Regular visitors to my blog will have wondered about the break in transmission – and I’m sorry, it’ll continue for another fortnight.
The past fortnight I’ve been recovering from having my tonsils removed – something that I am now convinced should happen when you’re young enough to think that jelly and icecream is a fabulous treat, [...]... Read more »
Ernst, E. (2009) Acupuncture: What Does the Most Reliable Evidence Tell Us?. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 37(4), 709-714. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2008.04.009
Psychology is moving away from a view of the brain that ties functions to specific brain areas. Instead, researchers recognise that the brain is made up of dynamic, flexible networks, in which diverse regions are recruited according to task demands. Complementing this account is a growing recognition of the brain's ability to adapt to damage, even in adulthood - a characteristic known as plasticity. These views are captured in a new clinical case study that documents the recovery of language per........ Read more »
Plaza, M., Gatignol, P., Leroy, M., & Duffau, H. (2009) Speaking without Broca's area after tumor resection. Neurocase, 15(4), 294-310. DOI: 10.1080/13554790902729473
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder typified by excessive daytime sleepiness. The symptoms of the disorder can be disabling, and for years treatment relied on amphetamines and related stimulants to help patients stay awake. For nearly 2 decades now, modafinil (Provigil) has been available to treat the symptoms of narcolepsy; modafinil has been the preferred wake-promoting [...]... Read more »
Minzenberg, M., & Carter, C. (2007) Modafinil: A Review of Neurochemical Actions and Effects on Cognition. Neuropsychopharmacology, 33(7), 1477-1502. DOI: 10.1038/sj.npp.1301534
Volkow, N., Fowler, J., Logan, J., Alexoff, D., Zhu, W., Telang, F., Wang, G., Jayne, M., Hooker, J., Wong, C.... (2009) Effects of Modafinil on Dopamine and Dopamine Transporters in the Male Human Brain: Clinical Implications. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(11), 1148-1154. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2009.351
Winder-Rhodes, S., Chamberlain, S., Idris, M., Robbins, T., Sahakian, B., & Muller, U. (2009) Effects of modafinil and prazosin on cognitive and physiological functions in healthy volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology. DOI: 10.1177/0269881109105899
A tick-borne illness has been masquerading as Lyme disease in the southern United States over the past two decades. Victims first notice the expanding "bulls-eye" skin rash that is similar in appearance to the erythema migrans (EM) of Lyme disease. However, the tick that feeds on the victim is not the Ixodes tick that causes Lyme disease but the Lone Star tick Amblyomma americanum. Moreover, Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease spirochete, is not the infectious agent. B. burgdorferi has nev........ Read more »
MASTERS, E.J., GRIGERY, C.N., & MASTERS, R.W. (2008) STARI, or Masters Disease: Lone Star Tick–Vectored Lyme-like Illness. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, 22(2), 361-376. DOI: 10.1016/j.idc.2007.12.010
Two interesting stories in Science this week, with some nice movies accompanying each.
