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  • May 17, 2017
  • 07:02 AM
  • 85 views

Those who only kill children are neuro-psychologically different from other murderers

by Doug Keene in The Jury Room

Of course it isn’t a surprise that they are gravely disturbed, but who knew it was neuropsychological?  This is an article from researchers at Northwestern University and looks very specifically at similarities and differences in the neuropsychological test scores of those who killed only children and those who killed some adults as well as children. […]... Read more »

Azores-Gococo, N., Brook, M., Teralandur, S., & Hanlon, R. (2017) Killing A Child. Criminal Justice and Behavior., 2147483647. DOI: 10.1177/0093854817699437  

  • May 17, 2017
  • 04:30 AM
  • 86 views

Another Feather in the Cap of the FIFA 11 Injury Prevention Program

by Kyle Harris in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Implementing the FIFA 11 injury prevention program decreases the risk of injury among collegiate male soccer players.... Read more »

Silvers-Granelli HJ, Bizzini M, Arundale A, Mandelbaum BR, & Snyder-Mackler L. (2017) Does the FIFA 11  Injury Prevention Program Reduce the Incidence of ACL Injury in Male Soccer Players?. Clinical orthopaedics and related research. PMID: 28389864  

  • May 17, 2017
  • 04:20 AM
  • 88 views

Carbon nanotubes, what are they good for?

by kylius wilkins in It Ain't Magic

Kylius Wilkins talks to Urs Frey and his paper that described his recent success manufacturing carbon nanotubes (CNTs).... Read more »

  • May 17, 2017
  • 02:48 AM
  • 68 views

EEG abnormalities and "high functioning" autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm not a great fan of the term 'functioning' when it comes to autism (see here) hence the quote marks around high-functioning in the title of this post. Yes, I understand the message that it's trying to convey and that we don't have viable alternatives at the moment. It just however seems a little sweeping in terms of 'generalised' describing and labelling of people...No mind. Today I'd like to bring the paper by Özdem Ertürk Çetin and colleagues [1] to your attention and the observation that their results "support the fact that EEG abnormalities are observed at a higher rate also in ASD [autism spectrum disorder] with a better functionality." EEG - electroencephalographic or electroencephalogram - refers to the recording of electrical activity in the brain. Although in small amounts, our cells use electrical signals to message each other; said activity in the brain can be picked up and recorded using some rather sensitive equipment. EEGs are the method of choice when it comes to investigating epilepsy or related seizure disorders (such conditions are epitomised by abnormal electrical activity between cells).The connection between autism and epilepsy / seizure disorder is one that has persisted for many years (see here); even now to the point where research is starting to talk about autism / autistic traits being a feature of some cases of epilepsy (see here). Quite a bit of the research looking at autism and epilepsy has tended to suggest that epilepsy may be a little more over-represented for those towards the more severe end of the autism spectrum (i.e. in relation to presentation of symptoms and the presence of some degree of learning / intellectual disability). The Ertürk Çetin findings report that even in those with described 'better functionality' there may be disturbances in relation to the measurement of EEGs.Looking for "the presence of EEG abnormalities in sixteen children diagnosed with high-functioning ASD" researchers reported that whilst none of the participants had clinical seizures (the overt expression of epilepsy) "5 patients (31.3%) were detected to have EEG abnormalities." Bearing in mind the quite small participant numbers and the fact that no control groups (asymptomatic or otherwise) were included for comparisons, this is quite an important finding. I agree with the authors when they say that: "The potential impact of EEG abnormalities on cognition and behavior, and the risk of epilepsy should be considered during long-term follow-up of these patients." In other words, whenever a diagnosis of autism or ASD is received, one should always consider the possibility that a heightened risk of epilepsy / seizure / abnormal EEG patterns might also be a feature of presentation irrespective of "functioning" status.----------[1] Ertürk Çetin Ö. et al. EEG abnormalities and long term seizure outcome in high functioning autism. Acta Neurol Belg. 2017 Apr 26.----------Ertürk Çetin Ö, Korkmaz B, Alev G, & Demirbilek V (2017). EEG abnormalities and long term seizure outcome in high functioning autism. Acta neurologica Belgica PMID: 28447214... Read more »

  • May 16, 2017
  • 10:15 AM
  • 94 views

Fatal Attraction: Praying Mantises (A Guest Post)

