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Structure In Brain Linked To Varied Social Life

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the party-node-for-party-mode dept.

Science 96

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered that the amygdala, a small, almond-shaped structure deep within the temporal lobe, is important to a rich and varied social life among humans. The finding was published this week in a new study in Nature Neuroscience and is similar to previous findings in other primate species, which compared the size and complexity of social groups across those species."

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96 comments

The ultimate coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674462)

I'm allergic to almonds.

Re:The ultimate coward (4, Insightful)

fishexe (168879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674464)

I'm allergic to almonds.

But are you allergic to almond-shaped non-almonds? That is the question.

Amygdala != Almond

Re:The ultimate coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674592)

I'm allergic to almonds.

But are you allergic to almond-shaped non-almonds? That is the question.

Amygdala != Almond

Yes, if I eat anything almond shaped I break out into a hives.

Re:The ultimate coward (3, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675000)

Yes, if I eat anything almond shaped I break out into a hives.

That must really upset the bees.

Re:The ultimate coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676400)

Not as much as it upsets him. /me motions at the orifice entryway.

And you, have you ever kissed a girl? (2)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674478)

Get an amygdala!

Re:And you, have you ever kissed a girl? (5, Funny)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674504)

I have a wife... But I think after that my amygdala got removed. Socializing? What's that?

Re:And you, have you ever kissed a girl? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674566)

> Socializing? What's that?

Dreadful, dreadful stuff. Tried it once, learned from my mistake.

Re:And you, have you ever kissed a girl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34682186)

No, you can't count imaginary wifes that only exist in your dreams.

Ah. HA! (3, Funny)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674482)

So this explains that small, almond-shaped void space inside my head...

GET OFF MY LAWN!

Re:Ah. HA! (2)

Carnivorous Vulgaris (1964964) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674572)

The amygdala is also the proximity sensor for personal/social/public space. Your had no problem detecting people on your lawn.

Re:Ah. HA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674608)

Then again, he's talking to people on slashdot. Something tells me it's rather unlikely they're on his lawn....

Re:Ah. HA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674612)

I'M on YUOR Lawn, Steeling YuOR wifis

Re:Ah. HA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675390)

ANd im steel ur gnoAms lolz

Re:Ah. HA! (3, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674696)

Then again, he's talking to people on slashdot. Something tells me it's rather unlikely they're on his lawn....

He's talking to me. I'm standing on his lawn right now, browsing Slashdot on my wifi-enabled netbook.

so that's it... (3, Insightful)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674486)

Hmmm. Isn't the amygdala the part of the brain fucked up by PTSD? Maybe that would explain why I scare off all my friends.

OK, by friends, I mean "the cashier at the supermarket" and such.

Re:so that's it... (2)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674512)

If that PTSD thing is true that's interesting as it's believed I'm suffering PTSD. (Seriously. Not trying to make a joke.)

Re:so that's it... (2)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674590)

Yes, supposedly PTSD can affect permanent change in the amygdala... causing a lifetime of stress, trouble coping in social situations, all that jazz.

I have PTSD and it's a struggle. Best of luck to you - get to a therapist, get an actual diagnosis - you might just have a garden-variety anxiety disorder, easier to treat maybe. PTSD is such a beast to treat most therapists can't handle it. Takes a trauma specialist with experience.

Re:so that's it... (3, Interesting)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674814)

I've often wondered about this. My IQ is high (this is relevant, I'm not just saying it for the sake of it) but in primary school (before year 8 in Australia) I had heaps of friends. From about year 9 in school until at least half way through year 12 (the final year in Australia) I was seriously bullied. In the final half of year 12 at school I beefed up a lot and kicked the shit out of a few of the bullies and they stopped attacking me. But my point is that for at least 3.5 years I was under constant stress and anxiety. Now I am in adulthood and I look back on my working career I can see quite clearly that although all my grades and my intellect is fine that I have under-performed mainly due to social ineptitude and constant anxiety and stress which, for the most part, has no underlying work conditions to provoke such a state. I wonder if during those traumatic years my amygdala went through some change. I wonder if I have PTSD!

Re:so that's it... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674970)

Well, it is supposed to be more likely to result in PTSD if the trauma begins before puberty.

Re:so that's it... (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676248)

Most of the people I know with PTSD are combat veterans. They were well past pubery when they were in Vietnam, several decades ago (and still suffering).

You sound more like me when I was in school -- not that social interaction with other students was a hindrance, but interaction with the two digit IQ teachers and their BORING classes were the cause.

