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  • August 27, 2013
  • 04:41 AM

Language Learning Begins in the Womb

by Josephine Lethbridge in United Academics

New research from the University of Helsinki suggests that humans begin to distinguish between sounds before they are even born. Eino Partanen and colleagues explored how prenatal experiences influence learning. “We wanted to find out what kind of material foetuses can learn in the womb, what kind of neural representations they form,” he said.... Read more »

Eino Partanen et al. (2013) Learning-induced neural plasticity of speech processing before birth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1302159110  

  • August 26, 2013
  • 05:23 AM

Five Misconceptions About the Benefits of Antioxidants

by Guillaume Cote-Maurais in United Academics

Antioxidants are part of our daily diet in fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs, and their intake is the focus of increasing attention. More recently, designer foods have been enriched with antioxidants, and antioxidants are commonly taken as supplements. Here is five misconceptions about the benefits of antioxidants.... Read more »

Bast, A. . (2013) Ten misconceptions about antioxidants. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences . DOI: 10.1016/  

  • August 22, 2013
  • 07:22 PM

I'm a scientist, (don't!) get me out of here!

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Julie Julie Julie!How awesome was Heather's guest post about her black dog syndrome research in shelters? There's something extra fun about hearing about the latest research, straight from the researchers own fingers (well, mouth seemed wrong seeing she typed it?!).I'm keeping myself busy this week, organising everything ahead of the Working Dog Alliance's website going live (any day now, annnnny daaaaaay!). I'll be sure to put a link up on Facebook and Twitter when it does go live, or you can keep an eye out over at Here's a sneaky peek: There will be some exciting reveals about the first Australian working dog industry conference (4-5 November in Sydney if you want to come over?) once the website is up - fun times! Australia's National Science Week 2013 just wrapped up - there were so many things happening and going on - YAY SCIENCE! You should take a look over the website. Being a fan of citizen science, I think you'll really like Explore the Sea Floor - it's like Google Maps for the ocean floor all around Australia and you can help identify everything you see as a citizen scientist.  Totally amazing! I'm getting my competitive scientist metaphorical lab coat on next week for Australia's I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here! Which is kind of a weird title, because I quite like being a scientist and think I'd like to stay here, actually. It's a science engagement activity with school children aged 10-18, who chat online with a bunch of scientists from different areas and ask questions, then get to vote us out one by one in an idol-style competition. The winning scientist will receive $1000 to use for science outreach - if I win, I'm thinking of a global citizen science project that students everywhere can participate in - of course, it will also involve DOGS! Only students from the registered schools can vote, so don't bother trying to stack the odds my way... I'm in a Zone with mixed scientific disciplines (there's also a Brain Zone and a Micro Zone in my competition). So I'm up against a wine chemist, an explosive chemist, a computer architect and an instrument scientist who builds bits for telescopes - it's going to be fun! I'm the only female scientist in my zone, so that's interesting - I think I also feel a little bit extra competitive, just because of that! So wish me luck!Here's a neat 60 sec video about #IAS from the UK version: I hope you had a fabulous birthday and look forward to hearing about your Summer break - what have you been up to? Mia Further reading:Laursen S., Liston C., Thiry H. & Graf J. (2007). What Good Is a Scientist in the Classroom? Participant Outcomes and Program Design Features for a Short-Duration Science Outreach Intervention in K-12 Classrooms, Cell Biology Education, 6 (1) 49-64. DOI: 10.1187/cbe.06-05-0165... Read more »

  • August 21, 2013
  • 11:21 AM

How Plants Smell Smoke

by Sedeer El-Showk in United Academics

n response to my recent post about the dynamic life of plants, reader tmso asked about whether plants can sense and respond to smoke. I still haven’t found anything about an immediate response to smoke, but I’ve learned quite a bit about how smoke and fire affect germination. ... Read more »

Flematti GR, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW, . (2004) A compound from smoke that promotes seed germination. . Science (New York, N.Y.), 305(5686). DOI: 10.3410/f.1020027.228427  

Chiwoca, Sheila DS, Dixon, Kingsly W, Flematti, Gavin R, Ghisablerti, Emilio L, Merritt, David J, Nelson, David C, Riseborough, Julie-Anne M, Smith, Steven M, . (2009) Karrikins: A new family of plant growth regulators in smoke. Plant Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.plantsci.2009.06.007  

