Most Recent Links

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.


Links 21 - 40 of 26895

By Linda Searing If you’re obese, losing just 5 percent of your weight starts you on the path to better health, but new research finds that losing 13 percent of your weight may make a good-size dent in your chances of developing several unhealthy conditions. For instance, the odds of developing Type 2 diabetes were at least 42 percent lower among obese people who lost that much weight than for those who did not lose weight, according to a report from the European and International Congress on Obesity. The research was based on eight years of data on 552,953 middle-aged adults who were obese and intentionally lost weight (meaning their weight loss did not occur because of an illness). Besides the diabetes effect, losing 13 percent of their weight also made people 25 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure or sleep apnea, and it correlated to a 22 percent risk reduction for high cholesterol and a 20 percent lower risk for osteoarthritis. Obesity, defined as excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health, is often determined by a person’s body mass index (BMI), a calculation of body fatness based on weight and height. The simplest way to figure your BMI is to plug your height and weight into an online calculator. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese. Treatment for obesity usually starts with a modest weight-loss goal of 5 to 10 percent (10 to 20 pounds for someone weighing 200) and includes a change in eating habits and an increase in physical activity.

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 27470 - Posted: 09.14.2020

By Apoorva Mandavilli The coronavirus targets the lungs foremost, but also the kidneys, liver and blood vessels. Still, about half of patients report neurological symptoms, including headaches, confusion and delirium, suggesting the virus may also attack the brain. A new study offers the first clear evidence that, in some people, the coronavirus invades brain cells, hijacking them to make copies of itself. The virus also seems to suck up all of the oxygen nearby, starving neighboring cells to death. It’s unclear how the virus gets to the brain or how often it sets off this trail of destruction. Infection of the brain is likely to be rare, but some people may be susceptible because of their genetic backgrounds, a high viral load or other reasons. “If the brain does become infected, it could have a lethal consequence,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who led the work. The study was posted online on Wednesday and has not yet been vetted by experts for publication. But several researchers said it was careful and elegant, showing in multiple ways that the virus can infect brain cells. Scientists have had to rely on brain imaging and patient symptoms to infer effects on the brain, but “we hadn’t really seen much evidence that the virus can infect the brain, even though we knew it was a potential possibility,” said Dr. Michael Zandi, consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Britain. “This data just provides a little bit more evidence that it certainly can.” Dr. Zandi and his colleagues published research in July showing that some patients with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, develop serious neurological complications, including nerve damage. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Stroke
Link ID: 27469 - Posted: 09.12.2020

By John Horgan It is a central dilemma of human life—more urgent, arguably, than the inevitability of suffering and death. I have been brooding and ranting to my students about it for years. It surely troubles us more than ever during this plague-ridden era. Philosophers call it the problem of other minds. I prefer to call it the solipsism problem. Solipsism, technically, is an extreme form of skepticism, at once utterly nuts and irrefutable. It holds that you are the only conscious being in existence. The cosmos sprang into existence when you became sentient, and it will vanish when you die. As crazy as this proposition seems, it rests on a brute fact: each of us is sealed in an impermeable prison cell of subjective awareness. Even our most intimate exchanges might as well be carried out via Zoom. You experience your own mind every waking second, but you can only infer the existence of other minds through indirect means. Other people seem to possess conscious perceptions, emotions, memories, intentions, just as you do, but you can’t be sure they do. You can guess how the world looks to me, based on my behavior and utterances, including these words you are reading, but you have no first-hand access to my inner life. For all you know, I might be a mindless bot. Natural selection instilled in us the capacity for a so-called theory of mind—a talent for intuiting others’ emotions and intentions. But we have a countertendency to deceive each other, and to fear we are being deceived. The ultimate deception would be pretending you’re conscious when you’re not. The solipsism problem thwarts efforts to explain consciousness. Scientists and philosophers have proposed countless contradictory hypotheses about what consciousness is and how it arises. Panpsychists contend that all creatures and even inanimate matter—even a single proton!—possess consciousness. Hard-core materialists insist, conversely (and perversely), that not even humans are all that conscious. © 2020 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 27468 - Posted: 09.12.2020