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Britta Bibbo We all know the character: an incredibly beautiful woman that seduces the rough-and-tumble action hero, only for him to later find himself chained up over a lava pit with sharks in it! …Or something like that. A “femme fatal” is the idea of a beautiful woman who leads men to their demise. None are more perfect for this role than the female praying mantis. Praying mantis females practice the art of deception through sexual cannibalism. It’s exactly how it sounds: the male is attracted to the female and tries to make some babies, but instead ends up being devoured. Sexual cannibalism hardly seems like a good strategy for keeping the mantis population up, but some argue it’s merely females taking advantage of every scrap of food they can find… even if it’s a loving male. False garden mantis (Pseudomantis albofimbriata). Image by Donald Hobern from Wikimedia Commons.When male mantises encounter a female in the wild they only have one thing on the brain, while a female may be more interested in self-preservation. If she hasn’t encountered food for a few days she will be VERY hungry and not all that interested in mating; in many species of mantises it is known that female mantises will eat males, even while having sex! So how do female mantises attract males? For most insects, females are able to attract males with pheromones, chemicals released from an individual that affect other individuals of the same species. For instance, females can emit pheromones that will be telling of their age, reproductive status, and body condition. Males are able to detect pheromones from great distances and these pheromones play a role in allowing a male to determine how attractive a female could be. Before any sexy time can begin, females have to show that they are open to male advances. Showing a male you’ve never met before that you’re interested can be a difficult task- so females typically emit pheromones that are known as honest signals. These signals accurately convey female interest in mating, as well as her reproductive status, age, and body condition. Because the majority of females are being honest, males don’t have to think twice about their mate’s intentions. This is where female deception comes into play. If a female takes advantage of the lack of male wariness, she could end up with an easy meal. This deception by the females is what scientists know as the Femme Fatale hypothesis. This hypothesis explains that female mantises are naturally selected to deceive male mantises, and exploit them as food. This idea hasn’t had much backing evidence until Dr. Kate Barry of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia sought to test this hypothesis with the false garden mantis (Pseudomantis albofimbriata). After considering the test subjects and how the mantises communicate, Kate expected one of three possible outcomes: 1. There will be no pattern between female hunger and male attraction (if female false garden mantises are not femme fatales and false garden mantis pheromones do not communicate feeding-related information). 2. The well-fed females will attract the most males, while hungry females will attract the fewest males (if female false garden mantises are not femme fatales and females are always honest about their quality and willingness to mate). 3. The hungriest females will attract the most males, while well-fed females will still attract some males (if female false garden mantises are femme fatales and females are dishonest about their quality and willingness to mate when they are hungry). To test her expectations, Kate gathered juvenile mantises that were close to their adult forms to have many male and female mantises that have no previous mating experience. Once the mantises were adults, females were given different feeding regimens to have a range of hunger. Categories included Good (well-fed), Medium (slightly less fed), Poor (hungry), and Very Poor (very, very hungry). Adult mantises were housed in a circular cage that separated each female individually around the edge, while the males were kept in the center. Diagram of cage experiment was conducted in. Image by Britta Bibbo.To allow the males to smell the female pheromones, researchers separated males by special walls that the males could not see through, but could still detect the pheromones given off by a female. The number of males on a female’s side of the cage was used to measure how attractive her pheromones were to the males. The results of this study concluded that pheromones produced by the females that were very hungry were the most attractive to males. Through deception, the hungriest females are seen as sexier than well-fed, healthy females that are willing to mate! This result is surprising; normally females that are well-fed are seen as “sexier” because they have more nutrients available to them, making them more fertile. Hungry females have fewer nutrients available to them, making them less fertile, and therefore not as “sexy”. These hungry female mantises are advertising themselves as well-fed, fertile, and ready to rock when really, they’re not. Simply put, these results show that males are being catfished, and then consumed. Whether hungry females are actively trying to deceive males or if it’s just coincidental still needs to be looked into, but for now, be thankful for a partner who will see you as more than just a piece of meat! Literature Cited:Barry, K. (2014). Sexual deception in a cannibalistic mating system? Testing the Femme Fatale hypothesis Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282 (1800), 20141428-20141428 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1428 ... Read more »

  • May 16, 2017
  • 07:04 AM
  • 4 views

Comparison of alternative zebra-structure models in solar radio emission by G.P. Chernov et al.*

by CESRA in Solar Radio Science

Discussion about the nature of zebra-structure (ZS) in type IV radio bursts continues, despite the ten proposed models. First of all, this is due to the wide variety of stripes in each new phenomenon, making the explanation of all the fine details by any one mechanism becomes impossible. The most widespread explanation is the emission at different levels of double plasma resonance (DPR), sequential on the height surfaces in the magnetic [...]... Read more »

G. P. Chernov, V. V. Fomichev, & R. A. Sych. (2017) Comparison of alternative zebra-structure models in solar radio emission. submitted to Astronomy Letter Journal. arXiv: 1704.02528v1

  • May 16, 2017
  • 05:02 AM
  • 89 views

IMFAR, the autism numbers game and 12% showing 'optimal outcome'

