Post List

  • November 28, 2014
  • 11:50 AM

When you think about spirits, do you see ghosts?

by Tom Rees in Epiphenom

Humans are finely honed for spotting intentional agents in our environment. Meaning that if you hear a rustling, or see a branch move, you’re instantly on the alert in case it is another person (this effect is has a name: ‘hyperactive agency detection’). You can see why evolution would have favoured that. Better safe than [Read More...]

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van Elk, M., Rutjens, B., van der Pligt, J., & van Harreveld, F. (2014) Priming of supernatural agent concepts and agency detection. Religion, Brain , 1-30. DOI: 10.1080/2153599X.2014.933444  

  • November 28, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1 view

Thanksgiving Special: Uncovering the link between sleep and food

by Bethany Christmann in Fly on the Wall

If you ate a big Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, you probably felt drowsy and sluggish afterward, a phenomenon often referred to as a “food coma”. The belief that it’s caused by the tryptophan in turkey is a long busted myth, and in fact it can happen after any carb-heavy meal. The reasons for this post-food slump […]... Read more »

Shang Yuhua, Christopher G. Vecsey, Fang Guo, Michael Rosbash, & Leslie C. Griffith. (2013) Short Neuropeptide F Is a Sleep-Promoting Inhibitory Modulator. Neuron, 80(1), 171-183. DOI:  

  • November 28, 2014
  • 04:56 AM

The natural history of angiomyolipoma in cases of sporadic LAM

by Lizzie Perdeaux in BHD Research Blog

Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a cystic lung disease that predominantly affects women. Roughly 90% of cases are sporadic and are caused by somatic mutation of the TSC2 gene, but some patients develop LAM as part of the syndrome Tuberous Sclerosis Complex … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • November 28, 2014
  • 02:34 AM

The Autism-Spectrum Quotient: overlap between Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Tove Lugnegård and colleagues [1], including mention of one Maria Unenge Hallerbäck who has appeared on this blog previously, is fodder for today's discussions and their finding that a: "significant overlap of AQ [Autism-Spectrum Quotient] scores across the two diagnostic groups clearly reduces the discriminating power of the AQ in the separation of schizophrenia from AS [Asperger syndrome]."They say you're judged by the strength of your enemies.As per that link to previous work by Unenge Hallerbäck among others, the idea that the autism spectrum and the schizophrenia spectrum might not be as separate and independent as is commonly thought is gaining some renewed research momentum in recent times (see here). I wouldn't necessarily call it a reunification, as per older sentiments of autism being akin to childhood schizophrenia despite the fact that some of the criteria produced for example, by Mildred Creak and colleagues, contain some potentially pertinent information (see her 9 key features of ‘schizophrenic syndrome in childhood’).Rather however a realisation that (a) autism is nothing like protective against the subsequent development of schizophrenia or related diagnoses particularly with a changing symptom profile moving into adulthood, and (b) in these days of RDoC (see here), common genetic / epigenetic / biological / behavioural ground may be evident across some cases of autism and some cases of schizophrenia including something of familial element [2]. The fact that Prof. Gillberg also makes an appearance on the Lugnegård paper adds to the ESSENCE of overlapping comorbidity (see here) or autism plus [3] if you so wish.Back to the recent Lugnegård study, and based on quite a bit of work in this area by the authors (see here), they aimed to: "examine the AS-schizophrenia discriminating ability of the AQ." The AQ for those that might not know, represents a series of questions/statements scored on the basis of the presence (or not) of specific cognitive-behavioural traits noted as part of the autism spectrum. It's been talked about a few times on this blog in relation to looking at sensory issues in autism (see here) and rather more uncomfortably, suicide ideation/attempts with parts of the autism spectrum in mind (see here).The AQ "was completed by 136 individuals: 36 with schizophrenic psychosis, 51 with AS and 49 non-clinical comparison cases." The results: well, as a group, those with AS did score significantly higher than the schizophrenia group, who scored higher than the asymptomatic control group. That being said, there was quite a bit of overlap in the range of AQ scores obtained across the groups and particularly when it came to those with AS and those with schizophrenia. Ergo, using one of the more popular self-report measures for autism, some on the schizophrenia spectrum might also present with a prominent level of autistic traits as part of their symptom profile.Obviously one has to be slightly cautious with such findings. Self-report is subject to quite a few forms of bias; to some degree complicated by the questions and grading system used by the AQ (take the test here if you wish) which is very subjective in itself (e.g. " I prefer to do things with others rather than on my own" - in what context... going for a drink, taking a bath, etc.). That being said, papers such as the one by Shaun Eack and colleagues [4] (open-access) reporting "considerable similarity in social and non-social cognitive impairment in verbal adults with ASD and outpatients with schizophrenia" under more controlled conditions, offer something of a complementary viewpoint to the Lugnegård and other findings. And before you ask, such overlap in presentation might not just be accounted for by other comorbidity either [5].Appreciating that diagnostic identity is still an important part of both autism and schizophrenia spectrums for all-manner of different reasons, the idea of compartmentalising when it comes to diagnostic labels is seemingly on less secure ground that it has been for many years. Fuzzy diagnostic boundaries intra-diagnosis - y'know the heterogeneity of the spectrums - has been further complicated by fuzzy diagnostic boundaries inter-diagnosis. And things are only likely going to get even more complicated as per the paper by Song and colleagues [6] for example...And now for some music... Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand----------[1] Lugnegård T. et al. Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia: Overlap of self-reported autistic traits using the Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ). Nord J Psychiatry. 2014 Nov 12:1-7.[2] Sullivan PF. et al. Family History of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder as Risk Factors for Autism. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012;69(11):1099-1103.[3] Gillberg C. & Fernell E. Autism plus versus autism pure. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Dec;44(12):3274-6.[4] Eack SM. et al. Commonalities in social and non-social cognitive impairments in adults with autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Schizophr Res. 2013 Aug;148(1-3):24-8.[5] Mealey A. et al. Overlap between autistic and schizotypal personality traits is not accounted for by anxiety and depression. Psychiatry Res. 2014 Oct 30;219(2):380-5.[6] Song DK. et al. Comparative analysis of autistic traits and behavioral disorders in Prader-Willi syndrome and Asperger disorder. Am J Med Genet A. 2014 Nov 11.----------Lugnegård T, Hallerbäck MU, & Gillberg C (2014). Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia: Overlap of self-reported autistic traits using the Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ). ... Read more »

