Post List

  • October 30, 2014
  • 09:57 AM

Resourceful Crustaceans Turn Invasive Seaweed into Homes

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

When a new developer comes to town and starts aggressively building up the empty property around your home, you can get mad—or you can move in. That’s what tiny crustaceans in the Georgia mudflats have done. Facing an invasive Japanese seaweed, they’ve discovered that it makes excellent shelter, protecting them from all kinds of threats. […]The post Resourceful Crustaceans Turn Invasive Seaweed into Homes appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • October 30, 2014
  • 07:59 AM

Fright Week: The Stranger in the Mirror

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In the mirror we see our physical selves as we truly are, even though the image might not live up to what we want, or what we once were. But we recognize the image as “self”. In rare instances, however, this reality breaks down.In Black Swan, Natalie Portman plays Nina Sayers, a ballerina who auditions for the lead in Swan Lake. The role requires her to dance the part of the innocent White Swan (for which she is well-suited), as well as her evil twin the Black Swan — which is initially outside the scope of her personality and technical abilities. Another dancer is favored for the role of the Black Swan. Nina's drive to replace her rival, and her desire for perfection, lead to mental instability (and a breathtaking performance). In her hallucinations she has become the Black Swan.1The symbolic use of mirrors to depict doubling and fractured identity was very apparent in the film:Perhaps Darren Aronofsky [the director's] intentions for the mirror was its power to reveal hidden identities. If you noticed the scenes where Nina saw herself in the mirror, it reflected the illusion of an evil. The mirror presented to her the darkness within herself that metaphorically depicted the evolution into the black swan. How can the recognition of self in a mirror break down?Alterations in mirror self-recognitionThere are at least seven main routes to dissolution or distortion of self-image:psychotic disordersdementiaright parietal-ish or otherwise right posterior cortical strokes and lesionsthe ‘strange-face in the mirror' illusion hypnosisdissociative disorders (e.g., depersonalization, dissociative identity disorderbody image issues (e.g., anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder) Professor Max Coltheart and colleagues have published extensively on the phenomenon of mirrored-self misidentification, defined as “the delusional belief that one’s reflection in the mirror is a stranger.” They have induced this delusion experimentally by hypnotizing highly suggestible participants and planting the suggestion that they would see a stranger in the mirror (Barnier et al., 2011): Following a hypnotic suggestion to see a stranger in the mirror, high hypnotizable subjects described seeing a stranger with physical characteristics different to their own. Whereas subjects' beliefs about seeing a stranger were clearly false, they had no difficulty generating sensible reasons to explain the stranger's presence. The authors tested the resilience of this belief with clinically inspired challenges. Although visual challenges (e.g., the hypnotist appearing in the mirror alongside the subject) were most likely to breach the delusion, some subjects maintained the delusion across all challenges. Ad campaign for the Exelon Patch (rivastigmine, a cholinesterase inhibitor) used to treat Alzheimer's disease. Photographer Tom Hussey did a series of 10 award-winning portraits depicting Alzheimer's patients looking at their younger selves in a mirror (commissioned by Novartis).Mendez et al. (1992) published a retrospective study of 217 patients with Alzheimer's disease. They searched the medical records for caregiver reports of disturbances in person identification of any kind. The most common type was transient confusion of family members that resolved when reminded of the person's identity (found in 33 patients). The charts of five patients contained reports of mirror misidentification, which was always associated with paranoia and delusions. Although not exactly systematic, this fits with other studies reporting that 2–10% of Alzheimer's patients have problems recognizing themselves in a mirror.A very thorough investigation of the topic was actually published 50 years ago, but largely neglected because it was in French. Connors and Coltheart (2011) translated the 1963 paper of Ajuriaguerra, Strejilevitch, & Tissot into English. The Introduction is quite eloquent:The vision of our image in the mirror is a discovery that is perpetually renewed, one in which our being is isolated from the world, from the objects surrounding it, and assumes, despite the fixed quality of reflected images, the significance of multiple personal and potential expressions. The image reflected by the mirror furnishes us not only with that which is, but also how our real image might be changed. It therefore inextricably combines awareness, indulgence and critique.They examined how 30 hospitalized dementia interacted with mirrors in terms of  (1) recognition of their own reflection; (2) use of reflected space; and (3) identifying body parts. The patients sat in front of a mirror and answered the following questions:What is this?Who is that?How old would you say that person is?How do you think you look?Then the experimenter stood behind them and asked questions about himself (e.g., “who is that man?”), and showed them objects in a mirror (e.g., an orange or a pipe – very funny).Eight patients did not recognize themselves in the mirror:Three didn't understand the concept of a mirror. They didn't pay attention to any reflections until directed to do so, and then they became transfixed. They also failed to recognize photos of themselves or their caretakers.Another three eventually admitted it might be themselves when prodded several times.These individuals had severe Alzheimer's disease.The final two recognized themselves the second time, and displayed considerably more anxiety. This sounds terribly frightening:These patients were attentive to their own reflections and those of the researchers, whom they identified. The first patient seemed a bit anxious; she began by touching herself, then laughed, then proclaimed “that is not quite me, it sort of looks like me, but it's not me.” When she was shown her photo head-on and then from the side, she immediately identified herself when the photo was head-on but from the side said “that's not quite me.” These individuals were in an earlier state of dissolution and likely had more awareness of what was happening to them.Other patients with mirrored-self misidentification show greater sparing of cognitive abilities. Chandra and Issac (2014) presented brief case summaries of five mild to moderate dementia patients with “mirror image agnosia, a new observation involving failure to recognize reflected self-images.” This is obviously not a new observation, but the paper includes two videos, one of which is embedded below. Sixty-two-year-old female was brought to the hospital with features of forgetfulness and getting... Read more »

