Post List

  • September 16, 2011
  • 02:18 PM

Observations: Why do women cry? Obviously, it’s so they don’t get laid.

by Christie Wilcox in Science Sushi

This week, a paper came out looking at testosterone levels in fathers. A whirlwind of poor journalism followed, which was beautifully smacked down by William Saletan over at Slate (aslo: see this great post on the topic by our very own Kate Clancy). But it reminded me of a similar kerfluffle that occurred this past [...]

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Gelstein, S., Yeshurun, Y., Rozenkrantz, L., Shushan, S., Frumin, I., Roth, Y., & Sobel, N. (2011) Human Tears Contain a Chemosignal. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1198331  

Haga S, Hattori T, Sato T, Sato K, Matsuda S, Kobayakawa R, Sakano H, Yoshihara Y, Kikusui T, & Touhara K. (2010) The male mouse pheromone ESP1 enhances female sexual receptive behaviour through a specific vomeronasal receptor. Nature, 466(7302), 118-22. PMID: 20596023  

Storey AE, Walsh CJ, Quinton RL, & Wynne-Edwards KE. (2000) Hormonal correlates of paternal responsiveness in new and expectant fathers. Evolution and human behavior : official journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, 21(2), 79-95. PMID: 10785345  

Zak, P., Kurzban, R., Ahmadi, S., Swerdloff, R., Park, J., Efremidze, L., Redwine, K., Morgan, K., & Matzner, W. (2009) Testosterone Administration Decreases Generosity in the Ultimatum Game. PLoS ONE, 4(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008330  

  • September 16, 2011
  • 11:32 AM

Whole-genome sequencing and clinical annotation

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

Next-generation sequencing has immense transformative potential for medicine in the coming decade. Rapid, economical whole-genome sequencing can provide a wealth of information useful for diagnosis, treatment, and even prevention of disease. Very soon (if not already), generating whole-genome sequencing data will be routine. The challenges will lie in accurate variant calling, phasing, annotation, and clinical [...]... Read more »

Frederick E. Dewey, Rong Chen, Sergio P. Cordero, Kelly E. Ormond, Colleen Caleshu, Konrad J. Karczewski, Michelle Whirl-Carrillo, Matthew T. Wheeler, Joel T. Dudley, Jake K. Byrnes, Omar E. Cornejo, Joshua W. Knowles, Mark Woon, Katrin Sangkuhl, Li Gong,, Madeleine P. Ball, Alexander W. Zaranek, Heidi L. Rehm, George M. Church, John S. West, Carlos D. Bustamante, Michael Snyder, Russ B. Altman, Teri E. Klein.... (2011) Phased whole genome genetic risk in a family quartet using a major allele reference sequence. PLoS Genetics, 7(9). info:/

  • September 16, 2011
  • 10:03 AM

Tuberous sclerosis complex and autophagy

by Joana Guedes in BHD Research Blog

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a multi-system disorder caused by mutations in the TSC1 or TSC2 genes. As illustrated in the signalling diagram on, TSC1/2 plays an important role in regulating the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), which is involved … Continue reading →... Read more »

Mathew R, Karp CM, Beaudoin B, Vuong N, Chen G, Chen HY, Bray K, Reddy A, Bhanot G, Gelinas C.... (2009) Autophagy suppresses tumorigenesis through elimination of p62. Cell, 137(6), 1062-75. PMID: 19524509  

Parkhitko A, Myachina F, Morrison TA, Hindi KM, Auricchio N, Karbowniczek M, Wu JJ, Finkel T, Kwiatkowski DJ, Yu JJ.... (2011) Tumorigenesis in tuberous sclerosis complex is autophagy and p62/sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1)-dependent. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(30), 12455-60. PMID: 21746920  

  • September 16, 2011
  • 07:58 AM

Can we get away with using lo-fi assessment to recruit advanced positions?