Zeeya Merali Discovering the “on-and-off switch” for good parenting in male and female mouse brains has earned Catherine Dulac, a molecular biologist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of this year’s US$3-million Breakthrough prizes — the most lucrative awards in science and mathematics. Three other major prizes in biology, plus two in physics and one in mathematics, were also announced on 10 September, together with a number of smaller prizes. “Catherine Dulac has done amazing work that has really transformed the field,” says biologist Lauren O’Connell at Stanford University, California. Dulac’s team provided the first evidence that male and female mouse brains have the same neural circuitry associated with parenting, which is just triggered differently in each sex1. “It went against the dogma that for decades said that male and female brains are organized differently,” says O’Connell. Dulac says she was stunned to learn that she had won the award. “My brain froze, then I began to tear up,” she says, adding that it had been a long road to acceptance, because others had initially been sceptical of her work. In the 1990s, Dulac isolated the pheromone receptors in mice that govern sex-specific social behaviours. Virgin male mice usually attack other males and kill pups. But Dulac found that if their pheromone receptors were blocked, they would attempt to mate with both males and females, and virgin males would even care for pups. Pheromone-blind females, by contrast, would attempt to mount males. © 2020 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 27467 - Posted: 09.12.2020

by Angie Voyles Askham . Many problems associated with fragile X syndrome stem from a leak in mitochondria, organelles that act as the power stations of the cell, a new study suggests1. Stopping this leak eases some of the autism-like traits of mice that model the syndrome. “The paper is very solid,” says John Jay Gargus, director of the Center for Autism Research and Translation at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the study. And because mitochondrial energy deficiency is seen in other forms of autism, the findings may be relevant beyond fragile X syndrome, Gargus says. Fragile X syndrome results from mutations in the FMR1 gene, which lead to a loss of the protein FMRP. Without FMRP, cells have immature dendritic spines — the bumps along a neuron’s arms that receive input from other neurons — and produce other proteins in excess. These differences are thought to contribute to the syndrome’s characteristic traits, such as developmental delay, intellectual disability and, often, autism. The new study shows that a leak in the mitochondrial membrane, possibly caused by the lack of FMRP, may drive the affected cells’ immaturity and excess protein production. The leak affects a cell’s metabolism, causing it to produce energy quickly but not efficiently, says lead researcher Elizabeth Jonas, professor of internal medicine and neuroscience at Yale University. All cells start out with mitochondrial leaks; the rapid energy production these leaks allow may be useful in early development. As typical cells mature and efficiency becomes more important than speed, however, they seem to close the leaks, Jonas says. Because cells with a fragile X mutation cannot close their leaks, they remain in an immature state. © 2020 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 27466 - Posted: 09.12.2020

Primatologists observed that different groups of bonobos have different dietary preferences — indicating a form of "culture" among the animals. AILSA CHANG, HOST: Bonobos, like chimpanzees, are one of our closest living relatives. We share about 99% of our DNA. These endangered apes are covered in incredibly black hair. LIRAN SAMUNI: And what's very nice is that they have extremely pink lips, almost as if they put the lipstick on. SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST: That's Liran Samuni, a primatologist at Harvard University. Now her team has discovered that wild bonobos share more than just DNA with humans and chimps. They also appear to share our penchant for culture. SAMUNI: We already had some information about chimpanzees that they have the ability for culture. But it was always this kind of a puzzle about bonobos. CHANG: So for more than four years, the researchers tracked two bonobo groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo, documenting the apes' social interactions and what they hunted. And they found a striking dietary difference. SAMUNI: So we had one group which specialized on the hunting of a small antelope called duiker, while the other bonobo group specialized on the hunting of anomalure, which is a gliding rodent. PFEIFFER: Samuni says think about it in the context of humans. You might have two cultures living near or among each other, but one prefers chicken; the other prefers beef. CHANG: Samuni's colleague at Harvard Martin Surbeck says that's important because it shows that the two groups of bonobos have different preferences despite their overlapping range. © 2020 npr