Barnier AJ, Cox RE, Connors M, Langdon R, & Coltheart M. (2011) A stranger in the looking glass: developing and challenging a hypnotic mirrored-self misidentification delusion. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 59(1), 1-26. PMID: 21104482  

Chandra SR, & Issac TG. (2014) Mirror image agnosia. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 36(4), 400-3. PMID: 25336773  

Mendez MF, Martin RJ, Smyth KA, & Whitehouse PJ. (1992) Disturbances of person identification in Alzheimer's disease. A retrospective study. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 180(2), 94-6. PMID: 1737981  

  • October 30, 2014
  • 04:44 AM

Pain and adolescent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"We found a higher prevalence of severe pain among adolescents with CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome] and lowered pain thresholds compared with HCs [healthy controls]".That was the headline generated by the study from Anette Winger and colleagues [1] (open-access) looking to describe several parameters tied into experience of pain in the context of CFS. Further: "The total sum of bodily symptoms represented a heavy burden with great functional consequences".Your hokey pokey dragon is out helpin' Santa Claus pull his sled!The Winger paper is open-access, and pretty self-explanatory in terms of the hows and whys of the study (including strengths and limitations) so no need for me to further complicate things. As part of the NorCAPITAL project (The Norwegian Study of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Adolescents: Pathophysiology and Intervention Trial) ( entry here) which has already reported on the use of clonidine for CFS [2], the latest publication is an important add-on.There are a few details included in the results which do however merit some additional highlighting. So:"In the present study, almost three-quarters of the adolescents with CFS suffered from weekly pain, and pain on a daily basis was a problem for half of the patients". This was "highly significant" when compared with reports from controls, particularly where two-thirds of CFS participants reported weekly headaches. Muscle and joint pain were also recorded by adolescents with CFS alongside almost half reporting abdominal pain. Indeed, joint pain showed the most disparity between the groups with reports of such pain tipping 70% in the CFS group compared with only 10% of controls reporting this more frequently than once a month.When looking at result examining the pressure pain threshold (PPT) - "the minimum intensity of a stimulus that is perceived as painful" - and examining scores based on completion of the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI), authors concluded that: "At all measure points, PPTs were significantly lower (all p<0.001) among patients with CFS than HCs"."In our study, the adolescents reported that pain interfered with school, general activity and mood; however, we cannot conclude from this study that pain has a causal effect, because it could be the other way around". What's more to say about this research? Well, the very important message that the presentation of CFS might go well beyond just 'chronic fatigue' is paramount. This is not new news to science and practice as per the various reviews on the topic of pain exemplified by Nijs and colleagues [3]. I dare say that some public perceptions of CFS/ME would also change if more people understood that pain is a seemingly important manifestation of the condition. Oh and that CFS and pain sensation might not just be all in the mind...I'm also inclined to introduce the condition fibromyalgia (FM) into proceedings, given the many and varied reports talking about key symptoms overlapping [4]. I'm not altogether sure of the hows and whys of FM and CFS connecting, but certainly the primary FM symptom of widespread pain and extreme sensitivity strikes me as being potentially important. With no medical advice given or intended and perhaps somewhat counter-intuitive to analgesia, the increasing body of work looking at the use of something like low-dose naltrexone (see here for some of my interest in this area) for pain in FM [5] may also very well be something in need of a little more study with pain in CFS in mind, alongside other possible pain relief options.So then, The White Stripes with Ball and Biscuit.----------[1] Winger A. et al. Pain and pressure pain thresholds in adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy controls: a cross-sectional study. BMJ Open. 2014; 4(10): e005920.[2] Fagermoen E. et al. Clonidine in the treatment of adolescent chronic fatigue syndrome: a pilot study for the NorCAPITAL trial. BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:418 [3] Nijs J. et al. Pain in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: time for specific pain treatment? Pain Physician. 2012 Sep-Oct;15(5):E677-86.[4] Aaron LA. et al. Overlapping Conditions Among Patients With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Temporomandibular Disorder. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(2):221-227.[5] Younger J. et al. Low-dose naltrexone for the treatment of fibromyalgia: findings of a small, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, counterbalanced, crossover trial assessing daily pain levels. Arthritis Rheum. 2013 Feb;65(2):529-38.----------Winger, A., Kvarstein, G., Wyller, V., Sulheim, D., Fagermoen, E., Smastuen, M., & Helseth, S. (2014). Pain and pressure pain thresholds in adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome and healthy controls: a cross-sectional study BMJ Open, 4 (10) DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005920... Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 05:40 PM

Electron Paramagnetic Resonance of hair!

by mrsitandspin in Sit and Spin

I wanted to switch gears a bit and do a paper on Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR), also know as Electron Spin Resonance (ESR). The paper for this weeks is

Electron spin resonance (ESR/EPR) of free radicals observed in human red hair: a new, simple empirical method of determination of pheomelanin/eumelanin ratio in hair.


