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  • January 31, 2015
  • 03:02 PM
  • 1 view

New theory tries to define where black holes don’t exist

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The quintessential feature of a black hole is its “point of no return,” or what is more technically called its event horizon, yes just like the movie. When anything—a star, a particle, or wayward human—crosses this horizon, the black hole’s massive gravity pulls it in with such force that it is impossible to escape. At least, this is what happens in traditional black hole models based on general relativity. In general, the existence of this event horizon is responsible for most of the strange phenomena associated with black holes.... Read more »

  • January 31, 2015
  • 10:48 AM

Whose Culture is it Anyway? Disentangling Culture and Eating Disorders - Part 5

by Andrea in Science of Eating Disorders

We’ve begun to scratch the surface of the vast and growing literature on cultural context and eating disorders in the previous 4 posts in this series. Of course, as I reflected the other day, there could (maybe should?) be a blog solely devoted to this topic- each time I read another study in this area, it pulls me down the rabbit hole into another related area.... Read more »

Bennett D, Sharpe M, Freeman C, & Carson A. (2004) Anorexia nervosa among female secondary school students in Ghana. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science, 312-7. PMID: 15458991  

  • January 31, 2015
  • 10:15 AM

An approach towards ethics: neuroscience and development

by Alexander Yartsev in Evolutionary Games Group

For me personally it has always been a struggle, reading through all the philosophical and religious literature I have a long standing interest in, to verbalize my intuitive concept of morals in any satisfactory way. Luckily for me, once I’ve started reading up on modern psychology and neuroscience, I found out that there are empirical […]... Read more »

Avram, M., Gutyrchik, E., Bao, Y., Pöppel, E., Reiser, M., & Blautzik, J. (2013) Neurofunctional correlates of esthetic and moral judgments. Neuroscience Letters, 128-32. PMID: 23262080  

  • January 31, 2015
  • 08:13 AM

More about neurons

by Janet Kwasniak in Neuro-patch

I want to make a point here that we know less about the brain than is generally acknowledged. Our picture of the functioning of a neuron is taken as more or less settled knowledge; only small refinements are likely. But the refinements that are regularly published are not small. Now we have a paper (citation […]... Read more »

  • January 31, 2015
  • 05:40 AM

Suramin and the Fragile X (Fmr1 knockout) mouse model (and autism)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Fancy some weekend reading? Well, you could do a lot worse than having a gander through the paper by Jane Naviaux and colleagues [1] (open-access) discussing the results of a whole host of analyses following the use of the antipurinergic agent suramin on a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome.Overprotective mother, forbidden road trip...Regular readers might remember some previous discussions about suramin - a pharmaceutic designed to treat African sleeping sickness - and autism which have graced this blog (see here and see here). Following a series of studies which looked at the physiological and behavioural effects of suramin administration on a mouse model trying to recreate conditions of maternal immune activation (MIA (which itself has some autism research history), authors this time turned their attention to a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome, a condition which can in humans manifest with autistic traits (sometimes).The Naviaux paper is a whopper in terms of data accumulated and results so I'm not going to even try and summarise the findings aside from quoting the authors that their: "results support the novel conclusion that antipurinergic therapy is operating by a mechanism that lies close to the root cause of the core behaviors and development in both the environmental MIA, and the genetic Fragile X models of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. This mechanism appears to be traceable to mitochondria and regulated by purinergic signaling." Both mitochondrial and purinergic issues have featured in the autism research historical tapestry before (see here and see here respectively).Just before anyone makes a run on suramin, I might however point out a few things: (a) the current and previous results are based on mouse studies and mice are mice not humans, and (b) suramin, whilst indicated for sleeping sickness, is not without the possibility of some pretty important side-effects (see here).Still, this latest paper again potentially opens up a number of promising lines of inquiry in need of further investigation. And the added bonus is to see some more metabolomics included in their results!To close: INXS and Mystify.----------[1] Naviaux JC. et al. Antipurinergic therapy corrects the autism-like features in the fragile X (Fmr1 knockout) mouse model. Molecular Autism 2015, 6:1----------Jane C Naviaux, Lin Wang, Kefeng Li, A Taylor Bright, William A Alaynick, Kenneth R Williams, Susan B Powell, & Robert K Naviaux (2015). Antipurinergic therapy corrects the autism-like features in the fragile X (Fmr1 knockout) mouse model Molecular Autism : 1186/2040-2392-6-1... Read more »

