Chapter 16. None

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Hannah Devlin French scientists have been criticised for concealing the death of the patient at the centre of a breakthrough in which consciousness was restored to a man in a persistent vegetative state. The treatment was hailed as a major advance in the field and suggested that the outlook for these patients and their families might be less bleak than was previously thought. However, it has emerged that the scientists behind the research withheld the fact that the man, who remains anonymous, died a few months after receiving the therapy. The team justified the decision, citing the family’s wish to keep the death private and a concern that people might have wrongly linked the therapy, which involved nerve stimulation, to the 35-year-old’s death from a lung infection. However, others said the decision had created an over-optimistic narrative of a patient on an upward trajectory. Damian Cruse, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Birmingham, said: “I do worry that the media coverage of the study gave a more hopeful message to other families in this situation than the message that perhaps would have been delivered with all of the facts … If we protect patient anonymity, then there’s no reason not to be able to tell the full story.” When the paper came out last month, Angela Sirigu, who led the work at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod in Lyon, France, told the Guardian: “He is still paralysed, he cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24155 - Posted: 10.06.2017

By Michael Price Expensive medications tend to make us feel better, even when they’re no different than cheap generics. But they can also make us feel worse, according to a new study. Researchers have found that we’re more likely to experience negative side effects when we take a drug we think is pricier—a flip side of the placebo effect known as the “nocebo” effect. The work could help doctors decide whether to recommend brand-name or generic drugs depending on each patient’s expectations. In the study, researchers asked 49 people to test out a purported anti-itch cream that, in reality, contained no active ingredient. Some got “Solestan® Creme,” a fake brand name in a sleek blue box designed to look like other expensive brands on the market. Others received “Imotadil-LeniPharma Creme”—another fake, this time housed in a chintzier orange box resembling those typically used for generic drugs. “I put a lot of effort into making the designs convincing,” says study leader Alexandra Tinnermann, a neuroscientist at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. The researchers rubbed one of the two creams on the volunteers’ forearms and waited a few minutes for it soak in. They told the participants that the cream could cause increased sensitivity to pain—a known side effect of real medications called hyperalgesia. Then the scientists affixed a small device to the volunteers’ arms that delivered a brief flash of heat up to about 45°C (or 113°F). © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24154 - Posted: 10.06.2017

By Emma Yasinski Scientists and physicians have tried countless methods to treat the nightmares, anxiety, and flashbacks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers, from talk therapy to drugs designed to press the “delete” button on specific memories. Now, one group of researchers proposes another solution: Prevent the condition in the first place by predicting who is most likely to get it. In a new study, they say a 105-question survey already given to all U.S. soldiers may be able to do just that. “It’s a very important study,” says Sharon Dekel, who studies PTSD at Harvard Medical School in Boston, but was not involved in the new work. Only a minority of people exposed to trauma develop the disorder, and the new work may lead to better screening methods for this “vulnerable population,” she adds. U.S. Army soldiers have taken the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), a survey about their mental health, every 2 years since 2009. The confidential questionnaire asks soldiers to rate their agreement with statements like “My leaders respect and value me,” and “I believe there is a purpose to my life.” It’s meant to help soldiers understand their own strengths and weaknesses. But Yu-Chu Shen, a health economics researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, wondered whether the survey could also predict the likelihood of someone developing PTSD or depression. So she and colleagues designed a study to see how soldiers’ GAT scores aligned with later illnesses. They looked at 63,186 recruits who enlisted in the Army between 2009 and 2012 and had not yet been exposed to combat. The team then compared the scores with how the same soldiers fared on a postduty comprehensive health assessment that also looked for signs of PTSD and depression. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 24152 - Posted: 10.05.2017

