Is global warming causing the increase in the prevalence of diabetes?... Read more »
Blauw, L., Aziz, N., Tannemaat, M., Blauw, C., de Craen, A., Pijl, H., & Rensen, P. (2017) Diabetes incidence and glucose intolerance prevalence increase with higher outdoor temperature. BMJ Open Diabetes Research , 5(1). DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2016-000317
by Piter Kehoma Boll This week brought astonishing news regarding the phylogeny of dinosaurus, as you perhaps have heard or read. New anatomical evidences have completely rebuilt the basis of the dinosaur family tree and I’m here to explain a … Continue reading →... Read more »
Baron, M., Norman, D., & Barrett, P. (2017) A new hypothesis of dinosaur relationships and early dinosaur evolution. Nature, 543(7646), 501-506. DOI: 10.1038/nature21700
The paper by Alyse Brown and colleagues  (open-access available here) is probably not going to gain any significant media headlines (unlike other recent studies - see here and see here) but does cover a rather important question regarding the autism research landscape: how representative is autism research?Specifically looking at the collected research on visual processing (distinct from physical issues with the eyes that still require greater awareness) with autism in mind, the authors surveyed the research literature to determine "what extent the ASD with-ID [intellectual disability] population has been excluded from visual research." Intellectual or learning disability is one of the more frequently over-represented comorbidities that can accompany a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their answer: "our searches indicate that 80% of the vision research associated with ASD is representative of less than 60% of the appropriate population, i.e., those with ASD without ID while the ASD with ID group who we argue currently represent 42% of the ASD population, have not been adequately considered."You may well quibble with the "recalculation of ASD prevalence figures, using the criteria of DSM-5" as a means of calculating that '~40% of those with autism have ID too' figure. For me however, the message is quite stark: autism research - specifically related to visual processing issues - is not yet representative of 'all autism'."Reluctance to test individuals who are below 80 in IQ is presumably a practical stance as the data collected from these individuals are often hard to obtain, and often close to floor level performance." The authors note however that the presence of ID alongside autism in the area of visual processing is not something that cannot be 'overcome' by researchers with some creative thinking and a few modification(s) to their experimental designs. Indeed, visual processing research lends itself well to quite a few alterations to methods ...How applicable might these results be to other areas of autism research? Well, we just don't know. I daresay that quite a lot of the 'psychology' based autism research in particular might show a bias towards autism without intellectual disability for just those reasons listed above. The problem then of grand, over-arching generalisations to 'all autism' on the basis of results from the more 'cognitively-able' becomes apparent. Of course, in these days of the plural 'autisms' (see here) and the realisation that 'heterogeneity means heterogeneity' when it comes to autism (see here) one could argue that even characterisations based on the presence of ID or not when it comes to autism are equally 'simplistic' and equally 'useless'. How many autisms might well have an ID element to them? Is ID a comorbidity or something rather more central to some of the autisms? These questions and related others are ones that autism research as a whole will eventually have to start looking at and taking into account.And going back to the issue of eye disorders being potentially over-represented and under-diagnosed in relation to autism, the paper by Mouridsen and colleagues  reiterates that intellectual ability when accompanying autism needs more health equality: "The rate of eye disorder was particularly high (24.5%) in those with a co-occurring profound or severe learning disability (IQ < 50)."---------- Brown AC. et al. Vision Research Literature May Not Represent the Full Intellectual Range of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017 Feb 14;11:57. Boot FH. et al. Delayed visual orienting responses in children with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2013 Dec;57(12):1093-103. Mouridsen SE. et al. Eye Disorders among Adult People Diagnosed with Infantile Autism in Childhood: A Longitudinal Case Control Study. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2017 Mar 15:1-4.----------Brown AC, Chouinard PA, & Crewther SG (2017). Vision Research Literature May Not Represent the Full Intellectual Range of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 11 PMID: 28261072... Read more »
Brown AC, Chouinard PA, & Crewther SG. (2017) Vision Research Literature May Not Represent the Full Intellectual Range of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 57. PMID: 28261072
mTORC1 and mTORC2 are two distinct mammalian TOR (target of rapamycin) complexes that regulate cell growth and metabolism. In cancer, genetic alterations lead to activation of mTOR signalling impacting tumour metabolism. Upregulated glutaminolysis is part of the metabolic reaction occurring in cancer that liberates high levels of ammonium, a toxic waste product. Although the importance of glutamine as a tumour nutrient is recognized, little is known about the potential effects of ammonium produced by glutaminolysis in tumours. In their new study, Merhi et al., 2017 identify ammonium as a dose-dependent regulator of mTORC2, mTORC1 and of proliferation in cancer cells.... Read more »
