Post List

  • June 10, 2011
  • 01:51 PM

New neurons mature very slowly in monkeys

by Jason Snyder in Functional Neurogenesis

So, it turns out that neurogenesis in primates is quite a bit different than in rodents. It’s been over 10 years since adult neurogenesis was first described in the adult primate hippocampus and yet much of the basic work has yet to be done. That’s where this new study by Kohler et al. come in. [...]... Read more »

Kohler SJ, Williams NI, Stanton GB, Cameron JL, & Greenough WT. (2011) Maturation time of new granule cells in the dentate gyrus of adult macaque monkeys exceeds six months. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 21646517  

  • June 10, 2011
  • 01:41 PM

Weiners and War Chiefs

by Cris Campbell in Genealogy of Religion

By most accounts, Anthony Weiner thinks highly of himself. Filled with bravado, Weiner considers himself to be a political warrior. Regaling one 17 year old girl with stories about congressional battles, he likened himself to Superman: “I came back strong. Large. In charge. Tights and cape shit.” Weiner even took cape-less photos of his pecs [...]... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 01:20 PM

Nutrition Guidelines: From Pyramid to ‘Pie’

by Paige Brown in From The Lab Bench

Last week, on Thursday morning, MyPlate arrived on the table, the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) official pie chart resembling replacement icon to the food pyramid you might be familiar seeing on your morning cereal box. Although I agree that the new Plate is a step up from the obscure multicolored MyPyramid (even I still don't know what food group each color represents without looking it up online), I have my own beef with the Plate. ... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 12:55 PM

Plant defence 1 - Deadly Chemicals

by Lab Rat in Lab Rat

Although I've never officially studied immunology, my second year course in Pathology left me with a pretty solid idea of how humans defend themselves against bacterial attack. Even without a university course I've always been vaguely aware of the presence of immune cells; the B and T cells that make up the adaptive immune system, the clotting response, and the symptoms of inflammation around the site of infection.How plants responded to bacterial attack was still a complete mystery though. One of the main things that distinguishes plants from animals is that animal cells are a lot more motile, they can move through the body. Animal cell movement is crucial during the development of the embryo and even once the body is fully formed cells still rush around the blood stream and slide around in the epithelial layers. The correct functioning of the immune system relies on cells being able to do this, T cells will pick up bits of bacteria at the site of infection and go running back with them to the lymph nodes which will start organising the best way to deal with the infection.A macrophage in the lungs, from Wikimedia commons. The macrophage engulfs bacteria and eats them, which requires it to be able to move.With a few odd exceptions plant cells do not move. Not at all. There is no movement of cells during the seed development, and even the movement of plants towards sources of light and water is caused by cells growing rather than moving. How then does the plant respond and react to bacterial infections?There are several different ways, which is why this is a three-part post series: 1-Deadly Chemicals 2-Honourable Suicide 3-Acquired Resistance.Part One: Deadly ChemicalsOne of the simpler ways to remove a bacterial infection is to release a chemical that is harmful to the bacteria. There are quite a lot of plants that produce antibacterial products as normal secondary metabolites, an example of which is saponins, a group of compounds which have soap-like properties. As saponins are lipid soluble they can break up bacterial membranes by binding to sterol compounds within the membrane and disrupting the structure. Studies done on oats (reference one) have shown that reducing the natural levels of saponin made the oat plants much more vulnerable to fungal infections.Rather more excitingly, plants can also release certain chemicals in response to a bacterial attack. When bacteria attack plants have been shown to release an assortment of hydrolytic enzymes - glucanases, chitinases, etc that break down cell walls and membranes. These are known as pathogenesis-related proteins as they are specific to bacterial or fungal attack. One of the better researched is a group of chemicals called phytoalexins. In normal conditions neither the phytoalexins themselves, nor the enzymes used to make them, are found within plant cells. It is only after a microbial invasion that the enzymes are transcribed and translated and the phytoalexins synthesised.In order to respond specifically to bacterial attack, the plant needs to be able to recognise bacteria as invading elements. Like many animals, plants have what are known as "Toll-like receptors" that recognise bacterial pathogen molecules (which in animals are referred to as PAMPS Pathogen-Associated Molecular Patterns but in plants seem to be called elictors) such as bits of protein and polysaccharide fragments from the bacterial cell wall.Comparison of the plant and animal TOLL receptors. The blue and red lines are the receptors, and the blobs attached to them are the bits of pathogen. The yellow boxes labelled PK stand for 'protein kinase cascade' which carries the message through the cell to turn on the genes required. Diagram adapted from reference two.By recognising pathogens as they invade, the plant cells can launch a deadly chemical attack against them, without requiring any movement. None of this requires the cells to travel around, and until the bacteria develop resistance to the chemicals being used, it can be highly affective. Chemical warfare however, is only one of the strategies that plant cells can adopt to protect themselves against invading microorganisms, and my next post will cover the second - depriving the bacteria of valuable nutrients by committing cellular suicide.---1) Papadopoulou, K. (1999). Compromised disease resistance in saponin-deficient plants Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96 (22), 12923-12928 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.96.22.129232) Nürnberger, T., & Scheel, D. (2001). Signal transmission in the plant immune response Trends in Plant Science, 6 (8), 372-379 DOI: 10.1016/S1360-1385(01)02019-23) Taiz, Zeiger, Plant Physiology, third edition Sinauer Associates 2002.---Follow me on Twitter!
... Read more »