Jane C Naviaux, Lin Wang, Kefeng Li, A Taylor Bright, William A Alaynick, Kenneth R Williams, Susan B Powell, & Robert K Naviaux. (2015) Antipurinergic therapy corrects the autism-like features in the fragile X (Fmr1 knockout) mouse model. Molecular Autism. info:/1186/2040-2392-6-1

  • January 30, 2015
  • 05:32 PM

Same sex relationships and stress: A new perspective

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Studies of stress and its effects on health have typically focused on the worries of an individual: money, love, health, work. When we turn our attention on relationship stress, the focus is generally on your typical couple. However, new research studies how minority stress -- which results from being stigmatized and disadvantaged in society -- affects same-sex couples' stress levels and overall health.... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 12:16 PM

Some Prescription Formularies Discourage HIV Patient Enrollment

by Marie Benz in Medical Research Interviews and News Interview with: Douglas B. Jacobs ScD Harvard School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Response: In May 2014, a formal complaint submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services contended that four … Continue reading →
The post Some Prescription Formularies Discourage HIV Patient Enrollment appeared first on Medical Research Interviews and News .
... Read more » Interview with:, Douglas B. Jacobs ScD, & Harvard School of Public Health. (2015) Some Prescription Formularies Discourage HIV Patient Enrollment. info:/

  • January 30, 2015
  • 12:04 PM

Electronic Reminder Improved Asthma Medication Adherence

by Marie Benz in Medical Research Interviews and News Interview with: Amy Chan   BPharm(Hons) RegPharmNZ  MPS  ANZCP Pharmacist / PhD candidate Department of Paediatrics Auckland Hospital Faculty of Medical & Health Sciences University of Auckland  Auckland, New Zealand Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What … Continue reading →
The post Electronic Reminder Improved Asthma Medication Adherence appeared first on Medical Research Interviews and News .
... Read more » Interview with:, Amy Chan, BPharm(Hons) RegPharmNZ MPS ANZCP, & Pharmacist / PhD candidate. (2015) Electronic Reminder Improved Asthma Medication Adherence. info:/

  • January 30, 2015
  • 11:45 AM

Neanderthal neurograstronomy

by neuroecology in Neuroecology

There is a genetic basis to the food that we enjoy eating. Some people – which I call strange people – think cilantro has a strange, soapy taste at least partially because of a particular polymorphism in a odor receptor gene (OR6A2). The question … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 11:30 AM

City Rabbits, like Humans, Live in Smaller Homes

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Imagine you're on a particularly boring leg of a road trip and you start counting houses. You pass through long stretches of country without counting anything. When you do see houses, they're clustered into towns, and may have spacious yards with tire swings. As you approach a city (finally!), rows of houses appear at regular intervals instead of clumping. And in the heart of the city they shrink into little apartments that go by too fast for you to count. European rabbits, it turns out, bui... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 07:46 AM

Added Sugar More Harmful Than Other Carbohydrates For Promoting Diabetes

by Marie Benz in Medical Research Interviews and News Interview with: James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD Associate Editor BMJ Open Heart Cardiovascular Research Scientist Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. DiNicolantonio: We performed a … Continue reading →
The post Added Sugar More Harmful Than Other Carbohydrates For Promoting Diabetes appeared first on Medical Research Interviews and News .
... Read more »

James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, Associate Editor BMJ Open Heart, Cardiovascular Research Scientist, & Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute. (2015) Added Sugar More Harmful Than Other Carbohydrates For Promoting Diabetes. info:/

