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We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for October, 2015

Lack of ZZZZs may zap cell growth, brain activity

Lack of ZZZZs may zap cell growth, brain activity

Lack of adequate sleep can do more than just make you tired. It can short-circuit your system and interfere with a fundamental cellular process that drives physical growth, physiological adaptation and even brain activity, according to a new study. Albrecht von Arnim, a molecular biologist based in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, studied plants but said the concepts may well translate to humans.

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What blocks pro-vaccine beliefs?

What blocks pro-vaccine beliefs?

Despite rhetoric that pits “anti-vaxxers” versus “pro-vaxxers,” most new parents probably qualify as vaccine-neutral–that is, they passively accept rather than actively demand vaccination. Unless there is an active threat of polio or whooping cough, they have to remind themselves that injecting their crying infant with disease antigens is a good thing.

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How common is sexting among married couples?

How common is sexting among married couples?

Earlier this year, we looked at a study that suggested sexting can be healthy in a relationship, but that study primarily looked at non-married couples and the average age for the behavior was, as you may expect, young adult. Which may lead you to think that married couples don’t sext. In fact, married couples do report sexting, but it is much less common than in young adult relationships and consists more of intimate talk with their partners than sending nude or nearly nude photos via mobile phones, according to a new study.

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Intestinal worms ‘talk’ to gut bacteria to boost immune system

Intestinal worms 'talk' to gut bacteria to boost immune system

This is the helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri (Hpb), which infects rodents. Here seen under fluorescent staining. Hpb was used in the mouse part of this study.
Image credit goes to: Nicola Harris/EPFL

When you think parasites you probably don’t think of anything helpful. However, this isn’t the case and certain parasites inadvertently help the host by helping themselves. In fact, researchers have discovered how intestinal worm infections cross-talk with gut bacteria to help the immune system.

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Researchers create technology to produce lighter, long-lasting batteries from silicon

Researchers create technology to produce lighter, long-lasting batteries from silicon

Substantially smaller and longer-lasting batteries for everything from portable electronic devices to electric cars could become a reality thanks to an innovative technology developed by University of Waterloo researchers. Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo, and a team of graduate students have created a low-cost battery using silicon that boosts the performance and life of lithium-ion batteries.

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Decontaminating infant formula with the bacteriophage

bacteriophage decontaminates baby formula

When dealing with bacteria, antibiotics are usually the frontrunner, but there are cases where antibiotics are a big no. Take baby formula for instance, we cannot use antibiotics to keep bacteria at bay. This has posed a safety problem in recent years, but researchers have shown that we can use a natural enemy of bacteria to fight back without risk to infants’ health.

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The science behind real life zombies

Zombies: Science Fiction vs. Fact

zombies ahead

In the spirit of Halloween we bring you the science fact and fiction behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little guys, (and girls) are everywhere. We are all familiar (if you are horror fans, or  at least not living on an Amish compound) with the classic  zombie. But did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact!

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Depression too often reduced to a checklist of symptoms

Depression too often reduced to a checklist of symptoms

How can you tell if someone is depressed? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – the ‘bible’ of psychiatry – diagnoses depression when patients tick off a certain number of symptoms on the DSM checklist. A large-scale quantitative study coordinated at KU Leuven, Belgium, now shows that some symptoms play a much bigger role than others in driving depression, and that the symptoms listed in DSM may not be the most useful ones.

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Gene therapy treats all muscles in the body in muscular dystrophy dogs

Gene therapy treats all muscles in the body in muscular dystrophy dogs

Muscular dystrophy, which affects approximately 250,000 people in the U.S., occurs when damaged muscle tissue is replaced with fibrous, fatty or bony tissue and loses function. For years, scientists have searched for a way to successfully treat the most common form of the disease, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), which primarily affects boys. Now, a team of University of Missouri researchers have successfully treated dogs with DMD and say that human clinical trials are being planned in the next few years.

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Bacteria communicate like neurons in the brain

Ion channels enable electrical communication in bacterial communities

Biologists discovered that bacteria–often viewed as lowly, solitary creatures–are actually quite sophisticated in their social interactions and communicate with one another through similar electrical signaling mechanisms as neurons in the human brain. In the study, scientists detail the manner by which bacteria living in communities communicate with one another electrically through proteins called “ion channels.”

