Chapter 19. Language and Lateralization

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By Elizabeth Pennisi Anyone who has tried to whisper sweet nothings into their lover’s ear while standing on a noisy street corner can understand the plight of the túngara frog. A tiny amphibian about the size of a U.S. quarter, the male Physalaemus pustulosus has had to make its call more complex to woo mates when they move from the forest to the city. Now, researchers have found that female túngara frogs from both the country and the city prefer these mouthy city slickers. Biologists have long studied túngara frog courtship, demonstrating that visual signals and calls by themselves are unattractive to females but together are a winning combination, and that a female’s decision to mate depends on the context. Now, researchers have recorded the calls of male frogs living in cities, small towns, and forests across Panama. As they played the calls back, they counted the females, frog-eating bats, and frog-biting insects lured in by each call. Then they transplanted forest-dwelling frogs to the city and city dwellers to the forest to see how females there reacted to their calls. Finally, in the lab, they tested female preference for each call. Males living in cities and towns called more frequently and had more complex calls—with louder “chucks” interspersed in the whine—than forest frogs, the team reports today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. When they were moved into the country, they simplified their calls; but when their country cousins were brought to the big city, they couldn’t make the switch, and kept singing simply. When the researchers played back the calls to females, the females preferred more complex calls, even if the female herself was from the country, they reported. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Communication; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25769 - Posted: 12.11.2018

By Ramin Skibba Even when you’re fluent in two languages, it can be a challenge to switch back and forth smoothly between them. It’s common to mangle a split verb in Spanish, use the wrong preposition in English or lose sight of the connection between the beginning and end of a long German sentence. So, does mastering a second language hone our multitasking skills or merely muddle us up? This debate has been pitting linguists and psychologists against one another since the 1920s, when many experts thought that bilingual children were fated to suffer cognitive impairments later in life. But the science has marched on. Psycholinguist Mark Antoniou of Western Sydney University in Australia argues that bilingualism — as he defines it, using at least two languages in your daily life — may benefit our brains, especially as we age. In a recent article, he addressed how best to teach languages to children and laid out evidence that multiple-language use on a regular basis may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Q: What are the benefits of bilingualism? A: The first main advantage involves what’s loosely referred to as executive function. This describes skills that allow you to control, direct and manage your attention, as well as your ability to plan. It also helps you ignore irrelevant information and focus on what’s important. Because a bilingual person has mastery of two languages, and the languages are activated automatically and subconsciously, the person is constantly managing the interference of the languages so that she or he doesn’t say the wrong word in the wrong language at the wrong time. The brain areas responsible for that are also used when you’re trying to complete a task while there are distractions. The task could have nothing to do with language; it could be trying to listen to something in a noisy environment or doing some visual task. The muscle memory developed from using two languages also can apply to different skills. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Language; Alzheimers
Link ID: 25767 - Posted: 12.10.2018

By Stephen L. Macknik Sensory information flowing into our brains is inherently ambiguous. We perceive 3D despite having only 2D images on our retinas. It’s an illusion. A sunburn on our face can feel weirdly cool. Illusion. A little perfume smells good but too much is obnoxious. Also an illusion. The brain expends a great deal of effort to disambiguate the meaning of each incoming signal—often using context as a clue—but the neural mechanisms of these abilities remain mysterious. Neuroscientists are a little closer to understanding how to study these mechanisms, thanks to a new study by Kevin Ortego, Michael Pitts, & Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez from Pitts's lab at Reed College, presented at the 2018 Society for Neuroscience meeting, on the brain's responses to both visual and language illusions. Illusions are experiences in which the physical reality is different from our perception or expectation. Ambiguous stimuli are important tools to science because the physical reality can legitimately be interpreted in more than one way. Take the classic rabbit-duck illusion, published by the Fliegende Blätter magazine, in Münich, at the end of the 19th century, in which the image can be seen as either a duck or a rabbit. Bistable illusions like these can flip back and forth between competing interpretations, but one cannot see both percepts at the same time. Recent examples of ambiguous illusions show that numerous interpretations are possible. The first place winner of this year's Best Illusion of the Year Contest, created by from Kokichi Sugihara, shows three different ways of perceiving the same object, depending on your specific vantage point. © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Language; Attention
Link ID: 25744 - Posted: 12.03.2018

