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'Language Gene' Has a Partner

Few genes have made the headlines as much as FOXP2. The first gene associated with language disorders , it was later implicated in the evolution of human speech. Girls make more of the FOXP2 protein, which may help explain their precociousness in learning to talk. Now, neuroscientists have figured out how one of its molecular partners helps Foxp2 exert its effects.

The findings may eventually lead to new therapies for inherited speech disorders, says Richard Huganir, the neurobiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the work. Foxp2 controls the activity of a gene called Srpx2, he notes, which helps some of the brain's nerve cells beef up their connections to other nerve cells. By establishing what SRPX2 does, researchers can look for defective copies of it in people suffering from problems talking or learning to talk.

Until 2001, scientists were not sure how genes influenced language. Then Simon Fisher, a neurogeneticist now at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and his colleagues fingered FOXP2 as the culprit in a family with several members who had trouble with pronunciation, putting words together, and understanding speech. These people cannot move their tongue and lips precisely enough to talk clearly, so even family members often can?t figure out what they are saying. It “opened a molecular window on the neural basis of speech and language,” Fisher says.

Photo credit: Yoichi Araki, Ph.D.


Links 1 - 20 of 20272

By ALAN SCHWARZ A sharp rise in visits to emergency rooms and calls to poison control centers nationwide has some health officials fearing that more potent and dangerous variations of a popular drug known as spice have reached the nation’s streets, resulting in several deaths. In the first three weeks of April, state poison control centers received about 1,000 reports of adverse reactions to spice — the street name for a family of synthetic substances that mimic the effects of marijuana — more than doubling the total from January through March, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. The cases, which can involve spice alone or in combination with other substances, have appeared four times as often this year as in 2014, the organization said. On Thursday alone there were 172 reports, by far the most in one day this year. Health departments in Alabama, Mississippi and New York have issued alerts this month about more spice users being rushed to hospitals experiencing extreme anxiety, violent behavior and delusions, with some of the cases resulting in death. Similar increases have occurred in Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and Texas. The total number of fatalities nationwide this year is not available, health officials said. One person in Louisiana died Wednesday and two others were in intensive care, said Mark Ryan, the director of the Louisiana Poison Center. “We had one hospital in the Baton Rouge area that saw over 110 cases in February. That’s a huge spike,” Dr. Ryan said. “There’s a large amount of use going on. When one of these new ingredients — something that’s more potent and gives a bigger high — is released and gets into distribution, it can cause these more extreme effects.” © 2015 The New York Times Compan

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 20848 - Posted: 04.25.2015

by Helen Thomson Tinnitus is the debilitating sensation of a high-pitched noise without any apparent source. It can be permanent or fleeting, and affects at least 25 million people in the US alone. To understand more about the condition, William Sedley at the University of Newcastle, UK, and his colleagues took advantage of a rare opportunity to study brain activity in a man with tinnitus who was undergoing surgery for epilepsy. Surgeons placed recording electrodes in several areas of his brain to identify the source of his seizures. The man – who they knew as Bob (not his real name) – was awake during the procedure, which allowed Sedley's team to manipulate his tinnitus while recording from his brain. First they played him 30 seconds of white noise, which suppressed his tinnitus for about 10 seconds before it gradually returned. Bob was asked to rate the loudness of his tinnitus before the experiment started, as well as immediately after the white noise finished and 10 seconds later. This protocol was then repeated many times over two days. "Normally, studies compare brain activity of people with and without tinnitus using non-invasive techniques," says Sedley. "Not only are these measurements less precise, but the people with tinnitus might be concentrating on the sound, while the ones without tinnitus might be thinking about their lunch." This, he says, can make the results hard to interpret. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 20847 - Posted: 04.25.2015