  • January 30, 2015
  • 07:16 AM

New Mayo Model Better Predicts Breast Cancer Risk After Benign Biopsy

by Marie Benz in Medical Research Interviews and News Interview with: Dr.  Amy C. Degnim MD Professor of Surgery Mayo Clinic, Rochester. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hartmann: Approximately 1 million women in the US every year have … Continue reading →
The post New Mayo Model Better Predicts Breast Cancer Risk After Benign Biopsy appeared first on Medical Research Interviews and News .
... Read more » Interview with:, Dr. Lynn C. Hartmann MD, Professor of Oncology, Associate Director for Education, & Mayo Clinic Cancer Center. (2015) New Mayo Model Better Predicts Breast Cancer Risk After Benign Biopsy. info:/

  • January 30, 2015
  • 07:11 AM

Why you might want to beware the introvert on your team

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Introverts have received a lot of positive press in recent years thanks to the run-away success of Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts. Cain tells us these are people who like their own space, but also happen to be empathic and sensitive and deep-thinkers. A new paper on peer appraisals by team-members bucks this hug-an-introvert trend.Amir Erez and his co-authors report that introverts tend to give especially low performance ratings to their team-mates who are extravert and over-bearing, even though these people's actual performance for the team might be the same as other team-mates with different personality types."We suggest that introverted peers are more sensitive to extraversion because they recognize that highly assertive (i.e., extraverted) actors often compromise relational outcomes in the interest of instrumental ones, and because extraverts are often afforded initial high status in the absence of relevant performance information," the researchers said.In other words, the researchers think introverts use peer appraisals strategically. Extraverts often throw their weight around and get undue credit, and so given the chance, introverts exert a corrective influence by giving extraverts relatively negative ratings. Extraverts, by contrast, were not found to modify their ratings for team-members based on their personality. The researchers think this is because they aren't so aware of other people's traits, and aren't threatened by dominant characters.The results came initially from a field study involving 178 business students who'd been working together in four- or five-person teams for half a semester. The students rated their own extraversion, agreeableness, and the performance of their team-mates.Further evidence came from an experiment in which business students thought they were taking part in a virtual team creativity task, in which they interacted with team-mates by text and headsets. In fact, their team-mates were computer controlled and the experience was manipulated so that some of them appeared extravert and others introvert, some unfriendly, others friendly. Afterwards the participants had to rate the performance of one of their team-mates. On objective terms, the researchers made it so the performance of the fictional team-mates rated by the participants was equal; all that differed between them was their personality.The introverted participants gave poorer performance ratings to team-mates who were extravert, and were nearly six times less likely to recommend them for a bonus reward. Introverts also gave especially negative ratings to unfriendly team-mates. By contrast, extravert participants did not take the personality of their team-mates into account when making their peer ratings. The difference between the introvert and extravert participants was explained in part by the fact the introverts were more aware of the traits of their team-mates, and they formed more negative impressions of the extraverts and unfriendly people.As peer appraisals are becoming increasingly popular in many organisations, the researchers said their findings have obvious practical implications. ".... [I]ndividuals high in extraversion and disagreeableness should be made aware that their trait-relevant behaviors may have a profoundly negative impact on how introverted individuals experience their dyadic encounters," they warned, "and may lead to reduced performance evaluation or reward giving for collective accomplishments."A weakness of the study is that the experimental section involved creating team-mates who were caricatures of particular personality types. In reality, few people display such extremes of personality. As the researchers also acknowledged, there is a sense too in which the introverts' peer ratings could be seen as more accurate - it all depends on whether your focus is purely on task performance (which was matched for the imaginary team-mates who were rated), or if you take a longer-term picture and consider the wider team culture. "The sensitivity of introverted peers may actually represent detection of behaviours which are anticipated to hurt collective (but not individual) performance," the researchers said._________________________________ Erez, A., Schilpzand, P., Leavitt, K., Woolum, A., & Judge, T. (2014). Inherently Relational: Interactions Between Peers' and Individuals' Personalities Impact Reward Giving and Appraisal of Individual Performance. Academy of Management Journal DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0214 --further reading--Introverts use more concrete language than extravertsPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 07:00 AM

