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  • December 29, 2015
  • 02:46 PM

Being anxious could be good for you! If you’re in a crisis…

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

New findings by French researchers show that the brain devotes more processing resources to social situations that signal threat than those that are benign. The results may help explain the apparent “sixth sense” we have for danger. This is the first time that specific regions of the brain have been identified to be involved in the phenomenon. The human brain is able to detect social threats in these regions in a fast, automatic fashion, within just 200 milliseconds.... Read more »

  • December 28, 2015
  • 02:48 PM

Want to keep your new year’s resolution? Ask, don’t tell.

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

“Will you exercise this year?” That simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others’ behavior, according to a recent study spanning 40 years of research. The research is the first comprehensive look at more than 100 studies examining the ‘question-behavior effect,’ a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior influences whether they do it in the future. The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning.... Read more »

Spangenberg, E., Kareklas, I., Devezer, B., & Sprott, D. (2015) A meta-analytic synthesis of the question-behavior effect. Journal of Consumer Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2015.12.004  

  • December 27, 2015
  • 09:30 PM

Cognitive Load Theory

by Joshua Fisher in Text Savvy

In some sense, a preference for explicit instruction, rather than being a pillar of cognitive load theory, is simply the logical consequence of accepting the two distinctions above—that biologically secondary and domain-specific knowledges differ significantly and qualitatively from their biologically primary, domain-general counterparts such that the former require explicit teaching whereas the latter do not.
... Read more »

  • December 27, 2015
  • 07:00 PM

Black smokers and electroecosystems

by adam phillips in It Ain't Magic

Black smokers are deep-sea hydrothermal vents found in the ocean. Now scientists believe that they may host electroecosystems in which the primary producers use electric currents as their energy source.... Read more »

Nakamura, R., Takashima, T., Kato, S., Takai, K., Yamamoto, M., & Hashimoto, K. (2010) Electrical Current Generation across a Black Smoker Chimney. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 49(42), 7692-7694. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201003311  

  • December 27, 2015
  • 02:17 PM

The development of the cerebellar circuitry is driven by epigenetic “music”

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

From before birth through childhood, connections form between neurons in the brain, ultimately making us who we are. So far, scientists have gained a relatively good understanding of how neural circuits become established, but they know less about the genetic control at play during this crucial developmental process. Now, a team of researchers has described for the first time the so-called epigenetic mechanisms underlying the development of the cerebellum, the portion of the brain that allows us to learn and execute complex movements.... Read more »

  • December 26, 2015
  • 02:26 PM

Have a sweet tooth? It may be your livers fault

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

We all love our sugar, especially during the holidays. Cookies, cake, and candy are simply irresistible. While sugar cravings are common, the physiological mechanisms that trigger our “sweet tooth” are not well defined.... Read more »

von Holstein-Rathlou, S., BonDurant, L., Peltekian, L., Naber, M., Yin, T., Claflin, K., Urizar, A., Madsen, A., Ratner, C., Holst, B.... (2015) FGF21 Mediates Endocrine Control of Simple Sugar Intake and Sweet Taste Preference by the Liver. Cell Metabolism. DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.12.003  

  • December 24, 2015
  • 03:54 PM

It came from planet X: ‘Forbidden’ substances on super-Earths

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Using mathematical models, scientists have ‘looked’ into the interior of super-Earths and discovered that they may contain compounds that are forbidden by the classical rules of chemistry — these substances may increase the heat transfer rate and strengthen the magnetic field on these planets.... Read more »

  • December 23, 2015
  • 02:03 PM

Lack of serotonin alters development and function in the brain

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have created the first complete model to describe the role that serotonin plays in brain development and structure. Serotonin, also called 5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT], is an important neuromodulator of brain development and the structure and function of neuronal (nerve cell) circuits.... Read more »

  • December 22, 2015
  • 02:50 PM

Are you a ‘harbinger of failure’?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Diet Crystal Pepsi. Frito Lay Lemonade. Watermelon-flavored Oreos. Through the years, the shelves of stores have been filled with products that turned out to be flops, failures, duds, and losers. But only briefly filled with them, of course, because products like these tend to get yanked from stores quickly, leaving most consumers to wonder: Who exactly buys these things, anyway?... Read more »

