Post List

  • October 1, 2014
  • 09:46 AM
  • 8 views

Video Tip of the Week: MEGA, Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis

by Mary in OpenHelix

This week’s tip of the week highlights the MEGA tools–MEGA is a collection of tools that perform Molecular Evolutionary Genetics Analysis. MEGA tools are not new–they’ve been developed and supported over many years. In fact, on their landing page you can see the first reference to MEGA was in 1994. How much computing were you […]... Read more »

  • October 1, 2014
  • 09:00 AM
  • 13 views

What Is Love, Anyway?

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

Inspired by the recent discovery of a couple still holding hands after 700 years, this article ponders the question, "What Is Love, Anyway?"... Read more »

Love TM. (2014) Oxytocin, motivation and the role of dopamine. Pharmacology, biochemistry, and behavior, 49-60. PMID: 23850525  

Domingue, B., Fletcher, J., Conley, D., & Boardman, J. (2014) Genetic and educational assortative mating among US adults. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(22), 7996-8000. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321426111  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 13 views

One Thing Is Just Like The Other – Sort Of

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Recent studies have illustrated how complicated evolution by descent with adaptation can be. Convergent evolution and parallel evolution explain the fingerprints of koalas and the marsupial and placental saber-toothed cats. Dollo’s Law of Irreversibility has been shown to be plastic, as frogs have re-evolved mandibular teeth and stick insects have lost and regained wings several times. ... Read more »

Lahti, D. C., N. A. Johnson, et al. (2009) Relaxed selection in the wild. . Trends in Ecology and Evolution, , 24(9), 487-496. info:/

Stone G, & French V. (2003) Evolution: have wings come, gone and come again?. Current biology : CB, 13(11). PMID: 12781152  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 05:31 AM
  • 18 views

It’s ‘Stoptober’ – but 28 days isn’t long enough to change a habit

by Stuart Farrimond in Dr Stu's Science Blog

A month feels a very long time when you’re trying to give something up. Crikey, if you’re trying to give up cigarettes then even a weekend seems an eternity. And now that October is upon us, scores of smokers are going cold turkey on the fags for a 28 day stint. It’s all part of … Continue reading →... Read more »

Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H., & Wardle, J. (2010) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.674  

