Chapter 16. None

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By STEPH YIN Neanderthals and modern humans diverged from a common ancestor about half a million years ago. Living in colder climes in Eurasia, Neanderthals evolved barrel chests, large skulls and strong hands. In Africa, modern humans acquired shorter faces, a prominent chin and slender limbs. Then, roughly 50,000 years ago, the two species encountered one another and interbred, as modern humans spread out of Africa. The legacy of this interbreeding has been the subject of much scientific inquiry in the past few years. Today, up to 4 percent of the genes of non-Africans are Neanderthal in origin.. These may have influenced a diverse range of traits, including keratin production, disease risk and the propensity to sneeze after eating dark chocolate. Where did all the other Neanderthal DNA go? Why did a Neanderthal-human hybrid not prevail? Two recent studies converge on an explanation. They suggest the answer comes down to different population sizes between Neanderthals and modern humans, and this principle of population genetics: In small populations, natural selection is less effective. “Neanderthals have this small population over hundreds of thousands of years, presumably because they’re living in very rough conditions,” said Graham Coop, a genetics professor at the University of California, Davis, and an author of one of the studies, published Tuesday in PLOS Genetics. As a result, Neanderthals were more inbred than modern humans and accumulated more mutations that have a slightly adverse effect, such as increasing one’s risk of disease, but do not prevent one from reproducing (and thus, passing such mutations along). © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Evolution; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 22845 - Posted: 11.09.2016

By Felicity Muth Kirsty Graham is a PhD student at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, who works on gestural communication of chimpanzees and bonobos in Uganda and DRCongo. I recently asked her some questions about the work that she does and some exciting recent findings of hers about how these animals communicate. How did you become interested in communication, and specifically gestures? Languages are fascinating – the diversity, the culture, the learning – and during undergrad, I became interested in the origins of our language ability. I went to Quest University Canada (a small liberal arts university) and learned that I could combine my love of languages and animals and being outdoors! Other great apes don’t have language in the way that humans do, but studying different aspects of communication, such as gestures, may reveal how language evolved. Although my interest really started from an interest in languages, once you get so deep into studying other species you become excited about their behaviour for its own sake. In the long run, it would be nice to piece together how language evolved, but for now I’m starting with a very small piece of the puzzle – bonobo gestures. How do you study gestures in non-human primates? There are a few different approaches to studying gestures: in the wild or in captivity; through observation or with experiments; studying one gesture in detail or looking at the whole repertoire. I chose to observe wild bonobos and look at their whole repertoire. Since not much is known about bonobo gestural communication, this seemed like a good starting point. During my PhD, I spent 12 months at Wamba (Kyoto University’s research site) in the DRCongo. I filmed the bonobos, anticipating the beginning of social interactions so that I could record the gestures that they use. Then I spent a long time watching the videos, finding gestures, and coding information about the gestures. © 2016 Scientific American

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 22840 - Posted: 11.07.2016

By Neuroskeptic A new paper could prompt a rethink of a basic tenet of neuroscience. It is widely believed that the motor cortex, a region of the cerebral cortex, is responsible for producing movements, by sending instructions to other brain regions and ultimately to the spinal cord. But according to neuroscientists Christian Laut Ebbesen and colleagues, the truth may be the opposite: the motor cortex may equally well suppress movements. Ebbesen et al. studied the vibrissa motor cortex (VMC) of the rat, an area which is known to be involved in the movement of the whiskers. First, they determined that neurons within the VMC are more active during periods when the rat’s whiskers are resting: for instance, like this: whiskerThe existence of cells whose firing negatively correlates with movement is interesting, but by itself it doesn’t prove that much. Maybe those cells are just doing something else than controlling movement? However, Ebbesen et al. went on to show that electrical stimulation of the VMC caused whiskers to stop moving, while applying a drug (lidocaine) to suppress VMC activity caused the rat’s whiskers to whisk harder. Ebbesen et al. go on to say that the inhibitory role of VMC may extend to other regions of the rat motor cortex, and to other movements beyond the whiskers: Rats can perform long sequences of skilled, learned motor behaviors after motor cortex ablation, but motor cortex is required for them to learn a task of behavioral inhibition (they must learn to postpone lever presses)35. When swimming, intact rats hold their forelimbs still and swim with only their hindlimbs. After forelimb motor cortex lesions, however, rats swim with their forelimbs also36.

