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Posts

April 15, 2014

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8:30 PM | After The Blood Moon: Do Some Post-Apocalypse Science
Since the Blood Moon - whatever that is, it sounds Biblical - was last night, and it spells the beginning of our doom, according to a guy trying to sell some books, it's time to start prepping for the days of ultimate holy war. That means no more Southern blots and particle colliders, it's back to basics.In preparation, this weekend the kids and I decided to see what kind of life we could make for ourselves while the Four Horsemen duke it out with the Holy Ghost in what would arguably be the […]
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7:43 PM | MiR-25 Shuts Down The Overworked Heart
Cardiovascular disease often causes the heart to work harder than usual, a condition that triggers the chronic buildup of cardiac pressure and the onset of heart failure. A new study now shows that microRNA-25 is a new molecular switch that is activated in the overworked heart to drive the onset of heart failure. Heart failure is the progressive decline in heart’s contractile function, and is commonly caused by a number of cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, atherosclerosis, […]
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7:33 PM | If I’m to be skeptical of open access publishing, I’d like to have good reasons
A.A. Agrawal (whose alliterative name I envy) has penned a letter saying the people should be skeptical of open access publishing. In brief, his reasons are:1. “Some are for profit!” Just like most traditional scientific publishers. WHile Agrawal says this creates a conflict of interest, the profit incentive can also move journals to provide more and better services for authors at lower prices; see this interview with open access publisher Ahmed Hindawi.Hindawi’s argument […]
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7:05 PM | Herding Cells With Electrcity Could Lead To Smart Bandages
Researchers have used an electrical current to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering and for potential applications such as "smart bandages" that use electrical stimulation to help heal wounds.In the experiments, the researchers used single layers of epithelial cells, the type of cells that bind together to form robust sheathes in skin, kidneys, cornea and other organs. They found that by applying […]
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6:53 PM | Puppet Plagiarism - Copycats Are Just Not Cute
Kids know it is wrong to steal stuff - they also seem to know it's wrong to steal an idea. They just discover it a little later.University of Washington psychologist Kristina Olson and colleagues discovered that preschoolers often don't view a copycat negatively but by the age of 5 or 6, they do. It holds true even across cultures that typically view intellectual property rights in different ways, like in Germany where they violate international trademarks and hold a Science 2.0 conference […]
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6:40 PM | Breaking Bad Mitochondria
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a mechanism that explains why people with the hepatitis C virus get liver disease and why the virus is able to persist in the body for so long. The hard-to-kill pathogen, which infects an estimated 200 million people worldwide, attacks the liver cells' energy centers – the mitochondria – dismantling the cell's innate ability to fight infection. It does this by altering cells mitochondrial […]
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5:43 PM | Regenerated Esophagus Successfully Transplanted Into Rat
A research team led by Paolo Macchiarini, MD, PhD at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has successfully transplanted a regenerated esophagus into a rat using a bioreactor developed by Harvard Apparatus Regenerative Technology (HART), a spin-off of Harvard Bioscience. Macchiarini has previously done several successful regenerated trachea transplants in human patients using a HART bioreactor.read more
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4:50 PM | Marijuana Dependence and Legalization
Making best guesses about pot. One essential question about state marijuana legalization continues to dog the debate:  Namely, as marijuana becomes gradually legal, how do we estimate how many people will become dependent? How can we estimate the number of cannabis users who will become addicted under legalization, and who otherwise would not have succumbed?Back in 2011, neuroscientist Michael Taffe of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, writing on the blog TL neuro, referenced […]
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4:45 PM | Is it Possible to Inherit a Resistance to Cocaine?
     As to date, human genetic studies have shown that cocaine addiction is heritable. Shocking? Not really. When you think of a cocaine addict producing offspring, you’d assume that the offspring would be at high risk or rather, predisposed to using cocaine. We’ve thought for years that yes, addiction is heritable and tends to […]
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4:10 PM | Less Salt Intake Credited With Lower Cardiovascular Disease Deaths
The 15% fall in dietary salt intake, which is implicated in increased blood pressure, over the past decade in England is likely to have had a key role in the 40% drop in deaths from heart disease and stroke over the same period, according to a paper in BMJ Open. Average salt intake across the nation is still far too high, the authors warn, and much greater effort is needed to curb the salt content of the foods we eat.  The authors base their findings on an analysis of data from more than […]
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4:08 PM | Meta-Analysis Supports Whey Protein, Resistance Exercise For Improved Body Composition
 A meta-analysis that included 14 randomized controlled trials with a total of 626 adult participants found that  whey protein, either as a supplement combined with resistance exercise or as part of a weight-loss or weight-maintenance diet, may provide men and women benefits related to body composition. read more