Merhi A, Delrée P, & Marini AM. (2017) The metabolic waste ammonium regulates mTORC2 and mTORC1 signaling. Scientific reports, 44602. PMID: 28303961
by Piter Kehoma Boll Let’s return once more to the troublesome and neglected protists. This time I’m bringing you another tiny but beautiful alga, more precisely a golden alga. Its name is Dinobryon divergens and as usual there is no common … Continue reading →... Read more »
Franke, W., & Herth, W. (1973) Cell and lorica fine structure of the chrysomonad alga, Dinobryon sertularia Ehr. (Chrysophyceae). Archiv für Mikrobiologie, 91(4), 323-344. DOI: 10.1007/BF00425052
Herth, W. (1979) Behaviour of the chrysoflagellate alga, Dinobryon divergens, during lorica formation. Protoplasma, 100(3-4), 345-351. DOI: 10.1007/BF01279321
KARIM, A., & ROUND, F. (1967) Microfibrils in the lorica of the freshwater alga Dinobryon. New Phytologist, 66(3), 409-412. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.1967.tb06020.x
Sandgren, C. (1981) Characteristics of sexual and asexual resting cyst (statospore) formation in Dinobryon cylindricum Imhof (Chrysophyta). Journal of Phycology, 17(2), 199-210. DOI: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.1981.tb00840.x
Sheath, R., Hellebust, J., & Sawa, T. (1975) The statospore of Dinobryon divergens Imhof: Formation and germination in a subarctic lake. Journal of Phycology, 11(2), 131-138. DOI: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.1975.tb02760.x
Although it is not necessarily new news that (a) autism rarely exists in some sort of diagnostic vacuum, and (b) that some of the comorbidity 'over-represented' when it comes to autism can actually be more disabling than autism itself, there are still more investigations to be done.The paper by Vicki Bitsika & Christopher Sharpley  represents an example of how autism science is starting to go past the whole 'is there a connection between...' bit when it comes to autism and various comorbidity, specifically focused on the issue of anxiety. Looking at parental responses on "the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) and the GAD subscale of the Child and Adolescent Symptom Inventory (CASI-4 GAD) about their sons" researchers reported some rather interesting trends when it came to the two based on a cohort of young males diagnosed with autism. The authors used the term 'high-functioning' to describe the particular 'type' of autism being looked at in their study but I'm rather less sure this is an appropriate description ('high- and low-functioning' tend to be very generalised terms).I should back-track slightly and point out that the reasoning behind this research was to "assist in treatment or avoidance of GAD [generalised anxiety disorder] by identifying ASD [autism spectrum disorder]-related behaviours as 'targets' for intervention with anxious children as well as for preventative treatments that could be implemented into daily routines before children become anxious." Of all the debates past and present in relation to autism, specifically on the topic of 'treatment' (or even 'cure'), I don't think anyone would be opposed to the idea that anxiety (whether symptoms or disorder) should be treated and potentially 'cured' in this context. Anxiety can be absolutely disabling including when tied into autism.Results: bearing in mind their focus on only two parameters (SRS scores and GAD scores) in this study, there are some interesting trends in need of further investigation. So: "For pre-adolescents, high levels of tension in social situations were associated with 3.5-times greater likelihood of having GAD; for adolescents, experiencing difficulty in changes in routine was associated with a 10-fold increase in risk of GAD." The pre-adolescents and adolescents bit in that sentence was due to the division of their cohort on the basis of age. The results suggest therefore that anxiety (or at least GAD) might express itself for various different reasons potentially linked to the age/maturity of the person.I know some people might be shrugging their shoulders at such a finding and saying 'we already knew that'. Well, I'm not one of them. Take for example the 'change in routines' as being a possible factor in the expression of GAD in adolescents. The recent work by Joyce and colleagues  looking at another important term relevant to this issue - intolerance of uncertainty - adds an additional layer to the Bitsika/Sharpley findings as per their conclusion that: "replicated previous findings based on parent report showing a significant positive relationship between RRB [restricted and repetitive behaviours] and anxiety." RRBs can, amongst other things, include responses to routine (and changes to said routines).As to the question of what such findings might mean in the context of intervention, the authors talk about how intervening in the symptoms of GAD (a kind of reactionary approach) might also benefit from also trying to focus intervention on certain autistic symptoms too. Outside of the [careful] use of some of the talking/behavioural therapies and perhaps the whiff of some effect from certain pharmacological interventions when it comes to RRBs and autism, there isn't a great deal on offer at the moment in autism science and practice in this area. Indeed, if the relationship between RRBs and anxiety is further confirmed (and I mean confirmed ), I'd perhaps suggest that moves to target RRBs in the context of autism could/should be a research priority if only to potentially reduce the effects of anxiety.And the inquiry continues ...