Chikvaidze EN, Partskhaladze TM and Gogoladze TV... Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 03:19 PM

More Genetic Links Behind Autism

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Vaccines do NOT cause autism. One more time, vaccines DO NOT cause autism. So what does cause autism, that problem has been plaguing scientists for awhile now. Thankfully two major genetic studies of autism and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.... Read more »

Iossifov, I., O’Roak, B., Sanders, S., Ronemus, M., Krumm, N., Levy, D., Stessman, H., Witherspoon, K., Vives, L., Patterson, K.... (2014) The contribution of de novo coding mutations to autism spectrum disorder. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13908  

De Rubeis, S., He, X., Goldberg, A., Poultney, C., Samocha, K., Ercument Cicek, A., Kou, Y., Liu, L., Fromer, M., Walker, S.... (2014) Synaptic, transcriptional and chromatin genes disrupted in autism. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13772  

  • October 29, 2014
  • 01:45 PM

This Month in Blastocystis Research (OCT 2014) - Trick or Treat Edition

by Christen Rune Stensvold in Blastocystis Parasite Blog

October was mostly about conferences and funding. And why is no one studying endosymbiosis in Blastocystis?... Read more »

Fletcher S, Caprarelli G, Merif J, Andresen D, Hal SV, Stark D, & Ellis J. (2014) Epidemiology and geographical distribution of enteric protozoan infections in sydney, australia. Journal of public health research, 3(2), 298. PMID: 25343139  

Nowack EC, & Melkonian M. (2010) Endosymbiotic associations within protists. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 365(1541), 699-712. PMID: 20124339  

Prodeus TV, Zelia OP, Khlebnikova TA, & Pikul' DA. (2014) [Extraenteric infection caused by Blastocystis spp. in a female patient with liver abscess]. Meditsinskaia parazitologiia i parazitarnye bolezni, 6-9. PMID: 25296418  

  • October 29, 2014
  • 12:59 PM

October 28, 2014

by Erin Campbell in HighMag Blog

If you’ve ever tried to get your kids to share a donut, you understand the importance to dividing things equally (and learning crucial lessons…just buy more donuts next time...I mean, seriously!). Cell division is no different—chromosomes and organelles must all get divided equally. Today’s images are from a paper showing how mitochondria are positioned during cell division in order to allow equal segregation.Many years of research have focused on the equal segregation of chromosomes during cell division. Organelles such as mitochondria must also be segregated equally in a dividing cell, and errors in this process can lead to disease. A recent paper identifies the actin motor Myosin-XIX (Myo19) as a key player in mitochondrial partitioning during cell division. Myo19 is localized to mitochondria, and cells depleted of Myo19 have an abnormal distribution of mitochondria. Cells lacking Myo19 experience stochastic division failure, suggesting that mitochondria are physically preventing successful cell division. The images above show dividing cells labeled to visualize mitochondria (green) and the mitotic spindle (red) in control cells (top two rows) and cells depleted of Myo19 (bottom two rows). Without Myo19, mitochondria moved towards spindle poles at the onset of anaphase, causing an asymmetric distribution at division when compared with control cells.BONUS!! Here is a rotating 3D reconstruction of an A549 stained to visualize microtubules (green), mitochondria (red), and DNA (blue). Omar Quintero, HighMag friend and a co-author from today’s paper, loves this image: “I like it because it reminds me of the scenes in StarWars where the Rebels are planning their attack on the Death Star.”Rohn, J., Patel, J., Neumann, B., Bulkescher, J., Mchedlishvili, N., McMullan, R., Quintero, O., Ellenberg, J., & Baum, B. (2014). Myo19 Ensures Symmetric Partitioning of Mitochondria and Coupling of Mitochondrial Segregation to Cell Division Current Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.045Copyright ©2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. ... Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 09:46 AM

Video Tip of the Week: PaleoBioDB, for your paleobiology searches

by Mary in OpenHelix

Yeah, I know, it’s not genomics–but it’s the history of life on this planet–right?  The Paleobiology Database has been keeping records of this ancient biology for a while now, and they have some really nice tools to explore the fossil records and resources that have become available. It’s also interesting to me to see the […]... Read more »

Varela Sara, González-Hernández Javier, Sgarbi Luciano, Marshall Charles, Uhen Mark, Peters Shanan, & McClennen Michael. (2014) paleobioDB: an R package for downloading, visualizing and processing data from the Paleobiology Database. Ecography. DOI: 10.1111/ecog.01154  

  • October 29, 2014
  • 09:13 AM

7 things you probably didn’t know about blind people

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

1.Blind people can't see in dreams:

Blind people are unable to see even in their dreams but they get a rich combination of different senses in their dreams. They get more feelings of taste, smell, touch, and hear in their dreams as compared to normal people.
2. They have fewer feelings of negative emotions:

Blind from birth people have fewer feelings of negative emotions such as anxiety and depression as compared to normal people.
Blind people see more nightmares (Image courtesy of Bogenfreund's Flickr stream)3. Vision in dream reduces with time:

The longer the blind people, who are not blind from birth, have lived without sight, the less they have chances of looking at things in their dreams.
4. They have the same level of emotions etc:

Blind people have almost same level of emotional and social contexts in their dreams as normal people. They have the same level of social interactions, prosperity, and failures in their dreams. They have almost the same intensity of emotions and bizarreness.
5. They have more nightmares:

People who are blind from birth have more chances of having nightmares that is about 4 times more than normal people. Interesting thing; they don’t know that they have more nightmares than normal people. However, people who became blind later in life have almost same chances of having nightmares as normal people.
6. Their nightmares are close to reality:

Nightmares of blind people are very close to reality as for example they may dream of getting lost, falling into an embarrassing situation, being hit by a vehicle, and/or losing their guide dog.
7. They visualize numbers in opposite direction:

People blind from birth visualize numbers in the opposite direction, i.e. their numbers are lined from right to left (6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) as opposed to left to right (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) for normal people.