Anderson, E., Lin, S., Simester, D., & Tucker, C. (2015) Harbingers of Failure. Journal of Marketing Research: . DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.2420600  

  • December 22, 2015
  • 06:39 AM

Science Frauds – Publishing Pressure or Lust for Fame?

by Rita dos Santos Silva in United Academics

Almost every year, a new case of science fraud gets major attention in the media and threatens to compromise science’s credibility in the eyes of citizens. What makes scientists lose their professional integrity? Part 1 of a three-part article: four examples.... Read more »

  • December 21, 2015
  • 02:58 PM

Intelligence, it’s in your genes… and we can change that.

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever feel like everyone around you has their brain running much faster than your own? Well, the good news is that it may not be you, it may be your genes. The other good news, we might be able to change that. Scientists from Imperial College London have identified for the first time two clusters of genes linked to human intelligence. Called M1 and M3, these so-called gene networks appear to influence cognitive function - which includes memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning.... Read more »

Johnson, M., Shkura, K., Langley, S., Delahaye-Duriez, A., Srivastava, P., Hill, W., Rackham, O., Davies, G., Harris, S., Moreno-Moral, A.... (2015) Systems genetics identifies a convergent gene network for cognition and neurodevelopmental disease. Nature Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1038/nn.4205  

  • December 20, 2015
  • 02:35 PM

Women, do you want to be a leader at a teaching hospital? Grow a mustache!

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Thirteen percent of department leader positions at top academic medical institutions in the United States are held by women, while nearly 20 percent are held by men with mustaches. The findings of the tongue-in-cheek study, an analysis of more than 1,000 headshots of department leaders at top National Institutes of Health-funded academic medical institutions, provide a new context for examining gender disparities in the field.... Read more »

  • December 19, 2015
  • 02:20 PM

You too can increase your risk for dementia by up to 48% with, anxiety!

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

People who experienced high anxiety any time in their lives had a 48 percent higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who had not, according to a new study led by USC researchers. The findings were based on an examination of 28 years of data from the Swedish Adoption Twin Study of Aging, overseen by the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden.... Read more »

  • December 18, 2015
  • 03:39 PM

Depression is more than a “mental health” problem and we can now measure its risk

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A network of interacting brain regions known as the default mode network (DMN) was found to have stronger connections in adults and children with a high risk of depression compared to those with a low risk. These findings suggest that increased DMN connectivity is a potential precursor, or biomarker, indicating a risk of developing major depressive disorder (MDD).... Read more »

Posner, J., Cha, J., Wang, Z., Talati, A., Warner, V., Gerber, A., Peterson, B., & Weissman, M. (2015) Increased Default Mode Network Connectivity in Individuals at High Familial Risk for Depression. Neuropsychopharmacology. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.342  

  • December 18, 2015
  • 11:24 AM

Beyond the headlines: clarifying the connection between healthy diets, resource use, and greenhouse gas emissions

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

A recent study looking at the impact of USDA-recommended diets on the environment has received significant media attention. Some of these reports have been a bit misleading, so read here to learn the details about this important study that should impact US dietary policy!... Read more »

  • December 17, 2015
  • 04:33 PM

Scientists manipulate consciousness in rats

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Scientists showed that they could alter brain activity of rats and either wake them up or put them in an unconscious state by changing the firing rates of neurons in the central thalamus, a region known to regulate arousal. The study was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health.... Read more »

Jia Liu, Hyun Joo Lee, Andrew J Weitz, Zhongnan Fang, Peter Lin, ManKin Choy, Robert Fisher, Vadim Pinskiy, Alexander Tolpygo, Partha Mitra, Nicholas Schiff, Jin Hyung Lee. (2015) Frequency-selective control of cortical and subcortical networks by central thalamus. eLife. DOI:  

  • December 16, 2015
  • 12:10 PM

Openness and quality of a published article

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

Openness is a scientifically and societally relevant part of a published article's quality. It is time that openness is recognized as a most important element of the quality of a research publication and that those who judge researchers on their publications (e.g. tenure and promotion committees) take that into account. For the benefit of science and the benefit of society as a whole. … Read More →... Read more »