By Kara Manke A single season of high school football may be enough to cause microscopic changes in the structure of the brain, according to a new study by researchers at UC Berkeley, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A 3D representation of a magnetic resonance imaging scan, showing areas in the front and rear of the brain lit up. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans have revealed that playing a single season of high school football can cause microscopic changes in the grey matter in young players’ brains. These changes are located in the front and rear of the brain, where impacts are most likely to occur, as well as deep inside the brain. The researchers used a new type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take brain scans of 16 high school players, ages 15 to 17, before and after a season of football. They found significant changes in the structure of the grey matter in the front and rear of the brain, where impacts are most likely to occur, as well as changes to structures deep inside the brain. All participants wore helmets, and none received head impacts severe enough to constitute a concussion. The study, which is the cover story of the November issue of Neurobiology of Disease, is one of the first to look at how impact sports affect the brains of children at this critical age. © 2018 UC Regents

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25740 - Posted: 12.01.2018

Ashley Westerman A single season playing football might be all it takes to change a young athlete's brain. Those are the preliminary findings of research presented this week in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Researchers used special MRI methods to look at nerve bundles in the brain in a study of the brains of 26 young male football players, average age 12, before and after one season. Twenty-six more young males who didn't play football also got MRI scans at the same time to be used as a control group. In the youths who played football, the researchers found that nerve fibers in their corpus callosum — the band that connects the two halves of brain — changed over the season, says lead study author Jeongchul Kim, a research associate in the Radiology Informatics and Imaging Laboratory at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "We applied here two different imaging approaches," he says. One analyzed the shape of the nerve fibers and the other focused on the integrity of the nerves. Kim says the researchers found some nerve bundles grew longer and other bundles became shorter, or contracted, after the players' initial MRI scans at the beginning of the season. He says they saw no changes in the integrity of the bundles. The team says these results suggest that repeated blows to the head could lead to changes in the shape of the corpus callosum, which is critical to integrating cognitive, motor and sensory functions between the two hemispheres of the brain, during a critical time for brain development in young people. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25739 - Posted: 12.01.2018

By Michael Allen When a peacock catches the attention of a female, he doesn’t just turn her head—he makes it vibrate. That’s the surprising conclusion of a new study, which finds that a male peafowl’s tail feathers create low-frequency sounds that cause feathers on the females’ heads to quiver. The finding is “fascinating,” says Richard Prum, an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale University who was not involved with the work. As far as he knows, it’s the first demonstration that feathers respond to acoustic communication signals from other birds. Scientists have long known that a bird’s feathers can sense vibrations. Much like a rodent’s whiskers, they are coupled to vibration-sensitive nerve cells, allowing them to sense their surroundings. Feathers can, for example, detect changes in airflow during flight, and some seabirds even use feathers on their heads to feel their way through dark, underground crevices. When peacocks are ready to mate, they fan out their iridescent tail feathers (known as trains), before rushing at females, shaking those feathers to catch their attention. But when researchers discovered low-frequency sounds—which are inaudible to humans—coming from this “train rattle” several years back, no one knew how they worked. All they knew was that peahens perked up and paid attention to recordings of these “infrasounds,” even though they couldn’t see the males. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 25730 - Posted: 11.29.2018

By Sharon Begley, The brain surgeon began as he always does, making an incision in the scalp and gently spreading it apart to expose the skull. He then drilled a 3-inch circular opening through the bone, down to the thick, tough covering called the dura. He sliced through that, and there in the little porthole he’d made was the glistening, blood-flecked, pewter-colored brain, ready for him to approach the way spies do a foreign embassy: He bugged it. Dr. Ashesh Mehta, a neurosurgeon at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research on Long Island, was operating on his epilepsy patient to determine the source of seizures. But the patient agreed to something more: to be part of an audacious experiment whose ultimate goal is to translate thoughts into speech. While he was in there, Mehta carefully placed a flat array of microelectrodes on the left side of the brain’s surface, over areas involved in both listening to and formulating speech. By eavesdropping on the electrical impulses that crackle through the gray matter when a person hears in the “mind’s ear” what words he intends to articulate (often so quickly it’s barely conscious), then transmitting those signals wirelessly to a computer that decodes them, the electrodes and the rest of the system hold the promise of being the first “brain-computer interface” to go beyond movement and sensation. If all goes well, it will conquer the field’s Everest: developing a brain-computer interface that could enable people with a spinal cord injury, locked-in syndrome, ALS, or other paralyzing condition to talk again. © 2018 Scientific America

