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By Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Serge F. Kovaleski The steep rise in the number of people suffering opioid addiction has helped spawn the widespread use of another substance: kratom, a green powdered herbal supplement that is widely available and virtually unregulated. Derived from the leaves of a tree native to Southeast Asia and sold in the United States online and in bodegas and head shops, kratom has long been used as a mood booster, energy supplement and pain reliever. It is also increasingly being used by those who swear by it as a curb for opioid addiction. Some veterans also say it helps control symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Several million Americans are now believed to use kratom. One is Andrew Turner, whose PTSD, herniated discs and movement problems affecting his face and neck were so severe after multiple deployments with the Navy that he took as many as 20 prescription medications, including opioids, daily. “I was on the path to suicide, and losing hope,” Mr. Turner said. After he began drinking kratom tea, the pain and dread diminished, he said. “It was a night-and-day difference.” But the authorities warn that kratom can be dangerous. Reported side effects include seizures, hallucinations and symptoms of psychosis, and there have been calls from inside the Trump administration to curb its use. A new government review links kratom to nearly 100 overdose deaths. “There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use,” Scott Gottlieb, until recently the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said last year. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26154 - Posted: 04.19.2019

By Gina Kolata In a study that raises profound questions about the line between life and death, researchers have restored some cellular activity to brains removed from slaughtered pigs. The brains did not regain anything resembling consciousness: There were no signs indicating coordinated electrical signaling, necessary for higher functions like awareness and intelligence. But in an experimental treatment, blood vessels in the pigs’ brains began functioning, flowing with a blood substitute, and certain brain cells regained metabolic activity, even responding to drugs. When the researchers tested slices of treated brain tissue, they discovered electrical activity in some neurons. The work is very preliminary and has no immediate implications for treatment of brain injuries in humans. But the idea that parts of the brain may be recoverable after death, as conventionally defined, contradicts everything medical science believes about the organ and poses metaphysical riddles. “We had clear lines between ‘this is alive’ and ‘this is dead,’” said Nita A. Farahany, a bioethicist and law professor at Duke University. “How do we now think about this middle category of ‘partly alive’? We didn’t think it could exist.” For decades, doctors and grieving family members have wondered if it might ever be possible to restore function to a person who suffered extensive brain injury because of a severe stroke or heart attack. Were these brains really beyond salvage? The new research confirms how little we know about the injured brain and so-called brain death. Bioethicists like Dr. Farahany were stunned and intrigued by the findings, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. “This is wild,” said Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania. “If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 26153 - Posted: 04.18.2019

Laura Sanders Scientists have restored cellular activity to pig brains hours after the animals’ death — an unprecedented feat. This revival, achieved with a sophisticated system of artificial fluid, took place four hours after the pigs’ demise at a slaughterhouse. “This is a huge breakthrough,” says ethicist and legal scholar Nita Farahany of Duke University, who wasn’t involved in the research. “It fundamentally challenges existing beliefs in neuroscience. The idea of the irreversibility of loss of brain function clearly isn’t true.” The results, reported April 17 in Nature, may lead to better treatments for brain damage caused by stroke or other injuries that starve brain tissue of oxygen. The achievement also raises significant ethical puzzles about research on brains that are not alive, but not completely dead either. In the study, the brains showed no signs of the widespread neural activity thought to be required for consciousness. But individual nerve cells were still firing. “There’s this gray zone between dead animals and living animals,” says Farahany, who coauthored a perspective piece in Nature. The experiments were conducted on pigs that had been killed in a food processing plant. These animals were destined to become pork. “No animals died for this study,” the authors of the new work write in their paper. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 26152 - Posted: 04.18.2019

Nita A. Farahany, Henry T. Greely and Charles M. Giattino. Scientists have restored and preserved some cellular activities and structures in the brains of pigs that had been decapitated for food production four hours before. The researchers saw circulation in major arteries and small blood vessels, metabolism and responsiveness to drugs at the cellular level and even spontaneous synaptic activity in neurons, among other things. The team formulated a unique solution and circulated it through the isolated brains using a network of pumps and filters called BrainEx. The solution was cell-free, did not coagulate and contained a haemoglobin-based oxygen carrier and a wide range of pharmacological agents. The remarkable study, published in this week’s Nature1, offers the promise of an animal or even human whole-brain model in which many cellular functions are intact. At present, cells from animal and human brains can be sustained in culture for weeks, but only so much can be gleaned from isolated cells. Tissue slices can provide snapshots of local structural organization, yet they are woefully inadequate for questions about function and global connectivity, because much of the 3D structure is lost during tissue preparation2. The work also raises a host of ethical issues. There was no evidence of any global electrical activity — the kind of higher-order brain functioning associated with consciousness. Nor was there any sign of the capacity to perceive the environment and experience sensations. Even so, because of the possibilities it opens up, the BrainEx study highlights potential limitations in the current regulations for animals used in research. Most fundamentally, in our view, it throws into question long-standing assumptions about what makes an animal — or a human — alive. © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 26151 - Posted: 04.18.2019