I had the same experience in the 7th grade (besides Bringing a "hydrogen bomb" to school) [slashdot.org]; the bully who stood a head taller than me and outweighed me by quite a bit that I beat bloody. Nobody fucked with me after that (well, the hydrogen thing probably garnered me some respect as well)

Re:so that's it... (1)

Jafafa Hots (580169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34682364)

well yeah, you might be more likley to get PTSD if before puberty (child abuse, molestation, that kind of thing) but combat veterans have gone through bad enough shit to fuck up ANYONE'S head.

Re:so that's it... (1)

innerweb (721995) | more than 3 years ago | (#34683172)

I hated school to, for most of the same reasons. The other kids hated me. I kept setting the test curve high. And, I was a jock. I always wanted to be more stupid so the other kids would stop hating me. I had no idea then how stupid they were. I was always depressed, but noone ever saw it. I still hate most schools. I think under 12th grade is nothing more than a meat line. Too bad so many parents/politicians have their hands in the school without any regard for what school is. They are so worried about monkeys and Thomas Jefferson and prayer. I think most of them have forgotten what school is for and what school is not for.

Re:so that's it... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34698670)

"They hate you if you're clever, and they despise a fool." -- John Lennon, Working Class heros

Re:so that's it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34675242)

Yes, now give me your lunch money!

Re:so that's it... (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680116)

Sounds plausible. I was the same. And remember the woman without functioning amygdalas who has no fear whatsoever.
Later in life, I must have toned down my amygdalas. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have raced motorbikes and jumped out of airplanes. And looking back I have reduced my social life quite a bit.

Re:so that's it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674848)

Or perhaps training and choosing to shooting people messes with the social part of your brain, leading you to a lonely, isolated, fucked up life.

Re:so that's it... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675314)

Or perhaps training and choosing to shooting people messes with the social part of your brain, leading you to a lonely, isolated, fucked up life.

I'd never thought about it like that... in many conflicts the enemy is most likely there either because they think it's the right thing to do for their country, or because they were conscripted. After the conflict is over I can imagine it would be difficult trying to reconcile the fact that you have killed someones father/brother/son who maybe didn't even want to be fighting you in the first place. It might be hard to ever relate to another human being in the same way again. I wonder if it would be any easier if you were yourself conscripted and forced to fight instead of choosing to join...

Re:so that's it... (1)

Vastad (1299101) | more than 3 years ago | (#34684280)

Your comment reminded me of an anecdote that apparently, some soldiers in the WWI trenches on both sides intentionally shot to miss. Perhaps when you override that - I'd imagine eventually you do - the amygdala's "firmware" has been altered and one factor of PTSD has possibly been identified.

It makes me think of the initiation/acceptance rituals into certain gangs and crime families where you must kill a man. Then your altered social circuits bond you to other murderers who are your new brothers, and all others outside of the gang are now well and truly the "outsiders". Meaning it's easier to commit greater atrocities for whatever cause driven by a sense of loyalty, tribe and brotherhood.

It would be fascinating if they could get child soldiers from conflicts in Africa in a study like this. One could really get a grasp of what that does to an amygdala when it's not even finished growing. If any person has severe PTSD, it would be a kid who didn't get to grow up "normal".

Re:so that's it... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679836)

The amygdala is about the size of a walnut and sits right above your spinal cord. It's one of the oldest parts of the brain and is responsible primarily for being angry and scared.

I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (3, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674502)

I can't help but be struck by the seemingly limited amount of spatial and mathematical reasoning capabilities of many who have exceptional social intelligence. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the two traits. The evidence seems enough to even posit that there is a maximal beyond which it is impossible to expand new intelligence and thus the capacity must be split between various capabilities.

In some, the trait of sociability takes center stage whereas in others it is mathematical genius. Likewise, we see an exceptional ability of females to maximize their social circles. To whit, the mental capabilities of females and males being the same, it would seem that females would be more likely to develop large social circles and thrive within this mentally untaxing environment while males would thrive in problem solving and mental exercises requiring strenuous mental effort (such as in the hard sciences).

Taking this further, it also explains the apparent inability of many computer engineers to interact in normal social circles. With much of their brain showing traits of strong mathematical acuity, their amygdala itself is underdeveloped. Perhaps it is this unbalance that is the root cause of "geekiness".