Keyword: Brain imaging; Robotics
Link ID: 25708 - Posted: 11.21.2018

By Virginia Morell Like any fad, the songs of humpback whales don’t stick around for long. Every few years, males swap their chorus of squeaks and groans for a brand new one. Now, scientists have figured out how these “cultural revolutions” take place. All male humpbacks in a population sing the same song, and they appear to learn new ones somewhat like people do. Males in the eastern Australian population of humpbacks, for example, pick up a new song every few years from the western Australian population at shared feeding grounds or while migrating. Over the next few years, the songs spread to all South Pacific populations. To understand how the whales learn the novel ballads, scientists analyzed eastern Australian whale songs over 13 consecutive years. Using spectrograms of 412 song cycles from 95 singers, the scientists scored each tune’s complexity for the number of sounds and themes, and studied the subtle variations individual males can add to stand out. Complexity increased as the songs evolved (as heard in the video below), the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. But after a song revolution, the ballads became shorter with fewer sounds and themes. The revolutionary songs may be less complex than the old ones because the whales can only learn a certain amount of new material at a time, the scientists conclude. That could mean that although humpback whales are still the crooners of the sea, their learning skills are a bit limited. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Scienc

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 25705 - Posted: 11.21.2018

By Virginia Morell When wild orangutans spot a predator, they let out a loud “kiss-squeak,” a call that sounds like a human smooching. That noise tells tigers and other enemies, “I’ve seen you,” scientists believe, and it also lets other orangutans know danger is near. Now, researchers report having heard orangutans making this call long after predators have passed—the first evidence that primates other than humans can “talk” about the past. “The results are quite surprising,” says Carel van Schaik, a primatologist at the University of Zurich in Switzerland who was not involved in the work. The ability to talk about the past or the future “is one of the things that makes language so effective,” he says. That suggests, he adds, that the new findings could provide clues to the evolution of language itself. Many mammals and birds have alarm calls, some of which include information on the type and size of a predator, its location and distance, and what level of danger it poses. But until now, researchers have never heard wild animals announcing danger after the fact. Adriano Reis e Lameira, a postdoctoral student at the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom, was examining alarm calls in orangutans in Sumatra’s dense Ketambe forest, where the primates have been observed for nearly 40 years. He set up a simple experiment to investigate their alarm calls: A scientist draped in a tiger-striped, spotted, or plain sheet walked on all fours along the forest floor, right underneath lone female orangutans sitting in trees at heights of 5 to 20 meters above the ground. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Evolution; Language
Link ID: 25685 - Posted: 11.15.2018

By Dana G. Smith SAN DIEGO—Robert King spent 29 years living alone in a six by nine-foot prison cell. He was part of the “Angola Three”—a trio of men kept in solitary confinement for decades and named for the Louisiana state penitentiary where they were held. King was released in 2001 after a judge overturned his 1973 conviction for killing a fellow inmate. Since his exoneration he has dedicated his life to raising awareness about the psychological harms of solitary confinement. “People want to know whether or not I have psychological problems, whether or not I’m crazy—‘How did you not go insane?’” King told a packed session at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting here this week. “I look at them and I tell them, ‘I did not tell you I was not insane.’ I don’t mean I was psychotic or anything like that, but being placed in a six by nine by 12–foot cell for 23 hours a day, no matter how you appear on the outside, you are not sane.” There are an estimated 80,000 people, mostly men, in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons. They are confined to windowless cells roughly the size of a king bed for 23 hours a day, with virtually no human contact except for brief interactions with prison guards. According to scientists speaking at the conference session, this type of social isolation and sensory deprivation can have traumatic effects on the brain, many of which may be irreversible. Neuroscientists, lawyers and activists such as King have teamed up with the goal of abolishing solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 25666 - Posted: 11.10.2018