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3:43 PM | Passion? Commitment? High drama? I’m a scientist; give me a break
Happy Easter holiday, everyone. And the same season brings a certain date, so Happy Birthday to me. Yes, it’s around this time of year that the annual involuntary review of achievements (or lack thereof) looms large. Each year it seems to arrive a little sooner. I shall be spending my birthday entirely alone. Well, not […]
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3:43 PM | Religious Belief and Depression Resilience
Identifying risk factors for brain disorders is a key element in clinical research.Understanding protective or resilience factors for brain disorders is also important and receiving increased attention in clinical research.Factors that promote resilience to brain disorders may come from a variety of domains. Religious belief is one domain receiving attention as a potential resilience factor.Miller and colleagues recently published a longitudinal study of religious belief and risk for major […]
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3:06 PM | Welcome Peggy: Saturn's Newest Moon?
A small icy object within the rings of Saturn may be a new moon, according to interpretation of images taken with Cassini's narrow angle camera on April 15, 2013 which show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn's A ring -- the outermost of the planet's large, bright rings. One of these disturbances is an arc about 20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long and 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. Scientists also found unusual protuberances in the usually smooth […]
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2:20 PM | Outgoing Behavior Makes For Happier Humans
PULLMAN, Wash. - Happy is as happy does, apparently—for human beings all over the world. Not only does acting extroverted lead to more positive feelings across several cultures, but people also report more upbeat behavior when they feel free to be themselves. These findings were among those recently published in the Journal of Research in Personality in a paper by Timothy Church, professor of counseling psychology and associate dean of research in the College of Education at Washington […]
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2:20 PM | Bizarre Parasite May Provide Cuttlefish Clues
University of Adelaide research into parasites of cuttlefish, squid and octopus has uncovered details of the parasites' astonishing life cycles, and shown how they may help in investigating populations of their hosts. Researcher Dr Sarah Catalano has described 10 new parasite species− dicyemid mesozoans −, which live in the kidneys of cephalopods (cuttlefish, squid and octopus). They are the very first dicyemid species to be described from Australian waters. read more
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2:20 PM | Whooping Cough Bacterium Evolves In Australia
The bacterium that causes whooping cough, Bordetella pertussis, has changed in Australia - most likely in response to the vaccine used to prevent the disease - with a possible reduced effectiveness of the vaccine as a result, a new study shows. A UNSW-led team of researchers analysed strains of Bordetella pertussis from across Australia and found that many strains no longer produce a key surface protein called pertactin. read more
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12:24 PM | Why We Need a Skeptical Movement
Skeptics tend (as they should) to question everything, even the need for a movement of self-identified skeptics. It is an interesting question – what is the net cultural effect of organized scientific skepticism? Of course, we can’t really ever know the answer to this question. There are too many moving parts. We could point to [...]
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12:12 PM | British Medical Journal Study: Your Psych Meds Can Kill You
Sleep aids are a more than < read more
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12:00 PM | Videos: A (Very) Close Look Inside the Zebrafish Brain
About a year ago I wrote a story about the hottest new animal model in neuroscience: baby zebrafish. …
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12:00 PM | Tuesday Crustie: Hello, world!
World, meet Gramastacus lacus. Gramastacus lacus, world.This is an interesting new burrowing crayfish species. For one, it’s only the second in its genus. Second, it has an unusual way of walking on land. (I started my scientific career doing locomotion, so this fascinates me.)There is a unique forward movement via a series of rhythmic plunges. The crayfish raises the cephalothorax and both claws up with its legs and then moves forward overbalancing and plunges down and forward then […]
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8:00 AM | Consciousness as Social Perception (BSP 108)
Michal Graziano and Kevin (click image to play interview) In his latest book Consciousness and the Social Brain  Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano proposes a unique and compelling theory of consciousness. He proposes that the same circuits that the human brain uses to attribute awareness to others are used to model self-awareness. He emphasizes that his attention schema theory is only tentative, but it is […]
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7:45 AM | The biases of pop psychology
I just found this great piece at Scientific American that makes a fascinating point about how pop psychology books that inform us about our biases tend not to inform us about our most important bias – the effect of making things into stories – despite the fact that they rely on it to get their […]
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2:51 AM | Disordered Eating and Athletic Performance: Where’s the Line?
If a person severely restricts his diet and exercises for hours each day, he has an eating disorder. If another does exactly the same but it is because she wants to make the lightweight rowing team (which has an upper weight limit), she’s a committed athlete. When the two overlap, and an athlete presents with eating disorder symptoms, how do we distinguish between the demands of the sport and the illness? I’ve been interested in the distinctions we make between disordered and […]

