Friday, March 29, 2013

You're Eye-to-Eye With a Whale in the Ocean. What Does It See?

A deep dive into how the most intelligent creatures in the ocean perceive their world.

Could Some of Our Favorite Flavorings Be Damaging Our DNA?

Plants are all-natural sources of all things good for us, right? It turns out some of our favorite plant-based flavorings may do more harm than good.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology that teas, coffees and “smoky flavoring” could be damaging our DNA at levels comparable to that caused by chemotherapy drugs.

Read more:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Huge cancer study uncovers 74 genetic risk factors

One of the largest cancer genetics studies ever conducted adds a wealth of information about the disease, but also highlights continuing difficulties with predicting cancer risk.

The studies found 74 new SNPs linked to the cancers, doubling the known common risk variants linked to them. It also found that many were linked to more than one cancer.
“This indicates common underlying functional mechanisms at some of these susceptibility loci, and could lead to the identification of common biomarkers and therapeutic targets for intervention across several disease sites,” says geneticist Simon Gayther of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Long way to go

But most of the common genetic risk factors for these cancers remain unknown. The COGS researchers estimate that they can now account for just 28% of the risk of familial breast cancer, 4% of the risk of ovarian cancer and 30% of the risk of prostate cancer123. Just asking whether a woman has any relatives with breast cancer still reveals as much about her risk of developing the disease as would surveying her SNPs.
Hat tip to Ryan Dhindsa

Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park

Scientists have known for some time that the human brain’s ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed by the constant noise and hectic, jangling demands of city living, sometimes resulting in a condition informally known as brain fatigue.
With brain fatigue, you are easily distracted, forgetful and mentally flighty — or, in other words, me.
But an innovative new study from Scotland suggests that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Destructive Influence of Imaginary Peers

We humans irrationally think we’re rational. We think that we decide how to behave by weighing the pros and cons. In reality, the strongest influence on our decisions is the example of the people around us — even, oddly enough, when they are imaginary.


 Bad behavior is usually more visible than good.  It’s what people talk about, it’s what the news media report on, it’s what experts focus on.  Experts are always trying to change bad behavior by warning of how widespread it is, and they take any opportunity to label it a crisis.  “The field loves talking about the problems because it generates political and economic support,” said Perkins.

This strategy might feel effective, but it’s not — it simply communicates that bad behavior is the social norm. Telling people to go against their peer group never works.  A better strategy is the reverse:  give people credible evidence that among their peers, good behavior is the social norm.
With social norming, you don’t tell anybody what to do.  You just tell them what people like them are doing. It’s a bit like the positive deviance approach I wrote about in February:  your focus is on spreading the word about what a community is doing right.
One of the most important keys to making social norming work is salience. “We can only hold one thing in consciousness at a time – and it is that thing that drives behavior,” said Cialdini, who is writing his next book about the topic. Success is more likely if the social norming message hits people just when they are about to make that behavioral decision.


Myanmar Jarred by Peace Laureate at Military Parade

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s military asserted its role in the country’s politics at a ceremony on Wednesday that featured a prominent guest, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate, whose presence among the generals would have been unthinkable a few years ago.


Bacteria in the Intestines May Help Tip the Bathroom Scale, Studies Show

Bacteria in the Intestines May Help Tip the Bathroom Scale, Studies Show

 The bacterial makeup of the intestines may help determine whether people gain weight or lose it, according to two new studies, one in humans and one in mice. 

The research also suggests that a popular weight-loss operation, gastric bypass, which shrinks the stomach and rearranges the intestines, seems to work in part by shifting the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract. People who have the surgery generally lose 65 percent to 75 percent of their excess weight, but scientists have not fully understood why. Now, the researchers are saying that bacterial changes may account for 20 percent of the weight loss.
The findings mean that eventually, treatments that adjust the microbe levels, or “microbiota,” in the gut may be developed to help people lose weight without surgery, said Dr. Lee M. Kaplan, director of the obesity, metabolism and nutrition institute at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and an author of a study published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.