---------- Bitsika V. & Sharpley CF. The association between parents' ratings of ASD symptoms and anxiety in a sample of high-functioning boys and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Res Dev Disabil. 2017 Mar 1;63:38-45. Joyce C. et al. Anxiety, Intolerance of Uncertainty and Restricted and Repetitive Behaviour: Insights Directly from Young People with ASD. J Autism Dev Disord. 2017 Feb 25. Wang S. et al. Sex Differences in Diagnosis and Clinical Phenotypes of Chinese Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neurosci Bull. 2017 Feb 25. South M. et al. Symptom overlap on the srs-2 adult self-report between adults with asd and adults with high anxiety. Autism Res. 2017. March 7.----------Bitsika, V., & Sharpley, C. (2017). The association between parents’ ratings of ASD symptoms and anxiety in a sample of high-functioning boys and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder Research in Developmental Disabilities, 63, 38-45 DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2017.02.010... Read more »
Bitsika, V., & Sharpley, C. (2017) The association between parents’ ratings of ASD symptoms and anxiety in a sample of high-functioning boys and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 38-45. DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2017.02.010
I wanted to briefly talk about the paper by Francesca Garofoli and colleagues  on congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and autism not because it contains any novel data (see here), but because it reminds us that the potential 'pathways' to a diagnosis of autism are multiple and not necessarily 'pre-programmed' as per the 'it's all genetic' arguments that frequently figure in various domains.Congenital CMV infection refers to the transmission of CMV - "a common virus that belongs to the herpes family of viruses" - from mother to foetus during pregnancy. The details are still under investigation as to how and why CMV affects a foetus (bearing in mind this is quite a common virus) but autism as a consequence of [some] congenital CMV infection has growing evidence-based support .Garofoli et al included 70 'proven' cases of CMV "congenitally-infected infants" in their study; specifically looking "to correlate congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to define its prevalence." They determined that 2 of their 70 strong cohort met criteria for an ASD at the age of 3 years. Two of 70 translated as 2.8% of their cohort and contrasts with [estimated] autism prevalence "in general Italian population (0.66-1.36%)." The figure of 2.8% is also not a million miles away from other estimates of autism suggested via congenital CMV infection .Although 2.8% of the cohort (2/70) might not sound like a lot I'm inclined to suggest that it does prompt quite a lot more additional investigation. Not least is the question: 'why was autism/ASD not diagnosed in the other 68 children?' and onward whether other factors (genetics(!), biology, infection timing, immunologic response, etc) might come into play  in relation to the congenital CMV infection - autism association? Taking also into account the estimated prevalence of ASD in Italy, these figures (estimates) do seem to be a little lower than that described in other geographical locations (see here and see here for examples). Indeed, bearing in mind the research evidence already looking at estimated ASD prevalence in Italy  it's not unfair to say that 'under-estimation' might be a familiar theme...---------- Garofoli F. et al. An Italian Prospective Experience on the Association Between Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2017 Mar 3. Ornoy A. et al. Prenatal factors associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Reprod Toxicol. 2015 Aug 15;56:155-69. Engman ML. et al. Prenatal acquired cytomegalovirus infection should be considered in children with autism. Acta Paediatr. 2015 Aug;104(8):792-5. Lombardo MV. et al. Maternal immune activation dysregulation of the fetal brain transcriptome and relevance to the pathophysiology of autism spectrum disorder. Mol. Psychiatr. 2017. March 21. Ferrante M. et al. Prevalence and age at diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in south Italy, 2004–2014. Eur J Public Health. 2015; 25 (suppl_3).----------Garofoli F, Lombardi G, Orcesi S, Pisoni C, Mazzucchelli I, Angelini M, Balottin U, & Stronati M (2017). An Italian Prospective Experience on the Association Between Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders PMID: 28258350... Read more »
Garofoli F, Lombardi G, Orcesi S, Pisoni C, Mazzucchelli I, Angelini M, Balottin U, & Stronati M. (2017) An Italian Prospective Experience on the Association Between Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. PMID: 28258350
Bees latch on to similarly-sized nectarless flowers to unpick pollen - like keys fitting into locks, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Stirling.
The research shows the right size of bee is needed to properly pollinate a flower. The bee fits tightly with the flower's anthers, to vibrate and release the pollen sealed within.
