Post List

  • September 2, 2014
  • 06:46 AM

How Liked And Disliked Music Influence Our Brain

by Agnese Mariotti in United Academics

What different effects does the music we like elicit in our brain compared to the one we don’t like? Scientists from Wake Forest University in North Carolina looked at our brain’s responses to music.... Read more »

  • September 2, 2014
  • 04:33 AM

The epigenetics of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"These data are consistent with evidence of multisystem dysregulation in CFS [Chronic Fatigue Syndrome] and implicate the involvement of DNA modifications in CFS pathology". So said the paper by Wilfred de Vega and colleagues [1] (open-access here) which, I think, represents a bit of a first for CFS with their examination of the possible role of epigenetic modifications in relation to the condition(s) [2].Ladies first @ Wikipedia I have to say that I was really quite excited by the de Vega paper and the fact that someone has actually started to apply the science of epigenetics (see here) to CFS. Indeed, only a few months back I mentioned the dearth of research in this area (see here) on the back of some interesting if preliminary findings in relation to things like HERV expression (see here) in ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) which may very well be linked to methylation issues [3].A few details about the de Vega paper might be useful, bearing in mind it is open-access:This was a preliminary study which included 12 participants diagnosed with CFS and 12 asymptomatic controls, all women, and age- and BMI matched. Participants were recruited from the SolveCFS BioBank which also talks a little about this trial on their website (see here). Alongside the donation of a blood sample, participants completed the RAND-36, asking questions about health-related quality of life.  "Methylomes in PBMCs [peripheral blood mononucleated cells] were examined" looking for any differences in methylation patterns between the groups. CpG sites were the analytical target, which as has been discussed in previous posts (see here), are those islands of DNA which can be methylated. Oh, and I should at this point also say that methylation or hypermethylation of specific parts of genes normally means gene silencing [4]. Alongside looking at any methylation differences between the groups, some analytical time was also devoted to gene ontology (GO) and network analysis with the aim to "identify major enriched biological themes". In other words, to look at the biological functions behind any differentially methylated DNA sites.Results: perhaps unsurprisingly, there were some differences between the groups: "1,192 CpG sites were identified as differentially methylated between CFS patients and healthy control subjects, corresponding to 826 genes". These differences were present "across promoters, gene regulatory elements and within coding regions of genes". Further: "within genic regions, 30% of differentially methylated regions were hypomethylated and 70% were hypermethylated overall".When it came to where in the genome differences were found and what functions might be impacted, well among other things, there was "an overrepresentation of terms related to immune cell regulation". With particular regard for gene regulatory elements, and bearing in mind: "Differential methylation of gene regulatory elements is classically associated with alterations in gene expression", the authors reported "a number" of differentially methylated CpGs in such elements related to the immune response. There is also some chatter about the de Vega data being "consistent with previous observations of a Th1- to Th2-mediated immune response shift in CFS".As per my previous comment, this was quite a small-scale study which although valuable, only really dips it's toe into the epigenetic waters potentially associated with cases of CFS. The authors also note that their results "do not indicate whether these observed epigenetic differences are a cause or a consequence of CFS".That being said, and knowing what we are starting to know about methylation and how we might be able to manipulate methylation patterns through for example, the use of DNA methyltransferase inhibitors [5], there may be some scope to explore whether a reversal or inhibition of hypermethylation for example, might exert some effect on the clinical signs and symptoms of at least some CFS. I say this without making any value judgements nor providing anything that looks, sounds or smells like clinical advice.I'd like to think that the de Vega paper might stimulate further research into a possible role for epigenetics in relation to CFS. I say this acknowledging that genes and gene expression are likely to be only one part of the spectrum of presentations which fall under the CFS banner; not forgetting important areas such as the viral link to cases (see here), the growing emphasis on mitochondrial issues (see here) and even some potential role for those trillions of beasties which call our darkest recesses home (see here).Music then, and Bill Haley and the Comets. Did you know he has an asteroid named after him?----------[1] de Vega WC. et al. DNA Methylation Modifications Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. PLoS One. 2014 Aug 11;9(8):e104757.[2] Whiteley P. et al. Correlates of Overlapping Fatigue Syndromes. J Nutr Environ Med. 2004; 14: 247-259.[3] Laska MJ. et al. (Some) cellular mechanisms influencing the transcription of human endogenous retrovirus, HERV-Fc1. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53895.[4] Baylin SB. DNA methylation and gene silencing in cancer. Nature Clinical Practice Oncology. 2005; 2: S4-S11.[5] Goffin J. & Eisenhauer E. DNA methyltransferase inhibitors-state of the art. Ann Oncol. 2002 Nov;13(11):1699-716.----------de Vega WC, Vernon SD, & McGowan PO (2014). DNA Methylation Modifications Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. PloS one, 9 (8) PMID: 25111603... Read more »

