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We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for December, 2015

A faster way to evaluate synthetic metabolic pathways

High-throughput evaluation of synthetic metabolic pathways

High-throughput evaluation of synthetic metabolic pathways

A central challenge in the field of metabolic engineering is the efficient identification of a metabolic pathway genotype that maximizes specific productivity over a robust range of process conditions. A review from researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI covers the challenges of optimizing specific productivity of metabolic pathways in cells and new advances in pathway creation and screening.

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3-D footage of nematode brains links neurons with motion and behavior

3-D footage of nematode brains links neurons with motion and behavior
3-D footage of nematode brains links neurons with motion and behavior

Animation from glass brain. Yea it isn’t what this post is about exactly,  but it is still cool

Princeton University researchers have captured among the first recordings of neural activity in nearly the entire brain of a free-moving animal. The three-dimensional recordings could provide scientists with a better understanding of how neurons coordinate action and perception in animals. The researchers reported a technique that allowed them to record 3-D footage of neural activity in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a worm species 1 millimeter long with a nervous system containing a mere 302 neurons.

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Being anxious could be good for you! If you’re in a crisis…

Brain prioritizes threats, especially in anxious people
Brain prioritizes threats, especially in anxious people

Well maybe not that anxious…

New findings by French researchers show that the brain devotes more processing resources to social situations that signal threat than those that are benign. The results may help explain the apparent “sixth sense” we have for danger. This is the first time that specific regions of the brain have been identified to be involved in the phenomenon. The human brain is able to detect social threats in these regions in a fast, automatic fashion, within just 200 milliseconds.

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Want to keep your new year’s resolution? Ask, don’t tell.

To bolster a new year's resolution, ask, don't tell

Results may vary…

“Will you exercise this year?” That simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others’ behavior, according to a recent study spanning 40 years of research. The research is the first comprehensive look at more than 100 studies examining the ‘question-behavior effect,’ a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior influences whether they do it in the future. The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning.

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The development of the cerebellar circuitry is driven by epigenetic “music”

Study links epigenetic processes to the development of the cerebellar circuitry

Study links epigenetic processes to the development of the cerebellar circuitry

From before birth through childhood, connections form between neurons in the brain, ultimately making us who we are. So far, scientists have gained a relatively good understanding of how neural circuits become established, but they know less about the genetic control at play during this crucial developmental process. Now, a team of researchers has described for the first time the so-called epigenetic mechanisms underlying the development of the cerebellum, the portion of the brain that allows us to learn and execute complex movements.

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Have a sweet tooth? It may be your livers fault

Study identifies liver-generated hormone that regulates 'sweet tooth'
Study identifies liver-generated hormone that regulates 'sweet tooth'

Psh, what did the liver ever do for you?

We all love our sugar, especially during the holidays. Cookies, cake, and candy are simply irresistible. While sugar cravings are common, the physiological mechanisms that trigger our “sweet tooth” are not well defined.

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Holiday hijinks from the lab

Stealth wrapping of christmas gifts

Not what it looks like…

Well the Christmas presents are open and as usual you are super thrilled with what you got… right? But what is the fun in getting a christmas gift if you aren’t surprised as to what it is? Well here is a low tech solution to convince just about anyone they know what that gift under the tree really is, it works — trust me, I’ve tested it.

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It came from planet X: ‘Forbidden’ substances on super-Earths

Scientists say 'forbidden' substances may increase heat transfer rates and strengthen magnetic fields on super-Earths

Scientists say 'forbidden' substances may increase heat transfer rates and strengthen magnetic fields on super-Earths

Using mathematical models, scientists have ‘looked’ into the interior of super-Earths and discovered that they may contain compounds that are forbidden by the classical rules of chemistry — these substances may increase the heat transfer rate and strengthen the magnetic field on these planets.

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Lack of serotonin alters development and function in the brain

Absence of serotonin alters development and function of brain circuits
Absence of serotonin alters development and function of brain circuits

Come on get happy!

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have created the first complete model to describe the role that serotonin plays in brain development and structure. Serotonin, also called 5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT], is an important neuromodulator of brain development and the structure and function of neuronal (nerve cell) circuits.

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Are you a ‘harbinger of failure’?

Some consumers have an unerring knack for buying unpopular products
Some consumers have an unerring knack for buying unpopular products

Has a point, he does.

