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By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Do brains trump brawn? A remarkable new study of how the human body prioritizes its inner workings found that if you intensely think at the same time as you intensely exercise, your performance in both thinking and moving can worsen. But your muscles’ performance will decline much more than your brain’s will, the study found. The results raise interesting questions about the roles that our body’s wide-ranging abilities may have played in the evolution of humans and also whether a hard workout is the ideal time to be cogitating. Compared to almost all other animals, we humans have disproportionately large brains for our size. Our supersized cranial contents probably provided an advantage during our evolution as a species. Smart creatures presumably could have outwitted predators and outmaneuvered prey, keeping themselves fed, uneaten and winners in the biological sweepstakes to pass on their genes. But most other species eschewed developing similarly outsized brains during evolution, because large brains carry a hefty metabolic cost. Brains are extraordinarily hungry organs, requiring, ounce for ounce, more calories to sustain their operations than almost any other tissue, and these caloric demands rise when the brain is hard at work. Thinking demands considerable bodily fuel. In order to feed and maintain these large brains, early humans’ bodies had to make certain trade-offs, most evolutionary biologists agree. Our digestive systems shrank during evolution, for one thing, since food processing is also metabolically ravenous. But whether a similar trade-off occurred with our muscles has remained in doubt. Muscles potentially provided another route to survival during our species’ early days. With sufficient brawn, animals, including people, could physically overpower prey and sprint from danger. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24243 - Posted: 10.26.2017

Aimee Cunningham Vaping e-cigarettes with high amounts of nicotine appears to impact how often and how heavily teens smoke and vape in the future, a new study finds. In 2016, an estimated 11 percent of U.S. high school students used e-cigarettes. Past research has found that that teen vaping can lead to smoking (SN: 9/19/15, p. 14). The new study, published online October 23 in JAMA Pediatrics, is the first look at whether vaping higher amounts of nicotine is associated with more frequent and more intense vaping and cigarette use in the future. Researchers at the University of Southern California surveyed 181 10th-graders from 10 high schools in the Los Angeles area who had reported vaping in the previous 30 days, then followed up six months later, when the students were 11th-graders. The teens answered questions about how much and how often they had smoked and vaped in the past 30 days and about the amount of nicotine in their vaping liquid. The researchers categorized the amount of nicotine as none, low (up to 5 milligrams per milliliter), medium (6 to 17 mg/mL) or high (18 mg/mL or more). With each step up in nicotine concentration, teens were about twice as likely to report frequent smoking versus no smoking at the six-month follow-up. Teens who vaped a high-nicotine liquid smoked seven times as many cigarettes per day as those who vaped without nicotine. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24242 - Posted: 10.26.2017

By KAREN WEINTRAUB In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jane Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees she followed in Gombe National Park in what is now Tanzania. In her descriptions, some were more playful or aggressive, affectionate or nurturing. Many scientists at the time were horrified, she recalled. Considered an amateur — she didn’t yet have her Ph.D. — they contended she was inventing personality traits for animals. Dr. Goodall, now 83, said in a phone interview on Monday from her home in England that scientists thought “I was guilty of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.” But time has borne out her insights. Chimpanzees in the wild have personalities similar to those in captivity, and both strongly overlap with traits that are familiar in humans, a new study published in Scientific Data confirms. The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals in 1973 to include more than 100 additional chimps that were evaluated a few years ago. The animals were individually assessed by graduate students in the earlier study, and in the latest by Tanzanian field assistants, on personality traits like agreeableness, extroversion, depression, aggression and self-control. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits in the two studies, but most of the personality types were consistent across the two studies. These traits seen among wild chimps matched ones seen among captive animals, the study found, and are similar to those described in people. Dr. Goodall, who is promoting a new documentary, “Jane,” about those early days of her research, said she’s not surprised. She knew from childhood experiences with guinea pigs, tortoises and her favorite dog, Rusty, that animals have personalities that are quite familiar. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Evolution; Emotions
Link ID: 24241 - Posted: 10.25.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou Ever realised you have driven yourself home but haven’t really been paying attention? Brain scans have revealed that when your mind wanders, it switches into “autopilot” mode, enabling you to carry on doing tasks quickly, accurately and without conscious thought. Our autopilot mode seems to be run by a set of brain structures called the default mode network (DMN). It was discovered in the 1990s, when researchers noticed that people lying in brain scanners show patterns of brain activity even when they aren’t really doing anything. This research provided the first evidence that our brains are active even when we aren’t consciously putting our minds to work. But what does the DMN do? Several studies have found that it seems to be involved in assessing past events and planning for the future. Others suggest the network is involved in self-awareness – although this has been called into question by findings that rats and newborns appear to have a version of the DMN too. It is unlikely that rats are conscious of themselves in the same way that humans are, says Deniz Vatansever at the University of York, UK. Instead, the DMN must have a more basic function, common to all animals. Vatansever and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge wondered if the network might help us do things without paying much attention, such as tying our shoelaces, or driving along a familiar road. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24240 - Posted: 10.25.2017

