Source: Alyssa L. Miller, Flickr.For nearly 9 years, this blog has been harping on the blight of overblown press releases, with posts like:Irresponsible Press Release Gives False Hope to People With Tourette's, OCD, and SchizophreniaPress Release: Press Releases Are PrestidigitationNew research provides fresh evidence that bogus press releases may depend largely on our biological make-upSave Us From Misleading Press Releasesetc.So it was heartening to see a team of UK researchers formally evaluate the content of 462 heath-related press releases issued by leading universities in 2011 (Sumner et al., 2014). They classified three types of exaggerated claims and found that 40% of the press releases contained exaggerated health advice, 33% made causal statements based on correlational results, and 36% extrapolated from animal research to humans. A fine duo of exaggerated health advice and causal statements based on correlational results recently caught my eye. Here's a press release issued by Springer, the company that publishes Cognitive Therapy and Research: Don’t worry, be happy: just go to bed earlierWhen you go to bed, and how long you sleep at a time, might actually make it difficult for you to stop worrying. So say Jacob Nota and Meredith Coles of Binghamton University in the US, who found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours.The PR issues health advice (“just go to bed earlier”) based on correlational data: “people who sleep for shorter periods of time and go to bed very late at night are often overwhelmed with more negative thoughts.” But does staying up late cause you to worry, or do worries keep you awake at night? A survey can't distinguish between the two.The study by Nota and Coles (2014) recruited 100 teenagers (or near-teenagers, mean age = 19.4 + 1.9) from the local undergraduate research pool. They filled out a number of self-report questionnaires that assessed negative affect, sleep quality, chronotype (morning person vs. evening person),1 and aspects of repetitive negative thinking (RNT). RNT is a transdiagnostic construct that encompasses symptoms typical of depression (rumination), anxiety (worry), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (obsessions). Thus, the process of RNT is considered similar across the disorders, but the content may differ. The undergraduates were not clinically evaluated so we don't know if any of them actually had the diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and/or OCD. But one can look at whether the types of symptoms that are endorsed (whether clinically relevant or not) are related to sleep duration and timing. Which is what the authors did.Shorter sleep duration and a later bedtime were indeed associated with more RNT. However, when accounting for levels of negative affect, the sleep variables no longer showed a significant correlation.2 Not a completely overwhelming relationship, then.But as expected, the night owls reported more RNT than the non-night owls. Here's how the findings were interpreted in the Springer press release and conspicuously, by the authors themselves (the study of Sumner et al., 2014 also observed this pattern). Note the exaggerated health advice and causal statements based on correlational results. “Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts,” remarks Nota.The findings also suggest that sleep disruption may be linked to the development of repetitive negative thinking. Nota and Coles therefore believe that it might benefit people who are at risk of developing a disorder characterized by such intrusive thoughts to focus on getting enough sleep.“If further findings support the relation between sleep timing and repetitive negative thinking, this could one day lead to a new avenue for treatment of individuals with internalizing disorders,” adds Coles. “Studying the relation between reductions in sleep duration and psychopathology has already demonstrated that focusing on sleep in the clinic also leads to reductions in symptoms of psychopathology.”As they mentioned, we already know that many psychiatric disorders are associated with problematic sleep, and that improved sleep is helpful in these conditions. Recommending that people suffering with debilitating and uncontrollable intrusive thoughts to “just go to bed earlier” isn't particularly helpful. Not only that, such advice can be downright irritating.Here's a news story from Yahoo that plays up the “sleep reduces worry” causal relationship even more:This Sleep Tweak Could Help You Worry LessCan the time you hit the hay actually influence the types of thoughts you have? Science says yes.Are you a chronic worrier? The hour you’re going to sleep, and how much sleep you’re getting overall, may exacerbate your anxiety, according to a new study published in the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research.The great news here? By tweaking your sleep habits you could actually help yourself worry less. Really. Great! So internal monologues of self-loathing (“I'm a complete failure”, “No one likes me”) and deep anxiety about the future (“My career prospects are dismal”, “I worry about my partner's terrible diagnosis”) can be cured by going to bed earlier!Even if you could forcibly alter your chronotype (and I don't know if this is possible), what do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night haunted by your repetitive negative thoughts?Further ReadingAlexis Delanoir on the RNT paper and much more in Depression And Stress/Mood Disorders: Causes Of Repetitive Negative Thinking And RuminationsScicurious, with an amusingly titled piece: This study of hype in press releases will change journalismFootnotes1 Chronotype was dichotomously classified as evening type vs. moderately morning-type / neither type (not a lot of early birds, I guess). And only 75 students completed questionnaires in this part of the study.2 It's notable that the significance level for these correlations was not corrected for multiple comparisons in the first place.References... Read more »