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You too can learn to farm on Mars!

You too can learn to farm on Mars!

Image credit goes to: SpaceX

Scientists at Washington State University and the University of Idaho are helping students figure out how to farm on Mars, much like astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, attempts in the critically acclaimed movie “The Martian.” Washington State University physicist Michael Allen and University of Idaho food scientist Helen Joyner teamed up to explore the challenge. Their five-page study guide was published the day the movie premiered earlier this month.

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Finding the brain circuitry for gratitude with help from Holocaust survivors’ memories

Holocaust survivors' memories help researchers map brain circuitry for gratitude

Neuroscientists have mapped how the human brain experiences gratitude with help from an unexpected resource: Holocaust survivors’ testimonies.

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Premature birth appears to weaken brain connections

Premature birth appears to weaken brain connections

Premature birth appears to weaken brain connections

Babies born prematurely face an increased risk of neurological and psychiatric problems that may be due to weakened connections in brain networks linked to attention, communication and the processing of emotions, new research shows. Studying brain scans from premature and full-term babies, researchers zeroed in on differences in the brain that may underlie such problems.

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How reward and daytime sleep boost learning

How reward and daytime sleep boost learning

A new study suggests that receiving rewards as you learn can help cement new facts and skills in your memory, particularly when combined with a daytime nap. The findings from the University of Geneva reveal that memories associated with a reward are preferentially reinforced by sleep. Even a short nap after a period of learning is beneficial.

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How plants turn into zombies

How plants turn into zombies

It begins as a fairy tale which later turns into a horror story: Lusciously flowering plants, surrounded by a large number of insects. Usually, both sides profit from the encounter: Feasting on the plant juice and pollen, the insects pollinate the flowers and thus secure the survival of the plants. However, sometimes the insects – in this case a certain species of leafhoppers – can bring disaster to the plants, which they are not able to overcome.

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‘Paleo’ style sleep? Think again…

'Paleo' sleep? Sorry, pre-modern people don't get more Zzzzs than we do

It’s tempting to believe that people these days aren’t getting enough sleep, living as we do in our well-lit houses with TVs blaring, cell phones buzzing, and a well-used coffee maker in every kitchen. But new evidence reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 15 shows that three ancient groups of hunter-gatherers–living in different parts of the world without any of those trappings of modern life–don’t get any more sleep than we do.

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What metabolism could reveal about aging and mortality

What metabolism could reveal about aging and mortality

Why some people live much longer than others is an enduring mystery. Now, based on a study of a worm, scientists are getting one step closer to understanding longevity. They report that the metabolic profiles of the worms could accurately predict how long they would live and that middle age could be a key turning point.

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Schizophrenia symptoms linked to features of brain’s anatomy?

Schizophrenia symptoms linked to features of brain's anatomy?

Using advanced brain imaging, researchers have matched certain behavioral symptoms of schizophrenia to features of the brain’s anatomy. The findings, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, could be a step toward improving diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia.

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Supercoiled DNA is far more dynamic than the ‘Watson-Crick’ double helix

Supercoiled DNA is far more dynamic than the 'Watson-Crick' double helix

The image shows the structure of the DNA calculated with the supercomputer simulations (in colour) superimposed upon the cryo-electron tomography data (in white or yellow). (There is no superimposition onto cryo-electron tomography data for the purple figure-8 shape.) You can see that the familiar double helix has been either simply bent into a circle or twisted into a figure-8. Image credit goes to: Thana Sutthlbutpong

Researchers have imaged in unprecedented detail the three-dimensional structure of supercoiled DNA, revealing that its shape is much more dynamic than the well-known double helix.