How the Blind Dream – National Geographic ([Meaidi, A., Jennum, P., Ptito, M., & Kupers, R. (2014). The sensory construction of dreams and nightmare frequency in congenitally blind and late blind individuals Sleep Medicine, 15 (5), 586-595 DOI: 10.1016/j.sleep.2013.12.008]

People Born Blind Suffer 4 Times More Nightmares – PsychCentral (

Congenitally Blind Visualize Numbers Opposite Way to Sighted – Neuroscience News ( Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 09:05 AM

Halloween Horrors: Evidence of Torture in the Prehistoric Southwest US

by Katy Meyers Emery in Bones Don't Lie

With Halloween coming up right around the corner, there have been an increase in the attention paid to the spookier aspects of archaeology. We are increasingly able to find evidence of […]... Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 08:30 AM

How Does a Dog's Brain Respond to the Smell of a Familiar Human?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

And what does it tell us about the importance of people to their dogs?Photo: hitmanphoto / ShutterstockNew fMRI research by Gregory Berns et al (in press) shows that dog’s brains respond differently to the smell of a familiar human compared to an unfamiliar human and other canines – suggesting that certain people are special to their dogs.The research focussed on a part of the brain called the caudate, which has been much investigated in humans, monkeys and rats. The scientists explain that “caudate activity is correlated with salient, usually rewarding signals that cause the animal to change its behavioural orientation to approach or consume the stimulus.” Previous research by the team showed that this part of the brain lights up when the dog is given a hand signal that means it will be given a treat, confirming that caudate activation in dogs is connected with rewards.The results showed that the caudate was activated significantly more in response to the smell of the familiar human than to any of the other smells – even the familiar dog. The scientists say, “Importantly, the scent of the familiar human was not the handler, meaning that the caudate response differentiated the scent in the absence of the person being present. The caudate activation suggested that not only did the dogs discriminate that scent from the others, they had a positive association with it. This speaks to the power of the dog’s sense of smell, and it provides clues to the importance of humans in dog’s lives.”Does this mean we can say that dogs love us? It’s certainly the case that when people look at photographs of loved ones, the same part of the brain is activated. But it's hard to interpret the activation on the scan in terms of the dog's subjective experience.The researchers caution there is another possible explanation in terms of conditioning. It may be that the familiar person had previously given the dog food and so the scent was simply eliciting a conditioned response. The researchers say they think it unlikely it is a conditioned response, because it was typically the handler – not the familiar human – who was responsible for feeding the dog. The results also showed that the olfactory bulb in the brain was activated by all five smells. This is not surprising but it is useful to know the result is as expected. The canine brain presents a bit of a challenge for fMRI studies – training needs aside – simply because of the great variety of head shapes in dogs. 12 dogs took part in the study. They had all previously taken part in fMRI research, in which they had to lie absolutely still during the scan. The smells came from swabs taken from the armpit of humans and from the perineal-genital area of dogs.The scents used in the study were of a familiar human, an unfamiliar human, a familiar dog, an unfamiliar dog, and the dog’s own scent. The familiar human was not the dog’s main caregiver – as that person was present during the scan – but someone else from the household, typically the husband or child of the main caregiver. The familiar dog lived in the same house.The dogs were trained using positive reinforcement and models of the equipment.  A clicker was used in initial stages of the training, but since the equipment is noisy it would not be heard during the scan itself. The dogs were taught a hand signal that meant they would get a reward, and this was used to replace a clicker in later stages of training. The training specific to this study included preparing the dog for a different head-coil than in previous scans, and getting used to having scent-impregnated cotton wool swabs put under the nose while they remained still.The number of dogs is small, and there are always trade-offs in the statistics used to make sense of fMRI scans. But the results are very intriguing, and we look forward to future research from this team.The full paper is available (open access) at the link below. Photographs of the dogs who took part are on page 3.  Do you have a special place in your dog’s heart?ReferenceBerns, G., Brooks, A., & Spivak, M. (2014). Scent of the familiar: An fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors Behavioural Processes DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.02.011If you enjoyed this, you might also like:Dogs Can Haz BrainScanz and EEG?Canine Neuroscience... Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 08:00 AM

Almost This Or Almost That? Must Be The Other

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

The protists are a catch-all kingdom, neither characteristics nor cladistics can easily group them, or even tell you what one is. Recent studies have begun to identify histories of the plant-like protist phyla based on their flagella. Rhodophyta are a basal phylum, and yet they have no flagella at all, while genomic studies have identified 495 different proteins in chromista flagella, with some being specific to each of the two dissimilar flagella on the organisms. Such diversity within one grouping of one kingdom is amazing, and frustrating.... Read more »