Diet Crystal Pepsi. Frito Lay Lemonade. Watermelon-flavored Oreos. Through the years, the shelves of stores have been filled with products that turned out to be flops, failures, duds, and losers. But only briefly filled with them, of course, because products like these tend to get yanked from stores quickly, leaving most consumers to wonder: Who exactly buys these things, anyway?

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Intelligence, it’s in your genes… and we can change that.

Intelligence 'networks' discovered in brain for the first time

Intelligence 'networks' discovered in brain for the first time

Ever feel like everyone around you has their brain running much faster than your own? Well, the good news is that it may not be you, it may be your genes. The other good news, we might be able to change that. Scientists from Imperial College London have identified for the first time two clusters of genes linked to human intelligence. Called M1 and M3, these so-called gene networks appear to influence cognitive function – which includes memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning.

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Women, do you want to be a leader at a teaching hospital? Grow a mustache!

Analysis of top medical school and teaching hospitals highlights gender disparities among physician leaders

Analysis of top medical school and teaching hospitals highlights gender disparities among physician leaders

Thirteen percent of department leader positions at top academic medical institutions in the United States are held by women, while nearly 20 percent are held by men with mustaches. The findings of the tongue-in-cheek study, an analysis of more than 1,000 headshots of department leaders at top National Institutes of Health-funded academic medical institutions, provide a new context for examining gender disparities in the field.

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You too can increase your risk for dementia by up to 48% with, anxiety!

Anxiety Significantly Raises Risk for Dementia

Anxiety Significantly Raises Risk for Dementia

People who experienced high anxiety any time in their lives had a 48 percent higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who had not, according to a new study led by USC researchers. The findings were based on an examination of 28 years of data from the Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging, overseen by the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden.

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Depression is more than a “mental health” problem and we can now measure its risk

An objective measurement to identify individuals at risk of developing depression?
An objective measurement to identify individuals at risk of developing depression?

These feels drawn by the one, the only, and the oatmeal, or is it just one of those?

A network of interacting brain regions known as the default mode network (DMN) was found to have stronger connections in adults and children with a high risk of depression compared to those with a low risk. These findings suggest that increased DMN connectivity is a potential precursor, or biomarker, indicating a risk of developing major depressive disorder (MDD).

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Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

Scientists showed that they could alter brain activity of rats and either wake them up or put them in an unconscious state by changing the firing rates of neurons in the central thalamus, a region known to regulate arousal. The study was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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‘Hydricity’ concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock… really?

'Hydricity' concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock

'Hydricity' concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock

Researchers are proposing a new “hydricity” concept aimed at creating a sustainable economy by not only generating electricity with solar energy but also producing and storing hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power production.

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Emotion processing in the brain changes with tinnitus severity

Emotion processing in the brain changes with tinnitus severity

Emotion processing in the brain changes with tinnitus severity

Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, affects nearly one-third of adults over age 65. The condition can develop as part of age-related hearing loss or from a traumatic injury. In either case, the resulting persistent noise causes varying amounts of disruption to everyday life. While some tinnitus patients adapt to the condition, many others are forced to limit daily activities as a direct result of their symptoms. A new study reveals that people who are less bothered by their tinnitus use different brain regions when processing emotional information.

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The world’s smallest terrorist: Virus hijacks protein machine and then kills the host

The world's smallest terrorist: Virus hijacks protein machine and then kills the host

The world's smallest terrorist: Virus hijacks protein machine and then kills the host

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. The name originates from the Greek ‘phagos’ which means ‘to devour’. Bacteriophages were discovered 100 years ago because of their ability to replicate in a pathogenic bacterium, kill it and thereby cure the patient. As a small spaceship landing on the moon, the microscopic particles land on the surface of the bacteria where they inject their deadly genetic material.

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Discovery puts designer dopamine neurons within reach

Discovery puts designer dopamine neurons within reach Parkinson's disease researchers discover a way to reprogram the genome

Discovery puts designer dopamine neurons within reach Parkinson's disease researchers discover a way to reprogram the genome

For decades, the elusive holy grail in Parkinson’s disease research has been finding a way to repair faulty dopamine neurons and put them back into patients, where they will start producing dopamine again. Researchers have used fetal material, which is difficult to obtain and of variable quality. Embryonic stem cells represented a tremendous innovation, but making dopamine neurons from stem cells is a long process with a low yield.

