Rubeena Shamsudheen, MS, MA, PhD (c) – Brain Blogger Health and Science Blog Covering Brain Topics Wed, 30 May 2018 15:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Out-Group Discrimination Fuels Anger, Risk-Taking and Vigilance Mon, 20 May 2013 11:00:01 +0000 Discrimination originates in prejudice. It most often takes the form of social rejection, with racial- and gender-based discrimination being two of the most common types. A curious phenomenon about the effects of discrimination is reported in the journal Psychological Science by the team of Wendy Mendes — a senior psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

It is suggested that we divide the world into them (out-group) and us (in-group), by placing people into social groups. The Wendes study suggests that individuals are more sensitive to discrimination by out-group members than in-group members. In-group discrimination leads to feelings of threat and shame, whereas discrimination by out-group members is perceived as a challenge situation, leading instead to anger. In-group discrimination is also linked to cortisol increase, short term memory impairments, and increased vascular resistance which, if experienced over the long-term, can lead to disorders with severe cognitive impairments. However, the study reports that out-group discrimination has more immediate results: expressions of anger, increased vigilance for danger, and more risk-taking behaviors. So, out-group discrimination is more likely to lead to dangerous behavior patterns compared to in-group discrimination.

Discrimination seems to be a very powerful social weapon. The effects described above do not necessarily need a face-to-face situation. In the study by Mendes and colleagues, participants at the receiving end of social rejection showed distinct emotional and physiological profiles when merely informed that their on-line negative interaction was with either an in-group or an out-group member. Social rejection from an out-group partner — even in an on-line interaction — is enough to trigger anger and risk-taking behaviors.

The research described above focused only on racial discrimination. The participants were simply told that the person spewing negativity through chat was either a person of the same race or from a different race as the participant. Despite the anonymity and one-off interaction, the effect of social rejection was strong enough to elicit both affective and physiological responses.

The effects could possibly be much stronger if the interactions are prolonged or with known ‘friends’. It is also highly possible that the strong and negative reaction to discrimination is not limited to racial discrimination alone. People form out-groups and in-groups based on the current social situation they are in. Affective and physiological responses similar to that observed in the study discussed above could be triggered in reaction to any form of out-group discrimination.

Hate blogs, discriminatory social networking groups and posts may therefore have a tremendous impact on our social lives. Consider how many times we run across discriminatory posts while on a random scrawl through our news feeds. This study might be reason enough to stop you sharing apparently harmless, but potentially discriminatory messages on your Facebook wall.


Jamieson JP, Koslov K, Nock MK, & Mendes WB (2013). Experiencing discrimination increases risk taking. Psychological science, 24 (2), 131-9 PMID: 23257767

Image via Mary_L / Shutterstock.

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Obama Says “BAM” – The Brain Activity Map Fri, 08 Mar 2013 12:00:56 +0000 Obama has consistently created history, and he did so once again. Brain Activity Map (BAM) is a project that aims to map each neuronal activity and connection in the human brain. The project ever since Obama compared it to the Human Genome Project at his State of union address is widely believed to have garnered funding by the US federal government. The ballpark figure that the Obama administration will allocate to this ambitious project is thought to cross over into a few billion dollars.

BAM was first proposed in September 2011 by the Kavli Foundation while they sought to bring together the worlds top talents in neuroscience and nano-science, in a project aimed at “recording from every neuron in the human brain at the same time” as it was put by the projects spearhead Yuste.

The human brain is thought to have a hundred billion neurons. Scientists and non-scientists have been forever intrigued with what makes humans humane, the answer obviously resides in the human brain. However the closest we have ever come to taking a look at the active human brain is through the techniques of EEG and fMRI, both of which have limitations. Neither of the technique allows a precise time locked understanding of individual neuronal activity neither do either of them come anywhere close to understanding how individual neurons speak to one another.

BAM hopes to not just understand the different kind of connections the different kind of neurons have in our brain but hopes to be able to decipher the neuronal messages and the neuronal language in order to understand how the human brain produces it’s thoughts and perceptions.

The human brain mapping project is an immense undertaking and requires a detailed road map. The road map to the eventual ambitious goal was laid out in a recent Neuron publication written by the scientists who initially proposed the project, Yuste and colleagues. The paper explains in detail the technological advances that would have to be made before the project can eventually map the neuronal individual and collective output. The team proposes a modest aim to first map the drosophila fly’s 135,000 or so neurons, and then to map the zebra fish and mouse. The next milestone would be the more ambitious mapping of a mammalian brain, the smallest being that of the etruscan shrew with one million neurons, and finally the human brain.

However many neuroscientists and psychologists have asked the crucial question on whether the sum of parts can ever equal the total when it come to an extremely complex puzzle as the human brain. Would mapping each neuron and its connection be enough to tell us what makes us humans? However, many are more worried about the eventual success of the project which not only seeks to map the brain but also seeks to learn how to control the human brain or to manipulate the neurons or to put it more bluntly, how to control the human mind.


Alivisatos AP, Chun M, Church GM, Greenspan RJ, Roukes ML, & Yuste R (2012). The brain activity map project and the challenge of functional connectomics. Neuron, 74 (6), 970-4 PMID: 22726828

Image via spirit of america / Shutterstock.

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