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By Pam Belluck About 10 days after what seemed like a garden-variety cold, Luca Waugh, a healthy 4-year-old, developed troubling symptoms. Suddenly, his neck became so weak that he fell backward. Then his right arm couldn’t move. Within days, recalled his mother, Dr. Riley Bove, he developed “head-to-toe paralysis, where he could kind of move his eyes a little bit and one side of his face.” Doctors diagnosed Luca with acute flaccid myelitis or A.F.M., a mysterious neurological condition that can cause limb weakness and polio-like paralysis, mostly in young children. A.F.M. is rare, but in 2014, when Luca became afflicted, health authorities identified a burst of 120 cases. Since then, A.F.M. has made headlines as cases have spiked every two years, and nearly 600 have been confirmed across the country since 2014. What exactly causes A.F.M. has eluded experts, frustrating attempts to prevent or treat it. Now, a study by a team that includes Luca’s mother, Dr. Bove, who happens to be a neurologist, provides strong evidence of a likely cause. It involved dozens of children with A.F.M., including Luca, whose paralysis improved after weeks of hospitalization but who remains disabled five years later. The research, published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine, points to a long-suspected culprit: enteroviruses, a group of common viruses that usually produce mild effects, but can sometimes cause neurological symptoms. Using sophisticated laboratory techniques, researchers found antibodies to enteroviruses in the cerebrospinal fluid of nearly 70 percent of the children with A.F.M., a sign their bodies had mobilized to defend against enterovirus infection. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Movement Disorders; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 26734 - Posted: 10.22.2019

By Sofie Bates Make some noise for the white bellbirds of the Brazilian Amazon, now the bird species with the loudest known mating call. The birds (Procnias albus) reach about 125 decibels on average at the loudest point in one of their songs, researchers report October 21 in Current Biology. Calls of the previous record-holder — another Amazonian bird called the screaming piha (Lipaugus vociferans) — maxed out around 116 decibels on average. This difference means that bellbirds can generate a soundwave with triple the pressure of that made by pihas, says Jeff Podos, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who did the research along with ornithologist Mario Cohn-Haft, of the National Institute of Amazon Research in Manaus, Brazil. The team measured sound intensity from three pihas and eight bellbirds. Each sounded off at different distances from the scientists. So to make an accurate comparison, the researchers used rangefinder binoculars, with lasers to measure distance, to determine how far away each bird was. Then, they calculated how loud the sound would be a meter from each bird to crown a winner. The small white bellbird, which weighs less than 250 grams, appears to be built for creating loud sounds, with thick abdominal muscles and a beak that opens extra wide. “Having this really wide beak helps their anatomy be like a musical instrument,” Podos says. Being the loudest may come with a cost: White bellbirds can’t hold a note for long because they run out of air in their lungs. Their loudest call sounds like two staccato beats of an air horn while the calls of screaming pihas gradually build to the highest point. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2019

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hearing
Link ID: 26733 - Posted: 10.22.2019

By Jon Cohen On a lightly snowing Sunday evening, a potential participant in Denis Rebrikov’s controversial plans to create gene-edited babies meets with me at a restaurant in a Moscow suburb. She does not want to be identified beyond her patronymic, Yevgenievna. We sit at a corner table in an empty upstairs section of the restaurant while live Georgian music plays downstairs. Yevgenievna, in her late 20s, cannot hear it—or any music. She has been deaf since birth. But with the help of a hearing aid that’s linked to a wireless microphone, which she places on the table, she can hear some sounds, and she is adept at reading lips. She speaks to me primarily in Russian, through a translator, but she is also conversant in English. Yevgenievna and her husband, who is partially deaf, want to have children who will not inherit hearing problems. There is nothing illicit about our discussion: Russia has no clear regulations prohibiting Rebrikov’s plan to correct the deafness mutation in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo. But Yevgenievna is uneasy about publicity. “We were told if we become the first couple to do this experiment we’ll become famous, and HBO already tried to reach me,” Yevgenievna says. “I don’t want to be well known like an actor and have people bother me.” She is also deeply ambivalent about the procedure itself, a pioneering and potentially risky use of the CRISPR genome editor. The couple met on vk.com, a Russian Facebook of sorts, in a chat room for people who are hearing impaired. Her husband could hear until he was 15 years old, and still gets by with hearing aids. They have a daughter—Yevgenievna asks me not to reveal her age—who failed a hearing test at birth. Doctors initially believed it was likely a temporary problem produced by having a cesarean section, but 1 month later, her parents took her to a specialized hearing clinic. “We were told our daughter had zero hearing,” Yevgenievna says. “I was shocked, and we cried.” © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Hearing; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 26732 - Posted: 10.22.2019

