After providing all the funding for The Brain from Top to Bottom for over 10 years, the CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction informed us that because of budget cuts, they were going to be forced to stop sponsoring us as of March 31st, 2013.

We have approached a number of organizations, all of which have recognized the value of our work. But we have not managed to find the funding we need. We must therefore ask our readers for donations so that we can continue updating and adding new content to The Brain from Top to Bottom web site and blog.

Please, rest assured that we are doing our utmost to continue our mission of providing the general public with the best possible information about the brain and neuroscience in the original spirit of the Internet: the desire to share information free of charge and with no adverstising.

Whether your support is moral, financial, or both, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Bruno Dubuc, Patrick Robert, Denis Paquet, and Al Daigen




Monday, 9 December 2013
Links About Our Evolutionary Inheritance

This week, as we have before in this blog, we are posting a set of links to pages on other web sites that discuss a subject covered in The Brain from Top to Bottom, along with brief descriptions of the content of those pages.

The subject this week is the sub-topic “Our Evolutionary Inheritance”, under the topic “Evolution and the Brain”—an important topic indeed, for as the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) wrote, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” And when it comes to neurobiology, that assertion is especially apt.
Molecular Level

i_lien Où se cache la vie dans l’Univers ? (in French)

A presentation on exobiology, the science that looks for life on other planets that are the same size as Earth and that may have conditions suitable for life to emerge.

Cellular Level

d_lien The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds

In this experimental video that condenses 4.6 billion years of the history of the universe into a single minute, vertebrates make their appearance only in the last few seconds, and human beings in a brief flash at the very end.

Neurological Level

i_lien Primates on Facebook

The average number of “Friends” that people have on Facebook is about 120. This figure is roughly consistent with Dunbar’s number: the maximum number of people with whom any one person can maintain meaningful social relationships, according to British evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar. But even on social media, we really exchange information with only about 10 to 25 other people.

Dunbar calculated his number on the basis of human brain size and behaviour patterns in groups of non-human primates. According to Dunbar, most people’s conversations are devoted to gossip about each other and about third parties, which serves the same function as mutual grooming does in other primates.

Psychological Level

i_lien Into the ancient mind

Examples of articles critiquing evolutionary psychology, and in particular the “strong” version proposing that selective pressures have caused humans to evolve specific “mental modules” to solve specific problems that were the most important for the survival of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

i_lien Métamorphoses de l’évolution. Le récit d’une image (in French)

The fascinating story of the famous illustration “The March of Progress”, depicting human evolution as a succession of hominid figures marching in single file, and the many parodies that have been made of it.

i_lien Evolution of the Mind: 4 Fallacies of Psychology

More critiques of the popular version of evolutionary psychology —in this case, of four of its basic premises.

i_lien How the city hurts your brain …And what you can do about it

The human brain did not evolve in the overpopulated urban environments in which most people now live, and as a result, the stresses of urban living impair some of our most basic cognitive processes.

a_rec Science, Evolution, and Current Human Affairs

To get a better understanding of the points on which they disagree, evolutionary biologists and other scientists must sometimes return to more general considerations about science, evolution, and current human affairs.

Social Level

i_lien La vigilance critique envers le créationnisme (in French)

This article sounds a warning about a view of human nature called creationism, which is based on faith but tries to pass itself off as a scientific theory.

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