By Sam Rose One of neuroscience’s foundational experiments wasn’t performed in a Nobel laureate’s lab, but occurred in a railyard in 1848 when an accidental explosion sent a tamping iron through 25 year-old Phineas Gage’s forehead. Gage survived, but those studying his history detailed distinct personality changes resulting from the accident. He went from even-tempered to impulsive and profane. The case is likely the earliest—and most famous—of using a “lesion” to link a damaged brain region to its function. In the ensuing decades, to study the brain was to study lesions. Lesion cases fed most of the era’s knowledge of the brain. One might think that modern neuroscience, with its immense toolkit of experimental techniques, no longer needs lesions like Gage’s to parse the brain’s inner workings. Lesion studies, though, seem to be having a revival. A new method called lesion network mapping is clearing the cobwebs off the lesion study and uniting it with modern brain connectivity data. The results are revealing surprising associations between brain regions and disorders. Thankfully, most lesions aren’t a tamping iron through the forehead. Strokes, hemorrhages, or tumors make up most lesion cases. 19th century neurologists like Paul Broca made foundational discoveries by studying patients with peculiar symptoms resulting from these common neurological insults. Broca and his contemporaries synthesized a theory of the brain from lesions: that the brain is segmented. Different regions control different functions. Lesion studies lend a lawyerly logic to the brain: if region X is destroyed and function Y no longer occurs, then region X must control function Y. Advertisement © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 25626 - Posted: 10.31.2018

By Daniel Ackerman Repeatedly heading a soccer ball exacts a toll on an athlete’s brain. But this cost—measured by the volume of brain cells damaged—is five times greater for women than for men, new research suggests. The study provides a biological explanation for why women report more severe symptoms and longer recovery times than men following brain injuries in sports. Previously some researchers had dismissed female players’ complaints because there was little physiological evidence for the disparity, says Michael Lipton, a neuroscientist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a co-author of the paper. Lipton’s team used magnetic resonance imaging to peer into the skulls of 98 adult amateur soccer players—half of them female and half male—who headed the ball with varying frequency during the prior year. For women, eight of the brain’s signal-carrying white matter regions showed structural deterioration, compared with just three such regions in men (damage increased with the number of reported headers). Furthermore, female athletes in the study suffered damage to an average of about 2,100 cubic millimeters of brain tissue, compared with an average of just 400 cubic millimeters in the male athletes. Lipton does not yet know the cause of these sex differences, but he notes two possibilities. Women may suffer stronger whiplash from a cranial blow because they generally have less muscle mass than men to stabilize the neck and skull. Alternatively, a dip in progesterone, a hormone that protects against swelling in the brain, could heighten women’s vulnerability to brain injury during certain phases of their menstrual cycle. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 25556 - Posted: 10.10.2018

By Elizabeth Pennisi The melodious call of many birds comes from a mysterious organ buried deep within their chests: a one-of-a-kind voice box called a syrinx. Now, scientists have concluded that this voice box evolved only once, and that it represents a rare example of a true evolutionary novelty. “It’s something that comes out of nothing,” says Denis Dubuole, a geneticist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland who was not involved with the work. “There is nothing that looks like a syrinx in any related animal groups in vertebrates. This is very bizarre.” Reptiles, amphibians, and mammals all have a larynx, a voice box at the top of the throat that protects the airways. Folds of tissue there—the vocal cords—can also vibrate to enable humans to talk, pigs to grunt, and lions to roar. Birds have larynxes, too. But the organ they use to sing their tunes is lower down—where the windpipe splits to go into the two lungs. The syrinx, named in 1872 after a Greek nymph who was transformed into panpipes, has a similar structure: Both are tubes supported by cartilage with folds of tissue. The oldest known syrinx belongs to a bird fossil some 67 million years old; that’s about the same time all modern bird groups became established. To figure out where the bizarre organ came from, Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas in Austin, who made the syrinx discovery in 2013, assembled a team of developmental biologists, evolutionary biologists, and other researchers. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Evolution
Link ID: 25535 - Posted: 10.06.2018

By Sarah Mervosh A simple rule change in Ivy League football games has led to a significant drop in concussions, a study released this week found. After the Ivy League changed its kickoff rules in 2016, adjusting the kickoff and touchback lines by just five yards, the rate of concussions per 1,000 kickoff plays fell to two from 11, according to the study, which was published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Kickoffs, during which players sprint down the field and can knock into each other at full speed, had previously represented an outsize number of concussions. The study comes amid a broader push to adjust kickoff rules at all levels of football and offers a strong indication that touchbacks can help reduce the risk of head injury in a sport grappling with the competing priorities of entertaining its audience and keeping its players safe. “We see really compelling evidence that, indeed, introducing the experimental kickoff rule seems to be associated with a large reduction in concussions,” said Douglas Wiebe, the lead author of the study and the director of the Penn Injury Science Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, kickoffs during Ivy League games accounted for 6 percent of all plays, but 21 percent of concussions, the study said. So Ivy League football coaches decided to change the rules to encourage kicks into the end zone. Under the new system, teams kicked off from the 40-yard line, instead of the 35, and touchbacks started from the 20-yard line, rather than the 25. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25519 - Posted: 10.02.2018