Docs channel MacGyver, turning iPhone into a microscope to diagnose parasites

ORONTO - It's an accomplishment worthy of MacGyver.
Armed with only a mobile phone, some double-sided tape, a cheap ball lens and a flashlight, some doctors have jerry-rigged a microscope capable of diagnosing intestinal parasites in Tanzanian children.
Infection rates can be particularly high in poor, remote regions of developing countries. Children afflicted by these worms can suffer from chronic anemia and malnutrition, which can stunt physical growth and mental development.
To look for the eggs that develop into these parasites, the scientists typically smear a small amount of stool on a glass slide, cover it with a second, and study the magnified image using a light microscope. Those cost about $200 and require electricity — which is not a constant in some settings.
So Bogoch and his colleagues affixed an $8 ball lens to the camera lens of an iPhone, using double-sided tape. They propped slides over a cheap flashlight and examined the magnified image with the adapted iPhone's camera.

Can You Smell Obesity?

According to the latest research, it may be on your breath.
It turns out that obesity may be detectable as a gas, thanks to organisms that inhabit our gut. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers extend our knowledge about the hidden universe of the microbes that live within us to show that obesity is associated with certain populations of microbes that give off a distinctive gas.

Read more:

When the Box Says 'Protein,' Shoppers Say 'I'll Take It'

Protein is the buzzword that is helping sell many kinds of foods. Food companies are placing more prominent protein labels on packaging and adding protein to such products as drinks, bars and cereals.
"It's one of those rare things that has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people and they are all positive," says Barry Calpino, vice president of breakthrough innovation for Kraft Foods Group Inc., KRFT -0.92%sellers of products from Velveeta to Planters Nuts.
A label that says protein has what researchers call a "health halo effect" that goes beyond just the promise of protein. When people see the word, they also believe the product will make them feel more full or give them energy.
When people eat food that promises to be a good source of whole grains, fiber or protein "it makes you feel smart as a consumer that you've done something good for yourself," says Doug VanDeVelde, senior vice president of food marketing and innovation for Kellogg's.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Africa, food staple toxin debilitates kids

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Poorly processed cassava, a food staple in much of sub-Saharan Africa, afflicts as many as tens of millions of children with konzo, a disease with devastating physical and cognitive effects.


Salesmen in the Surgical Suite

..It is not the first time patients have claimed they were harmed by Intuitive’s robotic surgical equipment, called the da Vinci Surgical System. But the Taylor case, set for trial in April, is unusual. Internal company e-mails, provided to The New York Times by lawyers for the Taylor estate, offer a glimpse into the aggressive tactics used to market high-tech medical devices and raise questions about the quality of training provided to doctors before they use new equipment on patients.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Your Phone vs. Your Heart

CAN you remember the last time you were in a public space in America and didn’t notice that half the people around you were bent over a digital screen, thumbing a connection to somewhere else?

ost of us are well aware of the convenience that instant electronic access provides. Less has been said about the costs. Research that my colleagues and I have just completed, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, suggests that one measurable toll may be on our biological capacity to connect with other people.
Our ingrained habits change us. Neurons that fire together, wire together, neuroscientists like to say, reflecting the increasing evidence that experiences leave imprints on our neural pathways, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. Any habit molds the very structure of your brain in ways that strengthen your proclivity for that habit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Brains of the Animal Kingdom

New research shows that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Primatologist Frans de Waal on memory-champ chimps, tool-using elephants and rats capable of empathy.

