It’s not just fighting and conflict that can cause problems in a relationship. Boredom and lack of positivity in a relationship may also cause a gradual decline. A recent study by Irene Tsapelas and her colleagues found that marital boredom, measured by how often the participants felt their marriage was in a rut, [...]... Read more »
Aron, A., Norman, C., Aron, E., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. (2000) Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 273-284. DOI: 10.1037//0022-35126.96.36.1993
Tsapelas, I., Aron, A., & Orbuch, T. (2009) Marital Boredom Now Predicts Less Satisfaction 9 Years Later. Psychological Science, 20(5), 543-545. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02332.x
Have you ever thought about your relationship and wondered, “Where has all the passion gone?” Like many of you, relationship scientists have been stumped for quite a while. However, recent evidence from a series of interesting studies suggests that an answer is within reach of all of us, scientists and curious partners alike.... Read more »
Eastwick, P., & Finkel, E. (2008) The attachment system in fledgling relationships: An activating role for attachment anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 628-647. DOI: 10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.528
After a tough day at work, do you come back home feeling generally irritated or needing some quality time alone? Find out how your reactions to workplace stress can affect your family life, too.... Read more »
Repetti, R., Wang, S., & Saxbe, D. (2009) Bringing It All Back Home: How Outside Stressors Shape Families' Everyday Lives. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(2), 106-111. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01618.x
IN THE 1860s, the French physician Paul Broca treated two patients who had lost the ability to speak after suffering strokes. When they died, he examined their brains, and noticed that both had damage to the same region of the left frontal lobe. About a decade later, neuropsychiatrist Carl Wernicke described a stroke patient who was unable to understand written words or what was said to him, and later found in this patient's brain a lesion towards the back of the left temporal lobe.
Thus the classical model of the neurological basis, of language being localized to two specific areas of the left hemisphere, was established. Recently though, researchers have found evidence that some components of language are encoded in other brain regions. Furthermore, it is still unclear how the brain represents language in bilingual people. Some studies suggest that both languages are represented in the same set of laguage areas, while others point to distinct neural substrates for the first and second languages.
A unique case study published in the open access journal Behavioral and Brain Functions sheds some light on this matter. The study, by Raphiq Ibrahim, a neurologist at the University of Haifa, describes a bilingual Arabic-Hebrew speaker who incurred brain damage following a viral infection. Consequently, the patient experienced severe deficits in Hebrew but not in Arabic. The findings support the view that specific components of a first and second language are represented by different substrates in the brain.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Ibrahim, R. (2009) Selective deficit of second language: a case study of a brain-damaged Arabic-Hebrew bilingual patient. Behavioral and Brain Functions, 5(1), 17. DOI: 10.1186/1744-9081-5-17
by Jon Voisey in Angry Astronomer
Last year, I blogged about why catching stars forming is a tricky proposition; They're surrounded in gaseous nebulae that makes trying to observe the act a bit like watching a sports game from a plane flying through the clouds. You just can't see through it all.In general, this should hold true for planets. Until the star clears out the dusty disk, the planets will remain hidden, even if we could spatially resolve them. So a paper talking about forming planets with “Observable Signatures” in the title caught my eye.In this paper, the author explains something that, at first glance, is actually counter-intuitive: These dusty shells may help find newly forming planets. The reason is that, as planets form, they will slowly accumulate the material around them. In the vertical direction, this has the effect of making a “dimple” in the proto-planetary disk proportional to the planet's accumulated mass.According to the author, the dimple will appear observationally as a “shadow”. She doesn't completely explain why this is and it seems somewhat strange to me. The reason is that “shadows” are usually caused by something that blocks light. Although the forming planet would cast a (relatively) small shadow that would be lost in the disk, it's not at all clear what would cause a shadow in the dimple.Rather, I suspect a better word choice would have been to say there would be a “darkening” in the dimple. This would make more sense to me, since the dimple would be a lower density and have less material to scatter light propagating along the plane. Less light means that, relative to the rest of the disk, it would appear darker. Thus, I'm pretty sure that's the actual mechanism at work here.But there's another interesting component: On the side of the dimple that's further from the parent star, there's a