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Healthy or sick? Tiny cell bubbles may hold the answer

Healthy or sick? Tiny cell bubbles may hold the answer

Healthy or sick? Tiny cell bubbles may hold the answer

Rutgers scientists have uncovered biological pathways in the roundworm that provide insight into how tiny bubbles released by cells can have beneficial health effects, like promoting tissue repair, or may play a diabolical role and carry disease signals for cancer or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

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LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

LSD is known to cause changes in consciousness, including “ego-dissolution”, or a loss of the sense of self. Despite a detailed knowledge of the action of LSD at specific serotonin receptors, it has not been understood how this these pharmacological effects can translate into such a profound effect on consciousness.

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Computing with time travel

Computing with time travel

Computing with time travel

Why send a message back in time, but lock it so that no one can ever read the contents? Because it may be the key to solving currently intractable problems. It turns out that an unopened message can be exceedingly useful. This is true if the experimenter entangles the message with some other system in the laboratory before sending it.

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Self-consciousness: Beyond the looking-glass and what dogs found there

Dogs (and probably many other animals) have a conscience too!

Dogs (and probably many other animals) have a conscience too!

That man’s best friend has a conscience is what every owner would be willing to bet, without even thinking about it for a moment. This means that dogs have self-consciousness. But the problem in science is that ideas and assumptions must be demonstrated. It is not enough for someone to have an inkling of something for it to be considered a scientific fact. Self-awareness, or self-consciousness, has been studied mainly by examining the responses of animals and children to their reflection in the mirror.

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Seeing viruses in a new light

Seeing viruses in a new light

Seeing viruses in a new light

Want to make a virus? It’s easy: combine one molecule of genomic nucleic acid, either DNA or RNA, and a handful of proteins, shake, and in a fraction of a second you’ll have a fully-formed virus. While that may sound like the worst infomercial ever, in many cases making a virus really is that simple. Viruses such as influenza spread so effectively, and as a result can be so deadly to their hosts, because of their ability to spontaneously self-assemble in large numbers.

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Certain herpes viruses can infect human neurons

Certain herpes viruses can infect human neurons

Certain herpes viruses can infect human neurons

For years, researchers have noted a tantalizing link between some neurologic conditions and certain species of the herpes virus. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and cerebellar ataxia, among other neuropathies, the cerebrospinal fluid teems with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Yet, the nature of that link has remained unclear, as it has been assumed that EBV, as well as other viruses in the same sub-family, called gammaherpesviruses, cannot infect neurons.

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No two faces are the same

No two faces are the same Important details revealed in the search for the causes of face blindness

No two faces are the same Important details revealed in the search for the causes of face blindness

For the very first time, researchers have been able to show that the causes of congenital face blindness can be traced back to an early stage in the perceptual process. These findings are crucial, not just for our understanding of face recognition, but also because they allow us to understand the processes behind the recognition of any visually presented object.

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How is a developing brain assembled?

NIH 3-D software tracks worm embryo's brain development

A new, open-source software that can help track the embryonic development and movement of neuronal cells throughout the body of the worm, is now available to scientists.

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Exposure to violence makes you more likely to lie, cheat

Violence, Aggression, and Ethics: The Link Between Exposure to Human Violence and Unethical Behavior
Violence, Aggression, and Ethics: The Link Between Exposure to Human Violence and Unethical Behavior

Maybe it’s not what it looks like…

Can watching a violent movie make you more likely to lie, cheat or steal? What about reading a violent book? While that may seem like a stretch, a new research study shows it may be the case. The study finds that exposure to human violence is strongly linked to an increase in cheating for monetary gain. In other words, violence may be making us less ethical.

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Our pale blue dot in the wake of destruction

The pale blue dot we call home

The pale blue dot we call home

This is our home, that pale blue dot, dwarfed by an arrow that takes up less space on your screen than this sentence. For all our “overwhelming” intelligence, if we flexed our mental might and developed a weapon to destroy this pale blue dot, it would almost certainly go unnoticed in the universe.

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Antidepressant medication protects against compounds linked to dementia

Antidepressant medication protects against compounds linked to dementia

Antidepressant medication protects against compounds linked to dementia

In addition to treating depression, a commonly used antidepressant medication also protects against compounds that can cause memory loss and dementia, a Loyola University Medical Center study has found. The study found that blood levels of two neurotoxic compounds dropped significantly in depressed patients after they were treated with the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro).

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