  • December 15, 2015
  • 03:56 PM

‘Hydricity’ concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock… really?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers are proposing a new "hydricity" concept aimed at creating a sustainable economy by not only generating electricity with solar energy but also producing and storing hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power production.... Read more »

Emre Gencer, Dharik S. Mallapragada, Francois Marechal, Mohit Tawarmalani. (2015) Round-the-clock power supply and a sustainable economy via synergistic integration of solar thermal power and hydrogen processes. Proceedings of the natural sciences academy of the United States of America. info:/

  • December 14, 2015
  • 04:40 PM

Emotion processing in the brain changes with tinnitus severity

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, affects nearly one-third of adults over age 65. The condition can develop as part of age-related hearing loss or from a traumatic injury. In either case, the resulting persistent noise causes varying amounts of disruption to everyday life. While some tinnitus patients adapt to the condition, many others are forced to limit daily activities as a direct result of their symptoms. A new study reveals that people who are less bothered by their tinnitus use different brain regions when processing emotional information.... Read more »

Fatima T. Husain et al. (2015) Increased frontal response may underlie decreased tinnitus severity. PLOS ONE. info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0144419

  • December 14, 2015
  • 11:54 AM

Why Are Cats Scared of Cucumbers?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Have you seen the video of cats’ terrified responses to cucumbers? No?! Then check this out:This hilarious video has led many people to try this on their own cats… to varying degrees of success. And it has led to some curious questions: Why are these cats so terrified of a cucumber? And why isn’t my cat?The fear of something specific (like a cucumber) can either be innate (as in, you’re born with it) or learned. For many animal species, it would make sense to be born with a natural fear of something that can kill you the first time you encounter it, like a steep drop, being submerged under water, or a venomous snake. Some of these things can be so dangerous that an animal with a fear of anything that even resembles it may have a higher chance of surviving long enough to produce its own fearful babies some day. So maybe these cats have an innate fear of snakes that has caused them to respond in this hilarious way to anything that resembles a snake… like a cucumber?But if cats have an innate fear of snakes, why don’t they all respond to cucumbers this way?Sometimes fears appear to be innate, when they are actually learned. For example, in 2009, researchers Judy DeLoache and Vanessa LoBue at the University of Virginia explored whether the fear of snakes is innate in human babies with a series of three experiments.In the first experiment, Judy and Vanessa showed 9- and 10-month old babies silent films of snakes and other animals and they measured how long the babies looked at each type of film. Presumably, a baby will be more vigilant of and spend more time looking at something they are scared of. They found that the babies responded exactly the same towards the snake films than to the films of other animals.Next, the experimenters showed the babies the films of either a snake or another animal again. However, this time they played the audio of a person sounding either happy or frightened along with the video. The babies looked at the non-snake animal videos the same amount regardless of whether the audio sounded happy or scared. However, the babies looked at the snake videos longer if the audio sounded scared than if the audio sounded happy. In the third experiment, the experimenters repeated this pairing of audio with visuals, but this time they used still pictures of snakes and non-snake animals instead of videos. This time, the babies did not react differently to the snake or non-snake animal pictures depending on if the audio sounded happy or scared.This shows that, at least for people, we don’t have an innate fear of snakes, but we do have an innate tendency to develop a fear of snakes if we are exposed to the right combination of hearing someone being afraid and seeing a moving snake. In other words, some fears are more contagious than others. And this isn’t just true for people: a study of rhesus monkeys found that baby monkeys raised by parents that were afraid of snakes only developed a fear of snakes themselves if they observed their parents acting fearful in the presence of a real or toy snake. So perhaps, the cats in this cucumber video saw or heard someone being fearful of something cucumber-like (or snake-like) when they were young... Or maybe they were just surprised by something sneaking up on them while they were eating.In any case, don’t be too bummed if this hasn’t worked on your cat… Maybe try it on your friends instead! Want to know more? Check these out:DeLoache, J., & LoBue, V. (2009). The narrow fellow in the grass: human infants associate snakes and fear Developmental Science, 12 (1), 201-207 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00753.x Mineka, S., Davidson, M., Cook, M., & Keir, R. (1984). Observational conditioning of snake fear in rhesus monkeys. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93 (4), 355-372 DOI: 10.1037/0021-843X.93.4.355 ... Read more »

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