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  • January 23, 2014
  • 07:49 AM

Cemetery or Sacrifice in Carthage… Again

by Katy Meyers Emery in Bones Don't Lie

About a year and a half ago, I posted an article about the Tophet of Carthage. The cemetery was used for over 600 years, between 730 BCE and 146 BCE, and there are no adult graves found at the site, only those of infants, lambs, and goat kids. The grave markers all have dedications to … Continue reading »... Read more »

J.H. Schwartz, F.D. Houghton, L. Bondioli, & R. Macchiarelli. (2012) Bones, teeth, and estimating age of perinates: Carthaginian infant sacrifice revisited. Antiquity, 738-745. info:/

  • January 19, 2014
  • 05:00 PM

Nickel for your thoughts: Mortuary imagery on early 20th century "hobo nickels"

by JB in Bone Broke

Mortuary imagery on hobo nickels...... Read more »

Kuwahara RT, Skinner RB 3rd, & Skinner RB Jr. (2001) Nickel coinage in the United States: the history of a common contact allergen. The Western journal of medicine, 175(2), 112-4. PMID: 11483555  

  • January 18, 2014
  • 06:21 AM

Recipe discovered for drink Asterix and the VIkings: Nordic Grog

by Chiara Civardi in United Academics

If you have ever seen „Asterix and the Vikings” I am sure you will remember Olaf Timandahaf and its Viking tribe, celebrating and drinking from skull- made mugs. The aim of a new study was to discover what exactly the beverage inside these mugs was.If you are keen to try it, the recipe is as follows:... Read more »

  • January 17, 2014
  • 05:16 PM

“Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia”

by Umberto in Up and Down in Moxos

“Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia” is the title of a recent paper by McMichael et al. published in Proceeding of the Royal Society B. It is not open access but you can read the abstract here. In this paper McMichael et al. present a predictive model for the presence of Terra Preta in Amazonia.  The model predicts the likelihood of finding Terra Preta sites in any given spot within Amazonia.  In general, I liked the idea behind the paper. These models give us an objective basis for further research and discussions. It is thanks to this kind of work that we can go beyond subjective views about the extent of human impact in pre-Columbian Amazonia and start to formulate hypothesis that, through survey and measurement, can be later tested. The first important result of this paper is that, given the data available, we can now estimate that terra preta is likely to be found only in a 3.2% of the forested areas of Amazonia. This is far less than other previous estimates (Erickson, 2008).However, I find the discussion of McMichael et al. a bit disappointing with regards to two points. The first is the meaning they give to the presence of terra preta; the second is the reasons they give to explain the absence terra preta outside of Brazil.What is terra preta? Is it the result of permanent settlement where people cooked and dumped food remains for centuries, eventually causing the enrichment of the soil in with charcoal, phosphorous, organic matter and the rest of elements used to define terra preta? Or is it the result of soil management techniques aimed at improving fertility and agricultural potential? McMichael et al. seem to imply that terra preta is the latter: the result of soil fertility enhancement. They say: “The lack of terra pretas in western Amazonia may be because the Andean-derived soils of western Amazonia did not require nutrient enrichment… [the bold is mine]”. However, this kind of interpretation of terra preta being the result of Pre-Columbian agricultural intensification has been challenged by many authors. Neves & Petersen (2006) discovered that at the Hatahara occupation site (close to Manaus) pre-Columbians actually used terra preta to build burial mounds, which is a strange use for an agricultural soil that took centuries to form. Of course, we cannot exclude that pre-Columbians took advantage of the fertile terra preta for their gardens associated to their homes; in the same way that they could have taken advantage of the fertility of pre-existing middens (see Arroyo-Kalin, 2012 for a discussion on this).But this does not mean that people intentionally created terra preta for agriculture!Recently, Glaser & Birck (2012) concluded their review about the state of the scientific knowledge about the properties and genesis of Anthropogenic Dark Earths in Central Amazonia saying: “there is no scientific evidence indicating that forgotten agricultural techniques for large scale soil fertility improvement are responsible for terra preta genesis”. This leads us to my second concern: what does it mean when no terra preta is found? Here, McMichael et al. suggest that the lack of terra preta indicates that people decided to produce food in some other way, due to cultural and/or environmental reasons. They say: “[In the Llanos de Moxos] instead of terra preta formation, large societies sustained themselves by using techniques such as fish weirs and raised-field agriculture”. But, is it cultivating little gardens that large societies sustained themselves? I think the answer is no. In fact, pre-Columbians living in terra preta sites performed agriculture in the surrounding area, eventually forming terra mulata sites. Terra mulata sites are far larger than terra preta ones. Terra mulata sites do not contain pottery and are far less fertile than terra preta ones, but still, they are richer in organic matter than the normal Amazonian oxisols (more on this here). It is terra mulata that formed because of ancient agricultural use, not terra preta.The main problem we face when tackling the question of terra preta is its definition. The definition that is generally given to terra preta coincides with the description of the geochemistry of a midden (From Wikipedia: an old dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, vermin, shells, sherds, lithics, and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation) and there are middens everywhere in the world! As a consequence of this, terra preta sites are now appearing everywhere... We should also keep in mind that the whole terra preta concept is rooted in the context of the big surprise that the first researchers had when they found black organic sediments in the middle of Amazonian heavily weathered soils. In fact, terra preta is often defined (and mapped in the field) in relation to the surrounding soil (Fig. 1). In my view, there is not much that actually differentiates terra preta from other occupation horizons elsewhere. I have seen several places in the Bolivian Amazon that, because of the colour of the soil, concentrations of P, Ca, charcoal etc., would fit quite well into the definition of terra preta (see for example this). It is just that they are not called terra preta, yet :- ). It could be that the absence of terra preta sites outside Brazil is merely the result of researchers giving these kinds of soils/deposits different names in different regions, such as “middens” or “occupation horizons”.Figure 1: oxisol left, terra preta right (from Wikipedia)I think that the, otherwise excellent, paper by McMichael at al. could have benefited from incorporating into their model a database of terra mulata sites, instead of terra preta sites. Or, even better, if they had used a database of pre-columbian occupations, including the archaeological sites known outside of Brazil. This would have provided a more reliable tool for modelling pre-Columbian agriculture (if a terra mulata database had been used) or settlements patterns (if a database of archaeological sites had been used) within the Amazon basin; and for modelling pre-Columbian disturbance of the natural environment.References McMichael CH, Palace MW, Bush MB, Braswell B, Hagen S, Neves EG, Silman MR, Tamanaha EK, & Czarnecki C (2014). Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 281 (1777) PMID: 24403329... Read more »