By Susan Gubar After the births of my babies in the ’70s, the umbilical cord connecting them to me was cut and trashed. But these days the blood inside can be preserved in a bank. It contains stem cells with the potential to save the lives of patients with leukemia, lymphoma or sickle cell disease. Stem cell treatments have been in the news lately because some companies are accused of selling unproven treatments that may actually harm patients. Earlier this month, the New York attorney general filed suit against one such company, claiming it knowingly performed rogue procedures on patients with a wide range of medical conditions. But there are legitimate lifesaving uses of cord blood that should not be tainted by these sham companies. Liars and thieves must not be allowed to detract from meticulous scientific research that has made umbilical cord blood mystic in its regenerative powers. A reader who is pregnant and whose first child had undergone successful leukemia treatments asked me about cord blood banking recently. Her obstetrician had suggested she bank her new baby’s cord blood as an insurance policy in case her first child suffered a recurrence. Cord blood transplants can be used to reconstitute a patient’s immune system. Blood from a sibling stands a good chance of being a suitable match for a transplant. Two impediments may influence parents against the risk-free practice of banking cord blood. First, some obstetricians believe that a brief wait before the clamping of an umbilical cord can enhance a child’s well-being, but delayed clamping compromises the volume and quality of collected cord blood cells. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stem Cells
Link ID: 26150 - Posted: 04.18.2019

By Kelly Servick The machines that scan our brains are usually monstrous contraptions, locked away in high-end research centers. But smaller, cheaper technologies may soon enter the field, like an MRI scanner built for the battlefield and a lightweight, wearable magnetoencephalography system that records magnetic fields generated by the brains of people in motion. If such devices become widespread, they’ll raise new ethical questions, says Francis Shen, a law professor and neuroethicist at the University of Minnesota (UMN) in Minneapolis and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. How should researchers share results with the far-flung populations they may soon be able to study? Could direct-to-consumer neuroimaging become an industry alongside personal genetic testing? With a grant from the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, Shen has teamed up with three UMN colleagues, including MRI physicist Michael Garwood, to start a conversation about the ethical implications of portable neuroimaging. Garwood is part of a multicenter team building an MRI machine powerful enough to be used in medical diagnostic tests that weighs just 400 kilograms—less than a tenth of traditional scanners. He expects the new scanner to take its first images in 3 years. And if market demand can bring down the cost of a key component, he thinks it could eventually cost $200,000 or less, versus millions of dollars for current scanners. Shen and Garwood discussed the ethical issues at play with Science, after presenting their work at a meeting of BRAIN Initiative investigators last week in Washington, D.C. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 26149 - Posted: 04.17.2019

By Sam Rose You’ve probably heard about microdosing, the “productivity hack” popular among Silicon Valley engineers and business leaders. Microdosers take regular small doses of LSD or magic mushrooms. At these doses, they don’t experience mind-bending, hallucinatory trips, but they say they get a jolt in creativity and focus that can elevate work performance, help relationships, and generally improve a stressful and demanding daily life. If its proponents are to be believed, microdosing offers the cure for an era dominated by digital distractions and existential anxiety—a cup of coffee with a little Tony Robbins stirred in. So far, though, it’s been impossible to separate truth from hype. That’s because, until recently, microdoses haven’t been tested in placebo-controlled trials. Late last year, the first placebo-controlled microdose trial was published. The study concluded that microdoses of LSD appreciably altered subjects’ sense of time, allowing them to more accurately reproduce lapsed spans of time. While it doesn’t prove that microdoses act as a novel cognitive enhancer, the study starts to piece together a compelling story on how LSD alters the brain’s perceptive and cognitive systems in a way that could lead to more creativity and focus. The idea behind microdosing traces its roots back decades. In the 1950s, a handful of psychedelic therapists at a mental health facility in Saskatchewan wanted to help alcoholics get clean. They guided the patients through a high dose, ego-dissolving, LSD experience. When they came out the other side, over half of the patients reported complete recovery from alcoholism. The Canadian government was intrigued and ordered more rigorous trials, this time with placebo controls, and without the experienced “trip guides” offering suggestions on what patients should feel. These trials were a bust. In the fall-out, many viewed psychedelic therapy as more shamanism than science. The mindset of the user and suggestion from the therapist (termed “set and setting” to LSD proponents) are just as important as the drug itself. In other words, LSD’s effects had as much to do with goings on outside the brain as inside it. To LSD proponents, though, this was part of how it worked. “Set and setting” guard against a bad trip (with large doses), and give the user an idea of what they should experience. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26148 - Posted: 04.17.2019

