Chapter 16. None

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By Niall Firth The firing of every neuron in an animal’s body has been recorded, live. The breakthrough in imaging the nervous system of a hydra – a tiny, transparent creature related to jellyfish – as it twitches and moves has provided insights into how such simple animals control their behaviour. Similar techniques might one day help us get a deeper understanding of how our own brains work. “This could be important not just for the human brain but for neuroscience in general,” says Rafael Yuste at Columbia University in New York City. Instead of a brain, hydra have the most basic nervous system in nature, a nerve net in which neurons spread throughout its body. Even so, researchers still know almost nothing about how the hydra’s few thousand neurons interact to create behaviour. To find out, Yuste and colleague Christophe Dupre genetically modified hydra so that their neurons glowed in the presence of calcium. Since calcium ions rise in concentration when neurons are active and fire a signal, Yuste and Dupre were able to relate behaviour to activity in glowing circuits of neurons. For example, a circuit that seems to be involved in digestion in the hydra’s stomach-like cavity became active whenever the animal opened its mouth to feed. This circuit may be an ancestor of our gut nervous system, the pair suggest. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Evolution
Link ID: 23483 - Posted: 04.12.2017

By Partha Mitra Intricate, symmetric patterns, in tiles and stucco, cover the walls and ceilings of Alhambra, the “red fort,” the dreamlike castle of the medieval Moorish kings of Andalusia. Seemingly endless in variety, the two dimensionally periodic patterns are nevertheless governed by the mathematical principles of group theory and can be classified into a finite number of types: precisely seventeen, as shown by Russian crystallographer Evgraf Federov. The artists of medieval Andalusia are unlikely to have been aware of the mathematics of space groups, and Federov was unaware of the art of Alhambra. The two worlds met in the 1943 PhD thesis of Swiss astronomer Edith Alice Muller, who counted eleven of the seventeen planar groups in the adornments of the palace (more have been counted since). All seventeen space groups can also be found in the periodic patterns of Japanese wallpaper. Without conscious intent or explicit knowledge, the creations of artists across cultures at different times nevertheless had to conform to the constraints of periodicity in two dimensional Euclidean space, and were thus subject to mathematically precise theory. Does the same apply to the “endless forms most beautiful,” created by the biological evolutionary process? Are there theoretical principles, ideally ones which may be formulated in mathematical terms, underlying the bewildering complexity of biological phenomema? Without the guidance of such principles, we are only generating ever larger digital butterfly collections with ever better tools. In a recent article, Krakauer and colleagues argue that by marginalizing ethology, the study of adaptive behaviors of animals in their natural settings, modern neuroscience has lost a key theoretical framework. The conceptual framework of ethology contains in it the seeds of a future mathematical theory that might unify neurobiological complexity as Fedorov’s theory of wallpaper groups unified the patterns of the Alhambra. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 23482 - Posted: 04.12.2017

By ANAHAD O’CONNOR About a year and a half ago, Robin Collier and her husband, Wayne, were like millions of other Americans: overweight and living with Type 2 diabetes. Despite multiple diets, the couple could not seem to lose much weight. Then Ms. Collier’s doctor told her she was going to need daily insulin shots to control her diabetes. That was the motivation she needed. “I made up my mind right then and there,” said Ms. Collier, 62, an administrator at an accounting firm in Lafayette, Ind. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not going on insulin. I’m too young to have this disease.’” Instead, Ms. Collier and her husband entered a study sponsored by a company called Virta Health, one of a new crop of high-tech companies that have designed programs aimed at helping people prevent or even reverse their diabetes. On the program, patients video-chat with a remote Virta doctor, who consults with their primary care doctor, reviews their blood tests and medical history, and makes diet and drug recommendations. While studies show that a variety of different diets can benefit people with Type 2 diabetes, Virta, based in San Francisco, takes a low-carbohydrate approach, training patients to swap foods like pastries, pasta and sugary snacks for veggie omelets, almonds and salads with grilled chicken and beef. Every day, patients use an app to upload their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, body weight and other measurements. A health coach, usually a registered dietitian, monitors their data and checks in by phone, text or email to discuss any problems or just to provide daily encouragement. Today, Ms. Collier has lost 75 pounds and has avoided taking insulin. Her husband has lost 45 pounds and was able to stop two diabetes medications. Both are still in the program, which she called “life changing,” as part of an ongoing clinical trial. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 23481 - Posted: 04.12.2017

