Most Recent Links

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

Links 81 - 100 of 28424

By Carl Zimmer In more than 1,500 animal species, from crickets and sea urchins to bottlenose dolphins and bonobos, scientists have observed sexual encounters between members of the same sex. Some researchers have proposed that this behavior has existed since the dawn of the animal kingdom. But the authors of a new study of thousands of mammalian species paint a different picture, arguing that same-sex sexual behavior evolved when mammals started living in social groups. Although the behavior does not produce offspring to carry on the animals’ genes, it could offer other evolutionary advantages, such as smoothing over conflicts, the researchers proposed. “It may contribute to establishing and maintaining positive social relationships,” said José Gómez, an evolutionary biologist at the Experimental Station of Arid Zones in Almería, Spain, and an author of the new study. But Dr. Gómez cautioned that the study, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, could not shed much light on sexual orientation in humans. “The type of same-sex sexual behavior we have used in our analysis is so different from that observed in humans that our study is unable to provide an explanation for its expression today,” he said. Previous studies of same-sex sexual behavior have typically involved careful observations of a single species, or a small group of them. Dr. Gómez and his colleagues instead looked for the big evolutionary patterns that gave rise to the behavior in some species but not others. The researchers surveyed the 6,649 species of living mammals that arose from reptilelike ancestors starting roughly 250 million years ago. Looking over the scientific literature, they noted which of them had been seen carrying out same-sex sexual behaviors — defined as anything from courtships and mating to forming long-term bonds. The researchers ended up with a list of 261 species, or about 4 percent of all mammalian species, that exhibited these same-sex behaviors. Males and females were about equally likely to be observed carrying out same-sex sexual behavior, the analysis showed. In some species, only one sex did. But in still others — including cheetahs and white-tailed deer — both males and females engaged in same-sex sexual behavior. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 28943 - Posted: 10.05.2023

Mara Gordon Right around the time Ozempic came out, I started to change the way I practice medicine. As the new class of weight-loss drug ushered in a highly medicalized era of Americans' obsession with being thin, I decided I was done with trying to get my patients to lose weight. Sometimes I call myself a "body-positive doctor," but that isn't it, exactly, because I don't expect all of my patients to love their bodies at all times. With my students, I call it practicing "weight-neutral medicine." I've found a great community of like-minded health care providers with the Health at Every Size movement, which promotes the idea that people can be healthy without focusing on weight loss. This change started for me, as many of my major realizations do, from reading. I read memoirs by fat authors like Roxane Gay, Lindy West, and Kiese Laymon, who wrote about the many ways they were made to feel terrible about their bodies, often at the doctor's office. It was unsettling to recognize myself in some of the encounters they described. I had told my own patients, dozens of times: "Your knee pain might get better if you just lost a few pounds." As if my patients hadn't thought of that already. As if they hadn't already tried. Reading these books also forced me to reckon with my own relationship to my weight and my experiences in health care. As a chubby teen, I remember a visceral unease before each appointment at the pediatrician's office, the fear I felt stepping on the scale. I remember the doctor who chided my mom for buying 2% milk, not skim. Then, when I lost weight in my 20s, appointments with the doctor were transformed. I could focus on the issues I wanted to discuss, rather than visits being dominated by talk of cutting calories. © 2023 npr