"We found that a pollinator's size, ... Read more »
Solís-Montero, L., & Vallejo-Marín, M. (2017) Does the morphological fit between flowers and pollinators affect pollen deposition? An experimental test in a buzz-pollinated species with anther dimorphism. Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2897
What to do when your prey refuses to be swallowed? Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucordia) in Hungary have a solution…... Read more »
I was rather interested to read the paper by Michela Traglia and colleagues  (open-access available here) concluding that: "maternal and fetal genetic make-up are important determinants of mid-gestational maternal circulating levels of some environmental organohalogens." Interested because, in these days of gene-environment interactions being applied to just about everything, the detail that is missing - which genes might potentially be linked to which environmental factors - has not yet been suitably addressed in the peer-reviewed science literature.So, based on data - "serum levels of a set of 21 organohalogens in a subset of 790 genotyped women and 764 children" - derived from participants included in the Early Markers for Autism (EMA) Project, researchers set about assessing how genetics might impact on environmental pollutant exposure profiles. Maternal blood samples were collected at around 15-20 weeks pregnancy. Children provided blood samples via the fabulous resource that is the newborn screening program, where: "Newborn blood spots were collected on filter paper 1-2 days after birth." Maternal samples were analysed for various environmental pollutants and both sets of samples were analysed for the genetic material they contained pertinent to whether "circulating mid-gestational levels of organohalogens would be driven by common maternal genetic determinants, and that these results could shed light on the observed associations between the organohalogens and ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."Results: yes, the authors "found evidence that a large proportion of maternal circulating levels of BB-153, BDE-47, -100, -153 [polybrominated congeners] and their sum was significantly controlled by common genetic factors." Those 'common genetic factors' typically referred to the presence of point mutations (SNPs) that litter everyone's genome and on occasion, can affect the function/production of specific biological processes. So: "Genome-wide association analyses identified significant maternal loci for p,p'-DDE... in the CYP2B6 gene and for BDE-28... near the SH3GL2 gene, both involved in xenobiotic and lipid metabolism." In other words, although the environmental pollutants measured are not great products in the first place (in terms of safety), a person's genetic make-up can influence how such products are eventually dealt with by the body and potentially onwards, what subsequent effects they might have.Additionally: "results suggest that the maternal circulating levels of some compounds were more highly influenced by fetal genetic factors than maternal genetics." This leads into another aspect of the current study whereby foetal genetic factors might also play a part in "controlling the toxicant disposition between mother and fetus." Specifically, authors noted that aspects of the individual genetics of a foetus (distinct from its mother) "contributed to the levels of BDE-100... and PCB187... near the potential metabolic genes LOXHD1 and PTPRD, previously implicated in neurodevelopment."And finally: "We confirmed that the serum levels of BDE-100, -153 and the total sum of PBDEs were significantly lower in mothers of ASD-affected children compared to mothers of control children." This is interesting in light of other discussions about PBDEs and autism in particular (see here). The authors do discuss various scenarios to account for their results not least that "transplacental transfer of organohalogens during pregnancy may be driven by the fetal genome expressed in placenta." Further analyses of the 'placentome' might therefore be indicated.To reiterate, this is interesting research. It tells us that many [adverse] environmental exposures, whilst typically to be avoided, don't act on the body in a uniform way as a function of differing genomes and differences in the ways that the body 'handles' such exposures. With autism in mind, this is not necessarily new news (remember paraoxonase gene variants and organophosphate metabolism  and air pollution and offspring autism?) but is a useful reminder. Such work also provides a template for looking at the myriad of other environmental factors put forward to influence autism risk and whether individual product safety is necessarily the only or most important factor when it comes to assessing relative risk profiles.I might finally also draw your attention to a recent interesting meta-analysis of the various environmental risk factors potentially linked to autism  (open-access) and another article talking about similar things  (open-access) (thanks Annabelle). Genes and environment, genes and environment...Music: Petula Clark sings the Beatles? Personally, I think it's better than the original...---------- Traglia M. et al. Independent Maternal and Fetal Genetic Effects on Mid-gestational Circulating Levels of Environmental Pollutants. G3 (Bethesda). 2017 Feb 24. pii: g3.117.039784. D'Amelio M. et al. Paraoxonase gene variants are associated with autism in North America, but not in Italy: possible regional specificity in gene-environment interactions. Mol Psychiatry. 2005 Nov;10(11):1006-16. Modabbernia A. et al. Environmental risk factors for autism: an evidence-based review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Molecular Autism. 2017; 8: 13. Parker W. et al. The role of oxidative stress, inflammation and acetaminophen exposure from birth to early childhood in the induction of autism. Journal of International Medical Research. 2017. Jan 20.----------Traglia M, Croen LA, Lyall K, Windham GC, Kharrazi M, DeLorenze GN, Torres AR, & Weiss LA (2017). Independent Maternal and Fetal Genetic Effects on Mid-gestational Circulating Levels of Environmental Pollutants. G3 (Bethesda, Md.) PMID: 28235828... Read more »