Naturally, this is not the final word on all this, but it is an interesting step towards a more full biological understanding of character and intelligences.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674526)

I can't help but be struck by the seemingly limited amount of spatial and mathematical reasoning capabilities of many who have exceptional social intelligence. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the two traits.

Actually lack of both capabilities seem to go hand in hand a lot.
What you observe probably has more to do with the fact that having exceptional social skills for a large part negates the need for having spatial and mathematical reasoning capabilities, hence they do not get to be developed as well as in the typical nerd.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674894)

Agreed, although there are a few socially deviod very intelligent people but thats usually related to their obsession with attaining knowledge rather than lack of abillity to socialise.

If you want proof that stupidity and lack of social skills come hand in hand I suggest you try 'World of Warcraft' plenty of examples there.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (5, Interesting)

damaged_sectors (1690438) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675094)

I suspect it's a matter of time tradeoffs. People who like to bully devote a certain amount of time developing those skills - time others devote to developing other skills.

Most of the plus 140 IQ (Stanford Binet) people I know had poor social skills until their thirties - they studied in class, and did homework while their classmates didn't.

I've an idea that things might have been different if they hadn't been alienated in their early schooling years.

Yes - I was one of them. By Form 4 (Year something these days) most of the people I spent my time around had more common ground with me and things changed. Though Slashdot posters will disagree - these days my social skills exceed those of my former school mates. I still bump into them - they don't travel much, they still associate with the same small group of people, most have divorced, and all of them speak only one language.

I have no regrets or bitterness about those early years - I often give work to some of my former bullies. I long since developed the skills to be happy and comfortable in any social situation (and learnt to fight). Unlike those that developed their social skills early - my social group includes a large range of different people, age groups, ethnicity, income, opinions. From bikers to bankers. From adversity comes flexibility and strength.

So Psycotria, our schooling was fucked - but have a look at where your bullies are now... do you really want to be like them? Chances are they now want to be like you.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 3 years ago | (#34693066)

but have a look at where your bullies are now... do you really want to be like them? Chances are they now want to be like you.

I've been studying bullying recently and the growing body of evidence on bullying behavior reveals a mindset that is unlikely to want to be like another person. Specifically bullies are broken people with mindsets that range from simply dictatorial all the way to sociopaths.

I have no regrets or bitterness about those early years - I often give work to some of my former bullies.

Then you are doing your company a great dis-service. The evidence suggests unless a bully has received counseling and in some cases psychiatric care, it is more than likely that they are continuing to bully the people around them without your knowledge. They may even be undermining you and the real issue to you is what hiring a bully says about you. In Robert Sutton's book The No Asshole Rule [wikipedia.org] you may be bullying people yourself (i.e you may be an asshole) and not even know it as bullies tend to hire bullies. I won't judge you but you should do the Asshole Rating Self-Exam [electricpulp.com] as while it all sounds kind of funny and cute it's actually a serious topic. I did the test myself and rated fairly low assholish tendencies - but there is always a possibility I could turn into one if I am not diligent.

(and learnt to fight)

This is the one reason that makes me think you are not an asshole or a bully. Not patting my own back too much but if you are referring to martial arts or a fighting sport you have probably had the asshole and bully disciplined out of you. I train and most people I have met in this sphere are morally strong. The problem is bullies *do* have social skills and in some cases they are exceptional social skills, the difference is that they are anti-social and destructive individuals. These are not the type of people you want around any form of creative environment as it is shown to severely reduce the productivity of professionals such as these (programmers, graphic artists, scientists etc).

Make no mistake bullies are toxic individual that can drive a company to bankruptcy, kill moral and productivity and drive people into depressive states. I am just thankful that I live in a country where this is recognised and there is a legal framework to deal with it. If you live in the U.S though you have no such protections. A bully does not want to be like anyone, there are only two types of people to a bully those who are targets and those who are not. Do not hire them, bullies should be avoided at all costs.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

damaged_sectors (1690438) | more than 3 years ago | (#34696890)

but have a look at where your bullies are now... do you really want to be like them? Chances are they now want to be like you.

I've been studying bullying recently [snip] is unlikely to want to be like another person.

We'll have to agree to differ there. To bully requires a degree of sociopathology - I strongly suspect they (sic) not only try to con other people (that they can't bully) but they also try and con themselves. That is not to say that bullies want to stop being bullies. Many times I've seen bullies bully for reasons that bring them no advantages - the only reason I can see being that they seem to constantly compare themselves to others, and anger/hate is their reaction to coming up short. Notice how many boast of bullying and believe it patriotism...