By Eric A. Taub Like clockwork, the sound of the freight train came roaring through our bedroom in the middle of each night. Or at least what sounded like a freight train. In reality, it was me, snoring. And according to my wife, that freight train had gotten considerably louder over the years. Unfortunately, snoring frequency and volume is exacerbated by age, among other factors. While there’s nothing I can do about getting older, there are products and procedures available that can eliminate or significantly reduce the annoyance to one’s bed partner caused by all that nighttime snorting and wheezing. Snoring and sleep apnea are not the same, although severe snoring can be an indication of apnea. If sleep apnea is not present, snoring is simply the benign result of an obstructed airway. As we age, the uvula — that soft, floppy, fingerlike projection in the back of the throat — gets softer and floppier. At the same time, muscles under the tongue get lax. And the condition is exacerbated if we are overweight or drink too much alcohol. “With age, the muscle tone of our airways decreases. That decreased tone allows the tissues to move more readily and become more prone to collapse and to vibrate,” said Dr. Michael D. Olson, an ear, nose and throat doctor and sleep surgeon in the Mayo Clinic’s department of head and neck surgery. In addition, if the size of the airway decreases, air pressure increases, allowing for tissue vibration and snoring. “Combine that with nasal congestion, a big tongue and body fat, and that leads to an excessive collapse of the airways,” Dr. Olson said. Another cause of snoring: teeth extraction, a particular issue for baby boomers who had braces in their youth. With the removal of four bicuspids as a common practice at the time, boomers may now be suffering snoring because of a larger tongue in a smaller mouth. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26731 - Posted: 10.22.2019

Emma Yasinski Delta waves, patterns of slow, synchronized brain activity that occur during deep sleep, have long been considered “periods of silence,” in which neurons in the cortex stop firing. But these intervals may not be silent after all, researchers reported yesterday in Science. In rats, some cortical neurons remain active during delta waves, and their firing may even be involved in consolidating memories. “The paper is absolutely fascinating and will have a large impact on the field of memory and sleep,” says Björn Rasch, a biopsychologist at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland who was not involved in the study. He suggests it might even help explain surprising results in his own research in humans published earlier this year that indicated participants may better remember words from a foreign language if they are replayed during delta wave sleep than if they are never repeated during sleep. The latest study “challenges our views on the potential function of down states [when cortical neurons seem silent] in memory consolidation processes.” When humans (and rats) are awake, a brain structure called the hippocampus records the ongoing episodes of our lives. When we sleep, the hippocampus replays this activity, which is transmitted to the cortex where it forms long-term memories. Afterward, the cortex seems to go silent. This quiet delta wave period is known to be important for memory consolidation, but researchers have wondered how it helps the process. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 26730 - Posted: 10.22.2019

/ By Elizabeth Preston On the first page of Heinz Koop’s fecal analysis test results, a bar showed where he fell on a gradient from green to red. A label above said, in German: “Overall dysbiosis.” Koop was not in the green or even the yellow regions, but a worrisome orange. It was a bad result — but, he says, “I was kind of happy.” Doctors hadn’t given him a satisfying answer about his recurring bloody diarrhea and other gut troubles. But Koop had learned on Facebook that he could test his gut microbiome — the community of bacteria and other organisms living in his gastrointestinal tract — to look for problems. Koop ordered a test from a German laboratory called Medivere. The results said his gut microbes were imbalanced, which was something he thought he could treat. Soon he would be attempting to correct this imbalance by chauffering a friend’s fresh stool samples home to implant up his own colon. Trillions of microbes living on and in our bodies, especially our guts, make up our microbiome. The bugs in our bowel are not just there to slow down our poop, as one researcher speculated in 1970, but are intricately connected to our health. Gut microbes help us digest our food, make critical vitamins, and keep pathogens out. Over the past decade or so, research into the microbiome has exploded as researchers have tried to tease apart the complex connections between our diseases and our resident microbes. Today, at least 10 percent of published microbiome papers use the term dysbiosis to describe changes in the microbiome, estimates Katarzyna Hooks, a computational biologist now at Evotec, a global biotechnology company headquartered in Germany. Some scientists say the term is useful for communicating a specific finding, though they acknowledge its limitations. Other scientists hate it. Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 26729 - Posted: 10.22.2019