Friday Fellow: ‘Orange Jaguar Snail’

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Last week I introduced a land planarian that feeds on land snails, Obama ladislavii, or, as I called it, the Ladislau’s flatworm. Therefore, today, I thought it would be great to present a similar situation occurring … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 05:33 AM

Desirable difficulties

by Mirjam Sophia Glessmer in Adventures in Teaching and Oceanography

Initial harder learning might make for better longterm retrieval. A lot of the discussions at my university on how to improve learning focus on how to make it easier for students to learn. That never sat quite right with me … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 05:02 AM

Diverse developmental trajectories in early years autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"Findings confirm the heterogeneous nature of developmental trajectories in ASD [autism spectrum disorder]." That was the bottom line of the study by Peter Szatmari and colleagues [1] (open-access) tracking the developmental trajectory - autistic symptom severity and adaptive functioning - for a sample of "421 newly diagnosed preschool children with ASD 2 to 4 years old." Some accompanying media for the study can be found here.The Szatmari paper is open-access so it doesn't need any grand details from me... OK, well just a few:"Prospective data collected at 4 points from time of diagnosis to age 6 years were used to track the developmental trajectories of children." Old reliable ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) was used "to index the developmental trajectories of autistic symptom severity" alongside the VABS (Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales) which "assesses child adaptive behavior in the communication, socialization, daily living skills, and motor domains." The immediate difference between these schedules outside of looking at autism symptoms and adaptive behaviours is the reliance on observer scores and parent/caregiver report respectively. Just in case you were worried, the timing gaps between ADOS sessions for example, were probably large enough so as not to lead to any so-called practice effects impacting results. Other psychometric tools were also used to gauge 'trajectory prediction and outcome' including the ADI (Autism Diagnostic Interview) among other things.Results: outside of the heterogeneity of symptom presentations, a few key points were noted. So: "Individual children with ASD differ from each other in terms of autistic symptom severity and adaptive functioning from the time of diagnosis in the preschool years, and some of these differences appear to increase by age 6 years." Interesting but not exactly a novel finding as per other discussions in this area (see here)."Moreover, change in one domain is not necessarily associated with change in another." In other words, about 20% of their sample showed changes in "adaptive functioning trajectories" indicative of improvement. But that doesn't necessarily translate into similar changes in autistic presentation which were reported to be "more stable" although in about 10% of cases showing "a decrease in symptom severity from baseline to age 6 years."In all, the authors report two distinct trajectory groups based on autism severity and three groups for adaptive functioning. Caveats? Well, this was a multi-site study in Canada but following diagnosis, participants were not just left without intervention. The Hanen More Than Words® intervention is mentioned as being offered at one site. Indeed the authors note: "the present analysis did not investigate the possible effect of services or opportunities to learn adaptive functioning skills on the developmental trajectories of children with ASD" so one has to be mindful that the results reported might be affected by this variable. Indeed, one would expect trajectory to be potentially affected by such early intervention...This is interesting work particularly from the perspective of being a longitudinal study which relied on some of the gold-standard tools available to autism psychometric research. I'm really interested in developmental trajectory and autism in light of this area of research highlighting how autism is perhaps better described as the more plural 'autisms' and the breaking down of some sweeping generalisations and dogma which have pervaded autism understanding. That also one or more trajectory might come under the label of 'optimal outcome' (see here), that is moving outside of the diagnostic boundaries of the clinical description of autism, is another important part of this work. Oh, and just in case you think such ideas are bound to just children, think again (see here).Gender (sex) is also mentioned in the Szatmari paper and the idea that "sex was the only significant predictor of autistic symptom group trajectory membership." The authors continue: "Boys were more likely to be in the group with more severe symptoms and a stable trajectory than girls, who were more likely to be in the group with less severe symptoms and an improving trajectory (controlling for age at diagnosis, cognitive and language scores, and site)." This is really quite an interesting observation and perhaps ties into the idea of sex differences in the presentation of autism (see here) among other things. I'd be interested to see how the gender splits pan out when it comes to those optimal outcomers too as and when larger participant numbers are eventually meta-analysed by someone.Finally: "earlier age at diagnosis was more likely associated with membership in a group with higher functioning and improving." Going back to my previous point about a possible role for early intervention in developmental trajectory, the idea that earlier diagnosis can make a difference through the use of earlier intervention also potentially gains ground from such observations. Early diagnosis is a primary endpoint for quite a lot of autism research (see here) although with still quite a bit to do in this area (see here).The Hurdy Gurdy Man to close from The "B.H. Surfers".----------[1] Szatmari P. et al. Developmental Trajectories of Symptom Severity and Adaptive Functioning in an Inception Cohort of Preschool Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015. Jan 28.----------Szatmari, P., Georgiades, S., Duku, E., Bennett, T., Bryson, S., Fombonne, E., Mirenda, P., Roberts, W., Smith, I., Vaillancourt, T., Volden, J., Waddell, C., Zwaigenbaum, L., Elsabbagh, M., & Thompson, A. (2015)... Read more »