Consider two children who have childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), the most common form of pediatric epilepsy. They both take the same drug — one child sees an improvement in their seizures, but the other does not. A new study in the Annals of Neurology identified the genes that may underlie this difference in treatment outcomes, suggesting there may be potential for using a precision medicine approach to help predict which drugs will be most effective to help children with CAE. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), both part of the National Institutes of Health. “A better understanding of genetic factors underlying a disease and the way that people respond to treatments may help healthcare providers select the best therapies for children with CAE,” said Vicky Whittemore, Ph.D., program director at NINDS. A team led by Tracy A. Glauser, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and professor of pediatrics in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, investigated whether there may be a genetic basis for different responses to three drugs used for CAE (ethosuximide, valproic acid, and lamotrigine). The experiments focused on three genes that code for T-type calcium channels that are involved in CAE and one gene that codes for a transporter that shuttles the drugs out of the brain. T-type calcium channels help control the firing rate of brain cells. The current study is part of a 32-center, randomized, controlled clinical trial that compared the effects of the three most commonly used drugs in 446 children who were recently diagnosed with CAE.

Keyword: Epilepsy; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23480 - Posted: 04.12.2017

By Andy Coghlan “PRENATAL exposure to progesterone affects sexual orientation in humans”. A bold and unequivocal-sounding title for a scientific paper. And certainly important if true. But is it? The study claimed to show that women given extra progesterone during pregnancy, routinely prescribed to prevent miscarriage, bleeding or premature delivery, have children who are “29 per cent more likely” to later identify as bisexual. It would be a landmark finding, allowing us to also ground in biology the established social science contention that sexuality has more dimensions than straight and gay. We suspected that exposing a fetus to strong hormones can shape sexual orientation. But there are no animal models of sexual orientation, and doing this kind of experiment in humans would be deeply unethical. The next best thing would be a retrospective analysis looking at a birth cohort exposed to a specific hormone “in the wild”. And that’s what this study did. June Reinisch of the Kinsey Institute in Indiana and her colleagues trawled a public database containing records of more than 9000 pregnancies in Denmark between 1959 and 1961. They identified women who were given a progesterone-mimicking hormone by the trade name lutocyclin to prevent miscarriage. Lutocyclin did seem to have mild effects on sexual orientation: later in life, exposed individuals were five times more likely to self-identify as non-heterosexual, and were more likely to report relationships with the same sex, than unexposed controls. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23477 - Posted: 04.11.2017

Nicola Davis Scientists have unpicked the regions of the brain involved in dreaming, in a study with significant implications for our understanding of the purpose of dreams and of consciousness itself. What’s more, changes in brain activity have been found to offer clues as to what the dream is about. Dreaming had long been thought to occur largely during rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, a period of slumber involving fast brain activity similar to that when awake, but dreams have also been reported to occur during non-REM sleep, leaving scientists scratching their heads as to the hallmark of dreaming. “It seemed a mystery that you can have both dreaming and the absence of dreaming in these two different types of stages,” said Francesca Siclari, co-author of the research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US. Now it seems the puzzle has been solved. In addition the team found that dreaming about faces was linked to increased high-frequency activity in the region of the brain involved in face recognition, with dreams involving spatial perception, movement and thinking similarly linked to regions of the brain that handle such tasks when awake. “[It is] a proof for the fact that dreaming really is an experience that occurs during sleep, because many researchers up until now have suggested that it is just something you invent when you wake up,” said Siclari.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23476 - Posted: 04.11.2017