by Alex Fradera in BPS Occupational Digest

In recruitment, the promise of comparable results for less effort is understandably tempting. It's offered by the offsetting of costly assessments with alternative measures that use pencils, screens and standardised questions instead of expert assessors. However, as some sources suggest a bad hire can cost twice or more that position's annual salary, the stakes are high. A new study kicks some assessment tyres to see whether that bargain is actually a banger.Researchers Filip Lievens and Fiona Patterson looked at recruitment into advanced roles which typically seek the skills and knowledge to hit the ground running. They took their sample of 196 successful candidates from the UK selection process for General Practitioners in medicine (GPs). To get here, you've completed two years of basic training and up to six years of prior education, by which stage you're after someone ready to go, not a future 'bright star'. Lievens and Patterson were specifically interested in how much assessment fidelity matters, meaning the extent to which assessment task and context mirror that in the actual job.Three types of assessment were involved, all designed by experienced doctors with assistance from assessment psychologists. Written tests assessed declarative knowledge through diagnostic dilemmas such as “a 75-year-old man, who is a heavy smoker, with a blood pressure of 170/105, complains of floaters in the left eye”. Assessment centre (AC) simulations meanwhile probe skills and behaviours in an open-ended, live situation such as emulating a patient consultation; these tend to be more powerful predictors of job performance, but are costly.The third was the situational judgement test (SJT), a pencil and paper assessment where candidates select actions in response to situations, such as a senior colleague making a non-ideal prescription. SJTs are considered by many to be “low-fidelity simulations”, losing their open-endedness and embodied qualities, but hanging on to the what-would-you-do-if? focus. The authors were interested in whether its predictive power would be in the same class as the AC simulations, or mirror the more modest validity of its pencil and paper counterpart.The data showed that all assessments were useful predictors of job performance, as measured by supervisors after a year spent in role. Both types of simulation - AC and SJT - provided additional insight over and above that given by the rather disembodied knowledge test – each explaining about a further 6% of the variance. But in comparison with each other, the simulations were difficult to tell apart, with no significant difference in how well they predicted performance.It should be noted that the AC simulations did capture some variance over and above the SJT, notably relating to non-cognitive aspects of job performance, such as empathy, which is important as such areas are less trainable than clinical expertise. However, this extra insight was fairly modest, just a few percentage points of variance. More expensive AC assessments can provide additional value, but the study suggests that at least in this specific recruitment domain, you can get away with a loss of fidelity if the assessments are appropriately designed.Lievens, F., & Patterson, F. (2011). The validity and incremental validity of knowledge tests, low-fidelity simulations, and high-fidelity simulations for predicting job performance in advanced-level high-stakes selection. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96 (5), 927-940 DOI: 10.1037/a0023496... Read more »

  • September 16, 2011
  • 07:02 AM

Tethered, multi-tasking, or just life?

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

When I was in graduate school, I carried a beeper for my job. I hated that thing. I felt like I was on a tether and constantly available to everyone. Even when it didn’t alert me to call someone, I was constantly expecting it would. It was horrible. Now, when I consider that angst-filled attitude, [...]

Related posts:Simple Workaholic Persuasion: How to really take a vacation
Between Coddling and Contempt: Managing and Mentoring Millennials
... Read more »

  • September 16, 2011
  • 07:00 AM

Being a fish out of water changes you

by Zen Faulkes in NeuroDojo

It might be tricky to keep mangrove rivulus in your typical aquarium. Mangrove rivulus are rather found of jumping out of water – and staying there.

Being out of water is a rather different place from being in the water, and so this fish obviously have some evolutionary adaptations that allow it to pull off this stunt. But a new paper asks a different, possibly more subtle: do mangrove rivulus adapt to being in or out of water in the short term?

ResearchBlogging.orgMangrove rivulus have an advantage for studying these sorts of short-term physiological changes, as many of them are genetically identical, because they are hermaphrodites - not all that unusual among animals, but that they are self-fertilizing hermaphrodites is a rare and exceptional feature among vertebrates.

Turko and colleagues first did a simple correlative study, allowing the fish to jump out of their tanks as often as they want. Most stayed in the water most of the time, but a few appeared to have what would have been a death wish in most other fish: they were out of the water almost two thirds of the time (64%). The authors saw differences in the gill shape that were correlated with the amount of time fish spent in or out of water.