Guo Y, Zheng Z, La Clair JJ, Chory J, & Noel JP. (2013) Smoke-derived karrikin perception by the α/β-hydrolase KAI2 from Arabidopsis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(20), 8284-9. PMID: 23613584  

  • August 21, 2013
  • 03:55 AM

New Carnivore Species Discovered in Ecuador

by Alex Reis in United Academics

It’s been seen in the wild and presented in zoos around the world, but yet, a mysterious creature has been victim of mistaken identity for over 100 years!... Read more »

Kristofer M. Helgen, C. Miguel Pinto , Roland Kays, Lauren E. Helgen, Mirian T. N. Tsuchiya, Aleta Quinn, Don E. Wilson . (2013) Taxonomic revision of the olingos (Bassaricyon), with description of a new species, the Olinguito. . Zoo Keys, 1-83. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.324.5827  

  • August 20, 2013
  • 10:41 AM

Facebook May Reduce Happiness

by Guillaume Cote-Maurais in United Academics

Online social networks are rapidly changing the way human beings interact. Over a billion people have a Facebook account, and over half of them log in daily. Yet, no research has examined how interacting with Facebook influences subjective well-being over time.... Read more »

Kross E., Verduyn P., Demiralp E., Park J., Lee D.S., Lin N., Shablack H., Jonides J. . (2013) Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. Plos One, 8(8). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069841  

  • August 18, 2013
  • 12:16 PM

Being Hangry: The Science behind Hunger and Mood

by Caitlin Kirkwood in United Academics

What happens to our mood when our body is running low on glucose a.k.a. sugar? Researchers at the University of Kentucky were interested in the link between low glucose levels and aggressive behavior, so they designed a devious study to investigate the sugar-mood association.... Read more »

  • August 16, 2013
  • 08:04 AM

Researchers Discover New Strategy to Prevent Influenza Infection

by Geetanjali Yadav in United Academics

Research shows microRNA based strategy to fight against viral pathogens.... Read more »

Langlois, RA, Albrecht, RA, Kimble, B, Sutton, T, Shapiro, JS, Finch, C, Angel, M, Chua, MA, Gonzalez-Reiche, AS, Xu, K.... (2013) MicroRNA-based strategy to mitigate the risk of gain-of-function influenza studies. . Nature Biotechnology. DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2666  

  • August 15, 2013
  • 11:41 AM

Skinny Jeans and Cocaine: Why cocaine users tend to be skinny and why it won’t last forever

by Patrícia Fonseca Pedro in United Academics

“I’ve heard stories that some modeling agents encourage girls to do speed and cocaine in order to speed up metabolism and eat less,” Russian model Kira Dikhtyar told Fox News.

It’s an alarming phenomenon that many models and socialites use cocaine to stay thin. And this is not just a lady thing. Nowadays, prevailing beauty standards also influence men in a way some opt to use the same method to lose weight.... Read more »

  • August 14, 2013
  • 05:07 AM

Cutting Out the Middleman In BioHydrogen

by Q Dragon in United Academics

Hydrogen is one of the most promising alternative fuels being investigated. Not only because burning it only produces water but because it can act as a sort of chemical storage for more intermittent sources of energy. While there are many ways to chemically produce hydrogen gas, most involve expensive metals like platinum as a catalyst to make the process at all economical. Another approach borrows from biology, and in particular the enzyme hydrogenase. As with many things borrowed from nature it’s extremely good at what it does, the issue is extracting the enzyme from a living organism for use on its own. Fortunately some researchers from Germany (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) have managed to do the next best thing.... Read more »

Esselborn J, Lambertz C, Adamska-Venkatesh A, Simmons T, Berggren G, Noth J, Siebel J, Hemschemeier A, Artero V, Reijerse E.... (2013) Spontaneous activation of [FeFe]-hydrogenases by an inorganic [2Fe] active site mimic. Nature chemical biology. PMID: 23934246  

  • August 13, 2013
  • 11:31 AM

Explainer: What Are Surgical 'Never Events'?

by Jane Reid in United Academics

The point of surgical procedures is to save or improve the quality of our lives, but things can and do go wrong because of system or human errors. In too many cases patients are failed because of so called “never events” – serious incidents that should never happen because they’re entirely preventable.

The official list of never events in surgery includes operating on the wrong part of the body, performing the wrong procedure, leaving instruments or swabs inside the body, or having the wrong prosthesis or medical device implanted.

