Misfire

Why Brain Structure Makes Unintended Shootings Inevitable:

“The police killing of an unarmed 19-year-old on a Brooklyn rooftop last month appears to be a tragedy of nanoseconds and eons, a death delivered by a cop firing not because of a conscious decision but an instantaneous neuronal impulse hardwired from the days of our animal ancestors.

And there’s an obvious subtext of race. The shooter, officer Richard S. Neri Jr., is white. The victim, Timothy Stansbury Jr., was black. Scientific research has a say here too, probing whether our rawest reflexes can be primed by modern fears based on race.

Scientists are intensely studying the amygdala, a pair of almond-shaped neuron clusters inside the brain, to understand its role in post-traumatic stress disorder. The amygdala encodes memory with emotional weight, but it also alerts us to sensory information that we associate with danger. It’s the jittery small mammal inside us, always awaiting loud noises, sudden movements, and glints of teeth. The more we expect a threat, the more excitable it becomes.” —Village Voice

The poetics of babytalk

“Some parents may think it is undignified or detrimental, but babytalk is essential to the full development of a baby’s brain, says a researcher at the University of Alberta.

Babytalk, the universal cooing that mothers and fathers do to get their babies’ attention, is more important than we may have ever realized, says Dr. David Miall, professor of English at the U of A.

Babytalk helps infants to develop an understanding and appreciation of temporal arts, such as literature, music, and dance, and depriving babies of the alliteration, assonance, and other poetic elements inherent in babytalk could hinder their ability to produce and appreciate these arts when they grow up, says Miall, whose research was published recently in the journal Human Nature–An Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective.” EurekAlert!