But because correlation does not mean causation, the authors sensibly went back and did an experiment. They monitored animals for a week, then prevented them all from leaving the water, sacrificed half to check on their gills, and then left the remaining half go back to being free to leave the water if they chose.

The first that were prevented from leaving the water had different gill shapes than those that were allowed to return to the air. This strong suggests that the fishes’ behaviour drove the changes in the gill morphology.

But there is a problem in interpretation here. At the start of the second experiment, the fish were leaving water rather less than in the first correlation study. And there were no correlations between gill shape and the fish’s behaviour after the first week, as there was in the first study. The differences in gill shape emerged only after the week were the fish were forced to stay within water. The researchers suggest that there may be a minimum time the fish have to spend out of water for the gill remodeling effect to occur.

This makes me wonder if there were be a way to do the experiment were fish were forced to stay out of water for set periods of time. Here, the experimenters were at the mercy of the fish voluntarily leaving the water. It may be a little bit trickier, but the results would be much easier to interpret.... Read more »

  • September 16, 2011
  • 12:00 AM

The Big Picture : 5-hmC Content is Differentiation Dependent in Adult Tissues

by Nicole in E3 Engaging Epigenetics Experts

Interview with Dr.Yegnasubramanian on 5-hmC localization paper.... Read more »

  • September 15, 2011
  • 09:39 PM

Nunavut’s Big, Bad Fossil Fish

by Laelaps in Laelaps

Have you ever had a bad neighbor? The kind that blasts heavy metal at 3AM, “exercises” their dog on your lawn, and is just an all-around jerk? Well, bad as they were, chances are that you didn’t have to worry about them eating you (unless they were into some REALLY weird stuff). Our ancient, 375 [...]... Read more »

  • September 15, 2011
  • 12:31 PM

The future of cognitive neuroscience

by Jon Simons in Brain, n. An apparatus with which we think that we think

I have previously written about how I think that cognitive neuroscience as a scientific discipline (and I know that this is not a universally held view) has largely moved on from publishing studies demonstrating the neural correlates of “x”, where x might be behaviours as diverse as maternal love, urinating, or thinking about god.  There are still a few of these sorts of studies published each year, and because the public are, it seems, fascinated by stories about blobs on brains, the media portrayal of cognitive neuroscience tends to focus on such findings.Some blobs on a brainThis is all very entertaining if you like your science presented to you in a breakfast TV sofa sort of way.  However, the downside is that people who are not regular readers of the fMRI research literature think that the media portrayal of cognitive neuroscience is an accurate representation of the field.  In fact, I would argue, this is far from the case.  In my experience of working in cognitive neuroscience for the last decade or more, most researchers I have encountered are not interested in so-called “blobology”.  Instead, they work very hard each day carefully designing theoretically motivated experiments using cognitive neuroscience techniques to produce empirical data that can be used to differentiate between cognitive theories about how functions like memory, language, vision, attention, and so on, might operate.However, the field of cognitive neuroscience is still relatively young.  As such, its accepted methodological and analytic conventions are still being worked out.  There are some statistical methods that have been used quite widely in the field, but which people are starting to identify as not being sufficiently rigorous for the kinds of interpretations that have been made.  The widespread use of these practices has happened mainly because new researchers have tended to learn fMRI methods informally through knowledge handed down by other researchers in the lab, who themselves will have learned from previous researchers, and so on, as there has been no standard textbook with a validated and generally accepted set of approved methods.  Recent articles highlighting issues such as that it is usually inappropriate to use the same dataset for selection and selective analysis, and that interaction analyses are often conducted incorrectly, have served the very useful purpose of alerting neuroscience researchers to ways in which they might improve the rigour of their analytical methods.As far as I’m concerned, these articles have been a thoroughly excellent contribution to the field, and a sign of a healthy, thriving scientific discipline that is willing to examine its core methods for possible weaknesses and, if they are found, to highlight them prominently.  While it might seem odd that a field would allow a paper that does little more than count statistical errors in other papers to be published in the field’s flagship journal, I think it is splendid.  Other fields should care as much about their time-honoured, adamantine practices.It is a shame that some commentators see these articles as a sign that cognitive neuroscience is weak or inherently flawed or, as one prominent figure has described it, “the soft end of science... really just at the stamp-collecting stage. There aren't any real hypotheses, more just post hoc rationalisations.”  These commentators have a tendency to dismiss the field of cognitive neuroscience with the disdain they usually lavish on areas like homeopathy, chiropractics and other such mumbo jumbo.  I feel such views are narrow-minded, and reflect the personal prejudices of people who, if they really value science and wish to encourage those who seek to practice it with the most rigour they can, might like to reconsider their preconceptions.I just today came across an article that, to me, is a prime example of the way in which cognitive neuroscience is constantly seeking to improve as an empirical discipline.  Russ Poldrack, widely regarded as one the most sensible methodologists in the field, has a paper in press in the journal NeuroImage entitled “The Future of fMRI in Cognitive Neuroscience”.  In the article, he outlines how over the next 20 years, the field needs to increase its methodological rigour, consistently use more robust methods for statistical inference, concentrate to a greater degree on identifying connectivity patterns across the brain rather than focusing on single regions, and make other improvements to the way in which theoretical inferences are drawn from neuroimaging data.  This is an important paper, and all cognitive neuroscientists should read it.  But I believe all commentators who are sceptical about cognitive neuroscience should also read it.  It may change their view.As Poldrack concludes:fMRI has advanced cognitive neuroscience research in a way that has been nothing short of revolutionary, though at the same time there are fundamental limits to the standard imaging approach that have not been widely appreciated. I am hopeful that 20 years from now, the history of fMRI in cognitive neuroscience will show that the field attacked this problem head on and developed new, robust methods for better understanding the relation between mental processes and brain function.I very much agree, and think that there is a good chance that Poldrack’s hope will be fulfilled.Poldrack RA (2011). The future of fMRI in cognitive neuroscience. NeuroImage PMID: 21856431(edited on 15/9/11 to include ResearchBlogging citation - thanks @deevybee!)... Read more »