Jon Hamilton Brain scientists are offering a new reason to control blood sugar levels: It might help lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. "There's many reasons to get [blood sugar] under control," says David Holtzman, chairman of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. "But this is certainly one." Holtzman moderated a panel Sunday at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago that featured new research exploring the links between Alzheimer's and diabetes. "The risk for dementia is elevated about twofold in people who have diabetes or metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors that often precedes diabetes)," Holtzman says. "But what's not been clear is, what's the connection?" One possibility involves the way the brain metabolizes sugar, says Liqin Zhao, an associate professor in the school of pharmacy at the University of Kansas. Zhao wanted to know why people whose bodies produce a protein called ApoE2 are less likely to get Alzheimer's. Previous research has shown that these people are less likely to develop the sticky plaques in the brain associated with the disease. But Zhao looked at how ApoE2 affects glycolysis, a part of the process that allows brain cells to turn sugar into energy. So she gave ApoE2 to mice that develop a form of Alzheimer's. And sure enough, Zhao says, the substance not only improved energy production in brain cells but made the cells healthier overall. "All of this together increased the brain's resilience against Alzheimer's disease," she says. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Obesity
Link ID: 26728 - Posted: 10.22.2019

By Austin Frakt To ward off age-related cognitive decline, you may be tempted to turn to brain training apps. Last year, consumers spent nearly $2 billion on them, some of which claim to improve cognitive skills. Evidence suggests you’d be better off spending more time exercising and less time staring at your phone. This year the World Health Organization released evidence-based guidelines on reducing risks of cognitive decline and dementia. Although it pointed to some systematic reviews that reported positive cognitive effects of brain training, the W.H.O. judged the studies to be of low quality. Among the studies’ limitations is that they measure only short-term effects and in areas targeted by the training. There is no long-term evidence of general improvement in cognitive performance. Instead of mind games, moving your body is among the most helpful things you can do. At least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, including strength training, yields not just physical benefits but cognitive ones as well. But to be most effective, you need to do it before cognitive decline starts, according to the W.H.O. Some evidence to support this recommendation comes from short-term studies. Several randomized studies of tai chi for older adults found it yielded cognitive benefits. Likewise, randomized studies of aerobic exercise for older adults found short-term improvements in cognitive performance. A systematic review published this year in PLOS One examined 36 randomized studies of exercise programs that were as short as four weeks and as long as a year. It found cognitive benefits of activities such as bicycling, walking, jogging, swimming and weight training. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 26727 - Posted: 10.21.2019

By Marlene Cimons In 1991, Karestan Koenen was a recent college graduate and Peace Corps volunteer who arrived in a village in Niger eager to help local women start small businesses. When her sister came to visit during Christmas, the two decided to travel north to Agadez, a city in the Sahara. There, on the morning of Dec. 27, two male traders stopped by, trying to sell them jewelry. Koenen’s sister went to the market with one of men to have a look. While she was gone, the second man grabbed Koenen, held her down and raped her. Traumatized by the experience, Koenen was medically evacuated to the United States two days later and resigned from the Peace Corps. She returned to New Jersey to live with her parents, but the assault continued to haunt her. Increasingly, she became depressed. A psychologist diagnosed Koenen with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a condition triggered by a traumatic, scary or dangerous event, and, for reasons still unclear, seems to disproportionately afflict women. These assaults can include combat, sexual assault, gun violence, accidents, natural disasters, even the death of a loved one. “I lay in bed, unable to sleep, thinking of ways to kill myself,” she recalls. “When I did sleep, I had nightmares. I lost interest in everything. I couldn’t read and was too jumpy to sit through a movie or watch TV. I was irritable with my family. I was always on guard — angry — and couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. I felt like I was stuck in a dark tunnel, moving more and more quickly, but it only got darker.”

Keyword: Stress; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 26726 - Posted: 10.21.2019

by Emily Anthes The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, launched by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2013, has a lofty goal: to unravel the cellular basis of cognition and behavior. Since the initiative’s launch, the NIH has doled out about $1 billion to researchers who are developing tools and technologies to map, measure and observe the brain’s neural circuits. Along the way, the agency has also tried to explore the ethical implications of this research. Khara Ramos, who directs the neuroethics program at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, described the emerging field of neuroethics today at the 2019 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois. Spectrum: Was discussion about ethics part of the BRAIN Initiative from the beginning? Khara Ramos: We knew that we needed to do something with neuroethics, but it took time for us to figure out what exactly, in part because neuroethics is a relatively new field. Bioethics is a broad field that covers all aspects of biomedicine, but there isn’t specialization of bioethics in kidney research or pulmonary research the way there is in neuroscience research, and that’s really because the brain is so intimately connected with who we are. Neuroscience research raises these unique ethical questions, such as: How might new neurotechnologies alter fundamental notions of agency or autonomy or identity? We’re starting to focus on data sharing and privacy from a philosophical, conceptual perspective: Is there something unique about brain data that is different from, for instance, genetic data? How do researchers themselves feel about data sharing and privacy? And how does the public view it? For instance, is my social security number more or less sensitive than the kinds of neural data that somebody might be able to get if I were participating in a clinical trial? © 2019 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Attention
Link ID: 26725 - Posted: 10.21.2019