  • October 1, 2014
  • 05:11 AM
  • 17 views

Maternal complement C1q and offspring psychosis

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"In conclusion, exposure to maternal C1q activity during pregnancy may be a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia and psychosis in offspring". That was the primary observation made by Emily Severance and colleagues [1] at Johns Hopkins, extending their scientific interest in immune system involvement being potentially linked to psychiatry [2]."Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law"I've already talked about Dr Severance's previous research forays into complement factor C1q and psychiatry on this blog (see here) and how C1q seropositivity was pretty significantly associated with both recent and non-recent onset schizophrenia in their cohort. Said complexing of C1q also turning up food components (gluten and casein) as potentially being involved [3] which has rumbles of Dohan's hypothesis [4] mixed in.The most recent Severance paper takes things another stage further by trying to "determine if maternal C1q was associated with offspring schizophrenia and psychosis". Archived serum samples provided during pregnancy were therefore analysed for 55 "matched case-control" pairs of mothers - mothers with offspring who went on to develop psychoses as adults and those with offspring who were asymptomatic from such psychiatric issues. "IgG markers of C1q, bovine milk casein, egg ovalbumin, and wheat gluten were measured". Authors reported that: "C1q was significantly elevated in case mothers" and in that case group, where offspring developed psychoses: "C1q was significantly correlated with antibodies to both food and infectious antigens: gluten..., herpes simplex virus type 2..., and adenovirus".Accepting that the total number of participants included in this latest trial was relatively small, also relying on archived samples collected as part of the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP) [5], these are interesting results. That both food and infectious agent antigens seemed to correlate with C1q adds to other interesting work by Dr Severance and colleagues on, for example, the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii potentially joining forces with food antigens (see here) in some fashion. I don't know enough about the processes potentially involved in any relationship to provide any definitive answers as to the hows and whys but one hazards a guess that something like an effect on gastrointestinal barrier function might play some role [6]. This and other research from people such as the late Paul Patterson [7] continue to drive home the notion that maternal infection, or rather the immune processes and consequence of infection during pregnancy, seem to be able to influence later life outcomes for offspring. We still need to know more about the specific biological processes involved in any relationship including the rising scientific star that is epigenetics [8] (something covered in a recent blog post) and also how subsequent life events (whether biological, social or psychological) contribute to any psychiatric diagnosis. Whether for certain people or groups of people, there may be some merit at looking further at gastrointestinal (GI) functions (see here) or even dietary changes (see here) is perhaps something else worth investing a little more research time and effort into too...Ben Folds Five to close...----------[1] Severance EG. et al. Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring. Schizophrenia Res. 2014. 4 September.[2] Severance EG. et al. Autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders and the microbiome in schizophrenia: more than a gut feeling. Schizophr Res. 2014 Jul 14. pii: S0920-9964(14)00319-3.[3] Severance EG. et al. Complement C1q formation of immune complexes with milk caseins and wheat glutens in schizophrenia. Neurobiol Dis. 2012 Dec;48(3):447-53.[4] Dohan FC. Genetic hypothesis of idiopathic schizophrenia: its exorphin connection. Schizophr Bull. 1988;14(4):489-94.[5] Klebanoff MA. The Collaborative Perinatal Project: a 50-year retrospective. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2009 Jan;23(1):2-8.[6] Nouri M. et al. Intestinal barrier dysfunction develops at the onset of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, and can be induced by adoptive transfer of auto-reactive T cells. PLoS One. 2014 Sep 3;9(9):e106335.[7] Brown AS. & Patterson PH. Maternal infection and schizophrenia: implications for prevention. Schizophr Bull. 2011 Mar;37(2):284-90.[8] Tang B. et al. Epigenetic changes at gene promoters in response to immune activation in utero. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 May;30:168-75.----------Emily G. Severance, Kristin L. Gressitt, Stephen L. Buka, Tyrone D. Cannon, & Robert H. Yolken (2014). Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring Schizophrenia Research : 10.1016/j.schres.2014.07.053... Read more »

Emily G. Severance, Kristin L. Gressitt, Stephen L. Buka, Tyrone D. Cannon, & Robert H. Yolken. (2014) Maternal complement C1q and increased odds for psychosis in adult offspring. Schizophrenia Research. info:/10.1016/j.schres.2014.07.053

  • October 1, 2014
  • 12:05 AM
  • 19 views

Painful Arc in Flexion and Forward Scapular Posture = SLAP Surgery Recommendation

by Nicole Cattano in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

The presence of a painful flexion arc and forward scapular posture seem to be relatively accurate in predicting who will need surgery for a SLAP tear after trying 6 weeks of rehabilitation. While this rule seems promising, more investigation is needed, and clinical decisions should be made on an individual basis.... Read more »

