I need a break! Working on posters, crashing batch jobs and data pipelines, travels etc etc for the SfN is a neck-breaking experience. So is almost every conference for me. So every once in a while, I take a break and peek deep into the secrets of forthcoming articles, or prepublications as they might be called. Here is a nice little list of some upcoming articles as well as some very recently published ones from the Trends series:
How can we understand consciousness, the very process we most often define ourselves as humans? In the article Towards a true neural stance on consciousness, Victor Lamme claims that we must move away from our folk-psychological concepts about mental functions and processes. Instead, neuroscientific arguments should “have their way”. Basically, Lamme’s proposition seems very similar to Pat Churchland‘s intertheoretical reduction, which basically is a form of eliminative materialism.
On the distinctive role of different medial temporal lobe structures (MTL) such as the perirhinal cortex, two review articles shed an interesting light on their functions. In Mechanisms underlying working memory for novel information Hasselmo and Stern point out that parahippocampal regions (i.e. partly MTL) mediate working memory for novel stimuli. In several studies of both humans and non-human mammals, the perirhinal cortex has been shown to be a novelty indicator. Indeed, this is in good line with the earlier review by Fernández and Tendolkar who, in their review The rhinal cortex: ‘gatekeeper’ of the declaratove memory system, argue that the rhinal cortex (peri- and entorhinal cortex) “optimally allocates limited encoding resources away from familiar information and towards novel information”. Finally, this is very much concordant to what Aggleton and Brown writes when they argue that “recognition memory comprises at least two independent mechanisms: one recollective and the other using familiarity detection”. So this collection of articles really demonstrate the changing view of the MTL in cognitive processes, as I have written about before.
Peng Shi and colleagues ask in Trends in Genetics whether brain-specific genes have evolved faster in humans than in chimps. contrary to previous findings suggesting a widespread accelerated sequence evolving of CNS genes in human origins, Shi and colleagues find that “some datasets show significantly fewer nonsynonymous substitutions in humans than in chimpanzees for brain-specific genes relative to other genes in the genome” and they conclude that their results suggest that “the unique features of the human brain did not arise by a large number of adaptive amino acid changes in many proteins.”
Finall, Striano and Reid reviews the interdisciplinary study of social cognition in the first year, where they posit that “in order to achieve a more robust understanding of the nature and parameters of human social cognition” the field must integrate various research fields and methods. Such methods include neuroscience, social psychology and anthropology. I guess that with the recent reports of social imitation in non-human primates, one should include comparative studies, too.