Keyword: Movement Disorders
Link ID: 22837 - Posted: 11.07.2016

By Solomon Israel, A May-December romance brings benefits for young female gray jays mated to older males, according to new Canadian research. The paper, published this month in the journal Animal Behaviour, used almost four decades of data on a marked population of gray jays in Ontario's Algonquin Park to study how the birds adjust their reproductive habits in response to changes in temperature and other conditions. Gray jays, also known as Canada jays or whisky jacks, don't migrate south in the winter, instead living year-round in boreal forests across Canada and the northern U.S. They manage this feat of survival by caching food all over their large, permanent habitats, then retrieving it during the winter months. The small, fluffy birds take advantage of those winter supplies to nest much earlier than most other birds, laying eggs between late February and March. Gray jays don't migrate during the winter, instead relying on hidden caches of food to feed themselves and their offspring. (Dan Strickland) The researchers found that female gray jays that laid their eggs earlier in the season had the most reproductive success, with a higher survival rate for offspring. ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 22836 - Posted: 11.07.2016

By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER and AARON E. CARROLL New parents get a lot of advice. It comes from breast-feeding “lactivists” and Ferberizers, attachment parents and anti-helicopter ones. It’s not enough to keep babies fed, rested and changed — they also need to learn grit and sign language. So when the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued new infant sleep guidelines — highlighting a recommendation that babies sleep in their parents’ rooms for at least six months but ideally a full year — some parents despaired. The academy said that sharing a room could cut babies’ chance of dying in their sleep by “up to 50 percent.” Suffocation, strangulation or sudden infant death syndrome, known as SIDS, kills 3,500 babies a year in this country. The academy’s previous recommendations — place babies on their backs to sleep, without loose bedding, in their own cribs — have been an undisputed success in helping to cut SIDS deaths by 53 percent from 1992 to 2001, but SIDS is still the largest cause of infant mortality in the United States after the first month of life. Yet the recommendation drew skepticism from some doctors, who argued that a close look at the evidence showed that the benefits of room-sharing didn’t always justify its costs to parents, who would have to sacrifice privacy, sex and, above all, sleep. Sharing a room can make breast-feeding and bonding easier. It has historically been common around the world, and many parents do it by choice or necessity. But the evidence is not conclusive, and doctors need to understand the trade-offs before demanding that parents follow the recommendation. Doing so will be part of making parenthood possible in a society in which most parents work, yet receive less government support than in any other industrialized country. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 22834 - Posted: 11.05.2016

By Greg Miller In the mid-19th century, some European doctors became fascinated with a plant-derived drug recently imported from India. Cannabis had been used as medicine for millennia in Asia, and physicians were keen to try it with their patients. No less an authority than Sir John Russell Reynolds, the house physician to Queen Victoria and later president of the Royal College of Physicians in London, extolled the medical virtues of cannabis in The Lancet in 1890. “In almost all painful maladies I have found Indian hemp by far the most useful of drugs,” Reynolds wrote. Like other doctors of his day, Reynolds thought cannabis might help reduce the need for opium-based painkillers, with their potential for abuse and overdose. “The bane of many opiates and sedatives is this, that the relief of the moment, the hour, or the day, is purchased at the expense of to-morrow’s misery,” he wrote. “In no one case to which I have administered Indian hemp, have I witnessed any such results.” More than 125 years later, the misery caused by opioids is clearer than ever, and there are new hints that cannabis could be a viable alternative. Some clinical studies suggest that the plant may have medical value, especially for difficult-to-treat pain conditions. The liberalization of marijuana laws in the United States has also allowed researchers to compare overdoses from painkiller prescriptions and opioids in states that permit medical marijuana versus those that don’t. Yet following up on those hints isn’t easy. Clinical studies face additional hurdles because the plant is listed on Schedule I, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) list of the most dangerous drugs. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 22832 - Posted: 11.04.2016

