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We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for May, 2016

Google searches for ‘chickenpox’ reveal big impact of vaccinations

digital epidemiology

digital epidemiology

Countries that implement government-mandated vaccinations for chickenpox see a sharp drop in the number of Google searches for the common childhood disease afterward, demonstrating that immunization significantly reduces seasonal outbreaks. That’s one of the findings from a new study that analyzed thousands of Google searches for “chickenpox.”

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Why everyone wants to help the sick — but not the unemployed

unemployment

unemployment

New research explains why healthcare costs are running out of control, while costs to unemployment protection are kept in line. The answer is found deep in our psychology, where powerful intuitions lead us to view illness as the result of bad luck and worthy of help.

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Schizophrenia: The brain has the ability to rescue itself

schizophrenia

schizophrenia

A team of scientists have shown that the brains of patients with schizophrenia have the capacity to reorganize and fight the illness. This is the first time that imaging data has been used to show that our brains may have the ability to reverse the effects of schizophrenia.

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How the brain makes — and breaks — a habit

OCD alphabet soup

OCD alphabet soup

Not all habits are bad. Some are even necessary. It’s a good thing, for example, that we can find our way home on “autopilot” or wash our hands without having to ponder every step. But inability to switch from acting habitually to acting in a deliberate way can underlie addiction and obsessive compulsive disorders.

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Humiliation from stares are worse than tiny seats for obese air travelers

flying obese

flying obese

Feelings of shame and humiliation bother obese air passengers more than tight seat belts and tiny seats, according to a study published by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers. Participants interviewed for the study recounted the typical challenges they encounter while boarding, in-flight and deplaning.

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Extreme beliefs often mistaken for insanity

religious hatred

religious hatred

In the aftermath of violent acts such as mass shootings, many people assume mental illness is the cause. After studying the 2011 case of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, researchers are suggesting a new forensic term to classify non-psychotic behavior that leads to criminal acts of violence.

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How depression and antidepressant drugs work

depression

depression

Treating depression is kind of a guessing game. Trying to find a medication that works without causing side effects can take months, or more likely, years. However, new research demonstrates the effectiveness of ketamine to treat depression in a mouse model of the disease and brings together two hypotheses for the cause of depression.

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Bacteria in branches naturally fertilize trees

tree deforistation

tree deforistation

The bacteria in and on our bodies have been shown to be vital for human health, influencing nutrition, obesity and protection from diseases. But science has only recently delved into the importance of the microbiome of plants. Since plants can’t move, they are especially reliant on partnerships with microbes to help them get nutrients.

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You are what you eat: Immune cells remember their first meal

immune system

immune system

Scientists have identified the trigger for immune cells’ inflammatory response — a discovery that may pave the way for new treatments for many human diseases. Immune cells play essential roles in the maintenance and repair of our bodies. When we injure ourselves, immune cells mount a rapid inflammatory response to protect us against infection and help heal the damaged tissue.

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Your friends have more friends than you do

lonely

lonely

No matter how smart and funny you think you are, those you follow on Twitter really do have a larger following than you. And the same holds true for Facebook. But there is no reason to feel badly about any of this. According to the research, it is all due to the inherently hierarchical nature of social media networks, where, in the social hierarchy of connections, people mostly either follow up or across; they rarely follow down.

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Converting cells to burn fat, not store it

carb loading cat

carb loading cat

Researchers have uncovered a new molecular pathway for stimulating the body to burn fat — a discovery that could help fight obesity and cardiovascular disease.By focusing on a protein known as folliculin, and knocking out the gene that produces it in fat cells, the researchers triggered a series of biomolecular signals that switched the cells from storing fat to burning it.

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Brain cells that aid appetite control identified

cat flap meme

cat flap meme

It’s rare for scientists to get what they describe as “clean” results without spending a lot of time repeating the same experiment over and over again. But when researchers saw the mice they were working with doubling their weight within a month or two, they knew they were on to something.

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Bacteria are individualists

cultured bacteria

cultured bacteria

No two bacteria are identical – even when they are genetically the same. A new study from researchers reveals the conditions under which bacteria become individualists and how they help their group grow when times get tough. Whether you are a human or a bacterium, your environment determines how you can develop.

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Neuroscientists discover new learning rule for pattern completion

brain remembers

brain remembers

Recently, scientists discovered a new learning rule for a specific type of excitatory synaptic connection in the hippocampus. These synapses are located in the so-called CA3 region of the hippocampus, which plays a critical role for storage and recall of spatial information in the brain. One of its hallmark properties is that memory recall can even be triggered by incomplete cues. This enables the network to complete neuronal activity patterns, a phenomenon termed pattern completion.

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Could flies help us understand brain injuries?

traumatic brain injury

traumatic brain injury

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These injuries occur most frequently from falling, but can also result from military combat, car accidents, contact sports or domestic abuse. Recently, physicians and researchers have become increasingly concerned that even mild cases of repetitive brain trauma could have long-term, unanticipated consequences.

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Research shows body image linked to overall life satisfaction

body image

body image

We’re constantly bombarded by advertisements telling us we are too fat, too thin, not curvy enough, not flat enough — or more often than not — simply not enough. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see that effect our day to day life, like it or not — and it has. Researchers have just published results from a national study on the factors linked to satisfaction with appearance and weight.

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Epigenetic study of lactose intolerance may shed light on the origin of mental illness

mental health

mental health

A new study on the epigenetics of lactose intolerance may provide an approach to understanding schizophrenia and other complex, serious illnesses. While that may seem odd, both lactose intolerance and schizophrenia are inherited. In addition, neither condition emerges in the first years of life, but rather both appear years or even decades later.

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Digital media may be changing how you think

digital media

digital media

Tablet and laptop users beware. Using digital platforms such as tablets and laptops for reading may make you more inclined to focus on concrete details rather than interpreting information more abstractly, according to a new study. The findings serve as another wake-up call to how digital media may be affecting our likelihood of using abstract thought.

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Antibody therapy opens door to potential new treatment for HIV

HIV spreading

HIV spreading

The development of antiretroviral therapy, a combination of drugs that slows the replication of HIV in the body, has transformed the treatment of this infection. What was once a certain death sentence is now a chronic condition that people can live with for decades. But this therapy has drawbacks. There are side effects, including kidney problems, decreased bone density, and gastrointestinal problems. And if a person discontinues his or her treatment, even missing a few doses, the level of the virus in the body is able to rebound quickly.

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Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps

smartphones and sleep

smartphones and sleep

A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules. The study used a free smartphone app that reduces jetlag to gather robust sleep data from thousands of people in 100 nations. The researchers examined how age, gender, amount of light and home country affect the amount of shut-eye people around the globe get, when they go to bed, and when they wake up.

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Origin of synaptic pruning process linked to learning, autism and schizophrenia identified

synaptic pruning

synaptic pruning

Vaccines don’t cause autism, but because the brain is so complex, we still don’t know how much of it works so figuring out the real causes (as in more than one) of autism has been slow going. Well, researchers have identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but in this case it is one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.

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Influence of religion and predestination on evolution and scientific thinking

lego evolution

lego evolution

Generally seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. However, in a new article, a biology researcher delves into observations on the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking over the centuries.

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