  • September 2, 2014
  • 02:59 AM

Prescribing Running Shoes Based on Arch Height

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

Prescribing Running Shoes Based on Arch Height... Read more »

  • September 1, 2014
  • 11:46 PM

Unpacking Recovery Part 4: Are We All on the Same Page?

by Andrea in Science of Eating Disorders

Another issue in defining and understanding recovery is that patients and clinicians may have different opinions about what recovery looks like and how to get there. Certainly, there is a body of literature from the critical feminist tradition in particular that explores how at times, patients can “follow the rules” of treatment systems to achieve a semblance of “recovery,” from a weight restoration and nutrition stabilization perspective, but feels nothing like a full and happy life (see, for example, Gremillion, 2003; Boughtwood & Halse, 2008).
This potential disconnect is one reason for favoring a holistic recovery as articulated by Bardone-Cone et al. and for attending to patients’ subjective experiences of recovery (see part 2 of this series here), as Malson and others have done (see part 3 of this series here). In 2006, Noordenbos & Seubring conducted a study that further unpacked this potential disconnect through a deeper examination of how individuals and therapists conceive of recovery. Carrie at ED Bites touched on this article in her recovery series here, but I’m hoping that this …

You May Also Like:
Unpacking Recovery Part 3: Can Patients Imagine Recovery?
Unpacking Recovery Part 2: The Multiple Facets of Recovery
Unpacking Eating Disorder Recovery Part 1: The Recovery Model

... Read more »

  • September 1, 2014
  • 11:15 PM

Falsifiability and Gandy’s variant of the Church-Turing thesis

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

In 1936, two years after Karl Popper published the first German version of The Logic of Scientific Discovery and introduced falsifiability; Alonzo Church, Alan Turing, and Emil Post each published independent papers on the Entscheidungsproblem and introducing the lambda calculus, Turing machines, and Post-Turing machines as mathematical models of computation. The years after saw many […]... Read more »

Gandy, R. (1980) Church's thesis and principles for mechanisms. Studies in Logic and the Foundations of Mathematics, 123-148. DOI: 10.1016/S0049-237X(08)71257-6  