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 28942 - Posted: 10.05.2023

By Katherine Harmon Courage On the surface, sleep seems obvious, essential. It comes in long, languid, predictable waves, washing over humans and elephants, birds and fish and beetles. It comes bearing restoration, repair, learning. It follows an ancestral rhythm played deep within our cells, cued by the movement of our planet around our star. Perhaps we could believe this nice, simple fantasy, were it not for an irksome little eyeless fish. More than a decade ago, this fish—the Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus)—caught the eye of a graduate student at New York University. It was not new to science—it had been the subject of fascination for aquarists and researchers for decades, who marveled at its ghostly appearance and the splash of skin where its eyes should have been. But other quirks of the fish turned out to be even more mysterious. In Manhattan, the fish were far from their place of origin: a collection of unassuming caves strung through northeastern Mexico. Inside these caves, it is pitch dark, always cool, quiet, and rather boring. A seemingly perfect place to sleep. So Erik Duboué, the curious graduate student, decided to test if these fish showed any unusual sleep habits. One night in 2009, he made a 2 a.m. visit to the lab and noticed something strange about these sightless fish: They seemed wide awake. On further investigation, he found that despite their soporific native environs, they actually hardly sleep at all. In fact, he discovered, they doze just about three and a half hours out of each 24-hour period. And their bouts of sleep seem to come on entirely randomly and only in brief spurts. Curiously, these eyeless cavefish seem to have been flourishing on this quiescence interruptus for hundreds of thousands of years. “What you have is a fish that is completely healthy—it just doesn’t need to sleep,” says Duboué, who is now a molecular geneticist at Florida Atlantic University. Since then, Duboué and others have been studying the strange sleep of these wakeful creatures—prodding them in the lab to rouse them from their occasional slumber and plumbing their DNA. Combined with investigations into other animals, as well as some peculiar experiments that have sent humans to sleep in caves, scientists are uncovering new, closely guarded truths about sleep that have eluded us in our bright, rhythmic world. © 2023 NautilusNext Inc.

Keyword: Sleep; Evolution
Link ID: 28941 - Posted: 10.03.2023

Jon Hamilton A team of researchers has developed a new way to study how genes may cause autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders: by growing tiny brain-like structures in the lab and tweaking their DNA. These "assembloids," described in the journal Nature, could one day help researchers develop targeted treatments for autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. "This really accelerates our effort to try to understand the biology of psychiatric disorders," says Dr. Sergiu Pașca, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and an author of the study. The research suggests that someday "we'll be able to predict which pathways we can target to intervene" and prevent these disorders, adds Kristen Brennand, a professor of psychiatry at Yale who was not involved in the work. The study comes after decades of work identifying hundreds of genes that are associated with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. But scientists still don't know how problems with these genes alter the brain. "The challenge now is to figure out what they're actually doing, how disruptions in these genes are actually causing disease," Pașca says. "And that has been really difficult." For ethical reasons, scientists can't just edit a person's genes to see what happens. They can experiment on animal brains, but lab animals like rodents don't really develop anything that looks like autism or schizophrenia. So Pașca and a team of scientists tried a different approach, which they detailed in their new paper. The team did a series of experiments using tiny clumps of human brain cells called brain organoids. These clumps will grow for a year or more in the lab, gradually organizing their cells much the way a developing brain would. And by exposing an organoid to certain growth factors, scientists can coax it into resembling tissue found in brain areas including the cortex and hippocampus. © 2023 npr

Keyword: Epilepsy; Autism
Link ID: 28940 - Posted: 10.03.2023

By Stephanie Pappas If you’ve ever awoken from a vivid dream only to find that you can’t remember the details by the end of breakfast, you’re not alone. People forget most of the dreams they have—though it is possible to train yourself to remember more of them. Dreaming happens mostly (though not always exclusively) during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During this sleep stage, brain activity looks similar to that in a waking brain, with some very important differences. Key among them: during REM sleep, the areas of the brain that transfer memories into long-term storage—as well as the long-term storage areas themselves—are relatively deactivated, says Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard Medical School and author of the book The Committee of Sleep (Oneiroi Press, 2001). This may be a side effect of REM’s role in memory consolidation, according to a 2019 study on mice in the journal Science. Short-term memory areas are active during REM sleep, but those only hang on to memories for about 30 seconds. “You have to wake up from REM sleep, generally, to recall a dream,” Barrett says. If, instead, you pass into the next stage of sleep without rousing, that dream will never enter long-term memory. REM sleep occurs about every 90 minutes, and it lengthens as the night drags on. The first REM cycle of the night is typically just a few minutes long, but by the end of an eight-hour night of sleep, a person has typically been in the REM stage for a good 20 minutes, Barrett says. That’s why the strongest correlation between any life circumstance and your memory of dreams is the number of hours you’ve slept. If you sleep only six hours, you’re getting less than half of the dream time of an eight-hour night, she says. Those final hours of sleep are the most important for dreaming. And people tend to remember the last dream of the night—the one just before waking. © 2023 Scientific American