brightening! Weird huh?This again, is not well explained in the paper, but I suspect the reason for this has something to do with the angle at which the photons coming through the disk are striking the side of the dimple. Either that or it's the opposite of the darkening effect where suddenly the boost in numbers of photons that were allowed to flow relatively freely through the empty space created by the dimple are suddenly again encountering a relatively dense medium again.Regardless of how these effects should be created, planets should show a dark spot next to a brighter spot with the sizes proportional to their mass. But should these be observationally detectable?According to the paper, yes. These features would be most readily observable in the visible to near-IR bands. The real limiting factor would be how well we're able to spatially resolve these dimples. Obviously, the further away a system would be, the smaller it would appear. Even for the largest planets simulated (50 Earth masses), the dimple is about 3 AU across. That means that we'd need to be able to resolve half of that to see both the darkened and lightened portions.Tossing that into the small angle equation and assuming a fairly typical resolution for a good telescope of 1arcsec, we get that we should be able to observe these systems out to 3.1 x 105 AU or 4.9 ly.Eep!That's not very fall at all! In fact, the only stars that fall in that range are the stars in the Alpha Centauri trinary star system. The next closest one after that (Barnard's star) is 5.9 ly away!The Hubble can get down to ~0.1arcseconds of resolution, which would mean 10x further, but there's still not really any star forming regions within 40 ly.So ultimately, while this technique is interesting it doesn't seem the least bit practical with the current generation of telescopes.Jang-Condell, H. (2009). PLANET SHADOWS IN PROTOPLANETARY DISKS. II. OBSERVABLE SIGNATURES The Astrophysical Journal, 700 (1), 820-831 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/700/1/820... Read more »
Jang-Condell, H. (2009) PLANET SHADOWS IN PROTOPLANETARY DISKS. II. OBSERVABLE SIGNATURES. The Astrophysical Journal, 700(1), 820-831. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/700/1/820
by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog
Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) is one of the few antiviral drugs available for treatment of influenza. Use of the drug has increased substantially because of the emergence of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain, against which no vaccine is yet available. A recent study has shown that low levels of oseltamivir can be detected in the aquatic environment. [...]... Read more »
Söderström, H., Järhult, J., Olsen, B., Lindberg, R., Tanaka, H., & Fick, J. (2009) Detection of the Antiviral Drug Oseltamivir in Aquatic Environments. PLoS ONE, 4(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006064
Life restoration of the head of Armadillosuchus. From Marinho and Carvalho (2009).
When I was trying to come up with a title for this post I almost went with "Armadillosuchus: An armored crocodylian you wouldn't want to mess with." Obviously I changed my mind. Not only was the title too long, but it was redundant to boot. All crocodylians are "armored" in that they have little bony plates called osteoderms (primarily on the dorsal, or top, side of their bodies) beneath their scales, which in turn overlay a layer of bony plates called osteoscutes. Crocodylians are tough!
The newly-described crocodylian Armadillosuchus from the Late Cretaceous deposits of Brazil, however, was carrying a more bizarre complement of armor. Right behind its head was an armored dome of hexagonal plates. This bony buckler was rigid, but could be moved independently of the head so that the neck was not always locked in one position. Now comes the really interesting part. Behind this "cervical shield" was a series of about seven mobile armored bands. (What the researchers call "mobile-banded body armor.") This is very similar to what is seen in living armadillos, hence the croc's name Armadillosuchus. This crocodylian had "armadillo-like" armor even before the mammals did! Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Marinho, T., & Carvalho, I. (2009) An armadillo-like sphagesaurid crocodyliform from the Late Cretaceous of Brazil. Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 27(1), 36-41. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsames.2008.11.005
Breast cancer screening is back in the headlines following the publication of a new paper in the British Medical Journal.
The paper was written by Danish researchers who have previously published work critical of the way women are given information about the balance of risks and benefits. They believe that women aren’t given sufficient information on [...]... Read more »
Jorgensen, K., & Gotzsche, P. (2009) Overdiagnosis in publicly organised mammography screening programmes: systematic review of incidence trends. BMJ, 339(jul09 1). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2587
The human body is a factory producing trillions of new blood cells daily, and replacing the lining of the small intestine on a weekly basis. The raw materials in production are stem cells, which have the ability both to create cells used by our body, and to create copies of themselves.