Papadopoulou, K. (1999) Compromised disease resistance in saponin-deficient plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96(22), 12923-12928. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.96.22.12923  

Nürnberger, T., & Scheel, D. (2001) Signal transmission in the plant immune response. Trends in Plant Science, 6(8), 372-379. DOI: 10.1016/S1360-1385(01)02019-2  

  • June 10, 2011
  • 12:28 PM

Recurrent mutations in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

A study published online at Nature reports the identification of three recurrently mutated genes by whole-genome sequencing of four cases with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This is the most common adult leukemia in western nations, with two major subtypes distinguished by somatic hypermutation of the immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) variable region. Led by [...]... Read more »

Puente XS, Pinyol M, Quesada V, Conde L, Ordóñez GR, Villamor N, Escaramis G, Jares P, Beà S, González-Díaz M.... (2011) Whole-genome sequencing identifies recurrent mutations in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Nature. PMID: 21642962  

Mardis, E., Ding, L., Dooling, D., Larson, D., McLellan, M., Chen, K., Koboldt, D., Fulton, R., Delehaunty, K., McGrath, S.... (2009) Recurring Mutations Found by Sequencing an Acute Myeloid Leukemia Genome. New England Journal of Medicine, 361(11), 1058-1066. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0903840  

Ley TJ, Mardis ER, Ding L, Fulton B, McLellan MD, Chen K, Dooling D, Dunford-Shore BH, McGrath S, Hickenbotham M.... (2008) DNA sequencing of a cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukaemia genome. Nature, 456(7218), 66-72. PMID: 18987736  

  • June 10, 2011
  • 11:31 AM

Syphilis at Chaco

by teofilo in Gambler's House

There’s a persistent archaeological meme about there being a “lack of burials” at Chaco Canyon.  The idea is that not nearly enough burials have been found there to account for the size and magnificence of the architecture, so something odd is going on.  This has been interpreted in various ways and used as support for [...]... Read more »

Marden, K., & Ortner, D. (2011) A case of treponematosis from pre-Columbian Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 21(1), 19-31. DOI: 10.1002/oa.1103  

  • June 10, 2011
  • 11:17 AM

MCA revisited [4]

by admin in U+003F

Of course we can repeat yesterday’s perturbation to reaction 1 over all the reactions. Displaying the results in matrix form, we find that the scaled flux control coefficients are given by whilst the scaled concentration control coefficients are given by So for example, the second row, first column of shows how the second metabolite (B) [...]... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 11:17 AM

MCA revisited [4]

by admin in U+003F

Of course we can repeat yesterday’s perturbation to reaction 1 over all the reactions. Displaying the results in matrix form, we find that the scaled flux control coefficients are given by whilst the scaled concentration control coefficients are given by So for example, the second row, first column of shows how the second metabolite (B) [...]... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 11:15 AM

You probably think this post is about you…

by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room

Carly Simon wailed this song back in the 1970’s. Listening to it now, it’s still catchy and seductive. Likely because now I know what it really means to interact with narcissists. We’ve written before about preparation of the narcissistic witness and cross examination of the same types. We often assume the narcissist is unaware of how [...]

