Papers of the week, 06/02 – 06/09

I didn’t get to a blog post roundup this week.  But I definitely will this week!  Definitely…  Here we go for the academic papers:

The application of ecological theory toward an understanding of the human microbiome

One review of many on the human microbiome in this week’s Science.  “Each person can be viewed as an island-like “patch” of habitat occupied by microbial assemblages formed by the fundamental processes of community ecology: dispersal, local diversification, environmental selection, and ecological drift. Community assembly theory, and metacommunity theory in particular, provides a framework for understanding the ecological dynamics of the human microbiome, such as compositional variability within and between hosts.”

Friendship networks and social status

“Here we analyze a large collection of such networks representing friendships among students at US high and junior-high schools and show that the pattern of unreciprocated friendships is far from random. In every network, without exception, we find that there exists a ranking of participants, from low to high, such that almost all unreciprocated friendships consist of a lower-ranked individual claiming friendship with a higher-ranked one.”

Whole-brain mapping of direct inputs to midbrain dopamine neurons

“…we comprehensively identified each area’s monosynaptic inputs using the rabies virus. We show that dopamine neurons in both areas integrate inputs from a more diverse collection of areas than previously thought, including autonomic, motor, and somatosensory areas.”  And so on.

Action selection and action value in frontal-striatal ciruits

“Examination of neural activity showed that the representation of the selected action was stronger in lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC), and occurred earlier in the lPFC than it did in the dorsal striatum (dSTR). In contrast to this, the representation of action values, in both the random and fixed conditions, was stronger in the dSTR. Thus, the dSTR contains an enriched representation of action value, but it followed frontal cortex in action selection.”

Corticosterone predicts foraging behavior and parental care in Macaroni Penguins

Macaroni Penguins!  “Increased corticosterone levels were associated with significantly higher levels of foraging and diving activity and greater mass gain in implanted females. Elevated plasma corticosterone was also associated with an apparent fitness benefit in the form of increased chick mass. Plasma prolactin levels did not correlate with corticosterone levels at any time, nor was prolactin correlated with any measure of foraging behavior or parental care. Our results provide support for the corticosterone-adaptation hypothesis, which predicts that higher corticosterone levels support increased foraging activity and parental effort.”

Structural variations in prefrontal cortex mediate the relationship between early childhood stress and spatial working memory

“Analysis of variations in brain structure revealed that cumulative life stress and spatial working memory were related to smaller volumes in the PFC, specifically prefrontal gray and white matter between the anterior cingulate and the frontal poles. Mediation analyses revealed that individual differences in prefrontal volumes accounted for the association between cumulative life stress and spatial working memory.”

Social status predicts wound healing in wild baboons

“We found no evidence that the high testosterone and intense reproductive effort associated with high rank suppress immune responses. Instead, high-ranking males were less likely to become ill, and they recovered more quickly than low-ranking males, even controlling for differences in age. Notably, alpha males, who experience high glucocorticoids, as well as the highest testosterone and reproductive effort, healed significantly faster than other males, even other high-ranking males.”  But of course, you read about this in my last post.

Iterated prisoner’s dilemma contains strategies that dominate any evolutionary opponent

“It is generally assumed that there exists no simple ultimatum strategy whereby one player can enforce a unilateral claim to an unfair share of rewards. Here, we show that such strategies unexpectedly do exist. In particular, a player X who is witting of these strategies can (i) deterministically set her opponent Y’s score, independently of his strategy or response, or (ii) enforce an extortionate linear relation between her and his scores. Against such a player, an evolutionary player’s best response is to accede to the extortion. Only a player with a theory of mind about his opponent can do better, in which case Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma is an Ultimatum Game.”  By Freeman Dyson!

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