Jon Hamilton The simple act of thinking can accelerate the growth of many brain tumors. That's the conclusion of a paper in Cell published Thursday that showed how activity in the cerebral cortex affected high-grade gliomas, which represent about 80 percent of all malignant brain tumors in people. "This tumor is utilizing the core function of the brain, thinking, to promote its own growth," says Michelle Monje, a researcher and neurologist at Stanford who is the paper's senior author. In theory, doctors could slow the growth of these tumors by using sedatives or other drugs to reduce mental activity, Monje says. But that's not a viable option because it wouldn't eliminate the tumor and "we don't want to stop people with brain tumors from thinking or learning or being active." Even so, the discovery suggests other ways to slow down some of the most difficult brain tumors, says Tracy Batchelor, who directs the neuro-oncology program at Massachusetts General Hospital and was not involved in the research. "We really don't have any curative treatments for high-grade gliomas," Batchelor says. The discovery of a link between tumor growth and brain activity "has opened up a window into potential therapeutic interventions," he says. The discovery came from a team of scientists who studied human glioma tumors implanted in mouse brains. The scientists used a technique called optogenetics, which uses light to control brain cells, to increase the activity of cells near the tumors. © 2015 NPR

Keyword: Glia
Link ID: 20846 - Posted: 04.25.2015

Pete Etchells Over the past few years, there seems to have been a insidious pandemic of nonsense neuroscientific claims creeping into the education system. In 2013, the Wellcome Trust commissioned a series of surveys of parents and teachers, asking about various types of educational tools or teaching methods, and the extent to which they believe they have a basis in neuroscience. Worryingly, 76% of teachers responded that they used learning styles in their teaching, and a further 19% responded that they either use, or intend to use, left brain/right brain distinctions to help inform learning methods. Both of these approaches have been thoroughly debunked, and have no place in either neuroscience or education. In October last year, I reported on another study that showed that in the intervening time, things hadn’t really improved – 91% of UK teachers in that survey believed that there were differences in the way that students think and learn, depending on which hemisphere of the brain is ‘dominant’. And despite lots of great attempts to debunk myths about the brain, they still seem to persist and take up residence as ‘commonplace’ knowledge, being passed onto children as if they are fact. When I wrote about an ATL proposal to train teachers in neuroscience – a well-intended idea, but ultimately grounded in nonsense about left brain/right brain myths – I commented at the end that we need to do more to bring teachers and neuroscientists together, to discuss whether neuroscience has a relevant role in informing the way we teach students. Now, a new initiative funded by the Wellcome Trust is aiming to just that. © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 20845 - Posted: 04.25.2015

by Katie Collins Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is just as fascinated by the links between neuroscience and education as she is outraged by the pseudo science that often intrudes upon this territory. Neuroscience in education has really been flourishing in recent years, she says on stage at WIRED Health 2015, but some theories about neuroscience have already infiltrated schools, and not necessarily in a good way. Some products that makes claims about having a positive effect on cognition make bogus claims that may well have positive effects in the classroom, but at the same time promote completely inaccurate science. Blakemore points specifically to the Brain Gym educational model, which claims to improve memory, concentration and information retention. There are no problems with the exercises themselves, she says, but the claims made about the brain are baseless. For a start, she said, Brain Gym claims that children can push "brain buttons" on their bodies that will stimulate blood flow to the brain. Another physical exercise claimed to increase and improve connectivity between the two sides of the brain. "This makes no sense -- they are in communication anyway," says Blakemore. Teachers like Brain Gym because it does what it says and results in improvements in the classroom, but it could just as easily be placebo or novelty causing the effects. One thing Blakemore is sure of? "They're nothing to do with brain buttons or coordinating the two brain hemispheres."

