Post List

  • October 22, 2014
  • 11:05 PM
  • 9 views

Microscopic observation in live tissue, awesome! But don’t ignore the methods

by Austin Bouck in Animal Science Review

The NIH sent me an email this week (via the various government listservs I’m enrolled in) that was proudly declaring that the mysteries of the cell were being solved right now, so I took the clickbait. In it was a cool study where we were able to actively watch mitochondria oscillate inside a living animal...... Read more »

Natalie Porat-Shliom, Yun Chen, Muhibullah Tora, Akiko Shitara, Andrius Masedunskas, & Roberto Weigertemail. (2014) In Vivo Tissue-wide Synchronization of Mitochondrial Metabolic Oscillations. Cell Reports. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2014.09.022

Weigert R, Porat-Shliom N, & Amornphimoltham P. (2013) Imaging cell biology in live animals: ready for prime time. The Journal of cell biology, 201(7), 969-79. PMID: 23798727  

  • October 22, 2014
  • 03:55 PM
  • 17 views

Converting Skin Cells to Neurons: A Fight Against Huntington’s

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Neurological diseases are some of the hardest to fight against (in my opinion). The big reason is the brain, we still know so little about it and treatment for anything effecting it can be difficult to say the least. Take Huntington’s disease, an ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disorder. There is no cure and no real treatment, but that might change relatively soon thanks to a new discovery.... Read more »

Victor, M., Richner, M., Hermanstyne, T., Ransdell, J., Sobieski, C., Deng, P., Klyachko, V., Nerbonne, J., & Yoo, A. (2014) Generation of Human Striatal Neurons by MicroRNA-Dependent Direct Conversion of Fibroblasts. Neuron, 84(2), 311-323. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.10.016  

  • October 22, 2014
  • 11:21 AM
  • 21 views

Are All Labrador Retrievers the Same?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Or do show dogs and field dogs vary in temperament?Photo: c.byatt-norman / ShutterstockIt’s often said there are personality differences between Labrador Retrievers bred to show (conformation dogs) and those bred to work (field dogs). And chocolate labs have a reputation for being different than black and yellow labs. Is it true? New research by Sarah Lofgren et al (Royal (Dick) Veterinary School, University of Edinburgh) investigates.Although many Labrador Retrievers are family pets, some work as hunting dogs while others are bred for the show ring. There’s a difference in appearance between field (or working) Labradors and conformation (or show) dogs, and some people think they have different personalities too. Almost 2000 owners of Labrador Retrievers registered with the UK Kennel Club completed a demographic survey and the C-BARQ, a questionnaire that assesses canine personality. The survey included questions about exercise, and whether the dog was a family pet or a working dog used for retrieval or as a show dog.Gundogs were given higher ratings for trainability, fetching, and attention seeking than show dogs and pets. They were also rated as less likely to bark, less fearful of loud noises, and less likely to have a stereotypy (unusual behaviour). Most of these are not surprising as they fit with the requirements of a dog that has to work at retrieval in the field. For example, it’s good they are considered less fearful of loud noises since they will routinely hear gunshots as part of their work. They need to be good at retrieval, and they will spend periods of time waiting in between retrieves.The show dogs were rated as less fearful of humans, objects and noise, less aggressive to people who are not the owner, and less agitated when ignored. Again most of these fit with the requirements of a dog that will perform well in the show ring, where there are unfamiliar people and sounds, and the dog will be handled by the judge who is a stranger to them.Compared to black and yellow Labradors, chocolate Labs were given lower ratings for trainability and fear of noises, and higher ratings for unusual behaviours. Compared to black Labs, they scored lower on fetching but were more excitable and more likely to be agitated when ignored; however these were not different compared to yellow labs. It is not known if the genes for coat colour also affect behaviour in this breed. It is also possible that other genes exist by chance at greater levels in certain kinds of Labrador, particularly since some dogs were related. One of the nice things about this study is the range in the amount of daily exercise; while some dogs had less than an hour, others got more than four hours of exercise a day. In general, the dogs who got more exercise were less fearful of humans and objects, less likely to have separation anxiety, and less aggressive. The authors suggest that dogs who get less exercise may become bored and frustrated.One potential confound the researchers acknowledge is that dogs originally bred to work, who subsequently turn out not to be very good at it, may then become family pets instead. Hence it is possible that the dogs kept solely as pets include some ‘failed’ working dogs.The results are correlational and do not show causality. The differences between the two types of Labrador Retrievers could be due to genetics (being bred for a different purpose), environment (being raised and trained differently), or a combination.  In addition, the results rely on reports from owners who are likely aware of widely held beliefs about the breed.The scientists say, “This large-scale study of behavioural characteristics in Labrador Retrievers revealed a number of associations between physical, lifestyle and management characteristics of the dogs and personality traits. The explanatory factor with the largest overall effect was the Working Status of the dog, where pets showed dispositions that are generally considered less desirable than those of Gundogs and Showdogs.”The study is fascinating because it looks at personality differences within one breed, which is unusual. It also shows a relationship between exercise and temperament. The higher ratings for trainability amongst gundogs – who have received large amounts of training – make me wonder if this is a fixed trait, or if training leads to increased trainability.  Many people think Labrador Retrievers are the perfect family dog. What kind of Labrador do you prefer?ReferenceLofgren, S., Wiener, P., Blott, S., Sanchez-Molano, E., Woolliams, J., Clements, D., & Haskell, M. (2014). Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 156, 44-53 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.006... Read more »