Ramin Skibba A large, multi-lab replication study has found no evidence to validate one of psychology’s textbook findings: the idea that people find cartoons funnier if they are surreptitiously induced to smile. But an author of the original report — published nearly three decades ago — says that the new analysis has shortcomings, and may not represent a direct replication of his work. In 1988, Fritz Strack, a psychologist now at the University of Würzburg, Germany, and colleagues found that people who held a pen between their teeth, which induces a smile, rated cartoons as funnier than did those who held a pen between their lips, which induced a pout, or frown1. Strack chose cartoons from Gary Larson's classic 1980s series, The Far Side. Strack’s study has been quoted as a classic demonstration of what’s known as the ‘facial feedback hypothesis’ — the idea that facial expressions can influence a person’s own emotional state. The paper has been cited more than a thousand times, and has been followed by other research into facial feedback. In 2011, for example, researchers reported that injections of Botox, which affects the muscles of facial expression, dampen emotional responses2. But as part of a growing trend to reproduce famous psychology findings, a group of scientists revisited the experiment. They describe the collective results of 17 experiments, with a total of nearly 1,900 participants, in a paper published on 26 October in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science3. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 22831 - Posted: 11.04.2016

By Dan Hurley The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 89 cases of the paralyzing disease in the United States through September. A 6-year-old boy suspected of having AFM died in Seattle on Sunday, the first death believed to be caused by the disease. One of the drugs in development, pocapavir, was used briefly on a few patients during a 2014 outbreak of AFM under a compassionate-use exception that allows extremely sick patients to be given unapproved drugs without the usual kinds of placebo-controlled trials required by the Food and Drug Administration. “There were a couple of kids who got pocapavir in the Colorado outbreaks,” said Benjamin Greenberg, a neurologist who has treated children with AFM at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas. “It had relatively weak but measurable impact on viral replication. A larger study would definitely be warranted. We'll take anything we can get.” Although the CDC says no cause has been conclusively linked to AFM, many researchers suspect a family of viruses known as enteroviruses. “I have been studying enteroviruses for 40 years now,” said John Modlin, deputy director of the polio eradication program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “If I had a child with acute flaccid myelitis, I would be on the phone in a second to the companies making these drugs.” © 1996-2016 The Washington Post

Keyword: Movement Disorders
Link ID: 22830 - Posted: 11.04.2016

By Kelly Servick Mark Hutchinson could read the anguish on the participants’ faces in seconds. As a graduate student at the University of Adelaide in Australia in the late 1990s, he helped with studies in which people taking methadone to treat opioid addiction tested their pain tolerance by dunking a forearm in ice water. Healthy controls typically managed to stand the cold for roughly a minute. Hutchinson himself, “the young, cocky, Aussie bloke chucking my arm in the water,” lasted more than 2 minutes. But the methadone patients averaged only about 15 seconds. “These aren’t wimps. These people are injecting all sorts of crazy crap into their arms. … But they were finding this excruciating,” Hutchinson says. “It just fascinated me.” The participants were taking enormous doses of narcotics. How could they experience such exaggerated pain? The experiment was Hutchinson’s first encounter with a perplexing phenomenon called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). At high doses, opioid painkillers actually seem to amplify pain by changing signaling in the central nervous system, making the body generally more sensitive to painful stimuli. “Just imagine if all the diabetic medications, instead of decreasing blood sugar, increased blood sugar,” says Jianren Mao, a physician and pain researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who has studied hyperalgesia in rodents and people for more than 20 years. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 22829 - Posted: 11.04.2016

Ian Sample Science editor The devastating impact of cigarette smoke on the body’s DNA has been laid bare by the first comprehensive study into the damage tobacco inflicts on human cells. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day for a year develop on average 150 extra mutations in every lung cell, and nearly 100 more mutations than usual in each cell of the voice box, researchers found. More still build up in the mouth, bladder, liver and other organs. While chemicals in tobacco smoke have long been known to raise the risk of at least 17 forms of cancer, the precise molecular mechanisms through which they mutate DNA and give rise to tumours in different tissues have never been clear. “This is about running down the root cause of cancers,” said David Phillips, a professor of environmental carcinogenesis at King’s College London and a co-author on the study. “By identifying the root causes, we gain the sort of knowledge we need to think more seriously about cancer prevention.” More than 70 of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. Some damage DNA directly, but others ramp up mutations in more subtle ways, often by disrupting the way cells function. The more mutations a cell acquires, the more likely it is to turn cancerous. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 22828 - Posted: 11.04.2016