David Dobbs By the time Nev Jones entered DePaul University's esteemed doctoral program in philosophy, she had aced virtually every course she ever took, studied five languages and become proficient in three, and seemed to have read and memorized pretty much everything. Small and slightly built, with a commanding presence that emerged when she talked, she was the sort of student that sharp teachers quickly notice and long remember: intellectually voracious, relentlessly curious, endlessly capable, and, as one of her high school teachers put it, "magnificently intense." Her mind drew on a well-stocked, seemingly flawless memory with a probing, synthesizing intelligence. With astounding frequency she produced what one doctoral classmate called "genius-level reflections." So Jones grew alarmed when, soon after starting at DePaul in the fall of 2007, at age 27, she began having trouble retaining things she had just read. She also struggled to memorize the new characters she was learning in her advanced Chinese class. She had experienced milder versions of these cognitive and memory blips a couple times before, most recently as she’d finished her undergraduate studies earlier that year. These new mental glitches were worse. She would study and draw the new logograms one night, then come up short when she tried to draw them again the next morning. These failures felt vaguely neurological. As if her synapses had clogged. She initially blamed them on the sleepless, near-manic excitement of finally being where she wanted to be. She had wished for exactly this, serious philosophy and nothing but, for half her life. Now her mind seemed to be failing. Words started to look strange. She began experiencing "inarticulable atmospheric changes," as she put it—not hallucinations, really, but alterations of temporality, spatiality, depth perception, kinesthetics. Shimmerings in reality's fabric. Sidewalks would feel soft and porous. Audio and visual input would fall out of sync, creating a lag between the movement of a speaker's lips and the words' arrival at Jones' ears. Something was off. © 2017 The Social Justice Foundation

Keyword: Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24148 - Posted: 10.05.2017

Anna Gorman Kerri De Nies received the news this spring from her son's pediatrician: Her chubby-cheeked toddler has a rare brain disorder. She'd never heard of the disease — adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD — but soon felt devastated and overwhelmed. "I probably read everything you could possibly read online — every single website," De Nies says as she cradles her son, Gregory Mac Phee. "It's definitely hard to think about what could potentially happen. You think about the worst-case scenario." ALD is a genetic brain disorder depicted in the 1992 movie Lorenzo's Oil, which portrayed a couple whose son became debilitated by the disease. The most serious form of the illness typically strikes boys between the ages of 4 and 10. Most are diagnosed too late for treatment to be successful, and they often die before their 10th birthday. The more De Nies learned about ALD, the more she realized how fortunate the family was to have discovered Gregory's condition so early. Her son's blood was tested when he was about 10 months old. Dr. Florian Eichler, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says newborn screening is a game changer for children with the ALD, because it allows doctors to keep a close eye on kids who test positive for an ALD mutation from the beginning. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24147 - Posted: 10.05.2017

Amazon has been described as "irresponsible" for selling a hoodie that describes anorexia as "like bulimia, except with self control". One woman living with anorexia said it could "damage" the mental health of those with the conditions. Anorexia expert Dr Susie Orbach told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme the online retailer should "remove it immediately". Amazon said the hoodie was not sold on its UK website. It has previously been criticised for stocking T-shirts which say: "Keep calm and rape a lot". Beth Grant, who has lived with anorexia for 13 years, said selling the product was "absolutely disgraceful". "It could be extremely damaging to anyone suffering with either bulimia or anorexia," she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. "I think it could damage their mental health even further and cause them to potentially harm their life." Dr Susie Orbach, a psychotherapist and expert on anorexia, described the hoodie as "a way to make people feel really awful" when they were "already anguished enough". "This is terribly irresponsible on Amazon's part," she said. "We're breeding a culture [where people think] you should transform your body, you should comment on it, and if it isn't the way you want it to be it's got to be some other way." Dr Orbach called for Amazon to "remove it immediately". © 2017 BBC.

Keyword: Anorexia & Bulimia
Link ID: 24144 - Posted: 10.04.2017

Allison Aubrey "With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day," the Nobel Prize committee wrote of the work of Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young. "The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism." We humans are time-keeping machines. And it seems we need regular sleeping and eating schedules to keep all of our clocks in sync. Studies show that if we mess with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle — say, by working an overnight shift, taking a trans-Atlantic flight or staying up all night with a new baby or puppy — we pay the price. Our blood pressure goes up, hunger hormones get thrown off and blood sugar control goes south. We can all recover from an occasional all-nighter, an episode of jet lag or short-term disruptions. But over time, if living against the clock becomes a way of life, this may set the stage for weight gain and metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. "What happens is that you get a total de-synchronization of the clocks within us," explains Fred Turek, a circadian scientist at Northwestern University. "Which may be underlying the chronic diseases we face in our society today." So consider what happens, for instance, if we eat late or in the middle of the night. The master clock — which is set by the light-dark cycle — is cuing all other clocks in the body that it's night. Time to rest. "The clock in the brain is sending signals saying: Do not eat, do not eat!" says Turek. But when we override this signal and eat anyway, the clock in the pancreas, for instance, has to start releasing insulin to deal with the meal. And, research suggests, this late-night munching may start to reset the clock in the organ. The result? Competing time cues. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24143 - Posted: 10.04.2017