  • November 27, 2014
  • 07:37 PM

Does hot cocoa delay brain aging?

by Shelly Fan in Neurorexia

Image credits: downloaded from, artist unknown. One of the most enjoyable things about the holidays is curling up with a good book and a cup of...... Read more »

Brickman AM, Khan UA, Provenzano FA, Yeung LK, Suzuki W, Schroeter H, Wall M, Sloan RP, & Small SA. (2014) Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature neuroscience, 17(12), 1798-803. PMID: 25344629  

  • November 27, 2014
  • 12:40 PM

Fragile X and a new autism treatment

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

There are many roads to autism, none of them involve vaccination. I get tired of saying that, but it’s simple science, vaccines do not cause autism. Thankfully science knows this and is looking at not only what actually causes autism (Since again there are many different ways to develop on the spectrum). Well they may have found a new treatment for people affected by a common inherited form of autism by using a drug that is being tested as a treatment for cancer.... Read more »

Gkogkas, C., Khoutorsky, A., Cao, R., Jafarnejad, S., Prager-Khoutorsky, M., Giannakas, N., Kaminari, A., Fragkouli, A., Nader, K., Price, T.... (2014) Pharmacogenetic Inhibition of eIF4E-Dependent Mmp9 mRNA Translation Reverses Fragile X Syndrome-like Phenotypes. Cell Reports. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.10.064  

  • November 27, 2014
  • 11:30 AM

Potential New Roles for Bacteria and B Cells in Promoting the Stomach Flu

by Geoffrey Hannigan in Prophage

We are all unfortunately familiar with the notorious stomach flu. Most of us have experienced that awful nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and tiredness associated with catching some stomach bug. While there are many viral causes of the stomach flu (also called gastroenteritis), one of the most common is the Norovirus. The Norovirus is a common and contagious virus that is currently the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis...... Read more »