Related posts:Tattoos: When should you clean up your witness?
Maybe you better sweat the small stuff…
“The glasses create a kind of unspoken nerd defense.”
... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 10:05 AM

A cryptozoology meeting at the Zoological Society of London

by Darren Naish in Tetrapod Zoology

On July 12th 2011 a very interesting thing is happening - interesting, that is, if you're interested in the academic evaluation of cryptozoological data. ZSL (the Zoological Society of London) is hosting the meeting 'Cryptozoology: science or pseudoscience?'. Speakers are Charles Paxton, Michael Woodley and myself. Henry Gee is acting as chair. Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »

Paxton, C. G. M. (2009) The plural of "anecdote" can be "data": statistical analysis of viewing distances in reports of unidentified giant marine animals 1758-2000. Journal of Zoology, 381-387. info:/

  • June 10, 2011
  • 09:22 AM

New Research Idicates How OCD Behaviours Are Formed

by Ben Good in B Good Science

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating condition affecting millions everyday. It is estimated that, in the UK, 2% of people aged between 18 and 56 suffer from some form of obsessive compulsive behaviour. Despite this widespread occurrence, however, there is much we do not know about the condition. Historically, OCD has been dismissed as … Read more... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 06:30 AM

Microbes get fat when they’re unhappy, too…*

by Becky in It Takes 30

We’ve talked before about microbes playing dead to avoid the effects of antibiotics.   A recent paper (Baek et al. 2011.  Metabolic regulation of mycobacterial growth and antibiotic sensitivity, PLoS Biol. 9 e1001065) identifies a new mechanism that Mycobacterium tuberculosis uses for switching into a low-metabolism, drug-tolerant state. M. tuberculosis, as you undoubtedly know, is the [...]... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 05:51 AM

Evolution and obesity

by Jason Collins in Evolving Economics

As I indicated in my recent post on Rob Brooks’s Sex, Genes & Rock ‘n’ Roll, Brooks devotes some time to the issue of obesity (his book is slowly appearing for sale on international sites – such as Amazon UK). Rob has also blogged about obesity and published a paper with Steve Simpson and David [...]... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 04:09 AM

Are we wrong to treat overqualified employees as 'too much of a good thing'?

by Alex Fradera in BPS Occupational Digest

Rises in unemployment have led many to become less picky, applying for positions that do not require the skills, knowledge or experience they have acquired. They meet with a problem: the stigma of overqualification, which can make recruiters reluctant to take on such applicants, an attitude reported by 80% of a sample canvassed in an earlier study. Yet our understanding of overqualification is gappy: is it really such a problem? A new review in Industrial and Organizational Psychology seeks to lay out what we know and identify the missing pieces.Bergin Erdogan's team lay out the folk wisdom on the matter: overqualified people are easily bored, restless and tend to leave jobs quickly. Some evidence supports this: objective measures - such as a discrepancy between a role-holder's educational levels and the national average in the role - have been used to demonstrate lower job satisfaction and higher turnover for the overqualified. This is in line with the general findings in the person-job fit literature that good fit leads to better outcomes.However, these past findings favour objective measures over psychological perceptions of overqualification, which may be very different. Attributions of overqualification by recruiters my be made when the applicant seems threateningly capable; they may be influenced by the applicant's age. On the other side of the coin, applicants may be technically overqualified but not think that way about the job at all. The authors argue that this is the ground research needs to cover more comprehensively.Moreover, overqualification could bring benefits. This is theoretically grounded in equity theory, which argues that an imbalance between what you bring to a situation and what it yields can impel you to action. This predicts the higher turnover observed, but is also consistent with evidence that the overqualified make extra contributions beyond their role, putting their surplus skills to work. And contrary to the image of these individuals disrupting tasks and acting out because they are “better than this”, the overqualified may also excel at what they are hired for; a range of studies suggest that peers and managers rated overqualified role-holders as higher performers.Other advantages the overqualified can bring include motivation or a good base for work-life balance, when they target the role deliberately as a shift from a career path that didn't suit them. Finally, these individuals constitute talent to feed into more challenging positions within the organisation. The authors recommend that employers and employees go into situations “with their eyes open”, establishing a clear psychological contract, and that organisations provide opportunities to make use of surplus skills. They conclude “although overqualification can clearly have serious, negative outcomes, we believe that there are times and circumstances when overqualified employees may provide a valuable resource to organizations”.ERDOGAN, B., BAUER, T., PEIRÓ, J., & TRUXILLO, D. (2011). Overqualified Employees: Making the Best of a Potentially Bad Situation for Individuals and Organizations Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 4 (2), 215-232 DOI: 10.1111/j.1754-9434.2011.01330.x... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 03:19 AM

Friday Fun: My "Favorite" Comments From Anonymous Reviewers

by Psych Your Mind in Psych Your Mind

This Friday I thought it might be nice to provide a window into the manuscript review process in psychology. In short, after a researcher (1) designs a handful of studies (typically without much success), (2) finally discovers a finding that is interesting (months to years later), and (3) survives what is (typically) a hyper-critical vetting from among his/her research peers within the home University, it is now time to take on the empirical review process!