By Warren Cornwall For years, scientists and universities have complained about the patchwork of U.S. regulations governing the welfare of animals used in research. Studies involving rabbits and larger mammals, for example, are overseen chiefly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. Federally funded studies of rats, mice, and birds are subject to different rules and a different overseer, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Many privately funded animal studies, meanwhile, get relatively little federal oversight. “It’s a crazy quilt,” says Ross McKinney, chief science officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington, D.C. Now, AAMC and three allied groups are pushing for sweeping changes to animal research rules. In a report released this week, the groups call for moving all oversight to a single, unnamed agency, conducting less frequent lab inspections, and giving researchers greater say in crafting new rules. The changes would ensure “that we’re protecting the research animals,” McKinney says. “But we want to do so in a way that’s consistent, coherent, and effective.” The political climate is ripe for reform, with a new law calling for federal officials to streamline regulation of animal research and a White House that dislikes regulations. But many of the recommendations aren’t sitting well with groups concerned about animal research. “It’s clear this would negatively impact animal welfare,” says Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues at The Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. The changes would water down government oversight, the critics charge, and give researchers too much say over how their work is regulated. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 24239 - Posted: 10.25.2017

By Corinna Hartmann, Andreas Jahn Medical historians have recently published accounts that show neurologists were indeed complicit with the Nazis—and became victims if they were classified as “non-Aryan. Heiner Fangerau, who teaches the history and ethics of medicine at University Hospital Düsseldorf—along with colleagues Michael Martin at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf and Axel Karenberg from the University of Cologne—undertook extensive research on neurologists during the Third Reich for the German Society of Neurology. Fangerau discussed new findings with Corinna Hartmann and Andreas Jahn of Gehirn&Geist, the psychology and neuroscience specialty publication of Spektrum der Wissenschaft, and the German sister publication of Scientific American. An edited transcript of the interview follows. Professor Fangerau, your research project examines the role played by neurologists during the Nazi period. Why is this only happening 70 years after the fact? Advertisement There were several different phases in which people dealt with National Socialism after World War II. Immediately after 1945 the Allies pursued a policy of denazification. After that German society as a whole attempted to suppress its dark past. Many members of the next generation, however, found it impossible to close their eyes: Students in the 1968 movement were angry that their parents were unwilling to deal openly with the “Third Reich.” The medical specialties took even longer to begin working through the past. As a result, their reappraisal of the crimes committed began only in the 1980s. Part of the reason why historical research into neurology has only been conducted systematically over the past several years is that neurology and psychiatry were forced into the same disciplinary framework in 1935. Before then neurology had begun to separate from psychiatry. The basic idea was to leave psychological phenomena that are difficult to understand to the psychiatrists and to concentrate on disorders that are anatomically demonstrable. The National Socialists nullified this effort. They believed that they could control these medical specialties more effectively if they brought them together in the Society of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists, which was dominated by psychiatrists committed to the ideology of racial hygiene. The chairman of the society was Ernst Rüdin, a psychiatrist. As a result, neurology has come to be viewed as less implicated. Historical research conducted since the late 1980s, however, paints a very different picture. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24238 - Posted: 10.25.2017

By Roni Dengler One man’s neuron is another man’s knowledge. That’s the stance of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, which this week released the first open-access database of live human brain cells. It contains data on the electrical properties of about 300 cortical neurons taken from 36 patients and 3D reconstructions of 100 of those cells, plus gene expression data from 16,000 neurons from three other patients. Working with Seattle, Washington–area neurosurgeons, the Allen Institute acquired healthy cells from the cortex—the outermost layer of the brain that coordinates perception, memory, thoughts, and consciousness—from patients undergoing surgery for epilepsy or brain tumors. Normally considered medical waste, these tissues can now provide scientists with a unique resource for understanding the human brain. That’s because most studies on single human brain cells use dead rather than living tissue, and many others rely on cells from common laboratory animals, especially mice. The new data should help researchers pin down what makes human brains unique from other species—and what makes for a healthy versus diseased brain. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 24237 - Posted: 10.25.2017