Tina Hesman Saey Discoveries about the molecular ups and downs of fruit flies’ daily lives have won Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. These three Americans were honored October 2 by the Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm for their work in discovering important gears in the circadian clocks of animals. The trio will equally split the 9 million Swedish kronor prize — each taking home the equivalent of $367,000. The researchers did their work in fruit flies. But “an awful lot of what was subsequently found out in the fruit flies turns out also to be true and of huge relevance to humans,” says John O’Neill, a circadian cell biologist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. Mammals, humans included, have circadian clocks that work with the same logic and many of the same gears found in fruit flies, say Jennifer Loros and Jay Dunlap, geneticists at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. Circadian clocks are networks of genes and proteins that govern daily rhythms and cycles such as sleep, the release of hormones, the rise and fall of body temperature and blood pressure, as well as other body processes. Circadian rhythms help organisms, including humans, anticipate and adapt to cyclic changes of light, dark and temperature caused by Earth’s rotation. When circadian rhythms are thrown out of whack, jet lag results. Shift workers and people with chronic sleep deprivation experience long-term jet lag that has been linked to serious health consequences including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24138 - Posted: 10.03.2017

Bill Chappell Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash a and Michael W. Young are the joint winners of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, winning for their discoveries about how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life. The three Americans won "for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm" the Nobel Foundation says. From the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet, which announced the prize early Monday morning: "Using fruit flies as a model organism, this year's Nobel laureates isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm. They showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. Subsequently, they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell. We now recognize that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans. "With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism." Hall, 72, was born in New York and has worked at institutions from the University of Washington to the California Institute of Technology. For decades, he was on the faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham, west of Boston; more recently, he has been associated with the University of Maine. Rosbash, 73, was born in Kansas City, Mo., and studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Since 1974, he has been on faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. Young, 68, was born in Miami, Fla., and earned his doctoral degree at the University of Texas in Austin. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in Palo Alto before joining the faculty at the Rockefeller University in 1978. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24136 - Posted: 10.02.2017

By Marlene Cimons In 2007, a few days after participating in a two-day sailing race, Cathy Helowicz began feeling dizzy. It was as if the floor and walls were moving. A decade later, “it’s never gone away,” she says. “Sometimes I wake up at 4 a.m. and feel like I’m in a washing machine.” Helowicz, 57, a former government computer scientist who lives in Jupiter, Fla., suffers from mal de débarquement syndrome (MdDS), a puzzling neurological disorder that leaves patients feeling as if they are rocking, swaying or bobbing when they are actually still. “I was very fortunate I didn’t have to go to a job, since you really cannot work with this,” she says of the little-understood disorder. (She left the government when she was 34 — before developing MdDS — and now writes children’s books and spy novels.) “I went through 11 doctors, 13 medications and seven months before I found a doctor who said I had classic MdDS symptoms.” Onset typically follows motion exposure — after a cruise, for example, or after flying, riding a train, even a lengthy car ride. MdDS can last for months, even years. It also can occur spontaneously, without motion exposure, although that is less common. “It’s an oscillating feeling like walking on a suspension bridge or a trampoline,” says Yoon-Hee Cha, an assistant professor at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, who has been studying MdDS. “It can be an absolutely devastating disorder. What is difficult for people to understand is that patients can look normal but feel awful.” © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 24134 - Posted: 10.02.2017