Nota, J., & Coles, M. (2014) Duration and Timing of Sleep are Associated with Repetitive Negative Thinking. Cognitive Therapy and Research. DOI: 10.1007/s10608-014-9651-7
Sumner, P., Vivian-Griffiths, S., Boivin, J., Williams, A., Venetis, C., Davies, A., Ogden, J., Whelan, L., Hughes, B., Dalton, B.... (2014) The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study. BMJ, 349(dec09 7). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g7015
Prions, misfolded proteins that wreak havoc on the brain, may have finally met their match. Best known for things like mad cow disease and possibly alzheimer’s disease scientists have had no luck stopping prions, until now. Researchers say that a vaccination they have developed to fight a brain-based, wasting syndrome among deer and other animals may hold promise on two additional fronts: Protecting U.S. livestock from contracting the disease, and preventing similar brain infections in humans.... Read more »
Goñi, F., Mathiason, C., Yim, L., Wong, K., Hayes-Klug, J., Nalls, A., Peyser, D., Estevez, V., Denkers, N., Xu, J.... (2014) Mucosal immunization with an attenuated Salmonella vaccine partially protects white-tailed deer from chronic wasting disease. Vaccine. DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.11.035
Yes, I know. Another post on the 'day of rest' but I promise you that this will not become a habit. The reason: the paper by Feiyong Jia and colleagues  published in the premier journal Pediatrics. The authors describe a case report of a young child with autism who is observed to have shown improvement in some of the core symptoms of autism following supplementation with the [sunshine] vitamin/hormone of the hour: vitamin D. Further reporting on the paper can be seen here.Although the paper is interesting - "stressing the importance of clinical assessment of vitamin D3 deficiency and the need for vitamin D3 supplementation in case of deficiency" - and fits in well with my borderline obsession with vitamin D, my interest was piqued because we have actually seen something similar from this research group before . On this and that occasion, 'possibly' reporting on the same "32-month-old boy with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and vitamin D3 deficiency". I've also discussed the previous Jia paper on this blog before (see here).I'm gonna say little more on this topic aside from reiterating my reiteration(?) on that previous post about Jia et al talking about their description of a single case report and how one has to be very careful about generalising to the very wide and very heterogeneous autism (or autisms). Yes, there may indeed be issues with vitamin D levels / availability when it comes to some people on the autism spectrum  (see here for example) but science is still feeling it's way around this topic and where such a finding might link into the grand scheme of things with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in mind.I'm also minded to bring to your attention two other papers also appearing in the same journal and reporting with vitamin D in mind: Hart and colleagues  detailing more results from the Raine study on what maternal vitamin D levels might mean for offspring outcomes, and McNally and colleagues  (who has some research history with vitamin D in mind) talking about how to correct any deficiency. That all being said bearing in mind my prime [blogging] directive: no medical or clinical advice given or intended.Now, about that Sunday lunch...---------- Jia F. et al. Core Symptoms of Autism Improved After Vitamin D Supplementation. Pediatrics. 2014. December 15. Jia F. et al. Vitamin D Supplementation Improves Autistic Symptoms in a Child with AutismSpectrum Disorder. Asian Case Reports in Pediatrics. 2014; 2: 21-24. Pioggia G. et al. Autism and lack of D3 vitamin: A systematic review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2014; 8: 1685-1698. Hart PH. et al. Vitamin D in Fetal Development: Findings From a Birth Cohort Study. Pediatrics. 2014. December 15. McNally JD. et al. Rapid Normalization of Vitamin D Levels: A Meta-Analysis. Pediatrics. 2014. December 15.----------Feiyong Jia, Bing Wang, Ling Shan, Zhida Xu, Wouter G. Staal, & Lin Du (2014). Core Symptoms of Autism Improved After Vitamin D Supplementation Pediatrics : doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2121... Read more »
Feiyong Jia, Bing Wang, Ling Shan, Zhida Xu, Wouter G. Staal, & Lin Du. (2014) Core Symptoms of Autism Improved After Vitamin D Supplementation. Pediatrics. info:/doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2121
Electrical gating is a technique commonly used to modulate the carrier density of semiconductor devices. While I see many papers that report on experiments which...