Lofgren, S., Wiener, P., Blott, S., Sanchez-Molano, E., Woolliams, J., Clements, D., & Haskell, M. (2014) Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 44-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.006  

  • October 22, 2014
  • 09:46 AM
  • 25 views

Video Tip of the Week: SeqMonk

by Mary in OpenHelix

Always on the lookout for effective visualization tools, I recently came across a series of videos about the SeqMonk software. It’s not software that I had used before, so I wanted to look at the videos, and then try it out. It downloaded quickly, offered me an extensive list of genomes to load up, and […]... Read more »

  • October 22, 2014
  • 08:05 AM
  • 27 views

Death By Haunted House

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

People enjoy a good scare at Halloween, it’s an epinephrine rush without the bother of real danger. But could you actually be scared to death? Science says yes, it should really be called the fight, flight, faint, or fatality response. In susceptible people, a severe fright can literally change the shape of the heart and destroy the efficient pumping of blood. Unfortunately, something similar can happen in infants, and it can be lethal as well.... Read more »

  • October 22, 2014
  • 07:29 AM
  • 18 views

Crucial gene for Malaria Transmission

by Pieter Carrière in United Academics

A new step in battling Malaria: making transmission its weakest link. Scientists could prevent the development of gametocytes.... Read more »

Kafsack BF, Rovira-Graells N, Clark TG, Bancells C, Crowley VM, Campino SG, Williams AE, Drought LG, Kwiatkowski DP, Baker DA.... (2014) A transcriptional switch underlies commitment to sexual development in malaria parasites. Nature, 507(7491), 248-52. PMID: 24572369  

Kåhrström CT. (2014) Parasite development: master regulator of sex. Nature reviews. Microbiology, 12(4), 233. PMID: 24608336  

Rovira-Graells N, Gupta AP, Planet E, Crowley VM, Mok S, Ribas de Pouplana L, Preiser PR, Bozdech Z, & Cortés A. (2012) Transcriptional variation in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Genome research, 22(5), 925-38. PMID: 22415456  

Gardner, M., Hall, N., Fung, E., White, O., Berriman, M., Hyman, R., Carlton, J., Pain, A., Nelson, K., Bowman, S.... (2002) Genome sequence of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Nature, 419(6906), 498-511. DOI: 10.1038/nature01097  

