Volume 4, Number 3 Summer, 1991

Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121, E-mail charles laughlin@carleton.bitnet.


My students and I have launched a research project and we would like your help on it. We are examining the literature on the 186 societies of the Standard Sample developed by Murdock and White for any information on the relationship between mind/consciousness/"soul" and body/brain/NS. We call it the Cross-Cultural Ethnoneurology Project .

The question we are asking is: What do traditional societies know about the NS and what relationship do they recognize and conceptualize between their minds and their bodies (or NS)?

For instance, in my recent visit to Navajoland, I learned that according to Navajo psychology the location of thought ( ntsahakees ) is between the eyes at the base of the nose -- the eyebrows are called the "wings of thought." But we also think "from" the heart and lungs. The Navajo do have a term for the brain, ats'iighaa' , but as Gladys Reichard notes, their physiology is poor. The function of the brain and some other organs of the body are vaguely understood or unknown. One's essential consciousness is associated with a universal wind and is called nilch'i hwii'siziinii , "the Wind within one" which resides mainly in the chest area.

So you see the kind of thing we are looking into? What I would like to ask you is if you know of any articles or books on societies that discuss their views on mind-body relations? I am including here any references you might know about for general theoretical or cross-cultural discussions of the issue? I would be much obliged for any tips you can give me.

We will report on our findings in a future issue of NNN .


Guenter Rose has been talking with Warren TenHouten and the idea was struck for another neuroanthropology symposium at the 1992 American Anthropological Association meetings. Guenter will organize it around the theme, "Cross-Cultural Issues in the Neurosciences." Sounds like a great idea! If you are interested in contributing a paper to the symposium, please contact Guenter, who is the Chairperson of the Psychobiology Program in the Department of Psychobiology at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA, Ph: (207) 872-8835, Fax: (207) 725-3123.


Roland Fischer writes: As to my research profile [ NNN 4(1):2-8], you may remember that I've used wool fibers first, and much later taste receptors to measure the affinity of biologically active compounds to alpha keratinous wool and then (in terms of taste thresholds) to taste receptors (since wool fibers could not speak). After my research profile went to press I've come across a paper: Antikeratin Monoclonal Antibodies Recognize Subpopulations of Taste Bud Cells [ref. incomplete], a paper that shows that taste buds contain alpha keratin. I've felt like Mrs. Webster when she discovered Mr. Webster with the parlor maid. Mrs. Webster uttered in dismay, "I am surprised at you!" "No, my dear," replied Mr. Webster, "you are not surprised, you are astonished!"

Also enclosed is the reference to a paper showing that the duration of human pregnancy for a mammal with a brain the size of ours should be 20-22 months: in Adolf Portmann (1960) Aufbruch der Lebensforschung . Zurich: Rhein-Verlag, p. 120.


"Neuro-folkloristics anyone?" Just kidding! In a CBC interview, Dr. Steven Bedwell , a neurologist and avid record collector living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, reported on the origin of the so-called Jake-Leg, or Jake-Walk blues. It seems there was a favorite cheap beverage among blacks called "Jake" which was made by mixing Jamaican ginger with inexpensive alcohol and coke. Jake was also manufactured by pharmaceutical companies with other additives as a kind of tonic.

Suddenly around 1930, a strange syndrome began to appear called "Jake-leg palsy" which was a kind of peripheral neuritis characterized by difficulty of walking, lameness, numbing of the feet, sexual impotence, etc. The syndrome was quickly enshrined in music as the "Jake-leg blues" and references to it appeared in such diverse sources as Gene Autry songs and The Grapes of Wrath .

It turns out that in 1930, the Hubb Company of Boston substituted a poison called triorthotresophosphate [careful of my spelling here!] to their Jake. It was cheaper than the castor oil and molasses that was used by other companies and gave them an economic edge. They were found out around 1932 and charged. The practice was thereupon stopped.


Dr. Jean-Claude Darras, M.D. , presented an update on research conducted in Paris confirming the existence of the acupuncture meridian system at the World Research Foundation Conference. In 1986 Dr. Darras reported on an experiment that used injections of isotope solutions at various acupuncture points while doing high speed catscan. The results showed a linear migration at acupuncture points only. Further tests demonstrated that the migration was not through the vascular or lymphatic systems. He also discussed medical applications of this work and the modification of circulating white cells by acupuncture point stimulation. [reported in Healthy Eating , Nov/Dec, 1990]


A new journal is on the scene. It is called Consciousness and Cognition and is aimed at scientific psychologists and neuroscientists. It will provide a forum for natural science approaches to the issues of conscious experience, voluntary control and self. It looks to be designed for a broad audience and will be a quarterly starting in 1992. Manuscripts should be submitted in quadruplicate to: Consciousness and Cognition , Editorial Office, 7th Fl., 1250 Sixth Ave., San Diego, CA 92101, Ph: (619) 699-6325, Fax: (619) 699-6859, E-mail:


Prof. Yuri M. Plusnin of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR has published a thin book in Russian with the English title, The Problem of Bio-Social Evolution . He has kindly supplied us with an English summary of his argument.

The book concerns the epistemological and ontological aspects of the biological premises of sociality. A new point of view on the cognitive principles of the modern natural science is proposed and their relationship with the epistemology of the social sciences is discussed. The historical development of the "bio-social evolution" idea is traced in detail from "sociologie des animaux" of the 19th century to modern sociobiology. The peculiarities of the interaction between the biological and social theories of evolution in animals and humanity are analyzed.