  • September 15, 2011
  • 12:22 PM

The Fungal Apocalypse, Permo-Triassic Edition

by Jennifer Frazer in The Artful Amoeba

There is something curious about the sedimentary rocks laid down around the world 250 million years ago, at the height of Earth’s greatest extinction: they are often riddled with filaments, and no one is sure what they are. Nothing like them has been found in rocks before or since. What seems apparent, and what everyone [...]... Read more »

  • September 15, 2011
  • 12:22 PM

All you need is love... and the right alleles

by EE Giorgi in CHIMERAS

It's been called the "love hormone" because studies have shown that it is released during labor and breastfeeding. Children soothed by their mothers produce it, and, apparently, it has a role in easing social interactions. Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. It is a neurotransmitter, which basically means that it helps send signals from the brain to the receiving cells.OXTR is the oxytocin gene receptor, in other words, this gene codes the protein that sits on the surface of the cell waiting to "grab" the oxytocin. So, if oxytocin has such beneficial effects on our behavior, it seems natural to look into this gene and see how it affects us, right?That's exactly what a study published in this week's issue of PNAS [1] did. The researchers (from UCLA, UCSB, and Ohio State University) found one particular SNP in OXTR to be associated with three psychological traits: optimism, self-esteem, and mastery (the ability of making decisions, of being determined to achieve certain outcomes in life). This is an important finding, since the traits they found to be linked with OXTR are known to be correlated with positive health outcomes and good stress management.Okay, let's back up a little. What's a SNP?You and I share most of our DNA. We all do. There are very few loci where DNA differs across people, and SNPs are some of those loci. SNP (pronounced "snip") stands for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, and it represents one particular base in the DNA that's found to be changing across the population (hence the "polyphormism"). It's a single base, but because we have two copies, it is represented by two nucleotides. The SNP found in the PNAS paper, for example, is represented by the following alleles in the population: AA, AG, and GG. In other words, when you look at people's DNA at that particular position, you'll find that some carry a GG, some an AG, and some others an AA. So how was the association found? The researchers recruited a number of subjects and found out which alleles they carried. Then they measured their psychological traits, and they saw that individuals that carried the "A" allele had a tendency to have lower levels of optimism, self-esteem, and mastery, and higher levels of depression. The interesting thing would be to investigate how the two alleles affect the 3-D structure of the receptor and see if this relates to the way it binds to the oxytocin. This, for example, could explain the differences in trait levels.Now to the caveats.In general, looking at one SNP only gives a somehow limited picture. Genetics is not just DNA, rather a very complicated hierarchy of interactions, mechanisms, and cascade effects. Genes often interact and "combine" forces. For example, groups of multiple SNPs tend to be inherited together, and "piggy-back" mutations appear as an effect of chromosomal recombination. This study looked at one SNP in particular and advocates for further work looking at possible interactions across different genes and different SNPs. Furthermore, one must keep in mind that certain traits can be altered by epigenetic changes. Caveats aside, it is certainly fascinating to see how genes can affect our behavior and state of mind, and I look forward to the next papers from this group.[1] Saphire-Bernstein, S., Way, B., Kim, H., Sherman, D., & Taylor, S. (2011). Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is related to psychological resources Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (37), 15118-15122 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113137108Photo: aspens at sunset. Canon 40D, focal length 81mm, F-stop 5.6, shutter speed 1/100. On a side note, those three aspens came down this summer. Too much wind, sadly.... Read more »