  • September 30, 2014
  • 07:10 PM
  • 28 views

A Warm Winter Legacy: Leaf Flushing and Senescence Long-Term

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Fall is in the air. Here in North Carolina that means drastic temperature swings that cause me to dress incorrectly on any given day. It also means the arrival of fall colors. Indeed, fall colors are incredibly beautiful, but biologically speaking, you are watching death happen. This autumn splendor got me to thinking about these colors a little closer, specifically the phenology of trees.Phenology is the study of the annual timing of recurring life cycle events. The timing of these events is typically influenced by seasonal environmental changes. In the case of trees, specifically hardwood forests, this is the leafing-out (flushing) and dropping-off (senescence) of leaves. But what actually triggers a plant to leaf-out? This can vary a bit by species or even individual, but there are a couple of general categories you can look to. The first is changes in air temperature, the chilling in the winter and warming in the spring. The other is photoperiod, or the day length, which often interacts with temperature, allowing plants to quickly respond to changing conditions.Considering that these events are triggered by environmental changes, it is logical to assume that global climate change can force changes in the phenology of many species and communities. This is another think-about-the-plants moment. How plants respond to climate change has huge consequences for world ecosystems – growing seasons, species ranges, carbon and water cycling, interactions with animals, etc. A paper published earlier this year in PNAS took a look at variations in leaf flushing and senescence dates in relation to warming. Many phonological studies focus on specific phenophases (like leaf-out in the spring), but this study is unique in that it looks at subsequent phenological events. The authors aimed to see if effects of warming lasted longer than the current growing season. To do this, in December 2009 they took seventy 3-4 year old cloned oak and beech trees and put them in growth chambers where they could very carefully control the winter environmental conditions. They manipulated the temperatures of the growth chambers to create treatment groups of winter-spring warming, winter-only warming, and spring-only warming. Then, in spring of 2010 when the flushing was complete, they moved the trees out of the chambers and into a field. The trees stayed outside and were measured until the following spring of 2011. Leaf-out rates were determined using a scale that went from undeveloped bud to unfolded leaf, and leaf senescence was recorded as the date at which half of the leaves were colored or dropped. These measurements allowed for a quantification of growing season length. Additional measurements of numbers of leaf per tree, specific leaf area, total leaf area per tree, number of buds, dry weights of various parts of the trees, carbohydrate content, and carbon and nitrogen content were taken. They also combined their data with that of the European phenology network to get both a larger sample size and a wider geographic area.The researchers found both leaf flushing and senescence in both species to be advanced 15-18 days by winter-spring warming. In the long-term, the timing of autumn leaf senescence was found to be positively correlated with spring leaf flushing dates, and advanced leaf flushing lead to earlier leaf flushing the following year. This suggests that the physiological impacts of a warmer winter last longer than just one growing season. Advanced leaf flushing in this winter-spring-warming treatment was also associated with some physiological and morphological changes, particularly in the oaks. These included higher leaf number, higher leaf area per tree, and higher starch accumulation.The trends of the experiment were also observed in the mature trees in the long-term field-based phenology observations of the European phenology network. The underlying cause in both cases is likely that the plants never really fulfill the winter chilling requirements necessary for them to enter dormancy. Currently, the most widely accepted mechanism for leaf senescence is the environmental control hypothesis, which proposes that leaf senescence is triggered with the unfavorable autumn season comes (changes in photoperiod, temperature, or both). This study shows that perhaps that isn’t all that’s going on.*sigh* nothing is ever simple is it?Fu, Y., Campioli, M., Vitasse, Y., De Boeck, H., Van den Berge, J., AbdElgawad, H., Asard, H., Piao, S., Deckmyn, G., & Janssens, I. (2014). Variation in leaf flushing date influences autumnal senescence and next year's flushing date in two temperate tree species Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111 (20), 7355-7360 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321727111For lots of really great info on the science of leaf-out, I recommend this review article:Polgar, C., & Primack, R. (2011). Leaf-out phenology of temperate woody plants: from trees to ecosystems New Phytologist, 191 (4), 926-941 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2011.03803.x... Read more »

Fu, Y., Campioli, M., Vitasse, Y., De Boeck, H., Van den Berge, J., AbdElgawad, H., Asard, H., Piao, S., Deckmyn, G., & Janssens, I. (2014) Variation in leaf flushing date influences autumnal senescence and next year's flushing date in two temperate tree species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(20), 7355-7360. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1321727111  

  • September 30, 2014
  • 06:10 PM
  • 36 views

New Immune System Discovery

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The immune system is sort of this big enigma, we know how pieces of it work, but we don’t know it as well as we would like or we wouldn’t have autoimmunity to contend with. Well new research reveals new information about how our immune system functions, shedding light on a vital process that determines how the body’s ability to fight infection develops. Which brings us one step closer to the big picture of the immune system.... Read more »

