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People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain abnormalities

Adonis-complex

Imagine looking in the mirror and not seeing yourself. Imagine losing weight and seeing a lower number on the scale, but when looking in the mirror you are still just as fat. Suffering from anorexia or other body dysmorphic disorders live like that daily. They literally don’t see what you and I might see when we look at them. It’s not their fault and a new study suggests that people suffering from anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder have similar abnormalities in their brains that affect their ability to process visual information.

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Not “just” crazy – Some psychoses caused by autoimmunity

schitzophrena

Antibodies defend the body against bacterial, viral, and other invaders. But sometimes the body makes antibodies that attack healthy cells. In these cases, autoimmune disorders develop. Immune abnormalities in patients with psychosis have been recognized for over a century, but it has been only relatively recently that scientists have identified specific immune mechanisms that seem to directly produce symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions. In other words, some forms of psychoses might just be an autoimmune disorder.

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Team accidentally finds key to DNA vaccination and genetic engineering

genetic engineering

It might have been an accident, but for some lucky researchers accidents are a good thing. In this particular case, scientists have discovered a new way to manipulate how cells function, a finding that might help advance an experimental approach to improving public health: DNA vaccines, which could be more efficient, less expensive and easier to store than traditional vaccines.

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A study of twins shows that autism is largely genetic

autism camp

In the fight against misinformation about autism it seems science is starting to come out on top, finally. A new study hopes to add to the recent advancements made in the understanding of autism, which finds that a substantial genetic and moderate environmental influences were associated with risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and broader autism traits in a study of twins.

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Who’s Leonard Nimoy?

Star trek

“I’m having a crappy day and to top it off Leonard Nimoy died today.” I told my wife as I was getting into our car after a particularly challenging day. No, I was not a huge trekkie growing up, but I did have a lot of respect for Leonard Nimoy and for Spock, the character that seemingly only he could bring to life. Truthfully, Spock and I had a lot in common, we were both mixed and neither one of us had an easier time for it. I typically don’t share my personal story here at the Labs, but I thought I would make an acception.

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Early life stress may result in a serotonin deficiency

my_suicidal_secret_by_howcouldyoudothat

If you have experienced — or are experiencing — mood disorders like anxiety or depression, you know about SSRI’s and chances are they didn’t do much for you. In fact studies indicate that the majority of people with mood and anxiety disorders who receive Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) are not helped by these medications. Sadly, they are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressant medications, this is because SSRIs are designed to increase serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is key to maintenance of mood.

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Drug already on the market could help treat MS and other neurological diseases

multiple_sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis, unless you suffer from nerve damage it is a pain you (thankfully) will never have to feel. In most cases, treating the brutal pain caused by this (and other neurological diseases) is the only help that can be offered to people. The pain is caused by damage to myelin, the fatty insulator that enables communication between nerve cells, which characterizes multiple sclerosis (MS) and other devastating neurological diseases.

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Science shows intermittent fasting diet could extend life

sandwich

Think of it as interval training for the dinner table. Proponents of fasting style diets will be first to tell you there are health benefits, heck we’ve even covered some of the science here at the labs. Well new research shows that putting people on a intermittent fasting (or IF) diet may mimic some of the benefits of  actual fasting, and that (ironically enough given their popularity) adding antioxidant supplements counteracts those benefits.

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Life, NOT as we know it

alien life

Life as we know it, when we peer deep into the vastness of space we look for someone — or something — that resembles ourselves. Carbon based, needs water lifeforms, but what if we’re being narrow-minded? A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of researchers suggests we are being too closed minded about life.

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New compounds protect nerves from the damage of MS

multiple sclerosis

Autoimmune diseases are tough to live with, frankly we don’t really understand the reasons they start at all, how to treat them, or even where to start in forming a cure. Well there might be some good news — as far as a treatment goes anyway — a newly characterized group of pharmacological compounds block both the inflammation and nerve cell damage seen in mouse models of multiple sclerosis.

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Dr. Frankenstein might be impressed, the human head transplant

head transplant

Sure it sounds like something from the book Frankenstein, but Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group has made it known that he intends to announce at this summer’s American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons meeting, that he believes he has put together a group of techniques that should make it possible to attach a human donor body to a head.

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The food additive that may be promoting obesity and metabolic syndrome

food addtivesPeople say to avoid processed foods, while I don’t agree with that fully, a new study suggests that a common food additive may be causing problems. Emulsifiers, which are added to most processed foods to aid texture and extend shelf life, can alter the gut microbiota composition and localization to induce intestinal inflammation that promotes the development of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome.