Saphire-Bernstein, S., Way, B., Kim, H., Sherman, D., & Taylor, S. (2011) Oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is related to psychological resources. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(37), 15118-15122. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1113137108  

  • September 15, 2011
  • 11:35 AM

September 15, 2011

by Erin Campbell in HighMag Blog

There is something so gratifying about a light switch. My two-year old will pull a chair to our kitchen light switch to turn it on and off. Over. And over. And over again. Maybe that’s why I find phosphorylation so satisfying (and maybe why I have a headache). It’s a molecular switch, and the vast combinations of where, when, and how different proteins are phosphorylated can provide mind-numbing levels of regulation within a cell. Combine my appreciation for phosphorylation with my absolute love for early worm embryos, and you have today’s lovely images.The one-cell stage worm embryo divides like many cells throughout development—asymmetrically. Asymmetric cell division results in two daughter cells with different developmental fates and frequently different sizes. For asymmetric cell division to take place in the early worm embryo, the entire mitotic spindle apparatus is moved towards one end of the cell, the posterior. A complex of polarity proteins (made of PAR proteins and the aPKC homolog PKC-3) functions upstream of an evolutionary conserved pathway of proteins (made of the NuMA homolog LIN-5 and G-protein signaling), and a recent paper finds the well sought-after link between these two pathways. In Galli and colleagues’ paper, they show that LIN-5 is phosphorylated by PKC-3. The position of PKC-3 at only one side of the cell results in the phosphorylation of LIN-5 only in that region, which in turns allows the mitotic spindle to position itself correctly. In the images above, one-cell stage worm embryos show staining for phosphorylated LIN-5 (top row, red in bottom row) during mitosis (spindle is in green, chromosomes in blue). Phosphorylated LIN-5 is enriched at higher levels at the anterior cortex (the left-hand side in each image) during earlier stages of mitosis.Galli, M., Muñoz, J., Portegijs, V., Boxem, M., Grill, S., Heck, A., & van den Heuvel, S. (2011). aPKC phosphorylates NuMA-related LIN-5 to position the mitotic spindle during asymmetric division Nature Cell Biology, 13 (9), 1132-1138 DOI: 10.1038/ncb2315Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright ©2011... Read more »

Galli, M., Muñoz, J., Portegijs, V., Boxem, M., Grill, S., Heck, A., & van den Heuvel, S. (2011) aPKC phosphorylates NuMA-related LIN-5 to position the mitotic spindle during asymmetric division. Nature Cell Biology, 13(9), 1132-1138. DOI: 10.1038/ncb2315  

  • September 15, 2011
  • 11:35 AM

Protect Your Jury From the Poison of the Crowd

by Persuasion Strategies in Persuasive Litigator

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm - Crowds can be scary things. At a debate this past Monday (September 9th), Republican Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, was asked if his stance against government mandated health insurance would dictate denying care to a hypothetical man who found himself in a coma without the benefit of catastrophic health insurance. "Are you saying," Wolf Blitzer asked, "that society should just let him die?" In response, a chorus of voices from the audience shouted "yeah!" Less than a week earlier, in a similar Republican candidates debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry received his biggest applause of the night,...

