Book Links 30-05-2016


Articles from around the web which fascinated me – and which I hope may be of interest to anyone who has read my books.

Neanderthals were smarter than you may think

The Atlantic has published an article about discoveries in a cave in France which are rewriting our views of Neanderthals. (My prehistoric stories in the Koriba series don’t feature Neanderthals – the people in those novels are all Cro-Magnon or modern humans. All the same, I assume visitors here may share my wider interest in all things prehistoric.)

The finds at Bruniquel Cave include hominid-made structures – created from stalagmites and stalactites – which are astonishingly old:

After drilling into the stalagmites and pulling out cylinders of rock, the team could see an obvious transition between two layers. On one side were old minerals that were part of the original stalagmites; on the other were newer layers that had been laid down after the fragments were broken off by the cave’s former users. By measuring uranium levels on either side of the divide, the team could accurately tell when each stalagmite had been snapped off for construction.

Their date? 176,500 years ago, give or take a few millennia.

The structure were clearly not intended as shelter since they are deep within a cave. The best guess is that they were made for ritual, religious or cultural purposes.

 “The Neanderthal group responsible for these constructions had a level of social organization that was more complex than previously thought…. We now know that Neanderthals made tools, used fire, made art, buried their dead, and perhaps even had language.”

Waking from a coma

STAT has a piece on the use of brain scans to predict which patients might one day wake from a coma (a situation featured in my novel Lost In Thought).

A simple measurement using a device available in every hospital could distinguish brain damaged patients who are likely to “wake up” from those who are not, scientists reported on Thursday.

Scientists have tried using position emission tomography, or PET, imaging, which measures brain metabolism, to better predict which patients could regain consciousness.

The scientists tested the technique on 131 brain-injured patients: 49 in a vegetative state, 65 who were minimally conscious, and 17 who were emerging from a minimally conscious state. No single region was associated with likelihood of regaining consciousness — that is, the brain does not have a “consciousness center.”

But overall metabolism did show a difference.

Life and creativity after a stroke

Mind Hacks has a piece on Lotje Sodderland who experienced a major brain haemorrhage at the age of 34 and has made a documentary about her experiences and recovery.

She started filming herself a few days afterwards on her iPhone, initially to make sense of her suddenly fragmented life, but soon contacted film-maker Sophie Robinson to get an external perspective.

It’s interesting both as a record of an emotional journey through recovery, but also because Lotje spent a lot of time working with a special effects designer to capture her altered experience of the world and make it available to the audience.

The documentary is now available available on Netflix. This is the trailer:

Lotje wrote a long-form article which appeared in The Guardian back in 2014.

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