By Perri Klass, M.D. It’s a pretty safe bet that most of our children, in high school and in college, will be in social situations in which people drink in unwise and sometimes downright dangerous ways. Even if they don’t drink, they will at least be exposed to friends and classmates and roommates who do. What makes alcohol more problematic for some kids — and some adults? There’s been a good deal of research on the development of what is now called alcohol use disorder, and its precursors — what do we now understand, and can that understanding help us as parents to worry less, or at least, to direct our worries in the right directions? Frances Wang, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh who studies genetic and environmental causes of alcohol use disorders, said that often people blame only the home environment — that is to say, the parenting. But there are genetic risk factors that seem to be common across a number of disorders, she said, including alcohol use disorder, but also depression and conduct problems, like aggression and antisocial behavior, which can be predecessors of alcohol problems. Dr. Wang was the first author on a study published in 2018 in the journal Development and Psychopathology, which looks at a particular biological attribute — the functioning of serotonin, a neurotransmitter — determined by a combination of genetic factors. Investigating these common genetic risk factors might help us understand the connections. But bear in mind that there are no simple cause-and-effect stories here. And while there may be times when the home environment really is the driving force, Dr. Wang said, “for most people it’s the interaction between already having that genetic risk and an environment that increases genetic risk or makes genetic risk come out.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26724 - Posted: 10.21.2019

Zoë Corbyn At a time when women’s reproductive freedoms are under attack, any suggestion that the birth control pill could be problematic feels explosive. But Sarah E Hill, a professor of social psychology at the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas argues we need to talk about how oral contraceptives are affecting women’s thinking, emotions and behaviour. How the Pill Changes Everything: Your Brain on Birth Control is her new book about the science behind a delicate subject. Some US states have recently made it harder to get an abortion and the Trump administration is doing its best to chisel away at access to birth control. Is your book trying to dissuade women from using the pill? My institution was founded as a Christian school, but it doesn’t have a particular religious bent now. My goal with this book is not to take the pill away or alarm women. It is to give them information they haven’t had up until now so they can make informed decisions. The pill, along with safe, legalised abortions, are the two biggest keys to women’s rights. But we also have a blind spot when it comes to thinking about how changing women’s sex hormones – which is what the pill does – influences their brains. For a long time, women have been experiencing “psychological” side-effects on the pill but nobody was telling them why. The backlash we are seeing against the pill, particularly with millennial women walking away from it, I think is because women haven’t felt right on it and have grown weary of doctors patting them on their heads and telling them they are wrong. The more information women have, the more it will bring them back to the pill. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 26723 - Posted: 10.19.2019

Fatty tissue has been found in the lungs of overweight and obese people for the first time. Australian researchers analysed lung samples from 52 people and found the amount of fat increased in line with body mass index. They said their findings could explain why being overweight or obese increased asthma risk. Lung experts said it would be interesting to see if the effect could be reversed by weight loss. In the study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, scientists looked at post-mortem samples of lung donated for research. Fifteen had had no reported asthma, 21 had asthma but died of other causes and 16 died of the condition. The scientists used dyes to carry out detailed analyses of almost 1,400 airways from the lung samples under the microscope. The researchers found adipose (fatty) tissue in the walls of airways, with more present in people with a higher body mass index, And they say the increase in fat appears to alter the normal structure of the airways and cause inflammation in the lungs - which could explain the increased risk of asthma in overweight or obese people. Dr Peter Noble, an associate professor at the University of Western Australia, in Perth who worked on the study, said: "Being overweight or obese has already been linked to having asthma or having worse asthma symptoms. "Researchers have suggested that the link might be explained by the direct pressure of excess weight on the lungs or by a general increase in inflammation created by excess weight." But, he said, their study suggested "another mechanism is also at play". © 2019 BBC.