The post Taking sides: Efficent gating of LaAlO3/SrTiO3 appeared first on Spin and Tonic.
... Read more »
Stornaiuolo, D., Gariglio, S., Fête, A., Gabay, M., Li, D., Massarotti, D., & Triscone, J. (2014) Weak localization and spin-orbit interaction in side-gate field effect devices at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface. Physical Review B, 90(23). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.90.235426
Think you know what causes depression? Well unfortunately scientists don’t have the exact answer, surprised? That’s not the only problem, there is an ever growing concern that we live in an over medicated society and a newly released study doesn’t paint a better picture. About 15 percent of women in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders and depression during their pregnancies, and many are prescribed antidepressants. However little is known about how early exposure to these medications might affect their offspring as they mature into adults.... Read more »
Altieri SC, Yang H, O'Brien HJ, Redwine HM, Senturk D, Hensler JG, & Andrews AM. (2014) Perinatal vs. Genetic Programming of Serotonin States Associated with Anxiety. Neuropsychopharmacology. PMID: 25523893
What happens when scientists publish papers that aren't meant to be taken seriously? Is ironic, satirical and joke science all in good fun, or can it be dangerous?
This is the question asked by Drexel University researchers Maryam Ronagh and Lawrence Souder in a new paper is called The Ethics of Ironic Science in Its Search for Spoof.
The British BMJ journal is known for an annual Christmas special issue filled with unusual articles. For example, two years ago they explored the questio... Read more »
Ronagh M, & Souder L. (2014) The Ethics of Ironic Science in Its Search for Spoof. Science and engineering ethics. PMID: 25510233
"The relationship between JH/HDCT [joint hypermobility / heritable disorders of connective tissue] and mental disorders merits further attention in order to improve current knowledge and clarify a possible common etiology."There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.That was the conclusion reached in the paper by Carolina Baeza-Velasco and colleagues  looking at the possibility of some interesting connections, outside of just physical presentation, when it comes to the range of conditions headed under the label 'disorders of connective tissue'. The list of diagnoses potentially 'associated' with JH/HDCT by Baeza-Velasco et al is pretty long: "anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, neurodevelopmental disorders (autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder , and developmental coordination disorder), eating disorders, personality disorders and substance use/misuse."From the point-of-view of this blog, mention of the word 'autism' is perhaps the most important suggested link, harking back to some previous discussion of joint hypermobility and gait with the autism spectrum in mind (see here). I'm still pretty interested in seeing this issue followed up in the autism research arena bearing in mind the possible influence of comorbidity as per findings related to the presence of anxiety and joint hypermobility  and the question of which comes first: autism or hypermobility?Music: Glow by Ella Henderson.---------- Baeza-Velasco C. et al. Joint hypermobility and the heritable disorders of connective tissue: clinical and empirical evidence of links with psychiatry. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2014 Oct 16. pii: S0163-8343(14)00264-3. Baeza-Velasco C. et al. Connective tissue problems and attention deficit and hyperactivity. ADHD Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders. 2014. 1866-6647 Sanches SB. et al. Anxiety and joint hypermobility association: a systematic review. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2012 Jun;34 Suppl 1:S53-60.----------Baeza-Velasco C, Pailhez G, Bulbena A, & Baghdadli A (2014). Joint hypermobility and the heritable disorders of connective tissue: clinical and empirical evidence of links with psychiatry. General hospital psychiatry PMID: 25459977... Read more »
Baeza-Velasco C, Pailhez G, Bulbena A, & Baghdadli A. (2014) Joint hypermobility and the heritable disorders of connective tissue: clinical and empirical evidence of links with psychiatry. General hospital psychiatry. PMID: 25459977
The pituitary gland (in red). Image courtesy of Life Science Databases (LSDB).