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 20844 - Posted: 04.25.2015

By Ann Gibbons Nearly 42,000 years ago, ancient humans began wielding a new kind of Stone Age toolkit in southern Europe—one that included perforated shell ornaments and long, pointed stone bladelets that were thrown long distances atop spears. Now, after decades of speculation about who made the tools, scientists have finally shown that they were crafted by modern humans, rather than Neandertals. The technological breakthrough may have helped our species outcompete Neandertals, who went extinct shortly after the new tools appeared in Europe. The proof comes from a new state-of-the-art analysis of two baby teeth found in 1976 and 1992 at separate archaeological sites in northern Italy. At the time, researchers were unable to tell whether they belonged to modern humans or Neandertals. But in the new study, an international team of researchers led by Stefano Benazzi of the University of Bologna in Italy used three-dimensional digital imaging methods, including computerized tomography scans, to measure the thickness of the enamel of one of the teeth, found at the collapsed rock shelter of Riparo Bombrini in the western Ligurian Alps. The enamel was thick, as in modern humans, rather than relatively thin, as in Neandertals, the authors report online today in Science. And new radiocarbon dates on animal bones and charcoal from the site suggest this modern child lived there approximately 40,710 to 35,640 years ago. The researchers were also able to extract maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the other child’s tooth from Grotta di Fumane, a cave in the western Lessini mountains, which dated between 41,110 and 38,500 years ago. When researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequenced the mtDNA and compared it with that of 10 ancient modern humans and 10 Neandertals, they found it belonged to a known lineage of mtDNA, called haplogroup R, which has also been found in a 45,000-year-old modern human bone found in a riverbank near Ust’-Ishim, Siberia. © 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 20843 - Posted: 04.25.2015

By Nicholas Bakalar Many people consume sweets in response to stress. Now researchers may have discovered why. Sugar reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Scientists recruited 19 female volunteers. For 12 days, eight of them consumed beverages sweetened with aspartame, an artificial sweetener. The rest drank an identical beverage containing 25 percent sucrose, or table sugar. Before and after the experiment, researchers measured the volunteers’ saliva cortisol levels and performed functional M.R.I. scans while they took arithmetic tests designed to be just beyond their abilities — a procedure known to increase cortisol levels. The study, in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found no differences in the tests between the two groups before the 12-day diet. But in tests afterward, cortisol levels were lower in the sugar consumers and higher in the aspartame group. The post-diet M.R.I. showed increased activity in the areas of the brain controlling fear and stress in the sugar group. The aspartame group showed decreased activity in those areas. The senior author, Kevin D. Laugero, a nutritionist with the federal Department of Agriculture, said no one should conclude that sugar should be used as a stress reducer. But, he said, “the finding is intriguing because it suggests that there is a metabolic pathway sensitive to sugar outside the brain that may expose new targets for treating neurobehavioral and stress-related conditions.” © 2015 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Obesity
Link ID: 20842 - Posted: 04.25.2015

By Jerry Adler Smithsonian Magazine | In London, Benjamin Franklin once opened a bottle of fortified wine from Virginia and poured out, along with the refreshment, three drowned flies, two of which revived after a few hours and flew away. Ever the visionary, he wondered about the possibility of incarcerating himself in a wine barrel for future resurrection, “to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence.” Alas, he wrote to a friend in 1773, “we live in an age too early . . . to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection.” If Franklin were alive today he would find a kindred spirit in Ken Hayworth, a neuroscientist who also wants to be around in 100 years but recognizes that, at 43, he’s not likely to make it on his own. Nor does he expect to get there preserved in alcohol or a freezer; despite the claims made by advocates of cryonics, he says, the ability to revivify a frozen body “isn’t really on the horizon.” So Hayworth is hoping for what he considers the next best thing. He wishes to upload his mind—his memories, skills and personality—to a computer that can be programmed to emulate the processes of his brain, making him, or a simulacrum, effectively immortal (as long as someone keeps the power on). Hayworth’s dream, which he is pursuing as president of the Brain Preservation Foundation, is one version of the “technological singularity.” It envisions a future of “substrate-independent minds,” in which human and machine consciousness will merge, transcending biological limits of time, space and memory. “This new substrate won’t be dependent on an oxygen atmosphere,” says Randal Koene, who works on the same problem at his organization, Carboncopies.org. “It can go on a journey of 1,000 years, it can process more information at a higher speed, it can see in the X-ray spectrum if we build it that way.”