By C. CLAIBORNE RAY. The yellow stuff in the outer part of the ear canal, scientifically named cerumen, is only partly a waxy substance, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. The rest of the so-called wax is an accretion of some dust and lots of dead skin cells, which normally collect in the passage as they are shed. The waxy part, which holds the compacted waste together and smooths the way for it to leave the ear, comes from the ceruminous glands, which secrete lipids and other substances. They are specialized sweat glands just under the surface of the skin in the outer part of the canal. Besides lubricating the skin of the canal while keeping it dry, the lipids also help maintain a protective acidic coating, which helps kill bacteria and fungi that can cause infection and irritation. The normal working of muscles in the head, especially those that move the jaw, help guide the wax outward along the ear canal. The ceruminous glands commonly shrink in old age, producing less of the lipids and making it harder for waste to leave the ear. Excess wax buildup can usually be safely softened with warm olive or almond oil or irrigated with warm water, though specialized softening drops are also sold. Take care not to compress the buildup further with cotton swabs or other tools. If it cannot be safely removed, seek medical help. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 23472 - Posted: 04.11.2017

By Paul Taylor One of the bummers of getting older, as most baby boomers can attest, is that the list of stuff you don’t do as well as you once did keeps getting longer. Bennett Beach, 67, can measure his decline with a stopwatch. Three hours, 27 minutes, 56 seconds: That’s the difference between his best time in the Boston Marathon (2:27:26) and his worst (5:55:22). On April 17, he’ll be running the famous race once again. If he completes the course in less than six hours, he will have officially finished his 50th consecutive Boston Marathon. No one has ever done that. Nor, as far as he knows, will any of his 32,000 fellow racers be coping, as he is, with the rare and debilitating neurological movement disorder known as task-specific dystonia. Whenever he strides, Beach’s left leg gets hijacked by erratic signals from his brain. His walk is nearly normal, but for the past 15 years he has been running with a severe limp. His pursuit of the milestone has been fueled in roughly equal measure by antithetical parts — an Ahab-grade obsession mixed with an older-but-wiser acceptance of his body’s limits. “If someone had told me 30 years ago I’d be struggling to finish this race in six hours, I’d have said, ‘Spare me.’ Now I’m grateful.” Beach is a marathoner by demeanor: quiet, unassuming, self-effacing, iron-willed. And by body type: 5-foot-7, 125 pounds. He played all sports as a kid, distinguishing himself at none: “I just didn’t have the size or strength.” As a senior in prep school, he happened upon a radio broadcast of the Boston Marathon. “It was 30 degrees, it was sleeting, and these guys were out there running 26 miles,” he remembers. “Just the sort of bizarre, crazy thing I was drawn to. I already knew I’d be in Boston the next year, so I decided I’d give it a shot.” © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Movement Disorders
Link ID: 23471 - Posted: 04.10.2017

Robin McKie Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. Thus wrote the English playwright Thomas Dekker in the 16th century, reflecting a view that has persisted through the centuries. Sleep is crucial to our wellbeing. Disturb it and you will find your constitution troubled and twisted out of joint. It is a view supported by science. Experiments in which men and women have endured periods of up to 11 days without shut-eye have shown that if we cannot sleep we develop increasingly severe symptoms: progressive decreases in concentration, perception and other higher mental processes. Intriguingly, these problems vanish once subjects are allowed a couple of nights curled up in their beds in a state of blissful unconsciousness. Just why we need sleep has been more difficult to answer. Freud argued that sleep allows us to have dreams in which we can act out wishes that are too disturbing to contemplate while awake. Others have maintained that sleep is a leftover from our stone age past, when it would have been dangerous to blunder around in the night at the mercy of nocturnal carnivores. So we evolved the habit of sleep to keep us safe, sound and unconscious in our caves. More recently, scientists have argued that sleep is involved in helping our bodies to recover from the vicissitudes of the day and for our brains to process the experiences of the previous 12 hours. All these theories have their proponents and opponents – for scientists are certainly far from reaching an agreement about the biological causes of sleep. However, a couple of papers published last week suggest there may be new avenues for researchers to explore so that they can learn how sleep works and why animals need it so badly.