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 27465 - Posted: 09.12.2020

By Katharine Q. Seelye Shere Hite, who startled the world in the 1970s with her groundbreaking reports on female sexuality and her conclusion that women did not need conventional sexual intercourse — or men, for that matter — to achieve sexual satisfaction, died on Wednesday at her home in London. She was 77. Her husband, Paul Sullivan, confirmed the death to The Guardian. The newspaper quoted a friend of Ms. Hite’s as saying that she had been treated for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Her most famous work, “The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality” (1976), challenged societal and Freudian assumptions about how women achieved orgasm: It was not necessarily through intercourse, Ms. Hite wrote; women, she found, were quite capable of finding sexual pleasure on their own. However obvious her conclusions might seem today, they were seismic at the time and “sparked a revolution in the bedroom,” as Ms. magazine reported. For all the women who had faked orgasm during intercourse, the Hite Report helped awaken their sexual power and was seen as advancing the liberation of women that was rapidly underway. The book became an instant best seller and has been translated into a dozen languages. More than 48 million copies have been sold worldwide. What set the Hite Report apart from other studies were the questionnaires at the heart of it. More than 3,000 women were given anonymity in answering the queries, allowing them to write candidly and open-endedly — not in response to multiple-choice questions — about their experiences. “Researchers should stop telling women what they should feel sexually and start asking them what they do feel sexually,” Ms. Hite wrote. She described her questionnaires as a “giant rap session on paper.” In revelatory first-person testimonials, more than 70 percent of the respondents shattered the notion that women received sufficient stimulation during basic intercourse to reach climax. Rather, they said, they needed stimulation of the clitoris but often felt guilty and inadequate about it and were too embarrassed to tell their sexual partners. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 27464 - Posted: 09.12.2020

By Veronique Greenwood Hummingbirds live a life of extremes. The flitting creatures famously have the fastest metabolisms among vertebrates, and to fuel their zippy lifestyle, they sometimes drink their own body weight in nectar each day. But the hummingbirds of the Andes in South America take that extreme lifestyle a step further. Not only must they work even harder to hover at altitude, but during chilly nights, they save energy by going into exceptionally deep torpor, a physiological state similar to hibernation in which their body temperature falls by as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, as dawn approaches, they start to shiver, sending their temperatures rocketing back up to 96 degrees. It’s an intense process, says Andrew McKechnie, a professor of zoology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. “You’ve got a bird perching on a branch, whose body temp might be 20 degrees Celsius,” or 68 Fahrenheit, he said. “And it’s cranking out the same amount of heat as when it is hovering in front of a flower.” Now, Dr. McKechnie and colleagues reported on Wednesday in Biology Letters that the body temperatures of Andean hummingbirds in torpor and the amount of time they spend in this suspended animation vary among species, with one particular set of species, particularly numerous in the Andes, tending to get colder and go longer than others. They also report one of the lowest body temperatures ever seen in hummingbirds: just under 38 degrees Fahrenheit. On a trip to the Andes about five years ago, Blair Wolf, a professor of biology at the University of New Mexico and an author of the new paper, and his colleagues captured 26 of the little birds for overnight observation. They measured the hummingbirds’ body temperatures as they roosted for the night and found that almost all of them entered torpor, showing a steep decline in temperature partway through the night. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Miscellaneous
Link ID: 27463 - Posted: 09.09.2020

Sean Ingle The double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya appears to have lost her long-running legal battle against regulations requiring women with high testosterone to take medication to compete internationally between 400m and a mile. A Swiss federal tribunal said on Tuesday that it supported a decision by the court of arbitration for sport last year that track and field’s policy for athletes with differences in sex development (DSD) was “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to ensure fair competition in women’s sport. Charley Hull withdraws from ANA Inspiration after positive Covid-19 test Read more “Based on these findings, the Cas decision cannot be challenged,” the tribunal said. “Fairness in sport is a legitimate concern and forms a central principle of sporting competition. It is one of the pillars on which competition is based.” It now looks impossible for Semenya, the London 2012 and Rio 2016 gold medallist, to defend her title in Tokyo. She responded to the news by accusing World Athletics of being on the “wrong side of history”. “I am very disappointed by this ruling, but refuse to let World Athletics drug me or stop me from being who I am,” she said. “Excluding female athletes or endangering our health solely because of our natural abilities puts World Athletics on the wrong side of history. I will continue to fight for the human rights of female athletes, both on the track and off the track, until we can all run free the way we were born.” The South African was almost unstoppable until World Athletics implemented a new policy for DSD athletes, including Semenya, that compelled them to reduce their testosterone levels to less than 5 nmol/L if they wanted to compete in elite events between 400m and a mile. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 27462 - Posted: 09.09.2020