Keyword: Consciousness; Robotics
Link ID: 20841 - Posted: 04.25.2015

Physical activity has little role in tackling obesity - and instead public health messages should squarely focus on unhealthy eating, doctors say. In an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, three international experts said it was time to "bust the myth" about exercise. They said while activity was a key part of staving off diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia, its impact on obesity was minimal. Instead excess sugar and carbohydrates were key. The experts, including London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, blamed the food industry for encouraging the belief that exercise could counteract the impact of unhealthy eating. They even likened their tactics as "chillingly similar" to those of Big Tobacco on smoking and said celebratory endorsements of sugary drinks and the association of junk food and sport must end. They said there was evidence that up to 40% of those within a normal weight range will still harbour harmful metabolic abnormalities typically associated with obesity. But despite this public health messaging had "unhelpfully" focused on maintaining a healthy weight through calorie counting when it was the source of calories that mattered most - research has shown that diabetes increases 11-fold for every 150 additional sugar calories consumed compared to fat calories. And they pointed to evidence from the Lancet global burden of disease programme which shows that unhealthy eating was linked to more ill health than physical activity, alcohol and smoking combined. © 2015 BBC

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 20840 - Posted: 04.23.2015

by Andy Coghlan These neon cells may be blinding, but targeting them could also help preserve sight. In this close-up image of blood vessels – shown in blue – that supply blood to the retina of a one-week-old mouse, the nuclei of cells lining their walls appear in fluorescent colours. The bright-yellow cells are the ones of interest: they could be targeted to help prevent blindness in ageing eyes. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, often strikes in middle age, causing a person's vision to deteriorate. A key driver of the disease is excessive growth of obtrusive blood vessels in the retina. A team led by Alain Chédotal of the Institute of Vision in Paris has now discovered that a protein called Slit2 contributes to the rapid increase in offending blood vessels. The yellow cells in the picture are the ones that are dividing. When this activity occurs in middle age, it triggers the excessive increase in blood vessels that results in AMD. By blocking Slit2, it might be possible to reduce this effect, says Chédotal. When the team genetically altered mice so that they couldn't produce Slit2, the animals no longer overproduced the blood vessels that lead to blindness. The researchers think that drugs targeting Slit2 could generate new treatments for AMD. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 20839 - Posted: 04.23.2015

By Rachel Feltman This is either fascinating, incredibly creepy, or both. Probably both. But also science! The video wasn't created for an all-MRI production of "The Wizard of Oz." It's an example of a high-speed, high-resolution MRI technique. The technique, which is being developed by the Bioimaging Science and Technology Group at the Beckman Institute, acquires about 100 frames per second. A description of the technique was published Tuesday in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. Working about 10 times faster than a standard MRI, the machine was able to pick up the muscular nuances required for singing. You can see the vocal folds hard at work creating the tune. These two flaps inside the larynx sit over the windpipe, coming together whenever we're not breathing. Air passes through the closed folds, causing them to vibrate. We use our larynx to control the tension of our vocal folds, which changes the pitch of our vocalizations. The researchers weren't just goofing off in order to display the MRI's capabilities: The high-speed and high-resolution images help them keep tabs on the tongue and neck muscles during vocalization. They're hoping to learn more about what health vocalization looks like, and whether or not singing can be used as a therapy to help the elderly regain more control over their speech.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 20838 - Posted: 04.23.2015