McMichael CH, Palace MW, Bush MB, Braswell B, Hagen S, Neves EG, Silman MR, Tamanaha EK, & Czarnecki C. (2014) Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 281(1777), 20132475. PMID: 24403329  

Erickson, C.L. (2008) Amazonia: the historical ecology of a domesticated landscape. In: H. Silverman, W.H. Isbell (Eds.), Handbook of South American archaeology. Springer, Berlin, pp. 157-183. DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-74907-5_11  

Neves, E.G., & Petersen, J.B. (2006) Political economy and pre-Columbian landscape transformations in Central Amazonia. In: W. Balée . info:/

  • January 15, 2014
  • 05:51 AM

Differences in rhythmic cognition between human and non-human primates?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Despite their genetic proximity, human and non-human primates differ in their capacity for beat induction, which is the ability to perceive a regular pulse in music or auditory stimuli and accordingly align motor skills by way of foot-tapping or dancing.... Read more »

Merchant, H., & Honing, H. (2013) Are non-human primates capable of rhythmic entrainment? Evidence for the gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(274). info:/

  • January 10, 2014
  • 07:53 AM

The Presence of the Deceased

by Katy Meyers Emery in Bones Don't Lie

I am a major fan of post-mortem photography. If you are not familiar with the fad, it was the practice of taking photographs of a deceased family member, or of the living posing with the deceased relative. The practice became more common after the invention of  daguerreotype photography in 1839, which made taking portraits and photos less … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • January 9, 2014
  • 09:11 PM

Detailed analysis of Tattersall 2013 “Higher taxa: Reply to Cartmill”

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

Huh. ———————- Tattersall, I (2013). Higher taxa: Reply to cartmill Evolutionary Antropology, 22 (6), 293-293 DOI: 10.1002/evan.21393... Read more »