Jones, M., Watanabe, M., Zhu, S., Graves, C., Keyes, L., Grau, K., Gonzalez-Hernandez, M., Iovine, N., Wobus, C., Vinje, J.... (2014) Enteric bacteria promote human and mouse norovirus infection of B cells. Science, 346(6210), 755-759. DOI: 10.1126/science.1257147  

  • November 27, 2014
  • 05:35 AM

Why sadness lasts longer than other emotions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Staying positive can feel like an uphill battle. No wonder: when Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen asked over 200 high-school students (average age 17) to reminisce about the duration of their recent emotional experiences, they found that sadness had an unfortunate habit of lingering, more so than any of the other 26 emotions studied, including joy, pride and relief.Indeed, the average duration of the episodes of sadness recalled by the students was 120 hours. At the other extreme, the most fleeting emotion was shame, which tended to last, on average, just half an hour. Surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, irritation and relief also tended to be short-lived. Joy managed a disappointing average duration of 35 hours. Contrast that with hatred, which averaged 60 hours. Focusing on pairs of the emotions that we usually see as related, guilt was found to last much longer than shame, and anxiety lasted longer than fear.To find out why some emotions last longer than others, the researchers also asked the students about the events that precipitated their emotional experiences, and how they dealt with each emotional episode once it had started. A clear pattern emerged. More short-lived emotions were usually, though not always, preceded by an event of lesser importance to the participant, as compared with longer-lasting emotions.Longer-lasting emotions, including sadness, also tended to go hand in hand with rumination as the main response - that is, dwelling on one's feelings and the consequences of the event that triggered those feelings. Together, event importance and amount of rumination accounted for half the variability in the length of different emotional episodes. This is substantial, but of course it leaves plenty of room for other factors unexplored by this research.The study has some clear shortcomings, including the reliance on a student sample and on participants recalling their past emotional experiences. However, Verduyn and Lavrijsen said theirs is the first ever study to examine the reasons why some emotions last longer than others.The researchers finish their report with an interesting point - when brain-imaging studies attempt to document the neural correlates of different emotional experiences, they rarely consider the different durations of different emotions. "...[T]he difference in neural signature between emotions may not be a matter of which neural regions are involved," write Verduyn and Lavrijsen, "but when, and for how long neural regions become and remain active."_________________________________ Verduyn, P., & Lavrijsen, S. (2014). Which emotions last longest and why: The role of event importance and rumination Motivation and Emotion DOI: 10.1007/s11031-014-9445-y Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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  • November 27, 2014
  • 04:55 AM

FC is a technique that has no validity

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

FC, by the way, refers to Facilitated Communication, a controversial technique which as the name suggests relies on a facilitator to support "the hand or arm of a communicatively impaired individual while using a keyboard or other devices with the aim of helping the individual to point and thereby to communicate." The quote for the title of this post comes from the paper by Ralf Schlosser and colleagues [1] who following systematic review, found "unequivocal evidence for facilitator control" and that "messages generated through FC are authored by the facilitators rather than the individuals with disabilities."It's funny how sometimes the people we remember the least make the greatest impression on us.I wouldn't normally be minded to talk about FC if it wasn't something (a) which has appeared alongside the word 'autism' down the years and (b) had not cropped up in various conferences I'd attended, specifically after having watched people such as Dr Andy Grayson talk about the great authorship debate with regards to FC and autism as per some of his publications in this area [2]. I'm by no means an expert on FC and autism and certainly am voicing no opinion beyond that of the peer-reviewed evidence on its usefulness or not.What does strike me about this area though is the quite large weight of evidence coming down on 'facilitator control' as forming the lion's share of authorship in FC. I remember the paper from Edelson and colleagues [3] (including the late Bernie Rimland on the authorship team) who, quite ingeniously, talked about evaluating a "specially designed hand-support device" as an aid in the "transition from facilitated communication (FC) to independent typing" with autism in mind. They concluded: "Postassessment measures did not reveal any evidence of independent communication with or without the device." Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has an opinion on FC with autism in mind [4]: do not use "except within research protocols".On the basis of this and accounts of where FC can go so terribly wrong, I'd be inclined to follow the recommendations of the Schlosser paper. Even in these times of phones and tablets potentially making FC a whole lot easier, 'consumer beware' is perhaps an appropriate phrase to be derived from the collected research literature in this area...Music to close: Empire State of Mind.----------[1] Schlosser RW. et al. Facilitated Communication and Authorship: A Systematic Review. Augment Altern Commun. 2014 Nov 11:1-10.[2] Grayson A. et al. Hidden communicative competence: Case study evidence using eye-tracking and video analysis. Autism. 2012; 16: 75-86.[3] Edelson SM. et al. Evaluation of a mechanical hand-support for facilitated communication. J Autism Dev Disord. 1998 Apr;28(2):153-7.[4] Committee on Children With Disabilities. Auditory integration training and facilitated communication for autism. American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Children with Disabilities. Pediatrics. 1998 Aug;102(2 Pt 1):431-3.----------Schlosser RW, Balandin S, Hemsley B, Iacono T, Probst P, & von Tetzchner S (2014). Facilitated Communication and Authorship: A Systematic Review. Augmentative and alternative communication (Baltimore, Md. : 1985), 1-10 PMID: 25384895... Read more »