Where is the pituitary gland?The pituitary gland is a small (about the size of a pea) endocrine gland that extends from the bottom of the hypothalamus. It is divided into two lobes in humans, the anterior pituitary and posterior pituitary. The anterior pituitary does not have direct neural connections to the hypothalamus, but is able to communicate with it through a system of blood vessels called the hypophyseal portal system. The posterior pituitary, however, is directly connected to the hypothalamus by a tube-like structure called the infundibular stalk.What is the pituitary gland and what does it do?The pituitary gland is often referred to as the "master gland" of the body because it is responsible for the release of hormones that regulate the activity of other endocrine glands and bodily systems; in this way it affects physiological processes throughout the body. Despite its directorial appellation, however, the function of the pituitary gland itself is controlled by the hypothalamus.The anterior pituitary is responsible for the synthesis and secretion of a collection of hormones that have manifold effects in a number of different physiological systems. Some of these hormones, along with a very simplified description of their actions, are: adrenocorticotropic hormone, which prompts the release of glucocorticoid hormones like cortisol; beta-endorphin, which is involved in natural pain relief; thyroid-stimulating hormone, which prompts the release of metabolic hormones from the thyroid; follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, which are involved in the proper functioning of the reproductive system; growth hormone, which promotes growth; and prolactin, which is involved in milk production in females. Of course the roles of each of these hormones is actually much more diverse and complex than this list indicates, but these are some of their best-known functions.The hypothalamus does not have neural connections with the anterior pituitary but it communicates with the gland via a system of blood vessels called the hypophyseal portal system. The hypothalamus secretes hormones called releasing hormones into the hypophyseal portal system; these hormones travel through the bloodstream to the anterior pituitary, where they act as signals to prompt the release of hormones like those listed above.The posterior pituitary is responsible for the release of two hormones: oxytocin and vasopressin. Unlike the anterior pituitary, however, the posterior pituitary does not synthesize its own hormones. Oxytocin and vasopressin are both synthesized in the hypothalamus, and then sent via neuroendocrine projections to the posterior pituitary. From there they are released them into the bloodstream. Oxytocin has roles in facilitating childbirth and lactation, but is also thought to play a role in promoting social bonding and compassion. Vasopressin, also known as antidiuretic hormone, is primarily involved in controlling urine output and regulating blood pressure.The pituitary gland is less than a centimeter in diameter, but it secretes hormones that have widespread effects on behavior and bodily function. Thus, despite its diminutive size it has justifiably earned the moniker of "master gland."Amar, A., & Weiss, M. (2003). Pituitary anatomy and physiology Neurosurgery Clinics of North America, 14 (1), 11-23 DOI: 10.1016/S1042-3680(02)00017-7null... Read more »
You might not want the dreaded tube socks in your Christmas stocking this year, but you do appreciate the actual tubes that your body depends on in just about every organ system. A recent paper in PLOS Biology describes tube formation in the fly renal system and the signals that regulate it. Tubes generally start as buds that dramatically elongate during development, but the cell rearrangements that occur during tubulogenesis are not completely understood. Saxena and colleagues recently used the developing fly renal system to track cell movements during tube formation. Tubule elongation primarily occurs through convergent extension, during which cells intercalate along the length of the tube. During these rearrangements, the number of cells around the circumference of the tube drops as the number of cells along the tube increases. Saxena and colleagues show that epidermal growth factor localized at the tip cells of the distal end of the tube guides the polarity of cell rearrangements, via polarization of Myosin II within individual cells. Finally, without proper tube elongation, animals have abnormal excretory function and osmoregulation, leading to lethality. In the images above, the top row shows failure of tube elongation after laser ablation of the distal tip cells (arrowheads). Bottom row shows normal tube elongation without laser ablation of tip cells (arrowheads). Saxena, A., Denholm, B., Bunt, S., Bischoff, M., VijayRaghavan, K., & Skaer, H. (2014). Epidermal Growth Factor Signalling Controls Myosin II Planar Polarity to Orchestrate Convergent Extension Movements during Drosophila Tubulogenesis PLoS Biology, 12 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002013... Read more »
Saxena, A., Denholm, B., Bunt, S., Bischoff, M., VijayRaghavan, K., & Skaer, H. (2014) Epidermal Growth Factor Signalling Controls Myosin II Planar Polarity to Orchestrate Convergent Extension Movements during Drosophila Tubulogenesis. PLoS Biology, 12(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002013
