One of the key claims of the "autism biomedical" movement is that something about autism derives from or is exacerbated by the gut; i.e., that there is some sort of link between GI problems, particularly inflammatory diseases of the GI tract, and autism. Although I may not be as versed in the history of this claim as I could be, as far as I can tell, even if this idea didn't originate with Andrew Wakefield, he certainly did a lot to popularize it. Indeed, a common misconception about his misbegotten 1998 Lancet paper that launched the anti-MMR anti-vaccine movement in the U.K. is that it claimed that there was a link between autism. In reality, its claim was that the MMR vaccine was somehow connected with what he considered to be a novel syndrome of bowel disease and autism associated with MMR vaccination that has been referred to as "autistic enterocolitis."
Of course, Wakefield's study showed nothing of the sort and has since been thoroughly discredited, but the idea lives on. Since then, science doesn't support the concept that there is some sort of unique GI syndrome associated with autism (indeed, "autistic enterocolitis" is a made up syndrome--made up by Wakefield), and it has been very controversial whether autistic children suffer from more GI complaints than neurotypical children. However, in the "autism biomed" world, regardless of whether there is an increased incidence of GI problems in autistic children, the concept of "autistic enterocolitis" is a concept that's launched a thousand quacks (at least) and continues to support a cottage industry of quackery involving supplements, special diets, and "detoxification" regimens. Indeed, Jenny McCarthy thoroughly embarrassed herself trying to explain the rationale for "biomed treatments" and gluten-free diets, so much so that the video is no longer on the Generation Rescue website after it became the subject of mockery throughout the blogosphere. Moreover, she's made some rather amazing claims for using diet to treat her son Evan, even going so far as to assert in one interview: Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Buie, T., Campbell, D., Fuchs, G., Furuta, G., Levy, J., VandeWater, J., Whitaker, A., Atkins, D., Bauman, M., Beaudet, A.... (2010) Evaluation, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Disorders in Individuals With ASDs: A Consensus Report. PEDIATRICS, 125(Supplement). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-1878C
Buie, T., Fuchs, G., Furuta, G., Kooros, K., Levy, J., Lewis, J., Wershil, B., & Winter, H. (2010) Recommendations for Evaluation and Treatment of Common Gastrointestinal Problems in Children With ASDs. PEDIATRICS, 125(Supplement). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-1878D
What? Fleas in Winter???
If you’ve seen a tiny assortment of purple, bouncing specks in your snow, you might be looking at springtails. Don’t worry, they aren’t real fleas–they just bounce around in a similar way.
Also, they are probably the cutest dang little things you’ve ever seen! Their tiny size is why you probably don’t know [...]... Read more »
Sinclair, B., & Sjursen, H. (2004) Cold tolerance of the Antarctic springtail Gomphiocephalus hodgsoni (Collembola, Hypogastruridae). Antarctic Science, 13(03). DOI: 10.1017/S0954102001000384
Duman, J. (2001) ANTIFREEZE AND ICE NUCLEATOR PROTEINS IN TERRESTRIAL ARTHROPODS. Annual Review of Physiology, 63(1), 327-357. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.63.1.327
Pentelute, B., Gates, Z., Dashnau, J., Vanderkooi, J., & Kent, S. (2008) Mirror Image Forms of Snow Flea Antifreeze Protein Prepared by Total Chemical Synthesis Have Identical Antifreeze Activities. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 130(30), 9702-9707. DOI: 10.1021/ja801352j
Late last year, Science published a bombshell - Lombardi et al's Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. This paper reported the presence of a recently-discovered virus in 67% of the blood samples from 101 people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).The question of whether people with CFS are suffering from an organic illness, or whether their condition is partially or entirely psychological in nature, is the Israel vs. Palestine of modern medicine - as a brief look at the Wikipedia talk pages will show. So when Lombardi et al linked CFS to xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus (XMRV), they were hailed as heroes by some, less so by others. For some balanced coverage of this paper, see virology blog. Everyone agreed though that Lombardi et al was, as the saying goes, "important if true"...But it wasn't, at least not everywhere, according to a paper out today in PLoS ONE: Erlwein et al's Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The findings are all there in the title - unlike Lombardi et al, these researchers didn't find XMRV in the blood of any of their blood samples from 186 CFS patients.Still, before people start proclaiming that the original finding has been "debunked", or decrying these results as flawed, some things to bear in mind...This was a different country. Erlwein et al used patients attending the CFS clinic at King’s College Hospital, London, England. The patients in the original study were drawn from various parts of the USA. So the new results don't mean that the original findings were wrong, merely that they don't apply everywhere. Notably, XMRV has previously been detected in prostrate cancer cells from American patients, but