  • September 1, 2014
  • 09:24 PM

The neuroscience of self-control

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

In the 1960s, a psychologist at Stanford named Walter Mischel began a series of experiments exploring the dynamics of self-control in children. In one such experiment, Mischel gave preschoolers the choice between two outcomes, one of which was clearly preferable. For example, they were able to choose between 2 marshmallows and 1 marshmallow (the experiments became known as the Stanford marshmallow experiments for this reason).But there was a catch. The experimenter would tell the children that he had to leave the room for a short period of time. In the best-known version of the experiment, the child was forced to sit in the room with the less appealing prize (e.g. just 1 marshmallow). However, the only way the child could get the two marshmallows is if she waited until the experimenter returned (about a 15-minute period) and did not eat the one marshmallow before that point.The experiment was designed to measure delay of gratification. Would the child wait 15 minutes or would she give in and eat the marshmallow, knowing it meant she had to forego the ultimately more rewarding outcome of receiving two marshmallows? Mischel found, as would be expected, that there was a lot of variability in the capacity of children to delay their gratification to obtain a more valuable prize. Some ate the one marshmallow right away, not being able to subdue their desire for even a few minutes. About 1/3 of participants waited the entire 15 minutes to get the second marshmallow.But the really interesting part about this experiment came when Mischel et al. followed up with these kids about 10 years later. They found that the kids who showed the most self-control as preschoolers were, in adolescence, rated by their parents to be more verbally fluent, attentive, competent, skillful, academically successful, socially adept, and better at dealing with frustration. What's even more interesting is that the amount of time the children were able to delay their gratification was correlated with their SAT scores. A number of other studies have since found associations between this early ability to delay gratification and later measures of intelligence, academic success, and even body mass index.Neuroscience of self-controlIt has been hypothesized that the ability to delay gratification is dependent on a push-pull relationship between the frontal cortex and the limbic system. The frontal cortex (and especially the prefrontal cortex) is frequently associated with planning and decision-making. Thus, it may be that this is the area of our brain that allows us to realize the value of being patient and waiting for a less immediate, but overall more satisfying, reward. Interestingly, in people who are addicted to drugs like methamphetamine or heroin, we tend to see reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, suggesting that part of their difficulty in achieving abstinence might be due to a decreased ability to appreciate the value of a long-term reward like being drug-free.When we consider a short- vs. long-term reward, however, another part of our brain becomes active as well. The limbic system, which contains several structures and is known for its involvement in emotional processing, is also activated. The limbic system is often implicated in "gut" responses to things, whether aversive or pleasurable. Thus, when we see or think about a valuable reward, the limbic system responds by pushing us to get it. The limbic system takes more of a primitive approach, telling us to chase after those things that feel good and avoid those that feel bad. It may be responsible for the impatience associated with short-term reward seeking.Improving self-controlThe ability to delay gratification is an important part of a healthy and satisfying life. It allows us to skip the fatty food to have a healthy snack, lets us stop after the first drink instead of having the second (and third, fourth, etc.), and encourages us to accomplish what we need to at work before opening up the web browser to peruse Facebook. Because it is such a valuable skill, researchers are interested in figuring out how we can improve it.The research suggests that one important part of improving self-control is setting specific and realistic goals. Goals should be designed based on your internal motivation (in other words it should be something you--not somebody else--wants you to do), otherwise they tend to be less effective. It is most effective to set goals that are meant to be achieved within a certain time frame, as this allows you to monitor progress at specific intervals. Research suggests that just the act of setting a specific and attainable goal improves self-control.The next step after setting a goal is to monitor your performance. It's important to pay attention to actions that conflict with achieving your goal. However, it's equally important to accept any deviations from the intended course of action as learning opportunities instead of looking at them as failures. Being compassionate about your slip-ups increases the probability that you will eventually reach your goal; this has been seen, for example, in studies of smokers and dieters.Along the way, it can be helpful to develop specific behavior plans relating to your goal. Creating a schedule that determines when, where, and how you will exercise the behavior needed to reach your goal can help you actually follow through on that behavior. For example, deciding that you will run on the treadmill for 30 minutes right after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is more effective than deciding you will use the treadmill a few times a week, but not determining when and for how long.Although a propensity toward stronger or weaker self-control can be seen at a young age, research suggests that self-control is a skill that can be improved with practice. So, regardless of how inactive your prefrontal cortex might be in relation to your limbic system, and even if at preschool age you would have been more likely to eat the one marshmallow than wait 15 minutes for the second, with a little work and some good goal-setting anyone really can enact changes in their behavior.Inzlicht, M., Legault, L., & Teper, R. (2014). Exploring the Mechanisms of Self-Control Improvement Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23 (4), 302-307 DOI: 10.1177/0963721414534256... Read more »

Inzlicht, M., Legault, L., & Teper, R. (2014) Exploring the Mechanisms of Self-Control Improvement. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(4), 302-307. DOI: 10.1177/0963721414534256  

  • September 1, 2014
  • 07:32 PM

What is Nature

by Rodney Steadman in Gravity's Pull

Recent research on changes in representations of nature in Disney animated films over 70 years.... Read more »

Rodney Steadman. (2014) What is Nature. Gravity's Pull. info:/

  • September 1, 2014
  • 03:12 PM

The hope behind climate change: adaptation strategies for coastal regions

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Hopeful news on Labor Day! A commentary discusses how IPCC reports have become more optimistic and describes adaptation pathways being used by coastal regions to prepare for climate change.... Read more »