The sandfish is a skink that lives in the Sahara desert. Aptly named, it dives into the sand like a fish. After that, it was anybody’s guess how it moves. Until now: researchers in Georgia Tech took high resolution X-ray movies of the [...]... Read more »
Maladen, R., Ding, Y., Li, C., & Goldman, D. (2009) Undulatory Swimming in Sand: Subsurface Locomotion of the Sandfish Lizard. Science, 325(5938), 314-318. DOI: 10.1126/science.1172490
The neocortex is a mammalian invention, not present in birds, reptiles, or any other vertebrates. It's associated with the increases in intelligence seen in mammals since the end of the Cretaceous, especially in primates, and more especially in humans. While there are dozens (probably hundreds) of discussions of the neocortex available on the Web, I haven't been able to find one that meets my needs (for linking to in detailed discussions), so I'm going to produce my own, in the proc........ Read more »
Alessandra Pierani, & Marion Wassef. (2009) Cerebral cortex development: From progenitors patterning to neocortical size during evolution. Development, Growth and Differentiation, 51(3), 325-342. DOI: 10.1111/j.1440-169X.2009.01095.x
Lehui Lu (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and coworkers have worked towards developing an assay for melamine (a poison used to artificially inflate the perceived protein content in food) that is rapid and requires no instrumentation. This news feature was written on July 18, 2009.... Read more »
Ai, K., Liu, Y., & Lu, L. (2009) Hydrogen-Bonding Recognition-Induced Color Change of Gold Nanoparticles for Visual Detection of Melamine in Raw Milk and Infant Formula. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 131(27), 9496-9497. DOI: 10.1021/ja9037017
Eben Alsberg (Case Western Reserve University, Ohio) and coworkers have applied biodegradable hydrogels for the sustained and local release of interfering RNA, a possible tool for gene silencing. This news feature was written on July 18, 2009.... Read more »
Krebs, M. D., Jeon, O., & Alsberg, E. (2009) Localized and Sustained Delivery of Silencing RNA from Macroscopic Biopolymer Hydrogels. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 131(26), 9204-9206. DOI: 10.1021/ja9037615
We think of spiders as fearsome hunters, spinners of webs and treacherous mates, but construction workers? Yes, that too. Some groups of spiders - trapdoor and wolf spiders - dig tunnels that they use to ambush passing insects. But these tunnels can also provide shelter and accommodation for other animals, including one of the rarest of Australia's lizards - the pygmy blue-tongue lizard. It seems that the lizard's survival depends entirely on the spiders.
The pygmy blue-tongue is a native of So........ Read more »
Fellows, H., Fenner, A., & Bull, C. (2009) Spiders provide important resources for an endangered lizard. Journal of Zoology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2009.00600.x
We read in the BMJ that a German agency refuses to rule on drug’s benefits until Pfizer discloses all trial results. The drug is reboxetine (Edronax), which readers will recall was recently deemed to be the worst new antidepressant by an Oxford team.The agency, the IQWiG, are an independent organization, but they were comissioned by the German federal government to report on the benefits of three antidepressants: reboxetine, mirtazapine, and buproprion. Their decision will have major implicati........ Read more »
Stafford, N. (2009) German agency refuses to rule on drug's benefits until Pfizer discloses all trial results. BMJ, 338(jun22 1). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2521
The determination of the ß-adrenergic receptor GPCR structure in 2007 was a breakthrough in structural biology. Combined with the earlier structure of rhodopsin, this provided a template for structure-based design for GPCRs. However, there was a lurking mystery in the structure, a mystery which was not always discussed but which has started to come to light recently.Th mystery is exemplified by a recent paper in which authors from D E Shaw Research in New York use extremely long molecular dynam........ Read more »
Dror, R., Arlow, D., Borhani, D., Jensen, M., Piana, S., & Shaw, D. (2009) Identification of two distinct inactive conformations of the 2-adrenergic receptor reconciles structural and biochemical observations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(12), 4689-4694. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0811065106
Discussion of a meta-analysis of 55 recent social-neuroscience studies using fMRI, and the self-fulfilling nature of many of the correlations those studies uncover. According to Edward Vul and his co-investigators, many fMRI studies used "functional criteria" --- i.e., is the area of the brain active or not during the study task --- to select voxels (fMRI data points) for inclusion in a statistical analysis looking for correlations with behavioral data. Since functional measures are also used to........ Read more »
Vul, E., Harris, C., Winkielman, P., & Pashler, H. (2009) Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(3), 274-290. DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2009.01125.x
by Vincent Racaniello in virology blog
Dispensers of alcohol-based rubs are appearing in public places in an attempt to reduce the spread of pandemic influenza. Are these effective at removing virus from hands?