Specifically bullies are broken people with mindsets that range from simply dictatorial all the way to sociopaths.

I "suspect" the difference between dictatorial/authoritarian and "sociopath" is just a matter of degree. Different dog, same leg action. I've read and heard much about bullies which smacks of ivory-tower and I'm-ok-you're-ok crap - watch out for "all bullies are cowards" it's one I've often found untrue, and possibly a reason why "treatement" fails. Cue Hunter S. Thompsons' story of the old lady and the snake. My pseudonym is wearing thin - so I won't explain why I *know* Hunter was a "bit of" a bully, albeit an interesting and entertaining one (from a suitable distance).

I have no regrets or bitterness about those early years - I often give work to some of my former bullies.

Then you are doing your company a great dis-service.

Good advise. "My" companies though. It's been my experience that "forgiveness" is just an "enabler". Every new starter is a potential risk, I take a keen interest in who has been hired - in a couple of cases I recognised bullies from school and let them remain. Assuredly there are bullies in my (ultimate) employ I don't know about. Certainly some have been discovered and dismissed. When that happens I try and consider the effects on their family and the local economy - it's a complex subject. I'd like to not employ the incompetent or the lazy either - but there are only so many applicants.

The evidence suggests unless a bully has received counseling and in some cases psychiatric care, it is more than likely that they are continuing to bully the people around them without your knowledge.

Here again we disagree. The only cure is a bullet. (disclaimer: I am not a social worker) I've seen "reformed" and found it to be just "re-educated". A case in point is a former stand-over man reformed as a cop. Currently on 6 month suspended sentence for tear-gassing handcuffed "suspects" in a watch-house.

They may even be undermining you and the real issue to you is what hiring a bully says about you.

Limited time (sorry) and mod points to burn.

I *am* an arsehole and I work at it. Selectively and unrepentantly. My family and friends appreciate that.

These are not the type of people you want around any form of creative environment as it is shown to severely reduce the productivity of professionals such as these (programmers, graphic artists, scientists etc).

Agreed.

Make no mistake bullies are toxic individual that can drive a company to bankruptcy, kill moral and productivity and drive people into depressive states. I am just thankful that I live in a country where this is recognised and there is a legal framework to deal with it. If you live in the U.S though you have no such protections. A bully does not want to be like anyone, there are only two types of people to a bully those who are targets and those who are not. Do not hire them, bullies should be avoided at all costs.

I'm sorry I can't give your well thought out post the time for the reply it deserves. Most people are morons, at least some of the time. Re: martial arts - depends on the sifu. The moves are naught without the mentality. A couple of quotes from my sifu to elucidate "if you are ever foolish enough to be in a pub, and the guy beside you reaches for a glass in a threatening manner - eliminate the threat and immediately remove yourself from the vicinity." "better to be judged by twelve than carried by six" "if you want to learn self-defense you're best to go to the magic shop and purchase a cloak of invisibility". Any time someone threatens you physically there is a real risk you will be crippled, maimed or killed - *regardless* of the assailant's intentions, so you *must* be prepared to be "go all the way" or "get the hell away".

I'd agree that most serious fighters I've met will go a long way to avoid situations which require violence - at the entry level there are a lot of bullies.

In closing - bullies are an expression of a system (life) that rewards those that get more for less. I suspect many bullies are made, not born. And I've found that sometimes the bully does not appear until the environment is beneficial for them to do so - I wonder how many Enron pricks had shown their colours before joining Enron. I believe eliminating bullying is as impossible as eliminating stealing - there are evolutionary pressures to be considered (see Jared Diamond and others) - the best that can be done is always kick against the pricks and keep the numbers down and the cost high.

Try TISM - the music to match your sig. Cheers.

--- There are three types of people - those that force, those that follow, and those who only ever meet the first two types

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674558)

Likewise, we see an exceptional ability of females to maximize their social circles...it would seem that females would be more likely to develop large social circles and thrive within this mentally untaxing environment while males would thrive in problem solving and mental exercises requiring strenuous mental effort (such as in the hard sciences).

Amygdala schmamygdala. Females are just attention whores.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675334)

I can't help but be struck by the seemingly limited amount of spatial and mathematical reasoning capabilities of many who have exceptional social intelligence. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the two traits. The evidence seems enough to even posit that there is a maximal beyond which it is impossible to expand new intelligence and thus the capacity must be split between various capabilities.