  • October 22, 2014
  • 04:26 AM
  • 33 views

Autism, parental concerns and socioeconomic status

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'd like to think that there are some rather important messages to be taken from the paper by Xiang Sun and colleagues [1] on level of parental concern, socioeconomic status (SES) and risk of autism. Not only did the authors conclude that: "a higher SES was not associated with the risk of having ASC [autism spectrum conditions]" they also found that: "No child met ASC criteria where parents expressed no concerns".Do you prefer "fashion victim" or "ensembly challenged"?SES - including variables such as family income, parental educational attainment(s) and parental occupation(s) - has been something of a talking point in autism research down the years and the rather mixed messages which have come out of the research literature on SES and offspring autism risk (see here). The growing appreciation that children of those positioned in a higher SES bracket don't seem to be at any significantly greater risk of autism is something rather important as per other evidence, for example, noted by Fujiwara [2]. Whether this means previous contrary findings were in error or that there has been some shift in the factors linked to the onset of contemporary autism is unknown at this time.Some of my first thoughts on the Sun SES findings were in relation to all the discussions about offspring autism potentially being associated with certain types of parental occupational choices [3]. Indeed, considering that the Sun study was both carried out in and originated from Cambridge (UK) and included Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen on the authorship team, it is coincidental that the findings could be construed as counter to such occupational links with autism (assuming that Physicists, Engineers and Mathematicians would be described as higher SES jobs).Of course I'm not saying the research on any relationship between offspring autism and parental occupation choice is all bunk; the paper from Windham and colleagues [4] and other evidence is too strong to negate (including that of occupational exposures potentially being involved). Merely that there may be much more to see than just a spectrum of 'talent' genes overlapping with autism risk genes [5] when it comes to receipt of a diagnosis on the very wide autism spectrum. Oh, and assuming you believe talent is all in the genes...The other finding from Sun et al discussing parental concern and potential diagnosis of autism in offspring also carries quite a bit of potential importance. Regular readers of this blog might already have picked up my respect for parents and carers as active agents both in terms of picking up the signs and symptoms of autism in their loved ones (see here) and also detecting and reporting other important comorbidity (see here). I see the Sun findings - "No child met ASC criteria where parents expressed no concerns" - as corroborating parents and caregivers as doing what they do best: knowing their own child. I might also suggest that the discussions on increasing autism rates solely being down to better awareness and greater diagnostic vigilance are not seemingly backed up by the Sun findings if we assume parental concerns represent the starting point of the diagnostic journey into autism.Some music to close. Gershon Kingsley and Popcorn.----------[1] Sun X. et al. Parental concerns, socioeconomic status, and the risk of autism spectrum conditions in a population-based study. Res Dev Disabil. 2014 Sep 25;35(12):3678-3688.[2] Fujiwara T. Socioeconomic status and the risk of suspected autism spectrum disorders among 18-month-old toddlers in Japan: a population-based study. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Jun;44(6):1323-31.[3] Baron-Cohen S. Does Autism Occur More Often in Families of Physicists, Engineers, and Mathematicians? Autism. 1998; 2: 296-301.[4] Windham GC. et al. Autism spectrum disorders in relation to parental occupation in technical fields. Autism Res. 2009 Aug;2(4):183-91.[5] Baron-Cohen S. Autism and the technical mind: children of scientists and engineers may inherit genes that not only confer intellectual talents but also predispose them to autism. Sci Am. 2012 Nov;307(5):72-5.----------Sun, X., Allison, C., Auyeung, B., Baron-Cohen, S., & Brayne, C. (2014). Parental concerns, socioeconomic status, and the risk of autism spectrum conditions in a population-based study Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35 (12), 3678-3688 DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2014.07.037... Read more »

  • October 22, 2014
  • 12:05 AM
  • 28 views

Knee Cartilage Changes Following ACL Rupture

by Kyle Harris in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture overall cartilage thickness in the tibiofemoral joint increased at an average of 0.4% per year. Patients under 25 years of age showed greater cartilage thickening than older patients.... Read more »

  • October 21, 2014
  • 07:01 PM
  • 34 views

Footwear and Flatfeet: Correlation or Causation?

