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  • March 14, 2015
  • 02:27 PM

Antibody therapy offers possible cure for psoriasis

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Sure it’s not sexy, you probably won’t be asked for donations towards a cure, or to run/walk/dive for awareness, and it probably won’t kill you. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, but chances are you are not familiar with it. It causes red, scale-like patches, sometimes covering a majority of the body. It’s itchy, painful, and embarrassing (to put it nicely). I know first hand as I suffer from it albeit mildly. I say mildly since I am lucky the patches are fairly small, but not so lucky for me they pop up on my face, often. However, new research is offering hope for anyone suffering from psoriasis and possibly a cure.... Read more »

  • March 14, 2015
  • 07:34 AM

From Consciousness to Synthetic Consciousness: From One Unknown to Another Unknown with David Chalmers

by Waseem Akhtar in Bridging the Gaps,

What is consciousness? In this podcast David Chalmers starts addressing this question by saying that “being conscious is when there is something it is like to be that being”. This argument was initially presented by an American philosopher Thomas Nagel in an influential paper “what is it like to be a bat”. This paper was first published in the Philosophical Review in 1974.... Read more »

Chalmers, David. (2010) The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis. Journal of Consciousness Studies, , 7-65. info:/

Chalmers, D. (1995) The Puzzle of Conscious Experience. Scientific American, 273(6), 80-86. DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1295-80  

Nagel, Thomas. (1974) What is it Like to Be a Bat. Philosophical Review. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107341050.014  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 07:56 PM

How gene expression is kept in check and the implications for cancer

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Cancers are alive in a sense, they are similar to a parasite and they fight to stay alive when we just want them gone. Cancers have access to complex ways of avoiding elimination and because we cannot easily do anything to treat it short of surgery or chemotherapy, we regularly lose to some of the more cunning types. Now researchers have learned how living beings can keep gene expression in check — this might partly explain the uncontrolled gene expression found in many forms of cancer.... Read more »

Chong Han Ng, Akhi Akhter, Nathan Yurko, Justin M. Burgener, Emanuel Rosonina, & James L. Manley. (2015) Sumoylation controls the timing of ​Tup1-mediated transcriptional deactivation. Nature Communications. info:/10.1038/ncomms7610

  • March 13, 2015
  • 04:05 PM

Classical Music modulates genes responsible for brain functions

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Although listening to music is common in all societies, the biological determinants of listening to music are largely unknown. According to a latest study, listening to classical music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning and memory, and down-regulated the genes mediating neurodegeneration. Several of the up-regulated genes were known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds, suggesting a common evolutionary background of sound perception across species.... Read more »

Kanduri, C., Raijas, P., Ahvenainen, M., Philips, A., Ukkola-Vuoti, L., Lähdesmäki, H., & Järvelä, I. (2015) The effect of listening to music on human transcriptome. PeerJ. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.830  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 03:00 PM

Study analyzes the use of social networks in the assessment of scientific impact

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

The use of social networks in science communication has been increasing on a large scale, and specific platforms have been created for interaction and information sharing among researchers. A study by researchers at the University of St. Gallen, in Switzerland evaluated whether and how scientific impact can be measured by social media data analysis, and how this approach correlates to traditional metrics. … Read More →... Read more »

HOFFMANN, C.P., LUTZ, C., & MECKEL, M. (2014) Impact Factor 2.0: Applying Social Network Analysis to Scientific Impact Assessment. 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Science, Hilton Waikoloa Village. DOI: 10.1109/HICSS.2014.202  

boyd, D., & Ellison, N. (2007) Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 210-230. DOI: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00393.x  

Priem, J. (2013) Scholarship: Beyond the paper. Nature, 495(7442), 437-440. DOI: 10.1038/495437a  

  • March 13, 2015
  • 02:05 PM

To Apply Or Not To Apply For That Grant?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

When should scientists apply for grants? Does spending more time writing applications pay off in the long run? A paper published in PLoS ONE this week examined the eternal question: To apply or not to apply?

The authors, Ted and Courtney von Hippel, start out by noting that most major grant awards are highly competitive - with success rates of just 20% in the case of US federal NIH and NSF awards. What's more, although decisions are made by a panel of expert judges, the evidence is th... Read more »

  • March 12, 2015
  • 09:31 PM

Depressed parents cause anxiety and bad behavior in toddlers

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Being a new parent can be stressful, new mothers can suffer from postpartum depression and even new fathers can find the changes stressful enough to cause depression. Unfortunately– and if that wasn’t bad enough– a new study shows that a father’s depression during the first years of parenting – as well as a mother’s – can put their toddler at risk of developing troubling behaviors such as hitting, lying, anxiety and sadness during a critical time of development.... Read more »

  • March 12, 2015
  • 01:16 PM

Study shows modest reductions in ER visits from the ACA implementation

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

It’s future might still be in the air to those of us not on the supreme court, but two patient groups created by the Affordable Care Act (or ACA, also known as “Obama care”) – Medicare patients enrolled in federally designated patient-centered medical homes and people under age 26 who are allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance – had slightly fewer emergency department visits than they had before health care reform. However, there was no change in the rate of the most expensive types of emergency visits: those that lead to hospitalization.... Read more »