Keyword: Sleep; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23470 - Posted: 04.10.2017

By PENELOPE GREEN At M.I.T.’s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. Mr. Rose, a researcher, an inventor-entrepreneur and the author of “Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire and the Internet of Things,” and his colleagues have been road-testing weighted blankets to induce a swaddling sensation and listening to recordings of Icelandic fairy tales — all research into an ideal sleep environment that may culminate in a nap pod, or, as he said, “some new furniture form.” “For me, it’s a swinging bed on a screened porch in northwestern Wisconsin,” he said. “You can hear the loons and the wind through the fir trees, and there’s the weight of 10 blankets on top of me because it’s a cold night. We’re trying a bunch of interventions.” Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. Dr. Walker is also sifting through the millions of hours of human sleep data he has received from Sense, a delicately lovely polycarbonate globe designed to look like the National Stadium in Beijing that measures air quality and other intangibles in your bedroom, then suggests tweaks to help you sleep better. “I’ve got a mission,” he said. “I want to reunite humanity with the sleep it is so bereft of.” Sense is the first product made by Hello Inc., a technology company started by James Proud, a British entrepreneur, for which Dr. Walker is the chief scientist. In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. The product, called Dreem, has been beta-tested on 500 people (out of a pool of 6,500 applicants, Mr. Mercier said) and will be ready for sale this summer. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23467 - Posted: 04.08.2017

By PENELOPE GREEN I’m exhausted. Aren’t you? For an article about how Silicon Valley and other innovators have taken on the challenge of sleeplessness, a $32 billion market once populated mostly by mattress and pharmaceutical companies, I tested but a few of the many hundreds of gadgets, apps, podcasts and other inventions now devoted to a good night’s sleep. As the gizmos grow more elaborate, imbued by ever more exotic technologies, they are creating a ruckus in our bedrooms, and sleep experts advocate a simpler approach. Here are a few of their tips (and a gizmo or two): ​Have someone read to you “Sleep With Me,” a wildly popular podcast by Drew Ackerman, a gravelly voiced librarian who tells excruciatingly boring bedtime stories, has millions of fans, but it makes me anxious. Mr. Rose and his colleagues stumbled upon recordings of Icelandic folk tales, which they found incomprehensible, of course, and therefore more soothing and soporific. ​Take a bath Arianna Huffington, author of “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time,” suggests following the bedtime rituals we gave our children. “You didn’t just throw your baby in bed,” she said. “There was a transition. A hot bath makes it easier for you to wash away the day.” ​Tuck in with a weighted blanket At M.I.T.’s Media Lab, the researcher David Rose and his colleagues are investigating what makes an ideal sleep environment. To evoke the feeling of many blankets on a cold night, Mr. Rose turned to the weighted blankets used as sensory therapy for autistic children. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 23466 - Posted: 04.08.2017

Cordelia Fine and Rebecca Jordan-Young At a time when both science and feminism are under attack, there are welcome signs that neuroscience is showing new openness to critiques of research into sex differences. Mainstream journals increasingly publish studies that reveal how misleading assumptions about the sexes bias the framing of hypotheses, research design and interpretation of findings – and these critiques increasingly come with constructive recommendations, discussions and debates. For example, we, together with other colleagues, made recommendations in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience on best practice in sex/gender neuroscience. Some of the errors and traps we identified included human neuroimaging studies with small sample sizes, and the common “snapshot” approach, which interprets neural associations with sex as a matter of timeless and universal male and female essences, without taking seriously the fact that biological associations might as easily be the effect of social differences as the cause of them. For example, a study reporting female-male differences in spatial processing should take into account that women and men have different life experiences, on average, that can build such skills – such as practice with aiming at targets that comes from certain kinds of sports and video games. We also expressed concern about studies that draw on and reinforce stereotypes, even as they slip and slide regarding specific predictions about sex differences in the brain, and what findings might mean for how women and men think, feel, and behave.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23465 - Posted: 04.08.2017

By Tracy Vence Last year, 5 percent of the babies born to nearly 1,000 mothers in the U.S. who showed signs of Zika virus infection during their pregnancies had birth defects, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week (April 3). Among babies born to the 250 US mothers with confirmed Zika infection during their pregnancies, just shy of 10 percent had birth defects. The agency’s latest analysis is based on data from the US Zika Pregnancy Registry, which does not include information from Puerto Rico (where CDC has a separate database). During a press briefing, CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat told reporters that researchers and clinicians have observed a variety of brain-related birth defects in babies with congenital Zika infection, beyond microcephaly. “Some seemingly healthy babies . . . may have developmental problems that become evident months after birth,” she said. “Although we’re still learning about the full range of birth defects that can occur when a women is infected with Zika during pregnancy, we’ve seen that it can cause brain abnormalities, vision problems, hearing problems, and other consequences of brain damage that might require lifelong specialized care.” Schuchat described cases of congenital Zika infection in which babies experienced seizures, reduced motor control, feeding difficulties, missed developmental milestones (like sitting up), or inconsolable crying. “These circumstances are just heartbreaking,” she said. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23461 - Posted: 04.07.2017