  • October 29, 2014
  • 04:36 AM

The stability of an Asperger syndrome diagnosis

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Asperger Syndrome, when considered as an ASD/PDD [autism spectrum disorder/pervasive developmental disorder] diagnosis, was fairly stable into adulthood, but there was a significant increase over time in cases no longer meeting criteria for an ASD diagnosis according to the DSM-IV, or AS according to the Gillberg criteria".The night is darkest just before the dawn.That was one of the primary conclusions made in the paper by Adam Helles and colleagues [1] who prospectively followed a group of males diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS) in childhood into adulthood covering a period of some 20 years. I believe the starting point of this study has been seen before in the peer-reviewed literature in the paper by Cederlund & Gillberg [2] (open-access here) (a paper which takes me back to my own PhD days with it's important influence to some of my work). Other follow-ups have also been reported [3].Looking at the diagnostic stability of AS, Helles et al noted that compared with baseline where all participants fulfilled diagnostic criteria, at follow-up (two follow-ups actually) there was a "significant decrease in the rate of cases fulfilling any PDD diagnosis according to the DSM-IV, from 91% at T1 [time 1] to 76% at T2 [time 2] in the 47 cases followed up twice". The decline in cases according to the Gillberg criteria was even more stark (82% at T1 and 44% at T2).Researchers also noted a few other potentially important points in their findings such that: "Severity of autism spectrum symptoms at T1 was the main predictor of diagnostic stability at T2" and a fifth of those who met criteria for DSM-IV criteria for a PDD diagnosis "did not meet DSM-5 ASD criteria although they had marked difficulties in everyday life". This last point has been mentioned by other authors (see here).There are a few ways one could take the Helles findings. One could see it as further evidence of the fluidity of presented symptoms when it comes to the autism spectrum as per other discussions in this area (see here). You might even view it as an extension of all that chatter on something like differing developmental trajectories along the autism spectrum (see here) or 'optimal outcome' and autism (see here) albeit without the focus on early intervention as potentially being involved (see here) as far as we know. Indeed, one has to wonder whether for those not meeting the diagnostic criteria as they age and mature, this may in part be because of the various strategies learned over a lifetime to overcome some of the barriers posed by the diagnosis?But I can also see how for some people such research might be less well-received particularly when added to the 'disappearance' of the term Asperger syndrome from the latest revision of DSM (DSM-V). The paper by Spillers and colleagues [4] described concerns about "identity, community, the cure movement, and services" following the DSM-5 changes when talking to people on the autism spectrum. I wonder how the Helles findings on 'falling out of the spectrum' diagnostically speaking for some, might have similar tones if and when discussed.Accepting that the Helles findings were eventually based on quite a small participant group and their insinuation that not reaching the diagnostic thresholds for something like Asperger syndrome does not imply a life free of some of the more 'disabling' aspects on and around the diagnosis (yes, including various comorbidity), I do think there is more to see in this area. The realisation that we know so little about the autism spectrum in the long-term [5] and how behaviours ebb and flow, that our systems of diagnosis might not necessarily be as robust as we want them to be (see here) and the continued alliance between diagnosis and service receipt excluding many at the diagnostic periphery all come into play. With all the research data collected down the years, one suspects that with a little bit of organisation and willingness to plough some financial and other resources into this issue, further insight into exactly how stable an autism diagnosis might be and for who should be fairly readily available...Music to close, and having enjoyed the impressive tones of Sheryl Crow last evening, a song most parents will have a heard a few times: Real Gone.----------[1] Helles A. et al. Asperger syndrome in males over two decades: stability and predictors of diagnosis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2014. 3 October.[2] Cederlund M. & Gillberg C. One hundred males with Asperger syndrome: a clinical study of background and associated factors. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2004 Oct;46(10):652-60.[3] Cederlund M. et al. Asperger syndrome and autism: a comparative longitudinal follow-up study more than 5 years after original diagnosis. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008 Jan;38(1):72-85.[4] Spillers JL. et al. Concerns about identity and services among people with autism and Asperger's regarding DSM-5 changes. J Soc Work Disabil Rehabil. 2014;13(3):247-60.[5] Howlin P. et al. Cognitive and language skills in adults with autism: a 40-year follow-up. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2014 Jan;55(1):49-58.----------Adam Helles, Carina I. Gillberg, Christopher Gillberg, & Eva Billstedt (2014). sperger syndrome in males over two decades: stability and predictors of diagnosis Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry : doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12334... Read more »

Adam Helles, Carina I. Gillberg, Christopher Gillberg, & Eva Billstedt. (2014) sperger syndrome in males over two decades: stability and predictors of diagnosis. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. info:/doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12334

  • October 29, 2014
  • 12:05 AM

Autograft or Allograft: Autograft May be Better for Revision

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

Autograft selection for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) revision has better outcomes post surgery compared with allografts. ... Read more »

MARS Group, ., Wright, R., Huston, L., Haas, A., Spindler, K., Nwosu, S., Allen, C., Anderson, A., Cooper, D., DeBerardino, T.... (2014) Effect of Graft Choice on the Outcome of Revision Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction in the Multicenter ACL Revision Study (MARS) Cohort. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 42(10), 2301-2310. DOI: 10.1177/0363546514549005  

  • October 28, 2014
  • 11:49 PM

When Should Online Dating Partners Meet Offline?

by Wiley Asia Blog in Wiley Asia Blog - Social Science

Will the amount of online communications affect face-to-face (FtF) relational outcomes among online daters? Researchers analysed experience of using various online date sites of 433 online daters recruited by a market research firm.... Read more »

  • October 28, 2014
  • 04:11 PM

Scientists resurrect 700-year-old viruses, Just in time for Halloween!