  • September 30, 2014
  • 12:34 PM
  • 30 views

This Month in Blastocystis Research (SEP 2014)

by Christen Rune Stensvold in Blastocystis Parasite Blog

Do companion animals contribute to human Blastocystis? Do IBS patients have a higher prevalence of Blastocystis and Dientamoeba fragilis than healthy invididuals? Check out this issue of 'This Month in Blastocystis Research'.... Read more »

Krogsgaard LR, Engsbro AL, Stensvold CR, Vedel Nielsen H, & Bytzer P. (2014) The Prevalence of Intestinal Parasites is not Greater Among Individuals with IBS: a Population-Based Case-Control Study. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. PMID: 25229421  

Wang W, Cuttell L, Bielefeldt-Ohmann H, Inpankaew T, Owen H, & Traub RJ. (2013) Diversity of Blastocystis subtypes in dogs in different geographical settings. Parasites , 215. PMID: 23883734  

Wawrzyniak I, Poirier P, Viscogliosi E, Dionigia M, Texier C, Delbac F, & Alaoui HE. (2013) Blastocystis, an unrecognized parasite: an overview of pathogenesis and diagnosis. Therapeutic advances in infectious disease, 1(5), 167-78. PMID: 25165551  

  • September 30, 2014
  • 09:28 AM
  • 34 views

The Playing Ground Part One

by Rodney Steadman in Gravity's Pull

How parent and peer support in preadolescent and adolescent girls influences their engagement in physical activity across ages nine to 15 years.... Read more »

  • September 30, 2014
  • 05:23 AM
  • 38 views

The Evidence from DNA

by teofilo in Gambler's House

To wrap up my series on tracing the connections between ancient Pueblo sites like Chaco Canyon and the modern Pueblos, I’d like to discuss a type of evidence I haven’t discussed much but that people often ask about: DNA evidence. This is the most direct way to tie one population to another, at least in theory, […]... Read more »

Raghavan, M., DeGiorgio, M., Albrechtsen, A., Moltke, I., Skoglund, P., Korneliussen, T., Gronnow, B., Appelt, M., Gullov, H., Friesen, T.... (2014) The genetic prehistory of the New World Arctic. Science, 345(6200), 1255832-1255832. DOI: 10.1126/science.1255832  