Keyword: Sleep; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28939 - Posted: 10.03.2023

Sara Reardon Scientists have identified two types of brain cell linked to a reduced risk of dementia in older people — even those who have brain abnormalities that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease1. The finding could eventually lead to new ways to protect these cells before they die. The results were published in Cell on 28 September. The most widely held theory about Alzheimer’s attributes the disease to a build-up of sticky amyloid proteins in the brain. This leads to clump-like ‘plaques’ of amyloid that slowly kill neurons and eventually destroy memory and cognitive ability. But not everyone who develops cognitive impairment late in life has amyloid clumps in their brain, and not everyone with amyloid accumulation develops Alzheimer’s. Neurobiologist Hansruedi Mathys at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania and neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai and computer scientist Manolis Kellis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and their colleagues decided to investigate this disconnect. To do so, they used data from a massive study that tracks cognitive and motor skills in thousands of people throughout old age. The researchers examined tissue samples from 427 brains from participants who had died. Some of those participants had dementia typical of advanced Alzheimer’s disease, some had mild cognitive impairment and the remainder had no sign of impairment. The researchers isolated cells from each participant’s prefrontal cortex, the region involved in higher brain function. To classify the cells, they sequenced all the active genes in each one. This allowed them to create an atlas of the brain showing where the different cell types occur. The scientists identified two key cell types that had a specific genetic marker. One had active genes coding for reelin, a protein associated with brain disorders such as schizophrenia, and the other had active genes that code for somatostatin, a hormone that regulates processes throughout the body. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Alzheimers; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 28938 - Posted: 09.29.2023

By Alice Callahan Q: I routinely drink three or four cups of coffee per day, but often wonder if this is too much. Should I consider cutting back? Coffee can be many things: a morning ritual, a cultural tradition, a productivity hack and even a health drink. Studies suggest, for instance, that coffee drinkers live longer and have lower risks of Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular conditions and some cancers. “Overall, coffee does more good than bad,” said Rob van Dam, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. But between your breakfast brew, lunchtime latte and afternoon espresso, is it possible to have too much? And if so, how can you tell? Coffee contains thousands of chemical compounds, many of which may influence health, said Marilyn Cornelis, an associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. But coffee is also the largest source of caffeine for people in the United States, and that’s where most of the risks associated with coffee consumption come from, she said. Having too much caffeine can cause a racing heart, jitteriness, anxiousness, nausea or trouble sleeping, said Jennifer Temple, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University at Buffalo. But “most people are kind of well tuned with their response to caffeine,” Dr. Cornelis said, and when they begin to experience even mild symptoms of having too much, they cut back. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28937 - Posted: 09.29.2023

By Anil Seth Earlier this month, the consciousness science community erupted into chaos. An open letter, signed by 124 researchers—some specializing in consciousness and others not—made the provocative claim that one of the most widely discussed theories in the field, Integrated Information Theory (IIT), should be considered “pseudoscience.” The uproar that followed sent consciousness social media into a doom spiral of accusation and recrimination, with the fallout covered in Nature, New Scientist, and elsewhere. Calling something pseudoscience is pretty much the strongest criticism one can make of a theory. It’s a move that should never be taken lightly, especially when more than 100 influential scientists and philosophers do it all at once. The open letter justified the charge primarily on the grounds that IIT has “commitments” to panpsychism—the idea that consciousness is fundamental and ubiquitous—and that the theory “as a whole” may not be empirically testable. A subsequent piece by one of the lead authors of the letter, Hakwan Lau, reframed the charge somewhat: that the claims made for IIT by its proponents and the wider media are not supported by empirical evidence. The brainchild of neuroscientist Giulio Tononi, IIT has been around for quite some time. Back in the late 1990s, Tononi published a paper in Science with the Nobel Laureate Gerald Edelman, linking consciousness to mathematical measures of complexity. This paper, which made a lasting impression on me, sowed the seeds of what later became IIT. Tononi published his first outline of the theory itself in 2004 and it has been evolving ever since, with the latest version—IIT 4.0—appearing earlier this year. The theory’s counterintuitive and deeply mathematical nature has always attracted controversy and criticism—including from myself and my colleagues—but it has certainly become prominent in consciousness science. A survey conducted at the main conference in the field—the annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness—found that nearly half of respondents considered it “definitely promising” or “probably promising,” and researchers in the field regularly identify it as one of four main theoretical approaches to consciousness. (The philosopher Tim Bayne did just this in our recent review paper on theories of consciousness for Nature Reviews Neuroscience.) © 2023 NautilusNext Inc.