By Gretchen Reynolds Exercise makes it easier to bounce back from too much stress, according to a fascinating new study with mice. It finds that regular exercise increases the levels of a chemical in the animals’ brains that helps them remain psychologically resilient and plucky, even when their lives seem suddenly strange, intimidating and filled with threats. The study involved mice, but it is likely to have implications for our species, too, as we face the stress and discombobulation of the ongoing pandemic and today’s political and social disruptions. Stress can, of course, be our ally. Emergencies and perils require immediate responses, and stress results in a fast, helpful flood of hormones and other chemicals that prime our bodies to act. “If a tiger jumps out at you, you should run,” says David Weinshenker, a professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and the senior author of the new study. The stress response, in that situation, is appropriate and valuable. But if, afterward, we “jump at every little noise” and shrink from shadows, we are overreacting to the original stress, Dr. Weinshenker continues. Our response has become maladaptive, because we no longer react with appropriate dread to dreadful things but with twitchy anxiety to the quotidian. We lack stress resilience. In interesting past research, scientists have shown that exercise seems to build and amplify stress resilience. Rats that run on wheels for several weeks, for instance, and then experience stress through light shocks to their paws, respond later to unfamiliar — but safe — terrain with less trepidation than sedentary rats that also experience shocks. But the physiological underpinnings of the animals’ relative buoyancy after exercise remain somewhat mysterious. And, rats are just one species. Finding similar relationships between physical activity and resilience in other animals would bolster the possibility that a similar link exists in people. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 27461 - Posted: 09.09.2020

By Amanda Loudin Last summer while out on a bike ride, 35-year-old Andrew Bernstein of Boulder, Colo., was hit by a van that knocked him off the road and kept on going. A passing driver spotted Bernstein lying, unmoving, in a ditch and called 911. Bernstein’s injuries were life threatening. After multiple surgeries, 10 weeks recovering in the hospital and more than three weeks in inpatient rehab, Bernstein has spent the better part of every week since then working with a number of practitioners to help him progress to where he is today — in a wheelchair and walking with the assistance of a full-length leg brace and crutches. But almost all of that effort came to a complete halt when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March and all of his physical therapy facilities either closed or dramatically reduced their patient contact. “I typically worked with a variety of therapists nine or 10 times a week at four different facilities,” Andrew Bernstein says. He was given a home-based plan but “the disruptions to my therapies was challenging. It was frustrating to do without supervision, because my condition changes from one week to the next, something my therapists might notice even if I don’t.”“I typically worked with a variety of therapists nine or 10 times a week at four different facilities,” Andrew Bernstein says. He was given a home-based plan but “the disruptions to my therapies was challenging. It was frustrating to do without supervision, because my condition changes from one week to the next, something my therapists might notice even if I don’t.”

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 27460 - Posted: 09.09.2020

Neuroskeptic Why do particular brain areas tend to adopt particular roles? Is the brain "wired" by genetics to organize itself in a certain way, or does brain organization emerge from experience? One part of the brain has been the focus of a great deal of nature-vs-nurture debate. It's called the fusiform face area (FFA) and, as the name suggests, it seems to be most active during perception of faces. It's broadly accepted that the FFA responds most strongly to faces in most people, but there's controversy over why this is. Is the FFA somehow innately devoted to faces, or does its face specialization arise through experience? In the latest contribution to this debate, a new study argues that the FFA doesn't need any kind of visual experience to be face selective. The researchers, N. Apurva Ratan Murty et al., show that the FFA activates in response to touching faces, even in people who were born blind and have never seen a face. Murty et al. designed an experiment in which participants — 15 sighted and 15 congenitally blind people — could touch objects while their brain activity was recorded with fMRI. A 3D printer was used to create models of faces and other objects, and the participants could explore these with their hands, thanks to a rotating turntable. The key result was that touching the faces produced a similar pattern of activity in both the blind and sighted people, and this activity was also similar to when sighted people viewed faces visually: In a follow-up experiment with n=7 of the congenitally blind participants, Murty et al. found that the same face-selective areas in these individuals also responded to "face-related" sounds, such as laughing or chewing sounds, more than other sounds. (This replicates earlier work.) © 2020 Kalmbach Media Co.