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

Footwear and Flatfeet: Correlation or Causation?
... Read more »

Watanabe, E., McBride, C., Tora, A., Ayode, D., Farrell, D., & Davey, G. (2014) Use of footwear and foot condition among rural Ethiopian school children. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health. DOI: 10.1016/j.jegh.2014.06.001  

  • October 21, 2014
  • 04:51 PM
  • 36 views

Dude, wheres my Hover Car? Oh wait…

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

We all (of a certain age) remember the Jetsons, a futuristic family with hi-tech gadgets and gizmos. However, nothing said, “the future is here” quite like things hovering. Even in the movie Back to the future, they have hover boards and flying cars. Unfortunately we don’t, which is a shame because according to the 1950’s we are the future, we should have hover-cars and hover boards… well the wait is over. Yep, introducing the first real hover board!... Read more »

Hendo Hover. (2014) Hendo Hoverboards - World's first REAL hoverboard. Kickstarter. info:other/Here

  • October 21, 2014
  • 11:25 AM
  • 43 views

Sleep Problems in Alcoholism Treatment

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

In a previous post, I summarized a research study six month outcome of insomnia in a group of subjects treated for alcoholism.This study found a high persistence of insomnia despite reduction, and in many cases abstinence, from alcohol.A second study recently published by investigators at the National Institute of Health provides some additional insight into this topic.Gwenyth Wallen and colleagues studied a series of 164 participants admitted to a 4-6 week inpatient program for alcohol dependence.Subjects had an average inpatient length of stay of 32 days. Sleep problems were assessed using a combination of four measures:Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI): The PSQI was completed on the second and 28th day of treatment. A global score of 5 or more is highly reliable as a marker for sleep problems.Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS): The ESS is a measure of daytime sleepiness and was collected weekly during the study.Sleep Diaries: Sleep diaries were use to validate actigraphy data and provide an overall subjective rating of nightly sleep on a 0=very poorly to 10=excellent sleep.Actigraphy: Actigraphy data (measurement of activity throughout night) was collected using actigraphy wristbands and analyzed using computerized sleep scoring software.The key findings in the study included:90% of subjects at baseline and 51% at 4 weeks were classified with a sleep disorder by the PSQI25% of subjects reported excessive daytime sleepiness-this rate did not change during the course of treatmentActigraphy data showed improvement in sleep efficiency (sleep time divided by time in bed) and decreased time awake after sleep onsetHowever, total sleep time was low at both 2 and 28 days (about 5.4 hours per night) and subjects did not have a statistically significant mean increase in subjective sleep quality (6.33 at 2 days and 6.5 at 28 days)The authors note their study supports the potential value of actigraphy in identifying persistent sleep problems in alcoholics completing inpatient treatment programs. The actigraphy watches used in this study (Respironics-Actiwatch 2) retails for around $1000. The advent of smart watches and smartphone apps that measure activity during sleep provides an opportunity to extend measurement of sleep variables. I have previous reviewed the iPhone app Sleep Cycle here.The correlation of these consumer activity-based monitors with clinical monitors needs to be studied.Readers with more interest in this research study can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Photo of grosbeak is from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter WRY999Wallen GR, Brooks AT, Whiting B, Clark R, Krumlauf MC, Yang L, Schwandt ML, George DT, & Ramchandani VA (2014). The prevalence of sleep disturbance in alcoholics admitted for treatment: a target for chronic disease management. Family & community health, 37 (4), 288-97 PMID: 25167069... Read more »

  • October 21, 2014
  • 10:22 AM
  • 47 views

The Emotions of Paranormal Belief

by Rodney Steadman in Gravity's Pull

Belief in the paranormal may have more to do with a person’s emotional state than what goes bump in the night.... Read more »