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Move over oil, new pretreatment could cut biofuel costs by 30 percent or more

biofuels

Alternative fuels have a few large problems making them horrible options over oil (which is already a horrible choice). However, researchers may have finally eliminated one of those problems, cost. The team has invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

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Brain waves help memory formation

brain waves

Our brains generate a constant hum of activity: As neurons fire, they produce brain waves that oscillate at different frequencies. Long thought to be merely a byproduct of neuron activity, recent studies suggest that these waves may play a critical role in communication between different parts of the brain.

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New neurons in the adult brain help us adapt

neurons

The discovery that the human brain continues to produce new neurons in adulthood challenged a major dogma in the field of neuroscience, but the role of these neurons in behavior and cognition is still not clear. In a review article researchers synthesize the vast literature on this topic, reviewing environmental factors that influence the birth of new neurons in the adult hippocampus, a region of the brain that plays an important role in memory and learning.

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Mental illness and ultradian rhythms

sleep

In the relatively new 24 hour, always on the go, digital lifestyle we live — might living a structured life with regularly established mealtimes and early bedtimes lead to a better life and perhaps even prevent the onset of mental illness? Well according to a new study, it might do just that, you could have a better quality of life just by being a little more structured thanks to our circadian rhythm.

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Overriding muscles’ energy efficiency to burn more fat

diet

What started as an evolutionary protection against starvation has become a biological “bad joke” for people who need to lose weight. The human body doesn’t distinguish between dieting and possible starvation, so when there is a decrease in calories consumed, human metabolism increases its energy efficiency and weight loss is resisted.

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Predicting the effectiveness of cancer vaccines

cancer

Cancer vaccines, once they were science fiction and now they are designed to turn the body’s own immune system specifically against tumor cells. Particularly promising are vaccines that are directed against so-called neoantigens — which are proteins that have undergone a genetic mutation in tumor cells and, therefore, differ from their counterparts in healthy cells.

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Hipster liver wants to remind everyone

Hipster liver

A point of note, your kidneys and liver do a great job of “detoxing” the body. There is no special thing you need to do or buy to help it along; if you really want to give your liver a high five for being awesome, just drink in moderation.

Scientists find anti-HIV agent and possible start for a vaccine

hiv cure

We may just have found a missing link in the fight towards an HIV vaccine. No, this is not an over-hyped headline, in a remarkable new advance against the virus that causes AIDS, scientists have announced the creation of a novel drug candidate that is so potent and universally effective, it might work as part of an unconventional vaccine.

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Shopping while hungry leads to more non-food purchases

This comic by The Oatmeal, check out his site for more awesomeness.

This comic by The Oatmeal, check out his site for more awesomeness.

Ever go shopping when you’re hungry and notice you walked out with a lot more than you were expecting to buy? While most people know that when you are hungry, you typically will buy more food (as illustrated by The Oatmeal above), new research shows that there is a clear link between hunger and buying non-food items.  A team of international researchers has released a paper that describes five laboratory and field studies they conducted which showed how people respond to non-food objects when they are hungry.

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Why low-carb or fasting diets are good for your health

Low-Carb-Diet

While most research regarding fat loss focuses on the risks of being overweight, a new study shows that fasting, low-carb diets, or high-intensity exercise have specific health benefits. Specifically, researchers have found that a compound produced by the body when dieting or fasting can block a part of the immune system involved in several inflammatory disorders such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The “successful aging” debate

aging

We see it everyday in advertising, turn back the clock, reverse aging — look, feel, and be younger. With all these standards, how do you define aging, or more importantly successful aging. Scholars have long debated what successful aging is, how to measure it, and how to promote it. But researchers are now laying the groundwork for building consensus on the topic — while pointing out that the answer may differ among academics and the general public, as well as across populations and demographic groups.

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A very Sciencey Valentine’s day

valentines-day

Happy valentines day! Okay maybe it’s turned into more of a reason to spend money on chocolate and flowers than it is about showing affection — which is probably why some people hate it — but it can still be a somewhat special day. Unfortunately I’ve been struggling on what I could do for my wife on valentines day. So I thought I would work it out here and maybe even help a few of you who are stuck as well.

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Interstellar helps physicists research spinning black holes

black hole inerstellar

There is a saying that life imitates art and while people like to disagree with the meaning of it, sometimes art can imitate life. For instance the team responsible for the Oscar-nominated visual effects at the centre of Interstellar, have turned science fiction into science fact by providing new insights into the powerful effects of black holes.