Traglia M, Croen LA, Lyall K, Windham GC, Kharrazi M, DeLorenze GN, Torres AR, & Weiss LA. (2017) Independent Maternal and Fetal Genetic Effects on Mid-gestational Circulating Levels of Environmental Pollutants. G3 (Bethesda, Md.). PMID: 28235828
It discusses information and art starting from the books of artists, from the collection of the Núcleo de Arte Contemporânea da Paraíba (NAC/UFPB), analyzing the performance of CI through the representation of information, in a collaborative working relationship between professionals. The representation of information could help in the treatment and organization of information, softening the complexity of these objects in the face of their possibilities of abstraction and fruition. … Read More →... Read more »
CATOIRA, T., & AZEVEDO NETTO, C. (2016) The importance of a differentiated representation of information for Contemporary Art: Use of fruition as a classification attribute. Transinformação, 28(3), 263-274. DOI: 10.1590/2318-08892016000300002
What IS that? A photo by Stefan Kraft at Wikimedia Commons.1. Platypuses are so strange, that when British scientists first encountered one, they thought it was a joke: A Governor of New South Wales, Australia, sent a platypus pelt and sketch to British scientists in 1798. Even in their first published scientific description of the species, biologists thought that this duck-beaked, beaver-bodied, web-footed specimen may be some Frankenstein-like creation stitched together as a hoax. But this is only the beginning of their oddities…2. Platypuses are egg-laying mammals. Mammals are animals that have a backbone, are warm-blooded, and females produce milk for their young. Most females that nurse their young also carry their developing babies in their bodies and give birth to live young… But platypuses don’t play by those rules. Platypuses are monotremes, egg-laying mammals that include the platypus and four species of echidna. Most female mammals have two functional ovaries, but female platypuses, like most female birds, only have a functional left ovary. Once a year, a female platypus may produce a clutch of two or three small, leathery eggs (similar to reptile eggs), that develop in her uterus for 28 days. Because female platypuses don’t even have a vagina, when the eggs are ready, she lays them through her cloaca, an opening that serves for reproduction, peeing and pooping. (In fact, monotreme comes from the Greek for “one hole”). She then curls around them and incubates them for another 10 days until they hatch. 3. Platypuses sweat milk! Not only do female platypuses not have vaginas, they don’t have nipples either! Instead, lactating mothers ooze milk from pores in their skin, which pools in grooves on their bellies so the babies can lap it up. …And they’re not even embarrassed about it! 4. Adult platypuses are toothless. Baby platypuses (that is the actual technical term for them, by the way… not “puggles”, which would be way more fun) are born with teeth but they lose them around the time that they leave the breeding burrow. In their place are rigid-edged keratinized pads that they use as grinding plates. When they catch their prey (worms, bugs, shrimp, and even crayfish), they store it in their cheek pouches and carry it to the surface, where they use gravel to crush it in their toothless maw.5. The platypus “duck bill” is a sensory organ used to detect electric fields. Muscles and neurons use electrical impulses to function, and these impulses can be detected by electroreceptors. Although common in shark and ray species, electroreception is rare in mammals, only having been discovered in monotremes and the Guiana dolphin. Platypuses have rows of around 40,000 electroreceptors on their highly sensitive bill, which they wave back and forth in the water, much like a hammerhead shark, to determine the location of their prey. It’s a good thing this sense is so sensitive, since they close their eyes, nose and ears every time they dive. 6. Platypuses don’t use their tails like beavers do. Whereas beavers use their large, flat, leathery tails for swimming and slapping the water to send signals, platypuses don’t use their tails for any of that. Platypuses have large, flat tails for storing fat in case of a food shortage. Unlike beaver tails, platypus tails are covered in fur, which the mothers use to snuggle with their incubating eggs.A platypus ankle spur. Photo by E.Lonnon at Wikimedia Commons.7. Male platypuses have venomous ankle spurs. Their venom is strong enough to kill small animals and to create excruciating pain in humans. Since only males have it and they produce more venom during the breeding season, we think its main function may be to compete for mates and breeding territories.8. Platypuses are knuckle-walkers with a reptilian gait. Although they are well-built for swimming with their webbed feet and legs on the sides of their bodies, these traits make it quite awkward to get around on dry land. To walk, they pull in their webbing and walk on their knuckles, exposing their claws. Like reptiles and salamanders, platypuses flex their spines from side-to-side, supported by their sprawling legs. 9. Platypuses have unusually low body temperatures. As unusual as they are, platypuses are still mammals, which are defined, in part, by their ability to generate most of their own body heat with their metabolism. Platypuses do this as well, but whereas most mammals maintain body temperatures between 37-40 degrees C (99-104 degrees F), platypuses are happy with a body temperature of 32 degrees C (90 degrees F). This lower metabolism reduces the amount of calories they need to eat.10. They have no stomach. Stomachs are specialized protein-digesting chambers of digestive tracts that contain protein-digesting enzymes and acids to activate them. Not all animals have them, but most carnivores do. The most common exceptions to this rule are fish… and platypuses. Why? We don’t know for sure, but many of these animals consume diets high in calcium carbonate, which is a natural antacid. If their own diet would constantly neutralize their stomach acid, then the stomach really isn’t going to do them any good anyway.11. They have 10 sex