The Chukchansi Indian tribe runs a 2,000 slot casino in California. The casino has proven so profitable that the tribe has gone beyond providing healthcare and stipends for its members to make a sizable, and somewhat surprising, donation: They’re giving $1 million to linguists at nearby California State University, Fresno, to study their language and, with the help of a few remaining native speakers, teach it to younger generations. The Chuckchansi are one of many tribes, Norimitsu Onishi reports at the New York Times, spending casino earnings on efforts to pull their languages back from the brink of extinction:
Plenty has changed since the last update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the operating manual for psychiatrists, was published in 1994. With the new fifth version set for a 2013 release, the task force behind the update released its recommended changes for public comment this week, and comments will likely come in droves.
The proposed changes touch many of the psychiatric issues that get people the most riled up. For example, the four separate diagnoses related to autism — autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified — would now be referred to as autism spectrum disorders [Los Angeles Times].
That won’t sit well with many people who have Asperger’s, Geraldine Dawson of the advocacy group Autism Speaks tells the Los Angeles Times, because they see their condition as something distinct from the others. People with Asperger’s usually don’t have the cognitive and verbal problems that often come with autism, and they can have savant-like abilities. Some scientists are displeased as well. “By massively pathologizing people under these categories, you tend to put them on an automatic path to medication, even if they are experiencing normal distress,” said Jerome C. Wakefield, a professor of social work and psychiatry at New York University [Washington Post].
Whether your fear is panicked, like in a life-or-death situation, or deliberative, like a decision about whether to take a big risk on game show, it all comes back to the amygdala. And a new study of patients with lesions on the amygdala, reported by Caltech scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that damage to our brain’s fear center might turn people into reckless gamblers.
The researchers found two women with Urbach-Wiethe disease, which results in damage to the almond-shaped amygdala. Benedetto De Martinoa and his team paired those two with 12 people with undamaged brains, and presented everyone with a series of gambling tests. The study found that healthy volunteers would only opt to gamble if the potential gains were one and a half to two times the size of the potential losses [BBC News]. The women with Urbach-Wiethe, however, would keep rolling the dice as the odds got worse, and in some cases would even play if the potential loss was greater than the potential gain.
Following up on today’s earlier post about alcohol and brain injuries, we bring you a study on alcohol and risk taking behavior. It seems obvious that drinking alcohol would lead to immediate risk taking, but does drinking as a teenager lead to risk taking behavior as an adult? Some researchers have suspected as much, but they haven’t been able to rule out the possibility that risk-prone people simply start drinking at an earlier age. So a research group chose an obvious course of action to test the idea—they got a bunch of rats drunk and let them gamble.
The researchers tested two groups of genetically identical rats, one group that was fed a normal diet and another that boozed it up. To get the rats drunk, the researchers borrowed the tried-and-true approach of frat boys everywhere—they fed them Jell-O shots. The rats went on a 20 day bender and were tested for risky behavior 3 weeks later, when they were adults, using a gambling task. The animals learned that pressing one lever produced small but certain rewards in the form of small sugar pellets and an adjacent lever yielded bigger rewards—more pellets—but paid off less frequently. The researchers rigged the game so that in some testing sessions choosing the certain reward was the best overall strategy, while in other sessions the “risky” lever yielded the greatest overall payoff [ScienceNOW Daily News].