  • October 21, 2014
  • 07:00 AM
  • 47 views

Not Quite Dead Yet

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

History shows that premature burial was more common than people might want to believe. Many burial traditions, including the Irish wake, stem from trying to prevent someone from being buried alive. How might this happen? Several medical conditions can lead to a poor decision on burial time. ... Read more »

Christopher Dibble. (2010) The Dead Ringer: Medicine, Poe, and the fear of premature burial. Historia Medicinae. info:/

  • October 21, 2014
  • 06:22 AM
  • 41 views

An Om A Day Keeps The Doctor Away

by Chiara Civardi in United Academics

Several studies show how meditating positively influences our minds and bodies. Read which medicines could be partially substituted or helped by a regular meditation practice.... Read more »

Anderson JW, Liu C, & Kryscio RJ. (2008) Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: a meta-analysis. American journal of hypertension, 21(3), 310-6. PMID: 18311126  

Davidson, R., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S., Urbanowski, F., Harrington, A., Bonus, K., & Sheridan, J. (2003) Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(4), 564-570. DOI: 10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3  

Delizonna, L., Williams, R., & Langer, E. (2009) The Effect of Mindfulness on Heart Rate Control. Journal of Adult Development, 16(2), 61-65. DOI: 10.1007/s10804-009-9050-6  

Epel E, Daubenmier J, Moskowitz JT, Folkman S, & Blackburn E. (2009) Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 34-53. PMID: 19735238  

Gaylord, S., Palsson, O., Garland, E., Faurot, K., Coble, R., Mann, J., Frey, W., Leniek, K., & Whitehead, W. (2011) Mindfulness Training Reduces the Severity of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Women: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106(9), 1678-1688. DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2011.184  

  • October 21, 2014
  • 04:53 AM
  • 40 views

Antibiotics and childhood obesity: a weighty correlation

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

It's been a few weeks since the publication of the paper by L. Charles Bailey and colleagues [1] correlating early multiple exposure to broad spectrum antibiotics with obesity in infancy. On purpose I've left it a while before talking about this research so as to let the scientific dust settle a little and get a flavour for some of the discussions about this research (see here and see here).You're a true vulgarian, aren't you?A few details about the Bailey study first:Looking at the electronic records for a large cohort of children (~65,000), researchers picked out "Treatment episodes for prescribed antibiotics" based on prescription data before the age of 2 years.Anthropometric (growth) data was also determined from visits to healthcare providers between the ages of 2 and 5 years and compared with body mass index (BMI) norms derived from a large US-based survey, NHANES.Results: "Sixty-nine percent of children were exposed to antibiotics before age 24 months" with a rough average of 2 antibiotic prescriptions per child. For those who received 4 or more courses of antibiotics, the risk of obesity during early childhood was slightly elevated (11%) compared with those receiving fewer courses.The authors specifically focused on broad spectrum antibiotics as being correlated with infant weight issues; antimicrobials acting against a broad range of bacteria rather than more targeted pharmaceutics.They concluded: "Repeated exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics at ages 0 to 23 months is associated with early childhood obesity". That being said, they also noted that various other factors seemed to correlate with infant obesity including: "Steroid use, male sex, urban practice, public insurance, Hispanic ethnicity, and diagnosed asthma or wheezing".I'm also minded to pull in a few other findings which did not get so many media headlines such as the reporting that at 4 years of age, 15% of the cohort were found to be obese and 33% overweight (source here).The Bailey results are interesting insofar as the association being made between early antibiotic use and obesity but, as always, a little caution needs to be applied before reading too much into the findings. I note the BBC coverage of this article mentions limitations: "they were not able to look at the children's weight or exercise regimes" so correlation not necessarily being the same as causation comes into play. I might also add that whilst antibiotic stewardship is still a developing area, many/most antibiotic prescriptions are not just given willy-nilly as any parent with a young child suffering from an ear infection for example, will probably be able to attest.I have kinda talked around this area of antibiotics and weight before on this blog (see here) and the implication that antibiotics, broad spectrum, by their very nature have a pretty profound effect on the trillions of bacterial beasties which inhabit places like the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Carl Zimmer's post on swallowing a grenade (not literally) is a good starting point. The idea being that as well as helping digest our food, said bacteria (whether individual strains or through a more collective action) might also be able to influence a variety of issues like energy homoeostasis, weight management and even our risk of disease (see here and see here). If I take you back to some work looking at a particular bacterium called Akkermansia muciniphila you might get a flavour for this possible connection with weight in mind (at least in rodents).I'm going to finish with another quote included with the BBC report on the Bailey findings. It comes from an independent commentary of the paper and sums up some important issues arising from reading this work:"It would be a concern if parents took from this that they ought to be reluctant to allow antibiotic use in their children. The key risk factors for childhood obesity are over-consumption of high energy, nutrient-poor foods and lack of exercise."Whilst I would perhaps suggest that 'energy in - energy out' is too simplistic an explanation of weight management issues (see here) I would agree that under the right circumstances, antibiotics still make a valuable contribution to the medicines cabinet, and obesity is, very much, a multi-faceted condition.Music... Stevie Wonder and Superstition.----------[1] Bailey LC. et al. Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity. JAMA Pediatr. 2014. 29 Sept.----------Bailey LC, Forrest CB, Zhang P, Richards TM, Livshits A, & DeRusso PA (2014). Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity. JAMA pediatrics PMID: 25265089... Read more »