  • September 30, 2014
  • 05:06 AM
  • 43 views

Autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Our study demonstrates a strong association between anti-TPO levels, which are considered to be of diagnostic value for autoimmune thyroiditis... with uni- or bipolar depression.""Beware the bad cat bearing a grudge"So said the study published by Detlef Degner and colleagues [1]. Anti-TPO antibodies by the way, refers to anti-thyroid peroxidase antibodies which, as the name suggests, are antibodies against thyroid peroxidase, an important step in the production of thyroid hormones. Said thyroid hormones have some pretty far-reaching effects on our physiology. Anti-TPO antibodies are also diagnostic for autoimmune related conditions affecting the thyroid such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis.The Degner paper looked at a small group of participants diagnosed with depression (n=52) and analysed various thyroid related measures compared with a smaller control group made up of 19 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia. Authors reported a "pathologically increased" frequency of anti-TPO antibodies in those with depression compared with those with schizophrenia (32% vs 5% respectively). With something of a rather large confidence interval (CI) and hence the need for quite a bit more investigation, they also reported "the odds ratio of uni- or bipolar patients with depression for an autoimmune thyroiditis was ten times higher...  when compared with schizophrenia patients".Reiterating again the quite small participant numbers, one needs to be rather careful with this particular study before too many firm conclusions are reached. Added to the fact that there was no asymptomatic control group included for study, I'd like to see quite a bit more done in this area before pinning my colours to any particular mast. That being said, this is certainly not the first time that (a) thyroid function has been correlated with depressive symptoms or depressive disorder [2] and/or (b) elevated levels of anti-TPO antibodies have been linked to depression [3] also crossing different geographies [4]. The paper by Carta and colleagues [5] (open-access) further extends the anti-TPO antibody link to "mood and anxiety disorders". This, complete with some discussion about how a "sub-clinical dysfunction of axis Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH) – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) with consequent alteration of circadian rhythms of TSH" might be involved, linking an "aberrancy in the immuno-endocrine system" as a bridge between autoimmunity and psychiatry.Autoimmune conditions have been previously discussed on this blog as potentially being a risk factor for mood disorder (see here). Under this banner, I'm minded to bring in another paper by Carta and colleagues [6] discussing how "Anti-TPO prevalence was significantly higher in celiac patients than in the control group" and further: "A higher frequency of PD [panic disorder] and MDD [major depressive disorder] was found in celiac patients with positive anti-TPO when compared to negative anti-TPO patients". This assumes that there may be some elevated risk of autoimmune issues impacting on the thyroid extending into other autoimmune conditions such as celiac (coeliac) disease as per other work. I could start going on about how this research might impact on other peripheral work e.g gluten exposure and feelings of depression but don't want to get too speculative at this point on any correlation with something like gluten or gut permeability.Suffice to say that outside of just looking at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, the Degner results and other research suggest a whole other ballgame of autoimmune involvement affecting thyroid function and potentially impacting on psychiatry...Music to close: I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons.----------[1] Degner D. et al. Association between autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder in psychiatric outpatients. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2014 Sep 6.[2] Demartini B. et al. Depressive Symptoms and Major Depressive Disorder in Patients Affected by Subclinical Hypothyroidism: A Cross-sectional Study. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2014 Aug;202(8):603-7.[3] Pop VJ. et al. Are autoimmune thyroid dysfunction and depression related? J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Sep;83(9):3194-7.[4] Muñoz-Cruzado Poce MJ. et al. Prevalence of thyroid disorders in patients diagnosed with depression. Aten Primaria. 2000 Jul-Aug;26(3):176-9.[5] Carta MG. et al. The link between thyroid autoimmunity (antithyroid peroxidase autoantibodies) with anxiety and mood disorders in the community: a field of interest for public health in the future. BMC Psychiatry. 2004 Aug 18;4:25.[6] Carta MG. et al. Association between panic disorder, major depressive disorder and celiac disease: a possible role of thyroid autoimmunity. J Psychosom Res. 2002 Sep;53(3):789-93.----------Degner D, Haust M, Meller J, Rüther E, & Reulbach U (2014). Association between autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder in psychiatric outpatients. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience PMID: 25193677... Read more »

Degner D, Haust M, Meller J, Rüther E, & Reulbach U. (2014) Association between autoimmune thyroiditis and depressive disorder in psychiatric outpatients. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience. PMID: 25193677  

  • September 30, 2014
  • 12:18 AM
  • 42 views

Conscious content

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

I have been thinking about some information in a not too recent paper. (see citation below) Panagiotaropoulos and others looked at the location of the content of consciousness in primates. They used binocular flash suppression (BFS) to give two different visual stimulation that compete for a place in the content of consciousness. Here is their […]... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 08:52 PM
  • 53 views

There's nothing quite like renewables: Modeling indicates natural gas production will not reduce future greenhouse gas emissions as hoped

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Not so fast natural gas! New modeling using 'commitment' accounting to represent social inertia indicates that natural gas may not reduce emissions as hoped.... Read more »

Steven J Davis and Robert H Socolow. (2014) Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions. Environmental Research Letters, 9(084018). info:/