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Lorenz J, Rauhut H, Schweitzer F, & Helbing D. (2011) How social influence can undermine the wisdom of crowd effect. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(22), 9020-5. PMID: 21576485  

  • September 15, 2011
  • 11:25 AM

A Very Cool Ancient Crocodile

by Greg Laden in Greg Laden's Blog

I have never actually seen a snake eat a crocodile or a crocodile eat a snake, but I am pretty sure I've seen a snake planning to eat a Nile Croc. And that was in the geological present.

In the geological past, about 60 million years ago (during the "Eocene" a.k.a. "dawn age") there was a rain forest that is sort of the ancestor to modern rain forests, which is now a coal deposit (and thus, eventually, will be part of our air) in Columbia. It has yielded interesting materials, and the latest report, just published, is of a fossil dyrosaurid crocodyliform (ancient croc ancestor). It is African. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Hastings, A.K., Bloch, J. I., & Jaramillo, C.A. (2011) A new longirostrine dyrosaurid (Crocodylomorpha, Mesoeucrocodylia) from the Paleocene of north-eastern Colombia: biogeographic and behavioural implications for New-World Dyrosauridae . Palaeontology, 54(5), 1095-1116. info:/10.1111/j.1475-4983.2011.01092.x

  • September 15, 2011
  • 10:59 AM

Foreign Women in Imperial Rome: the Isotopic Evidence

by Kristina Killgrove in Powered By Osteons

Just a short time ago, I had a paper at the European Association of Archaeologists meeting in Oslo.  I unfortunately couldn't attend the conference, so Rob Tykot presented it.  The paper was fun to write, though, and lays out the bioarchaeological evidence (albeit sparse at the moment) for women who immigrated to Imperial Rome.  Following is the complete presentation.  Comments are always welcome!