The review process is pretty simple for most journals. An editor--usually an influential scholar in the field--reads the manuscript and assigns the manuscript to 3-4 researchers whom he/she thinks can provide an expert evaluation of the research. These anonymous reviewers are then asked to provide critical evaluations of the research in written comments. These comments are then returned to the author along with a written final decision from the editor. In this final decision, the editor typically takes the reviewer comments into consideration, and decides whether the paper is worthy of publication, should be revised, or rejected.

Dawson obviously crying over the comments of Reviewer #2  (source)

[A quick note about psychology reviews: I don't know anything about other fields, but a colleague at UC San Francisco once told me that unlike other science fields, psychologists are the harshest critics of new research, adding poignantly, "They eat their young."]

What I've done below is reproduce some of my "favorite" quotes from these reviews. When you are reading these, try to imagine me crying into a cup of english breakfast tea!

Read More->... Read more »

Kassirer JP, & Campion EW. (1994) Peer review. Crude and understudied, but indispensable. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 272(2), 96-7. PMID: 8015140  

  • June 10, 2011
  • 03:13 AM

Do Pigs Get Autism?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic

What happens to a pig if it has a gene for autism?There has been lots of research on mice who carry the same genes associated with autism in humans. Rats and recently monkeys have been studied as well. But the possibility of autistic pigs has been strangely neglected by science.A new paper might just change that: Characterization of porcine autism susceptibility candidate 2 as a candidate gene for the number of corpora lutea in pigs. The authors found that, in female pigs, variation in a certain gene affects the function of the ovaries.The corpus luteum is a little yellow blob (technically speaking) in the ovary. Its job is to secrete progesterone. Women's ovaries grow a new one during every menstrual cycle, and it normally breaks down and disappears before the period. However, if you get pregnant, the corpus luteum sticks around and continues producing that hormone.Pigs, like many animals, can have more than one of these per ovary and it turns out that one of the genes controlling the number is a homolog of the human gene AUTS2. AUTS2 mutations are linked to autism (hence the name), smoking and mental retardation. The authors of this paper found several variants in this gene in domestic pig populations, and they show that it's expressed in the pig ovary.It's quite a long leap from porcine lady bits to autism, I would say, but this actually does make sense, if you accept the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism. Boys are at least four times more likely to have autism than girls, and some say that masculinizing hormone testosterone may be the reason. This study fits with that, given that progesterone is a female hormone. Maybe mutations in AUTS2 gene alter sex hormone production?On the other hand, it might be a coincidence. AUTS2 is strongly expressed in the brain, as well as the ovaries. Maybe it's just required for cell function, and if it's mutated, cells stop working normally: whether they be in the brain, or the corpus luteum.Either way, it would be interesting to see whether AUTS2 affects pig behaviour... but I'm not sure what an autistic pig would look like.Sato S, Hayashi T, & Kobayashi E (2011). Characterization of porcine autism susceptibility candidate 2 as a candidate gene for the number of corpora lutea in pigs. Animal reproduction science PMID: 21641132... Read more »

  • June 10, 2011
  • 02:24 AM

Friday Weird Science's Fightin' Fish: Is an antidepressant making your grumpy guppies zen?

by Scicurious in Neurotic Physiology

I thought of making this a normal science, but really it's just too weird for that. I mean, what happens when you combine this: (Source) and this? (Source) far, probably nothing. But wouldn't it be fun to watch them fight... Holmberg et al. "Does waterborne citalopram affect the aggressive and sexual behaviour of rainbow [...]... Read more »

Holmberg, A., Fogel, J., Albertsson, E., Fick, J., Brown, J., Paxéus, N., Förlin, L., Johnsson, J., & Larsson, D. (2011) Does waterborne citalopram affect the aggressive and sexual behaviour of rainbow trout and guppy?. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 187(1-3), 596-599. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2011.01.055  