By Simon Makin Cerebral autopsy specimen of a patient diagosed having Alzheimer Disease. In the HE stain numerous plaque formations within the neuropil background are visible. Credit: WIKIPEDIA, CC BY-SA 3.0 On Monday Pres. Barack Obama proclaimed November “National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.” The administration’s ambitious goal is to prevent and treat Alzheimer's by 2025. Although there are currently no approved therapies that slow or stop progression of the disease, several approaches are showing promise. In a study published today in Science Translational Medicine, a team from Merck Research Laboratories reports results of early human and animal trials of a drug called verubecestat, which targets the production of protein plaques associated with the disease. “It's a summary of the discovery and early-stage profiling of what we hope is going to be a new therapeutic for Alzheimer's,” says team leader Matthew Kennedy. “It represents well over a decade of investment in this project by many, many scientists.” Definitive conclusions will have to await the results of larger, ongoing phase III clinical trials to assess their efficacy, effectiveness and safety, but the results are promising, experts say. Verubecestat is a so-called BACE1 inhibitor. BACE1 (for Beta-site Amyloid precursor protein Cleaving Enzyme 1, aka beta-secretase 1) is an enzyme involved in producing amyloid beta (Ab), a protein that clumps together, eventually forming the plaques surrounding neurons that are the disease's key hallmark. The amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer's proposes that the accumulation of amyloid beta aggregates in the brain drives a cascade of biological events leading to neurodegeneration. By blocking BACE1, the hope is this approach could prevent the buildup of these clumps in the first place. But until now, development of these drugs has been hindered by problems finding molecules with the right characteristics, and concerns over theoretical and actual side effects. © 2016 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 22827 - Posted: 11.03.2016

By SABRINA TAVERNISE WASHINGTON — A decade after electronic cigarettes were introduced in the United States, use has flattened, sales have slowed and, this fall, NJoy, once one of the country’s biggest e-cigarette manufacturers, filed for bankruptcy. It is quite a reversal for an invention once billed as the biggest chance to end smoking as we know it and take aim at the country’s largest cause of preventable death. Use of the devices is slumping because they are not as good as cigarettes at giving a hit of nicotine. Dealing another strike against them, the country’s top public health authorities have sent an unwavering message: Vaping is dangerous. The warning is meant to stop people who have never smoked — particularly children — from starting to vape. But a growing number of scientists and policy makers say the relentless portrayal of e-cigarettes as a public health menace, however well intentioned, is a profound disservice to the 40 million American smokers who could benefit from the devices. Smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans a year. “We may well have missed, or are missing, the greatest opportunity in a century,” said David B. Abrams, senior scientist at the Truth Initiative, an antismoking group. “The unintended consequence is more lives are going to be lost.” American public health experts, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have long been suspicious of e-cigarettes. The possible risks of vaping are vast, officials warn, including the potential to open a dangerous new door to addiction for youth. Scientists will not know the full effect for years, so for now, they caution, be wary. But mounting evidence suggests vaping is far less dangerous than smoking, a fact that is rarely pointed out to the American public. Britain, a country with about the same share of smokers, has come to the opposite conclusion from the United States. This year, a prestigious doctors’ organization told the public that e-cigarettes were 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes. British health officials are encouraging smokers to switch. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 22826 - Posted: 11.03.2016

Sarah Boseley Health editor Hundreds of children and young people are to get treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome for the first time, to see whether methods that have proved highly successful in the Netherlands can be adopted by the NHS. Up to 2% of young people are affected by CFS, also known as myalgic encephalopathy (ME). But few get any treatment, and attempts to help have sometimes stoked the row over the causes of the condition. Activists on social media frequently denounce doctors who suggest that psychological issues play any part in the disease. Treatment given to young people in the Netherlands has had remarkable results, helping 63% recover within six months and return to school and a normal life, compared with 8% of those who had other care. The children are given cognitive behavioural therapy to understand and overcome the debilitating exhaustion that neither sleep nor rest can help. The sessions are conducted with a therapist over the internet, using Skype, diaries and questionnaires. This means children will be able to get treatment in their own homes in parts of the country where there is nothing currently available to them. Esther Crawley, a professor of child health at Bristol University, said she would argue that the trial she is leading is not controversial. “Paediatric CFS/ME is really important and common,” she said. “One per cent of children at secondary school are missing a day a week because of CFS/ME. Probably 2% of children are affected. They are teenagers who can’t do the things teenagers are doing.” © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 22824 - Posted: 11.03.2016