Brown, S., Nicholls, R., Hanson, S., Brundrit, G., Dearing, J., Dickson, M., Gallop, S., Gao, S., Haigh, I., Hinkel, J.... (2014) Shifting perspectives on coastal impacts and adaptation. Nature Climate Change, 4(9), 752-755. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2344  

  • September 1, 2014
  • 02:12 PM

Assemblages: 50 Years Later, We Know Nothing About Them

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

You would think we learn about every part of a cell in biology, but we really don't. Case in point, about 50 years ago, electron microscopy revealed the presence of tiny blob-like structures that form inside cells, move around and disappear. The reason you probably haven't heard of these structures is because scientists really don't know what they do even 50 years later. Although they do have an idea about them, these shifting cloud-like collections of proteins are believed to be crucial to the life of a cell, and will ideally offer a new approach to disease treatment.... Read more »

  • September 1, 2014
  • 11:57 AM

Students with more autistic traits make fewer altruistic choices

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Most people with autism have difficulties socialising and connecting with others. It's generally agreed that part of this has to do with an impairment in taking other people's perspective. More specifically, an emerging consensus suggests that autism is associated with having normal feelings for other people, but an impaired understanding of them. Little explored before now is how this affects the behaviour of people with autism towards others who need help.Leila Jameel and her colleagues surveyed 573 students using the 50-item Autism-Spectrum Quotient, which is a questionnaire designed to tap key traits associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Then they asked 27 of the top 10 per cent of scorers and 24 of the bottom 10 per cent to complete a new test of pro-social behaviour known as the Above and Beyond Task.The participants read scenarios that conflicted another person's needs with their own. They first stated how they'd act in this scenario, and then they chose from three fixed alternatives, ranging from selfish, to medium pro-social, to high pro-social (or "above and beyond"). For example, one scenario involved seeing a man fall in the street while the participant was rushing to work for a meeting. After giving their own response as to how they'd react, the three fixed options were: carry on walking; help him up and carry on walking; help him up and offer to take him to sit down on a nearby bench.High scorers on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient more often chose the selfish, low pro-social options and less often chose the high pro-social options, as compared with low scorers on the questionnaire. The high scorers also gave more selfish open-ended answers when first asked how they'd respond to each scenario.Another measure was how satisfied the participants thought they would be with their chosen course of action, and how satisfied the needy person in the scenario would be. The high and low scorers on the Autism-Spectrum Quotient did not differ in their ratings of the needy person's satisfaction with the different response options. However, the high scorers tended to say they personally would be more satisfied after making more selfish choices, and less satisfied after more altruistic choices.This is a sensitive topic. If misinterpreted or over-simplified the findings risk bolstering the stigmatisation of people with autism. It's important to realise that the study did not involve people diagnosed with autism, but rather a "sub-clinical population" (in the researchers' words) who scored highly on a self-report measure of autistic traits. Moreover, the study did not involve real-world helping behaviour. It was based on hypothetical scenarios, which raises problems of interpretation. For example, perhaps people with more autistic traits are simply more honest about how they'd behave. Perhaps they find it difficult to, or choose not to, treat the fictional character as they would a real person. With these caveats in mind, these results hint tentatively at how autistic traits could affect people's helping behaviour in the real world. The researchers also said their new Above and Beyond task could be used to measure the outcomes of training programmes designed to help people with autism. "Despite considerable attention to social skills training in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder," write Jameel et al, "relatively little is known about the efficacy of such programmes or the key ingredients for success."_________________________________ Jameel L, Vyas K, Bellesi G, Roberts V, & Channon S (2014). Going 'Above and Beyond': Are Those High in Autistic Traits Less Pro-social? Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 44 (8), 1846-58 PMID: 24522968 Coming soon - the October issue of The Psychologist magazine is a special issue devoted to autism.Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

Jameel L, Vyas K, Bellesi G, Roberts V, & Channon S. (2014) Going 'Above and Beyond': Are Those High in Autistic Traits Less Pro-social?. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 44(8), 1846-58. PMID: 24522968  