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

You know how some zombie movies start with a discovery of a virus, it gets loose, and things quickly spiral out of control from that? Well in breaking news a team of researchers have found two 700-year-old viral sequences in frozen caribou dung in an arctic ice patch. The group isolated part of a viral RNA genome and the complete genome of a DNA virus. Then they infected living plants with the DNA virus, what could go wrong?... Read more »

Ng, T., Chen, L., Zhou, Y., Shapiro, B., Stiller, M., Heintzman, P., Varsani, A., Kondov, N., Wong, W., Deng, X.... (2014) Preservation of viral genomes in 700-y-old caribou feces from a subarctic ice patch. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1410429111  

  • October 28, 2014
  • 01:40 PM

The Final Girl: The Psychology of the Slasher Film

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Halloween has put me in the mood to talk about slasher movies. Once I got to looking around, I found more papers on the topic than I thought I would. I gotta warn you, this is a long read, so grab some popcorn and settle in for some slasher movie fun.If you are a fan of horror films then you know Randy Meek’s “Rules that one must abide by to successfully survive a horror movie”: (1) You can never have sex…big no-no, sex equals death, (2) you can never drink or do drugs…it’s the sin-factor, an extension of number 1, (3) never, ever, under any circumstances, say "I'll be right back" ‘cause you won’t be back. Scream got me to thinking about the psychology and tropes of the horror movie (don’t worry, this post is spoiler-free). Today I’m going to focus on journal articles and so won’t take the time and space going through the history of horror films (there are a list of good links below).I used Scream (1996) as an example because it is one of those movies that both parodies the genre and, at the same time, becomes an entry within the genre. That’s tough, and when done well, really great. In Scream’s case, it also resurrected a dormant genre to a whole new generation, the Gen Y teens of the 90’s (including me). In 2005, Valerie Wee published a paper in the Journal of Film and Video that looks at the role of this movie, and its sequels. She redefines and labels a more advanced form of postmodernism “hyperpostmodernism,” and in Scream, this is identified in two ways: (1) the loss of tongue-in-cheek sub-text in favor of actual text and (2) active referencing and borrowing of influential styles. The rules I quoted above are a great example of the first point, a type of discussion among characters that happens throughout the films. The dim lighting, camera angles, character names are all good examples of the second point. It’s s slasher film about slasher films, if you will. It worked so well because it acknowledged and played to the media hyperconsciousness of the American teenagers of that generation. As Wee puts it, a group that is “media literate, highly brand conscious, consumer oriented, and extremely self-aware and cynical.” Now doesn’t that make us sound like lovely people?As this hyperconscious generation, we can look back at the conventions, ideologies, and representations of those past works. We can ask what the attributes and associated tropes are of a successful horror movie. To do that, let’s go back to a 1991 paper by Douglas Rathgeb. In it, he identifies one of the most effective attributes of a horror film to be the unsettling sense of intrusion it creates, that feeling of normal versus abnormal. It is true that we must separate movie reality from real life but in the case of horror movies, the shock of the sudden, often freakish, intrusion of the horror to be terrifying element whether it is the perception of the reality or the acts of a bogeyman (or both). This unnerving feeling is evident in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) in which Wes Craven creates a nightmare state coexistent with reality. He removes the conventional signposts and distorts the physical parameters that we use to measure reality. Rathgeb spends a good amount of time on the id/superego model (specifically the “bogeyman id”) that I won’t go into, but he continually draws on the point of the victims’ moral blemish – the Original or Unpardonable sin – that permits some evil to terrorize the world. Randy’s first Rule plays out in Freddy Krueger’s increasingly disturbing, nocturnal, murderous visits upon the sexually active teenagers of Springwood. It is also exemplified in Michael Myers’ first murderous act in John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), the act that leads him down the path of transformation into the bogeyman that menaces the morally deficient residents of Haddonfield.This segues nicely into a discussion of misogyny, the male monster, and the Final Girl. You don’t have to be a film expert to notice that slasher films contain a lot of violence primarily directed toward women, usually after they have broken Randy’s first Rule. In 2010 in the Journal of Popular Film and Television, Kelly Connelly studies this closely. She examines a marked change in the structure and action of horror films in the mid-1970’s, the birth of the slasher film subgenre. Within this subgenre a new role emerged: the Final Girl, the sole female survivor of a rampaging psychotic who has managed to rescue herself. You will know her when you see her in the beginning of the movie as she is the Girl Scout, the bookworm, the mechanic, the tomboy. She probably has a male name, isn’t sexually active, is resourceful, and is watchful to the point of paranoia. Connelly spends most of the paper breaking down Halloween and Halloween H2O: Twenty Years Later. I don’t have the space to cover all of that here, but ultimately, the Final Girl character boils down to one word: empowerment. The female victim achieves active empowerment through the act of rescuing herself.But are women really slasher film victims more often than men, or is it just more noticeable? A 1990 study by Cowan and O’Brien asked participants to analyze 56 slasher films to see how female and male victims survived as related to several traits, including markers of sexual activity (clothing, initiation, etc.). They found that women were neither more likely to be victims of slashers nor less likely to survive when attacked. In fact, they were more likely to survive than men. The authors postulate that this perception is likely because of the female victims in memorable films/scenes, especially when sex is involved, and that the female status in society as someone to be protected makes their victimization all that more evident. They also found that the non-surviving females were more frequently sexual, physically attractive, and inane. Randy got it right on that one. Nonsurviving males tended to be assholes (my term, not theirs) in that they had bad attitudes, engaged in illegal behaviors, and were cynical, egotistical and dictatorial. Notice that whether or not they broke the first Rule is not included.A 2011 paper by Richard Nowell argues that although early teen slasher (and/or stalker) films were made primarily for male youth, the marketing campaigns were also geared toward young women. Keep in mind that Nowell is not asking you focus on the nonviolent content and the films’ promotional campaigns. He asks you to consider movies like My Bloody Valentine (1981) and Prom Night (1980) which had posters picturing teens slow dancing beneath decorative hearts and tag lines like “There’s more than one way to lose your heart.” Even A Nightmare on Elm Street billed the principle protagonist as “she’s the only one who can stop it – if she fails, no one will survive.” Movies like Prom Night and Carrie (1976) spotlight female protagonists, female bonding, and various courtships. These tactics can been seen throughout the genre and even into their contemporary remakes.On the topic of remakes, in 2010, a paper by Ryan Lizardi compares the original movies to their remakes to see how they relate and how they speak to current cultural issues. Slasher movie remakes tend to stem from a particular period, the 1970’s through the early 1980’s, a period known for its ideological issues with gender and political ambivalence. There are quite a few anti-remakers that take the view that the original is better partly because they are best understood in relation to the periods in which they were produced. Remakes often have to redefine normal vs. abnormal to fit a contemporary time. Also, to fit the new time, the rules have changed, trending towards more gore and stylized production. Lizardi goes through the details, but Scream 4 boils down the Rules to successfully survive a horror movie remake: (1) death scenes are way more extreme, (2) unexpected is the new cliché, (3) virgins can die now, (4) new technology is now involved…cell phones, video cameras, etc. (5) don’t need an opening sequence, (6) don’t f- with the original, and (7) if you want to survive, you pretty much have to be gay. Okay, so maybe Lizardi doesn’t say the last one. He does spend some time revisiting the remake of the Final Girl. Remakes often have this character learn and witness the full extent of the killer’s depravity (in a really gory way) and endure the most psychological damage. Lizardi concludes that these films speak to contemporary concerns and even have endings. Let’s turn our head to sequels, 'cause let's face it baby, these days, you gotta have a sequel. A 2004 paper by Martin Harris examines the horror franchise. Here he draws on the concepts of postmodernism and the unsettling feeling of normal vs. not-normal. Why do the killers – Freddy, Michael, Jason – keep coming back? He argues that their resurrection in sequels engenders its own frightening uncertainty. Where is the threshold? When is dead really gone? Harris spends a good deal of time arguing that it is more the economic realities of Hollywood that drive the sequel-making process rather than a demand from moviegoers to revisit the killers. I can see a lot of truth in that as these are known prop... Read more »

