Brit-Am Anthropology and DNA Update
13 December 2010, 6 Tevet 5771
1. Environment Behind Achievement?
Britain: White boys 'trailing at school'.
2. Cranial differences between Japanese Samurai and townsfolk.
3. Is Ginger More Sensitive?
"Why Surgeons Dread Redheads" by Meredith
Melnick .


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1. Environment Behind Acheivement?
Britain: White boys 'trailing at school'
Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Boys from white working-class backgrounds are doing worse at school than black teenagers, according to a Conservative Party report.

The document from the party's social justice policy group says only 17% of white male students gained five or more A*-C grade GCSEs.

That compares with 19% for boys of Caribbean origin, Tories suggest.

It compared the exam performance of boys in receipt of free school meals from different ethnic backgrounds.

It suggests that social issues, such as a lack of parental support, peer pressure and family breakdown are contributing to white working-class teenagers' poor exam results.

But the report adds that black teenage boys are affected by similar factors, yet are performing marginally better at school.

"The fact that poor children from Chinese and Indian backgrounds, where family structures are strong and learning is highly valued, outscore so dramatically children from homes where these values are often missing, suggests that culture not ethnicity or cash is the key to educational achievement."

2. Cranial differences between Japanese Samurai and townsfolk.
Tomohito Nagaoka et al.
Evidence for temporal and social differences in cranial dimensions in Edo-period Japanese

This study examined the craniometric traits of the Edo-period (AD1603'1867) human skeletons from the Hitotsubashi site in Tokyo, compared them with temporally and socially various populations, and attempted to detect the morphological differentiation patterns that the Edo-period Japanese exhibited over time and under those social/environmental conditions. The materials measured here were the townsmen's crania from the Hitotsubashi site, which were dated back to the early half of the Edo period. The observations revealed that the Hitotsubashi samples were more dolichocephalic than any other Edo series and were different from subsequent Edo series in terms of larger maximum cranial length and smaller maximum cranial breadth. The Hitotsubashi samples were definitely in contrast with those of Tentokuji and Shirogane, both of which included a samurai (warrior) class of the late to final Edo period and exhibited the most brachycephalic crania. It is reasonable to assume that the temporal and social situations were possibly related to the observed cranial variation and that the temporal changes in cranial dimensions in pre-modern Japan might have reflected the nutritional and environmental conditions.

3. Is Ginger More Sensitive?
Why Surgeons Dread Redheads
By Meredith

As the authors of a recent study published in BMJ attest, society's red-haired members don't always get a fair shake. Hoary stereotypes, such as the idea that redheads are also hot heads, are mixed together with actual physiological differences ' such as a heightened sensitivity to pain. Now science is getting a better understanding of redheaded physiology than ever before.

In numerical terms, people with red hair are a decided minority. They comprise just 2-6% of the population of the northern hemisphere and 1-2% worldwide. It's genetics that make them such rare birds.

The carrot-top coloration is caused by a gene on chromosome 16 that affects the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) protein, which often leads to the redheads' characteristic pale skin and light eyes, as well as a sensitivity to ultraviolet light ' which is why they must slather on the sunscreen when they go outside. Because the gene is recessive, both parents must carry it in order for a red-haired child to be born. That's not difficult ' 80% of the global population carries the redheaded gene even most if they do so invisibly.

For those few who do have the redhead phenotype, the physical challenges go beyond the occasional sunburn ' something that surgeons well know. And that's what the BMJ authors sought to explore in their meta-analysis, or survey of the existing scientific literature

Operating room docs, for example, have long reported that redheads appear to need more anesthetic than others. The new study suggests that observation is an accurate one ' mostly. Those with the MC1R mutation are more sensitive to opiate pain killers ' which means they'd actually need less ' but less sensitive to other types, most notably lidocaine injections. One study which used heat-related pain as its litmus of overall sensitivity showed that redheads indeed felt things more acutely and unpleasantly, probably because the MC1R mutation releases a hormone that stimulates a brain receptor associated with pain regulation.

Overall, the researchers concluded that even if redheads require a little extra handling on the operating table, trepidation among surgeons had more to do with stereotypes than with clinical evidence."It would seem that the reputation of people with red hair for having increased perioperative risk is without any basis in fact and should only be used as an excuse of last resort by surgeons defending problematic bleeding or recurrent hernias," concluded authors, Andrew L Cunningham and Christopher P Jones.

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