Cerebral Hemispheres 2
NEUROSCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED

NEUROSCIENCE MADE SIMPLER

My Evolutionarily Adaptive Response to Dog Poop


Any dog owners out there who (like me) don’t have their own yard in which to let their dog run wild, will probably agree that picking up after your dog is the most unpleasant daily aspect of having one. Every time I lean down to scoop up a pile of my dog Zooey’s regular gift to me, my nose wrinkles up, my eyes squint—and occasionally I may gag a little bit.

This expression of disgust is a common one. Charles Darwin, in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, noticed that some expressions like this occur throughout the world in many different cultures, and even in some animals. Thus, he hypothesized, they may have a biological rather than environmental origin. If so, Darwin suggested, they probably also have an adaptive purpose.



Recently a group of researchers from the University of Toronto investigated this 130-year-old hypothesis. They took two expressions that are widely considered to be universal: the wrinkled nose, raised lip, and narrowed eyes of disgust, and the wide eyes and flared nostrils of fear. They developed computer-generated images of faces displaying a typical rendition of each of these visages, then asked volunteers to recreate them while they underwent breathing and vision tests.

They found that each expression had specific effects on breathing and vision that could be considered adaptive. The look of disgust limited air flow and vision, a reaction which could be beneficial in keeping potentially noxious substances out of the eyes and mouth. The fearful expression improved peripheral vision, made eye movement quicker, and increased air flow—all responses that could theoretically make someone more prepared to face danger.

While these results may seem obvious in hindsight, I must admit it’s not something I ever thought about before when I picked up after Zooey.

YOUR BRAIN, EXPLAINED

Sleep. Memory. Pleasure. Fear. Language. We experience these things every day, but how do our brains create them? Your Brain, Explained is a personal tour around your gray matter. Building on neuroscientist Marc Dingman’s popular YouTube series, 2-Minute Neuroscience, this is a friendly, engaging introduction to the human brain and its quirks using real-life examples and Dingman’s own, hand-drawn illustrations.

  • ...a highly readable and accessible introduction to the operation of the brain and current issues in neuroscience... a wonderful introduction to the field. - Frank Amthor, PhD, Professor of Psychology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, author, Neuroscience for Dummies

  • Dingman weaves classic studies with modern research into easily digestible sections, to provide an excellent primer on the rapidly advancing field of neuroscience. - Moheb Costandi, author, Neuroplasticity and 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know

  • Reading like a collection of detective stories, Your Brain, Explained combines classic cases in the history of neurology with findings stemming from the latest techniques used to probe the brain’s secrets. - Stanley Finger, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Washington University (St. Louis), author, Origins of Neuroscience

  • An informative, accessible and engaging book for anyone who has even the slightest interest in how the brain works, but doesn’t know where to begin. - Dean Burnett, PhD, author, Happy Brain and Idiot Brain

BIZARRE

This book shows a whole other side of how brains work by examining the most unusual behavior to emerge from the human brain. In it, you'll meet a woman who is afraid to take a shower because she fears her body will slip down the drain, a man who is convinced he is a cat, a woman who compulsively snacks on cigarette ashes, and many other unusual cases. As uncommon as they are, each of these cases has something important to teach us about everyday brain function.

  • Dingman brings the history of neuroscience back to life and weaves in contemporary ideas seamlessly. Readers will come along for the ride of a really interesting read and accidentally learn some neuroscience along the way. - Erin Kirschmann, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology & Counseling, Immaculata University

  • Through case studies of both exceptional people as well as those with disorders, Bizarre takes us on a fascinating journey in which we learn more about what is going on in our skull. - William J. Ray, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, author, Abnormal Psychology

  • Bizarre is a collection of stories of how the brain can create zombies, cult members, extra limbs, instant musicians, and overnight accents, to name a few of the mind-scratching cases. After reading this book, you will walk away with a greater appreciation for this bizarre organ. If you are a fan of Oliver Sacks' books, you're certain to be a fan of Dingman's Bizarre. - Allison M. Wilck, PhD, Researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology, Eastern Mennonite University

  • A unique combination of storytelling and scientific explanation that appeals to the brain novice, the trained neuroscientist, and everyone in between. Dingman explores some of the most fascinating and mysterious expressions of human behavior in a style that is case study, dramatic novel, and introductory textbook all rolled into one. - Alison Kreisler, PhD, Neuroscience Instructor, California State University, San Marcos