I've noticed that too. You've got 20 points, you can allocate those points between charisma (to give it a name most rpg players can relate to :) and intelligence.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678788)

The evidence seems enough to even posit that there is a maximal beyond which it is impossible to expand new intelligence and thus the capacity must be split between various capabilities.

Posit, yes, but I'm concerned by how quickly you draw additional conclusions from a premise whose truth value you admit is unknown.

I'd argue that you're experiencing a case of observational bias. Gregarious geniuses exist, but are rare--a more likely explanation is that a person is unlikely either to be a genius socially and mathematically. Then, like winning the lottery twice in a row, a socially competent savant is even less likely to occur.

As far as computer engineers go, perhaps the reason we spend so much time learning technical skills is because of our underdeveloped amygdala--not having friends gives you a lot of free time.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680132)

That's easily explained IMHO. There's finite volume and energy, hence finite capabilities in the brain. Depending on fetal and early life development this capacity is apportioned to various functions. If it was possible to be highly functioning in all areas, we'd have evolved to do that.

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680304)

There's finite volume and energy, hence finite capabilities in the brain. Depending on fetal and early life development this capacity is apportioned to various functions. If it was possible to be highly functioning in all areas, we'd have evolved to do that.

This rises an interesting question: given modern near-unlimited energy diet combined with C-section births, what will happen to head - and thus brain - size?

Re:I wonder how that relates to spatial reasoning (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680428)

That unlimited thing has only existed for 50 years or so, only in the western world, and will be over soon.

training (4, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674524)

My personal experience indicates that like so many things, social life is a matter of training, experience and desire. The people who have one actually make the effort and put the time into it, and unsurprisingly, get results. I'm fairly certain that geeks simply consider other things more important. I know if I want to, I can have a party every week and build up a good amount of friends. I know because I've been there, done it, and forgot to get a T-Shirt. But most of the time I simply don't care enough.

A very good (female) friend said not too long ago that keeping her social life up and running is essentially her 2nd full-time job.

Certainly brain structures make it easier for some people. Some people are just naturals, they make friends with the same ease I write a simple web-app. Evolution is great that way, giving some of us these talents and others those. But I'm afraid there will be way too many cheap cop-outs in the comments. "Ah that is why I have no friends." - no, lazybag. It is not that simple.

Re:training (4, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674722)

My personal experience indicates that like so many things, social life is a matter of training, experience and desire.

Training and experience, yes, but the real question is why do you have that desire?

Think of an obvious analogy, a castrated animal has no desire for sex. Perhaps the amygdala produces some hormone that causes desire for social interaction. Social training and experience would be the result of that.

Mathematical ability is the same way, one needs training, experience, and desire to become good at math. As a matter of fact, one needs these three elements to become good at *anything*. So, what's the element that causes one to have desire to be good at one field rather than another?

Re:training (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675700)

Training and experience, yes, but the real question is why do you have that desire?

Fundamentally, it's instinctive. However, the behavior (like all behavior) is modified by experience. If you are good at it relative to the other kids you will do it a lot and get better. If you are not good at it you will tend to avoid it and fall behind. How successful you are at social interaction as a child is not governed solely by inborn mental talent. It is strongly affected by how you look, what your voice is like and, of course, chance.

Re:training (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676754)

a castrated animal has no desire for sex

Maybe so, but castration does not stop a dog from humping legs. Explain THAT.

Re:training (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678156)

Training and experience, yes, but the real question is why do you have that desire?

Because we are social animals and have a built-in desire to be part of a group. That is by far not a unique human trait. I have gerbils as pets. These animals are so highly social that keeping one alone is pretty much a death sentence for it. They literally die from loneliness.

Mathematical ability is the same way, one needs training, experience, and desire to become good at math. As a matter of fact, one needs these three elements to become good at *anything*. So, what's the element that causes one to have desire to be good at one field rather than another?

Preference, rewards, experience in the good-or-bad sense. Basically, things you have learnt work well for you are usually the ones that you become good at. It's not a surprise that very few people greatly enjoy stuff they suck at. If you enjoy it, you usually become at least fairly good in it. And if you suck at it, you usually don't enjoy it.

Turing test? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679698)

Being socially acute, diplomatic, engaged and engaging requires a full-on use of all faculties and senses. In most situations, maybe not taste. It is a 'live action' performance of your mind weighing and balancing sensory input, subtle cues, in a sort of dance of ideas, camaraderie and debate that is exhilarating and a bit frightening.