chromosomes! Most mammals have two sex chromosomes, one from each parent. An individual that has two X chromosomes is usually female and an individual that has one X and one Y chromosome is usually male. Thus, female mammals pass along an X chromosome to each offspring and males can pass along an X or a Y. But platypuses are not content to be normal in any way…They have 10 sex chromosomes: 5 from mom and 5 from dad. All 5 chromosomes from mom are Xs, whereas a male sperm either contains 5 Xs or 5 Ys. Birds also have two sex chromosomes, but in birds, individuals with two of the same type are usually male and individuals with different chromosomes are usually female. Their system is called ZW, where the mammalian system is XY. The platypus X chromosome is more similar than the X chromosome of other mammals to the bird Z chromosome.12. The platypus genome is as much of a hodgepodge as its body. Only 80% of the platypus’ genes are like other mammals. Some of their genes have only previously been found in birds, reptiles, fish, or amphibians.To learn about more weird animals, go here.References: ... Read more »
Warren, W., Hillier, L., Marshall Graves, J., Birney, E., Ponting, C., Grützner, F., Belov, K., Miller, W., Clarke, L., Chinwalla, A.... (2008) Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature, 453(7192), 175-183. DOI: 10.1038/nature06936
I'd encourage readers interested in the background to the response paper by Michael Sharpe and colleagues  to have a look at a previous blogging occasion when the topic of the PACE trial, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and 'recovery' were discussed (see here).Suffice to say that this latest paper is a reply to one published by Carolyn Wilshire and colleagues  who concluded that: "The claim that patients [with CFS] can recover as a result of CBT [cognitive behaviour therapy] and GET [graded exercise therapy] is not justified by the data, and is highly misleading to clinicians and patients considering these treatments." Said discussions linking back to some quite extensive debates on how one should (and shouldn't) treat/manage conditions like CFS (see here).I wanted to highlight the latest Sharpe paper because (a) I anticipated a reply from these authors following the Wilshire paper criticism of their recovery paper , and (b) although the debates in this area have been quite extensive already, the use of the scientific peer-reviewed medium to discuss and even argue is an important avenue. The authors have a right to scientific reply.So how did Sharpe et al respond? Well the words 'recovery', 'threshold' and ''no generally agreed measure of recovery" when it comes to CFS form the crux of the response to the Wilshire paper. They address the issue of recovery thresholds that have been a real source of discussion in relation to the PACE trial secondary analysis concluding that: "No participant met our full criteria for recovery at baseline." They point out that whilst "13% of participants met the recovery criterion of being within the normal range... for physical functioning when entering the trial" physical functioning was but one measure they used to determine recovery.They also approach the topic of 'changing thresholds' when it came to the definition of recovery in the PACE trial. To quote: "We changed these thresholds for our detailed analysis plan because after careful consideration and consultation, we concluded that they were simply too stringent to capture clinically meaningful recovery." They also report that elements of their assessment - the PACE walking test - are "not comparable with data collected in other studies" as a function of their reliance on personal motivation/ability over and above the use of encouragement as in other studies.Finally, authors also talk about 'what other studies have found regarding recovery' when it comes to CFS. They note that their findings in relation to the use of standard medical care (SMC) for CFS in the PACE trial were similar to other reports . They also point to research suggesting that the use of CBT in independent study for CFS show similar rates of recovery  to theirs originally reported. In other words, they make a case for their findings fitting in with some of the other literature on this topic.A quick trawl of PubMed with the terms 'chronic fatigue syndrome' and 'recovery' reveals that there is indeed quite a bit more to do in this area of science. To quote from one paper (a critical review) : "Estimates of recovery ranged from 0 to 66 % in intervention studies and 2.6 to 62 % in naturalistic studies." What this tells us is that (a) how recovery is reported in relation to CFS is still in need of some clarification  and perhaps more importantly, agreed uniformity is still required in its assessment; (b) some of the measures used to form judgements of recovery when it comes to CFS are not necessarily fit for purpose  (bearing in mind not everyone agrees with this); and (c) further efforts need to go into looking at many more aspects of CFS recovery outside of just a reliance on the fatigue parameter (see here and see here for examples). In short, science does not really know what recovery looks like in relation to CFS  despite it seemingly happening for all manner of reasons...Where do we go from here? This is a difficult question to answer. It is doubtful that the response from Sharpe and colleagues is going to change too many opinions about PACE given the strength of feeling on the topic and the various goings-on that have occurred around debate in this area (see here). Still today, other comments on the PACE trial continue to emerge in the peer-reviewed domain  from notable CFS researchers and there are even calls to retract the original recovery paper (see here). Yes, there are lessons to be learned from the PACE trial (e.g. stick to your "original protocol thresholds", make your data 'open-access' and think about how to do this in the planning/recruitment stages of your trial, be mindful that short-term gains don't necessarily translate into long-term ones, work with the ME/CFS community (rather than labelling elements of them 'vexatious' or worse when they ask questions or request data) but I can't see