  • September 1, 2014
  • 08:28 AM

Tracking the Daily Microbiome

by Stephanie Swift in mmmbitesizescience

Humans are essentially 90% bacteria. These bacteria pepper our skin and hang out in our digestive tracts, helping to break down complex carbohydrates and keeping bad bugs in check. We know how the human microbiome (our collection of bacteria) gets … Continue reading →... Read more »

David LA, Materna AC, Friedman J, Campos-Baptista MI, Blackburn MC, Perrotta A, Erdman SE, & Alm EJ. (2014) Host lifestyle affects human microbiota on daily timescales. Genome biology, 15(7). PMID: 25146375  

  • September 1, 2014
  • 07:56 AM

New Clues Revealed about the Longevity of Naked Mole Rats

by beredim in Strange Animals

Naked Mole RatCredit: UT Health Science Center at San AntonioThe hairless, odd-looking creature in the photo is a naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber).Among many weird traits, the species also holds the record for longest living rodent. For comparison, the house mouse (Mus musculus) has a maximum lifespan of just 2-3 years, whereas naked mole rats have been recorded to live as much as 32 years!The exact mechanisms behind the species remarkable longevity have yet to be clearly unveiled, however, it is believed to relate to their very low metabolism which in turn prevents oxidative stress and damage.Now, a new study by researchers at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, has revealed another secret on how these strange little critters defy aging.The scientists reported that a factor in the cells of naked mole rats protects and alters the activity of proteasome, that functions as a garbage disposer for damaged and obsolete proteins. In general, as an organism ages, not only are there more damaged proteins in need of disposal, but the proteasome itself becomes damaged and thus, less efficient in clearing out the damaged proteins, creating a vicious cycle that becomes more prominent with ageing."I think this factor is part of an overall process or mechanism by which naked mole rats maintain their protein quality." said first author Karl Rodriguez.The good news is that the anti-aging factor used by naked mole rats may have future applications in humans."Moreover, mouse, human, and yeast proteasomes exposed to the proteasome-depleted, naked mole-rat cytosolic fractions, recapitulate the observed inhibition resistance, and mammalian proteasomes also show increased activity." reads the abstract."Enhancement of protein quality, meanwhile, leads to longer life in yeast, worms, fruit flies and naked mole rats" said Dr. Rodriguez.Who knows, maybe these ugly little creatures may hold the key to extending human lifespan by a few decades or maybe, just maybe, achieving immortality!Other Strange AdaptationsNaked mole rats, are native to East Africa. Other than their remarkable longegivity, some other unique (considering their mammalian nature) adaptational traits include:Immunity to cancerLack of pain sensationEusocial (they form colonies with a queen, workers, soldiers etc)Bizarre Thermoregulation Click here if you want to learn more about each of these traitsNotes- Dr. Rodriguez, a San Antonio native who completed both his master's and doctoral degrees at the Health Science Center, is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Rochelle Buffenstein, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the Barshop Institute. For this study, the Buffenstein lab also collaborated with Pawel Osmulski, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine; Susan Weintraub, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry; and Maria Gaczynska, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular medicine.References- Rodriguez KA, Osmulski PA, Pierce A, Weintraub ST, Gaczynska M, & Buffenstein R (2014). A cytosolic protein factor from the naked mole-rat activates proteasomes of other species and protects these from inhibition. Biochimica et biophysica acta PMID: 25018089... Read more »