Wee, Valerie. (2005) The Scream Trilogy, "Hyperpostmodernism," and the Late-Nineties Teen Slasher Film. Journal of Film and Video, 57(3), 44-61. info:/

  • October 28, 2014
  • 11:59 AM

Night Owls Show Increased Alcohol Use Risk

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Humans commonly display a circadian rhythm preference for getting up early in the morning or staying up late at night (night owls).This sleep timing, or diurnal preference appears to have genetic contributions.Additionally, diurnal preference may contribute to risk for alcohol consumption as more alcohol is consumed later in the day and during the night time.Nathaniel Watson and colleagues at the University of Washington and the University of Texas recently explored the relationship between diurnal preference and alcohol use using a twin study design.The key elements of their study design included the following elements:Study sample: 2,945 individuals from the University of Washington Twin RegistryMeasures: Diurnal preference was assessed using the reduced Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (rMEQ). Alcohol use phenotype was assessed by asking individuals about frequency and quantity of alcohol consumed including frequency of binge drinking (6 or more drinks on a single occasion).Statistical analysis: Quantitative genetic modeling was used to find genetic and environmental contributions to diurnal preference. Diurnal preference patterns were compared on drinking phenotypes.The important findings from their study were:Genetic factors accounted for 37% of variance in diurnal preference with the remaining variance accounted for by non-shared environmental factorsDiurnal preference types (morning versus evening) did not differ in frequency of alcohol consumptionEvening preference twins (night owls) reported statistically greater quantities of alcohol consumed and more frequent binge drinkingThe authors note the human circadian clock in controlled by a group of genes working through the brain region known as the suprachiasmic nucleus. Additionally, one of these clock genes NPAS2 has previously been shown to be related to average weekly alcohol consumption.A weakness in this twin study is the relatively small group of questions targeting alcohol use with formal assessment for meeting criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence.However, as the authors highlight, diurnal preference"may be an important pathway of risk for genetic factors that promote alcohol use"Future genetic and epidemiologic studies of alcoholism may benefit by including assessment of diurnal preferences.Readers with more interest in this research can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Photo of a western scrub jay is from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter @WRY999Watson NF, Buchwald D, & Harden KP (2013). A twin study of genetic influences on diurnal preference and risk for alcohol use outcomes. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9 (12), 1333-9 PMID: 24340296... Read more »