how these factors will immediately and positively affect the lives of people living with CFS/ME here and now. That recommendations on the use of CBT for CFS have already altered in some parts of the world (see here) - "The strength of evidence on global improvement is downgraded from moderate to low when considering CBT separately from other counseling and behavioral interventions" - and are potentially likely to change here in Blighty perhaps signifies that science and medicine is moving on when it comes to this topic. Science should be doubling its efforts to expand its research boundaries when it comes to managing CFS outside of just a reliance on the [outdated?] psychosomatic model and indeed, it is...And on the topic of other CFS research avenues, I've already talked about a few interesting avenues on this blog (see here and see here and see here) mindful that when we talk about CFS/ME, we're probably not talking about just one entity (see here). Also alongside, that there seems to be an awful lot of 'over-represented' comorbidity accompanying quite a lot of CFS/ME (see here for example) to also contend with...Music: Lush Life (even if you don't know the song title, you might rec... Read more »
M Sharpe, T Chalder, AL Johnson, KA Goldsmith, & PD White. (2017) Do more people recover from chronic fatigue syndrome with cognitive behaviour therapy or graded exercise therapy than with other treatments?. Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health , 1-5. info:/10.1080/21641846.2017.1288629
I enjoy clubbing and pop/rock concerts exclusively with my ear plugs in. Does that mean I miss out? No, I enjoy the music exactly as it is meant to be. Picture by Melianis at fi.wikipedia (CC BY 2.5) Since 2004 the urban dictionary includes the term ‘deaf rave’ to describe a ‘rave, or party, organised […]... Read more »
Huang J, Gamble D, Sarnlertsophon K, Wang X, & Hsiao S. (2013) Integration of auditory and tactile inputs in musical meter perception. Advances in experimental medicine and biology, 453-61. PMID: 23716252
Zhao F, Manchaiah VK, French D, & Price SM. (2010) Music exposure and hearing disorders: an overview. International journal of audiology, 49(1), 54-64. PMID: 20001447
Bibliometric research analyzes the use of Social Representation Theory (SRT) in Organizational Studies (OS). We investigated 90 papers published in journals and scientific events from 2001 to 2014. The results indicate that the use of SRT in OS is incipient, superficial and presents theoretical and methodological inconsistencies. … Read More →... Read more »
Martins-Silva, P., Silva Junior, A., Peroni, G., Medeiros, C., & Vitória, N. (2016) Teoria das representações sociais nos estudos organizacionais no Brasil: análise bibliométrica de 2001 a 2014. Cadernos EBAPE.BR, 14(4), 891-919. DOI: 10.1590/1679-395155900
The evolving epidemic of opioid overdose and overdose deaths is receiving increased public and research attention.Opioids overdoses and overdose deaths are often unintentional or accidental. It has been known that concurrent use of opioids with alcohol or benzodiazepines (i.e. Valium or Xanax) increases risk for overdose toxicity.A recent study published in the British Medical Journal confirmed the association of concurrent benzodiazepine prescription with opioid overdose.This research team examined confidential medical database records from over 500,000 patients in the U.S.Those that were enrolled in a medical plan including pharmaceutical benefits between 2001 and 2013 were included in the analysis.The key findings from the study included the following:The percentage of opioid users concurrently using a benzodiazepine rose from 9% of opioid users in 2001 to 17% of opioid users in 2013Chronic users of opioids nearly doubled their risk of opioid overdose if they took a concurrent benzodiazepine medication (4/100 persons/year to 7-8/100 person years)If the association is causal, the authors estimate emergency room visits and inpatient admissions could be reduced by 15% by stopping concurrent prescriptionsThis association of risk seems reasonable given the toxicities of opioids and benzodiazepines. Both at higher doses decrease respiratory drive potentially contributing to hypoxia and death.The authors note several take home messages for clinicians. Chronic users of benzodiazepines should be prescribed opioids cautiously if at all. Opioid prescriptions should be for short periods of time and low doses for chronic benzodiazepine patients.Likewise, if chronic opioids are necessary they should rarely be combined with intermittent or long-term benzodiazepine prescriptions.Readers with more interest in this topic can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Photo of NCAA men's basketball tournament in Tulsa, OK is from my files.Follow me on Twitter WRY999Sun EC, Dixit A, Humphreys K, Darnall BD, Baker LC, & Mackey S (2017). Association between concurrent use of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines and overdose: retrospective analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 356 PMID: 28292769... Read more »
Sun EC, Dixit A, Humphreys K, Darnall BD, Baker LC, & Mackey S. (2017) Association between concurrent use of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines and overdose: retrospective analysis. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). PMID: 28292769
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new cognitive bias to share with you. Previously we’ve blogged on many different biases and here are a handful of those posts. Today’s research paper combines three biases—two of which we’ve blogged about before: the better-than-average effect, confirmation bias and also, the endowment effect. The endowment effect […]... Read more »
Gregg AP, Mahadevan N, & Sedikides C. (2017) The SPOT effect: People spontaneously prefer their own theories. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(6), 996-1010. PMID: 26836058
Meet the Moroccan flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi), a truly unique spider that when provoked or threatened escapes by doubling its normal walking speed using forward or backward flips similar to acrobatic flic-flac movements used by gymnasts.