A growing body of evidence shows, however, that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Can an octopus use tools? Do chimpanzees have a sense of fairness? Can birds guess what others know? Do rats feel empathy for their friends? Just a few decades ago we would have answered "no" to all such questions. Now we're not so sure.
Experiments with animals have long been handicapped by our anthropocentric attitude: We often test them in ways that work fine with humans but not so well with other species. Scientists are now finally meeting animals on their own terms instead of treating them like furry (or feathery) humans, and this shift is fundamentally reshaping our understanding.
We also may need to rethink the physiology of intelligence. Take the octopus. In captivity, these animals recognize their caretakers and learn to open pill bottles protected by childproof caps—a task with which many humans struggle. Their brains are indeed the largest among invertebrates, but the explanation for their extraordinary skills may lie elsewhere. It seems that these animals think, literally, outside the box of the brain.
Octopuses have hundreds of suckers, each one equipped with its own ganglion with thousands of neurons. These "mini-brains" are interconnected, making for a widely distributed nervous system. That is why a severed octopus arm may crawl on its own and even pick up food.
Similarly, when an octopus changes skin color in self-defense, such as by mimicking a poisonous sea snake, the decision may come not from central command but from the skin itself. A 2010 study found gene sequences in the skin of cuttlefish similar to those in the eye's retina. Could it be: an organism with a seeing skin and eight thinking arms?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Washed Away

This review in the NY Times by Cheryl Strayed  is deeply affecting...Will be getting this book...Uvealblues

Sonali Deraniyagala’s extraordinary memoir, “Wave,” opens on the morning of Dec. 26, 2004, as the author putters around a Sri Lankan beach-side hotel with her family. By chapter’s end she’s pantless, half-drowned, bleeding, bruised and numbly resistant to what she’ll soon be forced to know: The five people she loves most in the world are dead. Her two young sons. Her husband. Her parents. All of them killed by a force she can’t yet comprehend, though she was caught up in it and nearly killed by it too. She only knows that “something came for us.” It was, as she and the world will soon learn, a tsunami of epic scale that took an estimated 230,000 lives across a dozen countries.

So begins the most exceptional book about grief I’ve ever read. In prose that’s immaculately unsentimental and raggedly intimate, Deraniyagala takes us deep into her unfathomable loss.
That she allows us to experience that same alertness without smothering us in sorrow is the miracle of this beautiful book. I was thunderstruck by Deraniyagala’s loss, yes, but most of all by her ability to reveal the whole “outlandish truth” of her grief, to write about a tragedy so bewilderingly complete that, nearly a decade out, “it still seems far-fetched, my story, even to me


Thursday, March 21, 2013

21 Extreme Close Ups of the Human Eye

Born in 1976, Suren Manvelyan started to photograph when he was sixteen and became a professional photographer in 2006. His photographic interests span from Macro to Portraits, Creative photo projects, Landscape, and much more. Suren’s photos have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers in Armenia and worldwide.
His project, entitled Your beautiful eyes, is currently the most viewed project of all time on Behance with 2,999,655 views and is the second most ‘appreciated’ project of all time with 70,140 likes.

10 Detailed Close-Ups of Animal Eyes

We’ve already featured the incredible macro photography of Suren Manvelyan before, showcasing his series on human eyes. This time we check out Suren’s masterful collection of animal eye close-ups. While this post and the one prior focus on Suren’s macro work, his talent spans to portraits, landscapes and other creative photo projects which you can see on his personal website and portfolio on Behance.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Violins ‘sing’ in multiple languages

TEXAS A&M (US) —When creating violins, the Italian masters Stradivari and Guarneri tried to impart specific vowel sounds to the instruments, but new research shows only two of the vowels were in their native language.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Personalized Brain Transplants: Skin Cells to Brain Cells Achieved in Primates

This stem cell technology could have great utility in a wide variety of retinal disease..

In many ways the Holy Grail in transplantation is to convert a body’s own cells into stem cells, turn those into neural cells, and then integrate them into functional circuitry within the brain. Until now, only pieces of that puzzle have been possible. Su-Chun Zhang, who was the first to convert embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and later induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into neurons, has now demonstrated that these iPSCs can be successfully introduced into the brain — in other words, he has achieved autologous (self to self), tumorless, indefinite, and functional neuro-transplantation.

Ten Bets You Will Always Win

Professor Richard Wiseman, creator of the popular "10 Bets You Will Always Win" series on YouTube, talks about the psychology that makes these bets nearly foolproof.