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A post recently published on the Spectrum website led to my blogging entry today, and the observation that: 'Alternative screen finds high autism prevalence in U.S. state'.Discussing results delivered at IMFAR 2017 the research in question was that presented by Laura Carpenter and colleagues [1] (someone with quite a track record in autism research). This was a conference presentation and seemingly not yet peer-reviewed publication, so one needs to be a little cautious about making big claims just yet. That being said, there have been research hints that these results would be forthcoming [2] around this time.The headline finding was that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in one particular part of the United States for the birth year 2004 was probably quite a bit higher than that previously reported/estimated based on initial screening for possible ASD and then actual assessment. Details of the initiative used in this research - the South Carolina Children’s Educational Surveillance Study (SUCCESS) - can be found here.Some 4100 children were "screened for ASD using the Social Communication Questionnaire." Those who were deemed 'at risk' for autism and a small proportion of those not hitting those *might be autism* thresholds were asked back for a more detailed interview. Although the number of children actually followed-up and interviewed who were eligible for further assessment was not particularly great, the authors were able to draw up an estimated prevalence of autism based on those who did complete the study. The figure: "ASD prevalence in this sample is 3.62%" roughly equivalent to 1 in 28 children. I say this in the context that in the United States and elsewhere, autism rates and/or numbers of cases are still high (see here and see here) and acknowledgement of the implications of such increases when it comes to services such as education, healthcare and the like.The Spectrum article focuses quite a bit on the participation rate noted in the Carpenter study but another snippet of information is also included in the conference abstract that is worthy of discussion. A detail that reads: "Six children (6/52; 12%) had a clear developmental history of ASD but did not display clinically significant symptoms at the time of participation in this study." Further: "12% with a history of ASD no longer had significant ASD-related symptoms, providing further support for the potential for optimal outcomes in some individuals."I'm rather interested in that 12% figure with 'optimal outcome'. Optimal outcome describes cases where a clear indication/diagnosis of autism has been seen/received, but for whatever reason(s) diagnostic thresholds are not longer met at a future assessment point. I've covered this group quite a few times on this blog, most notably in relation to a previous estimate of 9% of those diagnosed with autism potentially falling into this category (see here). Appreciating that such data challenges the assumption that *all* autism is a lifelong condition (indeed, stretching across the entire autism spectrum - see here), I'd reiterate that those described as being 'optimal outcomers' represent an important subgroup on the autism spectrum in these days of plural autisms (see here). Not least is the question: Why? Why do these children not maintain their diagnosis and what lessons (if any) can be learned for the wider autism spectrum, particularly also in the context that various quite disabling comorbidities might also be 'reduced' alongside core autism symptoms in this group.We await formal peer-reviewed publication of the Carpenter findings and perhaps some further details.To close, upon introducing my brood to the music of Kate Bush, I am yet again reminded just how good a singer/performer she really is...----------[1] Carpenter LA. et al. The Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in School Aged Children: Population Based Screening and Direct Assessment. IMFAR 2017.[2] Carpenter LA. et al. Screening and direct assessment methodology to determine the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. Ann Epidemiol. 2016 Jun;26(6):395-400.----------Carpenter LA, Boan AD, Wahlquist AE, Cohen A, Charles J, Jenner W, & Bradley CC (2016). Screening and direct assessment methodology to determine the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. Annals of epidemiology, 26 (6), 395-400 PMID: 27230493... Read more »

Carpenter LA, Boan AD, Wahlquist AE, Cohen A, Charles J, Jenner W, & Bradley CC. (2016) Screening and direct assessment methodology to determine the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. Annals of epidemiology, 26(6), 395-400. PMID: 27230493  

  • May 15, 2017
  • 04:33 AM
  • 113 views

Intestinal dysbiosis, irritable bowel syndrome and ME/CFS

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I don't want to spend too much time talking about yet another paper from the research tag-team that is Hornig & Lipkin [1] (open-access) on the topic of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). But this latest addition to their research repertoire (see here) is deserving of several comments.Not least are the observations made by the authors - including one Brent Williams who some might remember from autism research history (see here) and Jose Montoya who has also made a mark in CFS/ME research circles (see here) - on how the collected wee beasties that inhabit our gastrointestinal (GI) tract might have some role to play when it comes to at least some cases of CFS/ME. Yes it's gut microbiome research time again.The press release accompanying the paper by Dorottya Nagy-Szakal and colleagues can be seen here. The long-and-short of it was that: "Independent of IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], ME/CFS is associated with dysbiosis and distinct bacterial metabolic disturbances that may influence disease severity." Further: "Plasma cytokines did not define ME/CFS disease groups in our cohort." There could be some good reasons for that last sentence looking at immune-related molecules on the basis of other study results (see here) but further investigations are required.I have to say that outside of the observations that particular types of bacteria seem to be more or less prevalent in cases of CFS/ME (yet again) I was rather more interested in the finding that over 40% of the cohort also met criteria for IBS. I say that on the basis that I've already talked about 'abdominal discomfort syndrome' as a feature of some CFS/ME (see here) alongside findings that certain foods *might* also play a role in the bowel symptoms accompanying CFS/ME (see here).In these days of increasing pluralisation of spectrums (the autisms, the schizophrenias, etc) it is probably also quite useful to think about pluralising the diagnostic label CFS/ME too. Assuming we can get the diagnostic criteria right (see here) we could have a phenotype of CFS/ME that, for example, has a stronger bowel-related clinical signature than other forms. The further implications that the GI tract might play a role in CFS/ME in relation to either primary or secondary symptoms might also inform intervention. So, we kinda know that use of probiotics might be something to think about for some cases of IBS (see here). There is also some preliminary evidence that certain probiotics might also impact on some of the 'psychological' features (careful with that term) which can accompany CFS/ME [2]. The possibility of connections exist and therefore require further scientific exploration.----------[1] Nagy-Szakal D. et al. Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome. 2017; 5: 44.[2] Rao AV. et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of a probiotic in emotional symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. Gut Pathog. 2009 Mar 19;1(1):6.----------Nagy-Szakal D, Williams BL, Mishra N, Che X, Lee B, Bateman L, Klimas NG, Komaroff AL, Levine S, Montoya JG, Peterson DL, Ramanan D, Jain K, Eddy ML, Hornig M, & Lipkin WI (2017). Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 5 (1) PMID: 28441964... Read more »