Schlosser RW, Balandin S, Hemsley B, Iacono T, Probst P, & von Tetzchner S. (2014) Facilitated Communication and Authorship: A Systematic Review. Augmentative and alternative communication (Baltimore, Md. : 1985), 1-10. PMID: 25384895  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 03:20 PM

Need to turn off the pain? Well now we can!

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

My sister suffers from chronic pain issues. I’ve written several posts about how her autoimmune disease is a special brand of pain that you will thankfully (almost certainly) never have to feel. While great strides have been made in pain management, there are still relatively few options that do not carry the risk of being extremely addictive. Well thankfully there is some new research and it offers hope, not just for my sister, but for the millions of people suffering from chronic pain that has been poorly managed.... Read more »

Little JW, Ford A, Symons-Liguori AM, Chen Z, Janes K, Doyle T, Xie J, Luongo L, Tosh DK, Maione S.... (2014) Endogenous adenosine A3 receptor activation selectively alleviates persistent pain states. Brain : a journal of neurology. PMID: 25414036  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 03:01 PM

Synesthesia can be learned

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

Synesthesia is a condition where one stimulus (like a letter) automatically is experienced with another attribute (like a colour) that is not actually present. About 4% of people have some form of this sensory mixing. It has been generally assumed that synesthesia is inherited because it runs in families. But it has been clear that […]... Read more »

Bor, D., Rothen, N., Schwartzman, D., Clayton, S., & Seth, A. (2014) Adults Can Be Trained to Acquire Synesthetic Experiences. Scientific Reports, 7089. DOI: 10.1038/srep07089  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 02:35 PM

Tryptophan vs. The NFL Fan

by Mark Lasbury in The 'Scope

What is tryptophan, and is it indeed responsible for the snoring that follows Thanksgiving dinner? ... Read more »

  • November 26, 2014
  • 01:24 PM

Chikungunya Virus nsP2 and the ER stress response

by thelonevirologist in Virology Tidbits

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is the causative agent of an arthropod (mosquito) transmitted disease which is characterised by a high fever, rash, joint pain, and arthritis which was reported in 1952 in Tanzania but has spread since to Europe, Asia, Oceania and more recently to America, including the Caribbean and North America.
Here the inhibition of the ER stress response by the viral nsP2 protein is discussed in the context of viral infection. ... Read more »

Krejbich-Trotot P, Gay B, Li-Pat-Yuen G, Hoarau JJ, Jaffar-Bandjee MC, Briant L, Gasque P, & Denizot M. (2011) Chikungunya triggers an autophagic process which promotes viral replication. Virology journal, 432. PMID: 21902836  

Frolov I, Akhrymuk M, Akhrymuk I, Atasheva S, & Frolova EI. (2012) Early events in alphavirus replication determine the outcome of infection. Journal of virology, 86(9), 5055-66. PMID: 22345447  

Rudd PA, Wilson J, Gardner J, Larcher T, Babarit C, Le TT, Anraku I, Kumagai Y, Loo YM, Gale M Jr.... (2012) Interferon response factors 3 and 7 protect against Chikungunya virus hemorrhagic fever and shock. Journal of virology, 86(18), 9888-98. PMID: 22761364  