  • September 29, 2014
  • 06:07 PM
  • 53 views

Cat and Dogs: seeking solutions with sniffing canines and science

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Mia and Julie,  First of all, I LOVE your blog! After meeting at SPARCS this past summer (summer for us in North America.. I take it summer is just beginning in Australia!), I’ve followed it closely.  You do amazing things for the promotion of  canine science. Serious love. A bit of background for the readers: I’m currently doing my PhD at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Simon Gadbois. Dr. Gadbois has an amazing amount of knowledge and experience in the science of sniffing (just check out Gadbois & Reeve, 2014 link below!).  He’s trained sniffer dogs for the conservation of ribbon snakes and wood turtles, to track coyotes, and to detect invasive pests in lumber. He and I have taken on a different type of project and are studying the intricacies of biomedical detection dogs, specifically, the very interesting phenomenon of Diabetic Alert Dogs.  Cat Reeve at #SPARCS2014 where she won the 'Best Emerging Researcher' prize I say interesting because there’s anecdotal evidence suggesting that some dogs alert their owners to hypoglycemic events (low blood sugar). In 2008, Deborah Wells published a series of case studies where dogs were reported as signalling (barking, licking, pawing etc. the individual) while their owners were awake, while they were sleeping, and even when their owners were in a different room with the door closed! And this is with no previous training!  Isn’t this fantastic! Severe hypoglycemic events can be extremely dangerous for individuals with diabetes. If not treated, they can lead to seizures, comas, and even death. The fact that dogs may be able to alert an individual before a serious hypoglycemic event means less worry about hypoglycaemia unawareness, and blood sugar dropping over night when individuals are unconscious.Given that dogs are signalling through closed doors, it is assumed that the dogs smell something that alerts them to a change in the physiology of their owner (as opposed to behavioural cues, as is believed to be the case with seizure alert dogs). There are many companies that have taken advantage of this supposed ability, and have trained Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs) to sell to individuals with diabetes.  In my own searches, I have found no company that publicly provides information as to how they train their dogs. However, according to recent studies (see Gonder-Frederick et al., 2013 and Rooney et al., 2011 below) these trained DADs dogs contribute greatly to the families of individuals’ with diabetes; they signal consistently and, consequently, significantly reduce the number of hypoglycemic events an individual experiences. Now, if it is in fact an olfactory cue that dogs use to identify a drop in blood sugar in their owners, one would expect that if you presented one of these trained DADs with the “scent” of hypoglycemia without the individual present (just like having the owner with diabetes on the other side of a door), the dog would still signal.  Dehlinger and colleagues recently tested three DADs in a lab setting, presenting the dogs with human biological samples that were obtained identically to the way the samples used to train the dogs were obtained. In this study, none of the three dogs could pick out a ... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 05:12 PM
  • 49 views

New Protein Implicated in Alzheimer’s

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Alzheimer's prevention has made some strides in recent years. We've even identified some new causes, and in some cases we can do both. In fact, researchers have now shown that low levels of the protein progranulin in the brain can increase the formation of amyloid-beta plaques (a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease). These plaques can cause neuroinflammation, and worsen memory deficits in a mouse model of this condition. Conversely, by using a gene therapy approach to elevate progranulin levels, scientists were able to prevent these abnormalities and block cell death in this model.... Read more »

Minami, S., Min, S., Krabbe, G., Wang, C., Zhou, Y., Asgarov, R., Li, Y., Martens, L., Elia, L., Ward, M.... (2014) Progranulin protects against amyloid β deposition and toxicity in Alzheimer's disease mouse models. Nature Medicine. DOI: 10.1038/nm.3672  

  • September 29, 2014
  • 03:04 PM
  • 49 views

Wind Turbines Kill Bats by Impersonating Trees

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Survival tip: don’t hang around machines that have giant spinning blades. It’s a lesson bats have been slow to learn, judging by the large numbers of their corpses found beneath wind turbines. New video footage suggests some bats are attracted to wind farms because they can’t tell turbines apart from trees. If it’s true, this […]The post Wind Turbines Kill Bats by Impersonating Trees appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Paul. M. Cryan, P. Marcos Gorresen, Cris D. Hein, Michael R. Schirmacher, Robert H. Diehl, Manuela M. Huso, David T. S. Hayman, Paul D. Fricker, Frank J. Bonaccorso, Douglas H. Johnson.... (2014) Behavior of bats at wind turbines. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1406672111