In a recent study, the hands of twenty vaccinated, antibody-positive volunteers were contaminated with 10,000,000 TCID50 of a 1999 seasonal H1N1 influenza virus strain (see this post for an [...]... Read more »
Grayson, M., Melvani, S., Druce, J., Barr, I., Ballard, S., Johnson, P., Mastorakos, T., & Birch, C. (2009) Efficacy of Soap and Water and Alcohol‐Based Hand‐Rub Preparations against Live H1N1 Influenza Virus on the Hands of Human Volunteers. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 48(3), 285-291. DOI: 10.1086/595845
How do antidepressants work? Some people will tell you that it’s all about neurogenesis. The theory goes that antidepressants increase the rate at which new neurones are created in a region called the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, and that, somehow, this boom in the number of new hippocampal cells alleviates depression.To date, however, all of the research linking antidepressants and neurogenesis has involved animals. It was generally assumed that if drugs altered neurogenesis in mice, the........ Read more »
Boldrini, M., Underwood, M., Hen, R., Rosoklija, G., Dwork, A., John Mann, J., & Arango, V. (2009) Antidepressants increase neural progenitor cells in the human hippocampus. Neuropsychopharmacology. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.75
It's an interesting question, when did photosynthetic life first invade dry land, and what type was it? The tradition is that green plants first invaded the land in the Ordovician or Silurian, if not later, sometime after 500 MYA, well after the Cambrian, when we first see fossils of animals developing in the ocean (there are actually some from earlier, but those may not be animals, and we know little about them). However, there are various lines of evidence that there was already extensive........ Read more »
Emiliani, G., Fondi, M., Fani, R., & Gribaldo, S. (2009) A horizontal gene transfer at the origin of phenylpropanoid metabolism: a key adaptation of plants to land. Biology Direct, 4(1), 7. DOI: 10.1186/1745-6150-4-7
Here's another one for the 'It's about attendance, not belief' files. It turns out that strong religious beliefs do not reduce infidelity, although regular churchgoers are more faithful. The study was published last year, but it's new to me at least (thanks to Brian Cleary for bringing it to my attention).What the investigators (David Atkins and Deborah Kessel from Fuller Theological Seminary in California) did was to analyse data from the 1998 General Social Survey of the USA.The survey is mass........ Read more »
Atkins, D., & Kessel, D. (2008) Religiousness and Infidelity: Attendance, but not Faith and Prayer, Predict Marital Fidelity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70(2), 407-418. DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00490.x
How genes for altruism can benefit strangers as well as kin
The generosity of adoption has long been considered a unique human hallmark.
Image: Shadows of Forgotten AncestorsFor decades it was conventional dogma that humans were the only species that used tools. "Man the Toolmaker" was our celebrated designation. The hominin fossil Homo habilis (or "handy" man) was even defined within our genera primarily because the skeleton was associated with stone implements. However, when Jane Goodall ........ Read more »
Cäsar, C., & Young, R. (2007) A case of adoption in a wild group of black-fronted titi monkeys (Callicebus nigrifrons). Primates, 49(2), 146-148. DOI: 10.1007/s10329-007-0066-x
BATS USE BIOSONAR, or echolocation, to navigate complex environments, and also to forage and then accurately pinpoint the flying insects on which they prey. Insects in turn have evolved various counter-measures to evade capture. Some species have ears which are in tune to the echolocation signals, while others are capable of performing complex evasive flight maneuvers in response to the clicks produced by attacking bats.Tiger moths have evolved the ability to produce ultrasonic clicks in respons........ Read more »
by Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD in Child-Psych
The totality of the available data on the short term effects of ADHD stimulant is relatively consistent: these medications are safe and result in significant improvement in symptoms, especially for children with severe forms of the disorder. However, little previous research on the long term effects of these medications has been used by critics of [...]... Read more »
Biederman, J., Monuteaux, M., Spencer, T., Wilens, T., & Faraone, S. (2009) Do Stimulants Protect Against Psychiatric Disorders in Youth With ADHD? A 10-Year Follow-up Study. PEDIATRICS, 124(1), 71-78. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2008-3347
Yesterday our group discussed the recent Nature paper from Lynda Chin’s lab that identified GOLPH3 as a “first-in-class” Golgi oncogene. The study began where most cancer genomics efforts end up: with the identification of a genomic region (5p13) that’s amplified in numerous solid tumours. The authors reasoned that the amplified region likely contains a gene [...]... Read more »
Scott, K., Kabbarah, O., Liang, M., Ivanova, E., Anagnostou, V., Wu, J., Dhakal, S., Wu, M., Chen, S., Feinberg, T.... (2009) GOLPH3 modulates mTOR signalling and rapamycin sensitivity in cancer. Nature, 459(7250), 1085-1090. DOI: 10.1038/nature08109
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