Keyword: Consciousness; Attention
Link ID: 28936 - Posted: 09.29.2023

Rachel Hall University students are more at risk of depression and anxiety than their peers who go straight into work, according to a study, suggesting mental health may deteriorate due to the financial strain of higher education. The research is the first to find evidence of slightly higher levels of depression and anxiety among students, and challenges earlier work suggesting that the mental health of students is the same as or better than their peers. The first author of the study, Dr Tayla McCloud, a researcher in the psychiatry department at University College London (UCL), said the fact that the link between university and poor mental health had not been established in earlier studies could mean that it is due to “increased financial pressures and worries about achieving high results in the wider economic and social context”. As well as grappling with rising costs due to inflation, university students this year are facing unprecedented rent rises averaging at 8% and far outstripping the average maintenance loan in many cities. McCloud said she would have ordinarily expected university students to have better mental health as they tend to be from more privileged backgrounds, making the results “particularly concerning” and requiring more research to pinpoint the risks facing students. The lead author, Dr Gemma Lewis, associate professor at UCL’s school of psychiatry, said poorer mental health at university could have repercussions in later life. She said: “The first couple of years of higher education are a crucial time for development, so if we could improve the mental health of young people during this time it could have long-term benefits for their health and wellbeing, as well as for their educational achievement and longer term success.” © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 28935 - Posted: 09.29.2023

By Clay Risen Endel Tulving, whose insights into the structure of human memory and the way we recall the past revolutionized the field of cognitive psychology, died on Sept. 11 in Mississauga, Ontario. He was 96. His daughters, Linda Tulving and Elo Tulving-Blais, said his death, at an assisted living home, was caused by complications of a stroke. Until Dr. Tulving began his pathbreaking work in the 1960s, most cognitive psychologists were more interested in understanding how people learn things than in how they retain and recall them. When they did think about memory, they often depicted it as one giant cerebral warehouse, packed higgledy-piggledy, with only a vague conception of how we retrieved those items. This, they asserted, was the realm of “the mind,” an untestable, almost philosophical construct. Dr. Tulving, who spent most of his career at the University of Toronto, first made his name with a series of clever experiments and papers, demonstrating how the mind organizes memories and how it uses contextual cues to retrieve them. Forgetting, he posited, was less about information loss than it was about the lack of cues to retrieve it. He established his legacy with a chapter in the 1972 book “Organization of Memory,” which he edited with Wayne Donaldson. In that chapter, he argued for a taxonomy of memory types. He started with two: procedural memory, which is largely unconscious and involves things like how to walk or ride a bicycle, and declarative memory, which is conscious and discrete. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28934 - Posted: 09.29.2023