By KEN BELSON A federal district court judge on Wednesday gave her final approval to the settlement of a lawsuit brought by more than 5,000 former players who accused the N.F.L. of hiding from them the dangers of concussions, a major step toward ending one of the most contentious legal battles in league history. The settlement provides payments of up to $5 million to players who have one of a handful of severe neurological disorders, medical monitoring for all players to determine if they qualify for a payment and $10 million for education about concussions. The landmark deal, which many players criticized, was originally reached in August 2013, but Judge Anita B. Brody twice asked the two sides to revise their agreement, first to uncap the total amount of damages that could be paid for the conditions covered, and then to remove the limit on how much could be spent on medical monitoring. As part of the deal, the N.F.L. insisted that all retired players — not just the 5,000 or so who sued the league — be covered by the settlement as a way to fend off lawsuits in the future. But about 200 players, including Junior Seau, who committed suicide and was later found to have a degenerative brain disease, opted out of the settlement to preserve their right to continue fighting the league. Critics of the settlement said that even after the revisions, the number and variety of diseases covered by the deal were too small and that many players would receive only a small fraction of the multimillion-dollar payouts promised by the league after their age and years in the N.F.L. were considered. Critics also contended that the settlement needed to acknowledge more classes of plaintiffs, not only those with diagnosable diseases and those without them. © 2015 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 20837 - Posted: 04.23.2015

by Clare Wilson I WAS prepared for the blood but the most shocking thing about watching brain surgery was seeing the surgical drapes being stapled to the patient's face. But surgeon Peter Hutchinson dismisses my concern that the tiny holes might bother the patient when she wakes up: "That's nothing compared with the massive hole we're about to make in her head." I am at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, UK, to learn about craniectomy, a procedure that involves removing a large part of someone's skull, to relieve the pressure inside. There are no official tallies but it's thought that several hundred surgeries take place in the UK every year on people with head injuries or who have had a stroke. Once the brain is given room to swell, the pressure drops and the scalp is sewn back into place. The skull fragment can be stored in a freezer or kept sterile inside the patient's abdomen for weeks or months before it is reattached. The operation I'm witnessing is part of a randomised trial to compare the effectiveness of craniectomy with that of drugs alone to bring the pressure down. It will involve 400 people with head injuries, half of whom will get the surgery. This is needed as craniectomy has a long and chequered history. Human remains suggest it was done with stone tools in Peru a thousand years ago, a practise known as trepanning, perhaps for similar reasons as today. As a modern surgical procedure, though, it has fallen in and out of favour over the last few decades. Whether you would be sent for surgery today depends on how safe your surgeon thinks it is. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 20836 - Posted: 04.23.2015

|By Rebecca Harrington It's best to treat the good with the bad, new medical insights into brain attacks suggest. Doctors are beginning to think the side of the brain opposite to a clot in stroke patients is just as important a target for treatment as the damaged tissue when it comes to a faster recovery. Only in the past few years have researchers discovered that the uninjured side of the brain becomes more active after a stroke to help its fallen neighbor. In some instances, it pumps out proteins that induce damaged neurons to begin repairs and others that trigger new blood vessels to form. It can even extend its own neurons across hemispheres to restore function. Current stroke treatments largely target the damaged tissue. “I think everyone thought, ‘The other side of the brain is working pretty well,’” says Stanford University neurologist Gary Steinberg. “‘Why don't we leave that alone?’” In light of the growing evidence that the healthy hemisphere provides aid naturally, however, doctors are now investigating how to boost its healing actions. One such drug, shepherded by Adviye Ergul of Georgia Regents University and Susan Fagan of the University of Georgia, activates receptors on uninjured tissue that trigger pathways to reduce harmful inflammation and support the growth of neurons and blood vessels on the side of the brain with the clot. The drug increases repair rates in rats that have experienced stroke—results described recently in the Journal of Hypertension—and Ergul and Fagan say the therapy could become available to humans in the next five years. © 2015 Scientific American