Keyword: Attention; Vision
Link ID: 27459 - Posted: 09.07.2020

MICHELLE STARR In many parts of the world, people collectively reset their clocks twice a year. Depending on the season, clocks are either wound an hour forwards, or an hour backwards - a practice designed to maximise the overlap between our waking hours and the available daylight. Now, members of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) Public Safety Team and Board of Directors have published an advisory calling for the practice of daylight saving to be abolished. "Daylight saving time is less aligned with human circadian biology - which, due to the impacts of the delayed natural light/dark cycle on human activity, could result in circadian misalignment, which has been associated in some studies with increased cardiovascular disease risk, metabolic syndrome and other health risks," they write in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. "It is, therefore, the position of AASM that these seasonal time changes should be abolished in favour of a fixed, national, year-round standard time." Their paper is focused on the US, citing health statistics connected with the changing of the clocks in spring - from standard time to daylight saving time. This is when the clocks are wound back an hour, so that everyone loses an hour, usually from their sleep schedule. Ostensibly, the major economic reason for daylight saving time (DST) is to reduce energy usage, an effect that has been found to result in savings from 0.5 to 1 percent to a potential energy use increase in some areas as dependence on home heating and cooling rises.

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Sleep
Link ID: 27458 - Posted: 09.07.2020

By Tanya Lewis During Musk’s demonstration, he strolled near a pen containing several pigs, some of which had Neuralink implants. One animal, named Gertrude, had hers for two months. The device’s electrodes were situated in a part of Gertrude’s cortex that connected to neurons in her snout. And for the purposes of the demo, her brain signals were converted to audible bleeps that became more frequent as she sniffed around the pen and enjoyed some tasty treats. Musk also showed off a pig whose implant had been successfully removed to show that the surgery was reversible. Some of the other displayed pigs had multiple implants. Neuralink implantable device Neuralink implantable device, v0.9. Credit: Neuralink Neuralink, which was founded by Musk and a team of engineers and scientists in 2016, unveiled an earlier, wired version of its implant technology in 2019. It had several modules: the electrodes were connected to a USB port in the skull, which was intended to be wired to an external battery and a radio transmitter that were located behind the ear. The latest version consists of a single integrated implant that fits in a hole in the skull and relays data through the skin via a Bluetooth radio. The wireless design makes it seem much more practical for human use but limits the bandwidth of data that can be sent, compared with state-of-the-art brain-computer interfaces. The company’s goal, Musk said in the demo, is to “solve important spine and brain problems with a seamlessly implanted device”—a far cry from his previously stated, much more fantastic aim of allowing humans to merge with artificial intelligence. This time Musk seemed more circumspect about the device’s applications. As before, he insisted the demonstration was purely intended as a recruiting event to attract potential staff. Neuralink’s efforts build on decades of work from researchers in the field of brain-computer interfaces. Although technically impressive, this wireless brain implant is not the first to be tested in pigs or other large mammals.] © 2020 Scientific American,