  • September 1, 2014
  • 03:32 AM

Lithium for mood disorder symptoms in autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Modern classroom? @ Wikipedia The paper published by Matthew Siegel and colleagues [1] talking about some preliminary observations on the use of lithium where symptoms of mood disorder might be present in cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) caught my eye recently. Concluding that: "lithium may be a medication of interest for those who exhibit two or more mood disorder symptoms, particularly mania or euphoria/elevated mood" the sentiments of more research-to-do in this area presents some intriguing options. That all being said, side-effects of lithium supplementation may yet scupper any large-scale plans for using this medication option with this cohort as per the authors note that: "Forty-seven percent of patients were reported to have at least one side effect, most commonly vomiting (13%), tremor (10%), fatigue (10%), irritability (7%), and enuresis (7%)".I had a few thoughts after reading the Siegel paper and their findings based on the use of Clinical Global Impressions - Improvement (CGI-I) ratings that "Forty-three percent of patients who received lithium were rated as "improved"". Mood disorders, or the symptoms of mood disorders, covers quite a bit of diagnostic ground. My recent discussions on bipolar disorder being fairly frequent in cases of Asperger syndrome (see here) coincide with the Siegel findings and particularly the case report by Frazier and colleagues [2] discussing a treatment regime which mentions the use of lithium. Other reports have similarly described the use of lithium as a possible management option where bipolar disorder and autism are comorbid [3]. What this tells me is that Siegel et al were not the first to look at lithium and autism (with comorbidity).A quick glance at the other peer-reviewed literature in this area suggests that lithium is also finding some favour where less idiopathic types of autism are present. The paper by Luiz & Smith [4] talking about lithium as a promising treatment for Fragile X syndrome represents another potentially important area. The precise mode of action is still the subject of some conjecture but the overview provided by Chiu & Chuang [5] (open-access) gives some indication of what might be going on and could be similarly mapped on to potential biological mechanisms linked to autism and mood disorder if and when comorbid.Finally, I have to make some mention about the important links being made between the use of lithium and the prevention of suicide in mood disorders [6]. I know it's not exactly a topic which makes great dinner party conversation but the emerging evidence base, alongside other important compounds, could potentially be life-saving for some people. Without trying to brush everyone on the autism spectrum as being at risk from suicide, the growing body of evidence suggesting that suicide ideation (see here) or suicide attempts (see here) might be more frequent for those on the autism spectrum [7] is something that needs to be taken seriously. This may imply that alongside appropriate societal support being provided, lithium might also have some important role to fulfil for some people...----------[1] Siegel M. et al. Preliminary Investigation of Lithium for Mood Disorder Symptoms in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2014 August 5.[2] Frazier JA. et al. Treating a child with Asperger's disorder and comorbid bipolar disorder. Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Jan;159(1):13-21[3] Kerbeshian J. et al. Lithium carbonate in the treatment of two patients with infantile autism and atypical bipolar symptomatology. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 1987 Dec;7(6):401-5.[4] Liu Z. & Smith CB. Lithium: A Promising Treatment for Fragile X Syndrome. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2014 May 15.[5] Chiu CT. & Chuang DM. Molecular actions and therapeutic potential of lithium in preclinical and clinical studies of CNS disorders. Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Nov;128(2):281-304.[6] Cipriani A. et al. Lithium in the prevention of suicide in mood disorders: updated systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013 Jun 27;346:f3646.[7] Paquette-Smith M. et al. History of Suicide Attempts in Adults With Asperger Syndrome. Crisis. 2014; 35: 273-277.----------Siegel M, Beresford CA, Bunker M, Verdi M, Vishnevetsky D, Karlsson C, Teer O, Stedman A, & Smith KA (2014). Preliminary Investigation of Lithium for Mood Disorder Symptoms in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology PMID: 25093602... Read more »

Siegel M, Beresford CA, Bunker M, Verdi M, Vishnevetsky D, Karlsson C, Teer O, Stedman A, & Smith KA. (2014) Preliminary Investigation of Lithium for Mood Disorder Symptoms in Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology. PMID: 25093602  

  • August 31, 2014
  • 11:31 PM

August lives up to its definition: respected and impressive

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

The things we noticed in and around canine science over the past two weeks, Storified in one neat location for your convenience:[View the story "Do You Believe in Dog? [16-31 August 2014]" on Storify] Further reading:Feuerbacher E.N. (2014). Shut up and pet me! Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer petting to vocal praise in concurrent and single-alternative choice procedures, Behavioural Processes, DOI: Gygax L. (2014). The A to Z of statistics for testing cognitive judgement bias, Animal Behaviour, 95 59-69. DOI: Arnott E.R., Claire M. Wade & Paul D. McGreevy (2014). Environmental Factors Associated with Success Rates of Australian Stock Herding Dogs, PLoS ONE, 9 (8) e104457. DOI: © Do You Believe in Dog? 2014© Do You Believe in Dog? 2014... Read more »