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Possible mechanism underpinning Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s type diseases found

alzhemers

Neurodegenerative diseases have remained stubbornly increasing in prevalence for sometime now. Unfortunately longer life does not mean a better quality of life. Thankfully that could change sooner than you think, scientists have for the first time discovered a killing mechanism that could underpin a range of the most intractable neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS.

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Music may reduce your ability to remember!

Music memory

Sometimes just turning on some background music really helps a person get things done. While music may help some people relax when they’re trying to concentrate, new research suggests that it doesn’t help them remember what they’re focusing on, especially as they get older.

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Seafood associated with autoimmune disease

fish

Autoimmunity is one of those great mysteries of the human body. We still aren’t sure what causes it and treating it can be painfully ineffective. Unfortunately my sister knows that one first hand, so here at the labs autoimmunity is a problem close to our heart. While we may not know what causes autoimmunity, a new study suggests one of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity among women of childbearing age may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood.

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Help on the horizon for treatment resistant depression

brain

Depression is like a kick while you’re already down. Sometimes there is no real reason for it, sometimes it is triggered by some serious life issues, but clinical depression always has very real neurological roots. Unfortunately, while we know that certain areas of the brain are smaller in a depressed person, we don’t know why or what effect it has on a person. Worse, SSRI’s the “gold standard” for depression can have no — or worse ill — effects on the person taking the drugs.

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‘Virtual virus’ unfolds the flu on a CPU

flu virus

The flu virus can be pretty nasty — it’s quick to evolve — which means yearly flu shots are needed and then it’s only a guess to which strain will be the most prevalent. Well new research aims to change all that, by combining experimental data from X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, cryoelectron microscopy and lipidomics (the study of cellular lipid networks), researchers have built a complete model of the outer envelope of an influenza A virion for the first time. So would that make it a computer virus, virus?

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Anorexia, it’s in your genes

eating disorder mirror

No one likes to talk about eating disorders — specifically anorexia nervosa — despite the increased prevalence in both men and women. Like depression people tend to think that you can “just get over it” or some other nonsense. However new research is shedding light on the truth behind anorexia, much like with depression, there is a biological component involved. Simply put, it gets written into your genes.

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Scientists find a way to treat hormone deficiency from an unlikely source

Cute Cow

Science has helped us to live longer and in some cases much fuller lives. Unfortunately for some with serious medical conditions, they may lead a long life, but a life of what? To that end a group of researchers set out to help people with hormone deficiencies and the team has developed a potential new therapy based on an unlikely model: immune molecules from cows.

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Meditation might mean more gray matter in later years

brain meditation

Since 1970, life expectancy around the world has risen dramatically, with people living more than 10 years longer. That’s the good news. The bad news is that starting when people are in their mid-to-late-20s, the brain begins to wither — its volume and weight begin to decrease. As this occurs, the brain can begin to lose some of its functional abilities.

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Study shows children and birds learn alike

Image credit goes to: John Petsel

Image credit goes to: John Petsel

Your child is your pride and joy — and why not, every parent should be a proud one, even if your child might be bird brained. Or maybe birds are baby brained? In any case, a new study has found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects–and not just a few objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.

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Researchers discover viral ‘Enigma machine’

virus

Antibiotics are for infections, vaccines are for viruses, and unfortunately both bacteria AND viruses mutate. So when someone has AIDS for example it is hard to fight since a vaccine would be hard to produce given how rapidly it evolves. Well now researchers may be one step closer to solving the problem since they have cracked a code that governs infections by a major group of viruses which includes the common cold and polio.

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Scientists find the genetic trigger for immune system response

Immune-System

Mitochondria are the “powerhouse of the cell.” We all learn in biology that they have seemingly one function in the body, converting food and oxygen into energy. Well that might not be the case anymore; the thousands of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) molecules present in each cell have been identified in an unexpected relationship with the innate immune response.

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How social norms come into being

 

social norms

Fifteen years ago, the name “Aiden” was hardly on the radar of Americans with new babies. It ranked a lowly 324th on the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names. But less than a decade later, the name became a favorite, soaring into the top 20 for five years and counting. Now, a new study provides a scientific explanation for how social conventions — everything from acceptable baby names to standards of professional conduct — can emerge suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, with no external forces driving their creation.