Tattersall, I. (2013) Higher taxa: Reply to cartmill. Evolutionary Antropology, 22(6), 293-293. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21393  

  • January 9, 2014
  • 06:00 AM

Ancient Rock Art in Texas Yields ‘Surprising’ New Finds

by Blake de Pastino in Western Digs

New technology is providing unexpected insights into some of the most distinctive rock art in the American West, archaeologists say.... Read more »

  • January 7, 2014
  • 10:45 AM

The More Your Friends Change, the More Your Social Network Stays the Same

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

For the most part, people move in and out of our lives at a trickle: a new coworker becomes a friend; a neighbor moves away. But there's at least one cataclysmic monsoon in a young person's social life, and that's high school graduation. So long, hometown chumps! Hello, dorms! When scientists used cell phone records to track the social networks of people graduating from high school and starting the next phase of their lives, they saw huge a turnover in friends and acquaintances. Remarkably, though, the overall structure of each person's network stayed the same."We wanted to see what happens to social networks when there is a big disruption," says Jari Saramäki. A professor at Aalto University in Finland, he leads a research group studying complex networks. In 2007, Saramäki and his coauthors gave cell phones to 24 soon-to-graduate high schoolers in a large city in the United Kingdom. The phones came with an 18-month contract and a guarantee that all their call data during that time would be collected by researchers. After graduating, a quarter of the subjects stayed in their home city and got jobs; the rest went off to universities nearby or in other cities.At three points during the study, the young people filled out questionnaires about their phone use. They listed all the friends, acquaintances, and family members for whom they had contact information, and rated the closeness of their relationships with each person. The researchers combined this information with the call records to piece together each person's network: who were they calling, how often, and how close were they to the people they called?Researchers didn't calculate the absolute numbers of people in each subject's social network, Saramäki explains, because a graph of anyone's call frequencies shows a long "tail" of numbers dialed just once or twice. Are these doctor's office receptionists? School administrators? Does a virtual stranger count as a member of someone's network? Instead, Saramäki says, they focused on the top of the graph. Each subject's acquaintances were ranked by the number of phone calls they got, then graphed according to the fraction of total calls this was. Here's an example. "Ego" is the person we're interested in, and A-J are the people he or she called the most:The graph on the right is this person's "social signature." There were some patterns among subjects. For example, an average of 20 to 25 percent of calls went to each person's top-ranked acquaintance, and nearly half of calls to their top three acquaintances. Nevertheless, each subject's social signature had a distinct shape. Over time, the graduating students had huge turnover in their networks. Within all top-20 contacts, 42 percent were people added in the middle section of the study. Yet statistical analysis showed that for the most part, the shapes of these social networks stayed the same."I would have expected that when the participants begin their first university year, there is some dramatic, temporary effect on their network shapes," Saramäki says. "What was really surprising is that [network structures] do not change much, even when this turnover is there."Of course, phone calls don't give a complete picture of a person's social activity—there are also text messages, for one thing. But Saramäki says texts can be "problematic." Not everyone's parents text, for example, and some interactions might be completed in one message while others take a dozen back-and-forth volleys. "We do have data on text messages for this study and are working on it," Saramäki says. "But judging from what we have seen so far, it looks like the text message data tells pretty much the same story."Even when people overhaul nearly all their friends at once, they seem to just slot the new acquaintances into the old social structure. It seems you can't shake your network—wherever you go, there you (and they) are.Jari Saramäki, E. A. Leicht, Eduardo López, Sam G. B. Roberts, Felix Reed-Tsochas, & Robin I. M. Dunbar (2013). Persistence of social signatures in human communication. PNAS : 10.1073/pnas.1308540110Image: Mine. All mine.