To ensure quality of production, [...]... Read more »
A code is a system with which messages are transmitted. Computer coding is transmitting message to your computer to execute tasks, cryptographic coding is sending a message in secret, and neural coding is how your brain processes information. When I say I'm looking for a synchrony binding code, I mean I'm looking for evidence that the brain binds stimuli together using neural synchrony (I'm not looking for this, by the way; I have my doubts about this hypothesis). This article is looking for ways in which the brain codes for border ownership: is a simple cell in your V1 area (or, hey, let's look at V2 and V4 as well) looking at a spot in your vision in one region or another? (You can get this article here. Free!)The motivation here is to understand how V1 and V2 interact, really. For one thing, we know for a fact that V1 is primarily concerned with local spatial properties of a scene - local in the sense that a single simple cell in V1 is not concerned with the whole picture but just a small section of it, what we refer to as the cell's receptive field (RF). A set of pixels, in computer terminology. However, figure-ground organization - distinguishing the stapler on your desk from your desk, or the sexy lady in the red dress from the throngs of people in black suits bustling to work behind her - requires a whole-image process. At the very least, it requires analyzing data from a collection of RFs, instead of just one - it's not necessarily global, but it's more than local. Thus, if we can find evidence that V1 neurons respond differently when objects enter their RFs, then we need to take another look at how V1 works.Well, that's not necessarily fair - it's more like we need to learn more about how V2 modulates V1 behavior. Here's a diagram on what we think we know about the low-level visual processing in the brain. Photons hit the retina, activate photoreceptors, which activate retinal cells, which activate LGN cells (part A). LGN cells send signals to V1 cells, which then activate (part B), but the way that the LGN cells are connected to retinal cells, and the way in which V1 cells are connected to LGN cells brings about a wavelet decomposition of the image. Each V1 cells is responsible for a little receptive field (RF) and (in this simplified model) an angular orientation. This information is transmitted to V2 (part C) which does... stuff. That's not totally clear yet. Then V2 sends information back to V1 to modulate it's behavior (part D), as well as to V3+ areas (part E), where more... stuff... takes place.The point of this paper is to look for evidence that feedback from V2 to V1 (part D) modulates behavior with respect to figure-ground organization. If the researchers find this, then there is evidence that V2 is at least partly responsible for figure-ground organization, and any model of V2 must take this into account. Isn't neuroscience really roundabout and great?So how do the researchers do this? Consider the vase illusion. Most people can easily switch between seeing three black figures against a white-ish background, or four white pillars against a black background (image taken from here; I didn't ask for permission, but it's an optical illusion website, so I figure they won't mind too much). The point is that the edges in these images are ambiguous - depending on context, edges can belong to either the figure or the ground.So they take this ambiguity and dash it away, and include an image with no ambiguity - a light square on top of a dark square. They then shoved electrodes into a monkey to record the neurons responsible for looking at the edge in the little black oval in the image below (taken from the paper). They recorded activity in V1, V2, and V4 neurons, and looked at the difference between objects on the left of the receptive field, on the right of the receptive field, dark-on-light squares, light-on-dark squares, and everything else you can think of.The experimental setup in this paper was pretty interesting. I mean, to start, you're shoving electrodes into a monkey brain, which is really cool (assuming, of course, that the monkey isn't suffering at all... the ethics of intrusive neural recordings is a post in and of itself). Second, you're combing through thousands of neurons to get to the ones responsible for a particular part of a scene (well, really, they moved the squares around on the computer screen until they found the receptive field of the neurons they were recording, but still). I think that's pretty neat.Their results are lengthy, but the part that interests me is this: it turns out that V1 cells have increased activity when a figure is in their RF (as opposed to ground), and that V1 cells are selective - that is, if a figure is to the left of a left-preferring cell, then it will be more active than if it is on the right. Above/below selectivity was also observed, but the interesting part (to me) is that the selectivity wasn't necessarily figure-based. Some cells were contrast-selective, so a bright side to the left or to the right is what they selected for, not necessarily figure. Craziest? Cells that were contrast- and figure-selective were observed! Of course, there were neutral cells observed that didn't give a shit either way. So this indicates a couple of things. First, V2 sends generalized feedback about figure-ground organization, specifically, the feedback includes enough semi-global (or non-local) information about figure-ground organization to tell a cell whether it's looking at a figure's edge or occluding boundary (generalized increase in activity). Second, V2 includes some non-local spatial information about either a) the location of the object in the overall scene, b) the contrast distribution associated with the occluding boundary of the object, or c) both. This is valuable information.I just don't know what to do with it.The authors go balls to the wall at this point, analyzing absolutely every bit of data they can think of, and so I'm going to do another post on the rest of it another time - I'm not entirely sure how much of it I care about past this point, though so I may not.Hong Zhou, Howard S. Friedman, & Rüdiger von der Heydt (2000). Coding of Border Ownership in Monkey Visual Cortex The Journal of Neuroscience, 20, 6594-6611... Read more »
Hong Zhou, Howard S. Friedman, & Rüdiger von der Heydt. (2000) Coding of Border Ownership in Monkey Visual Cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience, 6594-6611. DOI: http://www.jneurosci.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/17/6594
I think we can all agree that the American population has become a little more open with regard to sexual practices than it was in, say, the 1950's. The existence of premarital sex is discussed in multiple media outlets, and there are homosexual relationships discussed with candor. However, there are still several sexual practices which are still considered relatively taboo with regards to public discussion. While male masturbation, for example is discussed (often as comedic relief) pretty openly, female masturbation remains an extremely taboo topic in popular discussion. However, another topic also remains un-discussed (well, except for on Sex and the City, and they've discussed EVERYTHING).
