Genetic History of Coconuts, Beauty in the Beholder’s Brain
We have lots of news from the tropics this week. Elsa brings us news about the history of coconut farming, palm plantations in the Amazon and discovery of a previously unknown indigenous group in Brazil. Then, some news about where beauty resides in the brain. Our Forum discussion with epidemiologist William Foege about conquering deadly diseases continues through July 12th. Click here to join the conversation.
Beauty Perception in the Brain: Beauty may well be in the beholder’s eyes, but it is also in the beholder’s brain. A new study by scientists in the U.K. have identified a region in the brain that is involved in the perception of beauty. The researchers put volunteers in an fMRI machine that measures the activity in people’s brains. Then, the volunteers were showed some paintings and made to listen to musical excerpts and asked to rate them as very beautiful or very ugly. Every time the volunteers felt a painting or a musical piece was beautiful, one particular region of their brain lit up in the brain scans. The region is called medial orbito-frontal cortex, and is part of the brain’s reward and pleasure center.
Guest: Semir Zeki
The study was published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Elsa’s Favorite Science Stories:
History of Coconuts: A new genetic analysis of more than 1,000 coconuts reveals that humans invented coconut cultivation twice, independently, in two different parts of the world.
Oil Palms in Brazil: Oil palm plantations have been the cause of environmental destruction and greenhouse gas emission in Southeast Asia. Now Brazil plans to get in on the oil palm action, but a recent article suggests that things may go differently there.
The full article.
The Reuters version.
More environmentally friendly palms.
Uncontacted Tribes in Brazil The Brazilian government has confirmed that a previously unknown tribe of about 200 people is living in a remote reserve near the Peruvian border. Their conclusion is based on aerial photos of the people, their huts and their gardens.
See the photos of the settlement in this article from Wired Science.
Photos of a different uncontacted group were released in February.
More about uncontacted tribes from Survival International.