Nagy-Szakal D, Williams BL, Mishra N, Che X, Lee B, Bateman L, Klimas NG, Komaroff AL, Levine S, Montoya JG.... (2017) Fecal metagenomic profiles in subgroups of patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 5(1), 44. PMID: 28441964  

  • May 13, 2017
  • 04:42 AM
  • 149 views

Welcoming zonulin into autism research

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I was VERY happy to read the paper published by Erman Esnafoglu and colleagues [1] suggesting that: "zonulin, which regulates intestinal permeability, plays a role in the development of symptoms of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."Zonulin - something that "can be used as a biomarker of impaired gut barrier function for several autoimmune, neurodegenerative, and tumoral diseases" [2] - is a compound that I've been interested in for a while on this and other blogs (see here). The primary reason for the interest is that connection to intestinal permeability and how 'leaky gut' may well show some relevance to some autism (see here and see here). The thing that was up-to-now missing from the research chatter about intestinal hyperpermeability and autism was the measurement of zonulin on the basis that elevated levels of zonulin show a connection to dietary elements such as gliadin (a facet of gluten) [3]. This is particularly relevant because previous data has observed a possible link between use of a gluten-free diet and a reduction in intestinal permeability in relation to autism [4]. All this is [peer-reviewed] research music to my ears (see here)...Esnafoglu et al set about measuring serum levels of zonulin in 32 participants diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) compared with 33 not-autism controls. Yet again, the words 'healthy controls' are used by the authors to define the control group and yet again, the assumption is that those participants with autism are somehow 'unhealthy'. Researchers, please just call it what it is: not-autism controls (the term 'neurotypical' also tells us nothing about control groups either). Measurement of zonulin was via ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and researchers also threw in a measure of autism severity based on use of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).Results: well, the results seemed to be in the expected direction: "Serum zonulin levels were significantly higher in the patients with ASD (122.3 ± 98.46 ng/mL) compared with the healthy controls (41.89 ± 45.83 ng/mL)." Authors also identified a fairly healthy correlation between the CARS score and zonulin levels. These results imply that issues with intestinal permeability - leaky gut - seem to be present in relation to at least some autism. A shocker, I know.Obviously there is more research to do in this area; not least to increase the sample size, look at dietary intake/status as a function of zonulin measurement and explore the possibility that the genetics of zonulin production might also be *involved* in some autism [5]. I might add that other research on zonulin in relation to diagnoses not necessarily uncommon to autism might also be revealing (see here).Insofar as what to do about elevations in zonulin as and when detected in cases of autism, well the dietary link to zonulin production implies that the horror that is a gluten-free (GF) diet might be something to consider. The suggestion of a 'bacterial link' to zonulin production also suggests another possible intervention target in these days of gut microbiomes and autism (see here) although I think we have to be slightly careful about the use of some preparations. There is also another avenue for research speculation based on the development of zonulin (receptor) inhibitors such as Larazotide acetate [6] (otherwise known as AT-1001). With no medical or clinical advice given or intended, the evidence base for this zonulin-affecting compound is looking promising [7] with much more to come...In conclusion, zonulin has arrived on the autism research scene, and I'm expecting to see more peer-reviewed science on this topic in future times. Intestinal hyperpermeability, diet and [some] autism looks to be squarely back on the research agenda.----------[1] Esnafoglu E. et al. Increased Serum Zonulin Levels as an Intestinal Permeability Marker in Autistic Subjects. J Pediatrics. 2017. May 11.[2] Fasano A. Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2012; 1258(1) :25-33.[3] Lammers KM. et al. Gliadin induces an increase in intestinal permeability and zonulin release by binding to the chemokine receptor CXCR3. Gastroenterology. 2008 Jul;135(1):194-204.e3.[4] de Magistris L. et al. Alterations of the intestinal barrier in patients with autism spectrum disorders and in their first-degree relatives. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Oct;51(4):418-24.[5] Tripathi A. et al. Identification of human zonulin, a physiological modulator of tight junctions, as prehaptoglobin-2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Sep 29;106(39):16799-804.[6] Fasano A. Intestinal Permeability and its Regulation by Zonulin: Diagnostic and Therapeutic Implications. Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology : the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. 2012;10(10):1096-1100.[7] Leffler DA. et al. Larazotide Acetate for Persistent Symptoms of Celiac Disease Despite a Gluten-Free Diet: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Gastroenterology. 2015; 148: 1311-1319.----------Esnafoglu, E., Cırrık, S., Ayyıldız, S., Erdil, A., Ertürk, E., Daglı, A., & Noyan, T. (2017). Increased Serum Zonulin Levels as an Intestinal Permeability Marker in Autistic Subjects The Journal of Pediatrics DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.04.004... Read more »