Max Kozlov Doctors measure blood pressure to track heart disease, and scrutinize insulin levels in people with diabetes. But when it comes to depression, clinicians must rely on people’s self-reported symptoms, making it difficult to objectively measure a treatment’s effects. Now, researchers have used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify a brain signal linked to recovery from depression in people treated with deep-brain stimulation (DBS), a technique that uses electrodes implanted into the brain to deliver electric pulses that alter neural activity. The team reported1 its results on ten people with severe depression, in Nature on 20 September. If replicated in a larger sample, these findings could represent a “game-changer in how we would be able to treat depression”, says Paul Holtzheimer, a neuroscientist at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire, who was not involved in the research. Efforts to treat depression with DBS have so far had limited success: two randomized-controlled trials2,3 failed to demonstrate a benefit compared with a placebo. One problem, says Helen Mayberg, a neurologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and a co-author of the Nature paper, is that doctors only have access to self-reported data to assess whether a person’s stimulation voltage needs adjustment. With self-reported data, clinicians have a difficult time distinguishing between normal, day-to-day mood fluctuations and pathological depression, says Todd Herrington, director of the DBS programme at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the research. To find a more objective measure of depression recovery, Mayberg and her colleagues developed a DBS device that includes sensors to measure brain activity, as well as the standard electrodes for brain stimulation. They implanted this device into the subcallosal cingulate cortex — an area of the brain that has a role in regulating emotional behaviour — in ten people with depression that resisted all forms of treatment. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Depression; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28932 - Posted: 09.27.2023

By Hannah Docter-Loeb Growing up, Julian Meeks knew what a life without a sense of smell could look like. He’d watched this grandfather navigate the condition, known as anosmia, observing that he didn’t perceive flavor and only enjoyed eating very salty or meaty foods. The experience influenced him, in part, to study chemosensation, which involves both smell and taste. Meeks, now a professor of neuroscience at the University of Rochester, told Undark that neither gets much attention compared to other senses: “Often, they’re thought of as second or third in order of importance.” The pandemic changed that, at least somewhat, after it left millions of people without a sense of smell, albeit some temporarily. In particular, more researchers started looking at a specific type of condition called acquired anosmia. Common causes include traumatic brain injury, or TBI, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or following a viral infection like Covid-19. Due to the pandemic, “many people found it scientifically interesting to focus their research on smell,” said Valentina Parma, the assistant director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research institute in Philadelphia. By one account, NIH funding of anosmia research nearly doubled between 2019 and 2021. But many of the research findings do not apply to those who have lacked the ability to smell since birth: congenital anosmics. And, despite the increased attention to smell loss more broadly, some researchers still face challenges in funding studies. In March 2023, for instance, Meeks received a peer review for a small grant, of less than $275,000, from the National Institutes of Health, with which he had planned to look into anosmia in the context of TBI. For Meeks, the response was frustrating. One expert reviewer in particular “didn’t really understand why there would be any need to establish a preclinical model of anosmia with TBI,” he said, noting that the reviewer also wrote that because anosmia is not a major health problem, the value of the research was low. The comment, Meeks added, was “quite discouraging.”

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28931 - Posted: 09.27.2023

by Maris Fessenden A new lightweight device with a wisplike tether can record neural activity while mice jump, run and explore their environment. The open-source recording system, which its creators call ONIX, overcomes several of the limitations of previous systems and enables the rodents to move more freely during recording. The behavior that ONIX allows brings to mind children running around in a playground, says Jakob Voigts, a researcher at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, who helped build and test the system. He and his colleagues describe their work in a preprint posted on bioRxiv earlier this month. To understand how the brain creates complex behaviors — such as those found in social interaction, sensory processing and cognition, which are commonly affected in autism — researchers observe brain signals as these behaviors unfold. Head-mounted devices enable researchers to eavesdrop on the electrical chatter between brain cells in mice, rats and primates. But as the smallest of these animal models, mice present some significant challenges. Current neural recording systems are bulky and heavy, making the animals carry up to a fifth of their body weight on their skulls. Predictably, this slows the mice down and tires them out. And most neural recording systems use a tether to relay signals from the mouse’s brain to a computer. But this tether twists and tangles as the mouse turns its head and body, exerting torque that the mouse can feel. Researchers must therefore periodically replace or untangle the tether. Longer tethers allow for more time to elapse between changeouts, but the interruptions still affect natural behavior. And battery-powered, wireless systems add too much weight. Altogether, these challenges inhibit natural behaviors and limit the amount of time that recording can take place, preventing scientists from studying, for example, the complete process of learning a new task. © 2023 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 28930 - Posted: 09.27.2023