  • August 31, 2014
  • 06:36 PM

Whitman Was Not a Neuroscientist

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

Do I contradict myself?Very well then I contradict myself,(I am large, I contain multitudes.)-Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" (from Leaves of Grass)Science is the search for objective truth based on physical laws of the universe. Scientific theories try to explain the consistent and predictable behavior of natural systems. They are generally reductionist, meaning that complex systems are reduced to simpler and more fundamental elements. The principles of physics, for instance, are expressed in the form of beautiful equations that are the envy of the softer sciences.xkcd: PurityThe enterprise of explaining how human brains produce complex thought (or how any nervous system produces observable behavior, for that matter) is notably lacking in the realm of grand unifying theories, a topic of discussion recently in the New York Times: “What would a good theory of the brain actually look like?”But the “search for a general ‘bridging theory’ may be a fruitless one” – like Awaiting a theory of neural weather. The “bridge, some way of connecting two separate scientific languages — those of neuroscience and psychology” may not exist.I'm not sure why the question, “What would a good theory of the brain actually look like?” was even posed in the first place (or posed in that fashion, like a single theory should be expected to explain “the brain”). Adam Calhoun asked what I think is a more productive question:  Are these the equations of the brain?English theoretical physicist Paul Dirac said, “A physical law must possess mathematical beauty.” Are these equations beautiful? 1 I cannot say. I am neither physicist nor mathematician. I traffic in matters less sublime. All I can do here is to include this citation from neuroaesthetician Semir Zeki and colleagues (2014), who reported that the neural correlates of perceiving mathematical beauty are the same as those that appreciate fine visual art. To be more precise, ratings of mathematical beauty were parametrically related to BOLD signal in field A1 of the medial orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in  emotion, reward, and decision making.At the phenomenological level of subjective experience, this knowledge of brain activity does no more to explain what it's like to behold Dirac’s wave equation than the Temporal Difference Learning equation describes what it's like to feel this emotionally rewarding experience — the Nagelian conundrum of qualia.We sail the arctic sea, it is plenty light enough,Through the clear atmosphere I stretch around on the wonderful beauty,The enormous masses of ice pass me and I pass them, the scenery is plain in all directions,-Whitman, ibid What does any of this have to do with Walt Whitman? Yesterday I saw a pair of articles that encapsulate Whitman's principle of “I am large, I contain multitudes” when applied to neuroimaging studies of unclear psychological phenomena.“The results obtained suggest that dysfunctional [lower] activation of the SMA [supplementary motor area] for response inhibition is one of the candidate mechanisms of IGD [internet gaming disorder].”“...adults with IGD have ... greater activation of the fronto-striatal network in order to maintain their response inhibition performance.”The first study claimed that reduced recruitment of the SMA (a motor control area) could be responsible for the impulsivity seen in individuals with internet gaming disorder (an actual “Condition for Further Study” in the DSM-5). The second study suggested that enhanced activity in the fronto-striatal network (implicated in motor control as well, but also in reward) was necessary for IGD participants to maintain the same restrained behavior as control participants.So which is it?These results are not consistent. They contradict themselves. This is not unusual. The greater problem is that the discrepant results were reported by the same lab, each without any reference to the other study.Do I contradict myself?Very well then I contradict myselfThis world view makes for profound and transcendent poetry, but unacknowledged internal contradiction should not be adopted as the optimum path to scientific enlightenment.Empirical falsification, on the other hand, is a staple of the scientific method.I don't mean to single out this particular lab (which is why I did not include in-line citations), but this is a pet peeve of mine, along with a refusal to acknowledge any and all evidence that refutes one's signature theory. There's no shame in obtaining inconsistent results (or at least, there shouldn't be). But at least say so, try to come up with a plausible explanation, and do more experiments.Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.... Read more »

  • August 31, 2014
  • 06:28 PM

Chikungunya Virus and NDP52: a deadly association?

by thelonevirologist in Virology Tidbits

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is the causative agent of an arthropod (mosquito) transmitted disease which is characterised by a high fever, rash, joint pain, and arthritis which was reported in 1952 in Tanzania but has spread since to Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia and currently epidemic in the Americas. In this post, the importance of p62/SQSTM1 and NDP52 is discussed in the light of apoptosis induction and viral assembly.... Read more »