Esnafoglu, E., Cırrık, S., Ayyıldız, S., Erdil, A., Ertürk, E., Daglı, A., & Noyan, T. (2017) Increased Serum Zonulin Levels as an Intestinal Permeability Marker in Autistic Subjects. The Journal of Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2017.04.004  

  • May 12, 2017
  • 10:43 AM
  • 131 views

A Cuttlefish Clash: The Strongest, Stripeyist Guy Gets the Girl

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I know what you’re thinking: “Why hasn’t she written about cuttlefish mating systems?” I understand, cuttlefish are ridiculously cool and you just need to know more about them. You are in luck as a brand new study has been published online about just that topic!Cuttlefish are cephalopods, which are all predatory marine animals that have at least eight arms, a siphon for jet-propulsion, and highly developed nervous and sensory systems (specifically the most sophisticated eye of all invertebrates). Those last characteristics make them highly intelligent, with complex learning behavior, to the point that many consider them to be “conscious.” Unlike other cephalopods, all of their hard parts (if any) are internal. That means all of their outside parts are soft, squishy and covered in color-changing skin. Their ability to change color is absolutely amazing, particularly in cuttlefish (just google ‘Flamboyant Cuttlefish’!). Located in their skin are tons of chromatophores (pigment filled bags) that expand or contract to reveal/hide their color. And it’s crazy-fast too. They can alter their appearance in as little as half a second! They use this color change for camouflage, courtship rituals, or just to show you how they feel about you interrupting them with your dive camera (a little personal experience with a mama octopus thrown in there).Cuttlefish are in the clade Coloidea that also includes squid and octopuses, and a sister group to the Nautilus. They look like squid but have stouter bodies and a fin fringe that runs around their body that they undulate to move. They have separate sexes and an often elaborate courtship ritual. Should a female find a male worthy, she accepts his spermatophore (sperm packet), which he transfers to her with a specially modified arm (hectocotylus). Then the females will use the contents of this packet to fertilize their eggs and lay them in clusters. Cuttlefish can be seasonal in their mating habits, with some species gathering in the hundreds to find their special someone. Where animals gather to mate, they also gather to strut their stuff. One of the ways they do this is through shear brawn. Basically, the strongest guy gets the girl. A study currently in press in The American Naturalist describes competition between male cuttlefish. Males compete vigorously for female mates. The researchers took a close look at the Common Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), a species “renowned for its visual capabilities, rapid adaptive camouflage, learning, and memory.” All those amazing qualities and yet oddly lacking in its ability to identify individual mates or rivals. Seriously, telling boy from girl is a challenge. This means that they must use a signal-response system to recognize each other. This system employs the use of intense zebra-stripe displays. Respond to a zebra with a zebra and you are male. If you don’t want to fight, darken your whole body (sign of alarm), ink and jet away. But extend your fourth arm, darken the skin around your eyes, and dilate your pupils and you know that shit is about to get real: inking, swiping, grappling, lunging, rolling, and biting. An all-out cuttlefish brawl.A lot of this information is known from lab studies of cuttlefish, but how do they act in their natural environment. To test this, the researchers went to the Aegean Sea near Çeşmealtı, Turkey and filmed a bunch of cuttlefish. They brought the footage back to the lab to analyze mate guarding and fighting behaviors, frequencies of a series of agnoistic behaviors in individual males, and aggressive behaviors (e.g., bar room brawl scenario). Since it all starts with the zebra stripes, they also compared the intensity between males. They found a generalized sequence of events that correlated to the amount of aggression. For example, just a dark ring around the eye is low-level aggression, adding a dilated pupil ramps it up to medium-level aggression, intensifying the zebra pattern and arching and tilting the body ramps it up even more. The more medium- to high-level aggressive behaviors the more likely the male was to win. The researchers summarize it this way: “weak zebra banding, fourth arm extension, dark eye ring > dark eye ring with dilated pupil, dark face, strong zebra banding, inking > intense zebra display > swiping, grappling > biting, rolling.” This makes sense if you think about it. Fighting may result in injury and injury is costly, sometimes fatal. So you need to make sure you can win. The series of stages allow each male to assess both themselves and their opponent to see if an actual brawl is worth it.Now, take what you’ve just learned and apply it to this video. It shows exactly the type of bout the authors describe. You may need to watch it twice, once to read the descriptions of what is going on and another to watch for the subtle differences described above. Can you see the color and eye changes? Just imagine what we will find out as camera systems get faster. Considering the extremely fast rate at which cuttlefish are able to change their colors, it is very likely that we are missing a lot of the more subtle details in communications between males (and probably with females too). We’ll have to revisit this subject in the future.Allen, J., Akkaynak, D., Schnell, A., & Hanlon, R. (2017). Dramatic Fighting by Male Cuttlefish for a Female Mate The American Naturalist DOI: 10.1086/692009Learn more about Cephalopods at the University of California Berkeley’s Museum of Palentology and the Monterey Bay AquariumImage from the Monterey Bay Aquarium... Read more »