By Christine Hauser A New Jersey man died after being infected with Naegleria fowleri, also known as the “brain-eating amoeba,” a rare infection that is contracted through the nose in fresh water. The man, Fabrizio Stabile, 29, of Ventnor, N.J., was mowing his lawn on Sept. 16 when he felt ill from a headache, according to his obituary and GoFundMe page. His symptoms worsened and he was taken to the hospital after he became unable to speak coherently. A spinal tap revealed he was infected with the amoeba, and he died on Sept. 21. It is the first confirmed case of the infection in the United States since 2016, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Jennifer Cope, said on Monday. Mr. Stabile fell ill after visiting the BSR Cable Park and Surf Resort, a surf and water park in Waco, Tex., said Kelly Craine, a spokeswoman for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. She said in a telephone interview on Monday that the C.D.C. sent epidemiologists to take samples from the park to test for the presence of the amoeba, and those results could come this week. There are no reports of other illnesses at the Waco park, the C.D.C. said. The amoeba is a single-celled organism that can cause a rare infection of the brain called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, also known as PAM, which is usually fatal. It thrives in warm temperatures and is commonly found in warm bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, the C.D.C. said, though it can also be present in soil. It enters the body through the nose, and it moves on to the brain. Infection typically occurs when people go swimming in lakes and rivers, according to the C.D.C. The amoeba got its nickname because it starts to destroy brain tissue once it reaches the brain, after it is forced up there in a rush of water. Before it enters the body, it happily feasts on the bacteria found in the water. “It turns to using the brain as a food source,” Dr. Cope said. “It is a scary name. It is not completely inaccurate.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 25515 - Posted: 10.02.2018

By Sandra E. Garcia For years, parents of a Texas boy believed he was mostly nonverbal because of a brain aneurysm he had when he was 10 days old. The boy, Mason Motz, 6, of Katy, Tex., started going to speech therapy when he was 1. In addition to his difficulties speaking, he was given a diagnosis of Sotos syndrome, a disorder that can cause learning disabilities or delayed development, according to the National Institutes of Health. His parents, Dalan and Meredith Motz, became used to how their son communicated. “He could pronounce the beginning of the word but would utter the end of the word,” Ms. Motz said in an interview. “My husband and I were the only ones that could understand him.” That all changed in April 2017, when Dr. Amy Luedemann-Lazar, a pediatric dentist, was performing unrelated procedures on Mason’s teeth. She noticed that his lingual frenulum, the band of tissue under his tongue, was shorter than is typical and was attached close to the tip of his tongue, keeping him from moving it freely. Dr. Luedemann-Lazar ran out to the waiting room to ask the Motzes if she could untie Mason’s tongue using a laser. After a quick Google search, the parents gave her permission to do so. Dr. Luedemann-Lazar completed the procedure in 10 seconds, she said. After his surgery, Mason went home. He had not eaten all day. Ms. Motz heard him say: “I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. Can we watch a movie?” “We’re sitting here thinking, ‘Did he just say that?’” Ms. Motz said. “It sounded like words.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 25510 - Posted: 10.01.2018

By Katie Hafner NEW HAVEN, Conn. — By now, Sally and Bennett Shaywitz might have retired to a life of grandchild-doting and Mediterranean-cruising. Instead, the Shaywitzes — experts in dyslexia at Yale who have been married to each other for 55 years — remain as focused as ever on a research endeavor they began 35 years ago. Sally, 76, and Bennett, 79, both academic physicians, run the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Their goal is not just to widen understanding of the scientific underpinnings of dyslexia, the most common learning disorder in the United States, but to push for public policies aligned with that knowledge. For years, dyslexia was largely misunderstood as a reading problem that caused children to reverse letters, and often was seen as a sign of laziness, stupidity or bad vision. The Shaywitzes’ work has shown there is no link between dyslexia and intelligence, and that dyslexia is not something one outgrows. Their research has found that it affects one in five people, yet even now many never receive a formal diagnosis. “There is an epidemic of reading failure that we have the scientific evidence to treat effectively and yet we are not acknowledging,” Sally said. Working from unprepossessing offices on the Yale School of Medicine campus, the Shaywitzes are now updating one of their signal achievements, a study they started in 1983 following 445 five-year-olds in Connecticut. It was the first study to examine reading continually from childhood through adulthood. The Connecticut Longitudinal Study, or C.L.S., has not only established the prevalence of dyslexia but also has demonstrated that it affects boys and girls in roughly equal numbers. The couple recently began a new phase of the study, administering reading tests to 375 of the participants, who are now in their 40s. They have no planned completion date. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Dyslexia; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25480 - Posted: 09.22.2018