Werner, A., Thiel, A., Schneider, S., Mayer, J., Giel, K. & Zipfel, S. (2013). Weight-control behaviour and weight-concerns in young elite athletes – a systematic review, Journal of Eating Disorders, 1 (1) 18. DOI:

Martinsen, M., Bratland-Sanda, S., Eriksson, A. & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2009). Dieting to win or to be thin? A study of dieting and disordered eating among adolescent elite athletes and non-athlete controls, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44 (1) 70-76. DOI:

Rouveix M, Bouget M, Pannafieux C, Champely S & Filaire E (2007). Eating attitudes, body esteem, perfectionism and anxiety of judo athletes and nonathletes., International journal of sports medicine, 28 (4) 340-5. PMID:

Ferrand C, Magnan C & Philippe RA (2005). Body-esteem, body mass index, and risk for disordered eating among adolescents in synchronized swimming., Perceptual and motor skills, 101 (3) 877-84. PMID:

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2:00 AM | Raleigh Reflections
Yesterday I ran in the fourth race of my crazy idea to do 12 half marathons in 12 months. The race was in Raleigh, NC, which put out its best spring colors for the occasion. And its pollen. It brought LOTS of pollen. Thanks, Raleigh. Unfortunately, the amazing traffic horror that is Northern VA did […]

April 14, 2014

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11:47 PM | Metasurface Lens: Flat Surface Becomes A Spherical Antenna
An array of tiny, metallic, U-shaped structures deposited onto a dielectric material creates a new artificial surface that can bend and focus electromagnetic waves the same way an antenna does.read more
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11:28 PM | ApoE4 Gene Variant Linked To Higher Risk Of Alzheimer's In Women
Women who carry a copy of a gene variant called ApoE4 have substantially greater risk for Alzheimer's disease than men,according to an analysis of data on large numbers of older individuals who were tracked over time and noting whether they had progressed from good health to mild cognitive impairment — from which most move on to develop Alzheimer's disease within a few years — or to Alzheimer's disease itself.read more
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10:54 PM | Post-Partum Depression Hits Dads Too
Because the majority of prescriptions for depression, are given to women, men don't get a lot of concern, but depression can hit young fathers hard and the symptoms can increase dramatically during the formative years of children.read more
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10:45 PM | Ferns Borrowed Genes To Flourish In Low Light
DURHAM, N.C. -- During the age of the dinosaurs, the arrival of flowering plants as competitors could have spelled doom for the ancient fern lineage. Instead, ferns diversified and flourished under the new canopy -- using a mysterious gene that helped them adapt to low-light environments. A team led by Duke University scientists has pinpointed the curious origins of this gene and determined that it was transferred to ferns from a group of unassuming moss-like plants called hornworts. The […]
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10:45 PM | Plugging An Ozone Hole
CAMBRIDGE, Mass-- Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers, and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new MIT study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven't yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, in part because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful. read more
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