Regina G. Barber Ever had an itch you can't scratch? Maybe it's out of reach, or your hands are full, or you don't want to damage your skin. It can be deeply frustrating. And even though the itch response, or what scientists refer to simply as "itch," has a purpose — it's one of our bodies' alert systems — it can also go very wrong. The importance of a regular itch Itch is evolution's way of drawing our attention to something on our skin that needs removing. This could be a stinging bug, a nesting parasite or an irritating plant (poison ivy, anyone?!). All these things urge us to scratch, which generally removes the threat and soothes the itch. "We know that itch can activate sensory neurons and the signal will be transmitted to the brain. When we scratch the skin, somehow other neural circuits will be activated. And these neural circuits will suppress the itch circuits and alleviate the itch sensation," says Qin Liu, a neuroscientist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Because the itch sensation has separate neural circuitry from temperature, pressure and pain, applying pressure or ice or scratching can relieve an itch. They're effective neural distractions. Oftentimes, when someone experiences hives or an insect bite, histamine is involved, a chemical released by our immune system that can contribute to itchiness. So relieving that itch only requires antihistamine medication. "But most other forms of itch, like atopic dermatitis, eczema, other conditions, they don't actually have a pathway for histamine as the itch mediator," says Kwatra. © 2023 npr

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 28929 - Posted: 09.27.2023

By Dan Falk More than 400 years ago, Galileo showed that many everyday phenomena—such as a ball rolling down an incline or a chandelier gently swinging from a church ceiling—obey precise mathematical laws. For this insight, he is often hailed as the founder of modern science. But Galileo recognized that not everything was amenable to a quantitative approach. Such things as colors, tastes and smells “are no more than mere names,” Galileo declared, for “they reside only in consciousness.” These qualities aren’t really out there in the world, he asserted, but exist only in the minds of creatures that perceive them. “Hence if the living creature were removed,” he wrote, “all these qualities would be wiped away and annihilated.” Since Galileo’s time the physical sciences have leaped forward, explaining the workings of the tiniest quarks to the largest galaxy clusters. But explaining things that reside “only in consciousness”—the red of a sunset, say, or the bitter taste of a lemon—has proven far more difficult. Neuroscientists have identified a number of neural correlates of consciousness—brain states associated with specific mental states—but have not explained how matter forms minds in the first place. As philosopher David Chalmers asked: “How does the water of the brain turn into the wine of consciousness?” He famously dubbed this quandary the “hard problem” of consciousness. Scholars recently gathered to debate the problem at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., during a two-day workshop focused on an idea known as panpsychism. The concept proposes that consciousness is a fundamental aspect of reality, like mass or electrical charge. The idea goes back to antiquity—Plato took it seriously—and has had some prominent supporters over the years, including psychologist William James and philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell. Lately it is seeing renewed interest, especially following the 2019 publication of philosopher Philip Goff’s book Galileo’s Error, which argues forcefully for the idea. Goff, of the University of Durham in England, organized the recent event along with Marist philosopher Andrei Buckareff, and it was funded through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. In a small lecture hall with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Hudson River, roughly two dozen scholars probed the possibility that perhaps it’s consciousness all the way down.

Keyword: Consciousness; Attention
Link ID: 28928 - Posted: 09.27.2023

By Meghan Rosen Maybe TikTok showed you people putting a little tape on their lips. Or maybe Instagram served you ads for sticky mouth strips. On social media and beyond, a trend called mouth taping is keeping people’s mouths shut at night — helping them breathe through their nose. Zack Ford, age 38, first tried the trend last month, after recovering from surgery for a deviated septum. Surgery improved his nasal breathing, but at night, he was still sucking air through his lips. In the mornings, Ford says, he’d wake up with a dry mouth and a scratchy throat. Ford brought up mouth taping during an appointment with his doctor, who didn’t think there was harm in trying. That evening, Ford placed a small square of surgical tape over the middle of his lips and settled into bed. It was the best night’s sleep he’s had in recent memory, he says. “When I woke up, I was like, ‘Holy shit this works!’” Mouth taping’s benefits have been touted for everything from the dental to the somnial. People may seal their mouths shut to prevent teeth grinding, bad breath, snoring and sleep apnea — or even to boost fitness or get a stronger jaw. But there’s little data yet to support such claims, dentist Jonathan Quigley wrote in a June 23 letter in the British Dental Journal. Before advising patients, Quigley, who works at a dental clinic in England, would like to see more studies and have a better understanding of the potential risks and benefits. Could taping the mouth improve people’s sleep? Some evidence suggests that mouth taping may have merit for helping treat at least one ailment: sleep apnea. Even here, though, the science is skimpy, and the methods are varied. From a thin strip on the lips to a black patch across the mouth, tape types and techniques can differ between people, brands and studies, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28927 - Posted: 09.27.2023