Keyword: Robotics; Movement Disorders
Link ID: 27457 - Posted: 09.07.2020

By Linda Searing A growing number of U.S. adults are struggling with mental health issues linked to worry and stress over the novel coronavirus, increasing from 32 percent in March to 53 percent in July, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, for example, reached 40 percent this summer, up from 11 percent a year ago. In addition, a similar assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, by late June, 13 percent of adults had started or increased alcohol consumption or drug use to help cope with pandemic-related woes, and 11 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past month — a number that reached 25 percent among those ages 18 to 24. Social isolation, loneliness, job loss and economic worries as well as fear of contracting the virus are among factors cited as contributing to people’s mental health problems. Kaiser researchers found that 59 percent of those who have lost income because of the pandemic experienced at least one adverse effect on their mental health and well-being, as did 62 percent of those with higher-than-average risk for covid-19 because of such chronic conditions as lung disease, asthma, diabetes or serious heart disease. Overall, both reports found that negative mental health effects from the stress of coronavirus were more common among women than men. Suicidal ideation, however, was more common among men. Also, the CDC report says that people described as “unpaid caregivers,” meaning they care for other adults at home, are considerably more likely than others to start or increase substance use to cope with coronavirus-related stress or to have suicidal thoughts.

Keyword: Stress; Depression
Link ID: 27456 - Posted: 09.07.2020

By Pam Belluck Seven years ago, Joshua Cohen, then a junior at Brown University majoring in biomedical engineering, was captivated by the question of why people develop brain disorders. “How does a neuron die?” he wondered. After poring over scientific studies, he sketched out his ideas for a way to treat them. “I was sitting in my dorm room and I had kind of written out the research on these crazy-looking diagrams,” he recalled. A study published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the experimental treatment he and another Brown student, Justin Klee, conceived might hold promise for slowing progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the ruthless disease that robs people of their ability to move, speak, eat and ultimately breathe. More than 50 clinical trials over 25 years have failed to find effective treatments for A.L.S., also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, which often causes death within two to five years. But now, scientific advances and an influx of funding are driving clinical trials for many potential therapies, generating hope and intense discussion among patients, doctors and researchers. The new study reported that a two-drug combination slowed progression of A.L.S. paralysis by about six weeks over about six months, approximately 25 percent more than a placebo. On average, patients on a placebo declined in 18 weeks to a level that patients receiving the treatment didn’t reach until 24 weeks, said the principal investigator, Dr. Sabrina Paganoni, a neuromuscular medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Healey & AMG Center for A.L.S. “It’s such a terrible disease and as you can imagine, for the folks who have it or the family members, it’s just desperation that something’s going to work,” said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “Any kind of slowing of progression for a patient with A.L.S. might be valuable even though it’s not a big effect.” © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ALS-Lou Gehrig's Disease
Link ID: 27455 - Posted: 09.05.2020

Adam Piore archive page Long before the world had ever heard of covid-19, Kay Tye set out to answer a question that has taken on new resonance in the age of social distancing: When people feel lonely, do they crave social interactions in the same way a hungry person craves food? And could she and her colleagues detect and measure this “hunger” in the neural circuits of the brain? “Loneliness is a universal thing. If I were to ask people on the street, ‘Do you know what it means to be lonely?’ probably 99 or 100% of people would say yes,” explains Tye, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences. “It seems reasonable to argue that it should be a concept in neuroscience. It’s just that nobody ever found a way to test it and localize it to specific cells. That’s what we are trying to do.” In recent years, a vast scientific literature has emerged linking loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse. There is even a growing body of epidemiological work showing that loneliness makes you more likely to fall ill: it seems to prompt the chronic release of hormones that suppress healthy immune function. Biochemical changes from loneliness can accelerate the spread of cancer, hasten heart disease and Alzheimer’s, or simply drain the most vital among us of the will to go on. The ability to measure and detect it could help identify those at risk and pave the way for new kinds of interventions. In the months ahead, many are warning, we’re likely to see the mental-health impacts of covid-19 play out on a global scale. Psychiatrists are already worried about rising rates of suicide and drug overdoses in the US, and social isolation, along with anxiety and chronic stress, is one likely cause. “The recognition of the impact of social isolation on the rest of mental health is going to hit everyone really soon,” Tye says. “I think the impact on mental health will be pretty intense and pretty immediate.”