Allen, J., Akkaynak, D., Schnell, A., & Hanlon, R. (2017) Dramatic Fighting by Male Cuttlefish for a Female Mate. The American Naturalist. DOI: 10.1086/692009  

  • May 12, 2017
  • 08:30 AM
  • 153 views

Could Parasites Be Causing Prostate Cancer?

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

New study shows that a common parasite called Toxoplasma gondii forms tissue cysts and causes inflammation in mouse prostates. ... Read more »

  • May 12, 2017
  • 07:00 AM
  • 134 views

Friday Fellow: Spreading Earthmoss

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll If you still think mosses are uninteresting lifeforms, perhaps you will change your mind after knowing the spreading earthmoss, Physcomitrella patens. Found in temperate regions of the world, except for South America, but more commonly recorded in … Continue reading →... Read more »

Cove, D. (2005) The Moss Physcomitrella patens. Annual Review of Genetics, 39(1), 339-358. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.genet.39.073003.110214  

  • May 12, 2017
  • 03:02 AM
  • 153 views

Physical exercise as a nootropic of choice

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Nootropic, defined as a 'smart drug' or cognitive enhancer, is generally taken to mean a substance/compound/medicine that has some positive effect(s) on aspects of cognition. I've talked about the possibility that various compounds might fit this bill on this blog (see here for example) but today I'm discussing another quite important potential nootropic: exercise.It was the paper by Joseph Michael Northery and colleagues [1] (open-access) that added exercise to the nootropic categorisation on the premise of their meta-analysis results suggesting that "physical exercise interventions are effective in improving cognitive function in adults aged >50 years, regardless of cognitive status." As you can imagine, findings such as that tend to generate news headlines as per this one.Including the results of some 39 studies where exercise and cognition were included as watchwords and trials were of the randomised-controlled design, researchers set about analysing the collected data covering various types of exercise and various cognitive outcomes. Aside from some issues with various forms of bias, most prominently with regards to blinding(!), they concluded that various types of exercise seemed to positively impact on cognitive functions. Particularly notable were the positive effects on executive functions: "a set of cognitive processes responsible for the initiation and monitoring of goal-orientated behaviours" and aspects of memory via the use of resistance training (i.e. using weights). Other more aerobic exercise regimes also seemed to have positive effects on other aspects of cognition too. It seems some combination of aerobic and resistance exercise regimes might provide the best generalised advice according to the authors "of at least moderate intensity and at least 45 min per session, on as many days of the week as possible." Just going back to that resistance training - executive functioning link being proposed, I wonder whether there may be other investigations to be carried out here with specific labels in mind [2].Added to other research talking about 'exercise as medicine' (see here) and more particularly that exercise *might* have some important effects for aspects of psychological health and wellbeing (see here and see here for examples) there is a peer-reviewed, evidence-based picture emerging. It suggests that messages about moving more (see here) as being important for weight and BMI might be only the tip of iceberg.And although not for everyone, I'm minded to yet again extol the virtues of the martial arts which also might have some "positive effect on some aspects of cognition" [3] (even for those under 50 years old with middle-aged hips like mine)...----------[1] Northey JM. et al. Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2017. April 24.[2] Demetriou EA. et al. Autism spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis of executive function. Molecular Psychiatry. 2017. April 25.[3] Fabio RA. & Towey GE. Cognitive and personality factors in the regular practice of martial arts. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 May 5.----------Northey, J., Cherbuin, N., Pumpa, K., Smee, D., & Rattray, B. (2017). Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis British Journal of Sports Medicine DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096587... Read more »

  • May 11, 2017
  • 09:42 PM
  • 164 views

The banal nationalism of intercultural communication advice

by Ingrid Piller in Language on the Move

Intercultural communication advice is a strange genre. Filling shelves and shelves in bookshops and libraries and now with a well-established...... Read more »