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Jari Saramäki, E. A. Leicht, Eduardo López, Sam G. B. Roberts, Felix Reed-Tsochas, & Robin I. M. Dunbar. (2013) Persistence of social signatures in human communication. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1308540110

  • January 7, 2014
  • 09:08 AM

Headhunting and Human Remains as Trophies

by Katy Meyers Emery in Bones Don't Lie

The practice of collecting human remains as trophies is not uncommon. Trophies can include heads, teeth, other bones, ears and even skin. In some senses, the collection of relics throughout history is a type of trophy collection, though with important religious meaning. Other practices of trophy collection are meant to be a form of dominance over … Continue reading »... Read more »

  • January 6, 2014
  • 04:08 PM

The Teacher Who Forgot How To Read

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

The journal Neurology features an interesting – and rather heartwarming – case report: “Teacher interrupted” Authors Jason Cuomo et al, of Loyola University Chicago, write: Reading to children was a source of fulfillment in the life of M.P., a 40-year-old aunt, kindergarten teacher, and reading specialist … But all of that changed when, on a […]The post The Teacher Who Forgot How To Read appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • January 6, 2014
  • 06:00 AM

11,000-Year-Old Seafaring Indian Sites Discovered on California Island

by Blake de Pastino in Western Digs

Just offshore from the chock-a-block development of Southern California, archaeologists have discovered some of the oldest sites of human occupation on the Pacific Coast.... Read more »

  • January 4, 2014
  • 06:45 AM

Backpost*: The Denisovans and the Mamanwas

by nath in Imprints of Philippine Science

In a post almost 3 years ago, I wrote about the ancient connection of the Philippine Negrito groups with indigenous …Continue reading »... Read more »

Delfin F, Salvador JM, Calacal GC, Perdigon HB, Tabbada KA, Villamor LP, Halos SC, Gunnarsdóttir E, Myles S, Hughes DA.... (2010) The Y-chromosome landscape of the Philippines: extensive heterogeneity and varying genetic affinities of Negrito and non-Negrito groups. European journal of human genetics : EJHG. PMID: 20877414  

Reich D, Patterson N, Kircher M, Delfin F, Nandineni MR, Pugach I, Ko AM, Ko YC, Jinam TA, Phipps ME.... (2011) Denisova admixture and the first modern human dispersals into Southeast Asia and Oceania. American journal of human genetics, 89(4), 516-28. PMID: 21944045  

Krause J, Fu Q, Good JM, Viola B, Shunkov MV, Derevianko AP, & Pääbo S. (2010) The complete mitochondrial DNA genome of an unknown hominin from southern Siberia. Nature, 464(7290), 894-7. PMID: 20336068  

Cooper A, & Stringer CB. (2013) Paleontology. Did the Denisovans cross Wallace's Line?. Science (New York, N.Y.), 342(6156), 321-3. PMID: 24136958  

Meyer, M, Fu, Q, Aximu-Petri, A, Glocke, I, Nickel, B, Arsuaga, JL, Martinez, I, Gracia, A, de Castro, JMB, Carbonell, E.... (2013) A mitochondrial genome sequence of a hominin from Sima de los Huesos. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12788  

  • January 3, 2014
  • 05:30 PM

Reconstructing the New World Monkey Family Tree

by Perikis Livas in Tracing Knowledge

Duke University evolutionary anthropologist Richard Kay applied decades’ worth of data on geology, ancient climates and evolutionary relationships to uncover several patterns in primate migration and evolution in the Americas..

Further reading and links... Read more »