Keyword: Emotions; Depression
Link ID: 27454 - Posted: 09.05.2020

Ian Sample Science editor Brain scans of cosmonauts have revealed the first clear evidence of how the organ adapts to the weird and often sickness-inducing challenge of moving around in space. Analysis of scans taken from 11 cosmonauts, who spent about six months each in orbit, found increases in white and grey matter in three brain regions that are intimately involved in physical movement. The changes reflect the “neuroplasticity” of the brain whereby neural tissue, in this case the cells that govern movement or motor activity, reconfigures itself to cope with the fresh demands of life in orbit. “With the techniques we used, we can clearly see there are microstructural changes in three major areas of the brain that are involved in motor processing,” said Steven Jillings, a neuroscientist at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Visitors to the International Space Station face a dramatic shock to the system for a whole host of reasons, but one of the most striking is weightlessness. While the space station and its occupants are firmly in the grip of gravity – they are constantly falling around the planet – the body must recalibrate its senses to cope with the extreme environment. Images of the cosmonauts’ brains, taken before and after missions lasting on average 171 days, and again seven months later, confirmed that the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain redistributes itself in orbit, pushing the brain up towards the top of the skull. This also expands fluid-filled cavities called ventricles, which may be linked to a loss of sharpness in the cosmonauts’ vision, a condition called spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome or Sans. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 27453 - Posted: 09.05.2020

A line of elephants trundles across a dusty landscape in northern Botswana, ears flapping and trunks occasionally brushing the ground. As they pass a motion-activated camera hidden in low shrubbery, photos record the presence of each elephant. What's special about this group? It's only males. Female elephants are known to form tight family groups led by experienced matriarchs. Males were long assumed to be loners, because they leave their mother's herd when they reach 10 to 20 years of age. A new study shows that teenage males aren't anti-social after all. Younger male elephants were seen tagging along behind older males as they travel from place to place. It's more evidence in an emerging body of research that shows older males — like their female counterparts — play an important role in elephants' complex society. For the study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers analyzed photos of 1,264 sightings of male African savannah elephants travelling toward the Boteti River in 2017 and 2018. They found that younger males seldom travelled alone and older males most often led groups of mixed ages. "Mature male elephants often take a position at the front of the line when they are leading the group" to streams or seasonal grazing grounds, said Diana Reiss, director of the Animal Behavior and Conservation Program at Hunter College, who was not involved in the new study. "In human societies, grandparents are valued because they make really important contributions — helping with childcare and passing down knowledge gained over decades," she said. "We're now learning this pattern is also true for some other long-lived mammals, including dolphins, whales and elephants." Photos of 1,264 sightings of male African savannah elephants travelling toward the Boteti River in 2017 and 2018 showed that younger males seldom travelled alone and older males most often led groups of mixed ages. (Connie Allen) ©2020 CBC/Radio-Canada

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 27452 - Posted: 09.05.2020

For Armin Raznahan, publishing research on sex differences is a fraught proposition. Now chief of the section on developmental neurogenomics at the National Institutes of Health, Raznahan learned early that searching for dissimilarities between men’s and women’s brains can have unintended effects. “I got my fingers burned when I first started,” Raznahan says. As a PhD student, he published a study that examined structural differences between men’s and women’s brains and how they changed with age. “We observed a particular pattern, and we were very cautious about just describing it, as one should be, not jumping to functional interpretations,” he says. Despite his efforts, The Wall Street Journal soon published an article that cited his study in a defense of single-sex schooling, under the assumption that boys and girls must learn in distinct ways because their brain anatomy is slightly different. “That really threw me,” he says. “The experience has stayed with me.” Nevertheless, Raznahan has continued to study sex differences, in the hope that they could help us better understand neurodevelopmental disorders. He focuses on people with sex chromosome aneuploidy, or any variation other than XX (typically female) and XY (typically male). People with genetic variations (such as XXY) have an inflated risk of autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and anxiety, among other ailments. Raznahan’s hope is that uncovering if and how men’s and women’s brains differ—for example, in the sizes of regions or the strengths of the connections among them—could help us figure out why people with aneuploidy are more likely to experience neurodevelopmental and psychiatric concerns. Solving this puzzle could be a step toward unlocking the perplexing mystery of psychiatric illness. © 2020 Condé Nast

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Brain imaging
Link ID: 27451 - Posted: 09.05.2020