Foreign women in Imperial Rome: the isotopic evidence
K. Killgrove, Vanderbilt UniversityR. Tykot, University of South FloridaJ. Montgomery, Durham University
A significant amount of classical scholarship over the years has been dedicated to understanding the demographic make-up of the population of Imperial Rome.  Without a proper census, however, classical demographers lack several key pieces of information necessary for reconstructing the number of citizens, slaves, and foreigners at Rome (Noy 2000:16). 
Tombstones provide the most solid evidence of immigrants who died in Rome.  Here we have an example of the inscription on a tombstone of a soldier, noting he was from Noricum (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum vi 3225, translated in Noy 2011). For the most part, though, the epigraphic habit was largely the province of the wealthy, educated elite, leaving us with little information about the lower classes.  Demographic estimates of foreigners at Rome range from 5% to 35%, suggesting that as many as one out of every three people in Rome arrived there from elsewhere. Below is the inscription from a large tomb that a group of free slaves built in Rome (Année Epigraphique 1972, 14, translated in Noy 2011).  They all appear to have belonged to the same household (as they share a name and the designation C.L., “freed slave of Gaius”) yet came to Rome from various places: Greece, Asia Minor, and north Africa. The practice of commemorating one’s homeland is rare, though, and it is unclear how many slaves and free immigrants came from Italy or from further afield in the Empire (Morley 1996, p. 39).  Finally, the epigraphical record of immigrants to Rome is gender-biased, as the vast majority of inscriptions that mention immigrants are those of males (Noy 2000, p. 60). Part of this bias is attributable to the commemoration of soldiers, but males outnumber females three to one even in civilian immigrant inscriptions (Noy 2000, p. 61, Table 2). 
In order to learn more about female immigrants to the Imperial capital, we undertook a bioarchaeological study of human skeletal remains from Rome.  Through a combination of isotope analyses, palaeopathology, and burial style, we identified previously unknown female immigrants in the archaeological record of Rome and were able to reconstruct key aspects of their life histories.
Our skeletal material comes from the cemetery of Casal Bertone, which was located just 2 km from the center of Rome and was in use from the 2nd-3rd centuries AD (Musco et al. 2008). The majority of the graves were located within a simple necropolis, which included unmarked pit burials as well as burials a cappuccina.  An above-ground mausoleum that slightly postdates the necropolis was found as well, and it may have held people of higher social status.  Out of the 138 burials, we chose a stratified sample of 30 adults to subject to strontium, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen isotope analyses – 19 males and 11 females.
This graph shows the strontium and oxygen isotope results for the first molars of adults from Casal Bertone.  The approximate isotope range of Rome is represented by a box comprising the upper and lower bounds of expected Sr and O values.  No other Sr studies in the Italian peninsula have been done on human skeletal remains, so the local range was estimated conservatively using geochemical modeling that took into account the fact that Rome was supplied by aqueducts that drew water from sources with distinctly different geology than is found in the volcanic Alban Hills (Killgrove 2010a, 2010b).  By combining Sr with an O range from previously published human skeletal data (Prowse et al. 2007), however, it is easier to see nonlocals.  Here, females T82A and T39 are fairly clearly immigrants to Rome because of low/high O isotopes and rather low Sr.  T42, on the other hand, is a borderline case since measurement error could put her within the local O range for Rome.  Clearly, though, isotope analysis of human skeletal remains is a viable way to identify female immigrants in the bioarchaeological record of Rome, particularly those who were not commemorated as such on tombstones.
Three of the 11 females we tested (27%) were probably immigrants to Rome.  Out of the 19 males studied, 6 were immigrants (32%).  More interesting, though, is the sex ratio in the immigrant population.  Whereas the sex ratio in tombstones that commemorate immigrants at Rome is 78% male versus 22% female, the ratio of immigrants discovered through skeletal evidence is 66% male versus 33% female.  This is, granted, a small sample but suggests that the bias towards male immigrants may in the future be rectified by studying skeletal data.
Epigraphy does occasionally tell us a little about the lives of female immigrants.  The tombstone of freedwoman Valeria Lycisca, for example, specifically notes that she came to Rome at age 12 (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum vi 28228).  Isotope analysis of the skeleton can give us similar information, in that it can help narrow the window of time in which a person immigrated. Two of the Casal Bertone female immigrants – T39 and T82A – also had third molars that could be subjected to Sr isotope analysis.  Both produced M3 Sr values that were very close to their M1 values.  The difference between T39’s first and third molars is .00016, and the difference between T82A’s first and third molars is .00017.  Their M3 values still place them towards the low end of the calculated Sr range of Rome.  People in the low end were probably immigrants from an area with younger geology (such as the southern, volcanic areas of Italy); however, it is possible people in this range were locals who consumed a significant amount of Roman aqueduct water (roughly 90% of all water consumed) throughout childhood.  Oxygen isotope analysis on the M3s has not yet been done.  Based on the small differences between these women’s M1s and M3s, it is likely that both immigrated to Rome after the development of their M3s was complete.  Therefore, T39, a woman of about 15-17 years at the time of her death, likely died shortly after arrival in Rome.
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K. Killgrove. (2010) Identifying immigrants to Imperial Rome using strontium isotope analysis. Journal of Roman Archaeology. info:/

Prowse TL, Schwarcz HP, Garnsey P, Knyf M, Macchiarelli R, & Bondioli L. (2007) Isotopic evidence for age-related immigration to imperial Rome. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 132(4), 510-9. PMID: 17205550  

  • September 15, 2011
  • 10:45 AM

Marijuana use trajectories in at-risk boys

by mtaffe in Scripps Center for Cannabis Addiction Neurobiology

Longitudinal study of at-risk boys shows some age out, some continue marijuana use. ... Read more »

  • September 15, 2011
  • 09:37 AM

Cannabis use in young people: The risk for schizophrenia

by Dr Shock in Dr Shock MD PhD

Buffer Now, addiction is not Dr Shock’s specialty but I have attended a lecture on this subject a few years ago by one of the authors Robin M. Murray and was very impressed by the subtlety of his research and reasoning. Moreover, I’ve often been questioned about this subject by our med students just before [...]