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Immune gene prevents Parkinson’s disease and dementia

Immune gene prevents Parkinson's disease and dementia

An estimated seven to ten million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease (PD), which is an incurable and progressive disease of the nervous system affecting movement and cognitive function. More than half of PD patients develop progressive disease showing signs of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Blood clotting protein triggers immune attack on the brain

Blood clotting protein triggers immune attack on the brain

A new study from the Gladstone Institutes shows that a single drop of blood in the brain is sufficient to activate an autoimmune response akin to multiple sclerosis (MS). This is the first demonstration that introduction of blood in the healthy brain is sufficient to cause peripheral immune cells to enter the brain, which then go on to cause brain damage.

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Pain is in the brain

Pain is in the brain

Chronic pain results from disease or trauma to the nervous system. Damaged nerve fibres with heightened responses to normal stimuli send incorrect messages to pain centres in the brain. This phenomenon, called “peripheral and central sensitization” is one of the key mechanisms involved in the condition which touches people with diabetes, cancer, and those suffering from multiple sclerosis, among others.

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Sex change hormonal treatments alter brain chemistry

Sex change hormonal treatments alter brain chemistry

Hormonal treatments administered as part of the procedures for sex reassignment have well-known and well-documented effects on the secondary sexual characteristics of the adult body, shifting a recipient’s physical appearance to that of the opposite sex. New research indicates that these hormonal treatments also alter brain chemistry.

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Parents influence children’s play of violent video games

Parents influence children’s play of violent video games, according to Iowa State study

Parents who are more anxious and emotional can impact the amount of violent video games their children play, according to new consumer research from Iowa State University. Russell Laczniak, a professor of marketing and the John and Connie Stafford Professor in Business, says given the harmful effects of violent video games, he and his colleagues wanted to better understand how parents influence children’s behavior.

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American placebo – An increase in the placebo response, but only in America?

American placebo New analysis of chronic pain drug trials shows increasing placebo responses over time, in the US only

A new study finds that rising placebo responses may play a part in the increasingly high failure rate for clinical trials of drugs designed to control chronic pain caused by nerve damage. Surprisingly, however, the analysis of clinical trials conducted since 1990 found that the increase in placebo responses occurred only in trials conducted wholly in the U.S.; trials conducted in Europe or Asia showed no changes in placebo responses over that period.

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Gut bacteria population, diversity linked to anorexia nervosa

Gut bacteria population, diversity linked to anorexia nervosa

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine found that people with anorexia nervosa have very different microbial communities residing inside their guts compared to healthy individuals and that this bacterial imbalance is associated with some of the psychological symptoms related to the eating disorder.

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Brain networking: behind the cognitive control of thoughts

Brain networking

The human brain does not come with an operating manual. However, a group of scientists have developed a way to convert structural brain imaging techniques into “wiring diagrams” of connections between brain regions. Three researchers from UCSB’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences — Michael Miller, Scott Grafton and Matt Cieslak — used the structure of neural networks to reveal the fundamental rules that govern which parts of the brain are most able to exert cognitive control over thoughts and actions.

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Can exercise be replaced with a pill?

Can exercise be replaced with a pill?

Everyone knows that exercise improves health, and ongoing research continues to uncover increasingly detailed information on its benefits for metabolism, circulation, and improved functioning of organs such as the heart, brain, and liver. With this knowledge in hand, scientists may be better equipped to develop “exercise pills” that could mimic at least some of the beneficial effects of physical exercise on the body. But a review of current development efforts ponders whether such pills will achieve their potential therapeutic impact, at least in the near future.

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High-fructose diet slows recovery from brain injury

High-fructose diet slows recovery from brain injury

Well bad news for those of us who have a sweet tooth, a diet high in processed fructose sabotages rat brains’ ability to heal after head trauma, UCLA neuroscientists report. While this doesn’t necessarily translate to humans quite yet, it should still raise a few eyebrows given the results from the study.

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Coincidence or conspiracy? Studies investigate conspiracist thinking

Coincidence or conspiracy? Studies investigate conspiracist thinking

In pop culture, conspiracy believers — like FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X Files or professor Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code — tend to reject the notion of coincidence or chance; even the most random-seeming events are thought to result from some sort of intention or design. And researchers have suggested that such a bias against randomness may explain real-world conspiracy beliefs. But new research from psychological scientists shows no evidence for a link between conspiracist thinking and perceptions of order, design, or intent.

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