Evo-Devo: The Evolution of Spite

This Wednesday (11/16), Patrick Forber (Tufts, Philosophy) and Rory Smead (Northeastern, Philosophy) will present a new model they have developed for the evolution of spite (abstract below).  A draft of their paper is on the seminar site:
The meeting will be in Haller Hall (24 Oxford St.) at noon and lunch will be served.
Abstract: The Evolution of Spite
Spite is the shady relative of altruism.  Biological altruism is social behavior that incurs a cost (in fitness) to confer a benefit on other individuals.  If altruism involves paying a cost to benefit another, spite involves paying a cost to inflict a greater cost on another.  After W. D. Hamilton showed that correlated interactions among kin can produce the evolution of altruistic behavior, he came to realize that spiteful behavior could evolve by a similar process.  Here we analyze a model of spite.  Generally, spiteful behavior is unstable, but we show that it can evolve and be maintained under specific conditions.  While the model is Hamilton’s, we have a novel extension to cases where population size fluctuates over time.  By focusing on a paradigm case of spite, our model helps clarify puzzles surrounding the concept of spite and its application to animal and human behavior.

MBB: What Use is Sleep?


Discover the science behind sleeping, dreaming, and learning

Monday, Nov. 14th
4:00pm – 5:30pm
in William James Hall 105

At HSMBB’s Fall Symposium, you will hear from 3 scholars in the field of sleep research. Robert Stickgold, a sleep researcher at HMS, will give us an overview of his influential research on the nature of cognition during sleep, and the role of sleep in memory and emotional processing. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at HMS, will speak to us about how dreams contribute to creativity and objective problem-solving. And James Quattrochi, a lecturer in the MCB department, will walk us through a case study on study habits and sleep. His presentation will involve a lot of audience participation…so be prepared! There will be a Q&A session and reception after the presentations. The reception will feature delicious food—don’t miss out!

MBB events: John Assad and Daniel Dennett

This Friday, the 4th of November, 4-5pm come to Adams House Upper Common Room

to chat with the one and only

Prof. John Assad

As always we’ll have yummy cookies, delicious teas, and great company. We’ll be talking about

‘What links our sensations with our actions?’

Professor John Assad teaches in the Biophysics department of Neurobiology at the Harvard Medical School, though he is currently conducting research in beautiful Italy. His primary focus of interest lies in finding out why we do what we do exactly when we we do it. Talk with us to better understand how we link external information together to produce certain actions. The tea will be very informal, come with or without specific questions for a fun conversation and delicious treats!


Failures of Imagination and the “Mystery” of Consciousness
A Seminar with
Professor Daniel Dennett

Tuesday, November 8, 4:30-5:30 pm
Emerson 305

Space is limited! This is event will be lotteried to keep the discussion and Q&A informal and intimate. Click here to sign-up – students on the HSMBB mailing list will get two slots in the lottery.

Professor Daniel Dennett is the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University and teaches as Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy . His research varies from philosophy of mind to philosophy of science and biology, as well as evolutionary biology and cognitive science. Although this is a talk about consciousness and cognition, some may recognize Professor Dennett as one of the so-called “Four Horsemen of New Atheism” along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens.

Of this seminar, Professor Dennett says that the title says it all.

Sign-up for the lottery before 11:59pm this Saturday. Sign up here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?hl=en_US&formkey=dFFlS3RKV19Bejd5aFZSdmFvelhRelE6MQ#gid=0

Robert Trivers: “Deceit and Self-Deception”

Robert Trivers, Rutgers Biologist and Anthropologist: “Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling others the better to fool ourselves.” Thursday, 11/3, 12-1 pm, Austin West; SALMS serves lunch: Free Burritos!

Why do we deceive ourselves so often in our daily lives?  Robert Trivers, Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University, argues that  self-deception evolved in the service of deceit—the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons—in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril.  Trivers will present findings from his new book, “The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life.”

Trivers won the Crafoord Prize in Biosciences in 2007 for his fundamental analysis of social evolution, conflict, and cooperation. Harvard’s Steven Pinker has described Trivers as an “under-appreciated genius”: “In an astonishing burst of creative brilliance, Trivers wrote a series of papers in the early 1970s that explained each of the five major kinds of human relationships: male with female, parent with child, sibling with sibling, acquaintance with acquaintance, and a person with himself or herself. . . . Trivers’ ideas are, if such a thing is possible, even more important than the countless experiments and field studies they kicked off. They belong in the category of ideas that are obvious once they are explained, yet eluded great minds for ages; simple enough to be stated in a few words, yet with implications we are only beginning to work out.”

Couple of MBB Events

Two MBB events to be aware of:

1. November 9, 4pm, Room 1, William James Hall, Evo-Devo Seminar Series, featuring Dr. Jay Belsky
Childhood Experience and the Development of Reproductive Strategies: An Evolutionary Theory of Socialization Revisited

2. HSMBB will be holding its fall symposium on Monday, November 14th, from 4-5:30 p.m. in William James Hall room 105. The theme is discovering the science behind sleeping, dreaming, and learning, and the event will include three speakers:
—- James Quattrochi (MCB) on Study Habits: and Sleep: A Case Study
—- Robert Stickgold (HMS) on The Role of Sleep in Learning
—- Deirdre Barrett, (HMS) on Dreaming, Creativity, and Problem-Solving

Upcoming MBB events

Hello fellow mind, brain, and behavior enthusiasts!

Hope everyone has had an enjoyable weekend (perhaps watching rowers and/or snagging freebies).

Mark your calendars because we’ve got a nice seminar combo for y’all – MCB 80’s Jeff Lichtman (tomorrow @ 4-5pm) and Josh Sanes (11/1 @ 5-6pm) will be hosting seminars on back-to-back weeks. They are both really cool people to talk to, so don’t miss out!