  • March 12, 2015
  • 02:54 AM

Science, climate change and controversy

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: It’s inevitable: as science progresses, controversy happens. But sometimes, the public sees controversy where none exists. How to remedy that? ... Read more »

  • March 11, 2015
  • 04:20 PM

The cerebral cortex: we can rebuild it, we have the technology

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

While the first actual bionic man (or woman) might still be a ways off, the writers of the show might be impressed at this. A international team of researchers, have just taken an important step in the area of cell therapy: repairing the cerebral cortex of the adult mouse using a graft of cortical neurons derived from embryonic stem cells.... Read more »

  • March 11, 2015
  • 03:27 PM

Part of the diabetes puzzle solved… with breast milk

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

There is a long-standing puzzle in the diabetes field, only a small subset of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of adult organisms can replicate (and hence contribute to beta cell regeneration in diabetes). Furthermore, this subset of replicating cells continues to decline with advancing age. This means that the typical risk for diabetes gets higher as you age, well now researchers have discovered an important piece of the puzzle.... Read more »

Stolovich-Rain, M., Enk, J., Vikesa, J., Nielsen, F., Saada, A., Glaser, B., & Dor, Y. (2015) Weaning Triggers a Maturation Step of Pancreatic β Cells. Developmental Cell, 32(5), 535-545. DOI: 10.1016/j.devcel.2015.01.002  

  • March 11, 2015
  • 10:14 AM

Citizen science is making scientists of everyone

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: Citizen science is getting a lot of attention these days, which might make you think it is a new social phenomenon. But in fact, nothing is further from the truth.... Read more »

Blackawton P. S., Airzee S. , Allen A., Baker S., Berrow A., Blair C., Churchill M., Coles J., Cumming R. F.-J., & Fraquelli L. (2011) Blackawton bees. Biology Letters, 168-172. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.1056  

Silvertown Jonathan. (2009) A new dawn for citizen science. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 24(9), 467-471. DOI:  

  • March 10, 2015
  • 01:26 PM

New understanding of genetics behind the autism spectrum

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Autism is a spectrum, because it isn’t a clear-cut diagnosis — and because the brain is so complex — it has been hard to figure out what causes autism. This uncertainty has led rise to the anti-vaccination movement along with other groups who are at best misinformed and at worst trying to make a quick dollar. However, a new study reveals an important connection between dozens of genes that may contribute to autism, a major step toward understanding how brain development goes awry in some individuals with the disorder.... Read more »

  • March 9, 2015
  • 11:15 PM

How dogs get the point: what enables canines to interpret human gestures?

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Guest post by: Lucia Lazarowski, PhD candidate. Her research is available via free promotional access in the journal Behavioural Processes until February, 2016. Hi Mia and Julie,As a long-time fan of the blog, it is an honor to be a guest contributor! I am especially excited to tell DYBID readers about this research because it was somewhat of a pet project (pun intended). I am now a PhD student at Auburn University, but this study was done while I was working at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. At NCSU, I worked with a team of veterinarians and animal behaviorists on a several projects aimed at improving selection and training of military working dogs, and I was primarily involved with studies related to explosives detection. Meanwhile in the canine cognition world, a hot topic was that of dogs’ ability to follow human gestures. Several studies have demonstrated that dogs are able to use human gestures, like pointing, to find hidden treats. An interesting finding that fueled a lot of the research in this area is that dogs perform better on these tasks than chimpanzees, our closest relatives, and wolves, dogs’ closest relatives. Is it possible that dogs are able to read and use human gestures because they co-evolved with humans, endowing them with a specialized human-like type of social cognition that their ancestors missed out on? Or, is it that dogs are such an integrated part of our lives that through our daily interactions they learn that paying attention to our body language pays off?These two viewpoints have sparked a heated debate among canine scientists. In order to tease apart the roles of domestication and experience (or the nature/nurture debate, as your high school psychology teacher would call it), researchers have tested canines of different species (domesticated and wild-type) and different life histories (human-reared and feral). The domestication hypothesis, which suggests that point-following is an innate skill that dogs have acquired in a case of convergent evolution with humans, predicts that domestication alone is sufficient for point-following. The learning hypothesis, on the other hand, contends that dogs must learn through experience to follow human gestures, regardless of domestication status.  The fact that chimps and wolves do not appear to utilize human pointing as dogs do seems to support domestication as an explanation. But, (plot twist!) if wolves are raised with humans from an early age and are tested in appropriate conditions, they can perform as well or even better than dogs.  To recap, groups that have succeeded at human pointing tasks include canines that are domesticated and socialized (pet dogs), non-domesticated and un-socialized (wolves), and non-domesticated and socialized (hand-reared wolves).  Hopefully at this point the missing piece of the puzzle is obvious: what about domestic dogs that have not been heavily exposed to humans? This vital yet untested sub-group of canines would help tip the scales in the domestication vs. experience debate.At NCSU, we were gearing up to begin a new study investigating factors related to olfactory learning in canine explosives detection. The dogs acquired for this study were mixed-breed males around 1 year old, and unlike our previous studies which used trained military working dogs, these were laboratory-reared dogs. It occurred to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to test a group of dogs that met all of the proposed criteria for the “missing link”: laboratory dogs lack the same experiences that pet dogs living in human homes have (including the possibly critical opportunity to learn about human gestures), but they are socialized to humans at an early age and thus not fearful like feral dogs may be. Another bonus is that their life histories are known and documented, unlike dogs found in a shelter that at some point may have lived with people. If the opportunity to learn about human gestures is critical for point-following behavior to develop and not just domestication alone, these dogs would be expected to perform worse than pet dogs on point-following tasks.  We tested 11 laboratory dogs and 9 pet dogs using methods established in previous studies in which dogs watched as humans performed two types of point (“easy” and “hard”, for simplicity’s sake).  What we found was that while pet dogs followed the harder point to the correct container significantly higher than chance, the laboratory dogs did not. Both groups of dogs were able to locate the correct container using the easier point, demonstrating that any failures were not due methodological flaws or to an inability to perform the demands of the task (note that success on these easier point trials can be explained by simpler mechanisms like physical proximity to the container).  Our results seem to suggest that exposure to humans and the opportunity to learn about the meanings of gestures plays an important role in dogs’ ability to follow pointing.  Interestingly, a few dogs in the pet group performed just as poorly as the laboratory dogs, which would lend further support to the idea that individual experiences shape these abilities. Further, failures by the laboratory dogs are not likely caused by cognitive deficits due to an impoverished environment; the dogs received environmental enrichment including daily interactions with kennel and research staff, play-time with conspecifics, outdoor exercise, and a variety of toys (and after completing thi... Read more »