Nicola Davis Philandering men have unfaithfulness written all over their faces, according to research that suggests men and women are able to spot cheating chaps just by looking at them. Experts found men with more “masculine” faces were more likely to be thought to be unfaithful, and such men also self-reported more cheating or “poaching” of other men’s partners. However, they stressed the results were modest, and said people should be wary of deciding whether someone is a love rat based on impressions of facial features alone. The team said being suspicious of men with masculine features – such as a strong browridge, strong jaw and thinner lips – might have offered an evolutionary advantage, allowing heterosexual women to spot a flaky partner and men to recognise a potential rival who might seduce their partner or leave them raising someone else’s child. Previous research has suggested women are able to spot unfaithful men from their mugshot, with the masculinity of the man’s face a key factor in the judgment, while weaker effects have been found for men weighing up images of women. However, it was unclear whether people could also spot a philanderer of the same sex. Writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science, researchers described how they asked heterosexual white participants to judge the facial features of 189 white adults who had been photographed and taken part in previous research. Overall, 293 men and 472 women rated pictures of women, while 299 men and 452 women judged images of men, rating on a scale of one to 10 how likely they thought each person was to be unfaithful. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 26147 - Posted: 04.17.2019

By James Gallagher Health and science correspondent, BBC News Widely held myths about sleep are damaging our health and our mood, as well as shortening our lives, say researchers. A team at New York University trawled the internet to find the most common claims about a good night's kip. Then, in a study published in the journal Sleep Health, they matched the claims to the best scientific evidence. They hope that dispelling sleep myths will improve people's physical and mental health and well-being. So, how many are you guilty of? Myth 1 - You can cope on less than five hours sleep This is the myth that just won't go away. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously had a brief four hours a night. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made similar claims, and swapping hours in bed for extra time in the office is not uncommon in tales of business or entrepreneurial success. Yet the researchers said the belief that less than five hours shut-eye was healthy, was one of the most damaging myths to health. "We have extensive evidence to show sleeping five hours or less consistently, increases your risk greatly for adverse health consequences," said researcher Dr Rebecca Robbins. These included cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and shorter life expectancy. Instead, she recommends everyone should aim for a consistent seven to eight hours of sleep a night. Thatcher: Can people get by on four hours' sleep? Myth 2 - Alcohol before bed boosts your sleep The relaxing nightcap is a myth, says the team, whether it's a glass of wine, a dram of whisky or a bottle of beer. © 2019 BBC

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26146 - Posted: 04.16.2019

Alison Abbott In January 1973, Science published an article called ‘On being sane in insane places’. The author, psychologist David Rosenhan, described how he and seven other healthy people had reported themselves to a dozen psychiatric hospitals, claiming to hear voices uttering odd words such as ‘thud’ or ‘hollow’ — a symptom never reported in the clinical literature. Each person was diagnosed with either schizophrenia or manic-depressive psychosis, and admitted; once inside, they stopped the performance. They were released after an average of 19 days with diagnoses of ‘schizophrenia in remission’ (D. L. Rosenhan Science 179, 250–258; 1973). One research and teaching hospital, hearing about the study, declared that its own staff could never be so deceived. It challenged Rosenhan to send it pseudopatients. He agreed, but never did. Nonetheless, the hospital claimed to have identified 41 of them. Psychiatric hospitals, it seemed, could recognize neither healthy people nor those with mental illnesses. Rosenhan’s study exemplifies much of what went wrong in twentieth-century psychiatry, as biologists, psychoanalysts and sociologists struggled for supremacy. Science historian Anne Harrington takes us through the painful history of that struggle in the enthralling Mind Fixers, which focuses particularly on the United States. © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Depression
Link ID: 26145 - Posted: 04.16.2019