  • September 29, 2014
  • 10:32 AM
  • 58 views

Family Attachment and the Brain Cingulate Cortex

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Healthy family attachment provides a key element for social support and successful interpersonal relationships.Several brain regions as well as hormonal factors appear to modulate positive emotional responses to family members.I have previously reviewed several studies involving the prosocial effects of the hormone oxytocin and the related hormone vasopressin.Nicolas Rusch from the Department of Psychiatry at Ulm University in Germany along with colleagues in Brazil and London recently published a fMRI study of brain regions and family attachment.In this study, 34 healthy adults participated in a brain imaging study involving three types of social scenario fMRI tasks:Affiliative scenarios linked to family members: "You taught your son to ride the bike and he came to thank you with a hug"Non-affiliative scenarios not linked to family members: "You work for a company that made great profits and received a good salary raise"Neutral emotional social scenarios: "You participated in a business meeting and then went back to your office"Subjects rated their perceived family attachment using a four item questionnaire assessing family group affiliation.The key finding from the study involved a brain region known as the subgenual cingulate cortex."Perceiving one's family as a distinct and cohesive group was associated with increased subgenual cortex response to kinship scenarios."The authors noted their study is consistent with other research that has linked the subgenual cingulate cortex activity with:Altruistic decisions such as making a charitable donation Modulation of the prosocial hormones oxytocin and vasopressinViewing pictures of romantic partners or pictures of subjects own infantsThe authors also note the subgenual cortex has been linked to major depression suggesting a link between mood disorders and disturbance of normal prosocial attachment to family members. An additional clinical implication would be the potential disruption of social attachment in patients suffering a stroke or other brain lesion in the subgenual cortex region.The figure in this post is an iPad screen of the cingulate cortex from app 3D Brain. The subgenual cortex is represented in this figure by the lower left portion of the purple-shaded cingulate cortex.Readers with more interest in this research can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Follow the author on Twitter at WRY999Rüsch N, Bado P, Zahn R, Bramati IE, de Oliveira-Souza R, & Moll J (2014). You and your kin: Neural signatures of family-based group perception in the subgenual cortex. Social neuroscience, 9 (4), 326-31 PMID: 24802255... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 10:02 AM
  • 62 views

Eye contact makes us more aware of our own bodies

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

If you've ever felt acutely self conscious upon making eye contact with another person, a new study may help you understand why. Matias Baltazar and his colleagues have found that making eye contact activates people's awareness of their own bodies. That feeling of self consciousness induced by mutual gaze might be based in part on the fact that your brain is suddenly more attuned to your body.The researchers presented 32 participants with a series of positive and negative images on a computer screen, and after each they asked them to rate the intensity of their emotional reaction. Crucially, each image was preceded either by a fixation cross or a photograph of a man or woman's face. These faces were either looking right at the participants, as if making eye contact, or they had their gaze averted. The participants' were also wired up to a skin conductance machine that measured the sweatiness of their fingers. This provided an objective measure of the participants' emotional reactions to the images, to be compared against their subjective assessments of their reactions.The participants' accuracy at judging their own physiological reactions was more accurate for those images that followed a photograph that appeared to be making eye contact. "Our results support the view that human adults' bodily awareness becomes more acute when they are subjected to another's gaze," the researchers said.A problem with this methodology is that greater bodily arousal is known to enhance performance in psychological tests, so perhaps eye contact was simply exerting its effects this way. But the researchers checked, and the boost to self awareness of eye contact wasn't merely a side-effect of increased arousal - the participants' physiological reactivity (an indicator of arousal) was no greater after eye contact photos than after gaze averted photos. The performance-enhancing effect of eye contact was also specific to bodily awareness. The researchers checked this by confronting participants with occasional memory tests through the experiment, for words that had appeared on-screen. Participant performance was no better after looking at faces that made eye contact, compared with the averted gaze faces.Baltazar and his team said the fact that eye contact enhances our awareness of our own bodies could have therapeutic implications. For example, they said it could "stimulate interoceptive awareness in people whose condition is associated with interoceptive hyposensitivity, [such as] anorexia nervosa and major depression disorder." _________________________________ Baltazar M, Hazem N, Vilarem E, Beaucousin V, Picq JL, & Conty L (2014). Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults. Cognition, 133 (1), 120-7 PMID: 25014360 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