Perspective by Dan O'Brien I was 12 years old when I developed obsessive-compulsive disorder. My older brother had recently tried to kill himself by jumping from our attic window. I was the one who saw him first, as he limped around the side of the house, his back and hair matted with snow. Inside I found his suicide note and showed it to our mother. She collapsed in my arms, crying, and whispered, “This is a secret we must take to our graves.” Live well every day with tips and guidance on food, fitness and mental health, delivered to your inbox every Thursday. Before long, I found myself obsessing about any number of vague yet existential threats, and compulsively taking defensive action against them. I cycled through most of the classic OCD manifestations: avoiding cracks in the sidewalk, flipping light switches three, six, nine times (depending on my mood), checking and rechecking — and rechecking again — that our front and back doors were indeed locked. I had no idea what was happening to me. I simply knew with certainty that if I did not execute these actions correctly, my loved ones and I would suffer. And hypochondria, too: A book titled “Symptoms” lived in the tall bookcase behind the potted plant in the living room; one searched for one’s symptoms in an index up front, then proceeded to the indicated page where one would be provided with the most dire diagnosis imaginable. “Symptoms,” with its heft, its red-linen hardcover and tissue-thin paper, became my Bible. I touched things and people with trepidation and regret. I probed my body for swollen glands. My frequent handwashing desiccated my skin like a riverbed in drought, blood breaking through the cracks. I was forever certain that I was coming down with something catastrophic, like tuberculosis, AIDS, cancer. I was morally scrupulous, in the clinical sense, and prayed three times a day. (I wasn’t particularly religious; I was trying to cover all my bases.) Morning and evening prayer was easy, at home, but lunchtime at school could be tricky; I’d have to abscond to the boy’s room, or a shadowy, chain-link corner of the playground. I grew adept at praying without moving my lips in rote run-on sentences in which I begged God’s forgiveness for everything and anything I had done wrong in the past and would do wrong in the future.

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Link ID: 28926 - Posted: 09.27.2023

By Veronique Greenwood In the dappled sunlit waters of Caribbean mangrove forests, tiny box jellyfish bob in and out of the shade. Box jellies are distinguished from true jellyfish in part by their complex visual system — the grape-size predators have 24 eyes. But like other jellyfish, they are brainless, controlling their cube-shaped bodies with a distributed network of neurons. That network, it turns out, is more sophisticated than you might assume. On Friday, researchers published a report in the journal Current Biology indicating that the box jellyfish species Tripedalia cystophora have the ability to learn. Because box jellyfish diverged from our part of the animal kingdom long ago, understanding their cognitive abilities could help scientists trace the evolution of learning. The tricky part about studying learning in box jellies was finding an everyday behavior that scientists could train the creatures to perform in the lab. Anders Garm, a biologist at the University of Copenhagen and an author of the new paper, said his team decided to focus on a swift about-face that box jellies execute when they are about to hit a mangrove root. These roots rise through the water like black towers, while the water around them appears pale by comparison. But the contrast between the two can change from day to day, as silt clouds the water and makes it more difficult to tell how far away a root is. How do box jellies tell when they are getting too close? “The hypothesis was, they need to learn this,” Dr. Garm said. “When they come back to these habitats, they have to learn, how is today’s water quality? How is the contrast changing today?” In the lab, researchers produced images of alternating dark and light stripes, representing the mangrove roots and water, and used them to line the insides of buckets about six inches wide. When the stripes were a stark black and white, representing optimum water clarity, box jellies never got close to the bucket walls. With less contrast between the stripes, however, box jellies immediately began to run into them. This was the scientists’ chance to see if they would learn. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Evolution
Link ID: 28925 - Posted: 09.23.2023