  • June 10, 2011
  • 12:36 AM

McInnis Canyons Mygatt-Moore Quarry Gives Up Fossil Clues

by (ReBecca Hunt-Foster) in Dinochick Blogs

John and I have been continuing our research out at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in western Colorado, and recently had a paper on one of our findings published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology in May.Foster, John R. and Hunt-Foster, Rebecca K.(2011) 'New occurrences of dinosaur skin of two types (Sauropoda? and Dinosauria indet.) from the Late Jurassic of North America (Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Morrison Formation)', Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 31: 3, 717 — 721 DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2011.55741We work each summer at this quarry under a paleontological permit from the Bureau of Land Management, which is located in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area (NCA), near the Colorado/Utah state line. “The national significance of the area's paleontological resources is one of the many reasons this special place was designated as a National Conservation Area,” said Katie Stevens, NCA Manager for the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office. “With experts like John and ReBecca working in these quarries, we can recover and share this exciting and important scientific information with the public.” John is currently working under a scientific grant from the BLM to better understand the extent of the quarry and the conditions that made it such an ideal location for preserving fossils [details].The first specimen was located by Jim Kirkland and his expedition to the quarry in 1993 (MWC 1903). A expedition member, Dan Libecap, discovered the second specimen (MWC 5537) in 2003. Two of our museum volunteers, Kay Fredette and Ray Bley, uncovered the most recent specimen (MWC 6718) in 2008.Two of the three specimens (MWC 6718 & 5537) are possibly from sauropods, and we attributed the third specimen to Dinosauria indeterminate (MWC 1993). The two possible sauropod specimens represent the first occurrence in the Morrison Formation of preserved sauropod skin associated with abundant nearby specimens of Apatosaurus. They also show how similar the general structure of skin patterns within known Morrison diplodocids are.Specimen MWC 6718 - carbonized sauropod? skin impression from the Mygatt-Moore Quarry. Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic) of Mesa County, Colorado. scale bar =5 cmThese discoveries were unique because the soft tissue associated with the skin was preserved as carbonaceous layers rather than as trace fossil impressions, yielding better information about skin pattern, scale size and scale shape. This discovery is is the sixth occurrence recovered from the Morrison Formation.If you would like a PDF of this paper please contact me here or by email and I would be happy to share one with you. We plan for this paper to be the first of many that will be published over the next few years. Below is a complete bibliography of research from Mygatt-Moore Quarry that has been done to date (PDF's of select papers are also available):Foster, John R. and Hunt-Foster, Rebecca K. (2011). New occurrences of dinosaur skin of two types (Sauropoda? and Dinosauria indet.) from the Late Jurassic of North America (Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Morrison Formation) Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 31 (3), 717-721 : 10.1080/02724634.2011.55741Foster, John R. 2007. Jurassic West: The Dinosaurs of the Morrison Formation and Their World. Indian University Press, 416 pages.Foster, John R; Hunt, ReBecca K; King, Lorin. 2007. Taphonomy of the Mygatt-Moore quarry, a large dinosaur bonebed in the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of western Colorado. Geological Society of America, 2007 annual meeting, Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America, vol. 39, no. 6, pp.400King, Lorin R; Foster, John. 2006. Under the feet of giants; an investigation of the small vertebrates at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Morrison Formation, western Colorado. Sixty-sixth annual meeting, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology; abstracts of papers. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol.26, no.3, Suppl., pp.85King, Lorin R; Foster, John R; Scheetz, Rodney D. 2006. New pterosaur specimens from the Morrison Formation and a summary of the Late Jurassic pterosaur record of the Rocky Mountain region. In (editors - Foster, John R; Lucas, Spencer G) Paleontology and geology of the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation. Bulletin - New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, vol.36, pp.109-113Foster, John. 2005. Evidence of size-classes and scavenging in the theropod Allosaurus fragilis at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry (Late Jurassic), Rabbit Valley, Colorado. Sixty-fifth annual meeting, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology; abstracts of papers. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol.25, no.3, Suppl., pp.59King, Lorin; Foster, John; Scheetz, Rodney. 2005. Mesadactylus and other new pterosaur specimens from the Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic) of western Colorado. Sixty-fifth annual meeting, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology; abstracts of papers. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol.25, no.3, Suppl., pp.78Kirkland, James I. 1998. Morrison fishes. Modern Geology 22: 503-533Tidwell, W.D., Britt, B.B., and Ash, S.R. 1998, Preliminary floral analysis of the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in the Jurassic Morrison Formation, west-central Colorado: Modern Geology 22: 341-378Chin, K. and Kirkland, J.I. 1998. Probable herbivore coprolites from the Upper Jurassic Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Western Colorado. Modern Geology 23: 249-275.Kirkland, J. and K. Carpenter. 1994. North America's first pre-Cretaceous ankylosaur (Dinosauria) from the Upper Jurassic Morrison Formation of Western Colorado. Brigham Young University Geology Studies, 40:25-42.Kirkland, James I; Armstrong, Harley J. 1992. Taphonomy of the Mygatt-Moore Quarry, middle Brushy Basin Member, Morrison Formation (Upper Jurassic), western Colorado. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, fifty-second annual meeting. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol. 12, no. 3, Suppl., pp.37AMygatt, Peter. 1991. The Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Rabbit Valley, Mesa County, Colorado. Pages 57-58 in (editor - Averett, Walter R.) Guidebook for dinosaur quarries and tracksite tour, western Colorado and eastern Utah. Grand Junction Geol. Soc., Grand Junction, CO... Read more »