not European ones, so geographic differences seem to be at work. So maybe XMRV does cause CFS, it's just that the virus doesn't exist in Europe, for whatever reason - but bear in mind that even the original study never showed causation, only a correlation. There are many viruses that infect people in certain parts of the world and don't cause illness.On the other hand, it was a similar group of patients in terms of symptoms: Diagnosing CFS can be difficult, as there are no biological tests to confirm the condition, but Erlwein et al say thatBoth studies use the widely accepted 1994 clinical case definition of CFS. Lombardi et al. reported that their cases ‘‘presented with severe disability’’ and we provide quantifiable evidence confirming high levels of disability in our subjects. Our subjects were also typical of those seen in secondary and tertiary care in other centres.But the first study selected patients with "immunological abnormalities", although we're given few details...These are patients that have been seen in private medical practices, and their diagnosis of CFS is based upon prolonged disabling fatigue and the presence of cognitive deficits and reproducible immunological abnormalities. These included but were not limited to perturbations of the 2-5A synthetase/RNase L antiviral pathway, low natural killer cell cytotoxicity (as measured by standard diagnostic assays), and elevated cytokines particularly interleukin-6 and interleukin-8.The biological methods were similar: Both studies used a standard technique called nested PCR. (Lombardi et al also used various other methods, but their headline finding of XMRV in 67% of CFS patients vs just 4% of health people came from nested PCR.) PCR is a way of greatly increasing the amount of a certain sequence of DNA in a sample. If there's even a little bit to start with, you end up with lots. If there's none, you end up with none. It's easy to tell the difference between lots and none.But there were some differences. The first study only looked at a certain kind of white blood cells, whereas the new study used DNA from whole blood. Also, the first study targeted a larger span of viral DNA - from 419 to 1154:For identification of gag, 419F and 1154R were used as forward and reverse primers.Than the second one, which examined the section between positions 411 and 606. As a result, primer sequences used - which determine the DNA detected - were different. However, the authors of the new study claim that they would definitely have detected XMRV DNA if it had been there, because they used the same methods on control samples with the virus added, and got positive results...The positive control was a dilution of a plasmid with a full-length XMRV (isolate VP62) insert, generously gifted by Dr R. Silverman.Silverman was one of the authors of the original paper - so hopefully, both research teams were studying the same virus. But (although I'm no virologist) it seems possible that the new study might have been unable to detect XMRV if the DNA sequence of the virus from British patients was differed at certain key ways - the whole point about nested PCR is that it's extremely specific.Finally, there are stories behind these papers. The first study, that suggested that XMRV causes CFS, was conducted by the Whittemore Peterson Institute, who firmly believe that CFS is an organic disorder and who are now offering XMRV diagnostic tests to CFS patients. By contrast, the authors of the new study include Simon Wessely, a psychiatrist. Wessely is the most famous (or notorious) advocate of the idea that psychological factors are the key to CFS; he believes that it should be treated with psychotherapy.I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about XMRV in the coming months, so stay tuned.Otto Erlwein, Steve Kaye, Myra O. McClure, Jonathan Weber, Gillian Wills1, David Collier, Simon Wessely, Anthony Cleare (2010). Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome PLoS ONE, 5 (1)Lombardi VC, Ruscetti FW, Das Gupta J, Pfost MA, Hagen KS, Peterson DL, Ruscetti SK, Bagni RK, Petrow-Sadowski C, Gold B, Dean M, Silverman RH, & Mikovits JA (2009). De... Read more »
Erlwein, O., Kaye, S., McClure, M., Weber, J., Wills, G., Collier, D., Wessely, S., & Cleare, A. (2010) Failure to Detect the Novel Retrovirus XMRV in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. PLoS ONE, 5(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008519
Lombardi VC, Ruscetti FW, Das Gupta J, Pfost MA, Hagen KS, Peterson DL, Ruscetti SK, Bagni RK, Petrow-Sadowski C, Gold B.... (2009) Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Science (New York, N.Y.), 326(5952), 585-9. PMID: 19815723
Figure 1: Aristarchus measured the angle between the Sun and the Moon when the moon was half full, then used trigonometry to measure the distance to the Sun. (Source: Wikipedia) In an earlier post I wrote about how astronomers can...... Read more »
Hirst, W. (1769) Account of Several Phaenomena Observed during the Ingress of Venus into the Solar Disc. By the Reverend W. Hirst, F. R. S. in a Letter to the Astronomer Royal. Philosophical Transactions (1683-1775), 59(1), 228-235. DOI: 10.1098/rstl.1769.0031
In all the Christmas festivities, snow-induced transport chaos, knicker-bombers and New Year-induced academic slackness you might have missed a new report on a forgotten but important conflict in Sumatra (published in Cambridge University Press’s Oryx; your Athens login should get you in).