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Is use of antibiotics in infancy tied to childhood obesity? Some studies suggest so, but a new analysis suggests the link may be with infections, rather than antibiotics. Using records of a large health maintenance organization, researchers tracked 260,556 infants born from January 1997 through the end of March 2013. The database included details on antibiotic use, diagnosis and height and weight measurements from birth through age 18. The study is in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology. The scientists compared children who had no infections and no antibiotic use in the first year of life with those who had untreated infections. They found that an infant with one untreated infection had a 15 percent increased risk for childhood obesity, and the risk increased to 40 percent in those with three untreated infections. But there was no difference in obesity risk between infants treated with antibiotics and those with a similar infection left untreated. In other words, infections, but not the use of antibiotics, were associated with childhood obesity. “If there is an infection during infancy, particularly a respiratory or ear infection, it should be treated,” said the lead author, Dr. De-Kun Li of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. “You shouldn’t avoid antibiotics because you are concerned about childhood obesity.” © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 22823 - Posted: 11.03.2016

Mo Costandi Stem cells obtained from patients with schizophrenia carry a genetic mutation that alters the ratio of the different type of nerve cells they produce, according to a new study by researchers in Japan. The findings, published today in the journal Translational Psychiatry, suggest that abnormal neural differentiation may contribute to the disease, such that fewer neurons and more non-neuronal cells are generated during the earliest stages of brain development. Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that affects about 1 in 100 people. It is known to be highly heritable, but is genetically complex: so far, researchers have identified over 100 rare genetic variations and dozens of mutations associated with increased risk of developing the disease. One of the best characterised mutations associated with the disease is a microdeletion on chromosome 22, within a region containing dozens of genes known to be involved in the development, maturation, and function of brain circuits. This deletion is found in 1 in every 2,000 – 4,000 live births; all patients carrying it exhibit various psychiatric symptoms and conditions, with just under a third of them developing schizophrenia in adolescence or early adulthood. Manabu Toyoshima of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute and his colleagues obtained skin cells from two female schizophrenic patients diagnosed with the chromosome 22 deletion and two healthy individuals, then reprogrammed them to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), unspecialised cells which, like embryonic stem cells, retain the ability to differentiate into all the different cell types in the body. They then compared the properties of iPSCs obtained from the schizophrenic patients with those from the healthy controls. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 22822 - Posted: 11.02.2016

Hannah Devlin The human brain is predisposed to learn negative stereotypes, according to research that offers clues as to how prejudice emerges and spreads through society. The study found that the brain responds more strongly to information about groups who are portrayed unfavourably, adding weight to the view that the negative depiction of ethnic or religious minorities in the media can fuel racial bias. Hugo Spiers, a neuroscientist at University College London, who led the research, said: “The newspapers are filled with ghastly things people do ... You’re getting all these news stories and the negative ones stand out. When you look at Islam, for example, there’s so many more negative stories than positive ones and that will build up over time.” The scientists also uncovered a characteristic brain signature seen when participants were told a member of a “bad” group had done something positive - an observation that is likely to tally with the subjective experience of minorities. “Whenever someone from a really bad group did something nice they were like, ‘Oh, weird,’” said Spiers. Previous studies have identified brain areas involved in gender or racial stereotyping, but this is the first attempt to investigate how the brain learns to link undesirable traits to specific groups and how this is converted into prejudice over time. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 22821 - Posted: 11.02.2016