No related posts.... Read more »

Casadio, P., Fernandes, C., Murray, R., & Di Forti, M. (2011) Cannabis use in young people: The risk for schizophrenia. Neuroscience , 35(8), 1779-1787. DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.04.007  

  • September 15, 2011
  • 09:29 AM

Pre-natal Hormones Shape Female Social Interactions

by Jim Ryan in Wild Mammals

In many mammals the female uterus is divided into two horns, a right and a left. ... For example, a pregnant dog might have four fetuses developing in the right uterine horn and three more developing in the left horn. ... A female fetus surrounded by two male siblings will be exposed to increased testosterone levels (androgens) produced by her brothers to be.

...In rodents, one of the traits associated with female masculinization is a greater anogenital distance (the distance between the anal opening and the vaginal opening). Masculinized female offspring also exhibit more play-fighting, which is associated with aggressiveness. Non-masculinized females typically engage in more “sociopositive” behaviors. Are there any lasting effects of female masculinization in adults, and do those effects alter fitness?

Daniel Blumstein and his colleagues from the University of California (LA) set out to answer these questions in a population of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) in Colorado (Figure 1). This population has been studied extensively since 2002 and all the marmots in 10 social groups are individually marked. Juveniles were live trapped as soon as the emerged from the natal den, marked, and their anogenital distance recorded. The social behaviors of 202 female colony members were monitored from April to September for seven years.

...A yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris) on a talus slope in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (From Flickr/Miguel Vieira)

Females with larger anogenital distances were assumed to have been masculinized in utero. Interestingly, masculinized females initiated more play and played with more unique partners (Figure 2). ... Males typically engage in more allogrooming and playfighting and both behaviors are controlled by androgens (In previous studies, females who were given excess testosterone also engaged in more male-like behaviors).

...The relationship between anogenital distance and play (left) and sociopositive behaviors (right).

...Playfighting in young marmots is similar to the agonistic behaviors of adults. Thus, it is possible that young masculinized females that engage in these behaviors may gain a competitive advantage over other females later in life. However, masculinized yearling females did not exhibit higher levels of male-like behaviors.

Finally, masculinized females interacted with more individuals and showed more willingness to explore their environment; exploration is a typically male behavior in marmots. This may explain why previous studies showed that masculinized females dispersed at higher rates that non-masculinized females. Thus, the in utero environment can have lasting effects on female behavior.

...Monclus, R., Cook, T., & Blumstein, D. ... Masculinized female yellow-bellied marmots initiate more social interactions Biology Letters DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0754
... Read more »

  • September 15, 2011
  • 03:00 AM

A new Gollum shark from Sulu Sea

by nath in Imprints of Philippine Science

Probably one of the best ways to find a new species of shark is to look in your local market.  Some weeks ago, there was Squalus formosus  in Taiwan and two years ago, there was the Jimbaran shovelnose ray of Indonesia. Now there is a new Gollum shark found in the Puerto Princesa market in Palawan as written [...]... Read more »

PETER R. LAST, & JOE P. GAUDIANO. (2011) Gollum suluensis sp. nov. (Carcharhiniformes: Pseudotriakidae), a new gollumshark from the southern Philippines . zootaxa, 17-30. info:/

  • September 14, 2011
  • 10:12 PM

Microfluidics? What's That? A Beginner's Guide

by Hector Munoz in Microfluidic Future

Microfluidic chemostat used to study microbes
I don’t quite have the resources to poll the United States and the rest of the world, but if I did, this is what I’d ask:

Do you know what microfluidics is?
Can you explain it to me?
Do you currently use anything with this technology?

We may never know the results of the poll, but I think I'd hear "No" for most of them. Have no fear, because today you’re lucky enough to read my Beginner’s Guide to Microfluidics.
To start with...... Read more »

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