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 26722 - Posted: 10.19.2019

Ian Sample Science editor Warning: this story is about death. You might want to click away now. That’s because, researchers say, our brains do their best to keep us from dwelling on our inevitable demise. A study found that the brain shields us from existential fear by categorising death as an unfortunate event that only befalls other people. “The brain does not accept that death is related to us,” said Yair Dor-Ziderman, at Bar Ilan University in Israel. “We have this primal mechanism that means when the brain gets information that links self to death, something tells us it’s not reliable, so we shouldn’t believe it.” Being shielded from thoughts of our future death could be crucial for us to live in the present. The protection may switch on in early life as our minds develop and we realise death comes to us all. “The moment you have this ability to look into your own future, you realise that at some point you’re going to die and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Dor-Ziderman. “That goes against the grain of our whole biology, which is helping us to stay alive.” To investigate how the brain handles thoughts of death, Dor-Ziderman and colleagues developed a test that involved producing signals of surprise in the brain. They asked volunteers to watch faces flash up on a screen while their brain activity was monitored. The person’s own face or that of a stranger flashed up on screen several times, followed by a different face. On seeing the final face, the brain flickered with surprise because the image clashed with what it had predicted. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Attention; Emotions
Link ID: 26721 - Posted: 10.19.2019

/ By Nechama Moring The first time my then-partner threw me against a wall, I blamed myself. I was late coming home from work, and I hadn’t even greeted him when I walked through our door. I immediately started complaining about the unwashed dishes and food scraps littering our kitchen. He was angry, shouting at me, and then I felt his arms around me, lifting me slightly. I blacked out when the back of my head hit the kitchen wall. The nature of abuse is that it escalates, and soon my partner was routinely injuring my head, having learned that my hair would effectively hide any bruises or evidence. Over the course of the last year of our relationship, I probably sustained at least three concussions, though none were formally diagnosed. My previously infrequent migraines became almost daily realities, and my work performance tanked, along with my concentration. Simple tasks became overwhelming. Thoughts slipped from my head before I was able to act on them. I lost my ability to form coherent sentences, and I struggled to find words for even mundane items: train, telephone, exit. Exit. I couldn’t plan for shit. I am part of what Eve Valera calls an “invisible public health epidemic” of untreated traumatic brain injuries among survivors of intimate partner violence. Valera, an assistant professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who runs a brain-imaging research lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, estimates that millions of women and people of marginalized genders have suffered from both intimate partner violence and untreated concussions. Yet concussions — a form of traumatic brain injury — are generally viewed as a sports-related problem. Concussion research has focused primarily on the relatively tiny population of men who play professional football. Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26720 - Posted: 10.18.2019

Jules Montague In a dark, nondescript room tucked away in the depths of a London research centre, Lucy Gallop is demonstrating how we might treat eating disorders in future. Improbably, she presses on a pedal under a desk, like a driver pulling away in first gear. Magnetic pulses pass through an electromagnetic coil which is held to a patient’s head. Clicking sounds fill the room and the patient’s neural activity is temporarily altered over the course of a few minutes. A brain scan is visible to her right, the target area already visualised. “The neuronavigation tells you whether or not you’re at the right place,” Gallop says of the process, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). “It’s replicable so you know when the participants come in the next time, you’re stimulating the same area.” Gallop’s work carries deep personal significance: “My sister had anorexia so I was exposed to family therapy from a young age. And truthfully, it really exposed me to how treatment is very difficult – making a full recovery from anorexia is very difficult.” New treatment innovations are urgently needed for eating disorders, which affect an estimated 1.25 million people in the UK. Hospital admissions have almost doubled in the last six years and patients are sent hundreds of miles away from home for treatment. Earlier this month, new figures showed that one in six consultant posts in eating disorder services are vacant. Patients with eating disorders are twice as likely to die prematurely than the general population. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Anorexia & Bulimia
Link ID: 26719 - Posted: 10.18.2019

Andy Tay The mammalian brain consists of billions of neurons wired together in various circuits, each one involved in specific physiological functions. To better understand how these different neurons and circuits are associated with mental activities and diseases, researchers are reconstructing detailed, three-dimensional maps of neural networks. However, 3-D imaging of the mammalian brain is challenging. Light scatters as it travels through layers of tissue, dispersed by a variety of molecules such as water, lipids, and proteins. This reduces image resolution. One way to improve resolution is to reduce the scattering. Researchers achieve this by first removing water and lipids from tissue. Next, chemicals are introduced that have a refractive index—a measure of how much the molecules bend light that passes through them—in the range of that of proteins. Establishing near-homogenous refractive indices in the molecules that populate the tissue environment allows light rays to converge to improve image resolution. This is the working principle of most tissue clearing methods, which have been used successfully for decades on hard tissues like bone. Researchers have performed brain tissue clearing with limited success, as the chemicals available were too harsh on delicate neural tissues. In 2013, Karl Deisseroth and his team at Stanford University revolutionized the approach with a hydrogel-based technique called CLARITY. This technique enabled researchers to label neurons in mouse neural tissue with fluorescent markers and then to image an entire mouse brain without sectioning it, while preserving the fluorescence signals. © 1986–2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 26718 - Posted: 10.18.2019