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 20835 - Posted: 04.23.2015

Brendan Borrell A campaign by animal rights activists to establish the legal personhood of chimpanzees took a bizarre turn this week, when a New York judge inadvertently opened a constitutional can of worms only to clamp it shut a day later. On 20 April, New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe signed an order forcing Stony Brook University to respond to claims by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) that two research chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, were being unlawfully detained. The Coral Springs, Florida, organization declared victory, claiming that because such an order, termed a writ of habeas corpus, can only be granted to a person in New York state, the judge had implicitly determined that the chimps were legal persons. An eruption of news coverage on 21 April sparked a backlash by legal experts claiming the significance of the order had been overblown. By that evening, Jaffe had amended the order, letting arguments on the chimps’ detainment go forward but explicitly scratching out the words WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS at the top of the document. Nature takes a look at the episode’s significance in the campaign to give animals legal rights and what it means for the research community. What is the basis for the idea of giving chimps personhood rights, rather than improving animal treatment laws? The NhRP stands apart from typical animal welfare and animal rights groups in that it narrowly focuses on getting the most intelligent, autonomous, self-aware animals recognized under the law as “persons” with specific rights, rather than things. “We are only asking for one legal right and that’s bodily liberty,” says the organization’s executive director, Natalie Prosin. Animal welfare laws in New York already allow people and organizations to obtain relief from the courts when animals are being abused or kept in poor conditions. The organization’s petition to the court, filed with affidavits from animal cognition researchers, states that keeping chimps in captivity is unlawful, independent of the conditions in which they are kept and whether animal welfare laws are being violated. © 2015 Nature Publishing Group,

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 20834 - Posted: 04.23.2015

By Brady Dennis In recent months, Pasadena-based Genervon has galvanized many patients with ALS by repeatedly touting the results of 12-week, 12-person trial involving the company's drug, GM604. The company asserted its early results were “statistically significant,” “very robust” and “dramatic.” It also has said it "submitted an accelerated approval application" to the FDA which, if approved, "would allow immediate access" to patients with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. But the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Genervon said in an email that it is “at the point of communicating with FDA about whether [the agency] would accept our formal application” for accelerated approval. In other words, the company has not yet submitted a New Drug Application, a step needed to officially set the FDA approval process in motion. The company's acknowledgement that it has not filed an NDA appears to contradict earlier press releases and statements made by the firm's owners, Winston and Dorothy Ko -- or at least to have sown confusion about the actual status of GM604. In one February press release, for example, the company said that in a meeting with the FDA, "three times during the one-hour meeting we requested that the FDA grant GM604 accelerated approval." Asking, however, is not the same as filing the necessary paperwork and the accompanying data required for the FDA to accept it as sufficient. The difference might seem to be a matter of semantics. But the real-world consequence is that, if Genervon has no application pending at the FDA, there is no imminent decision for the FDA to make about approving GM604.

Keyword: ALS-Lou Gehrig's Disease
Link ID: 20833 - Posted: 04.22.2015

By Antonio Regalado Various powerful new tools for exploring and manipulating the brain have been developed over the last few years. Some use electronics, while others use light or chemicals. At one MIT lab, materials scientist Polina Anikeeva has hit on a way to manufacture what amounts to a brain-science Swiss Army knife. The neural probes she builds carry light while collecting and transmitting electricity, and they also have tiny channels through which to pump drugs. That’s an advance over metal wires or silicon electrodes conventionally used to study neurons. Anikeeva makes the probes by assembling polymers and metals into large-scale blocks, or preforms, and then stretching them into flexible, ultrathin fibers. Multifunctional fibers offer new ways to study animal behavior, since they can record from neurons as well as stimulating them. New types of medical technology could also result. Imagine, as Anikeeva does, bionic wiring that bridges a spinal-cord injury, collecting electrical signals from the brain and transmitting them to the muscles of a paralyzed hand. Anikeeva made her first multifunctional probe while studying at Stanford. It was crude: she simply wrapped metal wires around a glass filament. But this made it possible to combine standard electrode measurements with a new technology, optogenetics, in which light is fired at neurons to activate them or shut them down.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 20832 - Posted: 04.22.2015