  • March 9, 2015
  • 03:47 PM

Alzheimer’s, the autoimmune disease?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Brain levels of the lipid ceramide are high in Alzheimer’s disease, and now scientists have found increased levels of an antibody to the lipid in their disease model. While some members of this lipid family are a plus in skin cream, inside the brain, ceramide appears to increase beta amyloid production and help the iconic plaque kill brain cells in Alzheimer’s.... Read more »

  • March 8, 2015
  • 03:05 PM

Trust issues? It may be your brain structure

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever feel too trusting, or maybe not trusting at all? Well a recent study shows differences in brain structure according to how trusting people are of others. Teasing out the intricacies of the brain hasn’t been an easy job; if it were we probably wouldn’t be intelligent enough to figure it out. Because of this complexity, we also have higher risk of psychological conditions. Interestingly enough, this research may have implications for future treatments of those conditions, conditions such as autism or other attachment disorders.... Read more »

  • March 8, 2015
  • 09:00 AM

Gender inequality in science varies among disciplines

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

Certain disciplines have a lower percentage of women than others. A study published in Science puts forward the hypothesis that there are proportionately fewer women in fields where it is believed that brilliance and innate talent are required rather than hard work and dedication. The study, which looked at 1,820 researchers in institutions of higher education in the United States, showed an inverse relationship between the fields that value innate talent and the number of women represented in these fields. … Read More →... Read more »

  • March 7, 2015
  • 02:25 PM

New approach to herpes vaccine succeeds where others failed

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Herpes simplex virus infections are an enormous global health problem and there is currently no viable vaccine. For nearly three decades, immunologists’ efforts to develop a herpes vaccine have centered on exploiting a single protein found on the virus’s outer surface that is known to elicit robust production of antibodies. Breaking from this approach, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have created a genetic mutant lacking that protein. The result is a powerfully effective vaccine against herpes viruses.... Read more »

William Jacobs Jr,, Betsy Herold,, Christopher Petro,, Pablo A. González,, Natalia Cheshenko,, Thomas Jandl,, Nazanin Khajoueinejad,, Angèle Bénard,, & Mayami Sengupta,. (2015) Herpes simplex type 2 virus deleted in glycoprotein D protects against vaginal, skin and neural disease. eLife. info:/

  • March 6, 2015
  • 05:01 PM

People with anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain abnormalities

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Imagine looking in the mirror and not seeing yourself. Imagine losing weight and seeing a lower number on the scale, but when looking in the mirror you are still just as fat. Suffering from anorexia or other body dysmorphic disorders live like that daily. They literally don’t see what you and I might see when we look at them. It’s not their fault and a new study suggests that people suffering from anorexia or body dysmorphic disorder have similar abnormalities in their brains that affect their ability to process visual information.... Read more »

  • March 5, 2015
  • 03:11 PM

350 years of scientific publication: from the “Journal des Sçavans” and Philosophical Transactions to SciELO

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

Is has been 350 years since the first numbers of the first journals of scientific nature were published - Journal des Sçavans and Philosophical Transactions. With the support of the new printing technology handwritten letters used in the communication between researchers and scholars have been replaced. There is much to celebrate in these 350 years in which scientific journals contributed to the record and memory of the advancement of science. Online Web publishing is the most important transformation of scientific journals since that year 1665. … Read More →... Read more »

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