The problem of bio-social evolution concerns three questions about: (1) the correlation between adaptive and non-adaptive behavior; (2) the classification of the social systems of the animals and, especially, humanity; i.e., the problem of invariant forms of social organization; and (3) the relationship between biological (morpho-logical) and social evolution.

The main question pertains to the invariants of social organization. There are universal forms of interrelationship between the members of a community which are essential for higher animals and humans. [This reminds me of Earl Count's notion of the biogram. Ed.] The concept of invariance is found in the "social archetype" concept and in social determination theory. One of the main consequences of the latter is inter-dependence of biological and social evolution.

The little book begins with an introduction to the problem, then is followed by four chapters entitled "Epistemological Problems of the Complex Systems Behavior Research," "The Concept of Bio-sociality: The Formation of the Natural Science Problem of Bio-social Evolution," "Super-individual Behavior Development and the Problem of Social Organization Adaptivity," and "The Invariants of Social Organization." These are followed by a concluding discussion.

Those wishing to obtain a copy of Prof. Plusnin's book [I repeat, it is in Russian only], or to discuss the issue with him should write him at the Institute of History, Philology and Philosophy, Siberian Department of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, pr. Acad. Lavrentyeva, 17, Novosibirsk 630090, USSR.


Those of you interested in the evolutionary relationships between humans and our nearest biological neighbors might consider an interesting conference to be held December 11 to 15, 1991. It will be presented by Jane Goodall and hosted by the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Chicago, Illinois. Speakers include: Jane Goodall, Richard Wrangham, Randal Susman, Christophe Boesch, Richard Malenky, Frances White, Colin Chapman, Takayoshi Kano, Frans de Waal, Suehisa Kuroda, G. Isabirye-Basuta, William McGrew, Yukimaru Sugiyama, Takeshi Furuichi, Nancy Thompson-Handler, John Mitani, Adam Clark, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Christopher Boehm, Toshisada Nishida, Les Schobert, Gay Reinartz, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Geza Teleki and others.

For a registration information call or write: Understanding Chimpanzees, Attn: Linda Marquardt, Mailstop 1936, The Chicago Academy of Sciences, 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60614-4799, Ph: (312) 943-6969.


The National Behavioral and Computational Neuroscience Program (NBCNP) has been under development in response to the need for basic research on an emerging academic discipline, "behavioral and computational neuroscience," or BCN. To this purpose the BCN Foundation was created in June 1991.

During the period, June 1 - Dec 30, 1991, the Foundation will be undergoing a formative process involving the development of a membership and endorsement community. January 9-12, 1992 the membership will draw up a By Laws Agreement sufficient to sponsor a specific five year National Scientific Goal to be proposed by the BCN membership.

The National Scientific Goal has as its primary objectives:

(1) the creation of a biologically feasible & extendible computational model of the mammalian brain.

(2) developing a behavioral neuroscience capable of

restructuring the current educational practice by providing a scientific foundation for the study of human behavior as related to learning.

(3) provide long term competitive technologies and facilitate private American ownership of a new generation of intellectual properties related to these technologies.

The BCN Foundation will have completed a formative process by January 30th, 1992. Individual founding membership is available, during this time: $20.00 (June 1st, 1991 - Jan 30th, 1992), to help with communication costs. Corporate and university founding membership is also available. Founding members will, at the least, receive two or more newsletters.

For more information, contact:

Professor Edward J. Finn, Neural Network Research Facility, Physics Department, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 20057, Ph: (202) 687-6231, E-mail:


Fischer, Roland (1991) "A Neurobiological Re- Interpretation and Verification of Boscovich Covariance postulated in 1758". Cybernetica, Vol XXXIV, No 2-1991.

Fischer, Roland (1990) "Why the mind is not in the head, but in Society's connectionist network". Diogenes, 151, 1-28.

Fischer, Roland (1991) "Model Making Mind: Model of Meaning". IN Stamenov, M (ed), Current Advances in the Theory of Linguistic Science, Series IV, John Benjamins.

MacKay, Donald M. (1991) Behind the Eye. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. [the 1986 Gifford Lectures; the author died soon after; wonderful thought-piece on neuroepistemology]

Samuel, Geoffrey (1990) Mind, Body and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Parkins, E.J. (1990) Equilibration, Mind, and Brain: Toward an Integrated Psychology. New York: Praeger. [Piaget and neuroscience]

Donovan, Bernard T. (1988) Humors, Hormones and the Mind: An Approach to the Understanding of Behavior. London: Macmillan. [biochemistry of the mind]

Cooper, S.J. and C.T. Dourish (1990) Neurobiology of Stereotyped Behavior. Oxford: Clarendon.

MacLean, Paul D. (1990) The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions. New York: Plenum.

McCrone, John (1990) The Ape that Spoke. London: Macmillan.

Easter, Stephen, Kate F. Barald & Bruce M. Carlson (1988) From Message to Mind: Directions in Developmental Neurobiology. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.

Gilbert, Paul (1989) Human Nature and Suffering. Erlbaum.

Seyfarth, Robert and Dorothy Cheney (1989) How Monkeys See the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.