By C. Claiborne Ray Q. Our dog escaped from the car. How did he find his way home the next day from nearly three miles away? A. What took so long? Dogs are well known for their ability to backtrack to a beloved home — or person. Most animal behavior experts attribute their navigating ability largely to a hypersensitive sense of smell. Three miles is not a great distance, compared with some of the epic homeward journeys that dogs have occasionally made, and a three-mile radius would be rich in odor guideposts. The theory is that a dog creates a map of scents from odiferous sites like a food store or fertilized garden — or even just a hint of an owner’s scent in the ground or air. Dogs are especially sensitive to the odor of the humans in their lives. One study used MRI imaging to study activity in the caudate nucleus, a brain area associated with the expectation of a reward. Dogs of varying breeds were exposed to their own scent or that of a familiar dog, a strange dog, a strange human or a familiar human. By far the strongest activation followed exposure to the scent of a familiar person. Another navigational clue may come from dogs’ suspected sensitivity to differences in magnetic orientation. A study of dozens of dogs found that they usually preferred to defecate with their bodies aligned in a north-south orientation, a preference that disappeared when the magnetic field was disturbed. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 26144 - Posted: 04.16.2019

Maanvi Singh People coping with psychological trauma have a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a large-scale study finds. Researchers used national health registers to identify 136,637 Swedish patients with no history of cardiovascular disease who were diagnosed with a stress-related disorder — a cluster of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, triggered by acute trauma — from 1987 to 2013. The team compared each of these patients with siblings and with unrelated people of the same age and sex, both of whom had a clear bill of mental and heart health. In the patients’ first year after being diagnosed, those with a stress-related disorder had a 64 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than their siblings without a mental health diagnosis, and a 70 percent higher risk than unrelated patients, the scientists report. The cardiovascular disease accounted for included heart failure, arrhythmia, stroke, hypertension and heart attack. The study found that those with a stress-related disorder were most vulnerable in the year following their mental health diagnosis: They had four times the relative risk of heart failure compared with their siblings. After one year, the patients with a stress diagnosis had a 29 percent higher risk for all cardiovascular disease than their siblings. Over the course of 27 years, 10.5 percent of patients with stress-related disorders developed cardiovascular disease — compared with 8.4 percent of the sibling group and 6.9 percent of the general population group. The study, published April 10 in the British Medical Journal, builds on a growing body of research linking mental health with heart disease. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26143 - Posted: 04.16.2019

By Benedict Carey More than 3 million Americans live with disabling brain injuries. The vast majority of these individuals are lost to the medical system soon after their initial treatment, to be cared for by family or to fend for themselves, managing fatigue, attention and concentration problems with little hope of improvement. On Saturday, a team of scientists reported a glimmer of hope. Using an implant that stimulates activity in key areas of the brain, they restored near-normal levels of brain function to a middle-aged woman who was severely injured in a car accident 18 years ago. Experts said the woman was a test case, and that it was far from clear whether the procedure would prompt improvements for others like her. That group includes an estimated 3 million to 5 million people, many of them veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with disabilities related to traumatic brain injuries. “This is a pilot study,” said Dr. Steven R. Flanagan, the chairman of the department of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Langone Health, who was not part of the research team. “And we certainly cannot generalize from it. But I think it’s a very promising start, and there is certainly more to come in this work.” The woman, now in her early 40s, was a student when the accident occurred. She soon recovered sufficiently to live independently. But she suffered from persistent fatigue and could not read or concentrate for long, leaving her unable to hold a competitive job, socialize much, or resume her studies. “Her life has changed,” said Dr. Nicholas Schiff, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine and a member of the study team. “She is much less fatigued, and she’s now reading novels. The next patient might not do as well. But we want keep going to see what happens.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26142 - Posted: 04.15.2019

by Jesse Noakes In August 2016 I went to New York for the first time. On the second evening, as the sun slipped behind the building across the street, I was sitting on a long couch on the top floor of an old church. All around me instruments were scattered on the floor – singing bowls, tuning forks, rainsticks, Tibetan bells. At the foot of a wall carpeted completely in moss, dripping like the jungle in the baking heat, was a large bronze gong. On the table in front of me two small ceramic bowls contained a capsule of 125mg of pure MDMA and a chilli guacamole with three grams of powdered magic mushrooms stirred through it. I eyed them nervously. I was terrified that I was going to lose my mind but I was more scared that nothing would happen at all, that I was too broken for even this radical treatment. I’d left Australia to take psychedelics with a therapist. Almost a decade of regular talk therapies for depression had done little to explain why I still felt so numb, trapped and terrified. A few months earlier I’d tracked down a guy online who said that, while it wasn’t a magic bullet, he might have something that would help. I can’t name him because it’s still completely illegal. He was sitting across from me and after I’d swallowed the contents of both bowls he handed me a padded eye mask and suggested I lie back on the couch. I heard him move across the room in the steamy darkness as I tried to relax and focus on my breathing. Moments later I heard the first strange notes from the gong. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 26141 - Posted: 04.15.2019