  • January 30, 2015
  • 03:56 AM

How to feel older and/or worse?

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Growing with time and becoming old is a common phenomenon. Every person grows older with time, but some people may have the wish to grow old faster. So, this article is for those people. On the contrary, if you want to feel young and good, do the opposite as mentioned in this article.
Think that you are old

It has been found that self-perceived age is strongly related to cardiovascular health. It is important to think that you are older. Researchers have found that older people, who think that they are older than their actual age, have more chances of worsening the condition and increasing rates of death. If you feel that you are three or more years younger than actual age, it would be good for you and can decrease the death rate.
Move to a society with lower value for older people

If someone wants to become older and worsen his or her condition, he or she has to think that he or she is “old”. Researchers have found that this thinking can worsen the condition of health, especially in those societies, where older people are considered to have little value as compared to younger people. On the other hand, if someone wants to grow older with good condition, he or she has to move away from the society, where older people have higher values as compared to younger people.

Don’t exercise and try to decrease physical activity

Exercise can improve the quality of life and independence, especially in older people. It can also decrease the social isolation. So, it is important that you have not to exercise, so that there would be no improvement in long-term health or wellbeing.

Increased physical activity can help in maintaining proper weight and function of the body. So, try to reduce physical activity.
Don’t use vitamin D and other vitamins

Vitamin D can help in improving the immunity. It can also help in absorbing calcium that is important for bones and skeletal system. So, if someone wants to grow older and worsen the condition, he or she has to stop taking vitamin D. It is also important to not to expose yourself to the direct sunlight as it can help in producing vitamin D in the body.
Start cynical distrust

If you want to feel worse, start cynical distrust. It is the belief that people have selfish concerns in their tasks. Researchers have found that people with high level of cynical distrust have more chances of developing health and psychology related problems such as heart disease and dementia. If you want to feel worse, keep on thinking like this – “It is safer to trust nobody”, "I think most people would lie to get ahead" and “People use unfair reasons to gain profit or advantage.” These types of thinking belong to cynical distrust.

Nobody is trustworthy - cynical distrust (Credit: Pixabay/ PublicDomainPictures)
Nobody is trustworthy - cynical distrust (Credit: Pixabay/ PublicDomainPictures)

Don’t take proper sleep

Sleep disturbances (non-restorative sleep) can help in increasing the chances of widespread pain especially in older people.
Use more medicines such as statin

Statins belong to that class of medicine that are used to lower cholesterol. Nearly 33% of older people in America use statins to control their cholesterol problems. It has been found the use of statin is related to decrease physical activity. It is clear that with less physical activity, your chances of getting worse increase. Moreover, if a person has started taking statin recently, he may show the largest decrease in physical activity as compared to older statin users.