Never events, such as having the wrong testicle removed, can be devastating, while others prove fatal.... Read more »

Mehtsun, WT, Ibrahim, AM, Diener-West, M, Pronovost, PJ, & Makary, MA. (2012) Surgical never events in the United States. Surgery, 153(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.surg.2012.10.005  

  • August 13, 2013
  • 07:27 AM

Scientists Love Facebook: 8 Effects They Found

by Katja Keuchenius in United Academics

Blaming Facebook is a popular train of thought, also for scientists. They already conducted many studies on the, mostly negative, psychological effects of the social network. Here are 8 findings, some of them contradictive.... Read more »

Clayton RB, Nagurney A, & Smith JR. (2013) Cheating, Breakup, and Divorce: Is Facebook Use to Blame?. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking. PMID: 23745615  

Nitzan U, Shoshan E, Lev-Ran S, & Fennig S. (2011) Internet-related psychosis−a sign of the times. The Israel journal of psychiatry and related sciences, 48(3), 207-11. PMID: 22141146  

  • August 13, 2013
  • 05:37 AM

Objectively Evaluating the Taste of Food – It’s Possible

by Guillaume Cote-Maurais in United Academics

Objective quantification of taste intensity would be extremely useful for product development and quality control in the food industry. The tastes of industrial food products in development are still usually discriminated by trained food panelists that sense and score the tastes of foods by tasting the products themselves. Therefore there is a limit number of products that can be evaluated in a single sitting, and this limitation poses a crucial disadvantage in the case of quality control in an industrial production area.... Read more »

  • August 12, 2013
  • 08:06 PM

Black Dog Syndrome: A Bad Rap?

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Hi Mia & Julie – Firstly, thanks so much for letting me drop a verse in the rap song of your blog! I feel so awesome being featured. It’s like being Lil Wayne or something. Anyway…I’m just recently back from ISAZ 2013, where I had a most excellent time chatting with other anthrozoologist-y types. As you know, I just graduated from the Anthrozoology Master’s Program at Canisius College, so I was uber-excited to have a chance to share my research with colleagues in the field. ISAZ did not disappoint. Pauleen Bennett & Heather at ISAZ 2013Now I get to share with you two and it just gets better and better! :-)My master’s thesis research project (advised by the oh-so-awesome Christy Hoffman) looked to answer the question: “Does Black Dog Syndrome Exist?”Animal welfare folks are probably familiar with the concept of Black Dog Syndrome (BDS) that Julie introduced last week: it’s the idea that dogs with black coats have a harder time than other dogs getting adopted, and as a result, may face higher rates of euthanasia and longer stays in adoption programs. Popular media - but is it correct?A lot of popular media articles focus on this concept (like here, here, here and here) but the research results have been mixed: in a study published earlier this year, participants rated an image of a black dog as significantly less agreeable, less conscientious, and less emotionally stable than a yellow dog (Fratkin & Baker, 2013). Yet research into factors influencing shelter dogs’ lengths of stay (LOS) found that LOS was not significantly correlated with coat color (Brown, Davidson, & Zuefle, 2013; Protopopova, Gilmour, Weiss, Shen, & Wynne, 2012).To dig deeper into the questions of whether potential adopters discriminate against black dogs in a shelter and whether black dog discrimination is reflected in shelter stats, I conducted a two-part research project: Shelter Visitor Pilot Study – examined interaction between potential adopters and shelter dogs Shelter Data Analysis Study – investigated relationships between LOS and coat color, age, sex and breed, as well as the impact of these variables on likelihood of euthanasiaAnd what I found may surprise you. There was very little evidence to support the concept of Black Dog Syndrome! From Heather's ISAZ 2013 posterI know animal shelter workers are going “WHAT!?” right now – I know because I AM a shelter worker – but the truth is, even if many potential adopters come to the shelter with a negative bias toward black dogs, it’s not resulting in crazy-long shelter stays or greater risk of euthanasia for black dogs. In fact, according to analysis of shelter statistics, black dogs were adopted out faster than average at both shelters in my study. Black dogs were also less likely than expected to be euthanized (good news for black dogs, eh?).When shelter visitors video-recorded their walk through the adoption area, I found that they spent about equal amounts of time looking at every dog, regardless of coat color. Visitors also rarely made specific comments with regards to coat color, although one guy did say: “I like black. Black dogs ... Read more »