Fros JJ, Liu WJ, Prow NA, Geertsema C, Ligtenberg M, Vanlandingham DL, Schnettler E, Vlak JM, Suhrbier A, Khromykh AA.... (2010) Chikungunya virus nonstructural protein 2 inhibits type I/II interferon-stimulated JAK-STAT signaling. Journal of virology, 84(20), 10877-87. PMID: 20686047  

Fros JJ, Major LD, Scholte FE, Gardner J, van Hemert MJ, Suhrbier A, & Pijlman GP. (2014) Chikungunya virus nsP2-mediated host shut-off disables the unfolded protein response. The Journal of general virology. PMID: 25395592  

Rathore AP, Haystead T, Das PK, Merits A, Ng ML, & Vasudevan SG. (2014) Chikungunya virus nsP3 . Antiviral research, 7-16. PMID: 24388965  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 11:06 AM

Treatment Resistance in Eating Disorders

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Clinicians treating patients with eating disorders find the challenge great with many treatment-resistant cases.To some extent, this is true of any clinical disorder. Outpatient treatment rolls and inpatient samples are over-represented by those failing to respond to initial interventions.A medical example is helpful here. Endocrinologists specializing in diabetes see more complicated cases where glucose control is difficult and diabetic complications are common.Diabetics with easy glucose control and no complications do not need to see an endocrinologists. To an endocrinologist, clinical practice seems to point to the disease as a treatment-resistant and clinically challenging disorder.Nevertheless, treatment resistance in eating disorders is a significant issue that has been recently summarized in a nice review by Dr. Katherine Halmi.Here are my notes from review of the Halmi manuscript using her key headings:Core eating disorder psychopathologyAdolescent eating disorder subjects lack insight into the seriousness of illnessMany do not acknowledge need for treatmentBody weight, exercise and dieting provide a distraction from other life problemsMalnutrition in eating disorders contributes to cognitive impairment, treatment engagement problemsBulimia treatment resistance has been linked to greater depression, lower BMI and social adjustment problems Psychiatric and psychological comorbidityU.S. National Survey found high rates of psychiatric comorbidity in eating disorders (56% in anorexia nervosa, 95% in bulimia nervosa and 79% in binge eating disorder)Anxiety disorders rates are elevated in eating disorders with obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder two common conditionsAnxiety disorders can contribute to resistance of treatment of eating disorder symptomsCluster B personality disorders are elevated in bulimia nervosa and appear related to higher rates of substance dependence in this disorderPerfectionism is common in anorexia nervosa. Early onset and high perfectionism traits contribute to higher treatment resistance Biological featuresSerotonin receptor and transporter function appear to influence course of illness in eating disodersGABA receptor genotype appears to be related to level of trait anxiety in both bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosaGABA receptor abnormalities are also possibly related to treatment resistance Treating refractory patientsQuetiapine, olanzapine, haloperidol and duloxetine are drugs with some promise in treatment resistant anorexia nervosaNovel psychotherapies including CBT and the Maudsley Model  target key features of resistance in anorexia nervosaTreatment resistant bulimia nervosa may respond to sequential treatment strategies that include partial hospitalization, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs and cue exposureBinge eating disorder may respond to high dose SSRI therapy or topiramate in a graduated dosing scheduleThis review points to the key elements for treatment of the difficult eating disorder patient.This population needs access to specialized hospitalization units, psychopharmacology expertise and specialized psychotherapy services.Dr. Halmi notes advances in the treatment of this population may require advances in understanding the neurobiology and neurocircuitry for the disorder.Readers with more interest in this summary can find the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the DOI link in the citation below.Winter snow scene is from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter @WRY999Halmi, K. (2013). Perplexities of treatment resistence in eating disorders BMC Psychiatry, 13 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-292... Read more »

  • November 26, 2014
  • 09:35 AM

Illusion Makes People Speak with the Voice of Their Avatar

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Think you’re in control of your own body? A simple virtual-reality session could not only make you feel like an avatar’s body is your own, but make you speak more like the digital character. First there was the rubber-hand illusion, a classic experiment that showed syncing up someone’s touch perceptions with what they see happening […]The post Illusion Makes People Speak with the Voice of Their Avatar appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • November 26, 2014
  • 08:30 AM