/ By Dan Falk It’s been 30 years since Bobby McFerrin urged us, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” But it’s not so easy, is it? In the modern world, there’s plenty that you could worry about — but what should you worry about? If you worry about everything, you end up paralyzed with fear; if, on the other hand, you never worry about anything, you’re likely to end up falling victim to circumstances that you could have prevented. We should only worry about things that are likely to happen, and which are likely to cause serious harm if they do happen — and which you can take reasonable measures to prevent from happening. Lise Johnson and Eric Chudler have written a new book to help you navigate the worrysphere. Johnson is a biomedical engineer and a science writer and Chudler is a neuroscientist, and together they lead us on a tour of 58 things that one might potentially worry about, and try to assess how much those things are actually worth worrying about. The authors shine a spotlight on everything from caffeine, fluoride, and the Ebola virus to bees, snakes, public restrooms, and cruise ships. If it were only a list, I suspect they’d have had trouble getting a book deal — but fortunately it’s more than that. The authors have found a nifty way of presenting the variables in graphic form (what they call a “worry index”), displaying each worry-item as a circle on a Cartesian graph: Likelihood is plotted on the x-axis, and preventability on the y-axis; meanwhile, the size of the circle reflects the consequences, or the severity, of the issue. For example, a flesh-eating infection gets a pretty big circle — the disease can be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, your chances of getting it are very low, so the circle is placed on the far left-hand-side of the graph; and it’s also highly preventable (with good hygiene and prompt medical treatment), so the circle sits high up on the y-axis. In contrast, although “medical errors” get a similar-sized circle, it falls in the lower-right quadrant: Doctors and nurses make mistakes more often than we might imagine, and there’s not much you can do to prevent such errors from happening. Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Stress; Emotions
Link ID: 26140 - Posted: 04.15.2019

By Denise Gellene Paul Greengard, an American neuroscientist whose 15-year quest to understand how brain cells communicate provided new insights into psychological diseases and earned him a Nobel Prize, and who used his entire $400,000 award to create an academic prize in memory of the mother he never knew, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 93. His death was confirmed by Rockefeller University, where he had worked since 1983. Dr. Greengard received the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Dr. Arvid Carlsson of Sweden and Dr. Eric R. Kandel of the United States for independent discoveries related to the ways brain cells relay messages about movement, memory and mental states. Their discoveries offered new insights into disorders linked to errors in cell communication, such as Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and drug addiction. Dr. Greengard’s research described how cells react to dopamine, an important chemical messenger in the brain. His work provided the underlying science for many antipsychotic drugs, which modulate the strength of chemical signals in the brain. “Our work shows the details of how dopamine produces these effects — in other words, what’s wrong in these diseases and what can be done to correct them,” Dr. Greengard said. Dr. Greengard’s research extended from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s. For much of the period, his work was ignored. A majority of biologists believed brain cells communicated through the use of electrical signals. To them, the only thing that mattered was whether a cell fired off a signal. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 26139 - Posted: 04.15.2019

Kate Kellaway Alice Robb is an American science journalist who has written for the Washington Post and the New Republic. Her new book, Why We Dream, encourages us to rethink the importance of dreams and to become dream interpreters ourselves. Writing a book about dreams turned you into a “magnet for confessions”. Why are people compelled to talk about dreams? It is a natural impulse because dreams are emotional, affect moods, feel profound. What is unusual is that we live in a culture where we’re expected to forget our dreams. We have this cliche that it is boring to talk about dreams. Between 1970 and 2000 you note that no research about dreaming was published in the top US journal, Science. Is that because it was looked down upon as a topic or the technical challenges involved in studying it? For most of the 20th century, researchers who wanted to study dreams had to rely on people’s descriptions of them – not the most perfect form of evidence. It didn’t help that psychologists were trying very hard to have their discipline seen as a “real” science; they were trying to distance themselves from Freud, who had put dreams at the centre of psychoanalysis. I think this is a case of technological advances enabling a shift in attitude. Once scientists saw that it was possible to study dreams with neuroimaging, they were able to start asking questions about what’s going on in the brain when we dream. There were a couple of big breakthroughs in the 1990s and early 2000s that helped make dreams a valid topic of scientific inquiry. Neuroscientist Matt Wilson discovered that rats’ brains kept working as they slept, replaying a maze they had run through during the day. And Robert Stickgold, a psychiatrist at Harvard, found that people who played Tetris in the lab would dream of the game at night. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 26138 - Posted: 04.15.2019