By DIONNE SEARCEY and MATT RICHTEL ACCRA, Ghana — After finishing high school a decade ago, Daniel Awaitey enrolled in computer courses, dropped out to work in a hotel, then settled into a well-paying job in the booming oil sector here. He has an apartment, a car, a smartphone and a long-distance girlfriend he met on a dating website. So he had reasons and the means to celebrate his 27th birthday in late July. His boss and co-workers joined him for an evening of laughter and selfies, lingering over dinner at his favorite restaurant: KFC. Mr. Awaitey first learned about the fried chicken chain on Facebook. The “finger lickin’ good” slogan caught his attention and it has lived up to expectations. “The food is just ——” he said, raising his fingertips to his mouth and smacking his lips. “When you taste it you feel good.” Ghana, a coastal African country of more than 28 million still etched with pockets of extreme poverty, has enjoyed unprecedented national prosperity in the last decade, buoyed by offshore oil. Though the economy slowed abruptly not long ago, it is rebounding and the signs of new fortune are evident: millions moving to cities for jobs, shopping malls popping up and fast food roaring in to greet people hungry for a contemporary lifestyle. Chief among the corporate players is KFC, and its parent company, YUM!, which have muscled northward from South Africa — where KFC has about 850 outlets and a powerful brand name — throughout sub-Saharan Africa: to Angola, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and beyond. The company brings the flavors that have made it popular in the West, seasoned with an intangible: the symbolic association of fast food with rich nations. But KFC’s expansion here comes as obesity and related health problems have been surging. Public health officials see fried chicken, french fries and pizza as spurring and intensifying a global obesity epidemic that has hit hard in Ghana — one of 73 countries where obesity has at least doubled since 1980. In that period, Ghana’s obesity rates have surged more than 650 percent, from less than 2 percent of the population to 13.6 percent, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent research center at the University of Washington. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24133 - Posted: 10.02.2017

By Matthew Hutson Studying the human mind is tough. You can ask people how they think, but they often don’t know. You can scan their brains, but the tools are blunt. You can damage their brains and watch what happens, but they don’t take kindly to that. So even a task as supposedly simple as the first step in reading—recognizing letters on a page—keeps scientists guessing. Now, psychologists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to probe how our minds actually work. Marco Zorzi, a psychologist at the University of Padua in Italy, used artificial neural networks to show how the brain might “hijack” existing connections in the visual cortex to recognize the letters of the alphabet, he and colleagues reported last month in Nature Human Behaviour. Zorzi spoke with Science about the study and about his other work. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Q: What did you learn in your study of letter perception? A: We first trained the model on patches of natural images, of trees and mountains, and then this knowledge becomes a vocabulary of basic visual features the network uses to learn about letter shapes. This idea of “neural recycling” has been around for some time, but as far as I know this is the first demonstration where you actually gained in performance: We saw better letter recognition in a model that trained on natural images than one that didn’t. Recycling makes learning letters much faster compared to the same network without recycling. It gives the network a head start. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Robotics
Link ID: 24130 - Posted: 09.30.2017