Piller, I. (2017) Intercultural Communication: A Critical Introduction (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. info:/

  • May 11, 2017
  • 09:26 AM
  • 148 views

Land snails on islands: fascinating diversity, worrying vulnerability

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll The class Gastropoda, which includes snails and slugs, is only beaten by the insects in number of species worldwide, having currently about 80 thousand described species. Among those, about 24 thousand live on land, where they are … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • May 11, 2017
  • 03:08 AM
  • 155 views

Could an "ill-state" associated with anorexia nervosa mimic the symptoms of autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The question posed in the title of this post 'Could an "ill-state" associated with anorexia nervosa mimic the symptoms of autism?' stems from the findings reported by Heather Westwood and colleagues [1] (open-access).They continued a research theme looking at the potential 'overlap' when it comes to autism and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (AN) (see here). Notably, researchers questioned whether the finding that some 50% of their cohort "scored above the clinical cut-off on the ADOS-2" but "when developmental history was obtained, only 10% met diagnostic criteria for ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" could be due to "the ill-state associated with AN."The Westwood paper is open-access so doesn't need any further grand explanations from me. The research caveats alongside relying on quite a small cohort - "40 females aged between 12 and 18" - were that this was a snapshot study not a longitudinal one and whilst relying on data other than that just linked to the presence of autism traits, they did not control for things like social anxiety "which could lead to high scores on the ADOS-2." Interesting.On the question of whether 'active AN' (please pardon my lack of knowledge on this topic) might have the ability to 'provoke' autistic traits, I have to say that I'm quite intrigued. This might have a few, quite important, implications not least that (a) autistic traits can be 'acquired' as per what has been noted under other different circumstances (see here and see here for examples) and (b) the potential stability of said traits might not be particularly stable for everyone at every time (see here). On that last point, we do need a lot more data as to what happens/happened when AN is treated/managed or goes into remission for example and any subsequent impact on autistic traits.It's too early to start talking mechanisms when it comes to AN and autistic traits in light of this data alone. I might also venture into the idea that other comorbidities than can appear alongside AN might also have some impact on clinical presentation (see here) and are also in need to further investigation in the context of any eating disorders - autism correlation. Indeed, there are potentially lots of variables that need to be kept in mind (see here and see here) before any sweeping generalisation are made...----------[1] Westwood H. et al. Assessing ASD in Adolescent Females with Anorexia Nervosa using Clinical and Developmental Measures: a Preliminary Investigation. J Abnorm Child Psychol. 2017 Apr 17.----------Westwood, H., Mandy, W., Simic, M., & Tchanturia, K. (2017). Assessing ASD in Adolescent Females with Anorexia Nervosa using Clinical and Developmental Measures: a Preliminary Investigation Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology DOI: 10.1007/s10802-017-0301-x... Read more »

  • May 10, 2017
  • 04:29 PM
  • 153 views

Gender disparities in science persist despite significant advances

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

The participation of women as authors in academic publications has been increasing significantly worldwide and in all areas of knowledge, reaching 49% in Brazil and Portugal, followed by Australia (44%) and the European Union (41%). Gender equity in science, however, still has a long way to go, especially in the editing and peer review functions. A study of more than 41,000 articles published between 2007 and 2015 shows that male editors - who are majority - preferentially select same gender referees. … Read More →... Read more »

Markus Helmer, Manuel Schottdorf, Andreas Neef, & Demian Battaglia. (2017) Gender bias in scholarly peer review. eLife. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.21718.001  

Lerback, J., & Hanson, B. (2017) Journals invite too few women to referee. Nature, 541(7638), 455-457. DOI: 10.1038/541455a  

  • May 10, 2017
  • 06:16 AM
  • 184 views

Know your brain: Preoptic area

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the preoptic area?















the preoptic area is highlighted in blue.