…. And the ideas to feel old and/or worse keep on going. Fortunately or unfortunately, many of us are already following those ideas.

Laird, H. McNulty, M. Ward, L. Hoey, E. McSorley, J. M. W. Wallace, . . . J. J. Strain. (2014). Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Inflammation in Older Irish Adults. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Lee, D. S., Markwardt, S., Goeres, L., Lee, C. G., Eckstrom, E., Williams, C., . . . Nielson, C. M. (2014). Statins and physical activity in older men: the osteoporotic fractures in men study. [Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]. JAMA Intern Med, 174(8), 1263-1270. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.2266

Marques, S., Swift, H. J., Vauclair, C. M., Lima, M. L., Bratt, C., & Abrams, D. (2014). 'Being old and ill' across different countries: Social status, age identification and older people's subjective health. Psychol Health, 1-16. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.938742

McBeth, J., Lacey, R. J., & Wilkie, R. (2014). Predictors of new-onset widespread pain in older adults: results from a population-based prospective cohort study in the UK. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]. Arthritis Rheumatol, 66(3), 757-767. doi: 10.1002/art.38284

Neuvonen, E., Rusanen, M., Solomon, A., Ngandu, T., Laatikainen, T., Soininen, H., . . . Tolppanen, A. M. (2014). Late-life cynical distrust, risk of incident dementia, and mortality in a population-based cohort. [Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]. Neurology, 82(24), 2205-2212. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000528

Rippon, I., & Steptoe, A. (2014). Feeling Old vs Being Old JAMA Internal Medicine DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6580

Wallace, R., Lees, C., Minou, M., Singleton, D., & Stratton, G. (2014). Effects of a 12-week community exercise programme on older people. Nurs Older People, 26(1), 20-26. doi: 10.7748/nop2014. Read more »

Rippon, I., & Steptoe, A. (2014) Feeling Old vs Being Old. JAMA Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6580  

  • January 29, 2015
  • 04:29 PM

Mental illness treatment, there’s NOT an app for that

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

It’s more socially acceptable to talk about mental illness, which is important since the number of people who have it — or should we say, are getting treatment for mental illness — has steadily increased over the years. While it still may be taboo to talk about, mental illness is a very real thing needing very real treatment, however new research now shows that texting may be a more suitable treatment aid for those with mental illness than mobile applications.... Read more »

Campbell, B., Caine, K., Connelly, K., Doub, T., & Bragg, A. (2014) Cell phone ownership and use among mental health outpatients in the USA. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 19(2), 367-378. DOI: 10.1007/s00779-014-0822-z  

  • January 29, 2015
  • 12:56 PM

Political gridlock: Blame the men

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

It feels like the government moves at a snails pace sometimes, it takes forever for any change to come about and even then it is typically not even “change.” This couldn’t be more evident than during the political gridlock that led to the 2013 US federal government shutdown, the leading voices for compromise were the handful of female U.S. senators — only 20 percent of the overall legislative body.... Read more »

  • January 29, 2015
  • 10:10 AM

Heaven or Hallucination?

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

Alex Malarkey, “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven” has admitted that his story was, um, malarkey. Consequently, the book has been pulled and the million or so people who purchased it are feeling as deflated as a New England Patriots football. But others claim to have visited Heaven. My latest article on THE SCOPE discusses the research behind these experiences. Is it really Heaven or a hallucination?... Read more »

Borjigin, J., Lee, U., Liu, T., Pal, D., Huff, S., Klarr, D., Sloboda, J., Hernandez, J., Wang, M., & Mashour, G. (2013) Surge of neurophysiological coherence and connectivity in the dying brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(35), 14432-14437. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1308285110  

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