Watson NF, Buchwald D, & Harden KP. (2013) A twin study of genetic influences on diurnal preference and risk for alcohol use outcomes. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 9(12), 1333-9. PMID: 24340296  

  • October 28, 2014
  • 11:38 AM

Turning on proteins with light

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

Just like for married couples, communication is fundamental for cells. When an embryo is developing, its cells need to tell one another who and where they are, so every tissue and organ grows in the right place and at the right time. Our neurons are constantly talking to each other to control our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Even single-cell organisms like bacteria can exchange information to decide, for example, how many times they should multiply.But how do cells communicate? Scientists have a good understanding of the key proteins involved in cell communication, or cell signalling. Typically, a cell sends out a chemical signal (or electrical, in the case of neurons) that sticks to a specific receptor protein on the surface of the neighbouring cells. We then say the receptor is ‘activated’, because it can trigger a cascade of molecular events that ultimately leads to a cellular response. For instance, the cell might start moving in a particular direction, or a specific gene gets translated into protein.There is, however, quite a lot we still don’t know about cell signalling. What would happen if we could activate a receptor only at the tip of a moving cell? Would the cell change the direction of migration? And what if we could activate a receptor repeatedly, or at different time intervals? Would the cell responses be different? Questions like these have been bugging scientists for decades, but they simply lacked the tools to address them. Human cells illuminated in a pattern depicting the letters IST. The cells carry a reporter gene that 'glows' when it is triggered with light-activated receptor tyrosine kinases (Credit: Medical University of Vienna).Now, a research team led by Harald Janovjak at the Institute of Science and Technology (Austria) has developed a new method to study the fine temporal and spatial regulation of cell signalling using proteins activated by light. This work opens the way for the development of powerful approaches to manipulate cell behaviour in health and disease.The optogenetics revolutionScientists have been using engineered light-activated proteins to manipulate cell activity for about a decade or so, a technique that has been named ‘optogenetics’. The first light-activated proteins, or photoreceptors, applied in optogenetics belonged to the microbial opsin family. These opsin photoreceptors are useful because they can move ions across cell membranes in response to light, a process similar to what triggers neuron activation. In these initial studies, channelrhodopsins (a type of opsin photoreceptor) were removed from algae and inserted into particular neuronal cell types in mice. Upon exposure to light, the neurons containing these proteins started to fire, and depending on which neurons were activated in this way, a different behaviour was observed in the mice; in one study, the mice’s levels of anxiety increased, and in another they started going round in circles. The reason why optogenetics has been coined a ‘revolutionary technique’ (and why it is tipped for a Nobel prize) is that it allows scientists to control the activity of particular cell types or proteins with an unprecedented level of precision, both in a temporal and spatial manner. And this, sure enough, comes very handy for cell signalling research. It is a bit complicated though, to build optogenetic tools for that purpose. “The main challenges are the same as for many engineering problems. For example, you want the signalling receptor to be completely inactive in the “OFF” condition (no light), and to be as much active as if the natural chemical signal is added in the “ON” condition (light),” says Janovjak. This fine level of receptor manipulation is very hard to achieve with conventional optogenetics tools, so Janovjak and colleagues decided to build signalling receptors activated by light from scratch, by taking bits and pieces from several proteins and then sticking them together. They focused on cell-surface receptors of the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) family, which sense growth factors and hormones and have been involved in a variety of cellular processes. When an RTK receptor is activated by a chemical signal, let’s say a growth factor, it attaches to another receptor in what is called ‘dimerisation’. It is this contact between two RTK receptor molecules that triggers the molecular events leading to a cell response, or in other words, that activates RTK signalling. Janovjak and colleagues knew this, so they looked in bacteria, fungi and plants for proteins that dimerise in response to light, and then fused them to an RTK receptor skeleton. In theory, these engineered RTK receptors should dimerise—and therefore become activated—upon light exposure. “We were quite beautifully able to do this. In our study cancer cells with RTKs under optical control quantitatively respond to light and the growth factor! This is nothing short of amazing and the basis for all future work by us and others,” says Janovjak. Manipulating cell signalling with lightThe team showed that when engineered RTKs are inserted into several cell types, including cancer cells, they can be efficiently activated by light and induce the predicted cell response very quickly and within a tiny spatial range. Morgan Huse, an expert on cell signalling at the Sloan Kettering Institute (US) says “This study represents the first time that homodimerising [light-activated] protein domains have been used to activate RTK signalling. The results are quite significant.”... Read more »

Grusch M., R. Riedler, E. Reichhart, C. Differ, W. Berger, A. Ingles-Prieto, & H. Janovjak. (2014) Spatio-temporally precise activation of engineered receptor tyrosine kinases by light. The EMBO Journal, 33(15), 1713-1726. DOI:  

  • October 28, 2014
  • 09:51 AM

Tagged Dolphins Adjust by Swimming Slowly

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Scientists love the data they get by attaching electronic tags to animals, but these devices can be a literal drag. For animals that fly or swim, tags can mess up their mechanics and force them to spend more energy. That’s what scientists expected to see when they studied dolphins with data loggers suction-cupped to their […]The post Tagged Dolphins Adjust by Swimming Slowly appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

van der Hoop JM, Fahlman A, Hurst T, Rocho-Levine J, Shorter KA, Petrov V, & Moore MJ. (2014) Bottlenose dolphins modify behavior to reduce metabolic effect of tag attachment. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 25324344  

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