Functionally, the preoptic area is considered to be a region of the hypothalamus even though its embryological origins are as part of the telencephalon (rather than the diencephalon like the rest of the hypothalamus). It consists of the area of the hypothalamus that is situated at the very anterior (i.e. front) of the structure, and it extends back from the anterior of the hypothalamus to the posterior edge of the optic chiasm, the point where the optic nerves from the two eyes meet.The preoptic area, like the rest of the hypothalamus, is a very functionally diverse region. This diversity is represented by the division of the preoptic area into a collection of distinct nuclei. The majority of the research into the preoptic area, however, has been done in rodents; it is not as well understood in humans. This has caused the anatomical differentiation of the preoptic area to not be completely consistent when applied to the human brain and has generated some disagreement, for example, as to which areas of the human preoptic area are homologous to those of the rat brain.What is the preoptic area and what does it do?As mentioned above, the preoptic area consists of several nuclei (each of which are often divided into subnuclei), and thus is a very functionally heterogeneous region. To attempt to simplify it, I will discuss the functions most commonly attributed to what are generally considered the major nuclei of the preoptic area (e.g. the median, periventricular, medial, and ventrolateral nuclei). The preoptic area is still not very well understood in humans, however, so the functions listed here will not be a comprehensive list of all that the preoptic area is involved in. Additionally, because most of the attempts to elucidate the function of the preoptic area has been done in rodents, it is still unclear if some of the functionality I will discuss can be said to describe the preoptic area in humans. The median preoptic nucleus is found near the midline of the brain and at the very anterior end of the hypothalamus, where it borders the third ventricle. It merges and is neurally connected with a structure called the organum vasculosum, and it also receives input from another structure called the subfornical organ. The organum vasculosum and the subfornical organ are both part of a group of structures known as circumventricular organs. These structures lack a blood-brain barrier and thus can detect the levels of substances (e.g. sodium, hormones) in the blood, then pass this information on to the brain. The median preoptic nucleus is thought to receive such information from the organum vasculosum and subfornical organ and then seems to be involved in using that information to help regulate blood composition and volume, both through mechanisms of hormone release and through behavior like drinking.The median preoptic nucleus also appears to play a role in the regulation of body temperature. Rodent studies suggest neurons in the median preoptic nucleus receive information regarding skin temperature and then send projections to neurons in the medulla that are involved in mechanisms that influence body temperature.Just below the median preoptic nucleus is the preoptic periventricular nucleus. The preoptic periventricular nucleus is poorly defined anatomically (its boundaries vary depending on species) and poorly understood functionally. Some consider it to be equivalent to an area called the anteroventral periventricular nucleus, which is thought to be involved with sex-specific physiology and behavior, but according to other sources it is a separate location. There is limited information available on the preoptic periventricular nucleus as a stand-alone structure when it is not considered as part of the anteroventral periventricular nucleus or other nuclei nearby.Lateral to the median preoptic nucleus is the medial preoptic nucleus. The medial preoptic nucleus is the largest collection of preoptic area neurons. It has been linked to a list of actions ranging from regulation of cardiovascular function to regulation of body temperature and fluid balance and water intake. This region, however, is best known for its association with reproductive and parental behavior.The medial preoptic nucleus is often divided into subnuclei, and the central medial preoptic nucleus in the rat is sometimes called the sexually dimorphic nucleus, as it has been found to be larger in males than females. This observation has also been replicated in a number of other species. Although this has not been seen as consistently in humans, researchers have identified potential homologous regions in the human medial preoptic area that also have been observed to exhibit sexual dimorphism.The sexually dimorphic nucleus in rodents has been linked to male sexual behavior and male partner preference. Lesions to different parts of this region have been found to eliminate male copulatory behavior and inhibit sexual desire. Additionally, damage to the sexually dimorphic nucleus in male ferrets was associated with their sexually-motivated seeking of same-sex males rather than females. In a study of sheep (which are unique in that ~8% of rams display a consistent preference for male sexual partners), it was found that the sexually dimorphic nucleus was twice as large in female-oriented rams than in male-oriented (i.e. homosexual) rams.These findings, of course, have led to speculation that the sexually dimorphic nucleus in humans may also be linked to sexual preference. Although there has been some debate as to what the human homolog of the rat sexually dimorphic nucleus actually is, there have been studies that have found sexual dimorphism among preoptic regions in humans. Some studies have also observed differences in size in these regions between heterosexual and homosexual men. These findings, however, have not been seen consistently from study to study, and need to be confirmed before we can be confident in them.Additionally, the central medial preoptic nucleus has been linked to parental behavior in rodents, sheep, and other mammals. For example, damage to the connections of the medial preoptic nucleus can disrupt parental behaviors like nest building and pup retrieval (i.e. collecting stray pups when they wander from the nest) in rodents. And activation of medial preoptic neurons mitigates male aggression toward pups... Read more »

  • May 10, 2017
  • 04:56 AM
  • 139 views

Sustainable hunting regulations take the speed of trophy growth into account

by sschindler in sschindlerblog

Hunting regulations aim to keep trophy hunting sustainable. Yet most regulations fall short of this aim and trophy size is becoming shorter over time in most hunted populations, such as Bighorn sheep, Impala, Mouflon, and Sable antelope. This might be due to ignoring the speed of trophy growth when deciding on hunting regulations. more Schindler, […]... Read more »

Schindler, S., Festa-Bianchet, M., Hogg, J., & Pelletier, F. (2017) Hunting, age structure, and horn size distribution in bighorn sheep. The Journal of Wildlife Management. DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.21259  

  • May 10, 2017
  • 04:30 AM
  • 153 views

Eating Disorders Persist Over Entire Season

by Nicole Cattano in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

Female athletes with an eating disorder will most likely continue to have the eating disorder throughout their competitive season.... Read more »

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