Thanks to the internet age we have lost touch with the fact that there is a human out there reading these words. Because of this, the golden rule –treat others the way you want to be treated — went out the window. Making fun of “fat” people now seems to be a internet hobby and that insensitivity can (and does) bleed over into “normal” non-internet life. Now a new study shows that women whose loved ones are critical of their weight tend to put on even more pounds, which is probably no surprise to people who have experienced this behavior.... Read more »
LOGEL, C., STINSON, D., GUNN, G., WOOD, J., HOLMES, J., & CAMERON, J. (2014) A little acceptance is good for your health: Interpersonal messages and weight change over time. Personal Relationships, 21(4), 583-598. DOI: 10.1111/pere.12050
What are the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the textures that you associate with Christmas? Perhaps it is Christmas trees with their lovely green shape, color and wonderful pine smell. Maybe it’s the smells of cooking, the savory smells of turkey or the sweet smell of warm cookies. Or what about all of the cozy feelings you get with big sweaters or a roaring fire? Did you know that there is a lot of chemistry that goes into all of the senses we associate with this holiday?I was browsing through holiday-related articles, looking for something different from the usual psychology or sociology centered holiday study. That’s when I came across an article from 2012 published in the Journal of Chemical Education about the five senses of Christmas chemistry. The authors look through the lens of organic chemistry and take five “Christmas compounds” to examine in the context of the five senses.Sound: Silver FulminateIn 1824, Justus Liebig correctly determined the molecular formula of silver fulminate (AgCNO), and, around the same time, Friedrich Wohler identified the molecular formula for silver cyanate (AgOCN). Now, these might look the same, but they are in fact very different. Soon after, these scientists collaborated and rationalized these differences by introducing the notion of isomerism – molecules that have the same kinds of atoms but because these atoms have different arrangements in shape they differ in their chemical and physical properties. Silver fulminate is highly unstable, and even a small amount of friction leads to its violent decomposition. That makes it very useful when you want to make things go boom.Christmas crackers are items that are a more traditional favorite in the UK. The Christmas crackers used today are short cardboard tubes wrapped in colorful paper. When they are pulled – bang! – out comes a colorful hat (usually looking like a crown), a small toy or a joke. The sound is made from the rapid breakdown of silver fulminate present in small quantities in the paper. Two thin strips of cardboard are glued together, one containing silver fulminate and the other a rough surface. When the cracker is pulled, the surfaces rub together to produce friction and facilitate the reaction. The compound goes through a redox reaction followed by a release of nitrogen gas and carbon monoxide. This sudden production of gases is what produces the distinctive popping sounds.Sight: α-pineneA beautifully lit and decorated Christmas tree is one of the most common sights of this holiday. For the purposes of this section, we’ll assume that you bought a real tree rather than an artificial one. Geographic region can play a big part in the species of tree that is available to you, but they are very likely all evergreens (fir, spruce, pine, and cedars). In their resin, these conifers release terpene hydrocarbons, specifically monoterpenoids that is composed of two isoprene building blocks. This word should sound familiar as it is a derivative of turpentine, which you may know for its distinctive pine scent. Pine oil contains two monoterpenoids, α-pinene and β-pinene, which are both liquid at room temperature. This is another case of isomerism; although both have the typical C10H16 molecular formula there are four stereoisomers of each where the bonded atoms differing in their 3-D orientations. α-pinene is one of the most common volatiles in nature and is directly linked to the Christmas tree’s smell. Touch: Sodium Acetate I don’t live in what most people would term a cold climate. Sure, we get cold weather, but we’re not talking blizzards. However, in my days as a field ecologist I spent many a winter day outside taking measurements. On those days, I was ever-so-grateful for one little invention: the hand warmer. Squish around the contents of the packet to get it to heat up to keep you pockets, and hands, toasty all day long. Bliss.Many hand warmers are based on a simple chemical reaction – the crystallization of a supersaturated sodium acetate solution. When you squish around the contents of the hand warmer, you are triggering a chemical process. A nucleation site, usually a metal disk with small seed crystals, causes rapid crystallization of the super saturated solution. This is a highly exothermic process that releases energy to its surroundings as heat. These types of hand warmers are often reusable because of their physical mode of action. Other hand warmers rely on the exothermic oxidation of iron when exposed to air. Activated charcoal is used to catalyze the reaction, along with vermiculite and salt as additives. However, this chemical mode of action means that these are one use only products.Taste: TryptophanIf you are a fan of a big turkey dinner then you have probably heard of tryptophan. It is a common misconception that the tryptophan from your turkey binge brings on sleepiness. It’s true that tryptophan is involved in sleep and mood control. However, turkey doesn’t