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA Bad news, bears. Hibernation is no longer the coolest thing animals do to survive the winter. As cold weather approaches, tiny mole-like creatures known as red-toothed shrews will shrink their own heads, reducing their skull and brain mass by as much as 20 percent, according to new research published Monday in Current Biology. When warm weather returns, they will regrow the region nearly to its original size, giving new meaning to the phrase “spring ahead.” Though it is not yet clear why the shrews go down a few sizes for the winter, the authors of the study speculate that the reduced head and brain size helps them conserve energy when resources are scarce. “These tiny mammals cannot migrate long distances to avoid winter, nor can they enter any kind of energy-saving state” like hibernation, said Javier Lazaro, a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany and an author of the study. They also have high metabolic rates and very little fat stored in their bodies. “Therefore, they starve within a few hours if they do not hunt constantly.” The researchers say the shrinkage is a survival strategy. “Brain tissue is energetically very expensive, so reducing overall brain size might decrease energy demands and thus food requirements,” he said. The shrews’ reduction in size doesn’t only affect the head. Several major organs lose mass in winter, and the spine shortens, as well. Overall, the shrews in the study reduced their body mass by about 18 percent from July to February. Previous research had hinted that all shrew species might undergo a reduction in body and head mass during the winter. There is even a term for it, Dehnel’s Phenomenon, named after the Polish zoologist who conducted that research, August Dehnel. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 24236 - Posted: 10.24.2017

Henry Nicholls One of my first jobs was to keep a lookout for lions. There are some occupations that are not suitable for someone with untreated narcolepsy and this is probably one of them. I was 22, a recent zoology graduate studying meerkats in the Kalahari desert in South Africa. We worked in pairs, one of us on foot, walking with meerkats, the other in the jeep scanning the horizon for danger. On many occasions, I awoke with the imprint of the steering wheel on my forehead, realising that meerkats and colleague had wandered out of sight. I would look for signs of life and, as the panic grew, signs of death. I can tell this story now only because no one got eaten. I have not always been like this. For the first 20 years of my life, I had a healthy relationship with sleep. Shortly after my 21st birthday, though, I began to experience symptoms of narcolepsy, a rare disorder thought to affect about one in every 2,500 people. If people know one thing about narcolepsy, it’s that it involves frequent bouts of uncontrollable sleepiness. This is true, but the condition is so much more disabling, often accompanied by cataplexy (where a strong emotion causes loss of muscle tone and a ragdoll-like collapse), trippy dreams, sleep paralysis, frightening hallucinations and, paradoxically, fractured night-time sleep. There is no cure. Yet. In the Kalahari, back in 1995, I was new to these symptoms. I had little sense of the incalculable toll that fighting a never-ending battle against sleep would take on mind, body and soul. I was not alone. Few family doctors had heard of the condition, let alone encountered a sufferer. Some neurologists knew what to look for, but many did not. Not even sleep specialists could explain why this disorder would suddenly strike, with peak onset at around 15 years of age. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Narcolepsy
Link ID: 24235 - Posted: 10.24.2017

By Renee Joy Dufault, Steven G. Gilbert According to the CDC, autism prevalence continues to climb with 8 year old boys afflicted 4.5 times more often than girls. What makes matters worse is the fact that many boys with autism are also diagnosed with ADHD. These disorders severely impact the learning process in the classroom environment and lead to a lifelong economic burden both for the afflicted individual and society. Researchers estimated the annual economic burden in the U.S. for autism alone in 2015 was $162-$367 billion. If the autism prevalence continues to rise, researchers predict the costs will likely exceed those of ADHD and diabetes by 2025. It is imperative that families receive the support they need to prevent and manage these disorders which often occur in tandem. Proper management requires an understanding of the causes or “risk factors.” One cause associated with both disorders is exposure to heavy metals found in a poor diet. Heavy metal exposures may occur from the consumption of highly processed foods that contain ingredients with allowable concentrations of lead and inorganic mercury. Furthermore, these heavy metals may accumulate in blood especially when diet does not include adequate minerals to support the gene activity needed to metabolize and excrete them. Researchers led by Alabdali recently found higher blood lead and mercury levels are correlated with the severity of social and cognitive impairment in children with autism. What this means is parents will have more difficulty managing their child with autism and ADHD as the mercury and/or lead concentration levels rise in his blood. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24234 - Posted: 10.24.2017