Kujala P, Ikäheimonen A, Ehsani N, Vihinen H, Auvinen P, & Kääriäinen L. (2001) Biogenesis of the Semliki Forest virus RNA replication complex. Journal of virology, 75(8), 3873-84. PMID: 11264376  

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

Mostowy S, Sancho-Shimizu V, Hamon MA, Simeone R, Brosch R, Johansen T, & Cossart P. (2011) p62 and NDP52 proteins target intracytosolic Shigella and Listeria to different autophagy pathways. The Journal of biological chemistry, 286(30), 26987-95. PMID: 21646350  

Xie Z, & Klionsky DJ. (2007) Autophagosome formation: core machinery and adaptations. Nature cell biology, 9(10), 1102-9. PMID: 17909521  

von Muhlinen N, Akutsu M, Ravenhill BJ, Foeglein Á, Bloor S, Rutherford TJ, Freund SM, Komander D, & Randow F. (2012) LC3C, bound selectively by a noncanonical LIR motif in NDP52, is required for antibacterial autophagy. Molecular cell, 48(3), 329-42. PMID: 23022382  

Joubert PE, Werneke SW, de la Calle C, Guivel-Benhassine F, Giodini A, Peduto L, Levine B, Schwartz O, Lenschow DJ, & Albert ML. (2012) Chikungunya virus-induced autophagy delays caspase-dependent cell death. The Journal of experimental medicine, 209(5), 1029-47. PMID: 22508836  

Judith D, Mostowy S, Bourai M, Gangneux N, Lelek M, Lucas-Hourani M, Cayet N, Jacob Y, Prévost MC, Pierre P.... (2013) Species-specific impact of the autophagy machinery on Chikungunya virus infection. EMBO reports, 14(6), 534-44. PMID: 23619093  

  • August 31, 2014
  • 05:34 PM

Mushroom extracts might prevent dental cavities

by Valerie Ashton in The Molecular Scribe

Recently published research suggests red camphor mushroom extracts might prevent the proliferation of bacteria that cause dental cavities and gum disease.... Read more »

  • August 31, 2014
  • 05:20 PM

Heroin’s Anthrax Problem

by Rebecca Kreston in BODY HORRORS

Anthrax is a deadly disease with high rates of morbidity and mortality. Because it is, thankfully, also quite rare, it is relatively easy to track its whereabouts and going-ons when an outbreak occurs. Typically, outbreaks of anthrax have been traced to groups of people involved in high-risk activities involving grazing animals and their byproducts: anthrax favors shepherds, butchers, wool-sorters, leather workers, and even the odd drum-playing hippies. In 2009, however, an outbreak upended this pattern and targeted a novel population: heroin users, overwhelmingly those injecting the drug.... Read more »

  • August 31, 2014
  • 02:38 PM

New Synthetic Amino Acid for a New Class of Drugs

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Creating new drug molecules is challenging, developing drugs that are highly effective against a target, but with minimal (or no) toxicity and side-effects to the patient can be an exercise in futility. These drug properties are directly conferred by the 3D structure of the drug molecule. So ideally, the drug should have a shape that is perfectly complementary to a disease-causing target, so that it binds it with high specificity.With that, scientists have developed a synthetic amino acid that can impact the 3D structure of bioactive peptides and enhance their potency.... Read more »

Chen S. Gopalakrishnan R, Schaer T, Marger F, Hovius R, Bertrand D, Pojer F, Heinis C. (2014) Di-thiol amino acids can structurally shape and enhance the ligand-binding properties of polypeptides. Nature Chemistry. info:/10.1038/nchem.2043

  • August 30, 2014
  • 02:54 PM

Direct mind-to-mind communication in humans

by Shelly Fan in Neurorexia

Image credit: Here’s something right out of science fiction: a team of neuroscientists in Spain developed a system that allows a person to transmit the...... Read more »

Grau C, Ginhoux R, Riera A, Nguyen TL, Chauvat H, Berg M, Amengual JL, Pascual-Leone A, & Ruffini G. (2014) Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies. PloS one, 9(8). PMID: 25137064  

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