Human sexuality and gender expression is a continuum, much in the same way that height and weight are. Not everyone fits into the categories of strictly straight, strictly gay, male or female. Dichotomising sexuality and gender ignores the continuum or clusters of individuals who don’t fall into one of two (and only two) categories and we can fall prey to thinking that one is “normal”. While people may find comfort in the “born this way” argument, looking for a “gay gene” can indicate a level of non-acceptance. If the variation between individuals is collapsed to a binary then the focus becomes on asking why one end of the spectrum exists, when the better question would be to ask how variation in sexuality evolved and came about.
Indigenous cultures have a deep emotional investment and attachment to the landscape that acts as both almanac and encyclopaedia. It’s amazing that different cultures separated by vast oceans and continents have independently perceived the patterns in constellations in strikingly similar ways, despite being geographically and temporally separated. Stories from the cosmos give both practical guidance and spiritual comfort, and this way of telling stories and reading the stars is a way of keeping knowledge constant across generations.
We enjoyed another remarkable, whirlwind tour of the sciences at the Society last night, with these six outstanding early-career scientists presenting work that pushes the boundaries of knowledge across incredibly diverse fields of research. The applicant pool grew this year to 60 final year PhDs from across Victorian research institutions, meaning our six finalists had already distinguished themselves simply by being selected to present to us on the evening.
The current treatment model for addictive behaviours involves treating people based on the substance or behaviour they are dependent on; however, there are usually underlying psychological reasons for their addictions that might not go away (i.e. treating someone for alcoholism who drinks due to an earlier trauma doesn’t remove the injury of the underlying trauma). The solution is to ‘focus on underlying drivers, not surface symptoms of problematic behaviours’. Rather than assessing and focusing on a diagnostic “what”, Professor Yücel and BrainPark are focusing on the “why”.
People often say that we are not born racist, however the truth is actually more complicated: new-born infants exhibit no preference for faces of various ethnic groups, however from the age of 3 months, infants begin to take longer to scan faces – indicating that they are thinking more about appearances – and exhibit a preference for faces of their parents’ (and own) ethnic group(s). These findings imply that while we may not be born racist, our perceptions of ethnic differences are learned during early development as a result of exposure to own- versus other-race faces. In this reflective piece, Catriona Nguyen-Robertson considers the neuroscience of racism as presented to the Society by Dr Larry Sherman, drawing parallels to her own experience as an Australian with a mixed heritage of Vietnamese and Scottish parentage.