By Laura Sanders On a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon in Manhattan, time froze for Jon Nelson. He stood on the sidewalk and said good-bye to his three kids, whose grandfather had come into the city from Long Island to pick them up. Like any parent, Jon is deeply attuned to his children’s quirks. His oldest? Sometimes quiet but bitingly funny. His middle kid? Rates dad a 10 out of 10 on the embarrassment scale and doesn’t need a hug. His 10-year-old son, the baby of the family, is the emotional one. “My youngest son would climb back up into my wife’s womb if he could,” Jon says. “He’s that kid.” An unexpected parade had snarled traffic, so Jon parked illegally along a yellow curb on 36th Street, near where his father-in-law was waiting. It was time to go. His youngest gave the last hug. “He looked up, scared and sad,” Jon says, and asked, “Dad, am I going to see you again?” That question stopped the clock. “I was like, ‘Oh man,’” Jon says. “It was one of those moments where I was living it through his eyes. And I got scared for the first time.” Until that good-bye, Jon hadn’t wanted to live. For years, he had a constant yearning to die — he talks about it like it was an addiction — as he fought deep, debilitating depression. But his son’s question pierced through that heaviness and reached something inside him. “That was the first time I really thought about it. I was like, ‘I kind of hope I don’t die.’ I hadn’t had that feeling in so long.” That hug happened around 5 p.m. on August 21, 2022. Twelve hours later, Jon was wheeled into a surgical suite. There, at Mount Sinai’s hospital just southwest of Central Park, surgery team members screwed Jon’s head into a frame to hold it still. Then they numbed him and drilled two small holes through the top of his skull, one on each side. Through each hole, a surgeon plunged a long, thin wire dotted at the end with electrodes deep into his brain. The wiring, threaded under his skin, snaked around the outside of Jon’s skull and sank down behind his ear. From there, a wire wrapped around to the front, meeting a battery-powered control box that surgeons implanted in his chest, just below his collarbone. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 28924 - Posted: 09.23.2023

By Till Hein Human couples could learn a lot from seahorses. The marine marvels spend only quality time together. They flirt, swim together, and mate. The rest of time they go their own way, drifting in ocean currents, leisurely eating their fill. But they do look forward to getting together again. Right after sunrise, male and female seahorses approach one another, gently rubbing their noses together and then begin to circle each other. Many of them make seductive clicking noises. The partners gracefully rock back and forth, as though to the beat of underwater music. They dance and cuddle together dreamily, as though they’ve lost track of time. However, love can be dangerous for seahorses. During partner dancing, hormones are released that can make their camouflage fade. This causes changes in color, so their bodies begin to glow, and the contrasts in the patterns of their skin become more pronounced. Researchers hypothesize this is how seahorses signal their willingness to mate. The partner dances also serve as a means of seduction. Before mating, courtship can take many hours. Finally, the female signals that she’s ready. She swims up toward the water surface, pointing her snout toward the sky, and stretches her body out straight as a stick—a pose that is irresistible to the male. The stallion of the sea presses his chin against his chest and makes his prehensile tail open and close like a switchblade. This enables him to pump water into his brood pouch to show his beloved mare of the sea how roomy it is. Soon afterward, the mare and stallion of the sea snuggle up together closely and let themselves drift upward. They press their bodies together so that their snouts and abdomens are touching. On account of the curves in their body posture, the space between them looks like the shape of a heart. Then, something amazing takes place. A tubular rod appears in the middle of the female seahorse’s belly, which looks a little like a penis, the so-called ovipositor. At the climax of the love scene, both partners lift their heads as though in ecstasy, curving their backs, and the female seahorse transfers her eggs into the male’s brood pouch, while her partner fertilizes them with his sperm. © 2023 NautilusNext Inc., All rights reserved.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 28923 - Posted: 09.23.2023