Perhaps that is why Turing chose the test he did, rather than asking for the solution to Fermats last theorem.

Re:Turing test? (1)

thunderclap (972782) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680608)

Although making a computer solve that would be awesome in its own right. Then again having it produce and original timely joke or song is actually harder then Fermat.

Re:training (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679980)

I disagree, most of the abstract things we do for fun are things which are similar, identical or otherwise related to things that we had to do previously for survival.

It's not particularly obvious, but gambling is a good example. one of the things that our ancestors did before we gained bows and arrows and spears was to run down animals for food. It required a careful, albeit fast, consideration of the likely reaction by the prey and a swift reaction. Which is suspiciously similar to the risk/reward which tends to drive people to gamble.

Music is another good one, while it seems completely impractical, if you want to know what predators are out there it's a good idea to be plugged into the news network. Back in olden times that was bird calls and various animal noises. Being able to understand and replicate them was quite useful if you wanted to not be eaten or find something to eat.

I'm not sure how reliable those thoughts are, but the similarities involved are pretty substantial whether there's a causal relationship or not.

Re:training (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680332)

I disagree, most of the abstract things we do for fun are things which are similar, identical or otherwise related to things that we had to do previously for survival.

It's funny that you disagree with me, because I agree with you ;)

Music is another good one, while it seems completely impractical, if you want to know what predators are out there it's a good idea to be plugged into the news network. Back in olden times that was bird calls and various animal noises. Being able to understand and replicate them was quite useful if you wanted to not be eaten or find something to eat.

I think music has to do with turning away predators. Showing that you have the ability to act in unison as a large body is something that should scare away a predator that's bigger than a lone human, yet smaller than the assembled body of a human tribe.

Besides, anyone who has seen how cats and dogs fear thunder knows that animals fear loud noises. By singing and banging drums together the human tribes amplified the sound they could produce to scare away predators.

Re:training (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680164)

Training and experience, yes, but the real question is why do you have that desire?

To get laid. Go read some Geoffrey Miller.

Re:training (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674788)

Were only it that simple. Some of us, no matter how flexibly we apply ourself, no matter what group we insert ourselves into, no matter how much we apply and learn - we are roundly despised. And it removes the impetus to try more. Its a great relief to know why, even if that isn't the real reason why...

And you despising those people, for yet another reason - because they post their relief - is just another of life's little confirmations.

THE END

Re:training (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34678132)

Were only it that simple. Some of us, no matter how flexibly we apply ourself, no matter what group we insert ourselves into, no matter how much we apply and learn - we are roundly despised. And it removes the impetus to try more. Its a great relief to know why, even if that isn't the real reason why...

Been there. I was the loner, the geek, the one ridiculed and occasionally beaten up in school until about 10th grade. I'm still not the most open or sociable guy, but at least I know today that if I make the effort, I get results.

People absolutely are born (and/or raised) with different talents. Some people just have a naturally great physique, and will do better with little or no training in sports than some other people who are born with bodies that would've had no survival chance on the african plains. However, even if you are a natural fat ass, you can make a difference by working out and eating right. You'll never be a calendar model, but you can choose between being an average built or a fat swine needing three seats.

I don't despise anyone for having just an average body, or having just a few friends. But none at all, or being a fat ass is never explained by biology alone.

Re:training (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675576)

"My personal experience indicates that like so many things, social life is a matter of training, experience and desire"

While this may seem trivially true, most peoples behavior is driven by unconscious processes, and these processes vary in their flexibility to solve different kinds of problems.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYmi0DLzBdQ [youtube.com]

Re:training (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34676624)

This is certainly true for many people, however there are always outliers that have a very different experience. I have people in my family who deal with crippling anxiety disorders that make it very difficult to socialize. They have been dismissed, mocked and degraded by people like you their entire lives. The cause of the anxiety is largely an overactive amygdala that creates an exaggerated fight or flight response around others. Most of the time when they are the center of attention in a group of people they blush, have difficulty with memory recall, and have difficulty connecting with people. This is not a problem of laziness, and it is not a problem that goes away over time. It is a real physical issue with the limbic system in the brain.

Modern medications and therapy do not always help and I believe we are just now coming out of the dark ages of brain science. There are millions of people around the world who deal with anxiety disorders every day. They desperately struggle to communicate on a basic level with other people. Do not mock their suffering.

Re:training (1)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676826)

I know if I want to, I can have a party every week and build up a good amount of friends.