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, What really happens when we make and store memories has been unravelled in a discovery that surprised even the scientists who made it. The US and Japanese team found that the brain "doubles up" by simultaneously making two memories of events. One is for the here-and-now and the other for a lifetime, they found. It had been thought that all memories start as a short-term memory and are then slowly converted into a long-term one. Experts said the findings were surprising, but also beautiful and convincing. 'Significant advance' Two parts of the brain are heavily involved in remembering our personal experiences. The hippocampus is the place for short-term memories while the cortex is home to long-term memories. This idea became famous after the case of Henry Molaison in the 1950s. His hippocampus was damaged during epilepsy surgery and he was no longer able to make new memories, but his ones from before the operation were still there. So the prevailing idea was that memories are formed in the hippocampus and then moved to the cortex where they are "banked". The team at the Riken-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics have done something mind-bogglingly advanced to show this is not the case. The experiments had to be performed on mice, but are thought to apply to human brains too. They involved watching specific memories form as a cluster of connected brain cells in reaction to a shock. Researchers then used light beamed into the brain to control the activity of individual neurons - they could literally switch memories on or off. The results, published in the journal Science, showed that memories were formed simultaneously in the hippocampus and the cortex. Prof Susumu Tonegawa, the director of the research centre, said: "This was surprising." He told the BBC News website: "This is contrary to the popular hypothesis that has been held for decades. Copyright © 2017

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 23460 - Posted: 04.07.2017

A gene variant may explain why some people prefer to stay up late and hate early mornings. The variant is a mutated form of the CRY1 gene, known to play a role in the circadian clock. Michael Young, at The Rockerfeller University, New York, and his team discovered the mutation in a person diagnosed with delayed sleep phase disorder – a condition that describes many so-called “night-owls”. The team found that five of this person’s relatives also had this mutation, all of whom had a history of sleep problems. They then studied six families in Turkey whose members included 39 carriers of the CRY1 variant. The sleep periods of those with the mutation was shifted by 2 to 4 hours, and some had broken, irregular sleep patterns. The mutation seems to slow the body’s internal biological clock, causing people to have a longer circadian cycle and making them stay awake later. The team have calculated that the variant may be present in as many as one in 75 people in some populations, such as Europeans of non-Finnish descent. But those who have a longer circadian cycle need not despair. Young says many people with delayed sleep phase disorder are able to control their sleep cycles by sticking to strict schedules. “It’s a bit like cigarette smoking in that there are things we can do to help the problem before turning to drugs,” he says. Journal reference: Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.03.027 © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23459 - Posted: 04.07.2017

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan The human body undergoes daily cycles in gene expression, protein levels, enzymatic activity, and overall function. Light is the strongest regulator of the central circadian rhythm. When light strikes a mammal’s eyes, it triggers an electrical impulse that activates neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the seat of the brain’s timekeeping machinery. The SCN sets the pace for neuronal and hormonal signals that regulate body temperature, feeding behavior, rest or activity, immune cell functions, and other daily activities, which in combination with direct signals from the SCN keep the body’s peripheral organs ticking in synchrony. Sunlight reaches the eyes, controls the central clock in the brain. The brain, in turn, controls different physiological processes, such as body temperature and rest-activity cycles, which then affect metabolites, hormones, the sympathetic nervous system, and other biological signals. These processes ensure that the different organ systems of the body cycle together. Timing Treatments to the Clock Regulated by peripheral clocks and interactions with other organs, many metabolic pathways in the body peak and ebb in specific circadian patterns. As a result, drugs targeting these pathways can work better when taken at particular times of day. Here are a few examples. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 23458 - Posted: 04.07.2017