Griffin and McGwin. "Sexual Stimulation Device-related Injuries" Journal of Sex and Martial Therapy, 2009.
Sci would like to take this time to note that Neurotopia claims no responsibility for what happens if your boss catches you clicking around below the fold. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
When admiring a brilliant sportsman or woman, commentators often describe a wielded tennis racquet, cricket bat or other sporting appendage, as having become like an extension of the athlete's own body, so fluid and deft is their control of the lump of metal or wood. It's a metaphor we should be able to relate to, since all of us, champion athlete or not, absorb tools into our inner representation of our own bodies - what cognitive psychologists call our "body schema".That's according to Lucilla Cardinali and colleagues who demonstrated this graphically in a new study in which participants reached with their hand for a small block, both before and after using a 40-cm long grasping device (similar to those used for picking up rubbish) to reach for the same block.After several minutes using the grasping tool, the participants subsequent reaching movements with their hand were slower to start and stop, making them longer-lasting overall, compared with before the tool use - as if their own arm was now perceived as longer. Moreover, when the participants were subsequently blindfolded and asked to point to where they'd just been touched by the researchers, on the tip of the middle finger and on the elbow, the places the participants pointed to were further apart, compared with before tool use, again suggesting that they now perceived their arm to be longer.These effects lasted for at least 15 minutes after tool use, but the researchers haven't yet tested the duration of the effects systematically.Psychologists have known for some time that our representation of our bodies must be dynamic. You can't get to where you want to go without knowing where you are to start with, so before moving the limbs, the brain and spinal cord need to know the limbs' current location. What's more, the force needed to perform an action appropriately depends on the length of the muscles, which is also affected by the position of the limbs. There are also changes to the body brought about my growing, ageing and injury that must be accommodated for accurate movement control. Given this adaptability it should perhaps come as no surprise that tools can be seamlessly and rapidly incorporated into the body schema.Lead author Lucilla Cardinali told the Digest that her lab are currently exploring whether expertise affects the way tools are incorporated, such as when a tennis player wields a racquet._________________________________Cardinali, L., Frassinetti, F., Brozzoli, C., Urquizar, C., Roy, A., & Farnè, A. (2009). Tool-use induces morphological updating of the body schema. Current Biology, 19 (12) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.05.009... Read more »
Cardinali, L., Frassinetti, F., Brozzoli, C., Urquizar, C., Roy, A., & Farnè, A. (2009) Tool-use induces morphological updating of the body schema. Current Biology, 19(12). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.05.009
Results from a long-running primate study of calorie restriction (CR) are becoming more definitive as the years pass. Two decades in, the reports continue to be consistent with the many, many other CR studies in animals and humans: eating fewer calories while still obtaining adequate nutrition slows down degenerative aging in primates. Studying aging in monkeys takes patience. Mice and rats only live for a couple of years, while these monkeys can live to 40, and the average life span is 27 years. Now that the surviving monkeys have reached their mid- to late 20s, the Wisconsin group could glean how calorie restriction was affecting their life span. Sixty-three percent of the calorie-restricted animals are still alive compared to only 45% of their free-feeding counterparts. For age-related deaths caused by illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, the voracious eaters died at three times the rate of restricted monkeys: 14 versus five monkeys, respectively. ... Researchers who study aging are split on how much stock to put in the study. Leonard Guarente, a molecular biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who has studied aging in yeast, believes that not enough monkeys have died yet to make definitive...... Read more »
Colman, R., Anderson, R., Johnson, S., Kastman, E., Kosmatka, K., Beasley, T., Allison, D., Cruzen, C., Simmons, H., Kemnitz, J.... (2009) Caloric Restriction Delays Disease Onset and Mortality in Rhesus Monkeys. Science, 325(5937), 201-204. DOI: 10.1126/science.1173635
...the research holds critical the idea that niches remain constant over extended periods of time. This idea, called niche conservatism, essentially holds that niches are highly specialized, ancestrally –linked, relatively inflexible and are therefore exceedingly susceptible to disturbance and rapid degradation in the face of change - particularly climate change. ... Read more »
DeSantis, L., Feranec, R., & MacFadden, B. (2009) Effects of Global Warming on Ancient Mammalian Communities and Their Environments. PLoS ONE, 4(6). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005750
[Originally posted in December, 2007]
Do smells have an impact on how we judge people? Certainly if someone smells bad, we may have a negative impression of the person. But what if the smell is so subtle we don't consciously notice it? Research results have been mixed, with some studies actually reporting that we like people more when in the presence of undetectable amounts of bad-smelling stuff. How could that be?