By Christina Leuker, Wouter van den Bos, Jon M. Jachimowicz It is often easier to access someone else’s heart than their mind. We can nearly effortlessly pick up on our partner’s mood or sense that a friend dismisses our plans, without them even speaking a word. But how do we know what is going on in their heads? How do we get this special access to the most private of domains—the human mind? A growing body of research reveals that looking at their eyes may be a neglected and powerful way to do so. The phrases “the eyes are the window to the soul” and “I can see it in your eyes” certainly sound poetic. Many singers, songwriters and writers have capitalized on it. But it turns out that the eyes really might be the windows to the soul. And here’s the great thing about eyes: even if people don’t want you to know how they feel, they can’t change how their eyes behave. So how does this work? The first thing to look for is changes in pupil size. A famous study published in 1960 suggests that how wide or narrow pupils are reflects how information is processed, and how relevant it is. In their experiment, the two experimental psychologists Hess and Polt of the University of Chicago asked male and female participants to look at semi-nude pictures of both sexes. Female participants’ pupil sizes increased in response to viewing men, and male participants’ pupils increased in response to viewing women. In subsequent studies, Hess and Polt find that homosexual participants looking at semi-nude pictures of men (but not women) also had larger pupils. This should come to no surprise: after all, pupils can also reflect how aroused we are. But women’s pupils also responded to pictures of mothers holding babies. Hence, changes in pupil size don’t only reflect how aroused we are, but also how relevant and interesting what we see is. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 24129 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Josh Dehaas: Earlier this month, Stanford University researchers released a study that showed artificial intelligence can be used to predict whether a person is gay. Given a single image, computers used an algorithm to correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men in 81 per cent of cases, and in 71 per cent of cases for women. Humans could also pick out gay people more often then not: 61 per cent for men, and 54 per cent for women. The researchers said their results offer support for the theory that prenatal hormones, which influence how we look, also influence sexual orientation. For gay people like me, the study simply seemed to confirm what we already know: sexual orientation is fixed at birth. You might think that LGBT activists would embrace this new study as yet more evidence that could be used to persuade religious conservatives or other skeptics that being gay isn’t a moral failing. Their response was, in fact, the opposite. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a huge lobby group in the U.S., called the study “junk science.” The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) chided the few media outlets who dared to write about it, criticizing the methodology, including the researchers’ decision to use all Caucasian photos (which they presumably did to ensure the computers were detecting facial differences related to sexuality rather than race), and their exclusion of transgender and bisexual people (a flaw, but not a huge one). A couple of professors joined the pile on, suggesting that it is unethical to so much as study whether machines can predict a person’s sexuality, because it could be used by anti-gay governments to further target and oppress people. That is a frightening concern in a world where being gay is illegal in more than 70 countries, but it ignores the possibility that this kind of research might actually change how oppressive regimes think about these issues in the long term. As University of Lethbridge sexuality researcher Paul Vasey points out, “the more people think homosexuality is biological the more tolerant they are.” And intolerance persists, even here in North America. Roy Moore, the man who just won a primary runoff to become the Republican nominee for senator in Alabama, wrote in 2002 (when he was the chief justice of that state’s Supreme Court) that “homosexual behavior is a crime against nature, an inherent evil, and an act so heinous that it defies one’s ability to describe it.” In 2005, he said that “homosexuality should be © 2017 National Post,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24128 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Alva Noë Philosophers have long worried whether it is ever really possible to know how things are, internally, with another. After all, we are confined to the external — to mere behavior, or perhaps to behavior plus measurements of brain activity. But the thoughts, feelings, images, sensations of another person, these are always hidden from our direct inspection. The situation of doctors facing unresponsive victims of brain injury is a terrifying real-world example of the fact that we our locked out of the minds of another. Consider the remarkable report, published Monday in Current Biology and discussed here, that a team in France has enabled a patient who has languished for 15 years in a vegetative state, to show, as they claim, a marked improvement in his levels of consciousness. They achieved this by means of the direct and sustained stimulation of the vagus nerve. As Dr. Angela Sirigu, one of the team leaders, explains by email, the results are dramatic: "After VNS [vagus nerve stimulation] the patient could respond to simple orders that were impossible before (to follow an object with his gaze, to turn the head on the other side of the bed on verbal request). His ability to sustain attention, like staying awake when listening to his therapist reading a book, greatly improved as reported by the mother. After stimulation, we found also responses to 'threat' that were absent before implantation. For instance, when the examiner's head suddenly approached to the patient's face, he reacted with surprise by opening the eyes wide, a reaction which indicates that he was fully aware that the examiner was too close to him." © 2017 npr

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24127 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Medical professionals and body artists say the practice of tattooing the eyeball, which recently left an Ottawa woman facing the prospect of vision loss, is on the rise despite its many risks. Ophthalmologists and tattoo studios decry the practice, saying it's very difficult to engage in it safely. Nonetheless, they say they hear of increasing demand for the extreme form of body modification which involves injecting ink into the whites of the eyes. A 24-year-old woman says she has learned the hard way about the risks of the procedure. Catt Gallinger says she recently allowed someone to dye the white of her right eye purple, but has since developed major complications. Gallinger does alternative modelling, a branch of modelling that features models who do not conform to mainstream beauty ideals and who often have body modifications. She has currently lost part of the vision in her swollen, misshapen eye and is facing the prospect of living with irreversible damage. "This is a very big toll on the mental health," she said in a telephone interview. "At this point, every day is different. Some days I feel a bit better, other days I kind of want to give up." ​Gallinger said she has long had an interest in body modification, and especially in tattooing the white of her eye, technically known as the sclera. But she said she took the plunge without doing adequate research on the procedure. Had she done so, medical and tattoo professionals say she could have found a plethora of evidence discouraging the practice, which has gained traction among body modification enthusiasts in recent years. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 24125 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Christie Wilcox Many tadpoles ward off predators with potent poisons — but those toxins also seem to help win battles with their own kind, a new study finds. Tadpoles of common toads (Bufo bufo) are more poisonous when raised in crowded conditions, which may give them a competitive edge, according to the work published on 23 September in Functional Ecology1. Many noxious plant species are known to modulate their defences to fend off different threats2, but it is less clear whether animals possess similar toxin-tuning abilities. Although predation pressure is known to induce tadpole chemical defences3, the new findings are the first unequivocal evidence of toxin synthesis spurred by competition in vertebrate animals. Being poisonous can make a species essentially inedible to predators, but making potent toxins comes at a metabolic cost — so it’s best to make that investment count. “It would be very profitable for such animals to kill two birds with one stone by using their anti-predatory toxins as chemical weapons against their competitors, too,” says the study’s lead author, Veronika Bókony, an ecologist with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. Common toads are equipped with bufadienolides, potent toxins that cause harm by accelerating and disrupting the heart’s rhythms4. Field studies have found that common toad toxicity varies geographically, with the intensity of competition being the most reliable predictor5. But it has been unclear whether such patterns occur because populations are genetically isolated from one another in different ponds, or whether they reflect defences induced by environmental factors. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Neurotoxins; Evolution
Link ID: 24124 - Posted: 09.30.2017