Does Playtime for Cats Reduce Behaviour Problems?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Does few toys and no play equal issues with your cat?Photo: XSeon / ShutterstockA new survey of cat owners by Beth Strickler and Elizabeth Shull investigates how many toys the average cat has, how often their owner plays with them, and whether there is a link with behaviour problems. Since behaviour problems are a common reason for cats to be surrendered to shelters and so many cats are euthanized every year, it’s important to understand how meeting the behavioural needs of cats can lead to fewer behaviour problems.Providing toys and opportunities for play is one of the five pillars of a healthy environment for cats, according to the International Society of Feline Medicine and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (Ellis et al 2013). Play should allow the cat to mimic different aspects of predation. Toys and play are especially important as enrichment for indoor cats. Of the cats in this study, 61% were indoors-only cats who never go outside. The remainder of the cats spent some time indoors and some outdoors.Each cat had seven toys on average. The most common toy was furry mice, owned by 64% of cats. The other most common toys were catnip toys, balls with bells, stuffed toys, a scratching post, boxes, and balls without bells. Most of these toys provide opportunities for play and hunting, while the catnip, bells and scratching post provide sensory stimulation. Boxes provide opportunities to explore the environment and we all know that cats love boxes!Very few cats had some kind of food toy. Only 1% of the cats had a puzzle toy and 0.5% of owners hid food for their cat to find. This is unfortunate because finding food is an important aspect of the predation sequence and yet most cats are fed at set times of the day in a set location. One easy solution is to put part of the cat’s food in cup-cake holders and hide it for them to find. Treats can be hidden instead of just given, and kibble can be scattered or thrown. There are also many puzzle feeders on the market that can keep cats occupied for some time. Photo: Nataliya Kuznetsova / ShutterstockAlthough some owners only played with their cat once a month, 64% reported playing with their cat twice a day and 17% reported daily play sessions. This is very positive. Typical durations of play sessions were 5 minutes (33% of owners) or 10 minutes (25%). This is something that could be improved as most cats would probably prefer longer play times.The majority of owners (78%) had the cat’s toys available all the time. However the authors point out cats can easily become bored; putting some toys away and changing the available items on a regular basis would be more interesting for the cats.The authors say, “Rotation of toys, provision of novel items, and increasing play bouts duration to 15-30 minutes should be recommended to cat owners to increase the enrichment value of toys and play.”In a multi-cat household, it’s important that enrichment items are provided in different locations to ensure that every cat has access (Ellis et al 2013).Even though the cats were selected because they went to the vet for a reason other than behaviour, in fact 61% of the cats were said to have one of six common behaviour problems. Only 54% of owners had mentioned the problem to their vet. This suggests many owners do not realize that vets can provide advice on behavioural issues, although it may also be they did not feel the need to do anything about it. Vets could explicitly ask cat owners about behaviour problems to make sure they are not missed.The two most common behaviour problems were aggression towards the owner (36%) and inappropriate urination (24%). It is especially concerning if inappropriate urination is not mentioned to the vet as there are potential veterinary causes and many options for treatment and management. More problems were reported in male cats, particularly inappropriate urination, and male cats also spent more time outdoors.The number of toys the cat had and how often the owner played with them were not related to behaviour problems. However, fewer problems were reported by owners who played with their cat for at least 5 minutes at a time compared to those who only played for 1 minute. The authors say, “It may be that longer play bouts satisfy the cat’s play needs and decrease behaviour problems.” However they point out that since the data is correlational and does not prove causation, further research is needed.277 cats took part in the survey. Their owners were recruited after taking the cat to the vet for a problem other than behaviour. The average age of the cats was 5, but ranged from 6-week old kittens to 18 years old. The average number of cats per household was 2 and there were equal numbers of male and female cats. 81% were neutered. This is a valuable study that makes useful recommendations. All the owners provided cat toys and opportunities for play. Feline enrichment could be improved by providing a wider variety of play types including food hiding/puzzle toys, and by increasing the length of play sessions.The beautiful thing is that a cat toy can be as simple as a cardboard box, a piece of string, or a treat hidden in a tube.How many toys does your cat have and which is their favourite?ReferenceEllis, S., Rodan, I., Carney, H., Heath, S., Rochlitz, I., Shearburn, L., Sundahl, E., & Westropp, J. (2013). AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 15 (3), 219-230 DOI: 10.1177/1098612X13477537 ... Read more »

