We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for March, 2015

An apple a day may keep the children away: Pesticides and sperm count

DangerPesticides

Ever hear that old saying an apple a day keeps the Doctor away? Well it might have the right idea, just the wrong person. New research investigating the relationship between eating fruit and vegetables containing pesticide residues and the quality of men’s semen has shown a link with lower sperm counts and percentages of normally-formed sperm. So for people wanting children it may be time to rethink that produce.

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Ovulation changes women’s desire for variety in products

women-shopping

We know that hormones affect who we are, even when we aren’t aware of it. In the past scientists have found that people who are hungry tend to buy more things, no surprise for those of us who have shopped hungry. However, new research shows that women seek a greater variety of products and services, specifically when they are ovulating.

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Welcome to the wikipedia for neurons

brain neuroscience

While the brain might not have more connections than stars in the universe (sorry guys), it is still complex. In fact, someone I respect defined a neuroscientist as “someone who knows how little we know about the brain.” Despite the decades worth of data that has been collected about the billions of neurons in the brain, we still don’t know much. So to help scientists make sense of the vast amount of information we already collected, researchers used data mining to create neuroelectro.org, a publicly available website that acts like Wikipedia, indexing physiological information about neurons.

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UK Researchers find parental perception of child’s weight is skewed

Childhood-Obesity

Childhood obesity affects more than double the amount of children it did 30 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). To figure out why the rate is increasing researchers studied the relationship between parents and their obese children to determine how to improve pediatric health. The study actually reveals how poorly parents rate their own child’s weight issues — at least until they reach extreme levels of obesity.

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Biofuel, good for the environment if you’re eating less

ethanol gas from corn

When the government first changed policy to require ethanol in gasoline, we were told it would reduce our carbon footprint. Then food prices rose significantly and corn in particular saw the largest price rise. This was because corn is a staple in production of almost any other food from eggs to beef, but the policy made environmental sense. Well it made sense, until you found out that the new policy also took into account people eating less.

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Too much attention can be a deficit

Sometimes you need to unfocus

Sometimes you need to unfocus

Sometimes being too focused on a task is not a good thing. During tasks that require our attention, we might become so engrossed in what we are doing that we fail to notice there is a better way to get the job done. For example, let’s say you are coming out of a New York City subway one late afternoon and you want to find out which way is west. You might begin to scan street signs and then suddenly realize that you could just look for the setting sun.

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Researchers find how body’s good fat talks to the brain

The typical areas where brown fat is stored in adults. (Unknown original source)

The typical areas where brown fat is stored in adults. (Unknown original source)

There are two types of fat we humans have — white and brown — unfortunately only one of them is “good fat” and it is unfortunately not the one we tend to produce. Well new research shows that brown fat tissue, the body’s “good fat,” communicates with the brain through sensory nerves, possibly sharing information that is important for fighting human obesity, such as how much fat we have and how much fat we’ve lost.

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Research on medical abortion/miscarriage may change international routines

pro-choice-symbol

Two scientific studies are expected to form the basis of new international recommendations for the treatment of medical abortions and miscarriages. One of the studies shows that it is possible to replace the clinical follow-up examinations recommended today with medical abortions that include a home pregnancy test. The other study shows that midwives can safely and effectively treat failed abortions and miscarriages in rural districts of Uganda.

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Music played by professionals activates genes for learning and memory

music professional musician

Music performance is known to induce structural and functional changes to the human brain and enhance cognition. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying music performance have been so far unexplored. A Finnish research group has now investigated the effect of music performance (in a 2 hr concert) on the gene expression profiles of professional musicians from Tapiola Sinfonietta (a professional orchestra) and Sibelius-Academy (a music university).

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Stereotype lowers math performance in women, no one noticed

stereotypes

Stereotypes about people can affect how we look at a person, but sometimes it causes other problems. Gender stereotypes about women’s ability in mathematics negatively impact their performance. And in a significant twist, both men and women wrongly believe those stereotypes will not undermine women’s math performance — but instead motivate them to perform better.

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High-fat diet causes brain inflammation and alters behavior

high fat diet

We hear in the media all the time, obesity is effecting our health. In most cases when we talk obesity we are talking about heart disease, sedentary activity, or chronic overeating. But what if a high-fat diet — regardless of obesity — has more than just an affect on your waistline? What if the consumption of fatty foods can change your behavior and your brain?

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Immunotherapy, a promising new treatment of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimers_elderly

Alzheimer’s disease, it slowly takes things away from the person without giving anything back. Right now there is no cure and at best we can slow the progression in some cases. Time is always a factor and no two cases are the same. However, new treatments are in the works and a new study has revealed that a single dose of an immunotherapy reverses memory problems in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Cracking the blood-brain barrier with magnetic nanoparticles

Blood-Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier, the thorn in the side of medicine. It makes using drugs directed for the brain ineffective at best and unusable at worst. This barrier runs inside almost all vessels in the brain and protects it from elements circulating in the blood that may be toxic to the brain. This barrier means that currently 98% of therapeutic molecules are also unable to cross to the brain. However, researchers now say magnetic nanoparticles can open the blood-brain barrier and deliver molecules directly to the brain.