Those are acquaintances, not friends. Time and time again, the people who I've met who are social butterflies never have friends; despite believing otherwise. Their life is one social event after another and yet never have friends. Every couple of years, they are surrounded by an ever changing sea of faces. Using your own example, chances are, those "friends" were gone once the parties were.

There's an old cliche about friendship which basically boils down to, an acquaintance is who you call to bail you out of jail because your friend is in the cell with you.

Do not confuse socialization with friendship. Socialization is an activity. Friendship is a bond. Both are important.

Personally, IMOHO, if you don't have a friendship (excluding family) which has lasted at least half your life, or at least a sizable chunk of your lifetime, chances are you're broken on the inside. And no amount of socialization is likely to fix it.

Re:training (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34677900)

Oh, totally agreed, a differentiation between degrees of friendship is more needed than ever. I still despite Facebook et al for not providing one. And no, "groups" is not the same thing.

Re:training (1)

ZorroXXX (610877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34684550)

My personal experience indicates that like so many things, social life is a matter of training, experience and desire. The people who have one actually make the effort and put the time into it, and unsurprisingly, get results. I'm fairly certain that geeks simply consider other things more important.

This is consistent with Paul Graham's essay Why Nerds are Unpopular [paulgraham.com]: Why don't smart kids make themselves popular? If they're so smart, why don't they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests? ... The answer, I think, is that they don't really want to be popular. ... Of course I wanted to be popular. But in fact I didn't, not enough. There was something else I wanted more: to be smart.

The Truth. (4, Funny)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674530)

That's right. There's a 1:1 correlation that Girls with big boobs have a big amygdala. Tall guys with high cheekbones and a chin you could trip over also have a big amygdala. I'm glad science has finally proved this.

Re:The Truth. (1)

tgv (254536) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674728)

It's always the same. No-one has any idea why the amygdala (or any other anatomically distinguishable brain part) should fulfill a certain function, yet we scan a few people (not too many, please!), ask them a few questions, find a correlation, and draw overreaching conclusions. It could easily be the other way around. Perhaps the amygdala has a role in face recognition (http://www.schres-journal.com/article/S0920-9964(01)00324-3/abstract), and it adapts to store all those faces in that big social network?

Neuroscience, you've gotta hate it. Glad I moved on...

Re:The Truth. (2)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675224)

There was a story recently about a woman with a damaged (missing?) amygdala who was not afraid of anything.
Perhaps it regulates the fear of approaching strangers respectively the fear of rejection?

Re:The Truth. (1)

tgv (254536) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675646)

There are also articles on damage to the amygdala that result in loss of face recognition, about its role in emotions, in learning, etc. It seems to be just pretty important. I doubt it regulates one single thing...

Re:The Truth. (2)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676226)

Wasn't that the woman who said she wasn't afraid of muggers because angels would protect her? She was just a brain-damaged person being exploited by researchers.

And the article is horseshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674680)

Tiny correlation, can't conclude anything from it, and the media goes bananas.

Conflicts with previous studies? (1)

RavenousBlack (1003258) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674720)

Previous studies have tried to link social network size to the size of the neocortex. Through this it was estimated that humans have social networks upwards near 150 people. This was further backed up through other research.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/pphfpu3c39ee9009/ [springerlink.com]

This study, however, doesn't seem to address the neocortex since they only checked for links among different subcortical structures. The journal article itself doesn't even address the neocortex. In fact the article claims to be in accord with the "social brain hypothesis" which was formulated by Dunbar who developed the idea that the neocortex could be linked to social network size, which is in complete contrast to a belief that social network size can be calculated from the amygdala in the limbic system.

correlation is not causation (0)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674724)

So when you socialize more your amygdala gets bigger. That part of your brain is responsible for social activities. So hot girls have big amygdalas and nerdy guys have small amygdalas. At least there is one part of the brain of outgoing, social people that isn't underdeveloped. If they did anything other than chat with their friends, get drunk, and have sex they might avoid having an underdeveloped cerebral cortex. A choice between having a more developed cerebral cortex and a more developed amygdala ain't no choice at all.

Re:correlation is not causation (3, Interesting)

ACDChook (665413) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674856)

Children with autism have been found to have enlarged amygdalas, and I wouldn't exactly call them social butterflies.

Re:correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34681170)

enlarged does not mean hyper-functioning... it could quite possibly be a bigger physical size tied to an equivalent, or even reduced funtioning capacity.