Bailey LC, Forrest CB, Zhang P, Richards TM, Livshits A, & DeRusso PA. (2014) Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity. JAMA pediatrics. PMID: 25265089  

  • October 20, 2014
  • 04:50 PM
  • 49 views

A Venusian Mystery Explored Once More

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Venus, the place where women are from... supposedly. To say Venus has a harsh climate would be an understatement, this is one of many reasons why we will never (or maybe not soon) see a "long lasting" Venus rover counterpart to our Mars rover missions. Still, the planet (much like all the other plants) can teach us a lot about not just our own origins, but the origins of the universe. Also like all our neighbor planets Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds, a mystery that might be soon solved, all thanks to a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data.... Read more »

Harrington, E. et. Al. (2014) The puzzle of radar-bright highlands on venus: a high-spatial resolution study in Ovda regio. Geological Society of America. info:other/136-4

  • October 20, 2014
  • 04:21 PM
  • 58 views

Moral Time: Does Our Internal Clock Influence Moral Judgments?

by Jalees Rehman in The Next Regeneration

Does morality depend on the time of the day? The study "The Morning Morality Effect: The Influence of Time of Day on Unethical Behavior" published in October of 2013 by Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith suggested that people are more honest in the mornings, and that their ability to resist the temptation of lying and cheating wears off as the day progresses. In a series of experiments, Kouchaki and Smith found that moral awareness and self-control in their study subjects decreased in the late afternoon or early evening. The researchers also assessed the degree of "moral disengagement", i.e. the willingness to lie or cheat without feeling much personal remorse or responsibility, by asking the study subjects to respond to questions such as "Considering the ways people grossly misrepresent themselves, it's hardly a sin to inflate your own credentials a bit" or "People shouldn't be held accountable for doing questionable things when they were just doing what an authority figure told them to do" on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Interestingly, the subjects who strongly disagreed with such statements were the most susceptible to the morning morality effect. They were quite honest in the mornings but significantly more likely to cheat in the afternoons. On the other hand, moral disengagers, i.e. subjects who did not think that inflating credentials or following questionable orders was a big deal, were just as likely to cheat in the morning as they were in the afternoons.
... Read more »

  • October 20, 2014
  • 12:12 PM
  • 50 views

How a camera and quantum physics could improve phone security

by This Science is Crazy! in This Science Is Crazy!