Turns out that humans and pachyderms are locked in a deadly struggle for survival, [...]... Read more »
Hedges, S., & Gunaryadi, D. (2009) Reducing human–elephant conflict: do chillies help deter elephants from entering crop fields?. Oryx, 44(01), 139. DOI: 10.1017/S0030605309990093
A new study from Southern California affirms that the long-standing management practice of beach grooming is contributing to the loss of coastal strand habitat. Coastal strand plant communities grow along the edge of the high tide line and are comprised largely of endemic species adapted to grow in the dynamic, environment of loose, shifting sand...... Read more »
Dugan, J., & Hubbard, D. (2009) Loss of Coastal Strand Habitat in Southern California: The Role of Beach Grooming. Estuaries and Coasts. DOI: 10.1007/s12237-009-9239-8
The recent film adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things are prompted much debate about whether it's appropriate to subject children to material which they could find frightening. It's rather topical then that a new research paper has looked at young children's understanding of fear reduction strategies, finding them to be more precocious than previously realised. Liat Sayfan and Kirsten Lagattuta presented 48 children aged between 4 and 7 years with picture-based short stories. The children were asked to imagine that they were the central character. The stories involved the child, either alone or with a companion, catching sight of a possible threat - either what could be a dangerous creature, such as a bear, or what might be an imaginary frightening creature, such as a ghost. The pictures were drawn such that the presence or not of the threats was ambiguous. Even the youngest children recognised that people differ in how vulnerable they are to fear, seeing adults as being less prone than children and men less prone than women. The girls were more sensitive to these differences than the boys.Another gender difference was that, at all ages, the girls tended to propose more avoidant fear reduction strategies - such as running and hiding - compared with the boys' suggestion of more aggressive strategies, including going on the attack. Surprisingly perhaps, children at all ages suggested that the story characters could use psychological (e.g. 'imagine that my mummy is there') as well as behavioural (e.g. 'go to my room') strategies to overcome their fears, although this tendency did increase with age. Another developmental change was that the older children proposed more 'reality affirming strategies' (e.g. 'I can remember that ghosts aren't real') whereas the four- and five-year-olds proposed more so-called 'positive pretense' strategies (e.g. 'I'll use a sword to fight the dragon').'These data advance current knowledge about the development of children's understanding of mind, emotion, and coping during childhood,' the researchers said._________________________________Sayfan L, & Lagattuta KH (2009). Scaring the monster away: what children know about managing fears of real and imaginary creatures. Child development, 80 (6), 1756-74 PMID: 19930350
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Sayfan L, & Lagattuta KH. (2009) Scaring the monster away: what children know about managing fears of real and imaginary creatures. Child development, 80(6), 1756-74. PMID: 19930350
Galapagos finches build immune defenses against parasites
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Huber, S. et al. (2009) Ecoimmunity in Darwin's finches: Invasive parasites trigger acquired immunity in the medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis). PLoS ONE. info:/
As a geneticist, I’m only rarely let out of the lab to chase after my study animal, the tuatara. I count these occasions as a gift, where I get to feel like a “real” biologist and learn to talk knowledgably about the ecology and habits of tuatara (which, lets face it, are generally of more interest to [...]... Read more »
Marc E. H. Jones, & A. Kristopher Lappin. (2009) Bite-force performance of the last rhynchocephalian. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, 39(3), 71-83. info:/
Traffic speed zones of 20 mph reduce road injuries and deaths according to research by Grundy and colleagues published in the British Medical Journal.