  • January 3, 2014
  • 11:00 AM

Snoozing Bats Tune Out Traffic Noise

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

For an easily crushed animal that rests during the day, a highway seems like maybe the worst possible home. Yet some bats pick roosts that are under bridges, or in other spots booming with human noise. Why subject themselves to that? For bats of at least one species, the sound of traffic is easy to doze through. And the more they hear it, the more they ignore it.The greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis, often turns up under bridges in Europe. Jinhong Luo, a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, wanted to know how they can tolerate the noise. He and his colleagues trapped male bats from a cave in Bulgaria and brought them back to the laboratory for a hearing test, which was really a sleeping test.Well, not sleeping exactly. Like many other bat species, the greater mouse-eared bat goes into "torpor" during the day, which is like a mini-hibernation. Its metabolism and body temperature drop sharply, letting the animal conserve energy. In the evening, the bats start to stir. After waking up gradually, they head out from their caves (or under-bridge roosts) to hunt.The researchers created several different sound recordings that they would play to roosting bats to try to wake them up. There was a recording of the bats' own colony, another of local bird sounds, and one of trees rustling in the wind. The authors also created recordings that mimicked highway traffic passing 25 meters, 50 meters, and 100 meters away.Each bat was housed by itself for the sound tests. Over the course of two roosting days, the bats heard each recording twice for five minutes. By monitoring temperature sensors on the animals' skin, the scientists could see whether bats started to wake up—that is, warm themselves—after hearing each sound.Luo and the others tested a dozen bats. (They started with 15, but two weren't snoozing deeply enough to run all the tests, and one somehow pulled the temperature logger off the middle of its back.) The bats were most likely to wake up after hearing the recording of their colony, or the sound of rustling trees. But traffic sounds were least likely to wake them. Bats responded more strongly to all sounds later in the day, as it got closer to their normal waking time.It's not too surprising that bats respond to the squeaks and shuffles of their own colony, which might hold useful information. But why the windblown trees? A likely answer is that Myotis myotis doesn't hunt by echolocation. Instead, it listens for the sounds of beetles walking through the grass. Since the bats are already attuned to the noise of swishing vegetation, it may make a good alarm clock.As for the sound of cars passing, Luo points out that most rumbling traffic is at a lower frequency than the sounds of a bat colony or rustling leaves. Since bats hear better at higher frequencies, this means traffic noise is "basically out of the best hearing frequencies for nearly all bat species."However, Luo is quick to add, "We would never claim that traffic noise is not disturbing to roosting bats or even to torpid bats." The bats in his study did respond slightly to traffic noise, raising their body temperatures compared to when there was silence. And bats might react differently to highway sounds when they're awake, or when they're roosting but not in a state of torpor.Whatever sound they heard, bats responded less on the second playback, or when it was played continuously for an hour. They were especially quick to adjust to traffic sounds. Like a teenager sleeping through an alarm clock, bats can tune out a familiar noise more easily. But that doesn't mean they're immune to harm from their noisy human neighbors. We just don't know all the ways that living with our roads and other rackets might influence them."To be honest, we are in the very beginning of understanding the potential effects," Luo says. "Answers are not always straightforward."Image: USFWS/Ann FroschauerLuo J, Clarin BM, Borissov IM, & Siemers BM (2013). Are torpid bats immune to anthropogenic noise? The Journal of experimental biology PMID: 24311817

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Luo J, Clarin BM, Borissov IM, & Siemers BM. (2013) Are torpid bats immune to anthropogenic noise?. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 24311817  

  • December 29, 2013
  • 09:23 AM

Rhythm cognition in humans vs monkeys explained?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

This week a theoretical paper will come out in Frontiers in Neuroscience that reviews the literature on rhythm and timing in humans and nonhuman primates observing different species to species behavior in interval-based timing versus beat-based timing.... Read more »

Merchant, H., & Honing, H. (2013) Are non-human primates capable of rhythmic entrainment? Evidence for the gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(274). info:/

  • December 27, 2013
  • 09:27 AM

The Inaccuracy of National Character Stereotypes

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Are Germans dour, Brits reserved, and Americans brash? Popular wisdom says yes – and, even if most people would take these stereotypes with a pinch of salt, few of us could claim to be immune to them. But what does the evidence say? An international team of psychologists led by Robert McCrae says that it’s […]The post The Inaccuracy of National Character Stereotypes appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

McCrae RR, & et al. (2013) The Inaccuracy of National Character Stereotypes. Journal of Research in Personality, 47(6). PMID: 24187394  

  • December 21, 2013
  • 05:52 PM

Facing the Winter Sun

by teofilo in Gambler's House

Today is the winter solstice, which also makes it the fifth anniversary of this blog. I tend to like to post about archaeoastronomy on these occasions, and as I mentioned in the previous post I’m currently in Albuquerque and have been reading up on the archaeology of the Rio Grande Valley. Luckily, a recent article […]... Read more »

Lakatos, SA. (2007) Cultural Continuity and the Development of Integrative Architecture in the Northern Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, A.D. 600-1200. Kiva, 73(1), 31-66. info:/