By Virginia Morell Human hunters may be making birds smarter by inadvertently shooting those with smaller brains. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that hunting may be exerting a powerful evolutionary force on bird populations in Denmark, and likely wherever birds are hunted. But the work also raises a red flag for some researchers who question whether the evolution of brain size can ever be tied to a single factor. The new work “broadens an emerging view that smarts really do matter in the natural, and increasingly human-dominated, world,” says John Marzluff, a wildlife biologist and expert on crow cognition at the University of Washington in Seattle who was not involved with the work. Hunting and fishing are known to affect many animal populations. For instance, the pike-perch in the Finnish Archipelago Sea has become smaller over time thanks to fishing, which typically removes the largest individuals from a population. This pressure also causes fish to reach sexual maturity earlier. On land, natural predators like arctic foxes and polar bears can also drive their prey species to become smarter because predators are most likely to catch those with smaller brains. For instance, a recent study showed that common eiders (maritime ducks) that raise the most chicks also have the largest heads and are better at forming protective neighborhood alliances than ducks with smaller heads—and presumably, brains. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Evolution
Link ID: 22820 - Posted: 11.02.2016

By Brian Owens Cooperation makes it happen. Sailfish that work together in groups to hunt sardines can catch more fish than if they hunt alone, even without a real coordinated strategy. To catch their sardine dinner, a group of sailfish circle a school of sardines – known as a baitball – and break off a small section, driving it to the surface. They then take turns attacking these sardines, slashing at them with their long sword-like bills, which account for a quarter of their total length of up to 3.5 metres. Knocking their prey off-balance makes them easier to grab. These attacks only result in a catch about 25 per cent of the time, but they almost always injure several sardines. As the number of injured fish increases, it becomes ever easier for everyone to snag a meal. “There’s no coordination, no strict turn-taking or specific hunting roles, it’s opportunistic,” says James Herbert-Read, from Uppsala University in Sweden. But Herbert-Reads computer models now show that even this rudimentary form of cooperation is better than going it alone. Sailfish that work in groups capture more sardines than a lone fish would get in the same amount of time. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Keyword: Aggression; Evolution
Link ID: 22819 - Posted: 11.02.2016

Laura Sanders The eyes may reveal whether the brain’s internal stopwatch runs fast or slow. Pupil size predicted whether a monkey would over- or underestimate a second, scientists report in the Nov. 2 Journal of Neuroscience. Scientists knew that pupils get bigger when a person is paying attention. They also knew that paying attention can influence how people perceive the passage of time. Using monkeys, the new study links pupil size and timing directly. “What they’ve done here is connect those dots,” says neuroscientist Thalia Wheatley of Dartmouth College. More generally, the study shows how the eyes are windows into how the brain operates. “There’s so much information coming out of the eyes,” Wheatley says. Neuroscientist Masaki Tanaka of Hokkaido University School of Medicine in Japan and colleagues trained three Japanese macaques to look at a spot on a computer screen after precisely one second had elapsed. The study measured the monkeys’ subjective timing abilities: The monkeys had to rely on themselves to count the milliseconds. Just before each trial, the researchers measured pupil diameters. When the monkeys underestimated a second by looking too soon, their pupil sizes were slightly larger than in trials in which the monkeys overestimated a second, the researchers found. That means that when pupils were large, the monkeys felt time zoom by. But when pupils were small, time felt slower. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 22818 - Posted: 11.02.2016

Nicola Davis The proficiency of elite football referees could be down to their eagle eyes, say researchers. A study of elite and sub-elite referees has found that a greater tendency to predict and watch contact zones between players contributes to the greater accuracy of top-level referees. “Over the years they develop so much experience that they now can anticipate, very well, future events so that they can already direct their attention to those pieces of information where they expect something to happen,” said lead author Werner Helsen from the University of Leuven. Keith Hackett, a former football referee and former general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, said the research chimed with his own experiences. “In working with elite referees for a number of years I have recognised their ability to see, recognise think and then act in a seamless manner,” he said. “They develop skill sets that enable them to see and this means good game-reading and cognitive skills to be in the right place at the right time.” Mistakes, he believes, often come down to poor visual perception. “Last week, we saw an elite referee fail to detect the violent act of [Moussa] Sissoko using his arm/elbow, putting his opponent’s safety at risk,” he said. “The review panel, having received confirmation from the referee that he failed to see the incident despite looking in the direction of the foul challenge, were able to act.” Writing in the journal Cognitive Research, researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium and Brunel University in west London say they recruited 39 referees, 20 of whom were elite referees and 19 were experienced but had never refereed at a professional level. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 22817 - Posted: 11.01.2016