Tim McDonnell High rates of childhood obesity are a problem in a rising number of low- and middle-income countries, according to a new global assessment of child malnutrition by UNICEF. It's the agency's most comprehensive nutrition report in two decades. The report paints a complex, dire picture of the state of children's health. Overall, it found that around 200 million children under age 5, or 1 in 3 worldwide, are either undernourished or overweight. Wasting (below-average weight for height) and micronutrient deficiency remain persistent challenges in Africa and South Asia. Still, there's some good news: Stunting (below-average height for age) has dropped sharply in the last two decades on every continent except Africa. Meanwhile, at least 340 million adolescents worldwide between ages 5-19, and 40 million children under age 5, have been classified as overweight, the report found. The most profound increase has been in the 5-19 age group, where the global rate of overweight increased from 10.3% in 2000 to 18.4% in 2018. "It's a shockingly fast increase," says Laurence Chandy, director of UNICEF's Office of Global Insights and Policy and a lead author of the report. "It's hard to think of any development indicator where you see such a rapid deterioration." Most of those children live in high- and middle-income countries in North America, Eastern Europe, Pacific island nations and the Middle East. The U.S. is near the top of the list, with a rate of adolescent overweight around 42% (the highest rates, up to 65% are in Palau, Nauru and other in Pacific island nations, which have long struggled with obesity driven by a heavy reliance on imported food). © 2019 npr

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 26717 - Posted: 10.18.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar Your personality in high school may help predict your risk of dementia decades later. Researchers reached this conclusion using a 150-item personality inventory given to a national sample of teenagers in 1960. The survey assessed character traits — sociability, calmness, empathy, maturity, conscientiousness, self-confidence and others — using scores ranging from low to high. For their study, in JAMA Psychiatry, scientists linked the scores of 82,232 of the test-takers to Medicare data on diagnoses of dementia from 2011 to 2013. They found that high extroversion, an energetic disposition, calmness and maturity were associated with a lower risk of dementia an average of 54 years later, though the association did not hold for students with low socioeconomic status. Calmness and maturity have been linked to lower levels of stress, which may help explain the association. Lower socioeconomic status, which often increases chronic stress, may negate the apparent benefits of those personality traits. “The study was not set up to discern a causal link,” said the lead author, Benjamin P. Chapman, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester. “Most likely these traits lead to all kinds of other things over 50 years that culminate in a diagnosis of dementia. We tried to rule out as many other factors as possible, but our findings are suggestive, and we don’t want to draw strong conclusions about causation.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 26716 - Posted: 10.18.2019

By Sara Reardon Brain scientists can watch neurons fire and communicate. They can map how brain regions light up during sensation, decision-making, and speech. What they can't explain is how all this activity gives rise to consciousness. Theories abound, but their advocates often talk past each other and interpret the same set of data differently. "Theories are very flexible," says Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington. "Like vampires, they're very difficult to slay." Now, the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF), a nonprofit best known for funding research at the intersection of science and religion, hopes to narrow the debate with experiments that directly pit theories of consciousness against each other. The first phase of the $20 million project, launched this week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, Illinois, will compare two theories of consciousness by scanning the brains of participants during cleverly designed tests. Proponents of each theory have agreed to admit it is flawed if the outcomes go against them. Head-to-head contests are rare in basic science. "It's a really outlandish project," says principal investigator Lucia Melloni, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt, Germany. But understanding consciousness has become increasingly important for researchers seeking to communicate with locked-in patients, determine whether artificial intelligence systems can become conscious, or explore whether animals experience consciousness the way humans do. To winnow the theories, TWCF took inspiration from a 1919 experiment in which physicist Arthur Eddington pitted Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity against Isaac Newton's gravitational theory. Eddington measured how the Sun's gravity caused light from nearby stars to shift during a solar eclipse—and Einstein won. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 26715 - Posted: 10.17.2019