stain for neural perikarya and a myelin stain for fiber tracts. Clinical histories are available for both the normal and diseased brains. Unfortunately certain biologically interesting parameters, such as body weight, are usually not part of the data base.
In addition to the human material, some nonhuman primate brains are also available for study. Again the normal controls for the experimental animals will be of most use to anthro-pologists. There are many rhesus monkeys and a couple of great apes. Dr. Armstrong also brought some of her own nonhuman primate material which she is willing to share on the same basis as the Yakovlev Collection.
The collection is equipped with many microscopes, drawing tubes, overhead projectors, a photomicroscope and two computerized image analyzers. The collection and its equipment can be used by visiting scientists and students, but no slides may leave the collection. To use the collection one should write to Mr. Mohamad Haleem, Curator, Yakovlev Collection, AFIP, Washington, D.C., 20306, USA. He schedules visiting users so that everyone can have access to the material.
Students who would be interested in gaining experience in image-analysis and other morphometric techniques by joining on-going projects should write to Dr. Armstrong at the same address. Current projects include a comparative analysis of rhesus monkey and human development in limbic and sensory nuclei and in the development of cortical gyri. Collaborative projects with senior investigators are also possible. Dr. Armstrong hopes in the future to be able to send out images on Bernoulli box disks and to make their images compatible with those of other major brands.
Este Armstrong is co-editor (with D. Falk) of Primate Brain Evolution (NY: Plenum, 1982). A selection of her papers is as follows: "Relative Brain Size and Metabolism in Mammals." Science 220:1302-1304 (1983); "Allometric Considerations of the Adult Mammalian Brain with Special Emphasis on Primates." in Advances in Primatology (ed. by W.L. Jungers, NY: Plenum, 1984). Unpublished co-authored papers from Yakovlev Collection research: "The Degree of Cortical Folding in Primate Brains;" "The Ontogeny of Cortical Folding in the Human Brain;" "Gyrification in Rhesus Monkeys;" "Human Patterns of Cortical Folding."
NEUROANTHRO SESSION AT THE TRIPLE-A
As noted in the editorial above, Lee X. Blonder (University of Florida College of Medicine) has put together a session on neuroanthropology for the 1989 annual meetings of the American Anthro-pological Association in Washington, D.C. The title of the session is EXPLORING THE INTERFACE OF MIND, CULTURE, AND NEUROBIOLOGY , and Dr. Blonder describes the theme of the session in this way: Although a biocultural approach to the study of human health and behavior has become widespread in recent years, anthropologists rarely consider the integration of biological and cultural processes at the level of the mind. The purpose of this session is (a) to examine the philosophical and theoretical constructs which underly anthropological concepts of culture, biology, and mind; and (b) to discuss the contribution of the brain to mental processes, including language, memory, emotions, belief, and mate selection.
The session will include ten presentations and one discussant. The presentations will be as follows: Este Armstrong (Yakovlev Collection) "The Limbic System and Culture," Harold Dibble (Pennsylvania) "Archeological Evidence for the Evolution of Human Behavior During the Pleistocene," Soloman H. Katz (Pennsylvania) and David F. Armstrong (Gallaudet) "Language and Longevity: A Test Case for a Theory of Coevolution," Ward H. Goodenough (Pennsylvania) "Evolution of the Human Capacity for Beliefs," Horst D. Steklis (Rutgers) "Free-Will, Biology and Human Behavior," Charles Laughlin (Carleton U.) "Pre- and Perinatal Brain Development and the Beginnings of Enculturation: A Biogenetic Structural Account," Lee X. Blonder (Florida) "Brain and Language Relations in Cross-Linguistic Perspective," Paul Kay (UC Berkeley) "Biocultural Implications of Systems of Color Naming," Allan Burns (Florida) "Sociolinguistics, Culture, and Aphasia," and Carolyn Behrman (Pennsylvania) and Sarah Strauss (Pennsylvania) "The Body as Mind's Other." The discussant will be Nancy Scheper-Hughes (UC Berkeley). Further information on the session will be published in a later issue. Anyone wishing to communicate with Lee Blonder about the session may do so care of the Department of Neurology, University of Florida College of Medicine, Box J-236, JHMHC, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA, Ph: (904) 392-3491.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
ZECHARIA DOR-SHAV , Ph.D. wrote to say that he is planning a one-semester sabbatical leave for the fall semester. He is an Israeli and must look for some earnings to supplement his regular salary. He is both a rabbi and a senior lecturer at the School of Education, and is the director of the Institute for Research and Advancement in Religious Education at Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. His address is Sderot Eshkol 20/24, Jerusalem, Israel 97764, Ph: Work 03-5318710, Home 02-810655, E-mail: F45034@BARILAN.BITNET.