Road traffic accidents (RTA) are a significant, but often neglected, cause of injury and death worldwide. The WHO estimates that 1.2 million people are killed worldwide in road crashes and up [...]... Read more »
Grundy, C., Steinbach, R., Edwards, P., Green, J., Armstrong, B., & Wilkinson, P. (2009) Effect of 20 mph traffic speed zones on road injuries in London, 1986-2006: controlled interrupted time series analysis. BMJ, 339(dec10 3). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b4469
I remember sitting my folks down and sternly counselling them to make sure they learnt a completely novel skill once per decade, to ensure that their brain doesn’t turn to mush. There is plenty of evidence to support such advice (well, aside from the ‘mush’ bit), but here is a new finding that adds to [...]... Read more »
Lorimer Moseley. (2010) Further evidence to suggest we should learn something novel every decade. BodyinMind. info:/
Disclaimer, this was modified from an editorial I wrote for the Journal of Applied Ecology.In the quest to understand species invasions, we often try to link the abundance and distribution of invaders to underlying ecological processes. For example, oft-studied are the links between exotic diversity and native richness or environmental heterogeneity. Seemingly independently, research into how specific land use or management activities affect invasion dynamics is also fairly common. While both research strategies are of fundamental importance, not often recognized, or at least explicitly studied, is that both ecological patterns and management activities simultaneously affect invasion success. Thus a truly integrative approach to understanding invader success must take into account variation in ecological communities and abiotic resource avalibility as well as land use patterns at multiple spatial scales. Such an approach is necessary if ecologists wish to predict potential invader abundance, spread and impact.Diez et al. Examine how environmental and management heterogeneity interact to influence patterns of Hieracium pilosella (Asteraceae) inasions in the South Island of New Zealand. The spread of H. Pilosella in New Zealand is threatening native habitats (tussock fields) and the livestock grazing industry. Diez et al. Asked how environmental and management regimes affect H. Pilosella abundance and distribution across six large farms on the South Island. This is an interesting and important question, not just because they are examining how human-caused and ecological variation interact to affect H. Pilosella dynamics, but also because these sources are heterogeneity are realized at different spatial scales.Diez et al. show that the abundance and distribution of H. Pilosella was significantly affected by the interaction of habitat type (i.e., short vs. tall tussocks) and farm management strategies (i.e., fertilization and grazing rates). At larger scales, H. Pilosella was more abundant in tall tussock habitats and was unaffected by fertilization, while in short tussocks, it was less abundant in fertilized patches. At small scales, H. Pilosella was less likely to be found in short tussocks with high exotic grass cover and high productivity (measured as site soil moisture and solar radiation). Conversely, in tall tussocks, H. Pilosella was more likely to be found on sites with high natural productivity. Diez et al. were able to tease these complex causal mechanism apart by using Bayesian multilevel linear models, for which they included example R code in an online appendix.While it is a truism in ecology to say that heterogeneity affects ecological patterns, this paper deserves mention because they convincingly show that the spread of noxious exotic plants in a complex landscape, can potentially predicted by understanding the invader success in different habitat types and land management strategies. In their case they show how human activities, which were not designed to affect H. Pilosella, can strongly affect abundance in different habitat types. This type of approach to understanding invader dynamics can potentially arm managers with the ability to use existing land use strategies to predict how and where further invader targeting would be most useful.Diez, J., Buckley, H., Case, B., Harsch, M., Sciligo, A., Wangen, S., & Duncan, R. (2009). Interacting effects of management and environmental variability at multiple scales on invasive species distributions Journal of Applied Ecology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01725.x... Read more »
Diez, J., Buckley, H., Case, B., Harsch, M., Sciligo, A., Wangen, S., & Duncan, R. (2009) Interacting effects of management and environmental variability at multiple scales on invasive species distributions. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2009.01725.x