New study uses mobile phone camera to detect light, using shot noise to generate true random numbers which researchers hope could be used for encryption in the future.... Read more »

Sanguinetti, B., Martin, A., Zbinden, H., & Gisin, N. (2014) Quantum Random Number Generation on a Mobile Phone. Physical Review X, 4(3). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevX.4.031056  

  • October 20, 2014
  • 11:59 AM
  • 65 views

Does Literary Fiction Challenge Racial Stereotypes?

by Jalees Rehman in Fragments of Truth

Reading literary fiction can be highly pleasurable, but does it also make you a better person? Conventional wisdom and intuition lead us to believe that reading can indeed improve us. However, as the philosopher Emrys Westacott has recently pointed out in his essay for 3Quarksdaily, we may overestimate the capacity of literary fiction to foster moral improvement. A slew of scientific studies have taken on the task of studying the impact of literary fiction on our emotions and thoughts. Some of the recent research has centered on the question of whether literary fiction can increase empathy. In 2013, Bal and Veltkamp published a paper in the journal PLOS One showing that subjects who read excerpts from literary texts scored higher on an empathy scale than those who had read a nonfiction text. This increase in empathy was predominantly found in the participants who felt "transported" (emotionally and cognitively involved) into the literary narrative. Another 2013 study published in the journal Science by Kidd and Castano suggested that reading literary fiction texts increased the ability to understand and relate to the thoughts and emotions of other humans when compared to reading either non-fiction or popular fiction texts.
... Read more »

Johnson, D., Huffman, B., & Jasper, D. (2014) Changing Race Boundary Perception by Reading Narrative Fiction. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 36(1), 83-90. DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2013.856791  

  • October 20, 2014
  • 10:56 AM
  • 50 views

Persistent Insomnia and Alcoholism

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Sleep problems complicate the treatment and recovery in alcoholism. Heavy alcohol consumption modifies the nature of sleep architecture.A high blood alcohol concentration at bedtime may promote sleep early in the sleep cycle.However, as alcohol levels decline, sleep is often interrupted with limiting rapid eye movement (REM) sleep duration.Shortened total sleep time with alcohol can produce a lack of feeling well rested on awakening.For those with alcoholism or alcohol dependence, successful treatment and alcohol abstinence can restore a normal sleep pattern. However, the clinical picture appears more complicated.Kirk Brower and colleagues at the University of Michigan published an important summary of the effects of alcoholism treatment on sleep.In their study, 267 subject with alcoholism in treatment were assessed for sleep problems at baseline and again six months later.The key findings from their study included:47% of subjects had insomnia at baseline60% of all subjects with insomnia at baseline had persistent insomnia six months laterWomen and those with greater psychiatric severity had higher rates of insomnia persistenceSubjects who reduced drinking quantities had improvement in sleepHowever, a quarter of subjects who maintained abstinence reported persistent insomniaThe authors noted their findings have significant implications for treatment and monitoring of alcohol dependence patient populations.A significant high level of insomnia persistence despite abstinence is important. This group of persistent insomniacs need formal sleep assessment and many might benefit from an overnight sleep lab study known as polysomnography.The current study did not assess specifically for sleep apnea but they note sleep apnea may contribute to sleep problems in many recovered alcoholics.Successful restoration of normal sleep in abstinence may promote higher rates of alcoholism recovery. Readers with more interest in this study can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Photo of street scene from Galway, Ireland is from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter WRY999Brower KJ, Krentzman A, & Robinson EA (2011). Persistent insomnia, abstinence, and moderate drinking in alcohol-dependent individuals. The American journal on addictions / American Academy of Psychiatrists in Alcoholism and Addictions, 20 (5), 435-40 PMID: 21838842... Read more »

Brower KJ, Krentzman A, & Robinson EA. (2011) Persistent insomnia, abstinence, and moderate drinking in alcohol-dependent individuals. The American journal on addictions / American Academy of Psychiatrists in Alcoholism and Addictions, 20(5), 435-40. PMID: 21838842  

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