Fratkin Jamie L., & Baker Suzanne C. (2013) The Role of Coat Color and Ear Shape on the Perception of Personality in Dogs. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People , 26(1), 125-133. DOI: 10.2752/175303713X13534238631632  

Protopopova Alexandra, Gilmour Amanda Joy, Weiss Rebecca Hannah, Shen Jacqueline Yontsye, & Wynne Clive David Lawrence. (2012) The effects of social training and other factors on adoption success of shelter dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 142(1-2), 61-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.09.009  

  • August 11, 2013
  • 03:25 AM

Female Autism Could Be Widely Undetected because of Gender Bias

by Josephine Lethbridge in United Academics

Autism reveals itself in different ways in women than in men, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. And this has the potential to great advance our understanding of the condition.

Autism is estimated to affect 1% of the population and is believed to be more prevalent in males. As most studies have focused on this gender, this has led to a male-biased understanding of autism and, the Cambridge researchers say, the prevalence of female autism could be largely underestimated.... Read more »

Meng-Chuan Lai, Michael V. Lombardo, John Suckling, Amber N. V. Ruigrok, Bhismadev Chakrabarti, Christine Ecker, Sean C. L. Deoni, Michael C. Craig, Declan G. M. Murphy, Edward T. Bullmore, MRC AIMS Consortium, Simon Baron-Cohen. (2013) Biological sex affects the neurobiology of autism. Brain. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awt216  

  • August 9, 2013
  • 07:43 AM

Empathic Pooches Catch Yawns from Their Owners

by Dyani Lewis in United Academics

In humans, recent theories have suggested that contagious yawning is an indicator of empathy. When we yawn in response to someone else’s yawn, we are communicating that we empathise with them. Being the social creatures that we are, empathy is an important social emotion that can strengthen the bonds between people.

But what about when a dog yawns after seeing a human yawn? Is the dog being empathic, or is there some other explanation?... Read more »

  • August 8, 2013
  • 10:23 AM

Bacteria Could Shed Light on How Financial Markets Work

by Josephine Lethbridge in United Academics

What do bankers and bacteria have in common? Finite resources, quick decision-making and an appreciation of trade-offs, according to a study in Ecology Letters. So could bacterial modelling ever help us avoid another banking crash?... Read more »

Ram Maharjan1,Susanna Nilsson, Judy Sung, Ken Haynes, Robert E. Beardmore, Laurence D. Hurst, Tom Ferenci, Ivana Gudelj. (2013) The form of a trade-off determines the response to competition. Ecology Letters. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12159  

  • August 6, 2013
  • 10:11 AM

Biodiversity of Ecosystems Decrease in a High-CO2 Ocean

by Guillaume Cote-Maurais in United Academics

Climate change resulting from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases could also have other consequences.
Scientists are concerned that the absorption of atmospheric CO2 in the oceans could have an impact on marine ecosystems. This would result from absorption of atmospheric CO2, which causes a decrease in seawater pH and carbonate ion concentrations, while increasing CO2 and bicarbonate ion concentrations.... Read more »

Kroeker KJ, Gambi MC and Micheli F. (2013) Community dynamics and ecosystem simplification in a high-CO2 ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1216464110  

  • August 6, 2013
  • 05:51 AM

Just How Bad Are Rich People, Anyway?

by Patrick Meyer in United Academics

Professor Paul Piff at UC Berkeley recently conducted a study attempting to see if there was some type of correlation between a person’s socio-economic status and the way they conduct themselves morally and ethically. Piff felt compelled to disprove the popular conservative stereotype that people in lower socio-economic positions tend to act out of greed and personal benefit.... Read more »

Piff PK, Stancato DM, Côté S, Mendoza-Denton R, & Keltner D. (2012) Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(11), 4086-91. PMID: 22371585  

  • August 5, 2013
  • 10:27 AM

Genetic Adam and Eve May Have Walked on Earth at the Same Time

by Akshat Rathi in United Academics

All scientific evidence points to the fact that, if you go far enough back, all life on Earth is related through common ancestry. Turns out that applying the same sort of analysis shows that all humans alive today are descendants of one man and one woman who walked our planet thousands of years ago.

For several decades, there has been debate about when these ancestors, popularly known as Y-chromosomal Adam and mitochondrial Eve, existed. Two studies published this week find that there is a good chance Adam and Eve may have existed about the same time, evolutionarily speaking.... Read more »

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