contain enough of the compound (only 350 mg per 115 g) to have a soporific effect. It’s more likely that the sheer volume of food that you eat (and probably the wine you drank with it) on these occasions decreases blood flow and oxygenation, inducing the drowsiness.Tryptophan is an essential aromatic amino acid that is commonly found in proteins. This compound has two enantiomers, chiral molecules that are mirror images of one another (kinda like left and right hands). L-tryptophan exists in nature and has a pronounced bitter taste, while D-tryptophan is synthetic and has a very sweet taste. Once you consume tryptophan, it goes through a series of metabolic reactions, one of which ends with melatonin. This final product is a neurohormone that is naturally secreted by the pineal gland, is involved in regulating circadian rhythms and may also have strong antioxidant effects.Smell: GingerolGingersnap cookies and gingerbread houses are common sights around the holidays, and with them come their wonderful ginger scent. Ginger products usually contain fresh or powdered bits from the rhizomes (rootstalk, or modified underground stem) of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale). One of the organic compounds produced by this plant is gingerol, an aromatic vanilloid compound containing a β-hydroxyketone functionality. Interestingly, the taste of this compound can be modified via laboratory synthesis. Shogaol is derived by either refluxing gingerol with concentrated sulfuric acid or allowing a dehydration reaction can occur on gingerol to give the aldol condensation product. Shogaol has a more pungent flavor than gingerol. Conversely, ginergol can completely break down into zingerone after refluxing in strong aqueous base. Zingerone is considered to have less pungency than gingerol.Considering this chemistry, you can alter the flavor of the ginger you use in your cooking. For example, if you cook ginger extensively, particularly in the absence of acid, then you produce the mildest tasting vanilloids, zingerone. But also keep in mind that your kitchen conditions are not laboratory conditions. This means that you are likely to end up with a mixture of all three compounds in your cookies.That’s all for our journey through the senses of Christmas. If you are a chemistry teacher, or simply a chemistry nut, then I recommend reading through the paper. It has all sorts of skeletal formulas that you’ll love.... Read more »
Even a brilliant dog may not be able to count as high as the number of feet she has. In a cheese cube counting challenge, dogs struggled to prove they have any number sense at all. Embarrassingly for the dogs, some wolves took the exact same test and passed it. This may be a hint about what dogs lost when they moved to a cushy life of domestication.
At the Wolf Science Center in Austria, Friederike Range and her colleagues raise both wolves and dogs by hand, then train them to take part i... Read more »
Range F, Jenikejew J, Schröder I, & Virányi Z. (2014) Difference in quantity discrimination in dogs and wolves. Frontiers in psychology, 1299. PMID: 25477834
If you should ever get this question, the answer is rather short: “according to recent findings, birds are descended from maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs.” Makes sense, right?... Read more »
Xu, X., Zhou, Z., Dudley, R., Mackem, S., Chuong, C., Erickson, G., & Varricchio, D. (2014) An integrative approach to understanding bird origins. Science, 346(6215), 1253293-1253293. DOI: 10.1126/science.1253293
A regular theme here at Neuroskeptic is the worrying issue of head movement during brain scans. We've seen that motion can alter measures of functional and structural connectivity, and that common approaches to dealing with this problem may be inadequate.
Now a new study reveals that even measures of the gross structure of the brain can be biased by excessive motion: Head motion during MRI acquisition reduces gray matter volume and thickness estimates.
Harvard neurologists Martin Reuter ... Read more »
Reuter M, Tisdall MD, Qureshi A, Buckner RL, van der Kouwe AJ, & Fischl B. (2014) Head motion during MRI acquisition reduces gray matter volume and thickness estimates. NeuroImage, 107-115. PMID: 25498430
Did you know that fruit flies sleep? There are actually a lot of similarities between sleep in fruit flies and sleep in humans and other mammals. For example… Image modified from Colwell, 2007 Like us, fruit flies get most of their sleep at night, and they also have an afternoon slump (although unlike us, they […]... Read more »
Potdar Sheetal. (2013) Lessons From Sleeping Flies: Insights from Drosophila melanogaster on the Neuronal Circuitry and Importance of Sleep . Journal of Neurogenetics, 27(1-2), 23-42. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/01677063.2013.791692
Koh K., M. N. Wu, Z. Yue, C. J. Smith, & A. Sehgal. (2008) Identification of SLEEPLESS, a Sleep-Promoting Factor. Science, 321(5887), 372-376. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1155942
Liu Weijie, Beika Lu, & Aike Guo. (2008) amnesiac regulates sleep onset and maintenance in Drosophila melanogaster. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 372(4), 798-803. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbrc.2008.05.119
Otters don’t tend to be very visible to us, but they are more abundant than we might perceive them to be. Otters mostly live in isolation of one another, yet they manage to remotely communicate to one another without the aid of modern technology that we so often depend upon for communication.