Aaron E. Carroll Changing your diet is hard. So is helping our children make healthy choices. When a solution comes along that seems simple and gets everyone to eat better, we all want to believe it works. That’s one reason a study by Cornell researchers got a lot of attention in 2012. It reported that you could induce more 8-to-11-year-olds to choose an apple over cookies if you just put a sticker of a popular character on it. That and similar work helped burnish the career of the lead author, Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. Unfortunately, we now know the 2012 study actually underscores a maxim: Nutrition research is rarely simple. Last week the study, which was published in a prestigious medical journal, JAMA Pediatrics, was formally retracted, and doubts have been cast about other papers involving Mr. Wansink. When first published, the study seemed like an enticing example of behavioral economics, nudging children to make better choices. Before the study period, about 20 percent of the children chose an apple, and 80 percent the cookie. But when researchers put an Elmo sticker on the apple, more than a third chose it. That’s a significant result, and from a cheap, easily replicated intervention. While the intervention seems simple, any study like this is anything but. For many reasons, doing research in nutrition is very, very hard. First, the researchers have to fund their work, which can take years. Then the work has to be vetted and approved by an Institutional Review Board, which safeguards subjects from potential harm. I.R.B.s are especially vigilant when studies involve children, a vulnerable group. Even if the research is of minimal risk, this process can take months. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24233 - Posted: 10.24.2017

By Ann Gibbons When Neandertals mated with modern humans, they shared more than an intimate moment and their own DNA. They also gave back thousands of ancient African gene variants that Eurasians had lost when their ancestors swept out of Africa in small bands, perhaps 60,000 to 80,000 years ago. Restored to their lineage, this diversity may have been a genetic gift to Eurasian ancestors as they spread around the world. Today, however, some of these African variants are a burden: They seem to boost the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and having wider waistlines. In talks last week at the annual meeting of The American Society of Human Genetics here, researchers announced that some “Neandertal” genetic variants inherited by modern humans outside of Africa are not peculiarly Neandertal genes, but represent the ancestral human condition. The work highlights just how much diversity was lost when people passed through a genetic bottleneck as they moved out of Africa. “They left many beneficial variants behind in Africa,” says evolutionary genomicist Tony Capra of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who reported the results. “Interbreeding with Neandertals provided an opportunity to get back some of those variants, albeit with many potentially weakly deleterious Neandertal alleles as well.” His team found the ancient African variants when they scrutinized the genomes of more than 20,000 people in the 1000 Genomes Project and Vanderbilt’s BioVU data bank of electronic health records. They soon noticed a strange pattern: Stretches of chromosomes inherited from Neandertals also carried ancient alleles, or mutations, found in all the Africans they studied, including the Yoruba, Esan, and Mende peoples. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 24232 - Posted: 10.24.2017