Barbara J. King In 1981, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man hit the presses. A take-down of studies purporting to demonstrate that the intelligence of humans is genetically determined — and that some human groups (read "white Western Europeans") are innately superior — the book exposed interpretive bias and scientific racism in the measurement of human intelligence. Different environmental histories across human groups, in fact, affect testing outcomes in significant ways: There is no innate superiority due to genes. The Mismeasure of Man ignited ferocious discussion (and the occasional subsequent correction) that has continued even in recent years across biology, anthropology, psychology and philosophy: Its argument mattered not only for how we do science, but how science entangles with issues of social justice. Now, psychologists David A. Leavens of the University of Sussex, Kim A. Bard of the University of Portsmouth, and William D. Hopkins of Georgia State University have framed their new Animal Cognition article, "The mismeasure of ape social cognition," around Gould's book. Ape (especially chimpanzee) social intelligence, the authors say, has been routinely mismeasured because apes are tested in comprehensively different circumstances from the children with whom they are compared — and against whose performance theirs is found to be lacking. Leavens et al. write: "All direct ape-human comparisons that have reported human superiority in cognitive function have universally failed to match the groups on testing environment, test preparation, sampling protocols, and test procedures." © 2017 npr

Keyword: Evolution; Intelligence
Link ID: 24123 - Posted: 09.29.2017

By GINA KOLATA Otto F. Warmbier, the college student imprisoned in North Korea and returned to the United States in a vegetative state, suffered extensive brain damage following interrupted blood flow and a lack of oxygen, according to the coroner who examined his body. But an external examination and “virtual autopsy” conducted by the coroner’s office in Hamilton County, Ohio, could not determine how his circulation had been cut off. “All we can do is theorize, and we hate to theorize without science backing us up,” Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, the county coroner, said in an interview Thursday. Mr. Warmbier, 22, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, was convicted in March 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda poster while on a trip to North Korea and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was flown back to the United States in June in a vegetative state. North Korean officials said Mr. Warmbier’s condition was caused by sleeping pills and botulism, a diagnosis that medical experts doubted. He died six days later at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. His parents requested that a full autopsy not be performed. On Tuesday, during an appearance on the television show “Fox & Friends,” Fred Warmbier said that his son had been “tortured” and described North Korean officials as “terrorists.” After the interview, President Trump said in a tweet that Mr. Warmbier “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.” On Thursday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement denying again that Mr. Warmbier had been tortured and accusing the United States of “employing even a dead person” in a “conspiracy campaign” against North Korea. Dr. Sammarco’s examination, which was concluded earlier this month, did not find signs of torture but could not rule out the possibility. “There are a lot of horrible things you can do to a human body that don’t leave external signs behind,” Dr. Sammarco said. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24122 - Posted: 09.29.2017

A tiny change—just one mutation—appears to have boosted the modern Zika virus’s ability to attack fetal brain cells, fueling the wave of birth defects involving microcephaly (small head size) that recently swept across the Americas. The findings are reported Thursday in Science. Researchers in China found that a single swap of amino acids—from serine to asparagine—on a structural protein of the Zika virus occurred a few months before the pathogen first took off in French Polynesia in 2013. The team’s results may begin to answer an outstanding question from the Zika epidemic: Why have Zika-related microcephaly and other brain abnormalities been seen in areas hard-hit by outbreaks in the past few years but not in the decades following the virus’s discovery in 1947? One theory is that the Zika–microcephaly connection previously flew under the radar because there were too few cases to see the link. Another leading theory is that something about the modern virus has changed, allowing it to infect brain cells more efficiently than its ancestors could. The new work suggests the latter is true. “This is a very good study and it gives a plausible explanation that is scientifically based,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He adds that the results will be further strengthened if other groups replicate them. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24121 - Posted: 09.29.2017