On this blog, I previously wrote how otters communicate with one another using their spraints (faeces). They use them to mark their territory and to leave messages for other otters. As part of the research project I work on, we collect these spraints for DNA analysis to tell us about the population.
A new study by Eleanor Keane and colleagues at Cardiff University, published in Mammalian Biology has sought to understand some of these chemical messages. Keane explains in their study that “otters have two anal sacs, each of which deposits secretions with faeces (spraints)”.... Read more »
Kean, E., Chadwick, E., & Müller, C. (2014) Scent signals individual identity and country of origin in otters. Mammalian Biology - Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde. DOI: 10.1016/j.mambio.2014.12.004
by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room
We are again honored by our inclusion in the ABA Blawg 100 list for 2014. If you value this blog, today is the last day to vote for us here in the Litigation Category. Is this perhaps the anti-reptile theory? We don’t know, but it is potentially a powerful stealth weapon for cases where your opponent is attempting […]
Simple Jury Persuasion: In the face of ambiguity, we just make stuff up!
Simple Jury Persuasion: “That was the witness who spoke so sadly”
Simple Jury Persuasion: “You know you want to trust me!”
... Read more »
Norman L, Lawrence N, Iles A, Benattayallah A, & Karl A. (2014) Attachment-security priming attenuates amygdala activation to social and linguistic threat. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. PMID: 25326039
Bipolar disorder appearing again on this blog this week? It's just the way that the papers fall...With a title like: 'Increased uric acid levels in bipolar disorder subjects during different phases of illness' I was hardly likely to pass up the opportunity to discuss the paper by Umberto Albert and colleagues  and their suggestion that there may be a lot more to see when it comes to "a purinergic dysfunction associated with BD [bipolar disorder]".I lost the defuser gun when I misplaced the invisible car.Based on the analysis of serum uric acid (UA) levels in 150 participants formally diagnosed with BD compared with "150 age- and gender-matched subjects with MDD [major depressive disorder], OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder], or Schizophrenia", researchers reported that: "Mean serum UA levels (5.06±1.45 vs. 4.17±1.05mg/dL) and rates of hyperuricaemia (30.7% vs. 6.7%) were significantly higher in the bipolar than in the control group." The authors pointed out the limitations of their study: "Our study suffers from the lack of a healthy comparison group; moreover, longitudinal data are missing" so no need for me to say anything further in that respect.Uric acid, more commonly associated with a condition like gout, has been getting quite a bit of research attention when it comes to behaviour and psychiatry down the years. I've talked previously on this blog about the intriguing work suggestive of a possible connection between levels of uric acid and impulsivity (see here) highlighting a possible biology - trait connection. As per the Albert findings - "No differences were detected between bipolars in different phases of illness, with all three groups (manic, depressive and euthymic bipolars) showing significantly higher UA levels as compared to controls" - other research has hinted that the relationship between uric acid and BD is quite a bit more than just one related to trait . I'm open to accepting that this might however change as more research is done on this topic.Mechanism of effect for uric acid in BD? A very good question. Unfortunately I don't have a good answer at the moment, aside from reiterating the Albert suggestion "of a purinergic dysfunction associated with BD". Going all the way back to the 1921 book by Emil Kraeplin where the connection between uric acid and "manic symptoms" was discussed, there is quite a long history attached to this area. Even further back, the paper by Sutherland (1892)  talked about uric acid diathesis in children exemplified by: "keen precocious minds, and small restless bodies; they are excitable, nervous, bright and amusing at one time, and greatly depressed at another". Lithium salts were the treatment of choice for the 'gouty diseases'  and perhaps might offer some further explanation for the mechanism of effect in BD.Other than that I can say no more, aside from pointing out that if one considers uric acid to be an agent of inflammation  and associated with other inflammatory responses , one might entertain some possible association between elevated levels of the stuff and other potentially important work in the area of BD...And to close: White Coats by Foxes.---------- Albert U. et al. Increased uric acid levels in bipolar disorder subjects during different phases of illness. J Affect Disord. 