Baltazar M, Hazem N, Vilarem E, Beaucousin V, Picq JL, & Conty L. (2014) Eye contact elicits bodily self-awareness in human adults. Cognition, 133(1), 120-7. PMID: 25014360  

  • September 29, 2014
  • 04:35 AM
  • 62 views

Term vs. preterm birth and the presentation of autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Katherine Bowers and colleagues [1] continues the interest in the concept of 'the autisms' with their observations on the presentation of autism (and its comorbidities) when looking at those "born preterm versus those born at term".We'd better get back, 'cause it'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night... mostlyBased on an analysis of quite a healthy participant number heading up to 900 "males and females with autism spectrum disorder", authors reported on several phenotypic differences between the 13% born preterm compared to the majority born following a full-term pregnancy. These differences, also influenced by gender, were in core areas such as language skills and the presence of comorbidities such as sleep apnea and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The authors conclude that their results "may have implications for understanding the underpinnings of a subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and contribute to the development of focused treatments for autism spectrum disorder among children born preterm".Whilst one should always be a little cautious about making too much of any specific link with something like preterm birth (see here to illustrate the many and varied outcomes following this variable) I was interested in the Bowers' results. I think back to similar research into autism subgroups from Unwin and colleagues [2] (talked about in a previous post) describing how low birth weight was "associated with greater sleep disturbances".Although many variables can affect foetal growth measures, preterm birth can adversely impact on birth weight and with that, one might see a possible common feature appearing in relation to issues at birth. That being said, the strength of any association between preterm birth and something like the comorbid presence of ADHD in cases of autism is likely to be a complex issue as per the findings from Harris and colleagues [3] who concluded that in the general population: "former late preterm infants have similar rates of LD [learning disabilities] and ADHD as term infants".Bowers et al also took into account a role for gender in their results, reporting that there may be more to see here. Although quite an obvious variable to look at when it comes to autism (see here), there is perhaps not as much appreciation of how sex might link into autism phenotypes as one might imagine. Recently, Reinhardt and colleagues [4] did venture into this area, concluding that whilst they did not see any "significant effects of sex or a diagnostic group by sex interaction" when it came to autism presentation, further research is indicated in this area. I might add that such investigations might also wish to look further at comorbidity too, or autism plus [5] if you like.Music to close and Bulletproof by La Roux.----------[1] Bowers K. et al. Phenotypic differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorder born preterm and at term gestation. Autism. 2014 Sep 5. pii: 1362361314547366.[2] Unwin LM. et al. A "bottom-up" approach to aetiological research in autism spectrum disorders. Front Hum Neurosci. 2013 Sep 19;7:606.[3] Harris MN. et al. ADHD and learning disabilities in former late preterm infants: a population-based birth cohort. Pediatrics. 2013 Sep;132(3):e630-6.[4] Reinhardt VP. et al. Examination of Sex Differences in a Large Sample of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typical Development. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Sep 5.[5] Gillberg C. & Fernell E. Autism Plus Versus Autism Pure. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Jun 24.----------Bowers K, Wink LK, Pottenger A, McDougle CJ, & Erickson C (2014). Phenotypic differences in individuals with autism spectrum disorder born preterm and at term gestation. Autism : the international journal of research and practice PMID: 25192860... Read more »

join us!

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.

Register Now

Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.

To learn more, visit seedmediagroup.com.