How does popularity affect how we judge music?We tend to say we like what other people like. No-one wants to stand out and risk ridicule by saying they don't enjoy universally loved bands, like The Beatles... unless they're trying to fit into a subculture where everyone hates The Beatles.But do people just pretend to like what others like, or can perceived popularity actually change musical preferences? Do The Beatles actually sound better because we know everyone loves them? An amusing Neuroimage study from Berns et al aimed to answer this question with the help of 27 American teens, an fMRI scanner, and MySpace.The teens were played 15 second clips of music, and had to rate each one a 5 star scale of quality. Before the experiment they listed their preferred musical genres, and they were only given music from genres they liked. To make sure no-one had heard the songs before, the researchers went on MySpace and found unsigned artists...A total of 20 songs were downloaded in each of the following genres: Rock, Country, Alternative/Emo/Indie, Hip-Hop/Rap, Jazz/Blues, and Metal (identified by the MySpace category).The twist was that each song was played twice: the first time with no information about its popularity, and then again, either with or without a 5 star popularity score shown on the screen. Cleverly, this was based on the number of MySpace downloads. This meant that the subjects had a chance to change their rating based on what they'd just learned about the song's popularity.What happened? Compared to doing nothing, hearing music activated large chunks of the brain, which is not very surprising. In some areas, activity correlated with how highly the listener rated the song:The regions showing activity correlated with likability were largely distinct from the auditory network and were restricted to bilateral caudate nuclei, and right lateral prefrontal cortices (middle and inferior gyri). Negative correlations with likability were observed in bilateral supramarginal gyri, left insula, and several small frontal regions.The headline result is that a song's popularity did not correlate with activity in this "liking music network", and nor did activity in these areas correlate with each teen's individual "conformism" score, i.e. how willing they were to change their ratings in response to learning about the song's popularity. Berns et al interpreted this as meaning that, in this experiment, popularity did not affect whether the volunteers really enjoyed the songs or not.Instead, activity in other areas was associated with conformism:we found a positive interaction in bilateral anterior insula, ACC/SMA, and frontal poles. Given the known roles of the anterior insula and ACC in the cortical pain matrix, this suggests that feelings of anxiety accompanied the act of conforming....Interestingly, the negative interaction revealed significant differences in the middle temporal gyrus... the popularity sensitive individuals showed significantly less activation. This suggests that sensitivity to popularity is also linked to less active listening.*This paper is a good example of using neuroimaging data to try to test psychological theories, in this case, the theory that social pressure influences musical enjoyment. This is makes it better than many fMRI studies because, as I have warned, without a theory to test it's all too easy to just make up a psychological story to explain any given pattern of neural responses.But there's still an element of this here: the authors suggest that conformism is motivated by anxiety, not because anyone reported suffering anxiety, but purely because it was associated with activity in the anterior insula etc. This is putting a lot of faith in the idea that anterior insula etc activity means anxiety - it could mean a lot of other things. There's also the question of whether letting people rate the songs for the first time before telling them about the popularity is the best way of measuring social pressures.The real gaping hole in this study, though, is that we're not told anything about the correlations between music preference and conformism. Are kids who like "Alternative/Emo/Indie" music genuinely free-thinkers, or are they really the biggest conformists of all? The paper doesn't tell us. In the absence of empirical evidence, we'll have to rely on South Park...Stan: But if life is only pain, then...what's the point of living?Fringe-flicking Goth: Just to make life more miserable for the conformists. (flicks fringe)Stan: Alright, so how do I join you?Goth Leader: If you wanna be one of the non-conformists, all you have to do is dress just like us and listen to the same music we do.- South Park, "Raisins"Berns, G., Capra, C., Moore, S., & Noussair, C. (2010). Neural mechanisms of the influence of popularity on adolescent ratings of music NeuroImage, 49 (3), 2687-2696 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.070... Read more »
Berns, G., Capra, C., Moore, S., & Noussair, C. (2010) Neural mechanisms of the influence of popularity on adolescent ratings of music. NeuroImage, 49(3), 2687-2696. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.070
A restoration of Mammalodon by Brian Choo (published in Fitzgerald, 2009).
In the introduction to his 1883 lecture on whales, the English anatomist William Henry Flower said;
Few natural groups present so many remarkable, very obvious, and easily appreciated illustrations of several of the most important general laws which appear to have determined the structure of animal bodies, as that selected for my lecture this evening. We shall find the effects of the two opposing forces--that of heredity or conformation to ancestral characters, and that of adaptation to changed environment, whether brought about by the method of natural selection or otherwise--distinctly written in almost every part of their structure. Scarcely anywhere in the animal kingdom do we see so many cases of the persistence of rudimentary and apparently useless organs, those marvellous and suggestive phenomena which at one time seemed hopeless enigmas, causing despair to those who tried to unravel their meaning, looked upon as mere will-of-the-wisps, but now eagerly welcomed as beacons of true light, casting illuminating beams upon the dark and otherwise impenetrable paths through which the organism has travelled on its way to reach the goal of its present condition of existence.