By Felicity Muth One of the first things I get asked when I tell people that I work on bee cognition (apart from ‘do you get stung a lot?’) is ‘bees have cognition?’. I usually assume that this question shouldn’t be taken literally otherwise it would mean that whoever was asking me this thought that there was a possibility that bees didn’t have cognition and I had just been making a terrible mistake for the past two years. Instead I guess this question actually means ‘please tell me more about the kind of cognitive abilities bees have, as I am very much surprised to hear that bees can do more than just mindlessly sting people’. So, here it is: a summary of some of the more remarkable things that bees can do with their little brains. In the first part of two articles on this topic, I introduce the history and basics of bee learning. In the second article, I go on to discuss the more advanced cognitive abilities of bees. The study of bee cognition isn’t a new thing. Back in the early 1900s the Austrian scientist Karl von Frisch won the Nobel Prize for his work with honeybees (Apis mellifera). He is perhaps most famous for his research on their remarkable ability to communicate through the waggle dance but he also showed for the first time that honeybees have colour vision and learn the colours of the flowers they visit. Appreciating how he did this is perhaps the first step to understanding everything we know about bee cognition today. Before delving into the cognitive abilities of bees it’s important to think about what kinds of abilities a bee might need, given the environment she lives in (all foraging worker bees are female). Bees are generalists, meaning that they don’t have to just visit one particular flower type for food (nectar and pollen), but can instead visit hundreds of different types. However, not all flowers are the same. © 2015 Scientific American,

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Evolution
Link ID: 20831 - Posted: 04.22.2015

Heidi Ledford An experimental antibody drug aimed at protecting nerves from the ravages of multiple sclerosis offers hope for a new way to combat the neurological disease — if researchers can definitively show that it works. The antibody, anti-LINGO-1, is intended to stimulate regrowth of the myelin sheath, the fatty protective covering on nerve cells that is damaged by multiple sclerosis. Its developer, Biogen of Cambridge, Massachusetts, will present results from a small clinical trial at an American Academy of Neurology meeting this week in Washington DC. If the initial promising results from the trial are confirmed, it will be the first such myelin-regeneration therapy. Other researchers are racing to find more targets and compounds that act similarly. “Once we get a positive result, the field will move very quickly,” says Jack Antel, a neurologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. But that excitement is tempered by practical hurdles: there is as yet no proven way to measure remyelination of nerve cells in living humans. Myelin sheaths insulate and support axons, the fibres that transmit signals between nerve cells. In multiple sclerosis, immune attack destroys these sheaths. Stripped of this protective coating, the axons gradually wither away, causing the numbness and muscle spasms that are characteristic of the disease. The 12 drugs approved in the United States to treat multiple sclerosis slow this immune attack — although sometimes with dangerous side effects. But none stops it, says Bruce Trapp, a neuroscientist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. © 2015 Nature Publishing Group

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 20830 - Posted: 04.22.2015

By Maggie Fox Another study aimed at soothing the fears of some parents shows that vaccines don't cause autism. This one takes a special look at children with older siblings diagnosed with autism, who do themselves have a higher risk of an autism spectrum disorder. But even these high-risk kids aren't more likely to develop autism if they're vaccinated, according to the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "We found that there was no harmful association between receipt of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and development of autism spectrum disorder," said Dr. Anjali Jain of The Lewin Group, a health consulting group in Falls Church, Virginia, who led the study. Kids who had older brothers or sisters with autism were less likely to be vaccinated on time themselves, probably because their parents had vaccine worries. But those who were vaccinated were no more likely than the unvaccinated children to develop autism, Jain's team found. Autism is very common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in 68 U.S. kids has an autism spectrum disorder. Numbers have been growing but CDC says much of this almost certainly reflects more awareness and diagnosis of kids who would have been missed in years past.

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 20829 - Posted: 04.22.2015