Dr. Dor-Shav is interested in cognitive processes and cultural differences, self-identity, development of empathy and development of religious concepts. At the moment he is finishing a chapter entitled "Cognitive Ability, Biological Psychology and Jewish Sub-Culture" for J. Berry and P. Schmitz (eds.), Theory of Psychological Differentiation: An Appreciation of Witkin's Influence on Psychology . Other papers of his include "Jewish Culture and Sex Differences in Psychological Different-iation," Journal of Social Psychology 124: 15-25 (1984) and "Sex Differences in Psychological Differentiation as Affected by Jewish Culture, Sex Hormone Level and Laterality of Brain Functioning" (manuscript).
Dr. Dor-Shav is a member of the network, and anyone wishing to help him out should communicate with him directly.
BRAIN DEVELOPMENT IN Macaca nemestrina
We are preparing slide sets of brains of age-dated pigtail macaque monkey ( Macaca nemestrina ) fetuses taken at approximately 10-day intervals from postconception day E50 to E166 (term at E170). The brains are embedded in celloidin and stained for Nissl substance and myelin. Shrinkage caused by tissue processing is carefully measured and reference markers permit three-dimensional reconstruction. Using computer-assisted morphometric analysis, we measured the volume growth of the major brain divisions for the fetal period. The excellent fit of the data to regression lines and equations indicates that the fetuses were on normal growth trajectories and that the timing of conception was reasonably accurate. We are now analyzing the volume growth of visual and cerebellar structures.
The slide collection consists of 37 fetal specimens, four infants, and three adults. In addition, we have about 100 formalin-fixed brains from animals aged 30 days postconception to 25 years. Somatic measures were taken on many of the animals and other organs were weighed and stored. This material may be used by qualified invest-igators. Those wishing information about the collection should contact June L. De Vito , Ph.D., Regional Primate Research Center, SJ 50, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA 98195, Ph: Work (206) 543-2456, Home (206) 486-5316.
COMPARATIVE MAMMALIAN BRAIN COLLECTION
The normal comparative brain collection of the Neuro-physiology Department, Uni-versity of Wisconsin, is an invaluable, essentially irreplaceable collection of stained and mounted whole brains of over 100 species of mammals, and includes members of 52 mammalian families and 16 orders. This library of brains is a unique educational and research resource for neuroanatomists, neuro-physiologists, neuroanthro-pologists and other neuroscientists.
It should be emphasized that this is a collection of normal brains, primarily of adult animals, but also including ontogenetic series for the albino rat, domestic cat and raccoon. Most of the brains were perfused intracardially in living anesthetized animals in a standard manner. The brains were then removed, including intact olfactory bulbs and segments C1 and C2 of the spinal cords. The pituitary was spared whenever possible. In some cases the spinal cord was also removed and in others the dorsal root ganglia as well.
Before being sent to histology, each specimen was photographed from six or eight standard views and a permanent rubber mold of the left hemisphere was made. Brain casts were then made of dental acrylic. These near-perfect replicas are valuable aids to the microscopic study of the sections, and have unique educational value as well.
Subsequently, all brains were embedded in celloidin, cut serially in the coronal plane at a standard thickness, and alternate sections stained with thionin to stain cell bodies and with hematoxylin to stain myelin sheaths. If more than one specimen of a species was available, a sagittal (and occasionally even a hori-zontal) series was also prepared. All stained and mounted sections are stored in labelled boxes that are arranged by species, genus, family and order.
Many of the specimens were obtained years ago and many are now on the endangered species list and are no longer available. These specimens are naturally quite precious. Other specimens are now prohibitively expensive and realistically could not be replaced.
Users should be aware of the scientific importance of this comparative brain collection, for it has no equal anywhere. It was deliberately selected to obtain a wide represent-ation of the mammalian class. Many species were chosen because their brains, as well as their perceptual and behavioral repertoires, exhibit certain species-typical features that have helped identify structural-functional correlations in some of their neural systems. If one scans the collection microscopically for his or her favorite brain regions, new ideas about structures and their functions quickly become apparent -- often suggesting new lines of research that may prove fruitful.