2014 Nov 15;173C:170-175. Kesebir S. et al. Increased uric acid levels in bipolar disorder: is it trait or state? J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2013 Oct-Dec;27(4):981-8. Sutherland GA. On some Symptoms Associated with the Uric Acid Diathesis in Children. Br Med J. 1892 Apr 23;1(1634):856-8. Amdisen A. & Hildebrandt J. Use of lithium in the medically ill. Psychother Psychosom. 1988;49(2):103-19. Shi Y. Caught red-handed: uric acid is an agent of inflammation. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 2010;120(6):1809-1811. doi:10.1172/JCI43132. Lyngdoh T. et al. Elevated serum uric acid is associated with high circulating inflammatory cytokines in the population-based Colaus study. PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19901.----------Albert U, De Cori D, Aguglia A, Barbaro F, Bogetto F, & Maina G (2014). Increased uric acid levels in bipolar disorder subjects during different phases of illness. Journal of affective disorders, 173C, 170-175 PMID: 25462413... Read more »
Albert U, De Cori D, Aguglia A, Barbaro F, Bogetto F, & Maina G. (2014) Increased uric acid levels in bipolar disorder subjects during different phases of illness. Journal of affective disorders, 170-175. PMID: 25462413
The FIFA11 program reduced injuries and improved functional performance. It is more effective if compliance and adherence are high, both of which are better if a coach educated on the program administers the program to the team.... Read more »
Barengo, N., Meneses-Echávez, J., Ramírez-Vélez, R., Cohen, D., Tovar, G., & Bautista, J. (2014) The Impact of the FIFA 11 Training Program on Injury Prevention in Football Players: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(11), 11986-12000. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph111111986
As December rolls into its second half, and the days warm up - or cool down - depending on where you are situated on the globe, we wanted to say thank you for joining us in 2014 - we are continually blown away with the popular and supportive community we have around us at Do You Believe in Dog? here on the blog, on Facebook and also on Twitter. Taking our lead from Companion Animal Psychology, we decided to jump into some statistics (because hey, we are scientists!) to see what you made our most popular posts of 2014.You voted with your clicks all year long and so, without further ado, here are the Top 4 Do You Believe in Dog posts of 2014:# 4 What the pug is going on?After seeing popular opinion of pugs framed as 'cute', Mia put together this review of the health issues facing brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, why it's a welfare concern and what can be done to raise awareness and improve the quality of life in future generations of these dogs. Read: What the pug is going on?This piece was cross-posted to The Dodo# 3 Dogs Are Like Porn: All Over the Internet and Waiting For YouOutlining all the ways you can actively participate in canine research, even without leaving the comfort of your couch, Julie compile this fantastic list of scientific studies seeking participants. You can be a citizen scientist! Read: Dogs Are Like Porn: All Over the Internet and Waiting For You # 2 Dog Loses Ear at Dog Park and There Was Nothing We Could Do About It "Dogs are confusing. People are confusing. Put them together in a public space, and it’s like all the circuses came to town on the same day." Julie outlines the issues of dogs and people combining in public spaces and offers many easily accessed resources and opportunities to educate ourselves so we can be proactive in preventing bad experiences for all. Read: Dog Loses Ear at Dog Park and There Was Nothing We Could Do About It # 1 Why do dogs lick people?It started with a question on twitter, and turned out to be our most popular post of 2014.@DoUBelieveInDog why do dogs lick you lots when they like you?— Chanukah Potatolatke (@cpezaro) March 28, 2014With the photo by Chris Sembrot that can not be unseen, this post from Mia looked at what we have learned about why dog lick us - there's no one quick answer and some people were quite surprised at the depth of background, in evolutionary, social and environmental terms, behind what we consider an everyday behaviour. A big part of why we love canine science! Read: Why do dogs lick people?This piece was cross-posted to The DodoWe're looking forward to sharing more great canine science with you in 2015. Have a safe and fun holiday season. ... Read more »
Scanlon Eileen. (2013) Scholarship in the digital age: Open educational resources, publication and public engagement. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 12-23. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12010
Stilgoe J., & J. Wilsdon. (2014) Why should we promote public engagement with science?. Public Understanding of Science, 23(1), 4-15. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0963662513518154
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