C. rechenbergi is a species of huntsman spider indigenous to Morocco and can be found in the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi desert . The spider ... Read more »
Ralf Simon King. (2013) BiLBIQ: A Biologically Inspired Robot with Walking and Rolling Locomotion. Biosystems . info:/10.1007/978-3-642-34682-8
"While pregnant women should continue to avoid handling soiled cat litter, given possible T. gondii exposure, our study strongly indicates that cat ownership in pregnancy or early childhood does not confer an increased risk of later adolescent PEs [psychotic experiences]."So said the findings reported by Francesca Solmi and colleagues  (open-access) who brought a smile to any reader of the title of their paper: "Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort." For those who might not be aware of the hypothesis, cat ownership has been previously linked to 'adverse' psychological outcomes (see here) tied into some peer-reviewed evidence on one possible environmental factor linked to psychosis and conditions manifesting psychosis: Toxoplasma gondii.ALSPAC - Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children - brought it's quite significant scientific prowess to bear on the question of whether "cat ownership in pregnancy and childhood (ages 4 and 10 years) was associated with psychotic experiences (PEs) in early (age 13, N = 6705) and late (age 18, N = 4676) adolescence, rated from semi-structured interviews." Having a cat in the house was not the only question asked by Solmi et al as the presence of other pets were also investigated: "dogs, rabbits, rodents, birds (all waves), and tortoises and fish (from 21 months)." PEs were assessed at approximate ages of 13 and 18 years old via responses to the "psychotic-like symptoms interview (PLIKSi), a semi-structured interviewer-rated screening assessment for PEs." Various other variables were also factored into the examination of any effect or not.Results: well, as per the opening sentence to this post, cat ownership did not seem to be related to later PEs. The potential caveat being that in some of their analyses there did seem to be a possible association - "Owning a cat at age 4 years was associated with higher odds of having PEs at age 13 years in univariable models" - but the significance of this association disappeared when adjustments for other potentially confounding variables were made. Obviously this kind of study can't control for every single potentially confounding variable but they did at least try.Why the disparity between these results and the previous ones suggestive of a possible connection between childhood cat ownership and later adverse psychological health? Well, an important point is made by Solmi and colleagues: "Our study was based on PEs in early and late adolescence, unlike other studies which were based on a clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia." In other words. psychotic experiences might be part and parcel of schizophrenia but not necessarily all that schizophrenia encompasses and not necessarily just enough to merit a diagnosis of schizophrenia. They do also go on to highlight how the previous report on the association may also not have included the range of potentially confounding variables that were included and controlled for in the current study as another possibility for the differences reported. Having said that ...Does the T. gondii - schizophrenia hypothesis fall as a result of the Solmi results? Probably not. Solmi et al hint that even though cat ownership probably isn't related to PEs, they do not totally debunk the idea that there may be a connection. They did not for example, look for the presence of contact with T. gondii in this particular study (others have) as per serological examination of participants. I say this bearing in mind that not every moggy is necessarily infected with T. gondii or anything else. Sweeping generalisations on all cats are not required.Music to close, and containing the lyric 'Caringosity killed the Kerouac cat', a chirpy little number from a band with quite a contentious name...---------- Solmi F. et al. Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort. Psychol Med. 2017 Feb 22:1-9. Fuller Torrey E. et al. The antecedents of psychoses: a case-control study of selected risk factors. Schizophr Res. 2000 Nov 30;46(1):17-23.----------Solmi F, Hayes JF, Lewis G, & Kirkbride JB (2017). Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort. Psychological medicine, 1-9 PMID: 28222824... Read more »
Solmi F, Hayes JF, Lewis G, & Kirkbride JB. (2017) Curiosity killed the cat: no evidence of an association between cat ownership and psychotic symptoms at ages 13 and 18 years in a UK general population cohort. Psychological medicine, 1-9. PMID: 28222824
Can’t wait to break out of high school and dash off to college? College is a lot of fun. Late nights, parties, sporting events with thousands of people, on-campus concerts and thousands of potential new friends combine to make college some of the best years of a person’s life. Yet, in the midst of all […]
Check out 3 Study Habits of Successful Students in College, an original post on Thinker Academy.
... Read more »
Hartwig, M., & Dunlosky, J. (2011) Study strategies of college students: Are self-testing and scheduling related to achievement?. Psychonomic Bulletin , 19(1), 126-134. DOI: 10.3758/s13423-011-0181-y
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