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Alternatives to antibiotics in an antibiotic resistant world

super bugs

Let’s be honest, we’ve been getting a little fancy with the antibiotics, creating new and more relevant versions of old favorites like penicillin. Truthfully, we are the problem, how many times do we have to drive home the idea that antibiotics are for bacteria, not viruses. It is not all the consumers fault, the Doctors used to hand out antibiotics to placate angry parents of sick children.

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New theory tries to define where black holes don’t exist

black hole

The quintessential feature of a black hole is its “point of no return,” or what is more technically called its event horizon, yes just like the movie. When anything—a star, a particle, or wayward human—crosses this horizon, the black hole’s massive gravity pulls it in with such force that it is impossible to escape. At least, this is what happens in traditional black hole models based on general relativity. In general, the existence of this event horizon is responsible for most of the strange phenomena associated with black holes.

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Same sex relationships and stress: A new perspective

same sex couple

Studies of stress and its effects on health have typically focused on the worries of an individual: money, love, health, work. When we turn our attention on relationship stress, the focus is generally on your typical couple. However, new research studies how minority stress — which results from being stigmatized and disadvantaged in society — affects same-sex couples’ stress levels and overall health.

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Mental illness treatment, there’s NOT an app for that

cellphone mental illness

It’s more socially acceptable to talk about mental illness, which is important since the number of people who have it — or should we say, are getting treatment for mental illness — has steadily increased over the years. While it still may be taboo to talk about, mental illness is a very real thing needing very real treatment, however new research now shows that texting may be a more suitable treatment aid for those with mental illness than mobile applications.

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Political gridlock: Blame the men

senate

It feels like the government moves at a snails pace sometimes, it takes forever for any change to come about and even then it is typically not even “change.” This couldn’t be more evident than during the political gridlock that led to the 2013 US federal government shutdown, the leading voices for compromise were the handful of female U.S. senators — only 20 percent of the overall legislative body.

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Everyday chemical exposure leads to early menopause

Because nothing says menopause like sitting in front of a fan...

Because nothing says menopause like sitting in front of a fan…

Seems like everything is killing us these days. Well ladies, you have one more thing that is causing you problems. New research has shown that women whose bodies have high levels of chemicals found in plastics, personal-care products, common household items and the environment experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of these chemicals.

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Your brain is hardening your arteries, but not on purpose!

arteries

Your brain might just be killing you slowly. Atherosclerosis — or hardening and narrowing of the arteries — can be caused by fat buildup that causes plaque deposits, and is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. What does that have to do with the brain? Well new research has shown a link between how the brain regulates fat metabolism, which has the potential of stopping the development of this disease risk factor in obesity and diabetes.

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You can’t unboil an egg? Well… now you can.

hardboiled eggs

There is a saying, “you can’t unboil an egg.” Usually this is just illustrating cause and effect; you can’t turn back time, or what’s done is done. Well now scientists have successfully unboiled an egg, so suck it thermodynamics. An international team of chemists have accomplished this feat – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to the findings.

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Hyper sleep- A “down to earth” space story

hyper sleep

It was every kids’ dream to go into space, not understanding the perils or the boredom that comes with it. The idea of floating weightless and “boldly going where no man has gone before” permeated the imagination as nothing had ever done before. Space, why did there have to be so much of it?

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Lucid dreaming: The similarities between dreaming and wakefulness

lucid-dream

To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life — a truly tempting idea. Some people — so-called lucid dreamers — can do this. Researchers have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when they are awake.

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Mothers don’t speak clearly to their babies

talking to babies

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like “tummy”. While we might be inclined to think that we talk this way because it is easier for children to understand, new research suggests that, surprisingly, mothers may actually speak less clearly to their infants than they do to adults.

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Belief’s effect on biochemistry in cases of addiction

belief and addiction

Ever wonder what makes people susceptible to addiction? Think about it, some people can stop addictive painkillers without a problem and others, well others are not so lucky. So the big question is are there more than biophysical factors at play in addiction? A new study shows that cognitive beliefs play a significant role in a person’s neurological response to an addictive substance and that belief can diminish the neurological effects of an addictive drug.

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Fish, mercury, and pregnancy: Good news for seafood lovers

pregnant women fish

People freak out when they hear mercury is in something and sometimes for good reasons. In vaccinations for example a very small amount of ethyl-mercury WAS used as a preservative in vaccines, people got scared so now it is not used in most vaccines. Methylmercury* however is found in seafood and larger fish in particular (in much, much higher concentrations than in vaccines mind you). They may sound the same, but the methylmercury in fish is far more toxic. That said, it turns out that fish isn’t as toxic as we thought, so all you pregnant women who love fish will be happy to hear this.

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