Ellis, S., Rodan, I., Carney, H., Heath, S., Rochlitz, I., Shearburn, L., Sundahl, E., & Westropp, J. (2013) AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 15(3), 219-230. DOI: 10.1177/1098612X13477537  

Strickler, B., & Shull, E. (2014) An owner survey of toys, activities, and behavior problems in indoor cats. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(5), 207-214. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2014.06.005  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 07:37 AM

A Sex Researcher At A Furry Convention

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour describes an unusual field trip made by Canadian researcher Debra W. Soh – to a furry convention, expecting to witness some kind of sexual free-for-all (or free-fur-all). Soh opens by saying that I couldn’t wait to meet a furry, someone who adopts the identity or persona […]The post A Sex Researcher At A Furry Convention appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Soh DW, & Cantor JM. (2014) A Peek Inside a Furry Convention. Archives of Sexual Behavior. PMID: 25408500  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 07:23 AM

November 26, 2014

by Erin Campbell in HighMag Blog

 Patterns are soothing for left-brained folks like me, with the exception being those terrible patterned holiday sweaters that will come out of mothball-ridden closets soon (unsettling for everyone, really). Today’s images are from a paper describing a new micropatterning technique to look at plasma membrane proteins. The plasma membrane of a cell is riddled with many multi-protein complexes that facilitate communication and transport. These complexes provide a challenge to biologists due to their ubiquitous localization around the cell, their large, complex size, and their transient interactions with proteins. A recent paper describes a technique to study signaling complexes at the plasma membrane, using micropatterns within the plasma membrane. Löchte and colleagues expressed a protein bait in a micropattern in a living cell’s plasma membrane. Dynamics of the interactions between the protein bait and ligand target can then be quantified using live microscopy and on a single-molecule level. Löchte and colleagues used the IFN interferon signaling complex, using one of the receptor units (IFNAR2) as bait. In the top images above, the micropatterned receptor bait (IFNAR2) was able to recruit the other IFN receptor subunit (IFNAR1, green) after the addition of the ligand (red; time represents the addition of the ligand). Bottom image shows a closer view of the high-affinity, micropatterned binding that requires simultaneous interaction of the ligand (red) with both receptor subunits. Lochte, S., Waichman, S., Beutel, O., You, C., & Piehler, J. (2014). Live cell micropatterning reveals the dynamics of signaling complexes at the plasma membrane originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology, 207 (3), 407-418 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201406032... Read more »

Lochte, S., Waichman, S., Beutel, O., You, C., & Piehler, J. (2014) Live cell micropatterning reveals the dynamics of signaling complexes at the plasma membrane. originally published in the Journal of Cell Biology, 207(3), 407-418. DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201406032  

  • November 26, 2014
  • 07:12 AM

Thanksgiving week, light posting. One holiday genome (cranberries).

by Mary in OpenHelix

There’s nobody reading the blog this week each year, everyone is traveling or napping, at least in the US. So I’ll just bring a holiday genome I came across recently. Cranberries. This fruit is one of very few native North American fruits that are widely cultivated. I went looking to see if a genome paper […]... Read more »