As presented by Flower, whales were excellent examples of evolutionary change. They were mammals well-adapted to life at sea and yet they still retained anatomical quirks which testified to their origin from terrestrial creatures. (And, interestingly, Flower was one of the first naturalists to suggest that whales had evolved from artiodactyls.) Frustratingly, however, only a handful of early fossil whales were known at the time, and while there was no doubt that whales had evolved the fossil proofs of their evolution were largely missing. Naturalists could only speculate on how early whales transitioned into an aquatic lifestyle, and just as mysterious was the origin of the largest animals on earth, the baleen whales. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
FITZGERALD, E. (2010) The morphology and systematics of (Cetacea: Mysticeti), a toothed mysticete from the Oligocene of Australia . Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.2009.00572.x
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Epanchin, P., Knapp, R., & Lawler, S. (2009) Nonnative trout impact an alpine-nesting bird by altering aquatic insect subsidies. Ecology, 2147483647. DOI: 10.1890/09-1974
For organizations that protect land by purchasing property (or the underlying development rights), a simple but harsh reality reins: Land is expensive. Money is limited. So you have to spend wisely. In this regard, a new study may help land conservationists identify the highest priority properties for preservation...... Read more »
Gorokhovich, Y., & Voustianiouk, A. (2009) Prioritization of coastal properties for conservation in New York State. Journal of Coastal Conservation. DOI: 10.1007/s11852-009-0081-8
Rocking out on the guitar is by far one of my most cherished pastimes. At the angst ridden age of 15 I picked up a cheap Ibanez strat and learned my very first Nirvana song, "Teen Spirit". Little did I know a good night's rest would play such a crucial role in my learning those simple power chords. Furthermore, who would've thought my desire to become the next grunge icon would determine the rate at which I learned during those quiet nights of sleep. According to a study by Fischer and Born, published in the most recent journal of SLEEP, they found that anticipating a reward can determine the amount of memory consolidation during at the important time of offline processing.too.Fischer S, & Born J (2009). Anticipated reward enhances offline learning during sleep.... Read more »
Fischer S, & Born J. (2009) Anticipated reward enhances offline learning during sleep. Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition, 35(6), 1586-93. PMID: 19857029
Does having Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in your supply chain constitute an increased exposure to supply chain risk? Particularly if these SMEs occupy business-critical positions in the supply chain?... Read more »
Diet is the key to a great many evolution-driven adaptations in the machinery of our bodies; changes in dietary intake cause the controlling mechanisms of metabolism to sit up and take notice. In particular, lowering the intake of calories by 30-40% or so, and while maintaining an optimal level of micronutrients, causes metabolic processes to operate in a mode that extends life and provides numerous other health benefits. Practiced as a lifestyle, this is known as a calorie restriction diet, and the laboratory version for animals is often called dietary restriction. Calorie (or dietary) restriction provides similar health and longevity benefits in almost every species tested to date. Diet, of course, is more than a simple count of calories. Composition of food varies enormously, here thinking in terms of the proportions of different proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and so forth. This matters. Take methionine for example: this is one of the essential amino acids that we humans, and other mammals, cannot create and so must obtain through our diet. Through experimentation, researchers are starting to see that restricting the content of methionine in the diet of mammals - while leaving the calorie count unchanged - has many of the same results...... Read more »
Caro P, Gomez J, Sanchez I, Naudi A, Ayala V, López-Torres M, Pamplona R, & Barja G. (2009) Forty percent methionine restriction decreases mitochondrial oxygen radical production and leak at complex I during forward electron flow and lowers oxidative damage to proteins and mitochondrial DNA in rat kidney and brain mitochondria. Rejuvenation research, 12(6), 421-34. PMID: 20041736
The TV show Lie To Me focuses on the exploits of an expert in lie-detection as he solves perplexing crimes in his high-tech Washington laboratory. It's actually fun to watch, especially since it appears to make some effort to get the science right (a real-life expert on lie-detection, Paul Ekman, serves as a science adviser on the show).
One of the show's premises is that only highly-trained experts (most importantly, its protagonist, Cal Lightman) are capable of sniffing out a well-schooled liar. This too is based in fact. Most of us are very bad at spotting liars, taking their seemingly earnest facial expressions as the real thing. Ekman's research, along with many others, has shown that it's possible to detect subtle differences between authentic emotional expressions and the real thing. Since telling a lie invokes its own distinctive emotions, it's possible to see remnants of these emotions by carefully watching a liar in the act of deceit, even when the liar masks his or her true feelings with a feigned emotion.
But what if there was a shortcut in sniffing out a lie, relying on our own instinctual behavior? Would it be possible to improve the lie-detecting abilities of ordinary people without all that training? A team led by Mariëlle Stel had a hunch that our tendency to mimic the physical and facial expressions of the people we are speaking to might help us to tell when they are lying.
They recruited 92 volunteers to participate in a very short conversation. The volunteers were paired up randomly, and one person from each pair was randomly assigned to be the truth-teller or liar. This person was asked before meeting the other participant if he or she would like to make a donation to Amnesty International, and then, randomly, told to either tell the truth or lie about it, with a one-euro reward if they could convince the partner they were telling the truth. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
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