Those wishing to use the collection are invited to contact its curator, Wally Welker , Department of Neurophysiology, University of Wisconsin - Madison, 273 Medical Sciences Building, 1300 University Avenue, Madison, WI, USA 53706, Ph: Work (608) 262-0850, Home (608) 241-7088, E-mail: email@example.com.
A NEW METHODS NEWSLETTER
Russ Bernard, Bert Pelto, and Steve Borgatti have started a new newsletter, tentatively entitled Cultural Anthropology Methods (or CAM ). It is devoted to the exchange of information about the use and teaching of research methods in cultural anthropology. The editors invite you to share your insights by writing for the newsletter.
They are especially interested in abstracts of published materials on research methods (about 150-200 words), descriptions of research courses (up to 1000 words), reviews of software you have found useful in teaching methods, or in analysing data (up to 1000 words), descrip-tions of new data collection and analysis techniques (up to 2500 words), book reviews (up to 1000 words) and debates about methods (letters up to 1000 words). [I bet we could get a neuroanthropologically interesting debate going, eh? -Editor]
Send all material to H. Russell Bernard , Department of Anthropology, 1350 Turlington Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. They prefer copy to be submitted on floppy disks. You may use 5.25 or 3.5, MS-DOS or MAC format, normal or high density, but please send simple ASCII files.
FIRE IN THE CRUCIBLE
John Briggs has been busy lately and has just sent on a copy of his new book, Fire in the Crucible: The Alchemy of Creative Genius (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988). As the subtitle implies, the book is about the origin of that creative spark fundamental to genius, the kind of "aha!" that coaxed painter, Georgia O'Keeffe to toss her old painting style and begin to pay attention to the shapes in her own mind, or that led five year old Albert Einstein to be fascinated by the compass needle his father gave him and its perpetual orientation towards the north.
In doing research for the book, Briggs combed through hundreds of books and articles and interviewed neuro-physiologists, historians of science, anthropologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, systems theorists, and other creativity researchers. He combined their findings with his own understanding based upon his training in aesthetics and his background as a science writer and reporter.
In the course of his discussion he puts to rest several misconceptions about creativity and genius: that geniuses are motivated by the desire to create something new, that genius requires a touch of psychopathology, that IQ and creativity tests are useful measures of genius, and that creators work alone.
The book is phenomenologically astute in that Briggs shows that creativity, even for the most reknowned geniuses, is grounded in the stuff of everyday experience.
Using his alchemical metaphor, we are all "crucibles" in which the requisite ingredients may blend to become the "fire" of creativity. In the author's own words, "A major objective of this book is to show how the combination of these ingredients -- including such elements as vision, talent, absorption, courage, even history -- together form a whole, integral process, a single gem; a fluid gem in this case. A second major objective will be to show why each gem (or genius) is a lens for the universal and yet is necessarily unique."
Fire in the Crucible would be worth the read, even if it did not touch upon the neuro-physiology of creativity; but it does. So much the better!
John Briggs is an associate professor of English and journalism at Western Connecticut State University and is on the faculty of the New School for Social Research. He is also the co-author of Looking Glass Universe (Simon and Schuster), and Turbulent Mirror (Harper and Row). You can get in touch with him c/o Barnard Road, Granville, MA 01034, USA, Ph: (413) 357-8830.
If you have an interest in neural networks, you may be interested in Brainmaker , a computer software package available from California Scientific Systems in Sierra Madre, CA, Ph: (818) 355-1094. It is not a toy or game, yet it costs less than a hundred dollars (US). It comes with a book entitled Introduction to Neural Networks .
The program is based upon the expert systems concept and you get to "teach" the system how to make judgments, like how to detect patterns in statistical data. This sounds like a good place to start if you want to become familiar with computer simulations of neural net-works.
Riedl, Rupert (1984) Biology and Knowledge: The Evolution-ary Basis . New York: John Wiley.
Diamond, M.C. (1988) Enriching Heredity: The Impact of the Environment on the Anatomy of the Brain . New York: Free Press.
Gooddy, W. (1988) Time and the Nervous System . New York: Praeger. [biorhythms and other temporal issues]
Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Irenaus (1989) Human Ethology . Hawthorn, NY: Aldine de Gruyter. [English translation of the German original; 848 pages!]
Pinker, S. and J. Mehler (1988) Connections and Symbols . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. [explorations in cognitive science]
Jerison, H.J. and I. Jerison (1988) Intelligence and Evolutionary Biology . Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Lima-de-Faria, A. (1988) Evolution without Selection: Form and Function by Autoevolution . Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Pubs. [pertains to non-Darwinian evolutionary theory]