In a study of healthy volunteers, National Institutes of Health researchers found that our brains may solidify the memories of new skills we just practiced a few seconds earlier by taking a short rest. The results highlight the critically important role rest may play in learning. “Everyone thinks you need to ‘practice, practice, practice’ when learning something new. Instead, we found that resting, early and often, may be just as critical to learning as practice,” said Leonardo G. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator at NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and a senior author of the paper published in the journal Current Biology. “Our ultimate hope is that the results of our experiments will help patients recover from the paralyzing effects caused by strokes and other neurological injuries by informing the strategies they use to ‘relearn’ lost skills.” The study was led by Marlene Bönstrup, M.D., a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Cohen’s lab. Like many scientists, she held the general belief that our brains needed long periods of rest, such as a good night’s sleep, to strengthen the memories formed while practicing a newly learned skill. But after looking at brain waves recorded from healthy volunteers in learning and memory experiments at the NIH Clinical Center, she started to question the idea. The waves were recorded from right-handed volunteers with a highly sensitive scanning technique called magnetoencephalography. The subjects sat in a chair facing a computer screen and under a long cone-shaped brain scanning cap. The experiment began when they were shown a series of numbers on a screen and asked to type the numbers as many times as possible with their left hands for 10 seconds; take a 10 second break; and then repeat this trial cycle of alternating practice and rest 35 more times. This strategy is typically used to reduce any complications that could arise from fatigue or other factors.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Brain imaging
Link ID: 26137 - Posted: 04.13.2019

Cindy Buckmaster Wasteful, outdated, and unnecessary. These are three of the most common claims voiced by animal rights groups about the use of animals in research. Are they accurate? Not in the least. Countless published papers and medical advancements demonstrate how animal studies lead to medical progress. But despite this reality, public opinion is no longer solidly behind science. Pew Research Center polling data from 2018 showed that only 47 percent of Americans are in favor of the use of animals in scientific research. This compares to 52 percent in 2009. Another recent poll, this time from Gallup, showed slightly more encouraging results. In 2018, 54 percent of respondents said medical testing in animals is morally acceptable. That’s down from 62 percent in 2004. Based on these sobering statistics, it’s abundantly clear that the science community needs to try a new communications approach. For several decades, most research organizations have shied away from sharing anything but the most minimal details about the role of animals in advancing human and veterinary medicine. This decision was historically based in part on security concerns. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a small group of animal extremists targeted individual scientists with harassment, home protests, and even firebombs and arson attacks. Thankfully, those days appear to be behind us. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 26136 - Posted: 04.13.2019

Robert J King Ph.D. Saying that people deserve to be treated decently is not a factual claim. You can’t look it up in a textbook, and no amount of brain-scanning is going to reveal why it’s true. People have been either succeeding (or more often failing) to treat each other kindly, fairly, and honorably, since before there was science, since before there were people really. And—they will continue to try (and often fail) far into the future, whatever science reveals about our natures. If I am trying to help a child understand why stealing from another child was wrong, or that they should share the sandpit, or apologize to that other annoying (and now crying) kid…yes…I know he took your dolly, but you still can’t hit him with that Lego dinosaur… Well, I don’t get out my copy of Eric Kandel's Principles of Neural Science, and start pointing meaningfully to the diagram of Brodmann area 11 in the prefrontal cortex. This seems blindingly obvious. However, the corollary: That you don’t need neurological backup to argue that you should treat people fairly, seems lost on writers like Cordelia Fine and Gina Rippon. Both are trying to argue that humans are neurological hermaphrodites, as if somehow admitting any sex differences in brains would mandate the unfair treatment of women. Gina Rippon is back to “debunk” neuroscience with her latest, The Gendered Brain: The New Neuroscience That Shatters The Myth Of The Female Brain. It is tempting to rebunk these debunkings but, if I am right in my guess about what is going on here, no amount of factual piling on is going to help. In fact—it may make things worse, because it’s going to convince writers like Fine and Rippon that some hideous conspiracy is occurring and, like some horrible feminist version of Alex Jones, that the whole of brain science is fake news. Let’s stop things before they get out of hand. © 2019 Sussex Publishers, LLC

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 26135 - Posted: 04.13.2019