Foster, John R. and Hunt-Foster, Rebecca K. (2011) New occurrences of dinosaur skin of two types (Sauropoda? and Dinosauria indet.) from the Late Jurassic of North America (Mygatt-Moore Quarry, Morrison Formation). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 31(3), 717-721. info:/10.1080/02724634.2011.55741

  • June 9, 2011
  • 09:35 PM

FDA 'Steps up' for Nanotechnology

by Paige Brown in From The Lab Bench

In a memorandum issued by the White House today (June 9th, 2011) the US government set in place more rigorous standards for the regulation and oversight of nanomaterials. According to the U.S. memorandum, federal agencies must increasingly seek out and develop information about the potential effects of nanomaterials on human health and the environment. ... Read more »

  • June 9, 2011
  • 07:41 PM

Coverage of common causes of death in the UK media

by Hadas Shema in Information Culture

Is there a correlation between the diseases you read about in the news and what is actually likely to kill you?Williamson, Skinner and Hocken (2011) studied the 10 most daily read newspapers in the UK s (The Sun, Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Telegraph, The Times, Daily Express, Daily Star, The Guardian, The Independent and the Financial Times) for a year, in order to see whether there's a correlation between the media reporting of illness and death and actual statistics.Most common causes of death in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (table from the paper)They searched each paper's site and recognized 18,482 articles covering the most common causes of death in the UK. They used 'media friendly' terms when it was necessary (for example: 'heart attack' instead of ‘ischaemic heart disease’). The most common conditions reported were the Flu/pneumonia (6525 articles, 35.2%), ischaemic heart disease (3849 articles, 20.8%) and dementia (2577 articles, 13.9%). The least reported conditions were obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (95 articles, 0.5% of total) and heart failure (547 articles, 3%). Pneumonia: third most common cause of death in the UKIn comparison with the number of deaths they cause every year, the Flu ⁄ pneumonia, prostate cancer, dementia and breast cancer have been mentioned extensively in the media. On the other hand, Cerebrovascular accidents (CVAs) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are very underrepresented in the media.The study suffers from several flaws: for one, the researchers don't know in which context their search terms appeared in the media; why were these diseases reported? They hypothesize, for example, that "prostate cancer" could have been reported because of the coverage of the Libyan Lockerbie bomber, Al-Meghari, or that the search term 'flu' could actually been 'swine flu' but they can't be sure. There is, in my opinion, a large difference between a story mentioning prostate cancer as the reason for Al-Meghari's release from prison and a story about prostate cancer from the medical point of view. The Swine Flu has been indeed covered intensively lately, but that doesn't mean that the 'regular' flu has been covered, even though it's a common cause of death. The Swine Flu falls under 'health scare' while the regular flu doesn't, and treating both as 'flu' kind of misses the point. This study is more about "how many times diseases' names appear in the press" than about "the media and representations of common diseases". Swine Flu: sexier than the regular fluWilliamson, J.M., Skinner, C. I., & Hocken, D.B. (2011). Death and illness as depicted in the media International journal of clinical practice, 65 (5) : 21489079... Read more »

Williamson, J.M., Skinner, C. I., & Hocken, D.B. (2011) Death and illness as depicted in the media. International journal of clinical practice, 65(5). info:/21489079

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