Nicola Davis Apes are on a par with human infants in being able to tell when people have an accurate belief about a situation or are actually mistaken, researchers say. While previous work has shown that great apes understand the goals, desires and perceptions of others, scientists say the latest finding reveals an important cognitive ability. “For the last 30 or more years people thought that belief understanding is the key marker of humans and really differentiates us from other species – and this does not seem to be the case,” said David Buttelmann, co-author of the research from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. Apes can guess what others are thinking - just like humans, study finds Read more The results follow on the heels of a study published last year which also suggests that apes understand the concept of false beliefs – after research that used eye-tracking technology to monitor the gaze of apes exposed to various pranks carried out by an actor dressed in a King Kong suit. But the new study, says Buttelmann, is an important step forward, showing that apes not only understand false belief in others, but apply that understanding to their own actions. Writing in the journal Plos One, Buttelmann and colleagues described exploring the understanding of false belief in 34 great apes, including bonobos, chimpanzees and orangutans, using a test that can be passed by human infants at one to two years of age. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Attention; Consciousness
Link ID: 23457 - Posted: 04.06.2017

Rebecca Hersher Do you pop up from your seat during meetings and finish other people's sentences? And maybe you also procrastinate, or find yourself zoning out in the middle of one-on-one conversations? It's possible you have adult ADHD. Six simple questions can reliably identify adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a World Health Organization advisory group working with two additional psychiatrists. The questions are: How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly? How often do you leave your seat in meetings and other situations in which you are expected to remain seated? How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself? When you're in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to before they can finish them themselves? How often do you put things off until the last minute? How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details? The response options are "never," "rarely," "sometimes," "often" or "very often." "It's very important to look at the questions in their totality, not each individual symptom," says Dr. David Goodman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. "No single question stands out as indicating ADHD." © 2017 npr

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 23456 - Posted: 04.06.2017

Marcelo Gleiser The idea that neuroscience is rediscovering the soul is, to most scientists and philosophers, nothing short of outrageous. Of course it is not. But the widespread, adverse, knee-jerk attitude presupposes the old-fashioned definition of the soul — the ethereal, immaterial entity that somehow encapsulates your essence. Surely, this kind of supernatural mumbo-jumbo has no place in modern science. And I agree. The Cartesian separation of body and soul, the res extensa (matter stuff) vs. res cogitans (mind stuff) has long been discarded as untenable in a strictly materialistic description of natural phenomena. After all, how would something immaterial interact with something material without any exchange of energy? And how would something immaterial — whatever that means — somehow maintain the essence of who you are beyond your bodily existence? So, this kind of immaterial soul really presents problems for science, although, as pointed out here recently by Adam Frank, the scientific understanding of matter is not without its challenges. But what if we revisit the definition of soul, abandoning its canonical meaning as the "spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal" for something more modern? What if we consider your soul as the sum total of your neurocognitive essence, your very specific brain signature, the unique neuronal connections, synapses, and flow of neurotransmitters that makes you you? © 2017 npr

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 23454 - Posted: 04.06.2017

Smoking causes one in 10 deaths worldwide, a new study shows, half of them in just four countries - China, India, the US and Russia. Despite decades of tobacco control policies, population growth has seen an increased number of smokers, it warned. Researchers said mortality could rise further as tobacco companies aggressively targeted new markets, especially in the developing world. The report was published in the medical journal The Lancet. "Despite more than half a century of unequivocal evidence of the harmful effects of tobacco on health, today, one in every four men in the world is a daily smoker," said senior author Dr Emmanuela Gakidou. "Smoking remains the second largest risk factor for early death and disability, and so to further reduce its impact we must intensify tobacco control to further reduce smoking prevalence and attributable burden." The Global Burden of Diseases report was based on smoking habits in 195 countries and territories between 1990 and 2015. It found that nearly one billion people smoked daily in 2015 - one in four men and one in 20 women. That was a reduction from one in three men and one in 12 women who lit up in 1990. However, population growth meant there was an increase in the overall number of smokers, up from 870 million in 1990. © 2017 BBC

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 23453 - Posted: 04.06.2017