By Douglas Quenqua For solitary animals, giant pandas have an awful lot to say to one another. Their vocal repertoire comprises more than a dozen distinct grunts, barks and squeaks, most of which amount to some version of “leave me alone.” But when mating season rolls around, both male and female giant pandas turn to their preferred come-hither call: a husky, rapid vibrato that’s commonly known as the bleat. The bleat not only alerts other pandas to the presence of an available mate, it contains important information about the vocalist’s size and identity. Given the dense bamboo thicket that limits visual contact in most panda habitats and the brevity of panda mating season — females ovulate just once a year and can conceive for only a few days — the pandas’ ability to perceive the bleat is critical to reproduction among this once-endangered species. Now, researchers have determined that the bleat works best as a local call. A panda can discern aspects of a caller’s identity. like its size, from a bleat within about 65 feet, but the caller’s gender is only perceptible within about 33 feet, according to a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports. Megan Owen, a conservation ecologist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and an author of the study, offered a human analogy for how this ability works. “If you’re walking into a crowded room and someone calls out your name, there’s a certain point where you can identify who that is, or maybe you can identify that it’s a male or female that is calling your name,” she said. “There’s information that’s encoded in that call, but that information degrades over distance.” To conduct the study, Dr. Owen and her colleagues — including Ben Charlton, another San Diego institute researcher who has studied panda bleats — obtained recordings of giant pandas from Chengdu, China, during breeding season. They then played those recordings through a speaker in a section of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park that contains bamboo similar in type and density to a typical panda habitat. By placing recording devices throughout the bamboo, the researchers were able to capture and analyze the bleats from various distances. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 25475 - Posted: 09.21.2018

By Perri Klass, M.D. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a major new guideline on diagnosing and managing head injuries in children on Sept. 4, the product of years of work and extensive evidence review by a large working group of specialists in fields ranging from emergency medicine and epidemiology to sports injuries to neurology and neurosurgery. The guideline, which is the first from the C.D.C. that is specific to mild brain injury in children, advises against the long recovery period, isolated in a dark, quiet room, that has sometimes been used in treatment. “The brain is a somewhat gelatinous, even trembling organ which houses our consciousness,” said Dr. Angela Lumba-Brown, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist who is the co-director of the Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center, and the first author of the guideline. “It does have resilience, but there are periods in life when it is particularly vulnerable.” Having a truly evidence-based guideline should help clinicians personalize the care that children receive and the ways they gradually reintegrate into activities and sports, she said, rather than applying rigid rules — and should generally encourage an earlier return to non-risky activity. The guideline focuses specifically on what is called mTBI, for “mild traumatic brain injury,” which might otherwise be called concussion. There are studies which show that the way that people think about these head injuries — the kids, the parents, the coaches, the doctors — can actually be affected by which term is used, so that what is called a concussion may not be taken as seriously as what is called a mild traumatic brain injury. Some of these injuries are related to sports, but many involve falls from playground equipment, or in the home, as young children explore their developing physical abilities. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25459 - Posted: 09.17.2018

By Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach A series of attacks with a microwave weapon is the latest theory for what could have sickened or distressed roughly two dozen people associated with the U.S. Embassy in Cuba over the past two years. The alleged attacks dominated a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Cuba policy Thursday afternoon. But a panel of State Department officials said there is still no explanation for the reported injuries. “We’re seeing a unique syndrome. I can’t even call it a syndrome. It’s a unique constellation of symptoms and findings, but with no obvious cause,” testified Charles Rosenfarb, the State Department’s medical director. Despite the buzz over microwaves, advanced in news reports in recent days, experts warn that caution is in order. There’s an old scientific aphorism that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. “And they’re not giving the extraordinary evidence. They’re not giving any evidence,” said physicist Peter Zimmerman, an arms control expert and former scientific adviser to the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee. No microwave weapon that affects the brain is known to exist. The FBI has investigated the Cuba cases and found no evidence of a plot. Searches of the U.S. Embassy and other locations in Havana have turned up no sign of a weapon. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 25424 - Posted: 09.08.2018