  • November 26, 2014
  • 04:54 AM

The gut microbiome in Down Syndrome

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The recent preliminary findings from Elena Biagi and colleagues [1] (open-access) reporting on the constitution of the gut microbiome - the collected bacteria which reside in the deepest, darkest recesses of our gastrointestinal (GI) tract - in a small number of cases of Down's syndrome caught my eye recently.It's a funny feeling being taken under the wing of a dragonPerhaps a little bit unusually looking at the gut microbiome because of the link between premature ageing in Down's syndrome (DS) and "human aging... associated with a deterioration of the gut microbiota (GM)-host mutualism" researchers set about characterising the gut microbiota (GM) in 17 participants diagnosed with DS. Profiles from DS participants were "compared with the previously published GM profiles of 16 age-matching healthy adults" indeed previously published by some of the authors [2] which itself has been the topic of some discussion.The results were not exactly spectacular insofar as: "DS persons and healthy adults showed comparable levels of GM diversity and an overall similarity in the composition of the GM community" again bearing in mind the small participant numbers. Indeed their hypothesis about premature ageing of the gut microbiota did not appear to be borne out by their small scale study.That being said, one particular finding peaked my interest: "DS persons were enriched in Parasporobacterium and Sutterella, and reduced in Veillonellaceae." It is the Sutterella part and the comment: "The increase of Sutterella and the reduction of Veillonellaceae have been described in autistic children with gastrointestinal symptoms" which made me sit up. I've covered Sutterella a few times on this blog with autism in mind (see here and see here for some replication work). Whilst independent work has suggested that Sutterella (Sutterella wadsworthensis) might be nothing more than "a common commensal" [3] based on analyses of samples from "44 treatment naïve de-novo IBD patients and 42 with normal colons", I am still of the opinion that there may be more to see from this bacteria / bacterium.The fact that Biagi et al also reported that "the abundance of Sutterella in the GM was positively correlated with the ABC [Aberrant Behavior Checklist] total score in DS persons, suggesting a possible link between this microorganism and ASD [autism spectrum disorder] in DS" is to my mind, worthy of some follow-up as a function of some growing links between DS and the autism spectrum (see here). Whether this extends to the recent suggestion of Down Syndrome Disintegrative Disorder [4] is also a question not yet answered.Bearing in mind the recent revelation that at least some microbiome analyses might be suffering an XMRV moment as per the paper from Susannah Salter and colleagues [5] on reagent and laboratory contamination potentially affecting results (contaminomics as one commentator has put it), there does seem to be quite a bit more to do in this area with DS in mind. If one takes the collected microbiome work with autism in mind (see here also recently added to by the paper by Tomova et al) as a template, and where that might potentially lead in terms of interventions for example, applying similar logic to findings in relation to DS might offer some similarly intriguing opportunities to impact on quality of life.Next up on the research menu to complete the gut triad: gut permeability and mucosal immunity in DS? What about gluten 'sensitivity' [7] and/or coeliac disease [8]? Too much?Music, music, music.... Acceptable in the 80's? (shoulder pads etc.)----------[1] Biagi E. et al. Gut Microbiome in Down Syndrome. PLoS One. 2014 Nov 11;9(11):e112023.[2] Schnorr SL. et al. Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers. Nat Commun. 2014 Apr 15;5:3654.[3] Hansen R. et al. The microaerophilic microbiota of de-novo paediatric inflammatory bowel disease: the BISCUIT study. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58825.[4] Worley G. et al. Down Syndrome Disintegrative Disorder: New-Onset Autistic Regression, Dementia, and Insomnia in Older Children and Adolescents With Down Syndrome. J Child Neurol. 2014 Nov 3. pii: 0883073814554654.[5] Salter SJ. et al. Reagent and laboratory contamination can critically impact sequence-based microbiome analyses. BMC Biology 2014, 12:87[6] Tomova A. et al. Gastrointestinal microbiota in children with autism in Slovakia. Physiology & Behavior. 2014. November 6.[7] Wolters VM. et al. Intestinal barrier gene variants may not explain the increased levels of antigliadin antibodies, suggesting other mechanisms than altered permeability. Hum Immunol. 2010 Apr;71(4):392-6.[8] Malt EA. et al. Health and disease in adults with Down syndrome. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2013 Feb 5;133(3):290-4.----------Biagi E, Candela M, Centanni M, Consolandi C, Rampelli S, Turroni S, Severgnini M, Peano C, Ghezzo A, Scurti M, Salvioli S, Franceschi C, & Brigidi P (2014). Gut Microbiome in Down Syndrome. PloS one, 9 (11) PMID: 25386941... Read more »

Biagi E, Candela M, Centanni M, Consolandi C, Rampelli S, Turroni S, Severgnini M, Peano C, Ghezzo A, Scurti M.... (2014) Gut Microbiome in Down Syndrome. PloS one, 9(11). PMID: 25386941  

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