Eat Your Heart Out

Over the last several decades, it has become accepted wisdom that consuming saturated fat, the type found in meat and butter, is bad for you. Starting in the 1960s, studies showed convincingly that saturated fat raises cholesterol levels and that these elevated levels, especially of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL (the so-called bad cholesterol), increase heart disease. Studies also showed that consuming polyunsaturated fats — safflower, corn and soybean oils — reduced people’s levels of overall cholesterol and LDL and should be encouraged.
But new studies may be upending those assumptions

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The New Power of Memory

Sharp Recall Skills Prove Key to Future Success; Some Excel at 'Mental Time Travel

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles found that students who engaged in detailed simulation of studying for a test—imagining all the steps involved in studying—ended up doing better on the exam than those who simply imagined doing well.

Hard Math: Adding Up Just How Little We Actually Move

Working out at the gym might not be enough to stay fit if you spend much of the rest of the day sitting down.
Americans are more sedentary than ever, government surveys show. That is a problem even among people who exercise regularly.
Americans on average take 5,117 steps a day, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. A good daily goal, by contrast, is 10,000 steps, according to the American Heart Association and other experts. Research studies have found that such a regimen results in modest weight loss, improved glucose tolerance in people at risk of developing diabetes and other benefits, says David Bassett Jr., co-author of the 2010 study and a professor in the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport studies at the University of Tennessee.
A study that followed more than 240,000 adults over 8½ years found that watching a large amount of television was associated with a higher risk of death, including from cardiovascular disease—even for participants who reported seven or more hours a week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise. The research, published in 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, used TV viewing and overall sitting time as a proxy for sedentary behavior.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Wanna Play? Computer Gamers Help Push Frontier Of Brain Research

People can get pretty addicted to computer games. By some estimates, residents of planet Earth spend 3 billion hours per week playing them. Now some scientists are hoping to make use of all that human capital and harness it for a good cause.
Right now I'm at the novice level of a game called EyeWire, trying to color in a nerve cell in a cartoon drawing of a slice of tissue. EyeWire is designed to solve a real science problem — it aims to chart the billions of nerve connections in the brain,
At least Seung is hoping that's what people will think. But before he tackles the human brain, Seung wants to explore a simpler collection of cells: the ones in the back of the eyes of mice. So he and his colleagues created EyeWire, which looks at the neural connections in the eye. So far about 35,000 people have registered to play.
"Anyone sitting in their living room can just fire up a web browser and look at images of neurons, and help us figure out how they're connected," he says.

Baby Cured of HIV for the First Time, Researchers Say

Baby Cured of HIV for the First Time, Researchers Say

A Mississippi baby born with the AIDS virus appears to have been cured after being treated with an aggressive regimen of drugs just after her birth 2½ years ago, an unusual case that could trigger changes in care for hundreds of thousands of babies born globally each year with HIV.
The findings, reported Sunday by researchers, mark only the second documented case of a patient being cured of infection with the human immune-deficiency virus. The first, an adult man known as the Berlin patient, was cured as a result of a 2007 bone-marrow transplant.
The chance an infected pregnant woman will transmit the virus to her baby during gestation, birth or breast-feeding ranges from 15% to 45%, according to WHO. But treatment with antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy and especially around the time of birth cuts the risk of mother-to-child transmission to below 2%. Still, estimates are that between 300,000 and 400,000 infants are born globally each year with the infection, about 90% of them in resource-poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

It’s the Sugar, Folks

Sugar is indeed toxic. It may not be the only problem with the Standard American Diet, but it’s fast becoming clear that it’s the major one.
A study published in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal PLoS One links increased consumption of sugar with increased rates of diabetes by examining the data on sugar availability and the rate of diabetes in 175 countries over the past decade. And after accounting for many other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity.

In other words, according to this study, obesity doesn’t cause diabetes: sugar does.
Related Posts with Thumbnails