  • December 17, 2013
  • 04:38 PM

Why Waiting Lists Could Be Bad For Your Health

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

No-one likes waiting their turn, but according to a new study, just knowing that you’re ‘on a waiting list’ could change your behaviour: Exploratory randomized controlled trial evaluating the impact of a waiting list control design The research was conducted by an Canadian team led by John A. Cunningham, and it made use of a […]The post Why Waiting Lists Could Be Bad For Your Health appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • December 17, 2013
  • 12:09 PM

Higher Altitude Protects Teens from Concussions

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The human brain is a vulnerable thing, perched in its peanut shell on top of our walking, stumbling bodies. Human who enjoy collision-heavy pastimes—say, tackle sports—put their brains in particular danger. And when it comes to concussions, young people are at even more risk than adults. Yet kids who play at at higher altitudes seem to be safer than their peers. The reason, hidden somewhere in the brain's squishy dynamics, might help protect kids and adults who are smashing into each other everywhere.You don't have to travel to Denver's Mile High stadium for your body to start responding to altitude. "Relatively small changes in altitude can have significant changes upon the physiology of the body," say Gregory Myer and David Smith, both in the sports medicine department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (The coauthors responded to my email jointly.)At just 600 feet above sea level, the authors point out, oxygen in the atmosphere has already dropped from 21 percent to 20 percent. Your body notices this slight change and adjusts. One measure it takes, upon noticing there's less oxygen available than usual, is to send a little more blood to your brain. "This leads to a slight filling up of the brain space," Myer and Smith say. Your brain ends up squeezed just a tad more tightly into your head.Wherever you are, if you get suddenly knocked on the head, your brain will ricochet around inside your skull's fluids. In actual scientific terms, it "sloshes." The delicate brain squishes and twists, and hosts of neurons fire all at once. You may black out. Afterward, you might have memory loss, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and other symptoms that can last for days or months. The looser, stretchier blood vessels in the brains of people under age 20 may explain why they're at even greater risk.Concussions might be prevented if the skull could keep the brain from sloshing by holding onto it a little tighter—as it does at higher altitudes. To find out whether this works, Myer, Smith and their colleagues used data from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System. Run by the University of Colorado, Denver, this study collects data on injuries from high schools across the country.The authors looked at nearly 6,000 concussions from about 500 schools. The concussed kids were athletes in all kinds of sports, at schools ranging from sea level to 6,900 feet. When the researchers divided student athletes into those living above and below the median altitude—which was 600 feet—they saw a significant difference in concussions. Across all sports, kids at higher altitudes had a 31 percent lower risk of concussion. Among football players only, the results were essentially the same: a 30 percent lower risk at higher altitude.It's an intriguing difference. As sports organizations and the public learn more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the long-term risks for athletes with head injuries, the quest to prevent concussions is growing more urgent. High schoolers, though, don't travel to play like professional athletes do. Could some of their lower risk have to do with changes in their bodies that happen over a lifetime of living at a certain altitude? "Visiting altitude will begin creating a tighter fit the minute you arrive," Myer and Smith say. However, adjustment happens over the long term too. "Everyone is likely different in how quickly they respond [to altitude] and how protection occurs for them," the authors say. "This is why we are working to evaluate technologies that can give this same protection whether you are in Denver or Miami." They'll be looking next at adults and professional athletes to try to find answers.One hint comes from an earlier study David Smith performed on rats. While wearing a collar that slightly squeezed their jugular veins, the rats were hit hard on the head. The collar seemed to make rats less vulnerable to concussion, apparently because more blood was in their heads, squeezing their brains more tightly and preventing sloshing. This all sounds pretty unpleasant for the rats, but Myer and Smith insist that "the technologies we are studying are no more risky than yawning or even the act of lying down."Animals like woodpeckers and head-ramming sheep manage to protect their brains from damage, the researchers point out. So why can't we? Of course, in our case the head ramming is in the name of fun. But there might be ways to safeguard our brains, like these animals do, from the inside out.Image: Rocky Mountain High School in Colorado, by Paul L. Dineen (via Wikimedia Commons)David W. Smith, Gregory D. Myer, Dustin W. Currie, R. Dawn Comstock, Joseph F. Clark, & Julian E. Bailes (2013). Altitude Modulates Concussion Incidence: Implications for Optimizing Brain Compliance to Prevent Brain Injury in Athletes. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine DOI: 10.1177/2325967113511588

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