Also be on the look-out for a nice opportunity to learn about dreaming with sleep expert, Robert Stickgold (11/1 @ 7pm) after watching a movie that potentially does dreams-within-dreams even better than Inception.

And as a teaser: a certain Daniel Dennett may or may not be joining us on November 7th.

Richard, Jennifer, and the HSMBB board

Join the Harvard Society for Mind, Brain and Behavior for:

Behind MCB 80: The Neurobiology of Synaptic Competition, with Professor Jeff Lichtman
This Monday, October 24th, 4-5 pm
Barker Center 114 (The Kresge Room)

Professor Jeff Lichtman is one of the two professors of the popular introductory class MCB 80: Neurobiology of Behavior.

Join us to meet the man behind the lectures! This is a great chance to learn about neurobiology and synapses in an intimate setting.

Professor Jeff Lichtman is interested in the mechanisms that underlie synaptic competition between neurons that innervate the same target cell. Such competitive interactions are responsible for sharpening the patterns of neural connections during development and may also be important in learning and memory formation. His laboratory studies synaptic competition by visualizing synaptic rearrangements directly in living animals using modern optical imaging techniques. They have concentrated on neuromuscular junctions in a very accessible neck muscle in mice where new transgenic animals and other labeling strategies allow individual nerve terminals and postsynaptic specializations to be monitored over hours or months. In addition, they have developed several new methods to improve our ability to resolve synaptic structure.

To learn more about HSMBB join our mailing list here.

And coming soon is a seminar with Professor Joshua Sanes, the other professor of MCB 80! He will be joining HSMBB on Tuesday, November 1st from 5-6 in the Barker Center’s Plimpton Room.


Science on Screen Presents:
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie with guest speaker Robert Stickgold, PhD
Coolidge Corner Theatre
Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Winner of the 1972 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the National Society of Film Critics’ Best Picture prize, Luis Buñuel’s surrealist masterpiece wickedly skewers bourgeois presumption and hypocrisy as a group of well-to-do friends repeatedly attempts to have a meal together, only to be interrupted by a series of increasingly bizarre events, both real and imagined.

No one in cinema handled dreams better than Buñuel, and here, he interweaves flashbacks, dreams, and dreams within dreams into his wickedly comic narrative. Joining us before the film to discuss the science of dreaming is Robert Stickgold. How does the latest research advance our understanding of where dreams come from? How do dreams contribute to the off-line reprocessing of newly formed memories? Are Freud’s theories dead?

Dr. Stickgold is associate professor of psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and HarvardMedical School, where he is the director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition. His research examines the nature of sleep and dreams from a cognitive neuroscience perspective, with an emphasis on the role of sleep and dreams in memory processing.

Tickets are $7.75 for students and Museum of Science members, and $9.75 general admission. Coolidge Corner Theatre members get in for free. For more information and to purchase tickets online, visit www.coolidge.org/science. Tickets are also available at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline. Phone: 617-734-2501.

MBB – A Neurologist’s portrait of van Gogh


Get excited and get classy – our first CommuniTea is coming up this Friday! These teas are designed to allow for a more leisurely and informal discussion with professors as well as a way of getting to know some of your fellow MBB students.

This week, we are delighted to have Professor Khoshbin, who will be joining us to talk about van Gogh and his possible neurological disorder:

Join the Harvard Society for Mind, Brain and Behavior for a CommuniTea!

This Friday, the 21st, 4-5pm come to Lowell Small Dining Hall

to chat with
Prof. Shah Khoshbin

while munching on delicious cookies and drinking tea,
and learn about his fascinating ideas on…

“A Neurologist’s portrait of van Gogh”

Professor Khoshbin is an Associate Professor of Neurology at HMS, chair of Currier’s premed program, and a wonderful teacher all around! (5.0 Q scores anyone?). Prof. Khoshbin studied fine arts in Beirut before his esteemed journey into medicine and teaching, and has some quite mesmerizing ideas about why van Gogh uses certain color combinations that draw millions of visitors to his canvases every year.
Recommended if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam: Visit the van Gogh museum! Over 200 of his artworks!!

Hope to see you there!
Jennifer, Richard, and the HSMBB Board

MBB presents “The Neuroscience of Zombies (and How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse)”

In preparation for Halloween (and, more practically speaking, the zombie apocalypse), Professor Schlozman will be dissecting the cinematic zombie to flesh out select aspects of functional and behavioral neuroscience; the subject of brain-hungry animated bodies may bode well for animated discussions on brains!

You can also expect 8 easy tips to help you survive the next zombie attack you experience. (Without this advice, you better hope that zombies chasing you are vegetarian).

Hope to see you there!
Richard, Jennifer, and the HSMBB board

The Harvard Society for Mind, Brain, and Behavior presents…
“The Neuroscience of Zombies (and How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse)”

An HSMBB seminar event presented by 

Professor Steve Schlozman, with special guest Director Howard Ford

Monday, October 17 from 4:30-5:30PM

Location TBA

Zombies have become a recent phenomenon in popular culture. How does a perfectly healthy human transform into a lifeless zombie? What do zombies teach us about ourselves and the importance of human connection and emotion? Come learn about how we can understand neuroscience, problems associated with neurodegenerative disorders, and the importance of mirror neurons through studying zombies!

Professor Steve Schlozman, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of the book The Zombie Autopsies: The Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse (currently being turned into a screenplay with the help of a certain George Romero), is a dynamic speaker whose talk could potentially save you from a zombie attack.

Howard Ford, the director of the highly acclaimed zombie movie, “The Dead”,  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e6lP7gksV0) will also be present.