Jon Hamilton When it comes to brain training, some workouts seem to work better than others. A comparison of the two most common training methods scientists use to improve memory and attention found that one was twice as effective as the other. The more effective method also changed brain activity in a part of the brain involved in high-level thinking. But neither method made anyone smarter, says Kara Blacker, the study's lead author and a researcher at The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine in Bethesda, Md. "Our hypothesis was that training might improve fluid intelligence or IQ," Blacker says. "But that's not what we found." Blacker did the memory research when she was part of a team at Johns Hopkins University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. The results were reported in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. The team compared two approaches to improving working memory, which acts as a kind of mental workspace where we store information temporarily. "If somebody gives you directions, you have to keep that information in mind long enough to actually execute going to that location," Blacker says. "If someone tells you a phone number, you have to be able to remember it." To test different methods for improving working memory, the team had 136 young adults spend a month training their brains for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Johns Hopkins University YouTube One group did something called a "complex span" test, which involves remembering the location of an item despite distractions. A second group trained with something called the dual n-back test. Each day they would sit at a computer watching flashing squares appear on a grid and listening to a voice reading letters from the alphabet. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Attention
Link ID: 24231 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By JANE E. BRODY I will start this column with its conclusion: Riding a bicycle without wearing a properly fitted helmet is simply stupid. Anyone who does so is tempting fate, risking a potentially life-changing disaster. And that goes for all users of bike-share programs, like New York’s Citi Bike, who think nothing of pulling a bike from its station and cycling helmetless on streets, with and without bike lanes, among often reckless traffic on foot and wheels. Even a careful cyclist is likely to crash about once every 4,500 miles and, based on personal observation, many city cyclists are anything but careful. Although reliable details are lacking on bike share accidents in New York or elsewhere, one shattering statistic reported by New York City for cyclists in general stands out: 97 percent of cycling deaths and 87 percent of serious injuries occurred to people who were not wearing helmets. Head injuries account for three-fourths of the nearly 700-plus bicycle deaths that occur each year nationwide, and helmets can prevent or reduce the severity of these injuries in two-thirds of cases, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va. This protection holds even in crashes with motor vehicles, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle reported as long ago as 2000, a statistic verified many times since. I’ve been a cyclist for more than 70 years, most of them before anyone thought about wearing a helmet (protective helmets for recreational cyclists didn’t even exist until 1975). Although I’ve owned many helmets in the last four decades, I admit to occasionally not wearing one to avoid “helmet hair” before an evening out. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24230 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By William Wan For more than a decade, Kristin Page-Nei begged Montana lawmakers to raise cigarette prices. As a health advocate for the American Cancer Society, she watched year after year as other states increased their cigarette taxes and lowered their smoking rates. “What they’re doing is saving lives,” she kept saying. Finally, this spring, she helped persuade state senators to raise cigarette taxes for the first time in 12 years. Then came the tobacco lobbyists. Bankrolled by the country’s two biggest cigarette companies, they swarmed the halls of the state capitol, wined and dined Republican leaders, launched a sophisticated call-in campaign, and coached witnesses for hearings. The tobacco companies poured more than $200,000 into Montana, a state with barely 1 million residents. It took them just one week to kill the bill — from the time it passed the state Senate to its last gasps in a state House committee. The tobacco lobby was so effective that, in the end, eight of the bill’s original co-sponsors voted against it. “It was incredible. Just brutal,” Page-Nei said. “I’d never seen this amount of money being poured into a session in my 17 years here.” Health experts agree that raising taxes is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use. The U.S. surgeon general, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all concluded that raising taxes helps large numbers of smokers to quit and have loudly advocated doing so. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24229 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By ALISSA J. RUBIN PARIS — When a fledgling alternative press published Gabrielle Deydier’s plaintive memoir of growing up fat in France, there was little expectation that the book would attract much notice. Frenchwomen are among the thinnest in Europe, high fashion is big business, and obesity isn’t often discussed. “To be fat in France is to be a loser,” Ms. Deydier said. So no one, least of all Ms. Deydier, expected “On Ne Naît Pas Grosse” (“One Is Not Born Fat”) to become a media sensation. Using her life as a case in point, bolstered by scientific studies, Ms. Deydier exposes in 150 pages the many ways the obese in France face censure, as well as frequent insensitivity from the medical profession. Soon, the 330-pound author was being interviewed by a broad range of news outlets. The coverage provoked a public reaction, and a variety of comments, including empathy and offers of support for those who are overweight, but also statements denigrating them. Some people complained Ms. Deydier was trying to normalize obesity. “To be close to someone obese in a train or a plane haunts me,” Mathieu B. wrote in a comment on Le Monde’s website. “It’s like being close to someone who smells bad. One has a very bad journey, that’s a fact.” In short, Ms. Deydier had touched a nerve. Her small publisher, which ran a limited first printing, has ordered a second. “A book like this had not been done,” said Clara Tellier Savary, Ms. Deydier’s publisher at Éditions Goutte d’Or. “For an obese person to be aware of all the issues and step back is very rare.” Unlike in the United States, where TV regularly features programs urging viewers to take a positive view of their bodies and where a plus-size clothing industry is booming, celebrating one’s girth is almost unheard-of in France. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24228 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By Aylin Woodward Not in my backyard. Territorial songbirds in New Zealand reacted more aggressively towards males encroaching on their territory if those rivals sang more complicated songs. The tui birds perceived these snappy singers as greater territorial threats than their simpler singing counterparts. Birdsong has two main functions: defending a territory and attracting a mate, says Samuel Hill at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. For tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), territory defence is a key concern. “There are flowering and fruiting trees year round in New Zealand, so the tui always have resources to defend,” says Hill. This explains why “they natter all year round”. Warbling away takes lots of energy, so males may be showing off their physical endurance to females. Long and complicated songs may also be a sign of skill, as to sing them birds must use superfast vocal muscles to control rapid acoustic changes. In other songbirds, like zebra finches, females prefer males that sing harder songs. This hasn’t been tested in tui, but Hill says the complexity of a male’s song is probably a proxy for more relevant measures of his quality, like body condition and cognitive ability. If that is so, Hill reasoned, breeding male tui would take umbrage at potential rivals singing at the edge of their territory, particularly if their songs were complex and they were therefore strong competitors. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24227 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By R. Douglas Fields BERLIN—Society’s embrace of cannabis to treat nausea, pain and other conditions proceeds apace with the drive to legalize the plant for recreational use. Pot’s seemingly innocuous side effects have helped clear a path toward making it a legal cash crop, with all of the marketing glitz brought to other consumer products. But that clean bill of health only goes so far. Marijuana’s potentially detrimental impact on the developing brains of adolescents remains a key focus of research—particularly because of the possibility teenage users could go on to face a higher risk of psychosis. New findings may fuel those worries. At the World Psychiatric Association’s World Congress in Berlin on October 9, Hannelore Ehrenreich of the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine presented results of a study of 1,200 people with schizophrenia. The investigation analyzed a wide range of genetic and environmental risk factors for developing the debilitating mental illness. The results—being submitted for publication—show people who had consumed cannabis before age 18 developed schizophrenia approximately 10 years earlier than others. The higher the frequency of use, the data indicated, the earlier the age of schizophrenia onset. In her study neither alcohol use nor genetics predicted an earlier time of inception, but pot did. “Cannabis use during puberty is a major risk factor for schizophrenia,” Ehrenreich says. Other studies, although not all, support the thrust of Ehrenreich’s findings. “There is no doubt,” concludes Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, that cannabis use in young people increases the risk of developing schizophrenia as an adult. Speaking at the Berlin conference, Murray—one of the first scientists to research pot’s link to the disorder—cited 10 studies that found a significant risk of young cannabis users developing psychosis. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24226 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By Aggie Mika Kat Rose of Lakewood, Colorado, started smoking cigarettes when she was 12 years old. Ultimately, it was the smell that drove her to want to ditch the habit. “Constantly, my son was like, ‘Mom, you stink,’” she says. But quitting had been a struggle for Rose, a 30-year-old who works for a metal manufacturing company. She’s allergic to latex and cinnamon (common ingredients in nicotine patches and gum), and prescriptions like Chantix made her sick. Thanks to electronic vaporizers that emit a flavored—coconut cream pie, in Rose’s case—smoke-like cloud, “I haven’t smoked in two years,” she says. E-cigarettes and vaporizers, devices that turn liquid concoctions into inhalable vapor, have been touted as a panacea for smokers struggling to ditch the habit. These tobacco-less substitutes mimic what it’s like to smoke conventional cigarettes but, according to some experts within the scientific community and the tobacco industry alike, they carry a fraction of the health burden and can serve as an aid for quitting tobacco cigarettes. But researchers agree these products are not without health risks, despite messaging by some vapor product companies. One now-banned ad by a U.K.-based e-cigarette company, for example, boasted “Love your lungs”—and was censored by the Advertising Standards Authority for painting the products as healthy. In reality, scientists are just beginning to study the effects of these vapor products on humans and whether replacing traditional cigarettes with electronic versions makes a difference. Last month at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in Milan, Italy, independent research teams presented the results of their investigations into claims of e-cigarette safety and their efficacy as smoking cessation tools, revealing these smoking substitutes are not exactly benign. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24225 - Posted: 10.21.2017

Emma Young Every dog owner is familiar with the ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression. As the inner brow lifts, the eyes get bigger and bigger … It’s tempting to interpret this as a plea from a sad dog for a scrap of the family dinner. Now, a small study provides support for the idea that dogs do indeed produce facial expressions to communicate with people — although perhaps just to engage us, rather than to manipulate us. The dogs in the study produced more than twice as many facial expressions (‘puppy dog eyes’ was one of the most common) when a researcher was facing them than when she was turned away. But it didn't seem to matter whether she also held food. Earlier studies have shown that seeing food is more exciting to a dog than is social contact with a silent person, so something other than the dogs’ emotional state must have been responsible for the effect. “Dogs make their eyes more attractive to us while we are watching, not just when we are in the vicinity or in response to food,” says Brian Hare, a cognitive neuroscientist and co-director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “This is fantastic work.” The study, published on 19 October in Scientific Reports1, adds to a growing body of work that shows how sensitive dogs are to human attention. It also provides the first evidence in a non-primate species that facial expressions can be used actively to communicate, says psychologist Juliane Kaminski at the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. Researchers had previously assumed that such expressions are an involuntary reflection of an animal’s emotional state. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Emotions; Attention
Link ID: 24224 - Posted: 10.20.2017