Re:correlation is not causation (1)

mmortal03 (607958) | more than 3 years ago | (#34691440)

Overstimulation is one of the problems I've heard described by people with autism. They end up doing repetitive things to block out the incoming stimuli.

Re:correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34704458)

Perhaps it's not so much the size that matters but how you use it?

Re:correlation is not causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34728972)

Children with autism have been found to have enlarged amygdalas, and I wouldn't exactly call them social butterflies.

source please?

This just in. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34674730)

This just in!

Your brain defines your personality.

This is News at 11.

Wrong correlate (1)

tgv (254536) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674736)

In that case, it probably also correlates with the number of friends in facebook. Since correlation is causation, we finally know why the amygdala evolved: to serve Web 2.0.

Phrenology 2.0 (1, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674768)

Quite seriously. "Oh, Brain part X is big/small/odd, so he has trait Y". Just because we can look past the skull now, we're no longer measuring bumps on the skull, we're measuring bumps inside. Essentially the same bull.

Re:Phrenology 2.0 (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680118)

If that's the case, then why do raptors have a larger portion of their neurons dedicated to processing optical sensor information than we do? And why do we dedicate a larger portion to the higher level functions than say an alligator?

Phrenology was always complete bunk, but this is quite a bit different. The main mistake people make is in making assertions which are too strong to be supported by the body of evidence. That is not to say that the size of various structures is meaningless.

I dislike almond-shapes (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34674804)

I dislike almond-shapes here, as the shape itself most probably has little or no bearing on the function. Why did the article mention it, at all? It makes the entire article read like something for a house-wife in the 1950s.

on the source (2)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675204)

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.2724.html [nature.com]

Brief Communication? No reference to the concurrent larger study by the same authors?

Major parameter indicating activity - volume?

Fig 1 shows piss poor correlation that in my college physics lab would earn me a "redo".

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/extref/nn.2724-S1.pdf [nature.com]

Supp Tab 2 shows surface area (again, dubious parameter) and some kind of anchor labeling (ROI) (my guess, distances between those labels, but feel free to google it up).

Tab3 adds "mean cortical thickness" - again, integral parameter.

Size of sample is pathetic: 58 healthy adults (22 females; mean age M = 52.6, s.d. = 21.2, range = 19–83 years)

At this variation of age and God knows what other parameters, this is just plain unconvincing.

Besides all the dubious quality of this "brief communication", the results are predictable:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala#Emotional_learning [wikipedia.org]

"In complex vertebrates, including humans, the amygdalae perform primary roles in the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events."

Re:on the source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34678060)

i love you.

this needs to be the first post.

Re:on the source (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680152)

Major parameter indicating activity - volume?

Fig 1 shows piss poor correlation that in my college physics lab would earn me a "redo".

That's physics. If you can't get at least a 97% correlation then you've got something seriously awry. But this is neurology and like biology, if you're able to get something that's even in the 70% range you're doing pretty good.

The reason being that it's a lot more complicated and the patters are much weaker. You can assume that all people's brains will be at least subtly different. Trying to figure out the hows and whys without knowing is a lot less straightforward, hence the lousy correlation. It's not like in physics where you can do the experiment, in most cases, and agree upon what happened.

Wait, what? (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675396)

I thought my avoidance of social life was due to everyone being jerks. Now it is something to do with Anaglypta wallpaper? Maybe so, I have painted walls or Artex.

Rubbish (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 3 years ago | (#34675604)

Let's face it, all geeks and nerds here. Your social life is instantly determined the second you say "I work with computers" (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).

Also true are the words of Young MC (from Bust A Move) "Got no money and you got no car, then you got no woman, and there you are".

Re:Rubbish (1)

endymion.nz (1093595) | more than 3 years ago | (#34679426)

The flipside is that if a girl I don't particularly like is interested in me, I can just tell them I work with computers and then they leave me alone. :D

Wow, really????? (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34676432)

So the portion of the brain already known to be responsible for emotional response is tied to social achievements?

What next? Will they figure out that the cerebral cortex is somehow linked to getting good grades?

Re:Wow, really????? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34680202)

That's not a surprise, the question is how reliable these findings are. The amygdala being tied into both anger and fear is a likely suspect whenever there are problems with interpersonal interactions. I mean, a lot of what people do in response to others is tied into either anger or fear and so this wouldn't be much of a shocker.

That being said, I doubt that is a particularly final result and there are almost certainly nuances and more that need to be investigated.
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