A team led by Wen Li believes that the judges might have actually been able to detect the odor, and then accounted for it in their response -- giving a face the benefit of the doubt when there's a hint of bad odor.
But odor detection is a tricky thing. Sometimes you're not sure if your milk or wine has gone bad, even after giving it a good whiff. The researchers felt that controlling the odors for a study would be the key to getting good results.
They first determined the odor detection threshold for each of 39 student volunteers. This was done by having each person sniff bottles containing progressively stronger solutions of three different compounds: Citral ("lemon"), anisole ("ethereal"), and valeric acid ("sweat"). The threshold was determined by when they could detect the odor. Then, for the actual experiment, bottles that were about 100 times more dilute were used. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
With Jonah Levine
It’s taken Winnipeg a generation to get around to building the first leg of a rapid transit system. You might think that settles the matter, and that now we are down to inconsequential details. On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that many important decisions remain, decisions that could make the difference between a successful rapid transit system and a white elephant.... Read more »
John Renne and Peter Newman. (2002) Facilitating the Financing and Development of 'Smart Growth'. Transportation Quarterluy, 56(2), 23-32.
BJGP article provides mandate for making demands to clarify revalidation... Read more »
It has become virtually axiomatic that as climate shifts or other potential insults to the ecology of a given area occur, plants and animals enclosed in parks bounded by "impermeable" landscapes are at great risk. Instead of the extreme ranges of a plant or animal moving north or south, or across a gradient of rainfall, or up or down in elevation, organisms that are protected in parks are also stuck in the parks and risk local extinction when change happens or disease becomes endemic, or poaching uncontrolled or fire more common or .... well, we can go on and on.
In a new study on "The Status of Wildlife in Protected Areas Compared to Non-Protected Areas of Kenya,", the famous Kenyan wildlife ecologist David Western has demonstrated the severity of this problem in that East African nation.
From the abstract: Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Western, D., Russell, S., & Cuthill, I. (2009) The Status of Wildlife in Protected Areas Compared to Non-Protected Areas of Kenya. PLoS ONE, 4(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006140
Arsenic sandwich anyone? Mercury soup, deadly nightshade surprise? No? Really? Well, I’m baffled! They’re all natural you know. And as we know, natural is good; natural is pure. Best of all, natural is healthy.
Such is the creed that has grown up around natural products. You want to market a new range of face cream –- [...]... Read more »
Pino, JA, Ortega A, Marbot, R, & Aguero, J. (2003) Volatile components of banana fruit (musa sapientum L.) "Indio" for Cuba. JEOR.
Our weekly compilation of science news for the week of July 5, 2009.... Read more »
Bao, X., Kobayashi, M., Hatakeyama, S., Angata, K., Gullberg, D., Nakayama, J., Fukuda, M., & Fukuda, M. (2009) Tumor suppressor function of laminin-binding -dystroglycan requires a distinct 3-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0904515106
Winebrake, J., Corbett, J., Green, E., Lauer, A., & Eyring, V. (2009) Mitigating the Health Impacts of Pollution from Oceangoing Shipping: An Assessment of Low-Sulfur Fuel Mandates. Environmental Science , 43(13), 4776-4782. DOI: 10.1021/es803224q
Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use ResearchBlogging.org to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.
If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.
Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.
To learn more, visit seedmediagroup.com.