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FDA struggles to define what “natural” means for food labels

all natural food label

After decades of debate there remains no generally accepted definition of a “natural” food product. Despite a gamut of products with the label prominently displayed, it has caused a headache in lawsuits for the government who have yet to define “natural”. According to new research, while regulatory agencies have refused to settle the issue, they may be under new pressure from those consumer lawsuits.

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Milk, not just for your bones, for your brain

cow milk

Milk, depending on who you ask it’s either great or the devil. In the US drinking milk is common; not so much in other parts of the world. This has lead to questions about why we even drink milk and how real its reported health claims actually are. Well new research has found a correlation between milk consumption and the levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.

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The neurological basis for anorexia nervosa

mirror mirror anorexia

Most of us know about dieting, and if not first hand, have seen in the news or from friends how hard sticking to a diet long-term can be. This is because adults (regardless of their weight_ resolve to lose weight. Yet, more often than not, that chocolate lava cake is too enticing and that resolve vanishes. This behavior is normal because hunger increases the intensity of food rewards. Yet, individuals with anorexia nervosa (AN), despite their state of starvation, are able to ignore such food-related rewards.

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Special microbes make anti-obesity molecule in the gut

Intestine

You’ve probably heard of all sorts of diets, paleo, low-fat, low-carb, atkins, but now microbes may just be the next diet craze. Researchers have programmed bacteria to generate a molecule that, through normal metabolism, becomes a hunger-suppressing lipid (fat). Mice that drank water laced with the programmed bacteria ate less, had lower body fat and staved off diabetes — even when fed a high-fat diet — offering a potential weight-loss strategy for humans.

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Squid prolifically edit RNA to enrich their DNA

squid

DNA, it’s what makes us, well us! Not that long ago, before we sequenced human DNA we assumed we had one of the largest genomes around. Frankly it wasn’t a bad assumption, but of course we found out this was far from the case and to make ourselves feel better we said size doesn’t matter. But one of the surprising discoveries to emerge from comparative genomics is that drastically different organisms–humans, sea urchins, worms, flies –are endowed with a more or less common set of genes. So given a similar DNA blueprint, how do species develop such vast differences in physical shape, size, and complexity?

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The impact of military deployment on children

US Army's Third Infantry Divison deploys to Afghanistan for the final time

Being a military family is hard, it’s hard for the person serving (obviously) and if divorce rates are any indication, it is also hard on the spouse. While the added stress of deployment on a family cannot adequately be explained, even as someone who has seen it first hand, those stresses affect even the littlest members of the family. A new study reports that following military parents’ return from combat deployment, their children show increased visits for mental healthcare, physical injury, and child maltreatment consults, compared to children whose parents have not been deployed.

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Not “just in your head,” brain networks differ among those with severe schizophrenia

schizophrenia

The brain is plastic, it’s how we grow, it’s how we adapt, it is quite literally how we survive. This can unfortunately be to our detriment and new research shows that people with a severe form of schizophrenia have major differences in their brain networks compared to others with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and healthy individuals. So while it may be true, that it is all be in your head, it isn’t how people usually mean it.

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Is diet soda making you fat?

Diet soda on the shelf

The diet soda controversy is still raging on, study after study has been coming in saying that it helps weight loss, it hurts weight loss, and frankly it can all be a little confusing. Well this probably won’t help matters any, a new study shows that increasing diet soda intake is directly linked to greater abdominal obesity in adults 65 years of age and older. These findings raise concerns about the safety of chronic diet soda consumption, which may increase belly fat and contribute to greater risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular diseases.

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Does watching porn affect your performance in bed?

internet search page reflected in eye

Pornography, it’s why google and other search engines have safesearch. It’s all around us and if sales are any indication, it is not going away. There have been lots of claims regarding it, but does a predilection for porn mean bad news in bed? That’s the conclusion of many clinicians and the upshot of anecdotal reports claiming a man’s habit of viewing sex films can lead to problems getting or sustaining an erection, but what does science say?

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Folic acid supplementation cuts stroke risk in adults with high blood pressure

skull stroke

When we think hypertension (high blood pressure) you might not think stroke risk. However, high blood pressure can damage arteries, which often leads to an increased risk for a stroke. But if you suffer from hypertension, you might not need an expensive drug to lower your risk. A new study that included more than 20,000 adults in China with high blood pressure but without a history of stroke or heart attack, the combined use of the hypertension medication enalapril and folic acid, compared with enalapril alone, significantly reduced the risk of first stroke.

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Antibody therapy offers possible cure for psoriasis

psoriasis

Sure it’s not sexy, you probably won’t be asked for donations towards a cure, or to run/walk/dive for awareness, and it probably won’t kill you. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, but chances are you are not familiar with it. It causes red, scale-like patches, sometimes covering a majority of the body. It’s itchy, painful, and embarrassing (to put it nicely). I know first hand as I suffer from it albeit mildly. I say mildly since I am lucky the patches are fairly small, but not so lucky for me they pop up on my face, often. However, new research is offering hope for anyone suffering from psoriasis and possibly a cure.

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